Kids of all ages need safe, loving homes.
Maria Hunte has six daughters. They share clothes, rooms and advice. One shares her DNA. They all share her heart.
Growing up, Hunte always knew she wanted a house full of children. So in 2003, she and daughter Jelisa, now 17, decided to open their home to kids who needed a home most - foster children. Eight years and more than 12 foster kids later, Hunte's family has blossomed with Jamilah, 15, Demitria, 13, Latandra, 12, and, most recently, sisters Dominique, 18, and Giarra, 5.
"I guess I have the house I always wanted!" said Hunte.
In North America, there are more than 500,000 children in foster care with 114,500 of those children available for adoption. According to the Administration for Children & Families, 47 percent of those waiting to be adopted are over the age of 8.
Older-child adoption statistics are disheartening. Last year, according to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, nearly 29,000 children "aged out" of the foster-care system at age 18, without having found a family to call their own.
"The older they get, the more myths surround foster children - not because there's anything wrong with them," said Rita Soronen, the Foundation's President and CEO. "Adolescence is hard enough but when you factor in experiences of abuse and neglect it creates new hurdles. But a family has the opportunity to give these kids a new sense of worth."
A new sense of worth is exactly what has been achieved in the Hunte home, although it's not only the kids who have felt this.
"It's not been easy but some days I look at my kids and just feel so grateful for my life," explained Hunte. "There's never a day I look back and say that I wished I didn't do this. Sometimes my kids come up to me and tell me that they love me and that's the best part."
Bringing older children into a new home can have challenges, often because they have clear memories and emotions about experiences in their previous homes.
"Families must understand that grief and fear can follow these children for quite some time," said Soronen.
But with patience, love and help from professional support networks, a child's life can be changed.
"To make that kind of difference in a child's life can be one of the most wonderful gifts a person can get," Soronen said.
Hunte agreed: "Some people say I'm crazy and some people say I'm a saint. I just say that I am truly blessed."
For information on foster care adoption, contact Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption at 1-800-ASK-DFTA or visit davethomasfoundation.org .