According to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, 397,122 American children are currently living in foster care. Over 100,000 of them are available for adoption but most will wait over three years to find their forever family. Meanwhile, people are paying thousands of dollars to adopt from overseas, or couples are adding their names to waiting lists to adopt American newborns.

Jarett Wilkins wants to change this. Wilkins, who was adopted, is heading out on a two-year cross country journey to raise awareness for children in foster care and to end the misconception that children in foster care are damaged.

The Forever Family Walk will take Wilkins on a 6,000 mile walk through over thirty states beginning on Virginia Beach on August 27, 2015. Along the way, he will interview major foster care organizations to learn about the current state of foster care in each area, as well as the organizations’ goals and ideas to improve the system.

“As a child of adoption, it’s always been a goal to find a way to give the underdog a voice in this world,” said Wilkins. “The reason behind The Forever Family Walk is to raise awareness for children in foster care by engaging with foster care organizations, foster kids, and aged out alumni nationwide. For the organization, it allows them to speak about their work and programs to build a stronger state by state consistency success rate. For the children, it provides a voice to convey their issues and challenges about being in the foster care system.”

Wilkins will also be volunteering one day per state at a foster care home. He will spend two years on the road. 

“The overall goal would be to increase the success rate of this platform in the same vein as St. Louis, MO did with their Team Decision Making program that saw its foster children rate decrease by 83% in 11 years,” said Wilkins.

Common misconceptions about children in foster care have left some couples afraid to adopt through that system.

Myth: All children in foster care have special needs whether physical, mental, or emotional.

The truth is that most children in foster care are there because their birth parents were not able to care for them. These children are often being cared for in loving foster homes awaiting their chance to be adopted. There are children with special health needs in foster care, and people shouldn't stay away from these children. You will adapt to caring for them quickly and adopting these children is a fulfilling and amazing opportunity for the right family. 

Myth: Foster care adoptions are just as expensive as private adoptions.

The reality is that there are often upfront costs, but adoption expenses through foster care are often reimbursed, and the state may also provide money to the adoptive family in order to pay for medical bills and even college expenses.

Myth: When you adopt through foster care, you don’t have any choice in children.

The truth is that when you sign up to foster a child in order to adopt, you can choose an age range. You’ll receive phone calls about available children and be able to accept or decline the opportunity to see if you are the right parents for the child.

If you are considering adoption, foster care may be the best option you haven’t thought of. For more information you can visit Adopt US Kids.