DHS Launches Campaign to Raise Adoption Awareness

The pandemic has caused delays and created barriers to adoption.

two smiling Black girls
Onye and Jermeera are two Arkansas children waiting to be adopted. Photo courtesy of Van Dover Photography.

Nearly 350 children in Arkansas are waiting to be adopted. A new three-month campaign is working to find them a forever family.

The Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Children and Family Services in partnership with Project Zero launched its Every Day Counts campaign during a press conference this afternoon. The goal of the campaign, which will include media appearances and paid advertising, is to bring attention to the growing need for adoptive families in Arkansas leading up to National Adoption Month in November.

The number of kids in foster care in Arkansas has increased during the pandemic. As of Monday, 4,849 kids were in foster care. That’s nearly 560 more children than the end of February 2020, according to a DHS report. While children in foster care have increased, DCFS director Mischa Martin said there has not been an increase in children who need a family identified for them.

“We have an amazing partnership as you can tell with Project Zero and we’ve been holding steady around that 350 for the last couple of years,” Martin said. “But over the last decade, it is a significant decrease.”

Project Zero began as the Pulaski County Adoption Coalition more than 15 years ago to further the cause for adoption. The coalition became a nonprofit organization in 2009 before becoming a statewide version of the coalition in 2011. 

To reach its goal of zero children waiting to be adopted, Project Zero raises awareness about the need, builds hope in waiting kids and helps connect children with the right family, executive director Christie Erwin said. One way the organization raises awareness is through short films that feature an adoptable child.

“These films captivate and compel people, they move them to action and they have caused us to get inquiries from all over this country and even other countries when people see our kids,” Erwin said.

Project Zero has a goal to produce a film for every waiting child by the end of 2021. They’ve been working on the project since March and have about 105 films left.

“The time is now. We feel such an urgency,” Erwin said. “The pandemic has definitely changed the way we are able to do things, but our mission has not wavered and our momentum has not been lost.”

To help more kids find placement, DCFS will focus on finalizing adoptions where children are already placed in their pre-adoptive families. There are 160 children that are going through this process, Martin said. 

To learn more about children awaiting adoption, you can visit the Arkansas Heart Gallery on Project Zero’s website

Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is Editor-in-Chief of Arkansas Soul, the host of the Affirmative Action podcast and a Northwest Arkansas-based journalist. She has covered race, culture, politics, health, education and the arts in Arkansas for nearly 15 years.