“I'll take anyone,” Davion said. “Old or young, dad or mom, black, white,purple. I don't care. And I would be really appreciative. The best I could be...”
It was a front page story in the TampaBay Times last month that broke hearts around the world. Fifteen-year-oldDavion Navar Henry Only has spent his entire life in Florida’s foster caresystem. His mother was incarcerated when he was born, and when he did anInternet search for her name in June he learned she’d died just a few weeksearlier. He’s been moved from placement to placement throughout his childhoodwithout ever finding somewhere he really belonged. As a teenager now living ina group home, Davion was starting to feel like he was running out of time -- atrisk of becoming one of the more than 23,000 youths each year who simply “ageout” of the foster care system at age 18 or older and are left on their ownwithout ever finding a caring, permanent family connection.
Davion decided to take his future intohis own hands and asked his caseworker if she could help him speak at a church.She made arrangements at St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church in St. Petersburg,Florida. There, as the article reported, the shy teenager who’s worked hard toget A’s so far this year in everything but geometry and would love to play footballif he had someone to drive him to practice, stood at the pulpit and asked thecongregation if “someone, anyone” could adopt him.
Davion’s story quickly went viral and was shared on social media networksand websites around the country. He appeared on national television andreceived media coverage as far away as Australia and Japan and there is wonderfulnews to report. Davion’s child welfare agency, Eckerd, has received more than 10,000inquiries about adopting him and says: “We are confident that Davion’s new forever family iswithin the responses we’ve received and case managers have already begun tofollow up individually with each family. Davion’ssimple plea has raised awareness of adoption everywhere, but it’s vital toremember that there are thousands more Davions out there.” Davion told thereporter who first shared his story in a follow up interview: “I know what it’s like tohave nobody, with no light at the end of the tunnel, no one who wants you. Ijust keep saying, ‘There’s only one me. But all my friends, all the other guysat the group home, all these other kids need families too.’ I just hope they don’t give up. And that someone gives them a chance.”
I am so grateful Davion did not give up on himself and is serving as avoice for many other youths like himself. There were nearly 400,000 children in foster carein 2012, and 101,719 of them were waiting to be adopted. Although foster careis supposed to be temporary, the average length of stay in foster care isnearly two years. Almost one-third of children waiting for adoption have beenin care three or more years and one in seven has been in care five years orlonger. For some children like Davion, foster care can last an entirechildhood. One of the remarkable blessings of Davion’s sharing his story isthat it shed light on the thousands ofchildren who wait years and years before finding a permanent family, especiallyon the thousands of teenagers who desperately want but are at risk of neverfinding a family: 16 and 17 year olds are just 3.3 percent of finalizedadoptions. Children who leave fostercare without permanent families are atincreased risk of not graduating from high school and ending up unemployed,homeless or in the juvenile and criminal justice systems -- with a jail cell inplace of a home.
The church that welcomedDavion to tell his story served an important mission. Across the country otherfaith communities are helping children in foster care find permanent families andhelp support families to keep children from going into care.
November is NationalAdoption Month. If just one-third of the nearly 345,000 faith congregations in America encouraged onemember to adopt one child from fostercare, all the 101,719 children in foster care awaiting adoption could have aloving permanent family. Davion’s pleading words struck a chord as he remindedadults everywhere that God does not give up on any child -- and neither should we.