Thanksgiving is a time when families across the country gather around their dining room tables and reflect on life’s many blessings—not least of these being the blessing of family itself.
This year, as my time in the House of Representatives is coming to a close, I am particularly thankful for the opportunity to serve the wonderful people of Minnesota.
While it didn’t always make headlines, a major highlight of my service in Congress was advocating on behalf of vulnerable children, as a co-chair of both the Congressional Coalition on Adoption and the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth.
Together with my fellow Foster Youth Caucus co-chairs, we introduced the Uninterrupted Scholars Act, pushed it through both chambers, and got it to the President’s desk. This law helps ease paperwork and protects foster youth as they transition from school to school.
We worked side-by-side to pass Foster Youth Caucus co-chair Rep. Karen Bass’ legislation in the House to fight the link between child sex trafficking and foster youth.
And together, we introduced “Justina’s Law” to prohibit federal funding for unnecessary and risky medical experimentation on children classified as wards of the state.
These are just a few of the ways in which we were able to overcome the usual political differences and work tirelessly to address the challenges these children face.
Back home in Minnesota we have so many heroes who care for foster children and adopt them, and every year I am proud to nominate someone from my district as an “Angel in Adoption.” This year the award went to Mark and Julie Martindale of Elk River, who have adopted nine children with disabilities. They are a shining example of why my caucus colleagues and I do what we do, and I am so thankful for them. They not only joyfully welcomed children into their homes, but gave them a chance at life.
I’m thankful that my office was often able to intervene to help constituents finalize their adoptions, including the Malikowskis of Sartell, who adopted their beautiful daughter from Ethiopia, and the Ryghs of Bayport who needed visa assistance in their adoption of their son from Jamaica.
While we celebrate every success story, there is still much work to be done. In the United States alone there are 400,000 children living without permanent families. Of those, more than 100,000 children are eligible for adoption. Each year, 23,000 of them will simply age out of the foster care system without finding permanent homes.
Fittingly, November is National Adoption Month and November 22 is this year’s National Adoption Day. As you prepare to join your families for Thanksgiving dinner, take a moment to think about how you can make a difference in the life of a child within the foster care system. Every child, regardless of age, race, nationality, or circumstance, deserves a chance at a forever family.
When we were foster parents to 23 at-risk girls, my husband Marcus always said, “Every child needs at least one person who is crazy about them.” With your help, we can make sure that every child waiting for a family has a place to call home for the holidays.
Michele Bachmann is the retiring U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District.