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At the end of June, 2017, there were 5,113 children in foster care in the state of Arkansas. When a child is removed from a home, the No. 1 goal is reunification with the child's family, but sometimes that's not possible. Of those 5,113 children in foster care approximately 586 of them are children whose parental rights have been terminated and are now are now awaiting adoption. Imagine that.



Project Zero: Matching Foster Kids with Adoptive Families

Christie Erwin, executive director at Project Zero

At the end of June, 2017, there were 5,113 children in foster care in the state of Arkansas. When a child is removed from a home, the No. 1 goal is reunification with the child's family, but sometimes that's not possible. Of those 5,113 children in foster care approximately 586 of them are children whose parental rights have been terminated and are now are now awaiting adoption. Imagine that. Almost 600 children in our state are without a home, separated from family, displaced, confused and sad. Hopelessness is something we have all felt at one time or another. Honestly, I cannot imagine the hopelessness that permeates the entire foster care experience for hurting kids. Unless we ourselves have lived it, there is no way to internalize the angst, fear and trauma that living life as afoster child brings.

For these thousands of displaced children, I started Project Zero - a-501c3 that works in partnership with the Arkansas Department of Children and Family Services. We raise awareness about the need for adoptive families through our statewide Heart Gallery; (a beautiful collection of photographs of waiting kids shot by professional photographers who donate their time and talents to capture the heart and personalities of our waiting kids). We also make short films that give waiting kids a voice and host speaking engagements that bring this crisis to light. Project Zero brings hope to waiting kids and builds relationships with them through monthly events that give them the opportunity to have new and unique experiences as well as to meet families who have completed the adoption process and who are waitingto adopt. And finally, we help connect waiting kids with the right forever families through our partnership with DCFS, by hosting connection events and through one-on-one interaction with waiting families.

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One powerful thing about the beautiful photographs that dot the panels of our heart gallery and the short films we post online is that you cannot walk away from them and refuse to believe there are parent-less children in our own backyard. You cannot look into the faces of these kids without thinking about your own children and internalizing the deep hopelessness that comes with having the world know you need a family. We are in a battle. We are fighting for the very lives and futures of vulnerable kids with no voice. Currently there are over 100,000 kids/youth waiting in foster care in the United States, 586 of those kids/youth are in Arkansas. We cannot just look the other way. We cannot wait for someone else to do it. We cannot cross our fingers, cast a broad prayer and hope that things work out. We have got to put our hands to the good work, lay our hearts on the line, take a risk that will cost and think outside the box. The longer we put off helping, the longer a child has to wait. There is just no other way to say it. A remnant can't do this job; it's going to take an army. We need people to stand up, denounce selfishness, throw off procrastination and bury apathy. It's time for all of us to ask boldly what our part is and then quickly obey. I know we will be blown away by the blessings that come as a result of our obedience and compassion! An anonymous source once said "There are no unwanted children, just unfound families." Project Zero is purposeful, intentional and passionate about finding them.

For more information on how to get involved, foster or adopt, contact us at projectzeronwa@gmail.com or visit our website www.theprojectzero.org

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Christie Erwin, executive director at Project Zero