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New York officials and Darryl "DMC" McDaniels kick off Adoption Awareness Month

Recognizing November as “Adoption Awareness Month,” Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado announced $4.7 million in federal funding this week to support adoption-related services in New York.

Speaking at the Albany Capital Center, state office of Children and Family Services Commissioner Sheila Poole said the funding will go toward programs that protect children in foster care, increase adoptions and guardianships and provide critical services and trainings for adopting families.

“Right here, right now in New York State, we have over 3,500 children in foster care with a goal of adoption and nearly 700 of those children are currently awaiting for their adoptive family. To become an adoptive parent, you don't need to be married, you don't need to be rich, you don't need to have the perfect house. What you need is to be committed to providing a lifetime of hope and love to a child who needs it,” she said.

The federal funding builds on the state’s $5 million investment toward 16 Regional Permanency Resource Centers. The centers provide both pre- and post-adoption services and support for children and families statewide. Poole adds a new adoption campaign is launching November 19th, National Adoption Day.

“We're excited to get the word out about the growing need for adoptive parents by launching our new adoption campaign with a big splash on social media and the hashtag, “#BetheChangeNY.” That's “#BetheChange New York” and we ask you to consider being that change here in New York. Our work and finding all children a safe supportive and permanent home is far from over,” she said.

The primary focus of the Bureau of Permanency Services at OCFS is to adopt children from foster care, but you can also adopt a child who is not in foster care or adopt internationally. The bureau recommends people interested consult with an adoption attorney.

Delgado, a Democrat, stressed the importance of family.

“I understand the importance of this work, both on an intimate and personal and individual level, but also on a community level. On a statewide level. On a national level, it is important that we stress the importance of this. We have to talk about love and how important love is. Love of family, love of others, love of children. Love is a driving force that ultimately leads to someone saying they want to adopt.”

One of the adoption organizations receiving federal funding is Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, which operates in 10 states and has caseload with more than 90 percent of children older than 8. State Director of Operations Kathryn Garcia said statistics show children who age out of foster care without homes do not do as well as those who are adopted.

“The numbers are absolutely terrible about aging out. So, no matter what, of those kids who are in their older years - and I'm absolutely sure it’s not always the easiest having spent some time with them. They will be very upfront about, ‘No I was really difficult at 12 (years-old), but now things are different now for me at 16 (years-old) or 17 (years-old) or even 18 (years-old).’ And we have to make sure we're making those connections, which is why Commissioner Poole’s working with places like Wendy's Wonderful Kids. To hire recruits and make sure that we are out there looking for families all the time. So, that we are not overlooking anyone who might be that match,” Garcia said.

Hip-hop artist Darryl McDaniels made a guest appearance with state officials to promote adoption. Before he spoke, Delgado made a reference to his own past as rapper A.D. the Voice.

“It was alluded - to actually not even alluded to, it was stated - that I had a hip hop career. We all know his career was legendary … and mine was not.”

McDaniels was a member of the 80s and 90s rap titans Run DMC. The group sold millions of albums and in 2009 became the second rap act inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The iconic rapper found out he was adopted in his 30s.

“If we're saying, ‘Be the change,’ the change that you can be in a young person's life has the potential - not to just change that young person's life or your life - but it could change the world! Like look looking at me!”

He also co-founded the Felix Organization, which aims to provide resources to children growing up in the foster care system. He said he wouldn’t have achieved the success he did without his adoptive parents.

“Our responsibility to all children is not just our flesh and blood children. When you see that homeless kid or that foster kid or you see that kid in a group home or you see that kid in your children's class, the ones that are struggling, the ones that are so-called less fortunate or underprivileged. I hate the term underprivileged. ‘Let's do something for the underprivileged kids.’ Because no matter what this situation is – ‘OK, if they're so underprivileged, give them opportunity.’ And they don't just do well, they excel.”