Let It Be Us, a nonprofit dedicated to the adoption and support of children within the Illinois foster care system, is hosting its first Chicago fundraiser — “Be Mine” — on Friday, Feb. 22 at Fig + Olive. The fundraising event marks the organization’s expansion effort across the state to reach supporters in new markets and will raise money to help more children in foster care.
There is a growing crisis in Illinois with the number of children entering foster care growing by 1,000 children per year on average. Across the entire U.S., there are more than 400,000 children living in foster care. According to the University of Chicago and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the future for children living in Midwest foster care look like this: 37 percent will graduate from high school, 3 percent will graduate from college, 45 percent of the girls will be pregnant by age 19, and more than 70 percent of the boys will end up in the privatized Illinois prison system.
According to research done by Let It Be Us, if these children are adopted into a safe and functional family rather than growing up in foster care, their futures can look like this: 95 percent will graduate from high school; 75 percent will graduate from college; the majority of the girls will not become pregnant because they are given unconditional love at home, as well as access to high quality and consistent birth control; and the majority of the boys will not end up in the privatized Illinois prison system.
The “Be Mine” event will feature a sit down dinner, a live auction, and raffles. Money raised at the “Be Mine” event will go directly to the cause, supporting state recruitment events and informational fairs, as well as immediate needs for children in Illinois foster care such as personal care supplies, desktop computers for group homes, warm clothes, common household items, and more.
Founded by Susan McConnell in the Chicago suburb of Barrington in 2014, Let It Be Us has helped connect hundreds of children in foster care with their forever families through various community fundraising efforts such as annual golf outings, community runs and 5Ks, corporate sponsorships, private donors, and more. The organization has also hosted more than 20 recruitment and informational events in Chicago and throughout Illinois that have helped educate intended parents about foster care adoption and what they can do to get started.
The “Be Mine” event will allow the organization to pivot from one generous community to a large metropolitan market with various suburban pockets and then take this expansion model to other states across the country in the future.
“We’re very proud of what we have accomplished so far,” McConnell says. “But there is so much more to do. Approximately 18,000 children are living in foster care, 54 percent of whom will never return home, and Illinois ranks last in the U.S. for securing adoptions for them. At the same time, the pool of intended parents is on the rise. Infertility rates are increasing and domestic and international adoptions are dwindling. This is indeed the perfect storm. There are parents who want a family and would be open to adopting through foster care (which is free). We just need to raise awareness about this as a family building option and help make the connections.”
“We often find that many people just don’t know about foster care adoption as a family building option. When faced with creating a family, most turn to common avenues such as fertility treatments or traditional adoption,” McConnell says. “There are not many resources available to direct these intended parents to foster care. If they have heard about it, they do not always fully understand the process, or they often have pre-conceived notions about it. When we clarify questions and provide detailed information, they are usually surprised by the facts.”
- Anyone can adopt from foster care — it doesn’t discriminate against age, income, gender, sexual orientation, or marital status.
- Becoming a foster parent or to adopt from foster care is completely free. There are no legal costs.
- Each child comes with a monthly stipend as well as medical insurance and that remains until age 18, even if the child is adopted.
- Children in foster care or adopted from foster care can attend any Illinois state university, college, or community college for free.
- The average age of a child available for adoption from foster care is 8 years old.
The “Be Mine” event will be held on Friday, Feb. 22 at Fig + Olive Chicago. Tickets can be purchased online. For more information about the cause, please visit LetItBeUs.org or follow the group on Facebook or Instagram.