There are more than 100,000 children waiting to be adopted in the United States. Many of them will be waiting a long time.

When children must be removed from their families because of abuse or neglect, the most desirable outcome usually is for their families to be safely reunified if their problems can be resolved. If reunification fails, child welfare systems must be prepared to move quickly to find them permanent alternative homes — usually through adoption.

But far too many child welfare systems are ill-prepared to handle this responsibility — and far too many children who are legally eligible to be adopted languish for years in foster care instead.

As time goes by, their prospects for ending up in safe, loving, permanent homes grow dimmer and their psychological damage often grows more severe. Many will simply “age out” of the system when they turn 18, without a family or even foster caregivers to help them make their way, and without the skills to make it on their own.

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