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Children who age out of foster care without being adopted into a permanent home are far less likely to go to college and more likely to become involved in criminal activities or experience homelessness, according to officials at the kickoff of a new adoption initiative.

To help more children avoid these negative outcomes, Virginia leaders are embarking on a statewide effort to match 1,000 children who are in foster care with adoptive parents.

The Fairfax County kickoff event was held Tuesday at the county government center.

“Every child, if they’re going to achieve the American dream, needs a permanent, loving home,” said Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), who has made the Virginia Adopts Campaign for 1,000 a priority of his final year in office.

The Virginia General Assembly dedicate $1.5 million to the effort.

In addition to being the right thing to do, McDonnell said the effort represents good governance, because ensuring more stability in children’s lives will reduce the need for costly interventions later in life.

There are about 300 children in foster care in Fairfax County at any given point in time, said Nannette Bowler, director of the Fairfax County Department of Family Services, and there are currently 9 children in the county over age 12 who are in need of adoptive families and at risk of aging out of foster care.

Several local community leaders shared their personal stories with adoption during the kickoff event in Fairfax and encouraged others to spread the word about the need for adoptive parents, including Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield), who has an adopted daughter.

“It has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me, my wife Nancy, and our son,” he said. “It changes you. It’s not something you can really explain unless you’ve lived it.”

Information on children in need of adoptive homes, as well as information on state support and resources available for adoptive parents, are listed on the Virginia Adopts website at www.virginiaadopts.virginia.gov.

kschumitz@fairfaxtimes.com