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Child Watch® Column: "Davion Navar Henry Only"

Release Date: November 1, 2013

Marian Wright Edelman

“I'll take anyone,” Davion said. “Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don't care. And I would be really appreciative. The best I could be…”

It was a front page story in the Tampa Bay Times last month that broke hearts around the world. Fifteen-year-old Davion Navar Henry Only has spent his entire life in Florida’s foster care system. His mother was incarcerated when he was born, and when he did an Internet search for her name in June he learned she’d died just a few weeks earlier. He’s been moved from placement to placement throughout his childhood without ever finding somewhere he really belonged. As a teenager now living in a group home, Davion was starting to feel like he was running out of time—at risk of becoming one of the more than 23,000 youths each year who simply “age out” of the foster care system at age 18 or older and are left on their own without ever finding a caring, permanent family connection.

Davion decided to take his future into his own hands and asked his caseworker if she could help him speak at a church. She made arrangements at St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, Florida. There, as the article reported, the shy teenager who’s worked hard to get A’s so far this year in everything but geometry and would love to play football if he had someone to drive him to practice, stood at the pulpit and asked the congregation if “someone, anyone” could adopt him.

Davion’s story quickly went viral and was shared on social media networks and websites around the country. He appeared on national television and received media coverage as far away as Australia and Japan and there is wonderful news to report. Davion’s child welfare agency, Eckerd, has received more than 10,000 inquiries about adopting him and says: “We are confident that Davion’s new forever family is within the responses we’ve received and case managers have already begun to follow up individually with each family. Davion’s simple plea has raised awareness of adoption everywhere, but it’s vital to remember that there are thousands more Davions out there.” Davion told the reporter who first shared his story in a follow up interview: “I know what it’s like to have nobody, with no light at the end of the tunnel, no one who wants you. I just keep saying, ‘There’s only one me. But all my friends, all the other guys at the group home, all these other kids need families too.’ I just hope they don’t give up. And that someone gives them a chance.”

I am so grateful Davion did not give up on himself and is serving as a voice for many other youths like himself. There were nearly 400,000 children in foster care in 2012, and 101,719 of them were waiting to be adopted. Although foster care is supposed to be temporary, the average length of stay in foster care is nearly two years. Almost one-third of children waiting for adoption have been in care three or more years and one in seven has been in care five years or longer. For some children like Davion, foster care can last an entire childhood. One of the remarkable blessings of Davion’s sharing his story is that it shed light on the thousands of children who wait years and years before finding a permanent family, especially on the thousands of teenagers who desperately want but are at risk of never finding a family: 16 and 17 year olds are just 3.3 percent of finalized adoptions. Children who leave foster care without permanent families are at increased risk of not graduating from high school and ending up unemployed, homeless or in the juvenile and criminal justice systems—with a jail cell in place of a home.

The church that welcomed Davion to tell his story served an important mission. Across the country other faith communities are helping children in foster care find permanent families and help support families to keep children from going into care.

November is National Adoption Month. If just one-third of the nearly 345,000 faith congregations in America encouraged one member to adopt one child from foster care, all the 101,719 children in foster care awaiting adoption could have a loving permanent family. Davion’s pleading words struck a chord as he reminded adults everywhere that God does not give up on any child—and neither should we.


Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.

Mrs. Edelman's Child Watch Column also appears each week on The Huffington Post.

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Submitted by Jo at: July 17, 2014
I know that I am personally supposed to get involved with this cause......

Submitted by Terry Taffe ofm Cap. at: November 4, 2013
Thank you for writing about Davion- his need for family life for himself and the other 500,000* homeless youth in this country is so clear and his call is spot on. In fact, we ALL need family, don't we? *500,000 includes children in Foster Care; the juvenile justice, educational, and mental health dsystems; the BIA; and the thousands of youth actually on the streets. None of them have permanent families which is all Davion is asking for.

Submitted by johey at: November 2, 2013
I was a foster kid. I have been a foster mom. Now I am tthe mother of 8-biological and adopted. The system is horribly broken and contributes to the horrible damage done to chidren. Our son was in 14 foster homes before he was 6 years old and that is only counting the LEGAL, OFFICIAL homes. He is a good son but the damage done is permanent. I fail to understand how we as a society can pretend to care about our children while we allow such shameful treatment to occur. EVERY child deserves a forever home!!!

Submitted by reka at: November 1, 2013
This column is close to my heart. As a former aged-out foster care survivor. I'm pleased that so many people took a stand to become parents for Davion and hopefully many others. So many teens in the foster care system become lost un wanted.

Submitted by SF at: November 1, 2013
The article about a 15 year old foster youth who was looking for a permanent home in Florida could have taken place in Los Angeles. According to the LA County Department of Children & Family Services, in September 2013 there were over 9,000 youth in the foster care system who were 14 years old and over, i.e. 25% of the youngsters in care. While the exposure of one youth in Florida brought out a heartwarming response of 10,000 calls from prospective parents, here in Los Angeles, we are not seeing people stepping up to accept the responsibility of providing permanent, caring homes, and guidance to these youth. My appeal is for some of those prospective parents to step into the void and offer a home to one of our young people.

Submitted by Silina at: November 1, 2013
Any loving couple, gay or LBGT who has a stable home and wishes to adopt a child should be allowed to do so.

Submitted by EFH at: November 1, 2013
Thank you for the article about the enormous number of children in foster care waiting for adoption. But I would like to bring another reminder that there are biological parents that have put their lives together and would love to reengage with their children. Seattle did an interesting study some years ago, where it took 10 children who aging out of foster care, and attempted to find out if there were any blood relatives they could reconnect them with. They were able to do that with 8/10 of the children. Some of them had grandparents that didn't even know they existed. I have counseled and educated incarcerated women for almost 20 years, and I have seen wonderful stories of reconciliation where years later, the parent-child relationships are healthy and happy. Sadly, this has been done in spite of the attempts of the child welfare agencies to prevent it happening.

Submitted by Lee at: November 1, 2013
The other young adult who are 18 and still function as children since they have had no support no training no resources no core values to help them survive. They are thrown to the wolves. There is no funding to help them. They live where ever they fall, We need to help them

Submitted by Christeen at: November 1, 2013
I was so touched by today's story and I pray it will have a very happy ending for Davion and a lot of other children as result of his plea. I am 93 years of age, mother of four children, grandmother of 10 and great grandmother of 13 and each one of them or precious to me. I was also Foster mother for 20 in a 20 year period. I can no longer adopt but I am sponsoring an orphan boy in Haiti who lost his mother to Aides 2 years ago.It is a real blessing to be able to do that.

Submitted by Friend of WannaBe Parents at: November 1, 2013
I have friends who have been trying to adopt for seven years. They would like to adopt a 10-12 year old girl - or even two girls - and they have not been successful. They are very discouraged. Both parents are professionals - they have two sons - and they are leaders in their church, their school and their community. If there are so many kids needing to be adopted, why is it so hard for this family to become adoptive parents?

Submitted by MarieJahi at: November 1, 2013
I am always praying that God would cover the children who are orphans supernaturally! I am so renewed in my faith to pray for these youth…When I heard about Davion I cried and prayed that his voice and heart would be answered by godly people. From the articles since then, that prayer is so powerfully being answered for fatherless youth!!!! His voice was a huge focus on family needs…people of God needs to step up and be the answers for these youth….