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VIEWPOINT: 489 Minnesota kids need you now

Think of your kids, nieces or nephews, or other young people in your life, and then think of what they need each day to grow into great adults: care, guidance, stability and unconditional love. Hundreds of children in Minnesota are waiting for families to give them just that.

They are waiting for parents to tuck them in at night, help them with their homework and guide them through the college application process. They are waiting for parents to encourage their artistic skills, nudge them into trying out for the swim team, and clap loudly for them at the end of their school play. They are waiting for siblings with whom to play catch, listen to music and walk to the bus stop each morning. They are waiting for parents to call "Mom" and "Dad" and siblings to call "my brother" and "my sister."

In Minnesota, 489 children are waiting in foster homes, group homes, emergency shelters and residential treatment facilities. These are not the kinds of places where kids are meant to grow up. These special kids deserve a safe home and a loving family.

At the Minnesota Department of Human Services we partner with county, nonprofit and private adoption agencies to create opportunities and find forever homes for kids currently in foster care. Of the kids in need: 60 percent are siblings who need to be adopted together; 59 percent are children of color; 53 percent have documented physical, mental, emotional or behavioral disabilities; and 42 percent are ages 12-18. But those statistics tell only a small piece of their stories.

The kids currently in our care share a lot of the same dreams, interests, wants and needs of other young people in your life. We hear: "I want a dog," "I want to get my driver's license," "I want to play with my brothers and sisters," and "I want to be accepted for who I am."

But they also have a large need that many kids may take for granted — a family who loves them and supports them. You could be one of those families.

We're looking for adoptive parents who can provide love, guidance and structure to children. We especially need parents for older children and sibling groups who need to remain together when adopted. We need adoptive parents who are willing to take on the challenges of parenting, seek the community resources and services children need, and commit to a lifetime of love, nurturing and support.

If you are interested in adoption, you can learn more about the kids waiting via the State Adoption Exchange, where their unique photos and stories are listed. You can read the Star Tribune's monthly feature about waiting children and watch KSTP's Twin Cities Live "Kid Connection" for heartwarming stories of children waiting for families. You can attend events, like our 19th annual Celebrate Adoption: Circus of the Heart, which occurred Nov. 6 at Envision in Oakdale, to talk with adoption experts.

Or, you can simply start with a phone call. Contact your county social services agency, MN ADOPT or one of these five — Ampersand Families, Children's Home Society of Minnesota, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, Kindred Family Focus and North Homes Inc. — agencies working with DHS to find families for foster children.

Last year, families adopted 662 children from the foster care system. We need more families to make this lifelong commitment to love, nurture and support children who are waiting. Help us positively change these young people's lives forever.

Emily Piper is the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services.