ABC 13 Special Report: Virginia Adopts
In Virginia, thousands of children are in need of a permanent home. The Commonwealth ranks 49th out of 50 states in adopting foster children before they reach 18 and age out of the system. Governor Bob McDonnell created a campaign to get more children into loving, permanent homes.
These kids are never a part of a family for more than a few months at a time, not feeling wanted or accepted. Now, McDonnell is hoping to change that, one child at a time.
Nicole Sloan and her husband have taken in so many children that numbers can't do it justice.
"We have not ever said no to a child," said Nicole Sloan.
Josh Johnson is their latest child. In his 16 years, he's been through more hardship than most people have in a lifetime. He guesses in a 12-year span, he's had more than 20 homes.
"I would be with a family for 3-4 months and then something will happen and then I will end up getting kicked out and I will go to a different one," he said.
Things like drug use and heated arguments forced him to bounce from home to home. For Johnson, love feels like a foreign concept; but temporary is all too familiar.
Six months ago, he joined the Sloan family. With three biological children, four officially adopted kids, a foster child here and there, and now Josh, they put the Brady Bunch to shame.
"I think our house is a little more hectic than theirs," said Alyssa Sloan, their biological child.
Josh seems like a typical teenager who obsesses over music and finding a good beat. He can't remember his biological parents or how old he was when he first went up for adoption.
It's kids like Josh whom Governor McDonnell is on a mission to get adopted and find them homes like this one.
"It's the kind of thing that just warms your heart to know that you've made a change in a young person's life," said McDonnell.
It's all part of his Virginia Adopts campaign. Largely through social media and rallies, the governor hopes to make people aware of the many children in need of adoption.
Adoption does more than help a child or family -- its impact spans the entire state.
"It's real life savings and it's literally creating joy and opportunity in the life of a person," said McDonnell.
McDonnell admits taking in an older child can have its challenges, but he argues so does parenting a biological child.
"Every parent knows there are ups and downs," he said.
Nicole Sloan has seen the downs. In the past, she's been attacked by some of her adopted children.
"I've had my jaw broke. I've had my arm broke. It's not necessarily pleasant, but it's necessary."
And every time, they've kept the child. In fact, the one that broke her bones still lives under her roof and has adjusted to a new way of life.
She says parental challenges should never steer a parent away from adopting.
Sloan and her husband say no matter what a child does they will still love them.
"Those are really tough kids. But they are still children," said Nicole Sloan.
For Josh, that means he now has a family that will be there for his graduation.
"This is probably the only placement that I've been into and actually thought I was family," he said.
In December, the paperwork will be filed to legally bring Josh into this family. But if you ask the Sloans, he's already one of them.
"When you walk through our door, you are ours. End of story," said Nicole Sloan.
The Sloans say people ask them all the time when they are going to stop adopting, and their answer is whenever God stops sending children to them.
McDonnell says adopting can actually save taxpayers money. The governor put $1.5 million into the budget to help with advocacy and post-adoptive services. He says the average child that ages out of foster care without a family costs taxpayers $300,000 throughout their lifetime.
Find out more about the Virginia Adopts Program.