Founder’s Message of Change and Hope

Message from Our Founder

Susan-McConnelll-new

Let it Be Us has designed and built the strong and innovative bridge between our waiting children and foster and adoptive parents.  Our work has been applauded by stakeholders in child welfare as we bring entrepreneurial and innovative solutions to one of the biggest challenges we face. 

I am the founder and executive director of the child welfare nonprofit organization Let It Be Us which designs strong and innovative programming to build a bridge between waiting children, including those who are in emergent need and/or who are challenging to place, with foster and adoptive parents. Our child specific recruitment tools offer customized solutions for each child referred to us, ensuring their placement in well matched, safe and loving homes. Our work is evidence based and has been applauded by stakeholders in child welfare. We are changing the landscape of foster care and adoption in Illinois. 

I have researched foster care and adoption, for now two decades, in the State of Illinois where we rank last at achieving permanency for our children in foster care and we rank last at achieving adoption for our waiting children. This is unacceptable to me and to our entire team at Let It Be Us. 

At Let It Be Us, I lead a team that shares the vision of a safe and loving home for each child in foster care and for those awaiting adoption. We play a role in solving pressing problems. We embrace a commitment to justice and a sense of urgency regarding our work. We work in a partnership with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services as well as all Child Welfare Agencies throughout the State of Illinois. We are a strong voice on critical life affecting challenges for the children we serve. We are the first nonprofit organization of our kind in Illinois and, I believe, the nation.

I am a parent to 4 children, 3 through adoption, and I have 27 years of experience in open adoption. As an adoptive parent, I founded Let It Be Us because I know how important it is that every child lives in, and is loved by, a family.  A family is a life-long support system, a social safety net. The fact that the United States has over 100,000 children in the foster care system who are awaiting adoption is simply unacceptable, as is the fact that Illinois ranks last in the nation at achieving permanency as well as adoption for her waiting children. I sit on the Illinois Statewide Foster Care and Advisory Counsel where we use a larger voice to bring about change. And, finally, as the recipient of a congressional award for my work in foster care, I have a responsibility and a passion toward the Let It Be Us mission. 

I am especially proud of designing our Targeted Recruitment Program with my Let It Be Us team, which may be the first program in the country to use subscription based social media as well as a large and growing registry to swiftly and effectively locate parents for waiting children.  I’m also proud of our series of Adoption and Foster Care Information Fairs which are town hall style events recruiting hundreds of individuals annually who are interested in becoming foster and adoptive parents. 

Through our work we have built the strong and innovative bridge that connects the children we serve with foster and adoptive families.  To that end, Let It Be Us curates and manages the Heart Gallery of Illinois – a digital parent recruitment tool that is a photography and story exhibit of children awaiting adoption, in a partnership with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Service’s Adoption Listing Service.  The Heart Gallery is visited every day by people hoping to adopt. Our goal is to bring as many eyes as possible to the Heart Gallery of Illinois on our website, raising awareness and finding parents for these beautiful waiting children. 

Together with a Board of Directors consisting of incredibly talented experts in adoption, foster care, education, marketing, public relations, media, social media, and fundraising, our work was launched in Illinois in March of  2014.  Our Board is heavily weighted with foster parents and adoptive parents who know the system firsthand.  Illinois is the perfect place to start.  Not only is Illinois home to so many children in the foster care system who are awaiting adoption, but according to a study by the University of Chicago, Illinois ranks last in the nation for the number of children who age out of the foster care system without ever finding an adoptive family. Other statistics from the University of Chicago prove that our work is needed.  If children are never adopted and age out of the foster care system, they not only go out in to the world alone, but what happens to them next is a spectacular failure …  

  • 97% will never attend college.  
  • Only 50% will finish high school. (Only 37% will finish high school in Illinois.)
  • 45% of the girls will be pregnant by age 19.  
  • The percentage of boys who end up in the prison system is extreme and incalculable.  (We suspect it is well over 50%.)

The financial cost to the state is significant and the social cost to our communities is high, but the emotional and life-long cost to the children is unimaginable.

If a child is included in a “Heart Gallery,” he or she has a significantly increased chance of being adopted.

 

Since our inception, our accomplishments have opened doors showing us more need than we imagined.  We seek corporate and foundation sponsorship during this opportune time in Illinois as the State stands ready to solve problems and identifies this as one of its most important. I am available to speak to groups or to meet with stakeholders, donors or grantors to discuss the mission of Let it Be Us.

Thank you for your interest in Let It Be Us. Our work will not only help these waiting children, it will benefit the generations to come..

Susan McConnell
Founder and Executive Director