Adoption has been a major theme throughout This Is Us, and now, one of the stars of the hit NBC series is using her platform to advocate for the adoption of foster children in real life.
Actress Lyric Ross, who plays Deja Pearson — the foster teen who was welcomed into Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth's (Susan Kelechi Watson) family — has been named a celebrity ambassador for Orphan Myth's "100 Percent Participation" campaign, which aims to get 100 percent of children into a safe and loving family.
"It's an issue that has been overlooked for a very long time," Ross, 17, tells PEOPLE about foster children who are unable to find homes, adding that prior to her role, she "knew nothing about how serious this was."
"I'm sure there are many people like me, who know nothing about it," she says. "It's too big of an issue for us to overlook and turn away. I'm glad to help in any way I can to bring more attention to this issue."
Orphan Myth works to increase public awareness, mobilize supporters, and gather resources to enlarge the funnel of public participation in family-based solutions for children separated from their families and those at risk of being separated from family, both globally and in the United States. The "100 Percent Participation" campaign launched Thursday and will run through April 8.
Currently in its fifth season, This Is Us has provided insight into the foster care system and adoption process. Along with Deja's story, Randall joined Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack Pearson's (Milo Ventimiglia) family through adoption, and his sister Kate (Chrissy Metz) welcomed her second child, daughter Hailey, through adoption recently.
Specifically for Ross, her portrayal of Deja allowed her to learn more about the subject.
"Deja is a very complicated character, especially at first. A lot of it has to do with her history. Deja came into the Pearson home at the beginning of the second season and at the end of the second season, they decided to show a little more of her backstory, her history and her life," she says. "That's when, for me, it was crazy — because I didn't know there were kids out there going through all of this. Deja is a fictional character and she is very challenging and fun to play, but this is when I realized this is a serious thing. I was so grateful that I was on a show that actually was bringing awareness to this issue. It was a blessing, really, to a lot of people."
Want to get the biggest stories from PEOPLE every weekday? Subscribe to our new podcast, PEOPLE Every Day, to get the essential celebrity, entertainment and human interest news stories Monday through Friday.
Ross, who joined This Is Us in season 2 in a recurring role and has been a series regular since season 3, hopes the "100 Percent Participation" campaign will help all foster children find forever homes.
"What an incredible goal, that would be amazing," the actress says. "Foster kids shouldn't have to go through what they go through. To see them with a happy ending and [find] a beautiful, genuinely loving family, of course, that's what we want to see. I'm sure that's what every good-hearted person in this world wants to see. And that's what we're aiming for."