November is National Adoption Awareness Month. This initiative, funded by the Children’s Bureau, works to raise public awareness of adoption and bring attention to the need for permanent, loving homes for the many children in foster care.
Every year, National Adoption Month is dedicated to a special adoption-related theme, which helps support professionals working each day to match children with forever families. This year’s theme is: “In Their Own Words: Lifting Up Youth Voices,” which highlights the needs of older children in U.S. foster care. It is common knowledge that teenagers are adopted much less frequently than newborns and infants, largely due to their age. Because of this, teenagers are much more likely to “age out” of foster care, without ever gaining valuable family support or a permanent place to call “home.” Their well-being, as result, is often compromised. Placing older adolescents in healthy, stable care is an important step in ensuring that our youth have positive and successful futures. This is what National Adoption Month 2018 is all about.
This National Adoption Month, the U.S. Children’s Bureau is working to create opportunities for young people – whether they’ve been reunited with family, placed with an adoptive family, or entered adulthood independently – to be heard and to share their perspectives of living in foster care. Hearing about their experiences is important in spreading awareness about the loving act of adoption. These voices give those working in the child welfare field a valuable tool in educating communities and families about adoption and foster care. The National Adoption Month website also provides resources specifically designed for youth who might want to get involved or share their personal stories.
The History of National Adoption Month
National Adoption Month has been celebrated every November for more than two decades. It all started in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts where, in 1976, Governor Michael Dukakis announced an Adoption Week to spread awareness of the need for adoptive families for children in foster care. Then, in 1984, President Ronald Regan made an official proclamation for National Adoption Week. It was not until 1995 that President Bill Clinton – a man touched by adoption himself – expanded this initiative to stretch an entire month. Three years later, President Clinton directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a plan to expand the use of the Internet as a tool to find homes for children waiting to be adopted from foster care. In 2008, President George W. Bush provided an explanation of National Adoption Month in Spanish, opening up the inclusivity of the initiative.
The Importance of National Adoption Month
More than 437,000 children and adolescents are currently in the foster care system, waiting for a loving family to welcome them home permanently. The average age of children entering the foster care system is over six years old. On top of these statistics, there are thousands of expectant mothers across the U.S. in search of permanent homes for their babies.
Children are usually placed in foster care because their parents are unable to care for them. Unfortunately, these children are often the victims of abuse and neglect. Sometimes these children have lasting scars and need families that can provide the love and stability each child deserves.
Each year, local, national, and State adoption agencies, as well as adoptive family, foster, and kinship care groups take time to recognize National Adoption Awareness Month. They use it as an opportunity to educate the people in their communities about the positive act of adoption, by planning special activities, events, and programs to help raise awareness and dispel myths about the act.
This year’s theme has great potential to reach the public in a very personal way. Youths who have experienced foster care first-hand – whether they have been placed with a permanent family, been reunited with biological family, or outgrown foster care on their own – can share their personal accounts to help others. Their testimonials can be used to help adoptive families, recruitment practices, and even help shape child welfare policy and adoption processes.
This National Adoption Month also poses a great opportunity for clinical professionals across the United States to share more resources about the positive act of adoption – not just for adoptive families, but for expectant and birth mothers, as well. Making a private adoption plan is one way to prevent children from entering the foster care system. Private, domestic adoption agencies such as Adoptions With Love can work with expectant and birth parents to help them making thoughtful, caring plans for their child’s life. Many of the women that consider adoption are already single parents, struggling to care for the children they have at home, or trying to work within the child welfare system to regain custody of their children.
What is Adoption?
In understanding the heart of National Adoption Month, it is important that we understand what adoption means – and why it is so meaningful for children all over the world. Adoption is the legal process by which a child becomes a permanent, legal member of a new family. Adoptive families have all the same legal, social, and emotional rights as biological families. When children cannot be safely reunited with or raised by their biological families, adoption is often the most positive outcome.
According to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children: “Adoption can affect child development in profound ways. Data collected from studies over the past three decades supports adoption as a superior means of promoting normal development in children permanently separated from birth parents… For children suffering severe neglect or abuse in early life, an adoptive family is a remarkable environment for healing emotional and physical trauma and reversing developmental deficits.”
Despite popular belief, children who were adopted lead lives very similar to their non-adopted peers. In fact, studies show that adopted children are read to, sung to, and told stories to more often than non-adopted children. They are also more likely to have regular, family dinners with their adoptive parents, and are at lower risk of substance abuse as a result. The majority (90 percent) of children have positive experiences with their adoptive families. The most positive outcomes are often in open adoption plans.
Open adoption is a type of adoption plan that can stem from a private adoption or foster care adoption situation. It means that the adoptive family has contact, knowledge of, or some extent of relationship with the biological family. Open adoption is becoming increasingly common, and is beneficial for all members of the adoption triad. You can read about the benefits of open adoption here.
Celebrating National Adoption Month 2018
There are several ways adoptive families, as well as clinicians, social workers, and other professionals, can get involved with National Adoption Month. If you are an adoptive family, one of the most impactful things you can do is share your own adoption story. Post photos along with the story on social media websites such as Facebook and Instagram, using the hashtags #NationalAdoptionMonth and #30DaysofLove, to spread the word about this loving act.
Clinical professionals can also honor National Adoption Month by educating young women, families, and others about the positive act of adoption, and all that is involved in the adoption process. Too often, young women facing an unplanned pregnancy do not know that adoption is an option for them. They are unaware of the benefits of adoption, the steps it takes to make an adoption plan, or are afraid of what others (including the baby’s father) might think. It is important for these women to learn about adoption, as well as their other options, in a safe and confidential environment. It is important they have access to educational resources. By making an adoption plan, these expectant/birth mothers can prevent their child from entering the foster care system. If you have a patient or client who would like to learn more about adoption, we are happy to speak with her confidentially, without any pressure.
If you are looking for more adoption-related information, please do not hesitate to reach out to Adoptions With Love. We are a private, licensed, non-profit adoption agency that has been matching children with loving families for more than 32 years. We work with expectant/birth mothers across the United States, as well as hopeful adoptive families in Massachusetts. Our caring staff is available to chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.