Each year, November marks National Adoption Awareness Month. This annual initiative recognizes the many children in need of loving, permanent homes across the United States. While adoption has come a long way from the time when children were boarded onto trains from orphanages in urban areas to rural America – when children were literally “put up” on platforms for prospective parents to view – we still have work to do. We must increase awareness about adoption, reduce the stigma, and spread the positive message of this incredible choice.
Adoption is a very positive act of love. Not only is it a great way to build a family, it is also a way to help children achieve permanency who are already in the foster care system. For youth in foster care, adoption can provide them with a great sense of belonging and connection. They will be welcomed into a family that supports them, no matter what.
In addition, adoption can help prevent children from ever entering foster care. Women facing an unplanned pregnancy, who are not ready to parent a child, have the option to make an adoption plan for their baby. They can choose a family to love and care for their child. They can have great peace of mind their child will grow up in a stable, safe, and permanent home, full of love and opportunity. If you or someone you know is facing an unplanned pregnancy – even if she has already given birth – know that adoption is a positive choice.
The History of National Adoption Month
In 1976, Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts announced a statewide Adoption Awareness Week. Then, in November 1984, President Ronald Reagan declared the first National Adoption Week, giving special acknowledgment to those who are rebuilding families all over the country through adoption. He proclaimed:
“National Adoption Week gives us an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to give every child waiting to be adopted the chance to become part of a family. During this Thanksgiving season, let us work to encourage community acceptance and support for adoption… Most importantly, let us pay tribute to those special couples who have opened their homes and hearts to adopted children, forming the bonds of love that we call the family.”
Families have long stood as the pillars of our communities and children have long been our highest hope for the future. President Clinton knew this when, in 1995, he expanded Adoption Awareness Week to the entire month of November. National Adoption Month has continued now for twenty years. Clinton affirmed:
“For many people across the United States, adoption provides a means for building and strengthening families. It places children into loving, permanent homes where they can flourish and grow up to become happy, healthy, productive members of our national community. Adoption also enables adults to experience the unique joys of parenthood.”
In 1998, President Clinton directed the U. S. Department of HHS to expand the use of the internet to find homes for children to be adopted from foster care. In 2008, President Bush provided an explanation of National Adoption Month in Spanish.
National Adoption Month 2020 – “Engage Youth: Listen and Learn”
The 2020 theme for National Adoption Month is called “Engage Youth: Listen and Learn.” It is designed to help older children in foster care achieve permanency and a sense of belonging, both physically and emotionally, through adoption. Here is an excerpt from the Child Welfare Information Gateway about this year’s theme:
“This year’s National Adoption Month microsite includes resources and tips to help child welfare and legal professionals develop and support both formal and informal opportunities for young people to effectively share their voice and perspective. Hearing from youth who have experience in foster care—whether they’ve been reunited with family, achieved permanency with an adoptive family, or entered adulthood independently—can help educate communities and shape child welfare and adoption processes and policies. Their stories can inform recruitment practices, training resources for families, and other permanency support services. This year’s website also contains resources designed specifically for youth, including how to get involved and ways to share their story effectively.”
It is a well-known fact within the adoption community that teenagers are less likely to be adopted. Many teens will “age out” of foster care without the loving care of a strong family unit. As the Child Welfare Information Gateway explains, “Securing lifelong connections for teens in foster care, both legally and emotionally, is a critical component in determining their future achievement, health, and well-being.”
As noted above, the National Adoption Month microsite offers valuable support for the child welfare community, including resources for legal counselors and professionals and for youth in foster care. There is information specifically geared toward youth, to aide them in sharing their story and exploring their emotions as they await a permanent home.
Education regarding private, infant adoptions can decrease the need for foster care. When a woman faces an unplanned pregnancy, she can make a safe, loving, and permanent choice for her child through adoption. Some children often bounce back and forth between foster care and biological family members; often traumatized as they grow older and can become less adoptable. Open adoption allows the biological family to remain a part of their child’s life while providing security and opportunity for their child. Increased infant adoption can decrease the need to find permanent homes for teenagers.
Recent Facts About Foster Care & Adoption
Here are some statistics you may be interested to know about adoption and foster care:
- There are 122,000 children waiting for adoption in the foster care system (as of September 2019). Children in foster care will wait an average of four years to be adopted.
- Of these children, 13,974 (11 percent) are between the ages of 15 and 17. This places them at risk of aging out of the foster care system.
- Each year, close to 20,000 youth age out of foster care, without the support of a forever family to help them navigate the transition into adulthood. These children go on to experience higher rates of homelessness, incarceration, and unemployment after they leave foster care.
How to Get Involved this November
The above statistics highlight the importance of adoption and child welfare agencies across the U.S. By raising awareness about adoption, we can help keep children out of the foster care system, or connect them with a forever family.
For families touched by adoption, it only takes a few clicks of a button to spread the word. Whether you are part of an adoptive family, or a birth parent who has made an adoption plan, you can share your story on social media. Share photos on Instagram and Facebook, using the hashtag #NationalAdoptionMonth, or Adoptions With Love’s hashtag, #30daysoflove.
Adoptive families who have been impacted by adoption may also want to take some time express their gratitude this season. The Tuesday after Thanksgiving marks #GivingTuesday, which is described as an “international day of charitable giving.” This year, Giving Tuesday falls on December 1st. This initiative is meant to support charities around the world. If you feel called to, you may choose to honor your child’s birth mother by donating to a local women’s shelter, children’s advocacy group, or your adoption agency. There are countless organizations in need of financial contributions, and it is easier than ever to send monetary donations to those in need. If you cannot donate funds, you may consider donating your time. Volunteer at one of these groups, or simply stop by to visit and share your story. Connecting with others has a bigger impact than most people realize, especially when it comes to the world of adoption.
This National Adoption Month, we invite you to share your story and educate others on this positive act of love. We also ask you to remember the significance of adoption, even after November ends. As Lynn Johnson, Assistant Secretary at the Administration for Children and Families explains, “Adoption should never be just a one month event—but should happen every day, every week, and every month of the year, so that our children move into safe, loving homes quickly.”
If you would like to learn more about adoption, please reach out to Adoptions With Love. We are a private, non-profit adoption agency that has been placing children with loving families for more than 34 years. Our caring staff is available to chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at 1-800-722-7731 or visit us online to learn more.