National Adoption Month (United States) – November, 2010Posted by Kim
I keep reading that there are tons of blog posts about this being National Adoption Month here in the U.S. But my personal Google Reader is fairly silent on the matter. So apparently I’m not running with the cool kids, with a couple exceptions.
So here’s some info and my personal take, for what it’s worth.
History of “National Adoption Day/Week/Month”
The idea of generating a public awareness of the need for adoption of children who would otherwise simply “age-out” of foster care seems to have originated in the State of Massachusetts in 1976 when then-Governor Michael Dukakis declared an “Adoption Week.”
That idea spread and finally hit the national level when President Reagan designated the first National Adoption Week in 1984. [Side note: Reagan was himself an adoptive parent of his son Mike, who he and his first wife adopted as an infant 40 years earlier.]
In 1995, President Clinton expanded “Adoption Week” into “Adoption Month.”
National Adoption Month 2010 Information
…kicked off with a Proclamation of Adoption Month by President Obama. Like many (most?) Americans, the President seems to have a very positive view of adoption and its benefits for both the children being adopted and their parents. Hillary Clinton’s message concerning adoption on the U.S. Department of State’s web page follows in the same vein.
And even the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has set up a whole series of pages dedicated to Adoption Awareness during the month of November.
Summary of Purpose
The stated purpose of National Adoption Month here in the U.S. is to increase awareness of the need for families for kids currently “stuck” in foster care here in the U.S.
These are kids whose bio-parents have terminated their parental rights or have had those rights terminated due to abuse or severe neglect. First option to adopt is usually given to (and claimed by) their extended family members or their foster parents. But some never get that permanent family. They bounce from foster home to foster home, in some of which they suffer further abuse and neglect, and in all of which they necessarily (by definition of being in “temporary” situations) suffer separation after separation.
This, for many, feels like rejection. Why doesn’t anyone “want” them? (Keeping in mind that they are not the reason they’re there to begin with. Blame society, blame an abusive first family, blame poverty… but in no way can you say it’s their fault that they’re there.)
And so the need for awareness. But, more to the point, for good, therapeutic, adoptive parents.
Expanding the Adopt-osphere
In recent years, National Adoption Month has come to encompass all of us connected to adoption in any way – adoptees, adoptive parents, foster kids, first- or birth-parents – international adoptions as well as domestic adoptions.
The “Adoption Month” Controversy
All four of the bloggers in my aforementioned Google Reader who have commented on this month are either adult adoptees or first-parents who relinquished children for adoption years ago and still mourn that loss.
In both camps, the chipper script so often put forth in our country about adoption grates on their experiences. Sometimes adoptive parents aren’t the “shining examples of care and concern that define our great Nation” in our President’s proclamation. And even when they are very good parents whose kids grow to love them dearly, make otherwise unforeseen educational gains, and grow to become fantastic adults and great citizens, those kids-then-adults still deserve the right to mourn the original losses that switched their familial tracks.
And I can’t imagine no longer having my kids – knowing they were being raised by another family, calling those parents “Mom” and “Dad.” So I’m going to be the last person to throw “your child is ‘better off'” at the biological-parents who made a tough choice they either sometimes or always regret and wish they could re-do, with the hope of a better support network than the one they had back when they signed away their rights.
And then, to complete the triad, there are adoptive parents who have found that adopting a child is in many ways very different than having a biological one. And they’re peddling quickly to try to get up to speed. Some make it. Some don’t. The kids of the latter then move on to another placement.
Last year, I was a baby-blogger – barely weeks in. Adoption Month came and went. I hardly noticed, let alone having an opinion about it.
This year is different. I’m nothing if not well-aware of the varying perspectives surrounding adoption. This week alone, I’ve followed one blogger who is in-country adopting her new baby internationally (full of joy), one first-mom blogger who writes nearly every day to the child she relinquished years ago (with regret, longing for reconnection, and anger at those who pressured her), several “adult-adoptee” bloggers who have the full range of feelings about that very moniker (content-with-the-duality-of-their-family-ties through raging-mad)… on it goes.
I commented on a post today that I feel like I’m tossing a grenade every time I touch the subject now.
1. But there are children today who don’t have families and want them. And a lot of those kids are right here in the U.S. I also met a few when I was in El Salvador this past February. People I trust who are living in other countries in order to serve those cultures say they’re there as well. There is a need. It’s just not the type of adoption (cute babies who frequently still do have living bio-parents) that gets the most attention.
2. But there are families and single parents today trying to make it, so that separation from their kids doesn’t seem like (and isn’t) the only means of that child’s survival and thriving. Some of them could use a hand toward that end. All of them could use support.
3. But, there are certainly conflicts of interests for some of the biggest adoption proponents. Yes, adoption agencies are the ones who frequently meet the need to recruit parents for children who don’t have families. When they do that, they have served a good cause for that child. On the other hand, they also have a huge financial incentive to convince a pregnant woman coming to them for advice and information that adoption is “the right thing for her child.” Adoptions are how they stay in business. And that pregnant woman might seem like a rough candidate compared to some of the sweet, eager, loving couples sitting over there in the file cabinet, waiting for the chance to become parents.
Adoption is a loaded subject. And we have this whole month bringing it to the foreground (as though it ever leaves for those already “in the web”).
What YOU Can Do
I wrote a post a while back, “Is Adoption Right For Us?”. If you think it is, go ahead and do some serious searching. Well-equipped adoptive parents are what we need here in the U.S.
Not looking to adopt but still looking to meet needs in this area? Look into:
1. Sponsoring a Child/Family/Community through one of the many organizations that care for kids and keep families together while fostering financially independent communities.
2. Buy Holiday and Birthday gifts from organizations like International Development Exchange (IDEX) that provide grants to small business producers trying to escape the patterns of poverty.
3. Support those around you affected by adoption. Adoptive parents, adoptees (adults as well as children), and first-parents all have voices. Listen always, help when asked, but maybe most importantly be sensitive in how you talk about adoption.
That’s enough of that for now from me. Feel free to chime in with comments! I’d love to hear how others of you view this “National Adoption Month.”