National Adoption Month 2017

Each year in the United States over 110,000 children in foster care wait for permanent families, while approximately 18,000 are adopted through private adoptions and 5,000 through international adoption.

Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts started Adoption Week in 1976 in an effort to promote awareness of children waiting for permanent homes. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first National Adoption Week in 1984 and finally, National Adoption Month was declared by President Bill Clinton in 1995. November is now the month dedicated to adoption awareness and education. “Teens Need Families, No Matter What” is the 2017 theme for Adoption Month and National Adoption Day will be celebrated on November 18, 2017 and will include many adoption finalizations in courts across the United States.

Adoption always includes complexities that must be dealt with. Over the 41 years I have worked with children and families, I have witnessed difficult decisions made by expectant and prospective parents, adjustments in life cycle events in both birth and adoptive families and children struggling to understand their early histories and develop their identifies.

National Adoption Month provides an opportunity for conversations about how families are formed and who you consider to be family. It also provides a time to keep the communication lines open with your child, glean what your child is thinking and discover any questions they may have.

When talking about adoption with or in front of a child, choose your words and tone carefully. You want your child or those around you to hear a positive message about adoption and family building. A young child will repeat what they hear. An older child will see deeper meaning in your words. This also applies to talking to siblings, family and friends before and after the actual adoption process. It’s an opportunity to teach the facts of adoption and the best words to use to describe your situation.

Your message may include the benefit of children having a permanent home, that someone not ready to parent has alternatives for their child and that it enabled you and others to become a parent. Explain the role the media plays in the portrayal of adoption. While there are good images, such as in “This Is Us” and “Grace and Frankie,” and in children’s shows, such as “Sesame Street,” there are still “shock value” stories. It is important that your child knows how to answer questions (or not). Teach them how, and when to answer questions with specific facts, just generalities, or say “that’s private”.

While National Adoption Month often results in more requests for information on adoption, efforts should continue throughout the year to find homes for more foster care children. There are lots of ways to get involved:

  • Ask local media, community leaders and politicians to speak about the waiting children
  • Look into mentoring a child
  • Educate those around you
  • Encourage your local library to carry children and adult books on adoption
  • If an adoption triad member, journal or write a letter to your child’s birth/adoptive family or the professionals involved in your adoption process.

Adoption is not a one-time event in the life of a child. It is a life event that comes with complexities and impact for all who compose the birth and adoptive family. Somedays adoption is barely noticed. On others it is evident and should be addressed. The more you talk about it with your child and within your own family and educate others, including extended family, friends and educators, the less misconceptions will prevail. Use National Adoption Month to make a difference in the life of a child.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA and is currently a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood. Her written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including her BLOG and as Head Writer for ADOPTION.NET She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001.

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