November evokes many images and feelings: autumn, family gatherings, feasts, falling leaves, gratitude, turkeys — and one more: families being formed through the process of adoption.
Here are 7 facts you may not know about National Adoption Month, sometimes also called National Adoption Awareness Month, which has its roots and branches in the month of November.
- The concept originated as Adoption Week in Massachusetts, set in 1976 by Governor Michael Dukakis to “promote awareness of the need for adoptive families for children in foster care.” — Child Welfare Information Gateway
- It became National Adoption Week in 1984, thanks to President Ronald Reagan. — Child Welfare Information Gateway
- It expanded to National Adoption Month in 1995, proclaimed by President Bill Clinton — The American Presidency Project
- In 2000, National Adoption Day was launched by a coalition of supporters, including the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and The Alliance for Children’s Rights. — Wikipedia
- The original intent was to find families for children, not to find babies for families. Awareness is necessary for the 443,000 kids currently without permanent families, including 20,000 who are expected to age out each year never having had a permanent family.
- Awareness is not as necessary for infant adoption, as the ratio of waiting-to-adopt parents to available newborns is estimated to be around 36:1. In other words, there is not a shortage of parents for newborns, but there is a shortage of parents for waiting children.
- Adoptees are not monolithically thrilled with all this promotion. Though President Donald Trump said in 2018 that Adoption is a blessing for all involved, many who live adoption – adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents – recognize a deeper level of complexity. Stephanie Drenka reveals in her essay I’m Adopted, But I Won’t Be Celebrating National Adoption Month, a truth that goes alongside the blessings: Adoption is loss. She qualifies this statement with another: Please do not mistake my tone as anti-adoption.
What can we do with this information to better observe National Adoption Month? As with so many complex matters, true understanding takes place beneath the level of a feel-good sound bite, which is almost always a fraction of the issue as a whole. Stephanie Drenka closes with a plea for non-adoptees to be open to better understand adoptees’ lived experiences, to listen more than to speak:
“My call to action is not for the end of adoption,” she said. “It is for a deeper understanding of its complexities, even the not-so-pleasant parts. There needs to be a centering of adoptee voices and value placed on their experiences. We must acknowledge their loss and develop trauma-informed support systems for them.”
If you must do something to commemorate National Adoption Awareness Month, please honor the words of adoptees, starting with simply listening.
How do you plan to raise awareness for the children in your community who don’t have permanent families?
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