November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Last week and still into this week, the Internet saw an influx of posts by waiting families, adoptive parents, birth parents, adoptees, social workers and agencies talking about their feelings and events regarding the "celebration." While originating as a week to bring awareness to children in foster care in the United States, it was promoted to a month in 1995.
This year, President Obama issued his yearly proclamation regarding the month, as other presidents have in the past. He paints a rosy picture of adoption and adoptive families.
Currently, thousands of children await adoption or are in foster care, looking forward to permanent homes. These children can thrive, reach their full potential, and spread their wings when given the loving and firm foundation of family. Adoptive families come in many forms, and choose to adopt for different reasons: a desire to grow their family when conceiving a child is not possible, an expression of compassion for a child who would otherwise not have a permanent family, or simply because adoption has personally touched their lives. For many Americans, adoption has brought boundless purpose and joy to their lives. We must do all we can to break down barriers to ensure that all qualified caregivers have the ability to serve as adoptive families.
There are complaints in the adoption-sphere that he glosses over some of the real issues facing adoptive families, adoptees (Original Birth Certificates much!?) and birth parents with regards to the trauma and loss of adoption. (Of course, one blogger points out that Obama isn't the first to gloss over the issues.) More over, the entirety of his proclamation doesn't address the fact that reform is desperately needed in the adoption industry, that the system is broken and leaving families in desperate need of post-placement care that they simply are not receiving.
Interestingly, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made her own proclamation this month, though she took the focus off of the issue of foster care within our own borders and made it more of a wide-spread issue. But she talked about reform, birth parents and the child's best interest -- unheard of in anyone's proclamation. Ever. Here's a snip-it:
The State Department is committed to safeguarding the interests of children, birth parents and adoptive parents worldwide. Earlier this year, I was pleased to announce the appointment of Ambassador Susan Jacobs as Special Advisor for International Children’s Issues. Ambassador Jacobs’ office will work with our consulates and with foreign governments around the world to ensure that the child’s best interests are at the heart of every adoption. We will also encourage other nations to join us as parties to the Hague Adoption Convention which helps ensure ethical and transparent adoptions for everyone.
I would absolutely love to sit down with Clinton, whose husband was the one who boosted the week to a month in 1995, and pick her brain on this issue. Is she aware that the ethical issues that need focused on are rampant in our own country as well? These issue don't just affect Guatemala, Ethiopia and China, just to name a few countries. These are issues at home, issues that are hurting families and children within our own borders. I think it would be fascinating to talk to her about such things considering the mentions she makes here. She seems open to it!
Beyond official words from Very Important People, the blogosphere has been abuzz with talk of National Adoption Month. Not everyone is a supporter. Some people -- adoptive parents, adoptees and birth parents alike -- are upset that adoption agencies and others who profit from the adoption industry use this month to focus on programs such as domestic and international adoption instead of finding permanent families for foster children whose parents' rights have already been severed. Those people take issue with agencies padding their pockets while children continue to wait and reform sits on the back burner.
Quite honestly, I think the influx of posts discussing everything from the pure hatred of it -- and reasons why -- to the posts educating others about their families -- and how they're normal too -- to the reminders of what the month is about -- waiting children -- all have a place this month. The voices mesh together to make a louder, stronger, easier heard soundwave. One that says, "We are here. Adoption no longer has to be shrouded in secrecy and shame. We live this story out loud. Please listen."
And listening we are.
Judy, an adoptive mom who blogs at Just Enjoy Him explained her feelings in a post entitled "Adoptember." She points out misleading sites about National Adoption Month. Her son's birthday is in November as well, and she wonders how he will process all of this in the future.
National Adoption Month, which I’ve dubbed “Adoptember,” is really supposed to be about finding families for the children waiting in foster care. It’s not a celebration for all people affected by adoption. It’s painful for many of them.
As my son grows up, I wonder how he’ll feel about Adoptember, particularly since his birthday, also a day that can have mixed feelings for adoptees, is in November.
Amber, another adoptive mom who blogs at Voluptuous Stoicism, chose to use her post about the month to explain things that they do in their home as well as ask for support for nurturing birth culture identity. I gotta say, it's an interesting, positive post.
we understand, as generations of adoptive parents before us did not seem to understand, that béla’s identity as a korean absolutely requires nurturing and contact. the same is true for claudia. sometimes there’s a little awkwardness, but i think we probably all feel close to the same thing when we think about kids and what they deserve.
Amanda at The Declassified Adoptee points out some of the issues with how National Adoption Month is promoted by various organizations, proving that some have truly lost the focus.
This is one big reason the Adoption Reform community is so annoyed by November. What would be wrong with dedicating a month to evaluate child welfare and see how the needs of children who do not have homes can best be served? Nothing! But that's not what November gets promoted as. No, it's a huge adoption love fest where adoption is celebrated and promoted, even when it's an ill-fitting solution to so many of the problems it's hailed to resolve. It's used to complain that more women need to give up their babies and to ignore the fact that social welfare programs could preserve families and replace orphanages and adoption abroad.
How does that, at all, focus on children?
For a birth mother's view of the month, I encourage you to read the series that valency is writing at her blog, Letters to Ms. Feverfew. The sixth letter hit me the hardest thus far, as I am also parenting two boys after relinquishing my firstborn, a daughter, for adoption. The discussion she had with her son, as well as the post as a whole, speak to some of the hurt and pain that Judy discussed above.
A few years ago, when he was still small enough to fit on my lap, he climbed up and gazed into my eyes with his blue-green ones and plaintively asked, “Mom. Do you think my sister will like me?” When I told him that yes, he was inherently lovable and you would be crazy about him, he wrapped his pudgy arms around my neck, put his cherub cheek next to mine and said, “Good. Because I know I will like her because she is my sister.”
Heather at Heather's Growing Family talks about her own adoptions, "real moms" and even gives advice about adopting and foster care. Quite honestly, I think some of her points are in the Must Read category for National Adoption Month. I specifically thought her points regarding foster care would be appropriate to share here on BlogHer this month.
9) Many children need loving homes. Being a foster parent means parenting for and with another parent while waiting for the courts to decide if the child will be returned. Most children are reunited with their families which is wonderful. For those children who can't go home, they often find new families with their foster families. To be a foster parent you just need to be willing to love a child unconditionally for however long they are with you and be willing to work with and accept the birth family. It's not an easy job but it is very rewarding.
I think that's where we'll end this round up, back at what the point of this month is about: Our waiting children. It's not that the other posts aren't meaningful and important. They are. But I encourage you to think about how you can help the 115,000 children in our country's foster care system. Right now.
Can you foster? Can you adopt? No? Why? You don't have to be a perfect parent. Promise.
But, okay. Can you be a mentor to a child or teen still in foster care? Can you offer volunteer time to your local children and youth services department? Trust me, they're overworked and underpaid and, quite honestly, they'd love it if you just brought them cookies and said thank you. Can you donate items or money to foster families? I know you have toys your kids have stopped playing with, forgotten or never played with. I know you can afford one pack of diapers.
What can you do today to help our waiting children?
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