Mention the month of November and most people immediately think of Thanksgiving. But there are more celebrations going on during November than that. In November, many also observe Aviation History Month, Banana Pudding Lovers Month, Historic Bridge Awareness Month, and Adoption Month.  While each of these observances is spotlighted during November, only National Adoption Month relates to the very fabric of our society, the family. Here are five things you should know about the importance of National Adoption Month.

1. What is National Adoption Month?

National Adoption Month is a time to focus on a specific way in which families are created, the legal route of adoption. Nature allows families to come into existence through biology, but that method is not the only way a family can be formed. Adoption, a process sanctioned by law, enables families to be created where parents and children may not have a relationship biologically, but they are recognized as parent and child in the eyes of the law. Each state in the United States has its own set of laws about how adoption is handled in order to legally allow forever families to expand through adoption.

Sadly, many children find themselves in the unfortunate situation of needing a forever home. The observance of National Adoption Month, an initiative of the Children’s Bureau, has the goal of increasing awareness in the United States of the need for permanent families for children and youth in this country’s foster care system. The National Adoption Month initiative is funded by the Children’s Bureau.

 According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, approximately one hundred and twenty-five thousand children are in foster care, available for adoption, and awaiting a forever family. One in five children in the foster care system who are waiting to be adopted is a teenager. If no adoptive family is found, these children will age out of the system with no family support system in place.

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) takes the position: “Every child deserves a family to love and support them.” With an awareness of the need for forever families brought to the forefront by the observance of National Adoption Month, it is hoped that more children will be able to receive such a family. These children have already been through trauma when they were taken into the foster care system. They do not need to experience more trauma by having to go through life without a family to encourage and assist them.

The theme for the 2020 observance of National Adoption Month is “Engage Youth And Listen.” Teenagers are less likely to be adopted than babies and young children. Communities can be educated about adoption policies and processes by allowing input from youth who have experienced foster care firsthand. With this valuable insight and perspective, those policies and processes may even be shaped to provide a smoother experience and a more successful conclusion for young people awaiting adoption in foster care.

The Child Information Gateway has developed a website for National Adoption Month 2020 which can be accessed. Included on this website are resources for not only youth but for legal and child welfare professionals as well. In addition, the website includes a photo listing of youth seeking a forever family and written accounts and videos from youth discussing the needs of young people in foster care and some of the benefits of adopting an older child.

As the goal of National Adoption Month is to raise awareness, the Child Information Gateway’s website for National Adoption Month 2020 equips those interested in promoting adoption to do so. A downloadable outreach toolkit is available as well. Sample e-mails and press releases can also be found on the website to aid those wishing to get the word out about National Adoption Month in their communities.

2. How Did National Adoption Month Come Into Existence?

National Adoption Month is the result of several steps taken by elected officials of both parties over the years to raise awareness about the need for adoption out of foster care. The first step occurred back in 1976 when Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, later a Democratic nominee for president in the 1988 election, announced an adoption week. The observance became a national week in 1984 by the Republican president Ronald Reagan. Eleven years later, Democratic President Bill Clinton expanded the observance to the entire month of November.

Proclamation 6846 issued on Nov. 1, 1995, by the country’s 42nd president, Bill Clinton, officially recognized November as National Adoption Month. In establishing this observance, Clinton noted, “…adoption provides a means for building and strengthening families. It places children into loving, permanent homes where they can flourish and group up to become happy, healthy, productive members of our national community.”

Why were President Reagan and President Clinton such advocates of adoption? Part of the answer may lie in their own personal experiences. President Reagan was an adoptive father. He and his first wife, actress Jane Wyman, adopted their son, Michael, shortly after his birth in 1945. President Clinton, whose father died in an automobile accident three months before his birth, was adopted. His stepfather, Roger Clinton Sr., adopted Bill as his son.

3. Why Should We Celebrate National Adoption Month?

Several reasons exist for celebrating National Adoption Month. In the first place, adoption is something that has impacted millions of individuals in this country. It is not simply adoptive parents and adoptees whom an adoption touches. According to the National Council For Adoption, an estimated one hundred million Americans have families who have been personally touched by adoption. These families either know someone who has adopted a child or know someone who has been adopted. With so many negatives going on in the world, why not celebrate something positive? Building families, seen as the basic units of society, is a positive action deserving of attention.

According to an African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child. In the same vein, it takes a community to create a forever family. There must be families willing to open their homes and hearts to a child in need of a family. There must be legal professionals capable of handling the legal process. There must be foster parents willing to care for children awaiting identification of a forever home. There must be social workers whose job it is to assure a child’s needs are met during the foster care and adoption processes. Effecting an adoption takes teamwork. Why not get the team fired up with a pep rally by observing National Adoption Month?

Knowledge, as they say, is power. Thus, knowledge about the need for forever homes is key to achieving the goal of getting children into homes. People may be willing to adopt children in need of a forever home if they know about the need. Getting information about the need out to the public is necessary to identify and recruit families to adopt children from foster care. The observance of National Adoption Month is a vehicle to spread the word about the need for permanent homes for children waiting in foster care.

4. Should Adoption Only Be Celebrated During November?

While the spotlight shines on adoption during November, that does not mean it should be forgotten or ignored for the rest of the year. The need for children to find forever homes is constant and exists throughout the year. Celebrating adoption should be no different than how we should celebrate our mothers. A special day, Mother’s Day exists to honor mothers each year. But we should honor our mothers every day of the year not just for one day in May. Similarly, the positive benefits that adoption provides to society in general and to children in foster care, in particular, should be thought about all the time. Let’s work to facilitate adoption all year round and not simply during November.

5. How Can We Celebrate National Adoption Month?

Fittingly, National Adoption Month takes place in November the month in which Thanksgiving occurs. Being thankful is the theme for the month and a trendy activity is to identify a reason to give thanks each day of the month. Having a loving family is commonly noted as a blessing for which to be thankful. But perhaps putting that blessing in perspective is even better. Don’t take for granted the love, stability, security, and support we have or have had from our families. Imagine how your life would be different without your family. Think about how youth in foster care might feel with no family support. Be thankful for the family with which you were blessed and give thanks that others have been given an opportunity to have the love and support of family through adoption.

People observe Christmas by giving gifts. National Adoption Month can also be celebrated by giving gifts, but instead of toys, electronics, or jewelry, your gifts can be your time, your talents, and your resources. Organizations supporting adoption are always in need of financial contributions. Pay forward the blessing of having a family by making donations to such organizations or participating in fundraisers to aid adoptions in going forward.

Time is a valuable commodity. Volunteering one’s time can be a wonderful gift to give for National Adoption Month and all year long. Children in the foster care system awaiting a match with a forever family may need mentors or tutors. Minors taken into the system can also benefit from the services of a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) to look out for their best interests when their parents are unable or unwilling to do so.

Supporting those on the front lines in the adoption arena is also a beneficial celebratory activity. Some churches and community organizations have started programs to join in the trenches by helping foster and adoptive families. These programs may provide meals on a periodic basis, offer assistance with household repairs, or host networking or fun events for foster and adoptive families. Not everyone may be able to become a foster parent or an adoptive parent, but many can cook, use tools, or help with special activities.

Children can also participate in recognizing National Adoption Month. This time is a wonderful opportunity to teach them that families can be created in different ways. They can learn about adoption and what a positive thing it is. Reading an age-appropriate book about adoption to or with them or watching a movie touching on adoption can be a great starting point for discussions on the topic. Teens can also be engaged through watching movies or having conversations about public figures who were adopted such as Wendy’s Dave Thomas or who are adoptive parents such as Angelina Jolie. Ask teens to consider where those individuals or their children would be if adoption had not been available.

National Adoption Month is a good time for educating oneself about adoption. How does the process work?  What are some of the current issues facing those in the adoption field? Those who have adopted, those who have been adopted, or those who work in the field of adoption might take the time to impart some of their knowledge to others. In fact, shared personal adoption experiences can touch others in a way cold statistics and facts never could.

Celebrating National Adoption Month should also include honoring people who have made a difference for adoption. Since 1999, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) has recognized the extraordinary efforts of those individuals, couples, families, and organizations who have diligently advocated for children in need of forever families. In just over two decades, almost three thousand Angels have been designated. In addition, a select number of National Angels in Adoption (those whose contributions reach a national scale) are named annually. Past national honorees include Laura Bush, Shonda Rhimes, Scott Hamilton, and Rhea Perlman. A gala held in Washington, D.C. each fall showcases the year’s Angels in Adoption. Given health concerns, the 2020 gala was virtual.

When the calendar page is turned to November 2020, Americans will have the opportunity to celebrate National Adoption Month. This observance is an effort to raise awareness of the need for permanent homes for youth waiting in foster care. In addition to knowing what National Adoption Month is, it is important that citizens understand how the observance came into existence, why adoption should be celebrated, why celebrating adoption should not be limited to simply one month out of 12, and the various ways adoption may be celebrated. Now only one final question remains. What are you going to do for National Adoption Month?