Ok everyone, close your eyes. Let your memory roll back 20 years or more. What visions stumble into view? Did your thoughts ever go to adoption and how there are so many facets to it? Did you ever wish there was a way to increase awareness of adoption and all of its intricacies?
Well, if you had these questions in mind, you’re not alone. Many people, including government officials, had it swirling around in their heads as well. In 1976, an Adoption Week was formed for the state of Massachusetts. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan created the first National Adoption Week in the United States, which would continue yearly. In 1995, then-President Bill Clinton proclaimed November as National Adoption Month for the United States of America.
The main purpose of National Adoption Month is to bring awareness to the 102,000 foster children in the United States who are eligible for adoption and need forever families. The government is always thinking about ways to get the word out that foster children need homes and families they can call their own. In 1998, then-President Bill Clinton mandated that the Department of Health and Human Services increase the use of the internet to assist in placing foster children with adoptive families. Because technology has increased so much since 1998, the use of the internet has become a necessity when it comes to placing children in the foster care system. There are also multiple social media sites that can be used to support placing children in forever families, such as Facebook and Twitter, and multiple adoption blog sites.
Each National Adoption Month has a different theme. 2014’s theme is the importance of siblings being together in foster and adoptive care. Research has shown that those fostered and adopted with their siblings often make a quicker adjustment to their new life than those separated from their brothers and/or sisters. There are foster and adoptive families who do not have the means to take on more than one child, which means there are still siblings throughout the United States who are not fostered or adopted together. Maybe, as years pass and more technology is used to promote National Adoption Month, more siblings will remain together.
I always mark November on my large “To Do Calendar” in my computer room because I am an adoptee, and I love that adoption has made such an impact on the United States that they have devoted an entire month to it! Adoption is not just a month-long memory for me, and I am sure it is not for many of you. Every single day, I am reminded of what adoption means to me. I remember my adoption story and how I was fostered for a month in a loving home and then given to my family. I think of my cousin who was adopted and was in foster care for six months in China, in one crib with up to four other babies at a time. She was rarely held for her bottle, not changed timely, and rarely received the warmth of someone’s arms. I think about children who are in foster care until they are 18 years old and then branch out into the world and do the best they can to make a life for themselves.
So for National Adoption Month November 2014, I will spread the word of foster care and finding foster children “forever families.” One of the ways I’m doing that is by sharing my birth mother’s story, which I just learned this last year.
She came into this world and was sent to Immaculate Conception Orphanage in Lodi, New Jersey. She has an older brother, and he stayed with their family while she was sent away. Their mom gave birth to her and then took off, leaving two children under the age of five to be raised by their grandmother since their father was out making money as a professional boxer.
I am told the grandmother didn’t feel in a position to raise two children, especially a newborn. So, my birth mom went to an orphanage until she was 7 or 8 and then bounced from foster home to foster home until she graduated high school. She tried to make a life for herself working at a bank in New York City. She lasted a few months and ended up working as a bar tender and waitress in different bars, living above the bars she worked at. She had the owners of the bars take her in as family and help her live day to day.
My birth mother’s story is one of many, and by sharing it, I hope to raise a new awareness of different reasons children are placed into foster homes and how each story is different and comes with its own challenges.
My question to everyone reading this: What does National Adoption Month mean to you? How will you help spread the word about foster children needing “forever families” and the importance of having siblings stay together when they are placed?
National Adoption Month historical information gathered from the US Child Welfare website.