November is National Adoption Month and, more specifically, November 20 is National Adoption Day. Most of our regular readers know that our daughter was adopted through Bethany Christian Services. While they are obviously not the only good adoption agency out there, we highly recommend them because they provide excellent training, support, and understanding to both the adoptive and the birth families before, during, and after the adoption.
If you have read our adoption story, or walked personally through the process with us, you will already know that we were fortunate enough to bring our child home directly from the hospital when she was only a few days old. While we were unable to witness the birth of our daughter, we were able to meet and allow for an open relationship with her birth parents.
Not all children and not all adoptive families are as fortunate, however. The system is broken. Red tape and paperwork keep children in the system for years. Parents and children bond, literally fall in love with one another, and then never get the chance to be the family that all members deserve.
Many are stuck oceans apart from one another, waiting for visas and miscellaneous paperwork. Friends of ours waited for months for the that one last signature from a government official who was on an extended leave. Other friends waited years for specific children in other countries, only to find that the country that their child lives in was now closed to international adoptions and they would never see their child, let alone bring them home to their forever family.
Many children are stuck in the foster care system, constantly being passed from birth family to adoptive family and back again. Torn between allegiences, pitted by one set of parents against another, and never feeling like they have a permanent home or family. They wait years for a decision to be made regarding where their forever home will be. There are failed adoptions frequently, because adoptive (and even birth parents) are not properly educated in the psychological distress that is created for the children from being passed from one place to another. Children are being pulled out of homes unnecessarily because birth parent rights are considered more highly than what is in the best interest of the child.
The system needs to change. Children need and deserve to have homes, forever families. Without safety and consistency, children grow up unable to develop relationships that last. They grow up thinking that they are lesser citizens, that there is something wrong with them, that they are unlovable or unwanted.
Not everyone is able to adopt or foster children. You may not be emotionally, physically, or financially able to adopt. And there is no judgment in that. Not everyone is cut out to be an adoptive parent. But you’re not helpless to provide a better life to a child in need of forever security and consistency. You can help make a difference in a child’s life:
- Some of you can help by donating money or time to a local adoption or foster care agency or to a family who is in the adoption process. One of the most common reasons that I hear from people as to why they don’t adopt even though they would like to is that they can’t afford it. Most agencies have grant/scholarship programs to help people in that very situation and these often rely on donations. You can volunteer to spend time with a child who is waiting for foster or adoptive care and let that child know that someone cares enough to give them something as valuable as time.
- Some of you can help by providing temporary respite care for foster parents. Allow a child to spend a weekend or a few days at your house, so that foster parents are able to refresh and recharge themselves to better care for the child(ren) in their care. You will also help to teach that child that, unlike what their former situations may have taught them, the love and care they receive from their foster family should not be an exception to how family life should be, but that this lifestyle is what they should learn to expect and know they deserve.
- ALL of you can learn to use appropriate language to talk about adoption and stop spreading (consciously or subconsciously) the false mentality that there is something wrong with being adopted. Comments like, “Be careful or I’ll tell mom you’re adopted,” or “You are so different, you must be adopted.” My least favorite ever: “Are you sure you want to adopt? You never know what could happen. The child could go crazy and kill you in your sleep.” Let’s stop looking at these children as anomalies and start loving the unloved and abandoned, and let’s make sure our speech and actions portray that.
- ALL of you can spread the word and raise awareness. Let your government officials know that you recognize that this system is broken and that it’s time to promote legislation that speeds the process. At the very least, share this information on Facebook and Twitter, so your friends and family know you care and want to make a difference too.
We all deserve someone who we can trust to unconditionally understand and accept all that we are. We all deserve to be safe and have a home and family where we know we belong. Are you willing to help provide this for a child?