November is National Adoption Month, an opportunity to reflect on the importance of providing children with permanent families through adoption, and a time to consider becoming an adoptive parent.
For more than 20 years, November has been designated as a month to focus on and celebrate adoption, educate the public about this important issue and call attention to the need for more permanent families for children in foster care who are waiting for a family of their own. Adoption-related events are planned in the Bay Area and nationally all month, and the Saturday before Thanksgiving is designated as National Adoption Day. On this day, large numbers of adoptions are finalized in court, and permanent adoptive families are formed with a special celebration for the meaning of this month.
Why is it important to call attention to adoption? There are about 100,000 children available for adoption nationally, including thousands in the Bay Area. We know that children grow and adjust best in families and are more likely to thrive when they are firmly rooted in a loving, caring, committed family. Research tells us that foster children who leave the child welfare system without a permanent family or a solid permanent connection to at least one caring adult are more likely to face extreme challenges. This includes becoming homeless, involvement in the criminal justice system, or falling victim to sex trafficking, drug abuse and other life threatening influences. Adoption by committed parents, willing to do the work of healing the wounds a child carries as a result of trauma and loss, can mean the difference between successful growth into adulthood and the tragedy of a lost life.
Most people are not aware of the extent to which informal adoption occurs within families, known as kinship adoption. Kinship adoption is the preferred way to keep children safe within their own kinship network and provide the security of a permanent family. There are many advantages to kinship adoption when it is possible, including maintaining family connections and cultural traditions. Today, more than 6 million children nationally are being raised by relatives.
Adoption can bring blessings to adoptive parents who are seeking to create a family or add to an existing family. There will be challenges, but there is also support in the form of counseling, support groups and parent education — services that can ease the way to successful outcomes. The more children who move out of the foster care system into permanent loving adoptive families, the more our communities will benefit from these children becoming successful, contributing adults. Every child deserves the chance to succeed.
What can you do to support adoption in your community? Consider becoming an adoptive parent. Learn more about adoption and the adoption programs in your local community and consider becoming a volunteer. Educate your family and friends about adoption as you learn more information. The children in foster care who are waiting for a family of their own are our community’s children. We can all do our part to give them the future they deserve.
Carol Bishop is the statewide adoption policy director, northern California for Kinship Center, a member of the Seneca Family of Agencies. For more information, visit www.senecafoa.org or www.kinshipcenter.org to learn more about adoption.