Sunday, November 9, 2014

on National Adoption Month

So it's November, which means, amongst other things, that it is National Adoption Month.

There has been some talk around the interwebs/blogsphere/twitterverse/Face-dominion about the merits of "celebrating" adoption, the harm that positive-only language can do to adoptees who maybe don't feel 100% positive about their adoption, and how it might perpetuate some of the terrible adoption myths now received as wisdom here in America (and probably elsewhere).

My thoughts on National Adoption Month aren't completely formed but they are growing, as usual, in the gray areas.

One the one hand, it's always lovely to have "National Month of" that honors your particular family.  On the other hand, we don't "celebrate" adoption around here. Adoption is how our family came to be, but it's not something we bake cakes about. And, just as February's "Black History Month" isn't the only time of year we teach our children about their African heritage, adoption is a topic all year round.

Baby Lily, not so certain about this whole adoption thing.

Here are my wishes for November's Adoption Month:

1. That it teaches at least 2 or 3 more people that families formed through adoption are Families. Yes, I love my kids just as much as you love yours. Not more ("The trouble! The expense! All those shots you had to get to travel to Ethiopia!") Not less (I could never love a child who wasn't mine biologically"). Just the same.  Adopted kids are just kids.  We have to love them like crazy, don't we, or we would never tolerate them. They are terrible house guests. Imagine having someone to live with you who regularly, and sometimes purposefully, pees anywhere but in the toilet?! And then calls for you to help them clean themselves up! In the middle of the night! No, you wouldn't stand for it. So, obviously, we love our children like crazy.

2. It helps a few more families who are struggling to help their children heal from childhood trauma, attachment struggles or other challenges common to children who have been adopted.  The most damaging myth in adoption is that the simple act of signing the paperwork and bringing the child home will "fix" them. Everything is rainbows and unicorns afterwards. It's not, and most families will need support, therapy, special parenting techniques, extra help from schools and a life long commitment to growing and healing together.
      Sometimes the adoption itself is the most traumatic thing that happened to a child. It's long past time we as a culture stopped expecting adoptees to be grateful for being "saved" by a "loving family." My own children would certainly laugh at this preposterous idea. This family! They hardly ever let us eat candy and play video games!

3. It leads to at least one more child in foster care being adopted.  The original intent of National Adoption month was to shine more light on the terrible dark secret in our country that we don't properly take care of our children.  We have an orphan problem. More than one person has told me how wonderful it was that we adopted our children from 'impoverished' Ethiopia.  Little do they know how ashamed I am that we didn't have the guts to adopted from impoverished America. In 2012,  23,396 children "aged out" of the foster care system here in America. 23,396 people who will never have a family. No home to visit on Thanksgiving, no one to call "Grandpa," no one to call for advice about car repairs or that first home purchase. This is a tragedy on par with the thousands of Russian orphans confined to their cribs, or the millions of African families who are broken apart by war, poverty or disease. America has an orphan problem, and if "celebrating" adoption one month a year brings some awareness to it, then break out the balloons and cake pans!

Kristen Howerton at Rage Against the Minivan does a beautiful series highlighting children who are in need of families here in America. She often writes about foster care and adoption.

Scoopy at Scooping it Up wrote passionately about how she is against celebrating National Adoption Month.

Our own adoption agency, Spence-Chapin, now works exclusively to find homes for older children here and abroad.

More national and global adoption statistics here.