The History of National Adoption Month
The foundation for the month-long adoption awareness designation began with President Ronald Reagan in 1984. He did not create a whole month dedicated to adoptions, but he did create the first National Adoption Week as a way of reaffirming the United States’ commitment to giving every child waiting to be adopted the chance to find his or her forever family. President Reagan set the week for November 19th through November 25th of each year.
In 1995, however, President Bill Clinton decided that one week a year dedicated to adoption awareness was not enough, so he extended the week into the entire month of November and National Adoption Month as you now know it was born. President Clinton again stepped in to help further the cause in 1998 by mandating that the Internet should also be used to further the cause of adoption. He worked with the Department of Health and Human Services to set up an online registry of children who needed homes so that people could more easily access their records.
Creating a Theme
Each year, during the month of November, a new adoption-related theme is created and announced, and the Department of Health and Human Resources and various child welfare agencies design any number of activities centered around that particular theme. This helps highlight the number of children in need of homes, offers support for people who work towards finding these children homes, and encourages potential adopters to come out, participate in these activities, and meet and interact with the children in hopes of finding them permanent, forever families.
This year, in 2018, the theme is “In Their Own Words: Lifting up Youth Voices.” The focus this year is specifically on teenagers in the foster care system. It is a sad fact that teenagers are the children who are most at-risk in the foster care system. They are the least likely to be adopted, and they often have the most emotional baggage and have been through the most trauma. Ironically, teens are the ones who need the most help and are also the ones least likely to get the help and love that they so desperately need.
Although this month focuses on children of all ages in the foster care system, because of this year’s theme, the government is really focusing on helping teens by any means necessary. The official website provides words of wisdom for child care workers and advocates, as well as advice about how best to support teens and how to encourage more people who want to adopt to seriously consider more teenagers. The success stories that are highlighted on the website this month specifically focus on the personal stories of those teenagers in the foster care system and the success stories of those who have entered young adulthood alone, along with the experiences of child care workers.
The Benefits of Foster Child Adoption
There is an incredibly vast number of benefits to adopting a foster child, both for the child who is adopted and the new parents who have adopted that child.
Benefits to the Child
There are numerous benefits to the child who gets adopted through foster care, the biggest and most important of which is that the child gets a forever home and a forever family. Having a stable, forever family does more for a child than just give him a place to come home to in the afternoons. It also gives the child a sense of stability, safety, and belonging. It gives the child a sense of “rightness” and the knowledge that this family not only loves him, but chose to love him and willingly brought him into their home and their lives.
Furthermore, studies have shown that children who are adopted have better health, both physically and mentally, than children who remain long-term in the foster system. They also tend to be more involved with extracurricular activities. Furthermore, children who are adopted into loving, forever families also tend to be more well-adjusted than children who remain in foster care. In fact, studies have shown that children who are adopted are just as well-adjusted as their peers who live at home with their biological parents. Some studies even suggest that children who have been adopted will grow up to be more sensitive and empathetic than other children due to their own childhood circumstances.
Benefits of Foster Child Adoption to the New Parent(s)
In addition to all of the obvious benefits to new parents, such as having a sweet new child to love or being able to raise children even if the parents themselves cannot have children, there are also other, more worldly benefits to adopting through a foster care agency rather than an adoption agency.
First of all, there are no exorbitant agency fees that have to be paid to state-run foster care facilities. Furthermore, if parents decide to adopt a foster child or children, rather than a child or children through a private adoption agency, the court costs of the adoption proceedings will be covered by the state, saving the new parents even more money. There are also adoption tax credits that new parents can receive at tax time if they adopt a foster child or multiple children through a foster care agency during the year. The wait time for adopting through a foster agency is often much shorter than wait times for private adoption agencies, as well.
Benefits of Adopting Older Children and Teenagers Specifically
Because this year’s theme focuses on teenagers, this section addresses the benefits of adopting older children. Often, when people adopt young children or babies from foster care agencies, very little is known about their background, past, or family history. With teens and older children, much of this information has been gathered and is available to the new parents. This means new parents of older children will often better know what to expect from the children they are adopting than will parents of younger children or babies.
Furthermore, older children are more involved and more aware in every way. While young children may not understand why they cannot be reunited with their birth parents and consequently fight against new adoptive parents at every turn, teenagers can better grasp the reasons behind their removal from their biological homes and aren’t as likely to hold out hope for being reunited with their families, which can often result in a child’s heart being broken over and over again and can prevent a child from bonding with his or her new family.
Finally, adopting an older child is incredibly beneficial for the child because older children and teens are the kids least likely to be adopted, and oftentimes, they never are. When teenagers do not get adopted, they remain in foster care until they “age out” of the system. When a child ages out of the system, he or she has absolutely no support system to turn to or fall back on in rough times. This often leads the child down a dark, dangerous road. People with no support systems often can’t make it financially in the “real world.” As a result, they often turn to crime to try to subsidize their incomes.
Children who do get adopted, even if they get adopted late in their teenage years, are provided a family, not just for the few years they have left in the system, but a family for the rest of their lives. This gives them the same support system that everyone blessed with a family is lucky enough to have. They have parents they can turn to for support and guidance. When they have children of their own, those children will have grandparents who can help take care of them while their parents are at work. People often underestimate the hugely important role of family in the lives of adults, but no matter how old a person gets, he still needs a family to love, support, and guide him.
How the Adoption Process Works
Although most of the fees and monetary needs for adopting through foster care are covered or paid for by the state, the adoption process is still an intensive, meticulous process. This is by design.
Everything needs to be thoroughly checked out and vetted before you can adopt a child. Everything needs to be discussed at length, and all parties involved need to understand every single guideline, requirement, expectation, and step of the process. When it comes to placing a child with a new family, it needs to be as safe and as smooth a transition as is possible, both for you as the new parent and for the child who is coming into your home.
The first step has to come from you. If you are seriously considering adopting a child, you need to contact an agency and set up a time to attend an orientation meeting. These meetings are hugely important because they set the foundation for every step that follows.
Attending the orientation meeting and speaking to a child care case worker are great ways to start educating yourself on the adoption process; however, you should not stop there. Reach out to people you know who have adopted children. Visit the government websites and read the success stories, as well as the challenges people have faced after adopting a child. You need to ready yourself for everything involved in adopting a child, both the good and the bad. Be as prepared as possible for everything.
Once you have started the process, you will next need to fill out an application. Also, be sure to check your state laws. Some states do require that people signing up to adopt also register to be licensed foster parents, as well. After you have completed and submitted your application, you will be required to go to follow-up meetings and training sessions. These sessions teach you all manners of things that you will need to know as a new adoptive parent, such as acceptable forms of discipline, how to deal with conflict in the household, how to handle some of the harder questions your new child may ask you, etc.
The next step in the adoption process is the home study, which is a required part of any adoption. The home study is incredibly important for many different reasons. The first and most obvious of these reasons is to make sure that your home and lifestyle are suitable for children. It is also used to help identify which types of children are going to be the best match for you. For instance, the home study will help decide whether your home and schedule are suitable for only one child or if you could potentially provide a home for siblings.
The process of the home study itself consists of many different steps. Those steps include but are not limited to interviews with you, your spouse, and other members of your family that live in the home, visits to your home, the documenting of key information on you and your spouse, your family history, etc., and reference checks with family members, friends, co-workers, and bosses. At the conclusion of the home study, a case worker will complete a home study report with all of the above-mentioned information, any notes on your personal situation that she feels are relevant to your request to adopt, and notes about what types of children she feels would be the best match for you and your family.
Once you have successfully completed all of these steps, you can officially be added to the list of people who want to be matched with a child. After that, you just need to wait and continue to educated yourself as much as possible in the meantime. That way, when you are finally matched with your new child, you will be as well prepared as you can for anything and everything and will be the best possible adoptive parent that you can be.
The Characteristics of a Good Adoptive Parent
There are several traits that all good adoptive parents share. These are things that adoptive parents were either born with naturally or cultivated over years of practice. These are also traits that you will need to possess if you plan on adopting a child.
Children can be frustrating. It doesn’t matter their backgrounds or how sweet or cute they are, all children are going to frustrate their parents at some point in their lives. It’s just inevitable. They are going to fuss, throw tantrums, backtalk, rebel against the rules, and all kinds of other aggravating, frustrating things. If you are planning to adopt a child, you need to know that these things will happen at some point in time. The most important thing you could be in these situations is patient.
All children will try the patience of their parents, but adopted children often have a whole other set of grievances that they are going to get upset about. These children have often been abandoned or removed from their biological parents’ homes due to abuse, neglect, or trauma. Sometimes, emotions about these past events may flare up in your new child, and he or she may get angry, hurt, or even depressed. You simply must be patient with them. There may be times when discipline is necessary to correct extreme behaviors of children; however, patience is much more often going to be the answer.
Good Communication Skills
Being able to communicate effectively is going to be an invaluable skill to a new parent. The number of people you will be communicating with after adopting your new child will increase exponentially. Not only will you be communicating with your new child, who may be very fragile and hesitant to trust you at first, but you will also be communicating with teachers, other adoptive and/or foster parents, family members, case workers, other students and their parents, judges, therapists, doctors, etc. You must know how to interact and communicate with each of these different people in efficient, helpful, and non-combative ways, even if some people are not as understanding about your new family dynamic as they should be. Depending on your new child’s specific situation, you may even be communicating with his or her birth parents, which can often be stressful. Being able to navigate all of these new interactions is imperative, and good communication skills are the key to making this task much easier on you.
Many children in the foster care system have been through some horribly traumatic events. The child you ultimately adopt may or may not be one of them. Empathy and understanding are essential to bonding with your new child. Even if he or she has not been through something traumatic, simply being removed from his or her previous home or being abandoned is hurtful and stressful enough, which means that all adopted children need an abundance of empathy and understanding.
Organizational and Time-Management Skills
Whether or not you have children already, if you are planning to adopt, your family is about to get a whole person larger. This is going to add a whole new level of stress and chaos into your household. However, both of these things can easily be managed as long as you stay organized and keep track of a schedule that works for everyone.
Seriously, don’t be stressed.
You’ve got this.
Ready to Adopt
If you are truly ready to adopt, then we applaud you. Adoption is a beautiful, rewarding, amazing experience that benefits everyone involved. Just remember, always treat your new child with love and respect and never give up on him or her. It may take a few days, maybe even a few weeks or months, but your child will see that you love him or her, and that love will eventually be reciprocated.