November: Adoption Awareness Month
November: Adoption Awareness Month
Around 140,000 children are adopted by American families each year, and around 62% of babies in domestic infant adoptions were placed with their adoptive families within a month of birth (Adoption Network, 2013). This is quite a large number, but many people do not understand what exactly adoption looks like today. Many of us have only seen what is portrayed through Hollywood, but adoption is so much more, and Adoption Awareness Month (November) gives us a special time to learn about it.
What does Adoption Awareness Month mean?
A month dedicated to adoption shines a spotlight on the adoptive families in our lives. Many people have been impacted by adoption, and this month also serves as a way of acknowledging them. The adoption world challenges us always (but especially in November) to look at adoption as selfless and loving as opposed to selfish and deserting. Awareness about adoption is not only about happiness and celebration. It is also honoring the difficult decision made by birth parents.
When did Adoption Awareness Month start?
In the United States, it was not until 1976 when Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts announced that the state would have Adoption Week to bring awareness to adopt children in foster care (Children’s Bureau, 2020). In 1984, President Ronald Regan declared adoption week as a national event. Other states soon followed, so President Bill Clinton lengthened the adoption week to the entire month of November (Children’s Bureau, 2020).
What does adoption look like?
There is a variety of ways that adoption can be handled. It all depends on what the birth mother wants and feels more comfortable with. The birth mother can decide if she wants a closed or open adoption.
What is Closed Adoption? – Adoptions in the Past
In the past, closed adoptions were the most common type of adoption. Closed adoption is having no contact between the adoptive family and the birth parents. This also meant that everything was confidential. Personal information was never known between the adoptive family and birth parents. Unplanned pregnancies and single motherhood were seen negatively. Women would often want closed adoptions, so no one would find out that they had a child. They were fearful of the shame associated with adoption and having an unplanned pregnancy. Adopted children in closed adoption grow up not knowing anything about their birth parents or how to contact them. The birth parents may never know how their child fared in the end. For those reasons and more, closed adoption is now rarely seen in today’s adoptions.
What is Open Adoption? – Adoptions in the Present
Open adoption is more common now. It is a type of adoption that lets the birth parents and the adoptive family share personal information and/or stay in contact with or without the facilitation of the adoption agency after the adoption finalization. Throughout this process, the birth parents and the adoptive family can get to know each other and share special moments of the adopted child’s growth and life. Each family may have different ways of managing this relationship. Birth mothers may vary in how much contact they desire as well. Adoptive and birth families might agree to have in-person visits or directly share phone calls, photo sharing apps or emails. They may elect to have the adoptive agency forward on pictures and updates directly. There are a variety of ways to keep in contact.
Benefits of Open Adoption:
· Relationship between birth parents, adoptive family, and child
· Reduced uncertainty- birth parents might worry about where and with who their child will be placed
· Decreased fear- adoptive family will not question the birth parent’s motives
· Medical History – fluid sharing and updating of medical history for child’s wellbeing
· A Big Support System for Child – child receives love from both birth parents and the adoptive family
· Self- confidence- the child will not have to question their identity and self-worth
In today’s adoption world, it is recommended to do open adoption instead of a closed adoption because of all these benefits. The child will be able to understand where they came from and why they were adopted. Also, any identity concerns anxieties, or mixed emotions that might arise with the adoption process are diminished because of the answers they will have directly from their birth family. For birth mothers and adoptive families, Hopeful Beginnings provides support and counseling to ensure each party is comfortable with the contact and relationship and continues to provide that support for a lifetime.
Adoption Awareness Month is not only a celebration but serves as a way to educate others as to why adoption is important and essential. There is a stigma around adoption, which should be decreased. A family doesn’t have to be blood-related to be considered a family. A family is created out of mutual love and support. A birth mother isn’t “giving up” a child. She is simply giving the child the opportunity to have a better life and placing them in a loving home. With open adoption, birth mothers and adoptive families can fill the adoptive child’s life with love to the brim. What a beautiful thing to celebrate every day!
U. S. Adoption Statistics. (2013). Adoption Network. Retrieved from https://adoptionnetwork.com/adoption-statistics
History of National Adoption Month. (2020). Children’s Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/nam/about/history/Back To Blog