Some of them, like my oldest son, are adopted into their foster family. That's how it should go, when the need for adoption arises. Thats what we believe in: concurrent planning. Wholeheartedly supporting safe reunification while also being ready and willing to adopt if the need should arise. Some of them get that.
Some of them, like my other son, have many options at first. So small and so cute, families fight over the file, thinking "that kid will look great on our holiday cards!" They have many eager applicants when they first need an adoptive home, but the pool of excited hopeful adoptive parents gets smaller and smaller as they find out about his diagnoses, oops, sorry, we don't want one like THAT. They go to live with the family that was chosen out of many, only to be bounced back a few weeks later. Sorry, those behaviors...he's not for us. Returned unceremoniously like an impulse buy from Amazon. Another family steps up, all heart eyes and platitudes to love him FOREVER, but very little actual training or preparation. They last for a little while before it is time to once again begin the search for an adoptive resource. The child is bewildered, three homes in as many months.
Some of them, like my other son, are doomed from the start. Too old or too disabled or both, and currently living with a foster parent who cannot (or sometimes, just will not) commit to a lifetime of caring for them, they become available for adoption and then they wait. They sit in foster care, maybe they get a news special, their very own movie trailer on why they should be chosen! Their picture circulates the websites, along with an outdated profile that no one ever remembers to update. The picture stays frozen at 6 years old while the sweet boy in the wheelchair grows to be 7, then 8 years old. They wait and wait, and sometimes someone shows interest, a few times social workers even set up a visit. The families' faces fall when their expectations are not met, when the child doesn't perform enough tricks, flash enough cute smiles. They leave after a short visit shaking their heads, No thank you, not for us. The child waits in his foster home, basic needs met, a kind word and a brief smile every day but with multiple disabled foster children being cared for by a senior citizen, there isn't time for more. He sits on his hands on the floor, rocking back and forth, humming softly to himself. There's nothing else to do but rock and hum, all day, every day. There's no mama to pick him up and hold him, or papa to toss him in the air. He waits.
National Adoption Awareness Month was created to raise awareness for a very specific demographic of kids. According to the United States Administration for Children and Families, it was created to raise awareness about "the urgent need for adoptive families for children and youth in foster care" who didn't have a safe permanency option in their birth families. The idea first started in 1978, with President Bill Clinton formalizing November as the official month of NAAM in 1995.
It was not created for the domestic infant adoption folks to share about the joys of their open adoption and correct misconceptions, although I love learning from them and there's room at the table for them, too.
It wasn't made for the birth mamas and papas to share their experience making a choice to place their child for adoption, although I love learning from them and there's room at the table for them, too.
National Adoption Awareness Month wasn't created for stories of long plane flights to a far away country, although there's room at the table for (ethical) international adoption stories, too.
This month wasn't created for foster care stories of babies who stayed in their foster homes since birth and were adopted into that family after reunification efforts failed, although there can be beauty in that story as well. Those children don't need a month of awareness, because they had a safe place to land and a family committed to adopting them as soon as they needed one. They never had to wait. They never needed video campaigns or photolisting.
They never needed to worry about what would happen if month after month, year after year, no one chose them. Ever.
The VAST MAJORITY of parents wanting to adopt a waiting child from foster care are only open to a non-disabled child under age 5.
We want to adopt a child ages 0-5 from foster care. We don't feel ready for disabled children, or sibling groups. We just want one healthy child, under age 5.
Hundreds of families fight to be matched with that unicorn child, that "healthy" baby under age 5, and meanwhile...the thousands of others wait. They wait for a family who's willing to learn about disabilities, while one year gives way to the next and their future of living in a group home as a disabled adult with no family looms ever closer. They wait for a family committed to keeping siblings together, or they watch as one by one their younger, more "desirable" siblings are adopted out while they remain in foster care alone. They wait for a family that sees the positives in adopting a teen, all the while wondering if they will ever experience a childhood outside of foster care, their 18th birthday getting closer and closer, a family still not found.
While adults say "It's not the right time," and "After we are done having biological kids, THEN we'll adopt," and "Since this will be our first child, we don't want any special needs,"these children wait. And wait.
So this November, please don't wait to help them. Flood the #nationaladoptionawarenessmonth and #NAAM hashtags with information about waiting child adoption. Storm social media with their faces, their names, the statistics of how many are waiting (500+ in Ohio alone). Help them find families, because that is what this November awareness campaign is supposed to be about.
I'm excited to hear stories from other adoption circles also. But the voices of waiting children need to be lifted above the rest; this month is for them.
Brothers Jonathan, Gerald and Jacob (ages 12, 11, and 9) are STILL waiting here in Ohio. They have had multiple families commit to them, only to back out later on.
They really need people to spread their story far and wide this month.
Interested families can reach their caseworker at email@example.com or call 330-801-6560!