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November 2021 is National Adoption Awareness Month. - Learn how to help.

Updated: Nov 26, 2021

Since two of my cousins were adopted, I have had the opportunity to know quite a bit about the adoption process, as well as the long waits that some people can experience to adopt a child. Some couples are unable to have a biological child, for various reasons. In these cases, adopting a child can be a very healing, and fulfilling experience.

When you think of adoption, most people think of adopting a baby. Although that is very common, there are many older children that need to be adopted as well.

The theme this year, according to the Children's Bureau, is "This year, the Children's Bureau's National Adoption Month initiative—including its National Adoption Recruitment Campaign—focuses on the thousands of teenagers and young adults in foster care who need unconditional commitment, love, and support from a family."

National Adoption Day is November 20, 2021.

According to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, "National Adoption Day is a collective effort to raise awareness of the more than 120,000 children waiting to be adopted from foster care in the United States. A coalition of national partners — the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Alliance for Children’s Rights and Children’s Action Network — founded National Adoption Day."

The Dave Thomas Foundation's website also gives many happy stories from kids and families who have participated in an adoption. If you want to help kids find their forever home, there are events that you can participate in, or you can donate to one of the adoption foundations.

Raising awareness of all of the children in Foster Care that need to be adopted can help to go a long way towards getting them adopted in loving, forever homes. Many people who want to adopt a child typically look to adopt babies, or go through a surrogacy program, however adopting a child from Foster Care can complete a family too. Along with completing their own family, a couple will have the added knowledge that they have given a loving home to a child that badly needs it.

What is Foster Care?

Foster care is a system of temporary housing for children that have had to be removed from their homes. According to Child Welfare, "Children in foster care may live with relatives or with unrelated foster parents. Foster care can also refer to placement settings such as group homes, residential care facilities, emergency shelters, and supervised independent living."

Most people don't realize that not all children placed into foster care are placed into families. Some of these children will live in residential group homes, which although they meet a child's basic needs for shelter and safety, cannot fully meet the need for love which all children need to be able to truly thrive.

Another downfall of the foster care system is that children can "age out" when they turn 18, and have little resources to be successful at that point. They stop receiving money from the state, and will need to find their own housing and jobs right away as well. This puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to building a successful future.

According to Forever Family, "National studies have shown that within two to four years of leaving foster care at age 18:

  • 40% were homeless

  • 40% were receiving public assistance or were incarcerated

  • 40% experienced drug or alcohol abuse

  • 46% had not finished high school

  • 51% were unemployed

  • 84% became parents"

These statistics show that there is a very hard future ahead for children who age out of foster care, as they lack a support system to help them to build a future by going to college or trade school, and having family support in finding housing and jobs. Family support can also help kids to delay becoming parents themselves.

How do children end up in Foster Care?

In many instances, children will end up in foster care when their family of origin is no longer able to care for them. According to the AACAP (American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry), "Placement in foster care can occur for a variety of reasons. Children who are victims of parental or caregiver abuse may be removed from their parent's home by a child welfare agency and placed in foster care. Other reasons for foster placement include severe behavioral problems in the child which the parents are not capable of managing and/or a variety of parental problems, such as illness (physical or emotional), incarceration, alcohol/substance abuse, intellectual disability, or unexpected death which leave the child without an appropriate caregiver."

As you can see, these children have been through quite a bit of adversity to end up in foster care in the first place. Add to that, possibly being placed in different homes over a period of time, and foster kids can easily become dissolusioned with adults, and feel like no one is going to care for them in the long term.

According to AACAP, "Being removed from their home and placed in foster care is a difficult and stressful experience for any child. Many of these children have suffered some form of serious abuse or neglect. About 30% of children in foster care have severe emotional, behavioral, or developmental problems. Physical health problems are also common. Most children, however, show remarkable resiliency and determination to go on with their lives. Children in foster care often struggle with the following issues:

  • blaming themselves and feeling guilty about removal from their birth parents

  • wishing to return to birth parents even if they were abused by them

  • feeling unwanted if awaiting adoption for a long time

  • feeling helpless about multiple changes in foster parents over time

  • having mixed emotions about attaching to foster parents

  • feeling insecure and uncertain about their future

  • questioning positive feelings for foster parents

Foster parents open their homes to children in need of temporary care, a task both rewarding and challenging. Unfortunately, there has been a decrease in the number of foster parents (non-relative) available to care for children. This results in larger numbers of children remaining in institutional settings."

Having a shortage of foster care families, as well as more children going into institutions where they are receiving less love and care, is creating a crisis for these children in many ways.

The Importance of Adopting Teens.

This year's theme of National Adoption Month stresses the importance of adopting teens out of foster care, so that they will have better life circumstances.

The 2009 movie "The Blind Side" tells the story of one such teen who was able to succeed due to being adopted. Based on the 2006 book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis, the film tells the story of Michael Oher, an American football offensive lineman who overcame an impoverished upbringing to play in the National Football League (NFL) with the help of his adoptive parents Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy.

If you haven't seen the movie, it shows the adoptive mother tutoring her new son, fostering a relationship with her daughter as brother and sister, and supporting him in playing football. If it hadn't been for the adoptive parents, Michael probably would never have either played football or gone to college.

This story illustrates how the struggles of teens living in foster care can cause them to think only about survival in the moment, instead of studying or thinking about college and their future.

Living in poverty can put someone into survival mode, and sometimes cause repeated traumas that have to be overcome later in live. Having a loving family can be a huge protective factor against the trauma, and assist in healing. When a child is loved and cared for it can help to promote resilience, and to give the child a brighter future.

When teens are adopted, they become a part of a family that cares about them. This love and caring isn't something that they "age out" of when they turn 18. Parents, siblings and other extended family can also provide support throughout a teen's lifetime. Families help with important decisions like college, employment, getting married, buying a house, raising their own children, and more.

By being adopted as a teen, a foster child gains a family for life. That can make a huge impact toward putting their life in a positive direction, as with Michael Orr.

For more information about adoption and National Adoption Month visit:

Learn how you can adopt a child, spread awareness about National Adoption Month, or help in other ways.

Let me know in the comments what you think, and if you have been adopted or adopted a child. Also, let me know if there are other related topics you would like me to cover in the future.

Picture of mom and child with suitcase, and text that reads "November is National Adoption Awareness Month."
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