According to the state Department of Human Services, more than 2,500 Pennsylvania children are waiting to be adopted. Approximately 110,000 children in the U.S. foster care system are awaiting adoption, says Gloria Hochman, director of communications for the National Adoption Center in Philadelphia. There are countless more children in the United States and across the globe who are in need of loving, permanent families. November is National Adoption Month.
Childbirth is without question a miracle. The creation of a family through adoption is a miracle, too.
It just requires a different sort of labor: seemingly endless forms to complete, nerve-wracking home study visits that must be endured, long waits that can try not just one’s patience but one’s nerves.
But at the end of all of that, a family is born.
In this National Adoption Month, we ask you to consider the incredible gift that is adoption.
There is loss at the core of an adoption — the loss of biological connection for the child, for his or her birth parents, for the adoptive parents.
But there is also great love — that of the birth parents seeking to find for their child a secure and loving home, that of the adoptive parents granted the great privilege of raising that child.
Tell any adoptive parent that his or her adoptive child is lucky to have been adopted, and that parent likely will respond, “I’m the lucky one.”
There are many forms of adoption — open, closed, newborn adoption, foster care adoption, private adoption, domestic adoption, intercountry adoption. Every family has to figure out which path is right for them.
There are youngsters with special needs who need families. There are teenagers as well as infants and toddlers awaiting adoption. As the website for National Adoption Month puts it, children “never outgrow the need for family.”
There are children in our community and children across the world who are in need of forever families. Every child deserves to be loved.
Sadly, intercountry adoptions by Americans have fallen significantly in recent years.
According to the 2015 annual report by the U.S. Department of State, American families adopted 5,648 foreign-born children in 2015 — the lowest number since 1981. It represented a 12 percent decline from the 6,441 foreign-born children adopted the previous year and a 75 percent decline since intercountry adoptions reached a peak in 2004.
“The reality is that the world’s orphan population is growing by the millions and that many of these children will not be reunited with family members or placed with relatives or domestic adoptive families,” Chuck Johnson, president and CEO of the National Council For Adoption, a nonprofit advocacy organization, noted in a news release. “Instead, they are left homeless or living in orphanages or institutions, which are often under-funded, under-staffed, and don’t provide the one-on-one care children need in order to thrive.”
Countries such as Russia and Guatemala have closed the door on intercountry adoption, and the wait to adopt from China has grown significantly longer than it once was.
Support for adoption
In the United States, private adoption can be costly, though the federal government offers a nonrefundable tax credit for qualified adoption expenses paid to adopt an eligible child — and “may be allowed for the adoption of a child with special needs, even if you do not have any qualified expenses,” according to the Internal Revenue Service.
But adoption isn’t always expensive. According to Pennsylvania’s Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network — or SWAN — subsidies can help to minimize the costs of adopting children in foster care.
Even if adoption isn’t in your future, there are ways you can support it.
Employers could consider implementing adoption-friendly policies: paid family leave, even financial assistance, to employees who are adopting.
And we should encourage lawmakers to create an adoption system that is, in the words of Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform, “transparent, ethical, economical, and respects the rights of families of origin, the laws of governments involved, the adoptive and prospective adoptive parents, and most importantly the children.”
On being ‘real’
Or more simply, we can be conscious about the way we speak about adoption.
Don’t refer to a biological parent as a child’s “real parent.” As any adoptive parent will tell you, he feels pretty real when he’s caring for his feverish child in the early hours of a morning.
Likewise, don’t ask a child if his brother is his “real sibling.” Sibling relationships created through adoption are just as real as those created through birth.
Don’t ask the adoptive parent if she has children “of her own.” Her child is her child, without qualification, and she’s a mom, without any modifier. (We are using the modifiers “adoptive” and “adopted” in this editorial only for the purpose of clarity.)
Don’t ask an adopted child if she was abandoned. It’s not anyone’s business but her own, and it’s a hurtful question.
And don’t refer to him as “the adopted child”; he was adopted, but how he came to his family shouldn’t define him.
Don’t ask an adoptive parent how much his child cost (believe us when we tell you this happens). He may ask you about the cost of that intimate medical procedure you just had.
Don’t ask an adoptive parent of a foreign-born child why she didn’t adopt one of the many children awaiting adoption in the United States. A South Korean or Ethiopian child in need of a family is every bit as precious as an American child. Families often feel called to choose a particular adoption journey; they don’t need your approval, but they’ll appreciate your support.
Ties that bind
Nia Vardalos, creator and star of the “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” movies, captures in her book “Instant Mom” the feeling of destiny and wonder of adoption.
“If the standard route for creating a family had worked for me, I wouldn't have met this child,” Vardalos writes. “... I know now why all those events happened. Or didn’t happen. So I could meet this little girl. She is, in every way, my daughter. I am carrying my Funny Gift from God and all is good.”
All children deserve parents who regard them as precious gifts, as amazing individuals, as their children, in every way.
For more information about adoption: