As soon as we pack our Halloween costumes (and polish off leftover trick-or-treating loot), it’ll be time to tear another page from our calendars. November is nearly here. Come Thursday we’ll welcome the month of Thanksgiving dinners, football games and a world-famous parade. Families will gather in the name of gratitude to share pie and a turkey.
Our parents, our children and our siblings come to mind during November. Thanksgiving is ultimately a family-oriented holiday, so it’s fitting that National Adoption Month shares the same space on our calendars.
According to the Adoption Institute, roughly 60% of Americans are personally connected to adoption in some way. They may be adopted, or they could have an adopted child or sibling. Americans also personally experience adoption through close friends who adopt or have been adopted.
Adoption On Paper
Adoption is a benchmark of America’s altruistic culture. Yet the number of adoptions by unrelated adults (which peaked in the 1970s) has declined significantly. According to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, 1992 was the last year reliable adoption statistics were collected. That year there were nearly 127,000 adoptions in the U.S (contrasting the 175,000 American adoptions reported in 1970).
A variety of political, social and economic reasons cause adoption numbers to ebb and flow. Regardless of how many people adopt each year, shaping a community culture that’s more open to adoption is a worthy goal. Here are our thoughts for raising awareness—and promoting openness—during National Adoption Month.
Maybe you want to begin with your personal awareness of adoption. For example, what language do you use to describe families? Labeling birth families as “real” or “natural,” for instance, can be exclusive. Addressing any ideas (which we may not notice at first) that could hinder a welcoming attitude toward adopted people and adoptive families is an important first step.
So educate yourself about the adoptive experience, especially if you don’t have a personal connection to it. Some forget, for instance, that people adopted from foreign countries can’t be expected to be cultural experts on their birth nation. Also, did you know that some adoptive families celebrate Gotcha Day (the date the child joined the family) along with the child's actual birthday?
After reflecting on how you view adoption, help others expand their views as well. For example, you could host a baby shower for a friend who’s adopting a child. Or consider donating to an organization that supports adopted children and their families. You could even become a foster parent.
At the end of November virtually every American will celebrate Thanksgiving—and most will spend it with their families. As November is also National Adoption month, this is your opportunity to share your ideas about the significance of family and especially the gift of adoption.