Monday, November 7, 2011

November is National Adoption Awareness Month

Last year's post on this subject I titled In Case You've Been Living in a Cave, Snowed In Without Newspapers, and Your Cable Was Knocked Out and Your Antenna Knocked Down, and You Just Had Your Internet Service Restored But You Can't Remember Your Facebook Password, Twitter is Over Capacity, Though You Can Finally Catch Up on Your Blog Reading, Here's the BIG News You Missed: November is Adoption Awareness Month!  Can you tell I get a little tired of all the hoopla about adoption in November?  Well, this is what I said last year, in case you missed it, which hopefully is still relevant a year later:

November is National Adoption Month, and we're asked everywhere to "celebrate" adoption. I admit, I have a hard time with that. I acknowledge that, as an adoptive parent, I'm the only one in the adoption triad who didn't come to adoption through tragedy. How can I "celebrate" the tragedy that made my children available for adoption? But I can certainly accept a national adoption AWARENESS month, which happens to be the official name. There are LOTS of things people need to be aware of when it comes to adoption.

I thought I'd go through Adoptive Families Magazine's 30 Ways to Celebrate National Adoption Month article, and suggest some ways that their ideas could be tweaked a bit to increase awareness, both inside your family and out:

2. Ask your library to display adoption books to commemorate National Adoption Awareness Month.

Here are some books to suggest -- books from the important perspective of adopted persons, and books that reveal a history of adoption that is often ignored:

The Language of Blood by Jane Jeong Trenka
Fugitive Visions by Jane Jeong Trenka
Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption
Orphan Train: Placing Out in America
Kinship by Design: A History of Adoption in the Modern United States
The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler

5. Find out where your representatives at the state and national level stand on adoption issues. Write to them regarding your concerns.

You can click here to find out your state's position on adoptee access to original birth certificates. Chances are, your state does not allow such access since only 6 states do. The American Adoption Congress provides lots of online materials to help you inform legislators on this issue.

7. Create a scrapbook with your child. Talk about significant events as you record them together.

Make sure you include significant events -- such as BIRTH! -- that occurred before you and your child met. Here's a link about adoption lifebooks to get your started.

9. Find an adult adoptee or a person of color—a coach, a teacher, or a babysitter—who can serve as a mentor for your child. Arrange for them to get together monthly.

If your area is not very diverse, you need to act intentionally to bring adults who share your child's race into their lives. Pediatrician, dentist, eye doctor -- given a choice, choose the one who shares your child's race. Getting to know adult adopted persons can be a great help in letting kids know someone older and wiser who can listen to their problems.

11. Spend some time celebrating your child’s heritage.

The internet is a wonderful place to find recipes, traditions, folklore, about your child's birth country.

13. Give an adoption talk at school.

Keep it real, keep it age-appropriate, and talk as much as you can about how families can be different, and that's OK.

14. Pass along an adoption-related article to another adoptive parent or friend.

Here are a few I'd suggest:

The Lie We Love by E.J. Graff
The Baby Business: Policy Proposals for Fairer Practice by E.J. Graff
Anatomy of an Adoption Crisis by E.J. Graff

I'd also suggest that you share blog links -- especially adult adoptee and birth mother blogs -- with your adoptive parent friends. It's so important for all adoptive parents to read from all perspectives, especially from those that might be different from their own. Check out the links in the blog roll to your right. Send your favorites via email, Facebook and/or Twitter to your friends.

20. NATIONAL ADOPTION DAY! Courts across the country will finalize thousands of adoptions today.

These are adoptions from foster care. If you are an attorney, consider volunteering. Remember, courts are open to the public. Feel free to visit your courthouse and watch the finalizations. This can be a great experience for kids, especially if they were too young to remember their own, or if they are experiencing anxiety about how permanent their adoption is. You can show them how the judge makes a family a family forever. Click here to check for events in your area.

21. Develop a family ritual to show thanks for your family and the special way you’ve found one another AND 27. Together, light a candle in honor of your child’s birthparents. Turn off the lights and hold hands as you watch the flame.

I love family rituals, and combining 21 and 27 acknowledges that your child's birth family is part of your family. For some suggestions of family rituals, check out Creating Ceremonies: Innovative Ways to Meet Adoption Challenges.

I also think rituals are extremely important when a child's birth parents are unknown. Rituals can give them a concrete presence in a child's life. My kids, for example, write notes to birth moms on Mother's Day, and burn the notes so that the smoke can carry good wishes to them in China.

28. Make holiday crafts that incorporate designs from your child’s heritage.

Again, the internet is your friend here!

30. Make a donation in your child’s or birthmother’s name to an adoption-related charity or organization.

Tw of my favorites are family preservation funds; after all, the only way to solve the orphan crisis is to prevent kids from being orphaned in the first place. So check out:

The Unity Fund from Love Without Boundaries

The Family Preservation Initiative from Ethica

So get out there and do your part for adoption awareness -- awareness of ALL the issues in adoption, the good and bad, the happy and sad. That's the awareness the public needs, that's the awareness you need to help your child.


Anonymous said...

it's official, you've lost your marbles! can't you just relax a bit? can't families celebrate adoption? are you serious? recommending graff's articles? do you think all IA kids are stolen? get over yourself. can you admit that adoption can be and usually is a beautiful thing? you put so many negative (inaccurate) thoughts in the minds of so many people. like i'm going to send graff's crappy (redundant and dated) articles to family and friends to basically tell them my child is likely stolen? good lord!!

Anonymous said...

p.s. i wouldn't give a dime to ethica, pear or unicef. all three prevent kids from finding loving families whether you believe that or not. my money goes to orphanages and agencies in our child's birth country and to any organization that SUPPORTS adoption.

Linda said...

Excellent post, Malinda. And anon- November is NOT for celebrating adoption. It's about education, and it's about FOSTER CARE

Anonymous said...

something wrong in Paradise, adoption corruption

Mei-Ling said...

"can you admit that adoption can be and usually is a beautiful thing?"

Well, I don't know. The media, books, magazines, news articles, other adoptive parents, prospective parents, the public at large, actors, and more media all constantly say how wonderful adoption is.

Do we really need it to be reiterated?

We already know adoption should be considered a beautiful thing. Why should it have to be reinstated?

Mei-Ling said...

"my money goes to orphanages and agencies in our child's birth country"

That is actually kind of nice to read instead of "Oh well, I can't change an entire culture, but I CAN adopt."

"and to any organization that SUPPORTS adoption."

Question: Why?

Anne said...

I think what you've offered are good suggestions, although I can't see myself doing some of them (that's just me, not a criticism of what you've offered). My opinion is that if you are a responsible adoptive parent, you have to take the good with the bad. You can't just "relax". You have a responsiblity to your child to give them the full story. And to correct other's misperceptions when that opportunity presents itself.

Reena said...

Ditto to Anne's comment. As happy as we are to have our two daugther's as part of our family, we cannot and no not dismiss the fact they both suffered great losses in becoming part of our family.

As Mei Ling stated, there are multitudes of media glitz that shines adoption as "all that is good and wonderful." Much of this information does not educate people about the grief and trauma associated with adoption.

Anon 10:39-- why are you so seemingly threatened by someone posting information that shows the other side of adoption?

Anonymous said...

reena - because that's ALL she posts.
linda - adoption IS something to celebrate. there is loss but there are also aspects to celebrate.
mei-ling - it needs to be reiterated by PARENTS who have adopted to their children. if we can't be proud and confident in our decisions to love a child who was abandoned by his or her parents that is very sad. can't we share the good with the bad?
at this point i'm going to share that our child came to us very severe medical conditions. i never use the word 'lucky' (until this post!) and use all the correct terminology. she knows the whole story. she's knows she have a birth family… she knows it all (and she's VERY young to grasp it). nothing is hidden. however, gosh darn, she is LUCKY. she is lucky to be alive. i won't tell her that but she'll figure it out as she views photos and reviews her medical records. someday we hope to meet her birth family (I'm doing EVERYTHING i can to research that) but quite frankly she is in a better place. she has love and she have people who will support her feeling about her losses. just because we don't agree with all the negativity doesn't mean we aren't doing the right and best things for her emotional health and development. i would just like to share this blog with her one day and have her feel that not all adoptions are as a result of fraud. i want her to see all sides from people like this blogger (pear, unicef and ethica). p.s. is there anyone posting here that is NOT part of those 3 organizations?

Reena said...

"i would just like to share this blog with her one day and have her feel that not all adoptions are as a result of fraud."

Anon, I wouldn't worry about your daughter getting the message that 'all adoptions are as a result of fraud.' The vast majority of the main stream media over-emphasizes that adoption is 'All Wonderful.'

Personally, I am more concerned that my daughters not get the clear message that we understand and respect that they had a tremendous loss that resulted in being available for adoption. I don't think it is appropriate or sensitive to ignore or minimize this.

Whether a child comes to be adopted because their parents abused them, were too poor to provide needed medical care/food, etc, political/social reasons as in China, or were kidnapped and/or trafficked--- the child has experienced a trauma and a great loss.

While I frequently tell my daughters how much I love them and am happy that they are my daughters-- I also feel it is my responsibility to validate the realities that lead children, my children, being available for adoption-- as hard as those realities may be.

Our family does not 'celebrate' adoption day nor do we really recognize November as 'adoption month.' Aside from the message I think this might send to my young daughters-- we simply have too much else going on.

I have encouraged many of my family and friends to read "The Girls Who Went Away," as well as a few other articles on adoption loss-- particularly family members.

I don't view it as being negative--I view it as becoming more enlightened and sensitive.

Mei-Ling said...

I'm not part of the 3 organizations you lised, Anon.

I'm not a part of any organization.

And btw, parents are always reiterating online how wonderful adoption is. Always always always. Is your daughter reading this blog? No. But we keep saying "Why can't adoption be seen as wonderful"?

The DOMINANT argument is that adoption, by default, is always wonderful. Always. This is the viewpoint you want to see more of - the thing is, this viewpoint is already deeply saturated everywhere you look.

(Except for, y'know, a few blogs like this.)

You basically want us to reinforce what is already being said about adoption everywhere.

LilySea said...

Anon, please show me the place where Malinda says all international adoption is the result of fraud. Anyone who thinks this blog is all negative is being reactively oversensitive.

Anonymous said...

Good post!

Perhaps if even 25% of the popular adoptive parent blogs out there would just admit once in a blue moon, that not every adoption was meant to be and that ethics aren't always part of adoption...then Malinda would not have to be one of the few AP voices providing a variety of good and bad...

Sadly - I would assume 90% or better just want to dish out the favorite brand of kool-aid for their readers...