Did you know that November is National Adoption Month? I remember National Adoption Day, 2008, as clear as day! This would be our family’s fourth adopted child, sixth overall! It was a sunny day in Prescott, AZ. The courtroom was filled with many other families waiting to adopt. The Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, had prepared for that day as they had many years prior. They had decorated the courtroom with banners and balloons. They had specially prepared quilts that were unique to every adopted child.
In a separate room, there were games, snacks, and prizes to entertain the families while they waited for their hearing with the judge. The hearing itself was short and sweet, 10-15 minutes in length total. Our 7-year old foster daughter from India, by way of a previously disrupted adoption, was smiling and looking pretty as ever!
Then we were summoned into the judge’s courtroom. We were sworn in and went through the formalities. And when the judge banged his gavel and decreed that the adoption was final, an overwhelming sense of joy and pride and gratefulness filled my heart! Then, we took pictures with the judge. The judge whispered something in my ear, which I remember to this day. He said, “Thank you for walking the walk.” You see, this wasn’t the first time in Judge Brutinel’s courtroom. I had been a foster-adopt social worker previously and had written many adoption home studies and helped to certify many other families wishing to adopt. Now it was my turn! To have that affirmation from the judge was truly gratifying.
After the ceremony, CASA arranged free family photos, which we took on the lawn of the courthouse. Then, we went out to eat! This was truly a historic day for our family. Our fourth adoption! Though, not the last adoption we would be blessed with, it was certainly the only adoption that occurred on National Adoption Day. Truly a remarkable day!
What is National Adoption Month?
National Adoption Month occurs every November across the nation! It celebrates adoptive families and makes the day special for all involved. National Adoption Day usually occurs the Saturday before Thanksgiving or the third Saturday of November. Its purpose is to raise awareness on behalf of the more than 100,000 children who are waiting to be adopted across the nation. National Adoption Day began in the year 2000 in Los Angeles and has spread across the nation like wildfire! To date, over 400 cities participate in National Adoption Day and over 75,000 children have participated in National Adoption Day events since then. It is truly a blessing!
Many municipalities around the country celebrate this day differently. Here are some of the ways it is celebrated around the country.
- Adoption Finalization Day. Many municipalities celebrate the final adoption court hearing of a child and granting the adoption of a child to the adoptive family. Anywhere between 5-10 families participate in these festivities per location.
- Adoption Open House. This is an opportunity for families considering adoption to get a broader view of what adoption is all about. It may include a Meet and Greet with current adoptive families; a panel discussion; a Q and A session and breakout sessions. This way, an adoptive family can be fully educated on adoption before proceeding.
- Adoption Celebration Day. This is a celebration of all families who have adopted in the current year. These families are recognized as special and these children are unique. Some adoption finalizations may take place on this day, as well.
- Adoption Month Proclamations. In many states, the governor drafts a proclamation deeming November as National Adoption Month. The full decree is posted in the newspapers and perhaps posted on social media.
What to Expect on Adoption Day
If you have never participated in an adoption day, you may not know what to expect. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Meet with your attorney. If you don’t pay attention, this day can fly by so quickly. You may be so focused on the festivities that you ignore the legal aspects of the day. Rely on your attorney for any last-minute questions or advice he may have.
- Final paperwork. There may be final papers you need to sign. Don’t worry, this is the end of it!
- Swearing in. You will be seated in front of the judge. The judge, or clerk or bailiff will ask you to stand and to raise your right hand and repeat after him that the information you give is truthful, to the best of your knowledge.
- Question and Answer. The judge or attorney will ask you some straightforward questions about your name, address, marriage and relationship to the child. The judge may also ask the child some questions, if they are old enough. The judge may also allow a youth to read from a prepared statement, which can bring tears to the eyes of anyone in the courtroom.
- Review of legal name change. This is important because the name change will go on all legal documents thereafter. If the child is older, they may want to participate in the name change. It could be a simple change in spelling, or a reversal between first name and middle name; or the addition of the birth parents’ names or a brand-new name altogether! The name can also remain the same. However, the vast majority of adoptive parents choose to change the child’s name to the adoptive parents’ last name.
- Final Decree. This is also an emotional moment. When the judge bangs his gavel, it is the moment in time when the child becomes part of a forever family!
Celebrations. Different families celebrate in different ways. The more creative the better! Here are some ideas when celebrating National Adoption Day!
- Matching Costumes. The latest trend in adoption celebrations is Adoption-Ware. Matching suits or dresses for the kids as well as adults. Or dressing up as a superhero family. Or simply wearing the same T-shirt with a quaint saying. Any way you look at it, when the children look back at this day, they will realize it was a very important day.
- Chalkboard photos. The latest trend in Adoption Day photos is having the child hold up a small chalkboard with a small saying. For example, the chalkboard can simply contain the adoptive family’s last name, the children’s first names, or the number of days the children have spent in foster care.
- Photos with the judge. Don’t underestimate this. This is a historic moment. The judge deserves full credit for overseeing the process.
- After-party with family. The question is sometimes asked, who should I invite to the adoption party? As an adoption social worker, my response is, anyone! Some families wonder whether it is a good idea to invite the biological parents. I usually advise against this due to the roller coaster of emotions that are involved on this day. Where should we party? That varies, but it could be anywhere from a local restaurant, to a children’s party place to a park to an indoor pool. Or simply a small party in your backyard would be more intimate.
What Is Adoption?
Adoption is the transfer of parental and legal rights from one parent to another. From the child’s point of view, it is the transfer of a child from one family to another. From the adoptive parent’s point of view, adoption is accepting a child into your family unconditionally and making that child a part of your family even though the child may be from another country, from another culture, or with another skin color. National Adoption Day gives a fixed point in time and place of that transfer. It celebrates the specialness and uniqueness of adoption and makes that child know she is loved, she is chosen, she is wanted, she is adopted!
Types of Adoption
There are many different types of adoptions that a person may pursue, depending on their resources, needs, and vision of what type of family they want to build and what type of children they feel they can best care for.
- Foster-To-Adopt. The vast majority of adoptions in National Adoption Month are foster care adoptions. This is when a child from the foster care system is adopted by foster parents. There are about 400,000 children in foster care. Out of that, approximately 100,000 of them are free for adoption. They all deserve a “forever family”! In these cases, depending on what state you reside in, there may be two different types of home studies. A foster care home study is a study that outlines the suitability of an applicant as a foster parent. In most states, this home study can be used in an adoption, especially if a foster parent is going to adopt their own foster child. An adoption-only home study is when an applicant wishes to adopt a child out of the foster care system who is not their own foster child, but someone else’s. Either way, foster care adoption is very special and ought to be considered.
- Private. Infant adoption is a popular trend in America. Especially when there is an identified child involved, it seems like the way to go to build a family, especially if the parents struggle with infertility. Though most adoptions that occur in National Adoption Month are the foster-to-adopt kind, many adoptions are private in nature.
- Fictive. Fictive adoption is when a non-relative chooses to adopt a child with whom he already has an established relationship. This could be a teacher, a nurse, a neighbor, or a youth pastor. The advantage of fictive adoption is that the child already knows the adult adopting him and therefore, has an earned trust, which is not to be underestimated. Moving to a stranger’s home can be scary for a small child. But if a child has a previous relationship with a person, transitioning into a “forever family” should be seamless! National Adoption Day is special because these adoptive parents may have never considered adopting anyone but they were in the right place at the right time to meet the needs of this kiddo!
- Kinship. Kinship adoption, also known as a relative adoption, is when a grandparent, uncle, aunt, or older sibling, adopts their own relative. This is special because it reduces the trauma of moving to an unknown home. This is a trend since foster parents are now more difficult to find. Social service agencies are also considering this option due to the opioid epidemic which leaves many parents addicted, incarcerated or deceased. Relatives are the perfect people these children need. National Adoption Day for a relative adoption is bittersweet. Bitter, knowing that the biological parents were unable to fulfill their duties as a parent. But also, sweet knowing other family members stepped up to stand in the gap for these children.
- International. Adopting from other nations is expensive, costing as much as $30,000-$50,000! This includes fees to adoption agencies both here and abroad, attorney’s fees, and the cost of travel. If you have the time, energy, and money to do so then please, pursue it! There are millions of orphans around the world that need you! It may be difficult to hold National Adoption Day events for internationally adopted children for a number of reasons. First of all, timing. After many years of pursuing a child overseas, November may just not be the right time to finalize the adoption. Second of all, locations, some states may vary in whether they require the child to be present during finalization. Whatever the case, even if international adoptive parents cannot participate in National Adoption Month, there should still be a celebration with the child at the appropriate time.
National Adoption Month is special is becoming more and more popular due to media and social media attention. And rightly so! Adoption is a carefully planned, carefully executed event! It is the World Series event in the life of a child and therefore, National Adoption Day should be treated as such! Have fun with it! These children need to know that they weren’t an accident, not a burden, and not extra baggage! They were loved, they were chosen, they were adopted!