Looking Back Before Moving Forward

It’s typically a time of the year to reflect on everything that has happened during the last year. It’s always grounding to look back and reminisce on every moment that has stood out. Our local newspaper does this every year – the first 6 months in the issue before New Years and the last 6 month in the first issue published after New Years. It doesn’t matter whether our moments have been positive, negative, happy, sad, or a mix. Every moment we live through shapes us into the individuals that we are today.

I will probably continue to try and write a new blog every day. I learn so much doing this as I don’t constrain myself to repeating my own family’s story over and over again because that really would get boring not only for me but for any readers of my blog. I often share other stories related to adoption that I come across – usually excerpts with a link to the full article. Often I make personal comments within my blog that an article triggers me to think of.

So, yes it’s also a time to look towards the future. Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “New year, new me!” but I don’t perceive anything really new about me or anything truly new under the sun that might be shared in this blog. I never know however when someone may discover an old one in a google search or come across my blog in some random way, so I don’t really expect there will be any earth shattering changes in the content that I write about. Just pounding on many of the same points over and over again, to maybe reach someone who has become receptive to the way I am viewing adoption now – thanks to so much emotional labor shared on social media by adoptees and former foster care youth. I have NO New Year’s resolutions related to my own work here, which my daughter has referred to as my seeming mission. My goal remains trying to come up with something I have not written or shared before and to do so almost every day (I do occasionally miss one). I expect that I will just keep going because I am not ready to give it up yet.

Some foster children or newly adopted ones have been through a lot of trauma. It is reasonable to understand that the holidays may have a negative connotation for them, or they have nothing to relate enjoying a holiday to. One woman writes – I know for my adopted siblings, they were able to look at the first new year that they spent with us as a clean slate. They had lived a life that no child should live before and during foster care. Since we were planning to adopt them before my parents went to meet them, this was the first time that they had a sense of stability. I understand that this is a hard concept to grasp, especially for those who didn’t grow up in the system. Imagine not knowing where your next meal is coming from, who you’re going to be with, where you’re going to be, and if this foster family loves you and willingly keeps you. These thoughts are constantly nagging in the back of their heads, but now it’s like a breath of fresh air.

And so, to you who are foster parents, it may be difficult to not use language regarding the future of your foster kids. It is completely full of unknowns and can be scary for these kids. Put emphasis on the future they can expect with YOU. It may be helpful to reassure them that you will be there for them – while they’re in your home and that you will make sure that they are taken care of.

Acknowledging that some parts of today’s blog were assisted by – How to Celebrate New Years As a New Adoptive/Foster Family? by Emily Perez a stay-at-home mom with a BS in Elementary Education from Eastern Oregon University. When she was younger, her parents did foster care and adopted 5 children from all walks of life to become her siblings.

National Adoption Month and Teens

It’s that time of year again. Yes, November. National Adoption Awareness Month.

From Child Welfare dot gov – National Adoption Month is an initiative of the Children’s Bureau that seeks to increase national awareness of adoption issues, bring attention to the need for adoptive families for teens in the US foster care system, and emphasize the value of youth engagement. We have focused our efforts on adoption for teens because we know that teens in foster care wait longer for permanency and are at higher risk of aging out than younger children. Teens need love, support, and a sense of belonging that families can provide. Securing lifelong connections for these teens, both legally and emotionally, is a critical component in determining their future achievement, health, and well-being.

This year’s National Adoption Month theme is “Conversations Matter.” Incorporating youth engagement into daily child welfare practice can start with a simple conversation. Listen to what the young person has to say, what their goals are, and how they feel about adoption. Create an environment where they can be honest and ask questions. Youth are the experts of their own lives, so let them partner with you in permanency planning and make decisions about their life.

In 2019, there were over 122,000 children and youth in foster care waiting to be adopted who are at risk of aging out without a permanent family connection. Approximately one in five children in the U.S. foster care system waiting to be adopted are teens. Teens, ages 15-18, wait significantly longer for permanency when compared to their peers. Only 5% of all children adopted in 2019 were 15-18 years old. There is a high risk of homelessness and human trafficking for teenagers who age out of foster care.

More statistics from 2019 (the most recent year data is available) – of the 122,000 children and youth waiting to be adopted: 52% are male, 48% are female, 22% are African American, 22% are Hispanic, 44% are white, while the average age is 8 years old – 11 percent are between 15 and 18 years old.

The History of National Adoption Month –

In 1976, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis announced an Adoption Week to promote awareness of the need for adoptive families for children in foster care.

In 1984, President Reagan proclaimed the first National Adoption Week. In 1995, President Clinton expanded the awareness week to the entire month of November.

With Privilege Comes Judgment

Growing up, I remember being told not to judge, to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before judging them. I need to understand the other person’s experiences, challenges, thought processes, etc before judging their own personal choices or lived stories. It is true that judgments keep us safe, help us make friends, accomplish our goals, and all sorts of wonderful, important stuff.

The idea of privilege has become really controversial in some circles, even offensive. Usually the people who are offended by the idea of privilege are the people who have it. And when someone who has had some experience – maybe they have experienced being judged, as being inferior, because they were living in poverty, or they had a bad experience in foster care or in their childhood while being raised by adoptive parents – we should do our best to listen to their stories with compassion, realizing that because we did not have that experience ourselves, we cannot really know how bad it was for them. We need to simply give them the benefit of the doubt and open our heart to their pain and/or trauma.

So, too often when people are simply trying to share whatever awful experience they have lived through, someone will feel triggered and quickly counter this person’s lived experience with the words “not all” – which is simply meant to shut the person up and not allow them to revel their own experience honestly. Maybe you are a foster parent or an adoptive parent or do social work or work for the government in some kind of child welfare or government assistance office and you are feeling judged by the story you are hearing. You are desperate to point out that you are not one of those kinds of people yourself. And it’s wonderful if you are not. However, you should restrain yourself at such a time, take comfort and be confident in the knowledge that the story you are hearing is not about you but about the person telling it and their experience. Allow them to revel their own truth without dismissing it by inserting why you are such a good person (and in fact, maybe look long and hard at your own heart to determine is what it actually is that is being triggered. Is it your sense of being some kind of savior to some segment of humanity ?).

Privilege is something your life gives you that is good. By being able to see those aspects as a privilege, you should also be able to realize that you have had access to something that some other people didn’t.  Often in adoption land, as in real life, those with privilege and those in government service too often treat the underprivileged poorly and that is un-necessary. They have it hard enough without you piling on.

The truth is, adoptive parents hold the dominant view in society. Their perspectives rule when it comes to creating the perceptions that people with no experience with what adoption is like in general, believe it to be. Adult adoptees are too often either silenced or dismissed. Money rules. The financially privileged hold the power in society over the less fortunate – who are too easily overlooked or not seen at all. Adoption is almost always a case of allocating a child. Taking a child out of a poverty stricken family and placing that child into a rich one. Georgia Tann didn’t hide her belief that doing this intended engineering of a child’s life led to better outcomes for that child than leaving them in their original poverty-stricken family. So the truth is, money matters.

Just as it was with Georgia Tann, money continues to be the motivation in our modern times. There are people making a LOT of money by taking money from rich people, in return for giving them the opportunity to experience parenting. An experience that infertility or the tragic death of their biological child may have robbed them of. Money can buy you the opportunity to parent a child. Only people with money can afford a domestic infant adoption. This is the reality. And some determined people without financial good fortune will even set up a Go Fund Me page or some other kind of charity outreach to get the money to adopt a child. But the fact remains – the adoption industry is doing very well at generating a lot of revenue for itself.

Funding Push

The latest trend in adoption seems to be crowdfunding the cost. So it is that today I learned about one such platform for hopeful adoptive parents – Adopt Together.

They claim on their website that they are a non-profit, crowdfunding platform that bridges the gap between families who want to adopt and the children who need loving homes. Hank Fortener, is the founder and CEO of AdoptTogether. He says that he understands the burden that is the adoption process. While he was growing up, his family fostered 36 children and adopted 6 from 5 different countries.

Donations are made through Pure Charity, the crowd-funding platform partner of Adopt Together — if designated, they are conveyed to the selected adopting family.  All non-designated donations go towards the general fund for Adopt Together’s expenses. Pure Charity says – they work with select nonprofit organizations to grow their impact through Fundraising, Technology, Donor Development, and Mobilization Strategies. Further, they note – Pure Charity works within a “Theory of Change” to plan how and why a desired change is expected to happen in a particular context. They are focused on mapping out the “missing middle” between what a change initiative does and how these lead to desired goals being achieved.

Like many things these days the web around this is not only the Pure Charity platform but also they are a “project” of the Hoping Hearts Foundation. A review of this non-profit says – they were created to bring focus to the growing world-wide orphan problem, address the causes leading to children becoming orphans, and support families in their quest to adopt with financial assistance and timely information to facilitate the adoption process. Their website shows their focus is international – Burma, Sri Lanka, India, Haiti, Indonesia, Cuba and Kenya. They describe themselves as – a Christ-centered organization founded to meet the spiritual, medical, nutritional, and basic living needs of orphaned, abandoned, and at-risk children around the world.

There is so much that is problematic about taking children from poor countries and depositing them with usually white families in the United States that I really don’t know where to begin but often families are mis-informed about what is going to happen to their children. Many only hope for their child to get a better education but believe they will return to the family in the not too distant future. There is also a problem with children adopted this way never actually getting citizenship only to find themselves on a deportation list. These are just a few things without going into loss of culture issues.

Back to where I started – what’s the main thing I sense happening here (besides adoption) – it’s money and there are likely more than a few people making a lot of money with these intertwined organizations. Follow the money and things become clearer. Exploitation is always following very close behind.