"Every child thriving in the safe embrace of a loving family." It's one of the five critical pledges the National CASA Association has made to abused and neglected children. And this month -- this Saturday in particular -- is a time to celebrate one way children can find such families. November is National Adoption Month and this Saturday, November 19, is National Adoption Day. This is a cherished time for those of us who work in the field of child welfare -- and even more meaningful for those of us who are adoptive parents.
I can practically guarantee that you know somebody who was adopted. A survey by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute found that 58 percent of Americans knew someone who was adopted. Maybe that person was you, one of your parents or one of your children. Or maybe you have a friend, a co-worker, a colleague or a schoolmate who grew up in an adoptive home.
It's possible that your favorite artist, writer or musician was adopted: A small sample of celebrity adoptees includes Steve Jobs, Sarah McLachlan, Darryl McDaniels (aka DMC, of the rap group RUN-DMC), Faith Hill, James Michener, Jesse Jackson, John Lennon, Malcolm X, John Hancock, Edgar Allen Poe and Langston Hughes. Even two presidents have shared this experience: Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton (who established the first National Adoption Month in 1995).
The act of inviting an adopted child into one's life is not made easily. About one in three Americans has considered adoption, but far fewer actually follow through and become adoptive parents. For those who are adopting children from foster care, the challenges are magnified. On my wall is a photo of me with two brothers I met at the White House during one National Adoption Month celebration. They had been hoping to be adopted, but had had several possible homes fall through. I'll never forget how those two wonderful kids went up to everyone in the White House and explained that they could be part of their families. And when the younger one fell asleep on my shoulder during the speeches, you can bet I wanted my wife and me to be the ones to give him and his brother a permanent home.
Think about it; over 100,000 foster youth are waiting. Their birth families are no longer an option for a permanent home. For whom are they waiting? For loving adults to step up and say "I am for you. I would be honored to be your parent." They are officially designated "waiting children." On average, they wait nearly a year for an adoption to happen, but sadly, over 800 youth had waited longer than five years.
Children waiting for loving families: it reminds me of the "waiting room" in the book Oh, the Places You'll Go. Dr. Seuss describes the people trapped in the waiting room:
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
None of these children is waiting for a castle or a mansion. All they want is another chance. All they're waiting for is a break. It was not their choice to be unable to live with their biological parents. It was not their choice to be removed from their families and to enter the foster care system. These children deserve a second chance at a happy, healthy permanent home.
So I how about it? I invite you to celebrate National Adoption Month with us. But I ask that you consider giving more. Learn more about adoption by visiting our friends at AdoptUSKids, the Child Welfare Information Gateway and the Children's Bureau. Read the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute's policy brief "Keeping the Promise," which makes several strong recommendations to provide post-adoption support and services to adoptive families. Adoption is so much more than simply providing an open room in a house. Adoption is a lifelong commitment that changes the lives of children, parents and generations to come. I hope it is a commitment you will make.