When my oldest niece was about five years old, she cried to her mom, “How come I couldn’t be adopted like the other kids?” At that time, there were six cousins on that side of our family; four of them had joined the family through adoption. We laughed at the story, but also found a sense of gratification in seeing our families grow in unusual ways.
It’s been nearly twenty-five years since my niece cried to her mom. Our two adopted sons are grown with families of their own. We now have a grandson who has come into our family through adoption. My wife and a sister-in-law both work for Bethany Christian Services Northwest, an adoption agency. Adoption and foster care has shaped our extended family history in a variety of ways.
The need is always before us. Every child deserves, needs and longs for a stable home and family. It is also critical for the health of the greater community that we care for those who cannot care for themselves. Open adoptions and cultural shifts have changed the face of adoption and foster care greatly in the past twenty-five years, but the reality is that every child is an important child and many are in need of a home.
Adoption is not always easy, nor is the result always perfect. As with any family situation, it involves a messy mixture of people and lives. But there are many stories of life directions changed and families made new through this process.
Have you considered extending your family through adoption or foster care? There are numerous ways to get involved. If you have considered extending your family through one of these methods, here are some of the steps that can help prepare you for the commitment.
1. First, educate yourself. Learn about adoption and foster care processes in your state. In doing so, you will discover the reality of life for the children who spend their youth in systems that are caring, but overloaded. The Child Welfare Information Gateway of the Administration for Children and Families provides up to date statics related to the current needs related to adoption and foster care.
2. Consider helping a specific child or children. Evaluate your situation and see how to best respond. Can you build a family in a way you had not previously considered? Are you able to help kids in transition through foster care? There are many agencies available to help you learn about foster care and, when ready, begin the process. Bethany Christian Services is one of the largest organizations providing services for both foster care and adoption with branch offices in numerous locations throughout the United States. You can also refer to Child Welfare Information Gateway and the Administration for Children and Families to learn more about national resources.
3. Consider an alternative. If you are not in a position to bring children into your home, consider sponsoring a child through a reputable relief agency. Compassion International and World Vision are two international organizations with years of experience in caring for needy children around the world.
4. Act locally. Join with a child service agency in your city as a volunteer or supporter. Big Brothers Big Sisters has been providing positive role models for youth since 1904. Volunteering as a “Big” or donating to support programs can help make a difference in the lives of numerous children in need. Many communities have locally-based programs that provide friendship/mentoring opportunities for volunteers to work one-on-one with kids as well.
5. Get involved. Become informed about what’s going on at the government level and communicate with officials on behalf of children. This might involve contacting your state representatives, your community government, or your area school board to see what is being done with local resources and funds to protect at-risk and needy children.
It is not important how each of us responds. The crucial thing is that we work together to help needy kids and families in the best way we can. The need is great, the opportunity is before us, and the future depends on it. Each November is designated as National Adoption Month, but there is no need to wait. You can make connections now to get involved and make a difference. Kids will thank you for generations to come.
Originally written in 2011 with Teresa Tanner (Carpine) and published in Catapult Magazine: https://www.catapultmagazine.com/babies-everywhere/article/the-extended-family/