Tag Archives: International Adoption Day

National Adoption Month

What N.A. M. is not meant to be

Today is the last day of November. But it’s still National Adoption Month. I feel like pouring myself a glass of champagne and then maybe crying into the bubbles.

Originally created to call attention to plight of children in foster care, National Adoption Month is a particularly harrowing time for birthmothers. The media bombards us with accounts of adoption that don’t reflect the birthmother reality or perspective. National Adoption Month was never meant as a platform for touting infant adoption, or foreign adoption, or crowd funding for adoption. And I dare say that anyone involved in the foster care system is unlikely to be so delusional as to promote adoption as one big happiness fest. Yet, all of that has somehow elbowed its way onto the stage of National Adoption Month.

Adoption’s worst practices

And now it’s almost over. Of course as the media spotlight dims, all of adoption’s worst practices will carry on behind the curtain. But the fight against them must continue. Education is key. I’ve only recently found my voice as a birthmother, and in the coming year, I hope for the courage  to speak out when the opportunity arises. I’m grateful to Carrie Goldman and her National Adoption Month series, 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days. “Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series featured guest posts by people with widely varying experiences,” and there’s an awful lot of good reading to be found. I have an essay in the series. It can be found here.

Crowd Funding for Adoption

A “pagan baby” adoption certificate, circa 1960s–a practice less repugnant than crowd funding for adoption.

Some examples

It’s National Adoption Month. And, of course, the topic of crowd funding for adoption has popped up here and there and everywhere.

“Pagan babies” in the 1960s

I went to Catholic grade school in the 60s. It was customary to forego one’s morning carton of milk, and instead give your pennies to the “pagan baby” fund. When we had raised enough money, the class could “adopt” a baby from Africa. These babies were not really removed from their families, but were baptized and given Christian names. We children voted on the names after Sister wrote the suggestions on the blackboard. After a show of hands, Sister would count up the hash marks next to each name.

As a result, some weeks later a certificate with the baby’s new name would arrive. We would display it in our classroom. I have no idea if the children were really called Christine Mary, or David John, or whatever Christian names we chose. I don’t know if the money was an honorarium for the missionary priest who performed the baptism. Or if the money was used to bestow gifts on the child’s family as an incentive for converting to Catholicism, or if it bought fancy white baptismal gowns, or what.

This practice seemed unbelievable when I recalled it as a grown-up former Catholic. It felt archaic and colonial, full of presumption and harm. Crowd funding for infant adoption makes the pagan baby racket feel like child’s play.

Funding for family preservation

How about some funding for family preservation? I recently learned about this organization. Their website is full of information that will blow your mind. Here’s a tiny taste. In the excerpt below, the word care means being removed from their families and placed in foster care.

“Compared to white children, based on child population estimates:

– American Indian children were 17.6 times more likely to experience care.

– Children identified as two or more races were 4.8 times more likely to experience care. (59.2 percent identified at least one race as African-American/Black and 56.0 percent identified at least one race as American Indian.)

– African-American children were over 3.1 times more likely to experience care.”

Adoption Begins With Loss

Mourning attire from the exhibit, “Death Becomes Her” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

National Adoption Month

What I would like to say to everyone who is happily celebrating National Adoption Month is this: Every adoption begins with loss.

You are happy.


Some of us are dying inside. This piece in the Huff Post by Mirah Riben explains it rather succinctly in rant-less fashion.

You might also want to read this.  Tarikuwa Lemma is as eloquent as a poet about her own adoption.

Every adoption begins with loss.

Crowd-funding for adoption

And as if a National Adoption Month and a National Adoption Day are not enough, there’s now the 4 million bucks  that a pastor recently crowd funded to establish International Adoption Day. Here’s a quote from the article in Forbes just in case you’re too busy eating your Happy Adoption Day cake to read the whole thing:  “The main obstacle to adopting a newborn child is the cost.”

Checking out their website, I’m willing to concede that maybe these folks aren’t  dealing exclusively in newborns from foreign countries… but the pastor did say newborn. Newborns, by the way, have never been the focus of National Adoption Month. According to the North American Council on Adoptable Children, there are currently over 100,000 children in foster care who cannot be reunited with their original families. National Adoption Month was created for them. This four million dollar funding effort is not connecting families with those kids. Adoption from foreign countries is a thicket of concerns, even when older children are being placed. The loss that initiates every adoption is compounded in international adoption.

Every adoption begins with loss

So while you’re toasting to your happy family,I’d like a pause–a deep breath, a nano second of silence in which the happy consider the gravity of loss in adoption. Every adoption begins with loss. That loss is like a stone dropped into a pond. It ripples out, and out, and out. Baby loses mother. Mother loses baby. Grandparents lose baby. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins. Sisters. Brothers. On and and on.

When is adoption truly necessary?

I want you to know that I believe some adoptions are good and necessary. BUT family preservation should be the number #1 goal. That said, I question the North American Council on Adopted Children’s statement above. Are there really 100,000 children who cannot be placed with family members? Rephrasing the quote from the pastor in the Forbes article, the main obstacle to family preservation is the cost. Crowd fund that.

Now party on.  Festoon your house with balloons. I’m going to change my brightly colored clothes and find something black.

photo credit: New York Times