November is National Adoption Month, an exciting time for our staff in the Foster, Kinship and Adoption Counseling Services. National Adoption Month was created to raise awareness for children and youth who remain in foster care while waiting for permanent families. Did you know that in 2015, 1,063 foster children in New Jersey finalized their adoptions? That’s 1,063 celebrations for children who no longer have to wonder where to call home.
These children were adopted by family members, family friends, and those who were once strangers: all people who accepted the responsibility of being a parent to a child who is now adopted. These families would all express a sense of joy over their adoptions, and most would also say the experience has not always been easy. Children have different needs regarding their adoption story at different stages of their lives, and adoptive families have a unique opportunity to help their child understand his or her story.
Most importantly, our families touched by foster care and adoption live in communities. Our communities. Even those who do not foster or adopt have the opportunity to support and encourage those who do and there are many ways in which we can do that. To help you start on your journey of supporting those around you, here are some tips for how to do just that:
- Ask questions. It is important that we not make assumptions and the best way to do that is to educate ourselves. Ask questions appropriate to the relationship you have with the family.
- Identify children as “birth,” “foster,” or “adopted” only when it is relevant to the conversation. Otherwise, they’re all children in the same family. Be sure to treat them as such.
- Celebrate differences. Ask your friends and family members how you can support them in celebrating.
- Listen well. Families may share a little or a lot, but support and encourage them by lending an ear in both the good and challenging times.
- Offer support. Bring dinner, babysit, organize family gatherings or just do something you know will be appreciated.
In general, the most important things we can do for one another are to be friendly and kind. Our neighbors, friends, and family are on journeys we may not understand, but we all have opportunities to encourage, support, and celebrate.
As we celebrate National Adoption Month this year, think about how you can be involved. Should you desire to explore becoming a foster or adoptive parent, you can call 1-800-99 ADOPT.