Vol. 6, No. 1• November 2001

November is AdoptionMonth!
Adapted from the "1999/2000 Adoption Awareness Month Guide" by the North American Council on Adoptable Children

Of the 520,000 children in foster care in the United States, an estimated 110,000 will never return to their original home. These children need the support that a permanent family can provide, and deserve a chance to grow up feeling secure and loved.

To call attention to this fact and to celebrate the generosity and love of America's adoptive families, November has been proclaimed adoption month.

The Roots of Adoption Month

Formalized, time-specific adoption awareness campaigns began more than 20 years ago. In May 1976, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis issued the first state Adoption Week proclamation, and President Ford then officially proclaimed the week in a letter to the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) conference held later that year. As years went on, Adoption Week came to be observed during the week of Thanksgiving.

In 1986, NACAC helped coordinate a national "Calling Out" event based on an idea from Larry Gellerstein, then president of the Adoptive Parent Committee of New York. That year groups across North America braved late November weather and simultaneously assembled on state and provincial capitol steps to read statements about waiting children, and call out the names of waiting children in their state or province. Two years later, President Reagan proclaimed National Adoption Week. In 1991 and 1992 President Bush also issued proclamations. In 1990, the North Amercian Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) decided to expand opportunities for raising awareness, and began advertising Adoption Week as National Adoption Awareness Month (November). The idea has quickly caught on. During his eight years in office, President Clinton issued Adoption Month proclamations every November.

Adoptions in North Carolina

Right now, 10,271 of North Carolina's children are in foster care nationwide. Of these children, 3,011 need permanent, adoptive families; 616 are currently available for adoption and do not have a family already chosen. During 2000, 1,231 of North Carolina's foster children found adoptive homes (NCDSS, 2001).

North Carolina has children of all ages that need adoptive homes. Forty percent are five and under (few are infants), another 40 percent are between six and twelve years, and 20 percent are between 13 and 18 years. Many of them are siblings and need to be placed together.

Most foster children are considered to have special needs simply because they have undergone the trauma of abuse, neglect and separation from their birth families. Some have physical disabilities and medical problems. Many children need to be placed with a sibling or siblings. Most families that adopt children with special needs are eligible for a special needs subsidy that includes a monthly cash payment that is based on the child's age, and vendor payments for therapeutic and remedial assistance. Medicaid is provided. Medical assistance on a one-time basis may also be available. In addition, the cost of legal expenses will be reimbursed if the adoptive child has special needs.

Many people incorrectly think that there are rigid criteria regarding age, income, and other factors that will prevent them from adopting. This just isn't so. One 42-year-old adoptive parent expressed it this way: "You need not be a celebrity, a millionaire, or a majority—only a person who is very caring who wants a little boy or girl for sharing." Adopting families can be older or younger, wealthy or of modest income, two-parent or single-parent. The primary requirement for adoption is that you can provide a healthy, loving and nurturing home for a child. The agencies will be glad to work with you to meet all of the other adoption requirements.

Adoption makes an immeasurable difference in the life of a child. As an 11-year-old adoptee put it, "Adoption means: Someone who is saving a life...Someone who wants to have a kid to love and cherish. I'm very fortunate to be alive!"

More Information

To find out more about adoption, consult the following resources, which are also the sources of this article:

• Foster child adoption in North Carolina, 1-877-NCKIDS-1 <http://www.dhhs.state.nc.us/dss/adopt/index.html>

• The 1999/2000 Adoption Awareness Month Guide by the North American Council on Adoptable Children <http://www.NACAC.org/resources_excerpts.html>

Adoption Statistics

On March 31, 1998, approximately 520,000 children were in foster care. More than half were between the ages of 6 and 15. Of those children in care:

  • The average length of stay in foster care was 33 months
  • 18 percent had been in care for five years or longer;
  • 79 percent of the children were in a relative or non-relative family foster home;
  • Adoption was the case goal for 124,800 children (or 24 percent); guardianship was a goal for 20,800 children (4 percent);
  • On average, the estimated 110,000 children waiting for adoption on March 31, 1998 (those who have a goal of adoption and/or whose parental rights have been terminated), were 8.2 years old, and had spent 38 months in continuous foster care. Fifty-six percent were black, 28 percent were white, and 9 percent were Hispanic. Twenty-one percent had been in care 60 or more months.
  • Approximately 31,000 children were adopted from the public welfare system in federal fiscal year 1997. Of those, fewer than 10,000 children were adopted transracially or transculturally. Sixty-four percent (close to 20,000) were adopted by their foster parents.

Source: Department of Health and Human Services, Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, 1998-1999.

Copyright 2001 Jordan Institute for Families