November is National Adoption Awareness Month; #Just Listen

On the Director's Blog

While originally created on a state level in Massachusetts back in 1976 to promote awareness of the need for adoptive families for children in foster care, National Adoption Awareness Month (NAAM) has grown to a national effort with a full month focused on all aspects of adoption.  National Adoption Month is now an initiative of the Children’s Bureau and officially the goal is to increase national awareness and bring attention to the need for permanent families for children and youth in the U.S. foster care system. 

Often, the National Adoption Month conversation solely focuses on celebrating adoption and sharing the sentiment of new or hopeful adoptive parents.  The month long media frenzy of all things adoption can sometimes be a difficult reminder for those in the community who have experienced losses due to adoption or who struggle with the complex and often conflicting emotions that naturally occur on the journey.

Adoptee Laura Barcell explains the issue well in this piece she wrote for The New York Times in 2014:

 “[National Adoption Awareness Month]… drives home the ubiquitous social message that adopting a child is an invariably pure act of selflessness. But for years on end, our culture has whitewashed adoption (both domestic and international), only telling the story from the rapturous perspective of adoptive parents while ignoring the darker realities adopted children can face. Depression, anxiety and addiction are at higher rates among adoptees, and we are four times more likely to attempt suicide than nonadopted peers.”

In recent years, many adult adoptee advocates have organized various campaigns that urge others to look to the input of adult adoptees; to recognize their journey, celebrate their experiences, and value their voice.

#FliptheScript Started an Adoptee Lead Movement

During NAAM 2014, a Twitter hashtag movement, #flipthescript, was started by the adult adoptee authors at Lost Daughters. Adoptees and their allies were invited to use the Twitter hashtag #flipthescript to highlight what adult adoptees were saying and to focus on statements about why the adoptee voice is important to adoption.  Watch the video below where they explain their intent and reasoning.

Since #FliptheScript, other activists, advocates and allies have continued to expand the Adoptee-lead movement by creating more spaces, pod casts, websites, and multi author blogs where the adoptee experience is the dominant voice.  As explained on Dear Adoption, a multi authored blog where adoptees and foster alumni can share their perspectives:

“We intend for the adoptee voice to be the dominant voice on the subject of adoption. We believe the best way to address and highlight the ethical issues within the adoption industry, properly educate society, and create a better, safer world for future generations of adopted people is through the sharing of our stories.

The feelings, thoughts, and opinions of adoptees ought to be magnified to the extent that ours are the most revered and well received within the adoption community and beyond. Unfortunately, that is often not the case. While there are many experts in the field of adoption, there is no better perspective to consider than that of someone who is adopted.”

Supporting the Voices of Lived Experiences this NAAM Season

This November, Dear Adoption is launching a series entitled “We Have the Floor” as a way of elevating the voices of adopted people and quieting those who attempt to speak over them

Other individuals and groups are committed to using various hashtags on Twitter that identify the all too often marginalized voices. If you are on Twitter you can search for the conversations and retweet them in support or you can just follow the Coalition on Twitter and retweet what we share.

Another great way of supporting others and helping to educate the public on what the adoptee experience is about is to share some of the many discussions happening within the community. While there are many options to choose from, here are some great places to get started:

Conveniently enough, the official theme of this year, is “In Their Own Words: Lifting Up Youth Voices.” As explained on Child Welfare Information Gateway site:

“Hearing from youth who have experience in foster care—whether they’ve been reunited with family, achieved permanency with an adoptive family, or entered adulthood independently—can help educate communities and shape child welfare and adoption processes and policies. Their stories can inform recruitment practices, training resources for families, and other permanency support services.”

As the month progresses and we all have the opportunity to engage others in conversations about adoption, foster and kinship care, let’s make the effort to really listen to and elevate the voices of those most affected.

After all, if we say we are concerned about child welfare, then we must value the feelings and perspectives of those same children even if they are grown and even if they bring up difficult issues.  #JustListen

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