In November the weather starts turning on us. The leaves fall, the first frost hits, and we know winter is coming. But the month ends on a high note, with our great national holiday – Thanksgiving.
It’s truly our all-American holiday in that everybody celebrates it regardless of religion or national origin. Thanksgiving is a chance to take a pause from the breakneck pace of life to reflect and to give thanks for our blessings, individually and collectively.
That’s why November is also perfectly suited to be National Adoption Month.
I’ll confess that I didn’t know that November had been given this official designation, so I did a bit of research and here’s what I learned.
The first major effort to promote adoption started in Massachusetts in 1976. The governor, Mike Dukakis, issued a proclamation that the first week of November would be Adoption Week. The governor’s worthy intention was to make more people aware of the large number of children who were in Massachusetts’ foster care system.
In 1984, President Reagan decided to make Adoption Week a national event. The issue was no doubt personal to Reagan since he had an adopted son. By 1998, National Adoption Week had gained quite a bit of steam, with more events than could be crammed into a single week. So President Clinton decided that the week should be expanded to a month. Hence, November is National Adoption Month.
According to the Adoption Network (adoptionnetwork.com) website, during this month “individual people, families, businesses, private and public organizations, communities, states, and the government all celebrate adoption, and encourage it as a positive way to grow families.” All month, events and observances “like volunteer
recruitment, recognition dinners, fundraising drives, community activities, and other special occurrences” take place across the country.
Each year Adoption Month has a theme, and the president – whomever that may be – issues a proclamation declaring November as National Adoption Month. In his 2017 Proclamation, President Trump said that his administration “recognizes the profound importance of adoption for the American family. Adoption is a life-changing and life-affirming act that signals that no child in America – born or unborn – is unwanted or unloved.”
The president noted that the focus of National Adoption Month this year is “on our commitment to helping older youth experience the transformative value of permanency and love. A supportive family can provide the critical direction that older children need as they enter adulthood…”
Laurel Stein, who works on adoption cases for the Nee Law Firm, has witnessed firsthand the “life-changing and life-affirming” power of adoption. She told me about one case that involved a teenage boy whose parents were divorced. The boy lived with his mom, but when she died of cancer, he went to live with his dad. Having already experienced upheaval in his life, the boy naturally wondered what would happen if his dad also passed away. Happily, the father’s wife made the effort to formally adopt the youngster. In that scenario, adoption offered security and stability to a child who hadn’t known much of either in his young life.
In another case that illustrated what a positive force adoption can be, Laurel worked with a family where a child had been beaten by his biological father. Despite that track record, the man’s parental rights had not been terminated. The story took a turn for the better when the mom “married a really good guy, and the new husband formally adopted the child.” That adoption terminated the rights of the biological father, and the child was given the priceless opportunity to grow up in a home that was safe and secure.
During every National Adoption Month, there is always one day set aside as National Adoption Day. Typically, in courthouses across the country, there are events celebrating adoption. Last year, in Cuyahoga County, the court did four adoptions at once in a large ceremony held in the rotunda rather than in a courtroom. Judges, magistrates and staff gathered to witness the event, and adoption agencies set up tables to distribute information, serve refreshments and generally celebrate the joyous occasion of four youngsters finding a permanent, stable and loving home.
Now that’s reason for a Happy Thanksgiving.