National Adoption Day Needs to be More Than a P.R. Stunt

It’s that time of year again. A trio of months from October through December, containing a rash of celebrations that I begrudgingly participate in. Every year, I spend Columbus Day in afforded leisure, attire myself ridiculously on Halloween, and nonchalantly prepare for the excitement of Christmas.

Opinion_Feature_ImageI admit that I’m overlooking Thanksgiving in my slanderous holiday rant because I always enthusiastically and unabashedly devour dinner. Nevertheless, the holiday season can be a period of reserved antipathy for children from the system. And in November, we are offered a second helping to cavalier celebrations in the form of National Adoption Month, and a misappropriation of hope on National Adoption Day.

Overall, I am a strong advocate for adoption. I support numerous organizations spreading the adoption holiday cheer and acknowledge the many hard-working individuals within child welfare. But forgive me if I continue to convey pessimism and transmit sarcasm surrounding the marketing of adoption by both private and public organizations.

According to the National Adoption Day website, nearly 58,500 children have been adopted cumulatively on the day since its inception. Over that 16-year time periodon this super-special day, it’s possible that a million children in the foster care system have been passed over for a “forever family.” And annually for an entire month, with a grand culmination, we get to pepper them through social media with reminders of what they missed out on, or perhaps even got dissolved from.

It can be similar to the emotions elicited by Father’s Day or Mother’s Day for those who have been orphaned, relinquished, or abandoned. Watching other people celebrate can bring about excruciating memories that we’d rather just forget.

The website also boldly proclaims that National Adoption Day has “made the dreams of [many] children come true.” This perpetuates a common myth about adoption and plants the seeds of misconception within prospective parents. Adoption does not negate childhood trauma. Adoption does not gloss over race or culture.

Adoption will not be your ticket out of purgatory or give you a free pass to spew racism. Adoption, in and of itself, does not make dreams come true. However, a permanent and unconditional family can. But it requires a “woke” level of preparation, rather than a family who has been sold on a pipe dream.

Oh, what’s that you say? That’s what the day is trying to do? It is meant to “bring a collective national awareness to the over 100,000 children annually in foster care waiting for a permanent and loving family?”

This sounds like a product party extending invitations to mid-westerners while using subliminal advertising that would make Don Draper cringe. I wish it was also a day for inter-country adoptees and families to be recognized. I wish it promoted domestic family preservation and applauded kinship adoption within inner-city families of color. I wish it increased awareness on issues concerning Native American youth. I wish it was more than just a one-dimensional day recognizing the past, present, and future exceptionalism, of primarily white families and their children of color.

National Adoption Month and National Adoption Day should look past the one-time transaction and focus on the lifelong transformation. It should provide an essential platform for adoptees, adoptive families, child welfare professionals, activists, and volunteers to come together. It can be an opportunity for those who were not adopted and left in the system to have their voices heard.

As a community we need to keep searching for alternative avenues to healthy families. We can also dream of the day adoption is not even needed. But until utopia arrives, this ex-adoptee will be a reluctant supporter of both National Adoption Month and National Adoption Day.

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