November is National Adoption Month, and this year’s theme is “In Their Own Words: Lifting Up Youth Voices.” While the primary goal of National Adoption Month is to bring attention to the need for permanent families for youth in foster care, this theme is a good reminder for those involved in all types of adoption to listen to and learn from a perspective that’s often overlooked — the adoptee’s.
Adults and children who have been adopted or who have experienced foster care firsthand have a unique and incredibly valuable perspective to share. Hearing from these voices can not only help shape child welfare policies and adoption processes; it can also shape the way we parent, the way adopted children feel about themselves and their adoption experiences, and the way we as a society talk about and understand adoption.
If you are an adoptive parent, here are three simple things you can do this National Adoption Month to support adoptees in sharing their stories — and to learn from what they have to say.
Lifting up youth voices starts at home. Hopefully, your child’s adoption story is already an open, ongoing conversation in your family — and has been since day one. If it’s been a while since you and your child have talked about adoption, take this month as an opportunity to check in with him or her. Make sure they know they can always come to you with any questions that they have and any complicated feelings they may want to talk about.
Talking to your child openly and honestly about adoption is important for so many reasons. For one, it will help him or her to form a positive self-identity and feel confident talking about his or her story — but by really listening to what your child has to say, you just might learn something, too.
2. Help your child tell their story to others, if they’re interested.
Some children are eager to talk about their adoption stories — not just with you, as their parent, but with anyone and everyone who will listen. If this describes your child, you can encourage them by helping them spread adoption awareness in their school and community.
You might volunteer to read an adoption-themed book at your local library’s story time, and let your child help you answer audience questions. Or, talk to your child’s teacher about ways your child might be able to share his or her experiences in the classroom. If your child came to your family through the foster care system, the National Adoption Month 2018 website also offers several resources for youth to help them get involved and share their stories.
There are many ways to spread awareness and educate others about adoption, and involving your child in the process can help them take ownership of their adoption story.
3. Learn from other adoptees’ experiences.
Remember that every adopted person’s experience is going to be different, and different adoptees may have different thoughts and feelings toward adoption. Talking to and learning from your child is a great place to start, but you can also learn a lot by listening to and sharing these other adoptee voices this National Adoption Month:
- The Adopted Life Episodes: Angela Tucker, who shared her own story of adoption, search and reunion through the documentary CLOSURE, created “The Adopted Life” series specifically to give a platform to adoptee voices. In the series, she interviews young adoptees about their experiences navigating their lives as adoptees.
- The National Adoption Month Video Gallery: Videos in the National Adoption Month gallery provide an inside look into the lives of real adoptees and their families. Their stories document the rewards and challenges of adoption and highlight the importance and value of hearing directly from youth.
- Adoption Books and Television: There are tons of helpful books for adoptive parents out there, including several written by adoptees. And, while fictional, shows like NBC’s “This is Us” can shed valuable and realistic insight on the complex feelings and experiences of adoptees — both through Randall’s transracial infant adoption storyline and Deja’s foster care adoption storyline.
- Adoptee Testimonials: Thanks to the internet, adoptee voices are now more accessible than ever before. Many adoptees have shared their stories on American Adoptions’ blog and website, and a quick Google search will turn up hundreds more.
This National Adoption Month, join with the adoption community in lifting up youth voices and increasing awareness of adoption. For more ideas about getting involved, visit the National Adoption Month website.