National Adoption Month began in 1995. That was the year President Bill Clinton officially expanded National Adoption Week, which was proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, into the entire month of November. Each year since then, organizations and individuals have made an effort in November to increase adoption awareness across the country.

This month has taken different shapes over time. The emphasis of National Adoption Month has shifted from year to year  sometimes foster care initiatives take the spotlight, while other times intercountry adoption has been the main focus. While promoters of National Adoption Month may decide to take things in a personal direction, the overarching initiative for each year is set by the Child Welfare Institute (CWI), an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The theme for National Adoption Month 2018 is, “In Their Own Words: Lifting Up Youth Voices.”

A Focus on Adoptees

Adoption triad” is a technical term used by adoption professionals. It refers to the three primary participants in any adoption: the birth parents, the adoptive parents and the child. Oftentimes, the majority of attention when talking about adoption focuses on the adults in the triad. This is good and necessary. Any prospective birth parents choosing adoption are doing something incredibly brave and selfless. They deserve to receive care, support and encouragement. Likewise, the journey of adoptive parents is rarely easy. Whether they come to adoption through struggles with infertility or by another route, the adoption process can be long and costly.

The totality of adoption — the brave decision of birth parents and loving determination of adoptive parents — finds its purpose in the child, which is why a child deserves an equal of amount of focus and support. The child is not a passive part of the adoption process, regardless of his or her age. An adoptee’s story, both the joys and the challenges, shouldn’t be overlooked. This National Adoption Month, the initiative set by the CWI hopes to not only shine a spotlight on youth impacted by adoption, but also to hand them the mic and listen to what they have to say.

Lifting Up Youth Voices

A multi-ethnic group of teenagers are outdoors on a cloudy day. They are wearing casual clothing. They are smiling while taking a selfie together.Children have something to say. It may seem like a simple idea, but it’s one that American culture often disregards. This National Adoption Month is a chance to change that for adoptees. As research has made increasingly clear, there is significant importance in children knowing their own adoption stories and finding pride in those stories. As this happens, adoptees and children in foster care have important pieces to add to their own story. Youth can provide “valuable insight and perspective that can help improve child welfare practices and educate the community,” according to the CWI.

Some individuals who came to their families through adoption have lifted their voices in amazing ways, like Angela Tucker’s documentary and ongoing adoptee interview series. For others, lifting up their voices simply means having their needs heard by a caretaker, whether that is a parent of professional.

For anyone trying to become involved in National Adoption Month 2018, the CWI presents a few different resources for professionals, organizations and other individuals who want to help lift up youth voices.

  • The Authentic Voices Video Series: This series of curated videos promotes the first-person perspective of individuals who have been impacted by adoption and foster care. Topics range from creating a sense of belonging to supporting those who have autism. This video series is a great educational resource, and it’s the perfect place to start for National Adoption Month 2018.
  • Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative: Ever year, more than 20,000 children “age out” of the foster care system, meaning they exit the system without finding the permanency of a family. These youths, just like children who do find a family through adoption, have something important to say. The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative works to create productive opportunities for children who age out of the system.
  • You Gotta Believe: This initiative exists to meet the needs of youth impacted by adoption and foster care. One of You Gotta Believe’s operations is a network of TV and radio shows by youth, for youth. They discuss topics like the challenges of becoming a part of a family through adoption – something that only those who have been through it can really understand.

There are other types of resources available from many different organizations around the internet, too.

  • Considering Adoption: Considering Adoption is an educational resource for birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees. The resources concerning the unique journey of adoptees are especially pertinent for National Adoption Month 2018.
  • American Adoptions 24/7 Help Center: The adoption specialists at American Adoptions are only a few rings away at 1-800-ADOPTION. This call is always free, and our adoption specialists will be happy to provide any helpful information.
  • The Archibald Project: The Archibald Project is a nonprofit organization that is committed to telling stories of adoption. A big part of National Adoption Month is spreading awareness, and stories are the best way to do that. The Archibald Project’s podcast is a particularly good place to start.

Alongside the practical benefits of this initiative, like youth voices improving child welfare practices, there is a more intangible element to National Adoption Month 2018 and lifting up youth voices. Every individual deserves respect. Children who come to a family through adoption can have unique struggles, including the trauma of extreme loss. Even though adoption is beautiful, it can also be hard. Affirming the voices of adoptees, and giving children the respect they inherently deserve, plays an important part in helping them form positive self-identities and embrace their own adoption stories. By simply listening to what they have to say, you may be doing much more than you know.

This National Adoption Month, anyone can join with the CWI and other organizations across the country in lifting up youth voices and increasing awareness of adoption. If you’re reading this as an adoptee, the American Adoptions blog can be a place for you to lift up your voice. Email with your story.