November is Adoption Month! In light of this, I want to dedicate a moment to thank all of the social workers that work in foster care and adoption, doing amazing and difficult work. Part of Adoption Month is spreading awareness on adoption and how others can help! Social workers often know the ins and outs, the statistics, and the work involved in foster care and adoptive services. Though it is necessary we have effective and knowledgeable practitioners, what hinders the foster and adoption community is that people outside of this world possess significant ignorance or overlook the entire area. That being said, this post is for the people that are not social workers, not adoptive or foster care families, but want to help or are new to this world. Here is how you can show your support and love to all the kiddos in need and in search of family! (Not just this month either, but all year round!)
*Slight disclaimer: I live in New York State – some resources to that are NYS specific. There are similar resources/departments in all states, so please look into those!**
- Do your research! It is important with anything you decide to become involved in, that you do the work and use research to help inform your understanding. There is a plethora of books on adoption and foster care, so hitting up your local public library would be extremely beneficial! There are also online resources that are easy to access. Many organizations conduct research and provide informational brochures to the public. Some of the most well-known national domestic adoption organizations include the following: Bethany Christian Services, Gladney Center for Adoption, Choice Adoptions, and WACAP. You can also look into the National Council for Adoption, the National Adoption Center, Adoption Choices of New York, and AdoptUSKids.
- Reach out to organizations in your community! Part of doing your research is linked to reaching out to community organizations in adoption and foster care. Organizations have a wide range of opportunities and events for community members to help, raise awareness, and become involved. These agencies can also provide you with research, information, and straightforward facts specifically about your community or county. Moreover, community organizations can be the catalyst for the following points…
- Volunteer! Become involved in the adoption community through much needed volunteer work. Many adoption agencies are nonprofits and exist on the basis of grants and donations. That being said, it is important for many agencies to use volunteers or unpaid workers in order to conduct cost-effective work. Organizations may have child care volunteers, administrative volunteers, or be in need of helping hands for fundraisers and community events. There are also many mentorship programs in foster care and adoption that allow adults to mentor children in care. This is a really great idea, seeing as though this mentor could be the only constant in a child’s ever changing life in care. If this is for you, and you enjoy working one on one with at-risk children and teens, definitely look into this possibility! Once again, reach out to your specific community and see where help is needed!
- Share and raise awareness! As you gain experience and new insight into adoption and foster care, it is important to share that knowledge with others. The vast majority of America is ignorant of what truly occurs within adoption and foster care, and how many children in care are in need of a forever home. Your voice as a community member with experience working in this area can shed light to others that otherwise would have no idea. Create a domino effect! Spread the word to your friends, who will also tell many others!
- Donate to the cause! As I stated previously, a significant portion of adoption and foster care agencies are not-for-profits, and thrive solely on the basis of donations, fundraisers, and government grants. If you are busy, or you do not feel working on a interpersonal level is for you, that is okay! Contributing to the community through donations assists in creating programs, paying workers, and providing necessities and gifts for the children in care. Donations also assist with marketing and raising awareness and educating the community on adoption and fostering! Even small amounts snowball into great change!
- Advocate for policies and legislative change! At a larger scale, there are many people that collectively gather within communities in order to advocate for fair and more effective laws and regulations! New York State has a site that lists all community advocacy groups, as well as their pertinent information – you can find them here. Gathering as a collective voice is what creates true change, and knowing that it comes from the community and public is often more impactful than when workers in the field advocate for change. You hold the power to inflict change on great levels that would benefit children in need. Before doing so however, I urge you to look at the research, gather perspectives from the educated and experienced individuals in the field, and understand that the children and families are what is important – NOT your opinion. With this, you can become a significant weight in terms of legislation and the lives of foster of adoptive youth.
- Become a foster parent, adoptive parent, or respite home! Now this is the one listing here that is the most serious, and needs significant time and thought on your part. As with the other points, reaching out to community organizations in foster care and adoption, and attending information meetings first is what will help you here. From this, if you decide foster care or adoption is not for you, respite homes are also an option. Respite homes are similar to foster homes, but they are more of a resource for foster parents. Foster children in care can stay at respite homes for the weekend or for a couple of days if the foster parents need a break or are travelling somewhere. Respite families are especially useful if the foster families do not have certified family or friends that are approved to watch or care for the children.
I hope this post is beneficial to you and sparks even greater interest in the foster care and adoption community! There are children and families in need, and you have the great opportunity and privilege of being able to be a resource. Getting involved in the adoptive and foster community can seem intimidating and serious. However, with the proper resources, thirst for knowledge, and genuine love for the youth in need of a forever family, you have the ability to instill significant and positive change! If you have any further questions or concerns, please comment or reach out her or on other platforms, and I will do my best to point you in the right direction!
Laura Swanson, BSW