November is National Adoption Month


AdoptionNovember is National Adoption Month across the country. It began as a week to raise awareness about adoption in Massachusetts in 1976, and then President Clinton expanded it to be the full month of November in 1995. Locally, we have the only nonprofit organization in the country dedicated to finding permanent homes for children: the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Their goals include recruiting foster and adoptive caregivers, finding homes for children who need them and increasing awareness about adoption and foster care. It is truly a one-of-a-kind organization, and those who are interested in adoption are fortunate to have easy access in our city.

I have worked in foster care for about six years and collaborated with children welfare services for over 10 years. I have been present at custody hearings and adoption finalizations. I work closely with foster families and have worked with biological families of the children in foster care over the years as well. Most of the time the response I get when I share my job is something like “I could never do that, it would be so hard and I would want to take all the kids home with me!” It’s true that it is hard, and it can be heartbreaking and traumatizing as well. It also certainly takes a different meaning working with kids in foster care after becoming a parent myself. Despite how hard it can be, it’s also inspiring, fulfilling, and involves constantly learning.

One of the biggest misconceptions that I have come across is that many people, while their hearts are in the right place, believe that kids who are up for adoption “just need love.” Although love is paramount in becoming a foster or adoptive parent, there is much more involved. The children who are available for adoption have often been through trauma just in being away from their biological family for any given amount of time. Some have additional trauma from abuse, neglect, abandonment, or being moved from place to place. All of these and a host of other issues can sometimes result in difficult behavior patterns and may affect attachment. Foster and adoptive caregivers need to receive training and be open to alternative ways of parenting because a specific set of skills and knowledge is often needed to ensure a successful adoption. This is an ongoing process for the caregivers and the child, as what being adopted means is different to every person and family, and can evolve throughout their lives.

In my experience, it’s important for caregivers to be open to continually learning how to best meet their adopted child’s needs, and to seek help from professionals when necessary. It’s also vital to be open to talking about a child’s roots and feelings about being adopted. Even a person who is adopted as an infant will find that they are affected in one way or another, and having caregivers who are supportive and understanding can make a huge difference. Foster and adoptive parents have a tough job, but their hard work can result in something that is priceless: a permanent and loving home for a child. Happy National Adoption Month!

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Andrea Connell
Andrea Connell is social worker, wife, and mom to a smart, active, and sweet toddler, Brady. Originally from Lexington, OH (not Kentucky as commonly thought!), she moved to Columbus in 2001 to attend college at The Ohio State University, and it has been home ever since. She earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in social work, and has worked with children in some capacity for over ten years, including as a therapist, case manager, and early intervention service coordinator. She now works full-time for a large social service agency, but a flexible schedule allows her to manage work, motherhood, and domestic duties and keep (somewhat) sane. She met her husband, Brian, through mutual friends about six years ago and they have been married since 2013. Andrea loves living in Columbus and enjoys exploring all the fun places, events, and festivals that the city offers. Most weekends, you can find her and her family at the Columbus Zoo or any park that is conducive to expending toddler energy. She loves spending time with her friends and extended family, which includes ten nieces and nephews! Other interests include reading (when she can stay awake long enough to do so), occasional date nights with her husband, texting instead of talking on the phone, local coffee shops, live music, and attempting crafty projects that may or may not get finished.