That number jumped out at me since it was higher than I would have thought. It’s National Adoption Month. I came across that fact more or less by accident, though in this case the notion of “accident” is relative since, being adopted myself, I have a tendency to click on adoption related headlines. According to the website of National Adoption Month, there are over 400,000 kids in foster care and 100,000 of those kids can be adopted.
One thing that might be worth clarifying is the phrase “special needs.” Many of the children available for adoption are listed as “special needs” and I would have assumed that that meant children with severe emotional, intellectual or physical handicaps. Although the term does encompass those children, it also means kids that are older, from “a particular racial or ethnic background” or who are part of a group of siblings who need to be placed. They prefer to keep siblings together.
There’s a lot of useful information on the Adopt US Kids website.
Some studies have shown that LGBT youth are over represented in foster care. Furthermore, once in foster care, they are sometimes poorly serve. In an article in USA Today, Eric Charles-Gallo writes,
The reality faced by LGBT youth— fewer accepting, inclusive foster homes than are available to their non-LGBT peers, and the heartbreaking consequences — is revealed in two important studies.
In New York City,78% of LGBTQ youth were removed from their foster homes or ran away because of hostility toward their sexual orientation or gender identity, and 70% reported experiencing physical violence in group homes. And a 2014 study by the Williams Institute shows that nearly 1 out of 5 youth in the Los Angeles foster care system is LGBTQ. That same study found that LGBT youth in Los Angeles foster care, like Darnell, were bounced around much more than non-LGBTQ youth, were more than twice as likely to be placed in group homes, and experienced homelessness and hospitalization for emotional reasons at far higher rates.
Further down he adds:
In fact, the federal government believes that the issue of LGBTQ youth in foster care is so critical that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a historic call to child welfare agencies to guarantee that every child has access to a “safe, loving and affirming foster care placement, irrespective of the young person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”
Since I know a disproportionate number of my readers are atheists, agnostics or otherwise not orthodox members of an established religion, I thought about covering that subject when I saw on article about National Adoption Month use words like “God,” “miracle” and “blessings.” On the other hand, since National Adoption Month is intended to raise awareness of kids in the foster care system in the U.S., it would seem to be less relevant. Since I was adopted by non-religious parents, through a secular agency and my biological mother requested that I not be placed with a highly religious family, the religion-adoption connection some people seem to have, especially since prominent pastors like Rick Warren started promoting adoption around the year 2007, really is not established in my subconscious. There was an article on the subject of adopting as an atheist in Salon a couple of years ago by Veronica Chenik Gilmore. Unfortunately, her description is unclear in places. She seems to indicate that she felt some discrimination as an atheist when she was fostering children, but I wasn’t clear what group she felt was discriminating. Was it a state agency or a private group? However, she does mention finding Adopt US Kids to be a useful resource.
Slightly OT: At one point Gilmore says:
People celebrate adoption and many celebrate their own atheism, but the two worlds rarely intertwine. Both worlds are filled with rejection, intolerance and misunderstanding. There are angry atheists and there are angry adoptees. We are, however, on the happy end of both spectrums.
I felt this was very dismissive of the feelings of adoptees, especially since a common complaint adoptees have is that no one wants to hear their side of the story. I find the “angry adoptee” categorization to be especially annoying. First of all, anger may very well depend on context. Normally, I have a very positive attitude about adoption. On a couple of occasions friends who were thinking of adopting wanted to talk to me about the subject, I found myself being very encouraging and even getting choked up while proclaiming what wonderful parents they would be. On the other hand, just the other day I found myself getting quite annoyed at some highly religious people who were busy applauding themselves over what wonderful people they were because they adopted kids from overseas. Emotions are changeable and are often in response to a stimulus. One complaint adoptees have is the expectation that we display permanent gratitude, well beyond the degree expected of biological children. That is simply not a realistic expectation. Feeling like you were a pathetic thing that needed to be rescued is not healthy. Anger is a normal human feeling and feeling angry occasionally doesn’t make you an “angry adoptee,” but the fear of being an “angry” or “poorly adjusted” adoptee sometimes causes adoptees to avoid being forthright about their feelings. I’m sure Gilbert didn’t mean it that way, still, I felt the need to add that.
Oddly, I only went a few pages down on the search results, but I haven’t been able to find any information about atheist kids in foster care. Logically, they must exist. However the search only turned up atheists who are foster parents. I also found a couple of posts in forums from atheist birth mothers.
Well, I got a bit off-track there. The upshot is that if you’re looking to adopt and you’re considering adopting an older kid there are probably more children out there available for adoption than you think. If you’re adopting from the foster care system, it probably costs less money than you think (described on the website as minimal or free), and they are willing to consider non-traditional families.
I wasn’t sure whether or not to post one of the videos on the subject, but here is one.