In courtrooms all across Oklahoma and the United States, a special event has been occurring this month: adoption. People are gathering, bringing gifts and taking pictures. They are video recording the proceedings and setting up parties for friends, family and caseworkers to attend after the formal court hearings. Families are standing before the judge and making a commitment to not only give a child their name, but to raise, protect, nurture and love that child. The judge grants the adoption and people cheer, hug, cry and celebrate.
As November and National Adoption Month fade into December, I want to challenge all of us to do something every day — remember. Please remember that there is a family up the street, at your church, part of your PTA, or maybe at your work who has adopted and please don’t stop cheering for them. Don’t stop supporting them, showing up and checking on them. Because when the cheering stops, that is when the real journey begins.
On the post-adoption side of the journey, most of the people who were there to support the family through the foster care journey have gone home. The case is closed. No more monthly home visits, no more court-ordered therapy, no more check-ins from people who care greatly, but also had to do it because it was their job. Likewise, many people seem to believe adoption is an end game and as soon as the adoption is finalized, the assumption is made that the “fairy tale ending” has occurred.
Adoption is beautiful and amazing, but it’s also challenging. Trauma doesn’t suddenly heal with the approval of an adoption and a name change. Families don’t suddenly stop struggling with the blending of biological and adopted children. The Adverse Childhood Experiences score doesn’t suddenly drop dramatically. But there is hope. Stability, love, commitment and a safe home go a long way toward healing a child or teenager who is hurting or has been hurt.
Adoptive families can still use you. They can still use your assistance with a date night, a coffee date, or an occasional break. They can still use a listening ear, a village surrounding them, and ongoing help as they dare to wrestle with the hurt and trauma their child has been through. The moment the case closes is when adoptive families need you the most.
My life is more complete because of adoption. But my experience also reminds me that the cheering eventually stops and the real journey begins. I’m asking all of us to remember these families. They need you now more than ever!
There are approximately 8,400 children in foster care across Oklahoma, of which approximately 585 are available for adoption. Consider opening your heart and your home to make a difference in the life of a child or teenager today.
Howard is president/CEO of Oklahoma United Methodist Circle of Care, a statewide organization providing Christian help, healing and hope through foster care, independent living and transitional living programs. He and his wife have six children, four of whom were adopted from foster care.
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