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Opinion: Building forever families

Family matters.
Image by Ava Weinreis
There is still stigma around adoption.

I was watching Sunday Night Football when a certain commercial caught my attention. No, not the obnoxious Burger King one that has a jingle you wish you could erase from your mind, rather, it was a commercial about adopting a child.

In the commercial, two children ask their adoptive parent if they can call her mom and she reassures them it is more than fine. While heartwarming, the commercial struck me as odd. Do we need to make adoption marketable to try and convince people to adopt?

In 2019, the Children’s Bureau at HHS’s Administration for Children and Families in partnership with the Ad Council, AdoptUSKids and Barbarian, released a new series of public service advertisements in their long-standing campaign to bring awareness to the many children in foster care.

The PSAs are made with the hope that eligible children awaiting adoption from foster care can establish a lasting bond with an adoptive family or guardian. This campaign, now in its 17th year, has played a role in the adoption of over 900,000 children and youth from the U.S. foster care system.

“The good news for us is that collaboration with AdoptUSKids is all about adopting from foster care, and that’s all we do in Hennepin,” said Melissa Sherlock, the Foster Care Licensing and Adoptions program manager at Hennepin County foster care and adoption. “So it’s really nice to get that good publicity for our kids in foster care.”

While there is progress at home, adoption is not a popular concept worldwide.

In certain cultures, adoption can be a controversial subject. In Korea, adoption is taboo due to the value they place on bloodlines. A potential employer can ask for a job applicant’s family registry during an interview, which can be a deciding factor in whether or not a person is hired. Ancestors are deeply valued in Korean culture, therefore adoption becomes contentious since adopted children do not share the same blood as their families and may be in the dark about their birth family’s lineage.

There is a stigma in many Muslim countries as well concerning adoption.

Some Muslims hold the inaccurate belief that adoption is forbidden in Islam. However, that is not the case. In Islam, a person is allowed to adopt, but they cannot strip away a child’s biological rights or their sense of biological lineage. Countries like Mauritania, Djibouti and Sudan require an adoptive parent to be a blood relative who lives in a Muslim environment or is Muslim.

Many children around the world are looking for a forever home. Advertisements shouldn’t be needed to convince people to pursue an alternative way of starting a family, but they just may be the best way to reach a large audience.

Of course, culture is an important part of the conversation since children who are adopted from outside of the U.S. come from different backgrounds which should be appreciated. However, love and care do not need to be limited to cultural homogeneity.

When thinking about the future of family dynamics, so much has changed in how newer generations approach the subject.

The illusion of the white picket fence with two parents as the head of the household is slowly becoming outdated. Blood does not determine the relationship between a child and their parent, and marriage does not have to be a requirement for starting a family.

In Hennepin County, 81 children are waiting to be adopted, 1,087 children are in the foster care system and 27% of them are between the ages of 13 and 20.

“When we make recruitment efforts here in the county, we have a recruitment plan, and in those recruitment efforts, we’re almost always focusing on older youth because we have older youth, some do get adopted, and some unfortunately aged through the system and then aged out of care and we don’t want that for kids,” Sherlock said.

Compared to children who are 14 years of age and younger, teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 years of age wait on average twice as long for an adoptive home.

Older children are more likely to get the short end of the stick when it comes to fostering and adoption. It is imperative that people change the way they view older children in the system. These children need support and care as much as the younger ones do, and age shouldn’t be a factor when it comes to changing a child’s life.

November is National Adoption Month. In light of that, I urge people to look into the joys of adopting or fostering. While the road to adoption is complex, it’s worth it if it means a child can find a family who values what a gift they are.

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  • Lee North
    Nov 22, 2023 at 11:17 am

    Reading this article brought back a memory, In 1972 I was three years into my 30 year career as a UMPD officer, I was standing on the Plaza by Morrill hall after learning from my wife that our adoption was granted, had to tell someone, a student walked by, told her the happy news and she gave me a large sketch of a cat which my son has, your article made me think of this student and her spontaneous gift.