Ask people touched by adoption to tell you what adoption means to them and you will get many deeply affecting and uniquely personal answers. Which is as it should be for something that is so utterly and profoundly life-changing.
From time to time, we should also step back and look at adoption in a broader social context, particularly this month, which is Adoption Awareness Month. Why?
Because adoption works.
Adoption works for children and youth who want and need families for a life-time.
Adoption works for families who are able to provide a home where kids can grow up and grow old in.
Adoption works for communities that care for the well-being of one another.
And have no doubt, Adoption works for our province and our country.
“Finding a family for every kid won't cure developmental trauma, but a family will help them heal"
Take a look at some of our most difficult, heart-breaking social issues today: homelessness, poverty, suicide rates, drug and alcohol addictions, the opioid crisis, mental health issues to name a few. I think everyone would agree that finding solutions to these social issues are critical and pressing.
Adoption doesn’t solve all of these issues but it can positively impact the trajectory of one of the most vulnerable, at-risk populations of children and youth in our province for these issues: kids in foster care who cannot safely return home.
There are 5,000 kids in Ontario currently in permanent foster care. ALL of these kids need the permanence of a family and fewer than 800 will join an adoptive family in any year. More than a 1,000 will leave foster care each year at the age of 18 without a stable family connection. We know that kids that leave the system without a permanent family, suffer more and for longer.
This is not ok. Every kid needs a family. And adoption, when everyone involved is well prepared and well supported on their life-long journey, works and can be part of the solution. Kids who have experienced trauma and loss (through no fault of their own) have a chance to heal in families.
Finding and supporting a family for every youth leaving foster care WILL make a difference.
- Finding a family for every kid may not eliminate youth homelessness but it may very well reduce the frequency and length of stays at shelters.
- Finding a family for every kid will not eliminate suicide or suicidal ideation but the involvement of a family may give a kid more hope, support and resiliency in times of difficulty.
- Finding a family for every kid may not eliminate opioid addiction but it may help lessen the grip it has on many kids when they believe that someone cares, really cares no matter what and forever.
- Finding a family for every kid will not eliminate mental health issues but it gives kids a built-in advocate for their whole lives should they need one.
- Finding a family for every kid may not eliminate involvement in the justice system but it will provide support to a youth or young adult who may be better served by a diversion and specialized help, instead of jail time.
- And finding a family for every kid won’t cure developmental trauma but a family will help them heal.
We all benefit when kids who have experienced trauma and loss heal.
That's what adoption is all about. It's not a fairy tale; it's real. There are many words that could be used to describe it, but the bottom line is that it works if we have a society that embraces and supports it.
Kathy Soden works for the Adoption Council of Ontario.
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