Beyond the fact that November brings an extra hour of sleep, a great meal with extended family (most years) and some exciting football on television, it is a month that holds some very significant dates in my life.
My birthday is the 12th and our wedding anniversary is the 17th but what probably makes November the most important month in my life is the fact that my legal adoption was signed in November of 1957. It meant that I was no longer a foster child but rather a legal daughter to a couple and a sister to a brother that didn’t share my DNA. Just four years old at the time, my recollection about this very important day was the fact that I had been reassured, several times over, that I did not have to get a shot!
Funny how little kids’ minds work, isn’t it? As long as there weren’t going to be needles involved, I was pretty much ok with whatever else it was we were doing in that judge’s chambers. Beyond that, I don’t think the meaning of it all had much impact on me until I was older. I was somewhere around second or third grade before I can recall a true memory of discussing adoption and just what it meant. My adoption was handled through a statewide church agency and although there were follow-up visits made to be sure all was good in my new home, it wasn’t anything like it is now.
The foster care system now is administered much differently--potential foster parents are better-screened and there are so many more checks and balances in place to be sure that foster parents are taking care of children properly once they are placed.
Potential foster parents must meet an extensive list of requirements to accept children into their care. In addition to home inspections and background checks, foster parents must meet specific standards when it comes to the size of their home; even the nature of their lifestyle. We have more resources available to provide counseling and educate those involved who may be dealing with challenges in providing a stable home and environment for children. It’s not perfect and there are always things that can be improved but the value of our foster care system is priceless when a child is in need. In my case, foster care was the stepping stone to giving me a permanent home and family where I could live and learn and grow. I know without the foster care system, my life would have been much, much different.
In 1990, our nation began to recognize the month of November as National Adoption Month. Massachusetts was the first state to pass laws regulating adoptions in our country back in 1851 and well over 150,000 children are now adopted annually.
I truly can’t think of a more worthwhile and needed program than our foster care system and if you know people who provide foster care, take the opportunity to say thank you to them. Even if your family has never been involved with the foster care system in any way, understand that the service they provide can make all the difference in a child’s life.
As I grew older and began to understand the process and the role it played it not only my life but some of my siblings as well, I realized that I was one lucky kid. I was aware that I was an adopted child, but in 1992, I found out that there was much more to my story than I could have ever imagined. A phone call out of the blue one day began a journey for me and my family that has proven to be priceless. Through the efforts of several other people, I found out that I had eight brothers and sisters that I did not know about.
Now some 25 years later, we have lasting relationships that could have been lost forever. Foster parents played a huge role in our lives and I will be forever grateful for them.
I was extremely fortunate as my own foster care began when I was just 18 months old and ended when that judge gave final approval to my adoption as a four-year old. Not everyone gets the storybook ending that I did but there’s no question my family benefitted greatly because there were foster families out there willing to help then, just as there are now.
It’s not a job for just anyone--I’m not even sure I could do it myself, but I will be forever thankful that there were people who stepped up to help us.
We have several families in our own community that provide foster care and I am proud to say I know them. Foster families have to be prepared to take children in on a moment’s notice because life doesn’t always wait and situations demand immediate attention.
Foster families have to put their own needs and plans aside sometimes to make it all work. And if they have children of their own, those children also make some sacrifices to make life better for another chid. What a wonderful lesson they are passing down.
Please join me in thanking these angels on earth--their investment in others is a priceless gift that will continue to make a difference. Sometimes we never know what kind of influence we may have on others. The smallest of kindnesses shown in the simplest of situations can be with someone and have an effect on them for a lifetime.
They don’t do it for money and they don’t do it for fame or recogniton. If that was the reward, they would be very poorly paid.
They do it because they care.
They do it because they recognize how important it is for children to have people they can count on, how important it is for them to have consistency and unconditional love.
They do it because somewhere along the way, someone taught them that our future is only as bright as the path we light for our children.
They do it because they recognize the value of every child. And kids like me thank God for people like them.