This past week someone googled ” I hate adoption awareness month” and they arrived here on this blog which had me shaking my head at google. So I wanted to set the record straight. Here’s the truth. I don’t hate National Adoption Awareness Month. Quite the opposite actually. But I have gone on record many times over saying awareness is not enough. And I stand by that.
I am an adoptive parent. Our family was built via adoption and it is a wonderful means of forming a family. I celebrate that all year round. I celebrate adoption awareness activities and fundraisers that raise the profile of adoption as a means of forming a family. I have even clearly stated that I would not be a parent if not for adoption. Adoption is a hugely important piece of my life and my family. AND ALSO adoption awareness is not enough. I can love adoption and adoption awareness and still say that awareness is not everything, and that there has to be more to this conversation.
I have given this topic a tonne of thought lately. It fills my brain this month more than others because I see awareness campaigns happening and I think why are we still here in 2015? It drives me a bit mad actually.
I agree 100 % with the fact that all advocacy begins with awareness. It is the place where advocacy conversation starts. It has to start there, so that people understand any given issue or cause, charity, or disease. If you don’t have a critical mass of people that understand or buy into the fact that yes adoption is an important and viable means of supporting child welfare and building healthy families then you can’t build better programs that get children into permanent homes. I support that 100 %. BUT the conversation can’t stop there.
Also here’s the thing – adoption has been around forever. Historically, it exists in the Bible. Awareness has been around for decades now. It’s not 1950 or 1960 when birth Moms were spirited away to give birth secretly in a home for unwed mothers. It’s no longer the norm that families stay secretive about the word adoption. But support…. We still fall short daily in 2015 on the support aspect of adoption and family building and permanency planning. And I am frustrated by that. I work with many groups, charities and non governmental organizations on line to build their awareness and support initiatives and we have grown and had brilliant results. We have changed the conversation on line and in real life. That matters and has happened with dedicated effort and many thousands of volunteer hours spent talking to people, in person, and on line. I am very proud of what we have accomplished for many brands and advocacy groups. But for whatever reason, adoption conversation is still stuck.
It is not enough to say – adoption is a lovely thing. It is not enough to chime in that:” Oh yes, my neighbour adopted a little girl from China.” OR “My husband’s brother is adopted.” OR “My doctor’s sister was adopted.” We all know someone who is adopted or someone who has adopted. Now we need to begin building bigger conversations. We need to lobby hard for changes that matter and make an impact on adoptive families for life. Subsidy, support, special needs challenges that happen within the framework of adoption are all still lacking.
Every year I show up at pre-budget time to tell my provincial government what adoptive families need, what works and what doesn’t. I try hard to elevate this conversation so that changes happen. I have been doing this since 2008. Occasionally one other adoption related group might show up at those pre-budget sessions, but usually I am it.
I believe areas of the U.S. are doing some of this conversation better than we are currently in Canada. Their lobby groups are savvy and able to respond when there is a threat to adoption policy. They remain focused and they seem able to see all the many facets of the adoption triad and spectrum while not losing sight of the big picture. So why are we still here? Well, part of me suspects many of the adoptive families and stakeholders who could be elevating this conversation in Canada are so burnt out by battling systems that they have no energy left for anything else. That’s a sad reality. It’s one I see reflected around me in many of the adoptive families I know and help support on line and in person at an adoption support group locally in this city where I live.
Advocacy has to be a long term life plan for a charity, or issue, or cause.
Step 1 – is awareness.
Step 2 – is support.
Step 3 – is growth and succession planning.
Step 4 – is sustainability.
Awareness needs to lead to support and that in turn needs to lead to succession planning and sustainability.
I am aware. I celebrate adoption. I also want more for all adoptive families in Ontario and throughout Canada. LONG TERM. We have to do more than just pay lip service to adoption during the month of November. Adoption doesn’t happen just one month of the year.
Are you an adoptee or an adoptive family? Is awareness enough?