November brings us the start of the holiday season, gathering with family and friends to consume thousands of calories for Thanksgiving and gearing up for the Christmas shopping season. While this is true, it’s also a month to celebrate adoption through National Adoption Day which has been observed the Saturday before Thanksgiving every year since 2000.
National Adoption Day was started by Michael Nash, a presiding Judge in Los Angeles County, who wanted to reduce the backlog of the courts, opened on Saturday with the express purpose of finalizing adoptions. With the help of the Freddie Mac Foundation and a coalition of nine other cities that also opened their courtrooms, thousands of adoptions from foster care were finalized that first year. Since its inception, over 75,000 children have been united with their forever families on National Adoption Day!
National Adoption Day is celebrated by many organizations, but with the assistance from The Dave Thomas Foundation, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Alliance for Children’s Rights and Children’s Action Network, this group known as the Coalition, continues to promote and provide education and support to the annual event nationwide and can take credit for its popularity today.
Why Focus on Adoption from Foster Care?
Every day 50 youth age out of foster care. Annually nearly 20,000 teens will age out of the foster care system. That means that these youth are at a greater risk for homelessness, unemployment, and delinquent and negative behavior. According to the Dave Thomas Foundation, of the 400,000 children in foster care in the United States, there are 125,000 children that are available for adoption. A common myth about children that are in foster care is that they have ‘behavior problems’ or worse, that they are juvenile delinquents. It is important to remember that a child is in foster care not through any fault of their own. Most are there due to neglect or abuse by their biological parents, having been removed for their own safety and care. It’s also important to remember that the primary purpose of foster care is reunification. When someone becomes a foster parent, they receive training and information about how to support and provide a loving environment for the child until they can be reunited with their family. In some cases, parental rights are terminated, and the child becomes adoptable.
While National Adoption Day’s primary focus is on foster care and foster to adopt, it’s also been an important opportunity to shine a light on adoption awareness in general. In the United States, there are approximately 1.5 million children who were adopted – that’s equivalent to 1 in 50 or about 2% of the population. Every year there are approximately 140,000 adoptions by American families.
Most people are familiar with domestic adoption – which is a private or independent adoption conducted by an agency or attorney. Domestic adoption is different from foster to adopt in that in domestic adoption, a birth mom is choosing a parenting plan for her child and selecting the prospective adoptive family, and an agency or attorney provides support to legally finalize the adoption in the state where the birth mom resides. Another difference is the cost: domestic adoption costs typically range from $35,000 – $55,000, while foster to adopt families typically will only pay for a home study and perhaps training.
International adoption is the process of adopting an identified orphan from another country who is available for adoption. International adoption continues to decline at staggering rates of over 60%. In 2020, the total number of international adoptions in the United States was 1,622, a decline from 2,969 in 2019. Due to economic, political, and social impacts, these numbers continue to decline. A huge barrier for international adoption continues to be the cost with direct expenses ranging from $40,000 – $60,000. In addition, many countries require extended stays which adds to the overall cost. The complexity of the process can also be a barrier for prospective adoptive parents between the stress of navigating paperwork and having to live abroad for an extended period, which may require them to stop working, take an unpaid leave, and essentially put their lives in the United States on hold. Even though the number of international adoptions in the US is declining, there is still a great need, as there are an estimated 140 million orphans worldwide. Many families have the heart and fortitude for international adoption, and it can be very rewarding to the entire family.
What Can Employers Do?
Understand that issues such as infertility, adoption, and surrogacy are not being shared with you by your employees. A decision to build one’s family through non-traditional means is confusing, time consuming, stressful, and expensive. For most, this a private journey that often the employer is completely unaware. This can result in a lack or productivity and anxiety while on the job.
One in 8 couples suffer from infertility and these numbers are growing. Today more than ever, we have more choices for how we define family. As an employer, it’s important to strike a balance and provide family-building benefits that are inclusive and address the diversity of your workforce.
Educate your workforce: 1 in 3 persons has some connection to adoption! That means that more and more people in our workplaces, communities, and our family and friends have some connection to adoption. We can all seek to educate ourselves more on adoption and bring more awareness to our communities. Vesta for Families provides educational webinars for employees on all topics related to non-traditional family-building. National Adoption Day is a popular webinar topic that has had a great deal of interest and success.
Promote volunteerism with a local organization or create an event at your workplace on National Adoption Day that helps to spread awareness and promote a better understanding of foster to adopt and adoption in general. Below are some organizations that are dedicated to education and advocacy and can even post an event on their website or social media pages.
- National Adoption Day, this website collects and distributes information on events throughout the country on National Adoption Day. You can post your own event, find an event or learn how to create one. They also have links and information on partnering organizations.
- The Dave Thomas Foundation, founded by Dave Thomas of Wendy’s, is dedicated to finding forever families for the more than 140,000 children waiting to be adopted from foster care in the United States and Canada. They have several initiatives including Wendy’s Wonderful Kids and Adoption-Friendly Workplace, which highlights companies across the country that offer adoption benefits.
- National Adoption Council, is the leading expert on adoption issues, providing resources, education, and advocacy for all people and organizations connected to adoption so that every child can thrive in a nurturing permanent family. They publish Adoption by the Numbers which is an excellent directory for statistics for adoption in a state by state guide.
- AdoptUSKids.org raises awareness about the need for foster and adoptive families for children in the public child welfare system. They also maintain the nation’s only federally funded photo listing service that connects waiting children with families.
Call to Action for Employers
“It’s the right thing to do,” quoting from Dave Thomas from the Dave Thomas Foundation on his legacy of starting this initiative over 25 years ago when he began to advocate for better adoption benefits in the workplace. Today the Dave Thomas Adoption-Friendly Workplace initiative celebrates hundreds of companies in every industry for their adoption benefits that include reimbursement and paid leave.
Employers that support adoption through family-building benefits can also be recognized and rewarded through the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, a tool that rates American businesses on their treatment of LGBTQIA+ employees, consumers, and investors. Serving as an official indicator that an organization is dedicated to inclusivity, top CEI ratings lead to proven increases in talent recruitment and retention. Many employers have achieved high CEI ratings by implementing family-building benefits that include adoption, as well as surrogacy and elective fertility preservation, to support all paths to parenthood for same-sex couples and single individuals.
Over 650 large corporations offer adoption benefits and over 800 companies globally now offer family-building benefits. This area continues to expand as employers seek to meet the needs of their diverse workforce by focusing more on holistic, family-building benefits that go beyond the standard health care benefit.
The WIN adoption program provides managed adoption services with referrals to experienced agencies, nurse and behavioral health consultations for new parents, as well as collection, review and authorization of claims to provide streamlined benefit administration for both employer and employee. Through Vesta, WIN members receive unparalleled 1-on-1 guidance from adoption experts throughout their journey, including access to online video libraries and educational resources. Combined, WIN and Vesta provide future parents with the tools and support they need to make a complicated and overwhelming process simple and full of hope.
National Adoption Day is one day – celebrated throughout the month of November, but adoption is a one-time event providing a child with a forever family that lasts a lifetime. We hope more employers will celebrate this day and bring awareness to how adoption can benefit so many children and families.
Take the first step. Contact us to learn how WIN and Vesta can provide best-in-class adoption support for your employees.
Author: Kelly Ellison, Founder and COO of Vesta, Adoptive Parent