The love of a family, a “forever home,” and a sense of belonging — these are the sensations we celebrate every November 19th on National Adoption Day. In the United States, there are over a hundred thousand children in foster care waiting for a permanent home, and each child waits an average of three years for their forever home. Sadly, each year, about 23,000 children age out of the foster care system without ever knowing the love of a forever home.
Up until the 1850s, adoption was an informal process and state and federal laws did not monitor what happened to children who were brought into new families; rather, it was common for children to live with extended family full time. However, as child welfare became an increasing concern of the feminist movement, states passed laws to ensure that children were being brought into safe, fit homes.
Since then, the process and statistics of adoption have continued to fluctuate. For example, a common source of children for foster care systems used to be unwed, single women, but as the stigma went away, the percentage of single women who gave children up for adoption dropped from 9% to 1%.
To date, about one in every twenty five US families has adopted a child. As the negative associations of adoption have faded with time, more and more families celebrate adoption with epithets including, “My mom and dad got to chose me!” By far, the US is the most adopting nation, followed by the UK, Italy, Spain, and France. Many attribute the US attitude towards adoption to the culture of immigration, diversity, and opportunity that the US fosters.
One of the biggest stories this year? Michael Brown in Phoenix, AZ, who spent 832 days in the foster system. When the plans to reunite the little boy with his birth mother fell through, his foster mother, Tara Montgomery, decided to go through with the adoption with her two daughters. Since Tara’s daughters and Michael already shared a last name, she felt it was absolutely perfect. On December 20, his adoption was made final, and pictures of him celebrating his placement with his new sisters went viral on Twitter as they commemorated the day their family became official.