November is National Adoption month, set aside to raise awareness about the need for adoptive families for children and youth in foster care. In LA County alone, the foster care population exceeds 21,000 children.
Annually, courts around the country open their doors on the Saturday before Thanksgiving to finalize and celebrate adoptions from foster care. More than 400 cities perform about 5,000 adoptions in that one day.
The 20th Annual National Adoption Day was celebrated in Los Angeles at the Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Court in Monterey Park on Nov. 23, when 231 LA County children were formally adopted.
“I remember at my very first National Adoption Day here in Los Angeles, when we looked out at the courthouse, which is often a sad place for children, seeing so much joy and relief on the faces of the families and feeling such profound appreciation for their love and devotion to these children,” said Cynthia J. Billey, director of the Alliance for Children’s Rights Adoption Program.
“Today, I’m so pleased to say that over the history of this event, collectively we’ve been able to create that bond for thousands of kids—and we’ve reached thousands of people, to encourage them to consider foster adoption,” Billey said. “It’s such a special way to build a family.”
Over the years, the dreams of nearly 75,000 children in foster care have come true as part of National Adoption Day.
“Each Adoption Day … is one of the happiest and most rewarding days for our judicial officers, staff, families and especially for the children,” said Los Angeles Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Victor Greenberg. “We are especially proud to host this 20th National Adoption Day celebration in the very courthouse where it all began and to reflect on the collaborative efforts of so many who have made the dream of finding a forever family come true for thousands of children in Los Angeles and across the nation.”
The Children’s Bureau of Southern California has finalized more than 2,047 local adoptions of vulnerable children since 2000. Unfortunately, the Bureau turns away at least 10 sibling sets weekly due to lack of families.
“Children’s Bureau focuses on keeping siblings together whenever possible,” said Amy Heilman, director of Foster Care and Adoption. “The sibling relationship is a strong and important long-term bond in the life of a child. We see that children adjust better and find more success in life when they join a family with their siblings. It takes away that worry about the safety of their brother or sister.”
For those interested in adopting and keeping siblings together, an application my be downloaded from www.all4kids.org/program/foster-care/.
“Research shows Black children remain the least likely to be adopted and spend the longest amount of time in foster care—all because of racial bias,” Radio and TV host Jasmine Sanders said, stressing that most of these children age out of the system without a place to go. “The psychological and emotional damage of this will follow these children into adulthood.”
Sanders created an #AdoptedandWinning campaign for the month of November. In addition to informing her social media followers about adoption, Sanders will share her own journey with adoption and offer readers to share their stories.
“Through this initiative, I am committed to helping these children and adults recover and teach others that these children are human beings who deserve love—regardless of the skin they were born in,” Sanders said.
Sanders is currently co-host of “The D.L. Hughley Show,” which has 3.5 million radio listeners nationwide and is also featured on TV One. She found out she was adopted when she was 11 years old and said it made her feel like an outsider.
It took Sanders 15 years to find her birth records. Fortunately, her letter was able to get through to the courts just before the state of Tennessee decided to seal all files in order to give anonymity to those who gave up children for adoption.
“I was able to get my records,” Sanders said in a recent interview. “And that was probably one of the scariest moments of my life, because you live your life thinking one way and then, here in front of you is this dusty file that is your real life and your true identity.”
Once she got up the nerve to open the file, Sanders felt as if she was reading a novel about someone else.
“The first thing I found out about myself was my name was not my name,” Sanders said. “It was at that point that I found out I was in an orphanage and then I went to three foster families.”
Sanders was adopted when she was three years old. After opening her old file, Sanders flew to New York and met her birth parents. She likens her story to that of Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” in that the meeting in the big city was not all she expected.
“There’s no place like home,” Sanders said. “For me, Foster families are so important because they love you when no one else will.”