Monday, November 7, 2011

Adoption Awareness Month- US foster care


I’ve been doing a lot of reading online lately. In the United States of America there are over 500,000 children in fostercare. Of those children, about 15-25% are available for adoption. That comes to around 20,000 children legally without families. While 20,000 sounds like a huge number, the fact that there are over 312 MILLION PEOPLE in the US, suddenly makes that number seem not so large after all. The fact that there is even one child without a family is very very wrong.  20,000 divided by 50 (50 states) that’s an average of 400 children per STATE without families. Now I’m sure those numbers greatly vary depending on the population of those 50 states, but I think my point is made.

November is National Adoption Awareness month.

My heart aches over these statistics. Why aren’t more people adopting? All I have to do is honestly ask myself this same question and the answer is obvious- fear. Most of the children available for adoption from fostercare are older children and sibling groups. Everyone has heard the horror stories. You don’t have to walk through a video rental store seeing all of the low budget horror movies based on demonic/evil orphans to know that people are afraid of adopting older children. Real life stories about “evil” orphans are a favorite among media and News outlets.

There’s also the flip side to the story. I call it the “Little Orphan Annie” complex. People that think adopting an older child will result in song and dance and an overflowing of gratitude from the rescued orphan. Of course in the 1982 film there was the cruel but lovable orphanage director played by Carol Burnett, whose evils were more amusing than anything else. We can all sing the chorus from the famous song from that musical “The Sun will Come out Tomorrow.” People that suffer from the Annie complex are shocked and disappointed when after bringing home their very own Annie, they see the real face of trauma of what it looks like. These stories spread like wildfire and add to the fear.

Let’s talk about reality now. Older child adoptions are hard. It wasn’t sugar and spice that lead to an older child being available for adoption. More often than not, it was Parental poverty, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, drugs and alcohol, and neglect that lead to the older child being without a family. Now imagine a child… A CHILD coming from that life. Unlike Annie, the sun doesn’t come out tomorrow for that child. That child doesn’t even know what “the sun” is in order to look forward to it “coming out tomorrow.”  The behaviors that stem from a life of trauma are not easily dealt with. But as long as we are talking about reality, let’s squash another adoption myth- these issues are not permanent! They don’t have to be anyway.

The human brain- so complex, so delicate, and yet so resilient. Children from abusive environments are often born with fetal exposure to drugs, alcohol and other toxins. They were born malnourished. A fetus’ developing brain is effected. Even if the child’s prenatal life was more or less healthy, abuse and neglect, have its toll on a child’s developing brain. The reality is that trauma causes brain damage. A damaged brain results in poor cause and effect, lack of empathy and the list goes on. Children are placed in talk therapy and it does little good and the disturbing behaviors continue. Yet there are programs that heal those damaged brains. I’ve seen Neurological Reorganization therapy work miracles in my children. Other therapies like EMDR and NFB have also been successful. However, I personally feel that Neurological Reorganization should be the foundation to even those therapies. I’ve seen this therapy heal brain damage that experts and cognitive therapists repeatedly told us there was no help for. What a miracle the human brain is! Its capacity for healing is continually changing the way researchers look at brain damage. Once that damage is healed, THEN more common therapies, like cognitive/talk therapy are able to work. And through this complex process, hurt children become healed. The sun finally comes out and is recognized for its light and warmth. Adopting an older child is a challenge to say the least, but it is a challenge worth taking! Surely there are enough parents in the US to take up that challenge? With a population of 312 million, surely there are enough families willing to meet that challenge and bring home those children in need of families and healing? Research, have a foundation in reality, and prepare to meet the real challenges and rewards of adopting a hurt child. No child should be without a family!
And as for those other children that are in foster care that aren’t available for adoption, the same therapies apply. They also work for people of any age. It is not too late for the hurt parent to heal from his or her trauma. NR works on adult brains as well. The same principles apply: in a country of 312 million, 500,000 children are in fostercare- most of the parents of those children are in need of their own healing… most abusive adults used to be abused children. With so many State programs for these families, let’s start using programs and therapies that actually work for both the parents and the children. And if those parents for whatever reason are unwilling or unable to participate, then let’s make those children available for adoption sooner and get the healing to them as soon as possible. We can end this cycle. On their own, the numbers seem overwhelming, but when compared to the whole of society, suddenly it becomes clear that something CAN and must be done. It is our responsibility. Contact State governments and let them know how you feel about fostercare and adoption. It is State policy that allows particular therapies to be used or not used with foster children because they are paid for by government funding, so let’s show them what works and what doesn’t! Let that funding be used where it actually helps. Vote. Write letters. Become foster families, and above all ADOPT.

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