Last month, I missed the boat to celebrate National Adoption Awareness Month (NAAM) in November by a few days. I just learned recently about the movement and, as an adoptee from China, I feel like I should have known about it sooner. In my defense, NAAM mainly promotes awareness of domestic adoptions, not international adoptions, which is a huge issue. International adoptees should receive just as much attention as domestically adopted children do.
A quick Google search tells me all I need to know about NAAM in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Services website, NAAM originally began in 1976 as a week dedicated to encouraging families to adopt children from foster care. Less than a decade later, the week has bloomed into a month of families sharing their adoption stories. Companies, organizations and the government are still raising awareness about the thousands of U.S. teens and children in foster care waiting to be adopted.
But there are children in other countries who are also waiting for adoption, longing for a family that will love them no matter where they were born. While there were 276,621 domestic adoption cases reported to the U.S. Department of State in 2020, international adoptions totaled 280,367 cases. The various websites dedicated to educating people of NAAM fail to mention these children.
Parents do weigh many factors when deciding whether to adopt, one of which is adopting within America or from another country. According to The Adoption Network, the cost for a domestic adoption can range from $30,000 to $50,000 dollars, while international adoption costs $32,000 to $66,000 dollars—and that does not include the price of plane tickets or staying in another country for at least a week.
My mom spent more than two years filing the paperwork, planning her flight, and waiting for her 8,500 mile trip to China before she could even meet the eighteen-month-old girl she was adopting. I never asked her how much she spent on my adoption before she passed away, but I know it cost a lot. In the end, money or time did not matter to her. She wanted a daughter who she could raise as her own. She wanted to form a bond that did not hinge on how we were related—and she did just that.
Of course, adopting within the U.S. is important. The children and teens in the foster care system deserve a permanent home and a loving family. Moreover, adoption provides a way for people to start a family through non-traditional ways. A 2007 report found that around two million LGBTQ+ are interested in adopting domestically, and the census found that same-sex couples are more likely to adopt than opposite-sex couples. According to the National Council for Adoption, 28% of adoptions were single parents from 2017-2019.
NAAM should bring awareness to adoption as a whole. That means letting those looking to adopt know that there are children in the U.S. and across country-borders waiting for a loving family.