Observing Adoption Awareness Month

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For over 20 years adoptive families organizations (and eventually the entire adoption community) have observed November as Adoption Awareness Month. Originally and historically, the purpose of AAM was to dispel myths about and focus on the normalcy of adoptive family life, as well as to call attention to the need for homes for hundreds of thousands of waiting North American children. AAM is about celebration and gratitude and hope, not about anger and disillusionment. It has become a popular time to hold adoption fairs and conferences, plan political action events, and more. But such large events take significant budget and energy--not to mention many months of pre-planning, done most often by well organized, multi-staff or volunteer agencies or groups.

The North American Council on Adoptable Children's web site contains a great deal of useful material for AAM observances, as does the web site of the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse.

Not every adoption-touched family or professional or adoption-related support group has the time, the means, the budget, or the energy to mount a full campaign. Not to worry! Individuals can make an AAM impact, too, and we spent a week in 1999 gathering ideas from members of internet listservs and newsgroups and bulletin boards for individuals or very small groups to plan some last minute Adoption Awareness Month observances for November, 2001. Contributors included adoptive parents, birthparents, adoptees, and professionals. This list has continued to grow and will continue to do so, so please send us your ideas and we'll add them!

Public activities that can make a genuine difference...
If your activity will be a public one (lending itself to a slow news day photo opportunity), be sure to alert TV and print media about a week in advance.
Contact your house of worship and arrange to donate altar flowers one Sabbath in November "In Honor of Children Waiting for Forever Families" or "In Celebration of this Congregation's Adoption-Expanded Families" or "In Gratitude to Birthparents who have Chosen Adoption." (Suggest that each member of your support group do this same thing--reaching many congregations of differing faiths during the month.)

Use the 33 cent Adopting a Child stamp and the companion post cards (both issued by the USPS in 2000) for all of your first class mailing, from bill paying to friendly letters, etc.

Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about a positive adoption issue or an issue that needs to be addressed in your state. For example... adoptive parents, write to the editor about what your children's birthparents mean to you. Birthparents...GET VOCAL. Believe you are important and stand up and be counted. Let people know that you are normal people who wanted what was best for their children but were not in the position to give it at the time. Adoptive and birthparents in open adoptions might consider writing a letter together!

Local adoption groups might plant a tree at a park or the zoo with a small plaque acknowledging adoptive families or waiting children or birthfamilies. Adoptive parents groups might invite the birthparents from a local birthparent support group to join them in this project. "Open adoption families" might get together and plant a tree. Show the media and the world at large by simply being together that you love, not fear, one another.

Buy a favorite adoption-related children's book for a classroom teacher's library, a day care center bookshelf, a school library, or a church or synagogue library. Individuals can buy single copies from any book source, but APSGs might consider buying multiple copies of the same book (at substantial discounts directly from the publisher) inserting a bookplate with contact info about the APSG and having families distribute them to area schools or public libraries or day care centers.

Contact your local public library, local school library, a favorite bookstore, about helping them do an adoption book display. Ask for permission to add to it brochures on triad support groups, local resources, upcoming adoption conferences. (Some library systems plan these displays many months in advance, but some local branches are more flexible. If you're too late for this year, reserve now for next year!)

If your zoo has dumped its "adopt-an-animal" program in favor of a more sensitive program name, sponsor an animal! Similarly reward other former adopt-a programs. Also use this time to advocate for name changes with current adopt-a marketers (Feel free to use our article "Adopt-a Confusion" as ammunition!)

Subscribe to Adoptive Families, Pact Press, Adoption Today, Roots & Wings, Adopted Child, Bastard Quarterly or another favorite adoption periodical for your pediatrician's waiting room, your school's teacher's library, your hairdresser's dryer/waiting area, crisis pregnancy centers, women's centers, etc (and while you're at it, subscribe for Grandma and Grandma as a Christmas or Chanukkah present!)

Make copies of PP's "Using Respectful Adoption Language" fact sheet or some other article that you especially like (be sure to watch for copyright notices before reprinting--there are a few adoption-related periodicals which expressly forbid unauthorized distribution!) and stuff your child's school's teacher mail boxes. Give one to your house of worship's priest, pastor, or rabbi, too. Send them as well to your state legislators and local media

With a friend, volunteer to do a short presentation on adoption in a school or Sunday School classroom or for a scout troop-- preferably not your own child's, which is why doing this with a buddy is a good idea. The PP article "Moses, Jesus, Superman and Me" could be a start for you to build on (send SASE to Perspectives Press to obtain a copy.)

Contact local radio stations and dedicate a song to those seeking and waiting for or touched by adoption. Some possibilities: Linda Ronstadt and Peabo Bryson's duet "Somewhere Out There" from An American Tail, or anything from adoptive mom Linda Ronstadt's Lullabies album, or "From God's Arms, to My Arms, to Yours" (also known as "Maybe You Could Tell Your Baby") from Michael McLean's The Collection or One Heart in the Right Place albums or "He Would Be Sixteen" sung by Michelle Wright or "Angel's Lullaby" by Richard Marx on For Our Children, Too AIDS benefit CD , Stevie Wonder's "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life". .

Send a donation to your favorite grassroots adoption activist organization

Contact local organizations, like AAUW, YMCA, service clubs like Junior League, Lions, Kiwanis, business organizations like Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, etc and ask them for donations to be earmarked for purchasing adoption books for a local library or suitcases for children in foster care (far too often they move with the assistance of undignified garbage bags!)

Mama or Dad (kids can help- or if they're older,they can do it!) cuts out a "tree shape" from construction paper.Depending on the size you want it to be --- small, medium, large -whatever. Then each family member can draw a picture of her or himself (the multi cultural crayons are great) to put on the tree.(glue, tape...) Also include drawn pictures of gramma, pop-pop, aunties, uncles, friends. Then when the tree is all finished,talk about how it is *love* that makes a family, and how the tree just wouldn't be as beautiful and colorful without *each* "wonderful and beautiful us" on it. Display the tree in a place for everyone to see

Have an adoption party...invite friends and family over for a casual get together to celebrate and recognize Adoption Month and what a very special family you are. :-) Play special "Adoption Day" and "Adoption" tapes/CD's, take pictures, videotape,etc. the happy gathering! Do it again next year, same time!

Have bumper stickers made "Adoption Awareness Month", "Adoption is an Option" etc

Submit Adoption Month notices with contact info for local agencies or support groups in church bulletins, workplace and neighborhood and PTA newsletters, etc.

Contact local radio stations about taping a PSA. In Colorado an agency found that for a nominal fee a local station helped create a tape of a child talking about what it means to have a family and encouraging people to consider adoption. The station ran the PSA all month,and the agency sent it to other area stations as well, at a cost of only $2.00 per copy

Develop a one page cheaply photocopied informational flyer that can be distributed or posted on community bulletin boards in places where members/staff normally go anyway-- restaurants, health food stores, bookstores, church, groceries, banks, libraries, laundromats, etc.

Locate every electronic or manually changed "marquee" or announcement board in town (at hotel/motels, banks, theaters, schools, insurance companies, public utilities, etc.) and ask them to put a message on it about Adoption Awareness Month.

Create buttons and distribute to local businesses for their employees (especially workers who serve the public at counters) to wear. (The Houghton, MI parents group which suggested this one had success with a casino and Perkins restaurants having their employees wear them.)

Contact local bookstores about fundraising opportunities. Both Barnes and Noble and B Daltons will offer not-for-profit organizations a percentage of sales during a special fundraising day or week. Often volunteers from the group are asked to assist--be sure to bring brochures and wear those badges!

Orange County (NY) Adoption Group reports that they and other groups they are aware of hold a Candle lighting Ceremony personalized to fit their adoptive community. Entire families (grandparents etc) gather for a pot luck supper, mingle and share stories. Afterwards participants join in a circle, listen to a "prayer" about our journey in the darkness of adoption to find the light, out children and sing "Happy Adoption Day" by John Mc Cutheon. Then one candle is lighted and passed to each family who lights their own candle and tells briefly of their family.

MARE-Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange) for years has mailed book marks featuring adoption info and pictures of waiting children to libraries. For 1999 ODS families hand-delivered these book marks to libraries, hoping that the personal touch will mean more.

Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption (FRUA) sponsored a "Forever Families Through Adoption" poster project to commemorate National Adoption Awareness Month . The significance of the design and the project's purpose is to help build a positive awareness of adoption, adoptive families, and adoption issues.Each year a new design is created with the help of children across the country. Children contribute their artwork which depicts their meaning of "family". The posters are black & white and designed so that families can color them and take them to local schools, churches, synagogues, libraries and businesses to be displayed during November.The poster is sponsored by Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption, Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, and the Special Needs Adoption Network of Wisconsin. Bulk quantities can be distributed to other adoption related organizations for reimbursement of printing and shipping costs. The poster is also available as an insert into "Adoption Today" magazine Oct/Nov issue available at bookstores. A miniature version can be printed by visiting the FRUA website www.frua.org. Contact FRUA at 703-560-6184, e-mail poster@frua.org website at http://www.frua.org FAMILIES FOR RUSSIAN AND UKRAINIAN ADOPTION, INC PO BOX 2944 - MERRIFIELD, VA 22116

Private, one-on-one acts that can make a real difference...
Call a birthmother you know and invite her to lunch. Show some compassion and let her talk about her feelings.

Encourage would-be adopters you know to get all the information they possibly can about their child's birth family

Attend any rally being sponsored in your area during AAM. Even it it is being sponsored by a group you don't understand or find discomforting, you can learn a lot by listening with an open mind and engaging in dialogue.

Take a list of your favorite adoption-related books for adults and for children to your local library. Use the catalog system to see whether or not your library shelves these titles. If not, suggest that they buy them, leaving your list of titles and authors (and publishers if you know them) with the collection specialists.

Take your child's grandparents with you to an adoption conference. Help your extended family learn what they need to know about adoption. (Don't forget the Perspectives Press book Adoption Is a Family Affair! What Relatives and Friends Must Know)

Take your social worker, facilitator, or adoption attorney to lunch! Thank them for their help in a time of crisis, but also let them know how they could better have prepared or supported you. Offer to help them work on a plan for improved services.

Offer your home to a family who may be traveling from their home elsewhere to adopt a child from your area. It will save them money on their travel expenses.

Be a weekend Foster Home

Feeling at a loss about where to begin at home? Adoption.com has a calendar of daily suggestions for opening the subject of adoption to discussion in your familyhttp://www.adoption.com/contact/calendar.htm

A Florida adoption attorney writes that as her own contribution to adoption awareness she has take a pro-bono (no fees charged) case of wrongful adoption. Additionally, she writes, "I think National Adoption Month is also a great time to affirm not only adoptions but the importance to ALL triad members that the adoption practice be of the highest of ethics for the long term best interest of the child. (Not just immediate placement needs of the child but also to avoid lengthy litigation of adoption cases etc..... we still need to work on these). Necessity for accurate ID of birthparents and as much medical/social/background info as available- including pictures on the birth families. Adoptions are great. But Black Market Adoptions do exist and are far too numerous with very few professionals speaking out.

Big Events for next year's Adoption Awareness Month (because they need 8-12 months or more of planning)...
Form a coalition of local, regional or state agencies, support groups, adoption attorneys and other related organizations and do something from the list below together! Coalitions encourage greater cross-triad dialogue and cooperation, command greater attention from the media, are more attractive to grantors and donors.

Seek sponsorship and participation from area family-friendly businesses (banks, grocery stores, insurance companies, etc.), local volunteer organizations (like Junior League, Kiwanis, Lions) and more. Ask local churches and synagogues to join your effort--perhaps one will donate space for your event. For support and a pep talk on coalition-building, talk to somebody from an agency or group in Indiana--a state with an over 15 year history of building effective cross-triad educational coalitions!
Spend several months building a relationship with a local family issues reporter with the goal being a November Sunday section focused on positive and realistic adoption issues

Hold an Adoption Information Fair with booths representing as many groups and agencies in your area as possible

Plan a workshop.If you've not done this before, you might find it simplest to use a single speaker (the National Adoption Information Center produces a booklet with contact and pricing information about a variety of speakers across the country) for a half day or full day event where everyone is in a single general session. Remember that, while recognized "experts" can be a valuable addition--especially in that a recognized name can draw registrants and media attention--people who live adoption are the real experts--and that's you! With some experience and/or plenty of volunteer help, you could consider a multi-speaker event with several sessions going on each hour. Some broad topics or general themes for first timers to consider: How to Adopt, Parenting in Adoption, Adoption over a Lifetime, Changing Adoption's Image, Opening a Confidential Adoption, Parenting Multi-racial Families, Special Kids and Special Needs, Grand parenting in Adoption, etc.

Hold a breakfast for your state legislators to explain adoption issues to them in a "captive audience" environment. Look for a local media person or politician who is part of the triad to help.

Plan a political special event-- a rally on the state capitol's steps, a march, a letter-writing campaign, etc.

Contact national TV talk shows about planning adoption-positive segments. Rosie O'Donnell and Sally Jesse Raphael are both themselves adoptive parents, and Oprah Winfrey and Montel Williams and Geraldo Rivera have all displayed sensitivity about alternative family building.

Establish (and publicize) an award to be given to an individual or a business or an organization in your community that has made a positive impact on adoptive families, in finding homes for waiting children, etc.

Sponsor a simple Adoption Information Night (featuring a panel of adoptive parents and a representative from an agency or two) in an underserved area of your state. Free and inexpensive meeting locations include library meeting rooms, bank conference rooms, etc.

A Child's Waiting Foster Care and Adoption Program in Akron, Ohio sponsored an Adoption Store during AAM 2001 (but a city or state partnership might be even better!) A local mall donated an empty storefront for a month (a kiosk would do, too!) and the agency staffed it with professionals and well-oriented adoptive families. The store contained several copies of the Ohio photo listing books, enlarged photos of waiting children, give away adoption themed products sponsored by local businesses. Several info meetings were scheduled at the store during the event. The results included 127 in-store intakes (vs 30-60 in an average month), large increase in phone inquiries, 40 recruited families. (Source NACAC's Adoptalk, Spring 2002)
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