Steve Jobs hasn’t been gone long, but his legacy will endure. He was adopted. So were Nelson Mandela, comedian Jeff Dunham, figure skater Scott Hamilton, former First Lady Nancy Reagan and Moses.
Adoption is a necessary part of a civilized society and the practice spans back thousands of years in history. Time has shown that the world would be very different today without the births and adoptions of many individuals. Children adopted in the United States come through foster care, directly from a birth mother to an adoptive family (private adoption) or they are adopted abroad and brought to the United States.
“In 2007 and 2008, approximately 136,000 children were adopted annually in the United States.” (Child Welfare.gov)
In 2007 almost 20,000 were adopted from outside the United States, the number was a little over 17,400 in 2008.
Almost half of U.S. adoptions in 2007 and 2008 were private.
As of July 2013, the Children’s Rights Organization states that there are more than 400,000 children living in foster care, and 114,556 of them are adoptable because they cannot go back home.
Known as the Orphan Train, foster care in the United States began in 1854 with the relocation of orphaned and abandoned children to the West from New York City. About 200,000 children were placed on trains and distributed to families in 47 States and Canada by 1929.
Gayle Swift, an expert in child adoption states this, “Kids in foster care love their biological parents no matter what. Yet these are the people who have hurt them the most. It takes these children a long time to unlearn negative ways of thinking. To adopt a foster child is worthwhile but it is a bumpy ride. I myself cannot imagine my life without my kids and I regret nothing.”
Gayle Swift is an Adoption Coach. She is also the mother of two adult children adopted as babies by her husband and herself. Gayle Swift co-founded GIFT Family Services, which offers support to families through all phases of adoption. Gayle and her partners are all adoptive parents as well as certified coaches and they are dedicated to Growing Intentional Families Together.
Gayle seeks to debunk the myths surrounding adoption and instead provide hands on tools for families with whom she works.
An example: A child’s interest in discovering his or her roots is not betrayal nor rejection of his or her adopted family, but is curiosity.
Adoption – thinking has changed too, due to the developments of science. It is now known that the stress a mother goes through while pregnant affects the biological makeup of the child. How a baby’s brain was shaped in the womb was unknown 25 years ago.
Dual-heritage is a term used to explain an adopted child’s background, that of his biological roots and his adopted family. This can be an emotional conflict. Gayle Swift states that, “All adopted children know at some level that they were adopted.” Some of these kids are worried and think, ‘Could this happen to me again?’ The issue is one of rejection and it will need to be dealt with.
Gayle Swift adds, "Adoptive parents can struggle with this too, fearing that their children will reject them as parents. It is important that both parent and child understand these concerns are normal. When the shame factor is removed, relationships can be more authentic and bonds more secure."
Adoption is also not a fantasy. There are losses and grieving that need to be addressed, for the birth mother who will always have a loss, for the adopted parents who must “put to bed” their infertility issues, and for the children—who have lost their biological families and perhaps were abused. Gayle Swift says, “The gift of a baby has its roots in grief and loss for all involved.”
There is more openness today than there was in former generations when an adoption was more of a secret—children weren’t told that they were adopted, the birth mother never held her baby, adoption records remained sealed, etc.. This openness actually frees adoptive families up from the worry that they will lose their kids.
Gayle Swift comments, "Open Adoption is a very fluid term, encompassing a range of involvement between adoptee and birth parent. It can mean only knowing identities and exchanging photographs. Or, the relationships may include letters, phone calls or even visiting. Again, the degree and frequency is unique to each family and shaped by individual circumstance and mutual agreement. Open Adoption, while no panacea, reduces much of the anxiety adoptees have when first parents remain anonymous—when nearly any face in a crowd has the potential to be his birth parent."
There are still many States which do not allow adoptees to have copies of their original birth certificates. A movement has been begun to overturn these State laws and a few have acquiesced. Most adoptees see this as a fundamental right of the citizen to have what is theirs.
Adoption coaches support families before, during and after an adoption. They help parents explore, prepare and succeed as adoptive parents. Adoption is a lifetime journey. Issues of grief, loss, shame and rejection fade in and out of the spotlight. Adoption coaches like Gayle Swift have themselves wrestled with difficult issues. They know that adopted kids can’t have a timeout for bad behavior as that provokes rejection. Instead a “time in” with Mommy is used. And, it works! Adoption coaches help those who would like to adopt, but are afraid to, get over their fears and believe that they too can raise a child.
An adoption-competent coach serves to guide and support adoptive families through the lens of hands-on experience.
There are many children in the United States available for adoption. They need a “forever family,” one that will love them and call them their own. The need for parents is a lifetime need. (In 2013, 30,000 teens left foster care as legal adults, but had no family. These youth run a high risk of homelessness.)
November is Adoption Awareness Month and November 23, 2013 is National Adoption Day. Last year, 2012, 4,500 children were adopted by families in about 400 cities in the United States. This year, the program expects no less. In total, National Adoption Day helped nearly 44,500 children move from foster care to a forever family.
The keys to adoption are knowledge and love. Understanding that the process of raising a child is a family experience and knowing how to do it, greatly increases the benefits for all involved—a fulfilling life.
Gayle Swift and her adopted daughter Casey Swift (now an elementary school teacher) are the authors of ABC, Adoption & Me, a child’s book and a parent’s tool to help families celebrate adoption.
Both authors reside in Palm City, Florida.
Gayle Swift is a Hometown Hero. She is a person who has made her life's work that of helping children.
Gayle Swift’s Gift Family Services meets with families everywhere via telephone, Skype and Google Hangout. She can be found online at GiftFamilyServices.com or via email: Gayle@GIFTfamilyservices.com
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