Written by: Noel Anaya
November is usually a month that makes people think about family. Thanksgiving kicks off a holiday season that includes Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. But for all the people who are celebrating with their loved ones, there are thousands of young people waiting for a forever home. I think it’s fitting then, that such a family-centric month is also National Adoption Month.
Awareness months like National Adoption Month are a great time to increase, well, awareness about key issues. In this case, people might learn that about a quarter of the young people in the foster care system are awaiting adoption in the U.S. Some may even be inspired to start contacting local adoption agencies to find out more information about how to expand their family.
But one thing that worries me this month and every month is: How many of the people who are interested in adoption would consider older youth?
This topic is pressing for me because I grew up in foster care. I was taken from my mother when I was a little over a year old, back in 1996. As I shared in the documentary, Unadopted: A YR Media Film, we were never reunited and I was never adopted. Still, I remember when I was younger, I would attend “matching” events in the fall, probably around November. The goal was for potential families to interact with kids who were waiting to be adopted. I wish I could remember the ratio of teens to young kids, but what I do vividly recall is that the teens would be grouped together in their own environment. There was little to no attention being paid to them at these events. Eventually, I became one of those teens, seemingly ignored by people looking to adopt.
I cannot stress enough that foster care is supposed to be temporary but all too often those young kids grow up into teens in foster care. No one should be punished like that just because we, as a community, aren’t doing enough. All anyone really wants in life is stability, or, as Sequoia best said in “Unadopted: A YR Media Film”: “[Teens] just want to be on the good side of the line…to have a normal life.”
For me, childhood was forgettable. The years that truly mattered in foster care and development were the times in high school. Adults looking to adopt have been teens so they should know the level of support needed, and how parental figures can make all the difference.
This chart shows the staggering number of youth waiting to be adopted in this country. Here’s what I want people looking to adopt to be mindful of as they consider my words:
- Educate yourself on location and specific needs of a young person’s current situation.
- Check in with local churches and other places of worship that are open and willing to provide affirming homes for all young people, including LGBTQ+ youth.
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket (agency); Feel free to check out many organizations.
- Visit adoption program coordinators / agencies in your local area; some places may hold events which are an alternative option to meet teens you could adopt.
- Specifically ask about adopting teens.
Hopefully, what I’ve shared will bring more than just awareness this November. My hope is that it brings about action and more families for older teens.
Learn more about adopting youth in our community at Northwest Adoption Exchange.
Noel Anaya, 24, is from Oakland CA, and a filmmaker for YR Media—a national network of diverse young journalists and artists from underrepresented communities who create content for this generation—which is headquartered in downtown Oakland. Follow Noel’s story, and that of other teens in the foster care system, via @unadoptedfilm and use these hashtags to join the conversation: #Unadopted #KQEDTrulyCA #fostercare #adoptmoreteens