Adoption is a confusing topic to say the least. You’ll find 50 states with 50 sets of laws, plus a host of countries with their own rules and regulations. Add to that all sorts of widely circulated myths, and it’s no wonder that prospective adoptive parents need somewhere to turn.
When the Adoptive Parents Committee (APC) was first formed in the mid 1950s, adoption was cloaked in secrecy with plenty of stigmas and shame attached. Information about adoption was hard to ascertain and the published material came from highly confidential agencies in an age of “don’t ask don’t tell” for unwed birth mothers who sacrificed a lot and received nothing but anonymity in return.
Today, more than 50 years after the humble beginnings of the APC, adoption is a mainstream process. It’s a cinch for anyone interested in adoption to surf the Web and find a glut of adoption-related data at their fingertips. This easy access to information results in less attendance at support group meetings than in the early 1990s, when my wife and I joined seeking a place to learn about adoption. But while information is abundant and attendance may be down, people continue to join support groups. Why is that? These people are likely computer-savvy. However, the very same glut of Web information can be both overwhelming and unsatisfying.
The sheer volume of data on adoption tends to be difficult to discern, especially as it consists of countless variations on the same theme: adopting a child. Besides, the decision process alone can be daunting. Domestic or international adoption? Newborn or older child? Attorney or agency? Foster care adoption? Open, semi-open or closed adoption? Thus remains an enduring need for people to seek help in getting answers for these personal questions.
It’s also important to note the emotional aspect of adoption. After all, adoption is about bringing a child into your life and forming or adding to your family. It is a process that encompasses a range of emotions from trepidation and fear to love and joy. And, at least currently, there is no Web site or iPhone App that provides a shoulder to cry on. This is why the high-tech tools can be unsatisfying and personal contact is crucial.
In addition to sorting out the plethora of information and learning about adoption from people familiar with the experience, APC provides post-adoption resources for parents to learn what to do when faced with tricky situations, such as when a child asks questions about adoption, a school brings up the subject on pesky forms or the topic sneaks in the back door courtesy of the infamous family tree homework assignment. Raising a child is hard enough. Parenting adopted children means facing the added strain of dealing with a birth family. Dealing with the related parenting issues is part of the adoptive process.
The Chapters, the Conference & the Slogan
Serving New York City, Long Island, New Jersey and right here in Westchester County with the Hudson Chapter, four chapters make up the APC. There is also a sub-chapter in Connecticut. During chapter meetings, expert speakers discuss everything from how and where to adopt, to open-adoption and post-adoption issues. Meetings even feature topics like parenting children throughout the terrible twos and tenacious teenage years. More significantly, such a support group provides networking opportunities for families, including youngsters who meet other adopted children during meetings and events. One event sponsored by the Hudson Chapter that’s great for support and socializing is the annual picnic for member families to celebrate adoption each June.
Now running for more than 30 years, the annual APC conference provides members and the adoptive community with upwards of 80 workshops presenting professionals in the field along with adoptive parents and adult adoptees. With around 500 attendees, the conference is considered by many people to be the pinnacle of annual adoption events. Along with providing information, APC honors those in the community who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to bring families together through adoption. The 2010 Friends of Adoption award was presented by APC to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in recognition of her ongoing efforts in Haiti and her continued work in clearing the way for children from Haiti to become U.S. citizens.
The Adoptive Parents Committee has long maintained the slogan, “Let every child eligible for adoption become available for adoption.” This refers to all children, particularly the many children in the beleaguered foster care system. For years, APC has been involved in supporting legislation to help expedite the process to move these children through the system more quickly, enabling them to be adopted into permanent families. Unfortunately, despite the support of many adoption groups and professionals, the slow moving system has made only modest improvements during the long history of APC. Yet, the committee still believes in the idea that every child deserves a loving family in which to grow up.
For more information about the Adoptive Parents Committee, go to www.adoptiveparents.org and check out the date of the next meeting in your area. It’s worth it.