I went back and forth in my head about how I would write this article. Did I want to focus on the challenges that face young people who are in the foster care system? Or maybe I could talk about the number of children that are currently in foster care across the United States (estimated at over 120,000)? Perhaps I could outline the processes that families must embark upon in order to serve as foster parents or adoptive parents? After much consideration, I think the best thing to do would be to share some of my family’s story and take it from there. Here goes…
On Tuesday, November 22, 2016, our daughter was permanently placed with me and my wife. We would still need to go through another several months of court proceedings and paperwork, but on that day (our “Gotcha Day” as it’s sometimes referred to) our family grew. It only grew by a single person, but that measurement alone would be pretty short-sighted. The energy in our house exploded. The laughter (and sometimes tears) increased. The patience in our home grew. We were suddenly parents. And while there are no instruction manuals for kids, and we have dealt with some stressful challenges, we couldn’t be happier. Next to making the decision to propose to my wife, the decision to adopt a child has been the single greatest choice of my life! Our daughter is amazing! She’s funny and caring. She’s polite and considerate. She’s also very brave. She stands up for herself and is protective of others. Watching her grow and seeing her personality and interests develop over these past 5 years has been incredible. We love her so much! When people learn that we adopted our daughter, I’ve heard them say “she’s so lucky to have you two as parents” but I always respond by telling them, “No, that’s not true. WE are the lucky ones,” and I mean that!
Each year, November is recognized as National Adoption Month. The purpose of National Adoption Month is to raise awareness. It’s a month to encourage others to learn about adoption, to hold adoption-related events, and to acknowledge the people in this country whose lives have been impacted by adoption. The mission of National Adoption Month is to celebrate families who have grown through adoption, and to recognize the many children who are still waiting for a forever family.
The history of National Adoption Month dates back to 1976 when Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis announced the first Adoption Week. The idea by Governor Dukakis grew in popularity and quickly spread nationwide. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first National Adoption Week, and in 1995, President Bill Clinton expanded the week into an entire month of recognition.
Everyone can participate in National Adoption Month! Whether you are pursuing adoption, currently fostering, or simply a supporter of the cause, I want to encourage you to take part in this month of recognition. As an individual, here are a few ways that you can get involved: Reading more and doing research on National Adoption Month; Sharing information with your friends and families; Attending a National Adoption Month event in your community; Making a donation to an adoption or foster care agency; or, volunteering your time with an adoption or foster care agency.
But what does this have to do with credit unions? I’m glad you asked!
For many families, the decision to adopt can present financial challenges. Whether adopting through a public or private agency, there are fees associated with completing the process. In some instances, private adoption costs can reach nearly $60,000. These costs can prevent families from pursuing adoption and achieving their dreams. As credit unions, we have an opportunity to provide valuable resources to assist our members (and employees) who may be considering adoption, whether through education or products and services. Here are a few key ways credit unions can help:
- Staff who are providing financial counseling or tax preparation services should be well-versed on benefits like adoption tax credits that may be applied at both the federal and state levels. These credits can go a long way toward off-setting adoption expenses and creating greater financial stability.
- Re-evaluate lending products. If a family is considering adoption and needs a loan, is your credit union able to offer help? Would they simply apply for a standard open-ended loan, or is this an opportunity where your organization could create a product specifically geared toward helping families pursing adoption, offering special interest rates or payment structuring?
- For employees, consider how your parental leave benefits are structured and whether your policies allow for paid leave for parents who choose adoption.
Adoption is obviously very personal for me. This journey for my family has been difficult, but ultimately very rewarding. Being a dad is so much fun! Now, just because I said that, I do not expect anyone who reads this article will immediately go out to adopt a child. But I do want to challenge each of you to take some time this National Adoption Month to learn more about the adoption and foster care system and to consider getting involved locally to help ensure these children aren’t forgotten. Every child deserves a forever home and credit unions can help make that happen!