Saturday November 21 is the tenth annual National Adoption Day. Across the country, lawyers and judges will work pro bono to process the adoption papers of 6700 children, bringing the total number of finalized adoptions as part of National Adoption Day to more than 25,000.
Nia Vardalos, the star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, is featured on the Adoption Day website, speaking on behalf of the network of Foster Family Agencies, to promote adoption and dispel some of the myths that frequently prevent American families from embracing this responsible and compassionate option.
“I am pleased to spread the message that American foster care, while maintaining the highest level of screening, does not discriminate against applicants for reasons of income level, marital status or sexual orientation.”
There is a common and legitimate concern that children in foster care are somehow ‘damaged’, and will therefore be more difficult to assimilate into a family. While there are children in the foster care system who are in need of specialized care, due to their experiences of emotional or physical abuse, Vardalos assures us that her three-year-old daughter had no such history. In a voice colored with the warm affection of a woman whose yearning for the rewards of motherhood has been fulfilled, she happily states, “Our daughter is perfection.”
By sharing the story of her battle with infertility and the frustration of her long journey to parenthood, Vardalos tells how she eventually came to learn that out of the 500,000 children in foster care in the US, there are 129,000 children who are legally free for adoption. By contrast to private adoptions in the US, which could cost a prospective parent $50,000, Vardalos informs us that it is actually free to adopt a child through a Foster Family Agency.
“An FFA — Foster Family Agency — helps individuals navigate the state system. The people at the FFA we worked with were helpful, compassionate and organized. They assisted with the paperwork, explained and set up the Home Study and did a nationwide search for a legally free child they felt we could be good parents to. Nine months later, through their various connections, we were ‘matched’ with our daughter. Working with a private lawyer, our adoption was finalized within a year.”
According to the United Nations, there are 143,000,000 orphans in the world today, each of whom spends an average of 10 years in an orphanage or foster home. Approximately 250,000 children are adopted annually, but every year, over 14,000,000 children in orphanages or foster homes come of age and are forced to enter the world with no home or family.
With so many children in need of care, in need of a family and in need of a home where they can be safe and be loved, it appears to be of extreme importance that we, as a society, begin to reassess our values in regard to parenting.
Contrary to cultural myth, the desire to have a family, to be a mother or a father, and to give one’s love to a child, can be satisfied by means other than procreating, especially in today’s world, where there are so many children in need. The proof of this lies in the successful families who are not tied by DNA, yet have forged a bond through love, through care, and through the selfless service that is a necessary element of parenthood, regardless of whether the child in question is biologically connected to his or her parents.
As Nia Vardalos, who is overjoyed with the experience of being an adoptive parent, explains:
“A family is a family, and there are 129,000 kids waiting for one. Our daughter came to live with us, and turned our house into a home.”
We live in a world plagued by myriad problems caused by a humanity disconnected from the big picture. This unprecedented situation requires progressive, enlightened thinking; a new way of viewing ourselves and our roles. The evolution of our society (indeed, perhaps even the continuation of our existence on the planet) requires us to become more responsible citizens, and that must include embracing a brand new understanding of what it means to be a mother, or a father, in a world that stands on the brink of either breakdown or breakthrough.
When we try to see the problems of the world in this light, we begin to realize that the solutions depend upon our collective willingness to act responsibly, and to do our part to change the course of humanity. We need to learn to address our issues together, and each one of us must share the responsibility, and yes, even the sacrifices. Only in this way will we learn the unparalleled joys of being a part of something greater than one’s self.
When we see our human population from a global perspective, we see that our family has 143,000,000 children who have no homes, and who perhaps have never in their lives known what love feels like. Ironically, every year, we bring another 140,000,000 children into the world.
For every family that has the resources to care for a child, that has the love and care to give, and the necessary space in one’s heart and life to take on the responsibility for another person, there is already a child who can fill that space. There is a child who is longing for a home, longing for a family, and longing for a future in which she can be safe to grow into the person she was meant to be.
The homeless children of the world need us to realize that they too have a need for love, and they too have love to give.
When we see ourselves as a global family… they are all our children.