Adoption gives chidren a loving home

Published 1:41 am Monday, December 29, 2008

The holidays are a time for coming together with family. This holiday season, because of the gift of adoption, 330 children in Mississippi will be able to celebrate with a new family. Across Mississippi and our country, families are opening their homes to children through adoption. The Mississippi Department of Human Services has reported that adoption was up 19 percent in our state this year.

Americans are very supportive of adoption. Each year, approximately 125,000 children are adopted by families across the country. Through international, foster or infant adoption, these children are placed into an environment that will assist their development and provide them with the opportunity for a successful life.

While many families have opened their hearts and homes, others have shied away from adoption because of bureaucratic hurdles and misinformation. In Congress, I have supported efforts to assist families interested in adoption, but more needs to be done to ease the process for families that are willing and ready to adopt.

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Each year in the United States, approximately 20 percent of children in foster care leave the system after turning 18, never having the opportunity to join a family. To address this problem, Congress recently reauthorized the Adoption Incentives Program, legislation that provides assistance to families that adopt children from the foster care system.

To help increase foster care adoptions, it is also important to dispel some of the most common myths associated with them. For example, two-thirds of families considering adoption fear the biological parent will take the child back. However, once the adoptive family receives parental rights the biological parent has no further recourse for regaining custody. Another misperception is that children enter foster care because of juvenile delinquency. The reality is that children enter the foster care system through no fault of their own as victims of abuse or neglect.

Another important form of domestic adoption takes place through infant adoption. In situations where women find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy, infant adoption provides the mother with a healthy alternative to abortion and provides her with the peace of mind that the child will have a loving and caring home.

The United States remains a beacon of hope for the world, and through intercountry adoptions, children from other parts of the world — including many from third-world countries — are given the opportunity to become Americans and live a safe and prosperous life.

Last year there were over 17,000 intercountry adoptions completed by American families. Unfortunately, political strife in some regions of the world has jeopardized international adoptions. For many families who want to adopt, it can be agonizing to have the process delayed by bureaucratic red tape.

Because these unexpected delays are rising, the U.S. State Department has recently launched a website to assist with the intercountry adoption process. Families currently experiencing difficulties with adopting abroad should visit or contact any of my offices for assistance.

While a significant number of families have opened up their homes to adoption, the fact remains that more children become available for adoption each year than are adopted. A recent survey for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption found that nearly 40 percent of American adults have considered adopting a child. If just one in every 500 of those adults were to adopt, every child awaiting adoption in America would have a home.

Whether adopting an infant or an older child in foster care, becoming an adoptive family is an inspiring way to change a child’s life. This holiday season, we should remember to thank those who have adopted, and resolve to continue working to increase the gift of adoption in the future.

Roger Wicker is a U.S. Senator representing Mississippi.