November is National Adoption Month and it is a time when I reflect on the many adoption stories I have encountered throughout my career as an adoption attorney. National Adoption Month raises awareness of adoption, particularly through the foster care system as there are many children who are in need of a stable and permanent home.
This year I reflect on adult adoptions and the meaning of family. I am reminded of a specific case that reinforces the importance of family and unconditional love, no matter what age.
This particular case involves two brothers from Colombia. They were born and lived most of their childhood in very difficult circumstances and faced neglect and abuse from their birth parents. Eventually, the boys were separated. One was adopted by an American through an international adoption agency. The other brother remained in Colombia under the care of social services.
The adoptive parent of the first brother was determined to keep the boys together, and through a long process the second brother was able to travel to the United States and a guardianship order was issued. As the years went by, the boys grew into adulthood and faced many challenges and hardships trying to overcome their past lives. But through it all they had each other and the undying support of their stable parental figure.
By the time the case reached my desk one of the brothers was officially adopted but the second did not yet have an official adoption order recognizing the father-son relationship. At this point, he was well into his twenties but felt strongly, as did the rest of his family, that they were one familial unit. Legal recognition of their relationship creates a final closure and permanency of a forever home, even into adulthood.
The finalization of this adoption brought forth a lot of meaningful words from the presiding judge as she reflected on family and how a difficult past can strengthen your character and resolve to succeed in life.
I took an extra moment in the courtroom after the proceeding was finished to think about how much I still need my parents even though I am an adult and a parent myself. I also thought a lot about how I do not appreciate this enough. This is especially true given that we do not live close by each other.
As we walked out of the courthouse, there were many hugs, tears, and photographs to commemorate the importance of the day. Soon after, I called my parents to express my love and hear their voices. I also asked for their advice, which I still often need, even though at times it’s hard to admit.
I do think that having adoption awareness near the holiday of Thanksgiving is important because there is so much to be thankful for when it comes to family.