National Adoption Month is a time to recognize the millions of children in the United States and around the world that are in need of a permanent family and to honor those that have opened their hearts, homes, and resources to take in one or more of these children as their own.
Adoption is a gift to all involved, but it does not come easy. Many families must raise money to afford the thousands of dollars in legal fees while others wait several agonizing years for paperwork to finalize. Every child also brings an untold history with him or her, whether that’s health related or unjust emotional scars.
But the beauty of adoption is the choice made to love a child unconditionally and to fold the child into a secure family as any other kin. This is the type of consolation that all children need. Parents are essential for providing encouragement on the sidelines and in the audience, sharing a child's moment of triumph or of trial, and offering guidance throughout life.
Every November, I enjoy sharing the story of my family’s experience adopting Zegita Marie. My daughter Molly adopted Zegita from an orphanage in Ethiopia, and she has now been a member of our family for more than a decade. We have experienced first-hand what a nurturing, loving home can do to help a child reach his or her full potential.
Over the years, I have received many letters and e-mails from Oklahomans sharing their own experiences. A lady from Lawton wrote earlier this year of her family’s story of being a foster home for the past five years. She said she's seen first-hand the effect lack of permanency has on children. They are now in the process of adopting two of the children as their own. Another wrote from Broken Arrow who welcomed into their family a 3-year-old girl from Africa who became orphaned due to the ongoing AIDS epidemic. Oklahomans inherently possess the compassion to welcome a child into their own family, and I’m proud to say that Oklahomans finalized 1,430 adoptions just last year.
We must also remember that there is still hope for the overwhelming number of children currently without homes, and we must work to create a cultural climate that can facilitate the dream of every child being cared for by a loving family. Together as co-chairs of the Senate Adoption Caucus, Sen. Landrieu (D-La.) and I continue to work towards making that dream a reality. This year we introduced the Children In Families First (CHIFF) Act, which would establish necessary oversight of USAID's resources to help orphaned children as well as streamline and simplify the process for inter country adoptions.
For the 400,000 children in the United States’ foster care system, it is critically important that federal and state governments work together to build an environment that is conducive to adoption. In Oklahoma, I have worked to retain current laws regarding tax credits for adoption expenses. This credit is vitally important for both children and couples wishing to adopt, helping families grow while limiting the financial obligations that come with adoption.
There is still more that can be done to reduce these numbers, and much of it starts with awareness and education. Please take time this month to research and consider adoption, to listen to another family’s experience and celebrate their adoption day, or to support another family financially or emotionally through their journey. Together we can change the system one family at a time.
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), co-chair of the Senate Adoption Caucus.