November 2023Vol. 24, No. 9Blessed and Bonded, A Message From Aysha E. Schomburg
Written by Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg
National Adoption Month is centered on the celebration of families coming together, in an official, government-blessed and bonded way. In many ways, through adoption, family members find and choose each other. The concept of being able to choose family is like pie in the sky for so many of us. The reality that familial union can be formed with a stroke of universal alignment. That’s quite extraordinary.
I’ll be honest, I know many people who have found family through adoption. I’ve had many conversations about how complex it can be because, for every family that is found and formed through adoption, arguably, there is a family that has been dismantled. Perhaps there is even a family that never had a chance—a true chance—to bond. How can we wrestle with that? I know adults who have been adopted and for whom their adoptive family is their one and only true family; their hearts are secure. Still, there are adopted people who have an unwavering desire to be connected to their family members, and even their cultures, of origin.
Adoption from foster care can be especially bilateral. I’m thinking about the very fine line between the importance of celebrating families coming together and acknowledging that families have also been separated. It’s a difficult balance. Somewhere and somehow, a foster care placement happened, a family was not reunified, and the fundamental right to parent was terminated. I know every situation is different. My first job in this profession was as director of parent recruitment (adoptive and foster parents), just 3 years after the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) was signed. When a child is taken into state custody, ASFA requires that actions be taken to initiate termination of parental rights if a parent has not met specific requirements for 15 of the most recent 22 months, with certain applicable exceptions. Fifteen months. They say time waits for no one; yet recovery is a lifelong process. The math just isn’t… mathing. That’s one example.
I wouldn’t be myself if I wasn’t honest about the fact that while I’m proud of the role I played in bringing families together through adoption for the best of it, I question the role I may have played for the worst.
It’s November, and many of us will celebrate our family at Thanksgiving. We must acknowledge that there are many families who are unable to be together, families awaiting a universal shift in their favor. We have a responsibility to wrestle with that. Family is so sacred. In whatever way your soul family has formed, by birth or adoption, or simply by choice, my wish for you is that you can all be together… blessed and bonded.