I have seen first-hand that adoption is an amazing thing. It gives a child a chance at being in a family, an opportunity they may not have had otherwise in an orphanage or bouncing between foster families. There are currently over 115,000 children and youth in foster care in the United States alone waiting for adoptive families, so we all need to do our parts to raise awareness about adoption and find loving parents to take care of these wonderful children during November, the annual National Adoption Month.
In honor of National Adoption Month, I've decided to tell the story of a very close friend who adopted a beautiful baby girl from Cambodia a little over 20 years ago. I've known Richard and his wife, Mary Ann, for years. They are wonderful, caring people. They decided to adopt a child from outside the country to do their part to give a child a chance at a better life, one outside of an orphanage and in the United States with more opportunity.
They went to Cambodia one summer and returned with a gorgeous little girl, Fran, with the best smile and laugh. I had never seen Richard and Mary Ann happier together. Their family was complete. They gave Fran their all -- any kind of lesson she wanted, always encouraging her talents and interests, always supportive, caring, and loving. Fran in turn gave them joy. They were so proud of her, and they still are today.
But their relationship hasn't been without rough patches. Of course, Fran had trouble dealing with the fact that she didn't look like her parents. She explored her heritage as much as she could, which her parents absolutely encouraged, but during her teenage years began to withdraw from them and really envelope herself in Asian culture. Eventually, she moved out and stopped talking to her adoptive parents.
It was painful to see Richard and Mary Ann during that time. There hadn't really been a falling out, just a decision by their daughter to cut them off in an attempt to find herself and get in touch with her roots. Like the amazing parents they are, Richard and Mary Ann stayed supportive and loving the entire time. They missed her a lot and desperately wanted her in their lives, but understood that this was something she needed to do.
Within the last year, Fran reached out to her parents and they've been in close contact since. I even saw the three of them together a couple weeks ago for dinner. Richard told me he's just glad that Fran realizes they're not "the bad guys," and that even though they're not her birth parents, they still love her and think the world of her and want to see her succeed in whatever she chooses to do. Parenting is hard and adoption certainly brings its own unique challenges. But love and family ties always wins out amongst good people.
Edward Stern is a guest blogger for An Apple a Day and a writer on online nursing classes for the Guide to Health Education.