By Chandler Means, Executive Director
November is National Adoption Month! This year, we’ve celebrated by highlighting some “Faces of Adoption” on our social media pages. We caught up with a few families who adopted through AGAPE and asked them to share about their adoption. You can check out this series on our Facebook or Instagram account.
National Adoption Month also causes us to reflect on a key part of AGAPE’s history. Since our founding in 1966, we’ve helped facilitate the adoption of more than 1,000 children. Over the decades, however, we’ve seen significant changes in how adoption is perceived and practiced in the United States. People often wonder why AGAPE is involved in fewer adoptions today, so we hope this provides a better understanding of the changes we’ve seen.
How adoption has changed
In 1971, 90,000 children under the age of two were placed for private adoption. Just two years later, following the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, adoption in the U.S. declined by 50 percent. By 2007, the number of children placed for adoption had dropped to 18,000.
One of the most common reasons a child is placed for adoption is teenage pregnancy. Since 1990, the birth rate among teens has decreased by 68 percent nationwide and by 60 percent in Tennessee. This decrease in teen pregnancy is likely due to more comprehensive sexual education programs and the widespread availability of contraceptives. Society has also become more accepting of teenage or unwed mothers, so for those who do experience unplanned pregnancy, they seem less likely to place their baby for adoption than those mothers from just a few decades ago.
Unfortunately, this reduction in private adoptions does not mean there are fewer children in need of homes. On any given day in 2018, there were approximately 130,000 children in foster care eligible for adoption. Thankfully, 63,000 were adopted, but sadly, 71,000 were still left hoping for a forever family.
How AGAPE has changed
While adoption remains at the heart of AGAPE, we recognize that it’s a much less common solution than it once was. Now, the primary focus of our social services department is on children in foster care. In Tennessee, there are more than 8,200 kids in foster care. The goal for most of these children is reunification with a birth parent or someone in their birth family. That isn’t always possible though, so some of them will become eligible for adoption. In fact, the majority of adoptions AGAPE has been a part of over the last five years have been facilitated through foster care, which we believe fulfills the original intent of AGAPE’s founders: to find homes for children, not children for homes.
Because many children in foster care – about 55 percent – will return to their birth families, our foster families have an amazing opportunity to share the gospel. Not only can they minister to the children in their home, they can also connect with the birth family to show them the love of Jesus. More often than not, it’s our actions, not our words, that reveal God’s love to others. And there are few displays of love so dramatic as caring for someone else’s children like they’re your own.
If you’d like to learn more about fostering or adopting through AGAPE, contact us here. To give, click here.
Listen as AGAPE adoptee John Fraley shares his adoption story in his own words.