"Intercountry adoption is an important matter of foreign policy. It provides the opportunity for loving parents to offer a permanent home and a family for children who need that. And it deepens and enriches our culture and builds on one of the America's greatest strengths, our diversity." -- Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton
On November 8, 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joined Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Janice L. Jacobs, and Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Alejandro Mayorkas in a special ceremony commemorating November as National Adoption Month. The special ceremony, coordinated by the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs in partnership with USCIS, honored 21 children, ages 2-11, representing seven nations and their adoptive families. Among the over 150 guests were representatives from the offices of Senator Mary Landrieu and Senator John Kerry.
Children came dressed in their patriotic best. Moving around the lobby of the George Marshall Center, watching families pose proudly for pictures (enthusiastically taken by members of the Office of Children's Issues), you could feel the energy and spirit of families intended to be together. The children came from China, Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, Nepal, South Korea, and Thailand. However, I was as amazed by the diversity of backgrounds of the families -- single parents adopting their first child, families adopting their second or third child, military families, large families, small families, families of diverse ethnicities. However, it was clear they all shared strong bonds with their newest family members. As I spoke to the two sisters of one 8 year old girl originally from Ethiopia (who became family member number seven), it was plain to see how much her siblings loved her. "After this we're going to her favorite restaurant -- P.F. Chang's!"
Once the families -- and more importantly, the children -- settled into their seats, Assistant Secretary Jacobs opened the event, emphasizing the importance of National Adoption Month, and telling the children that the ceremony "celebrates the choice that… parents and grandparents, and brothers and sisters made to find you." Secretary Napolitano offered inspiring words to the children and their families: "You are going to remember this day… We can all dream big dreams, and part of your dream is coming true today." Representing the White House was Joshua DuBois, Special Assistant to President Obama and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, who read an excerpt of the Proclamation issued by President Obama to mark National Adoption month.
November was first designated as National Adoption Month by President Clinton in 1995, to raise awareness of adoption issues affecting families and children. Every November, a Presidential Proclamation commemorates National Adoption Month, encouraging individuals, communities, and organizations to help build awareness of adoption issues, share adoption stories, and challenge myths and stereotypes that create discriminatory barriers between families and the children who need them. In this year's proclamation, President Obama announced: "During National Adoption Month, we give voice to children who are still waiting for that opportunity, celebrate the bond that unites adoptive parents with their sons and daughters, and recommit to providing every child with the care and security that will nurture their development and well-being."
For everyone who participated -- parents, children, distinguished guests, and the community of State Department and Homeland Security colleagues coordinating the event -- it was a memorable experience. As one young boy exclaimed, "it's my birthday!" And in some ways, for all of our newest citizens, it was.
For more information on intercountry adoption, please visit our website, adoption.state.gov.