Recognition of adoption awareness began in the 1970s when Massachusetts introduced a statewide Adoption Awareness Week. That was expanded to a national recognition in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan, and was further expanded to an entire month in 1995 by President Bill Clinton.

And the intent was simple: to shine a light on the tremendous good adoption does for the world.

This is a great month to recognize just how long we’ve come regarding adoption here in the United States. Here is a brief timeline:

1851 – The first modern adoption law, the 1851 Adoption of Children Act, was passed in Massachusetts.

1854 – The first “orphan trains” are launched. Initially pioneered by the New York Children’s Aid Society, these trains brought children in need of families westward.

1891 – For the first time, a state passed a law requiring that a judge rule on whether or not an adopting family was fit for adoption and in the best interest of the child.

1898 – The New York State Charities Aid Association established a specialized child-placement program, one of the first such organizations in the country and a precursor to today’s adoption agencies.

1980 – The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act is passed to help provide funding to states that subsidized special needs adoptions.

1993 – The landmark Hague Convention on the Protection of Children is created.

1994 – The United States officially ratifies its participation in the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children.

1994 – The Multiethnic Placement Act changed the face of adoption in America by banning adoption agencies that receive federal funds from denying adoptions based on race.

1997 – The Adoption and Safe Families Act places an emphasis on permanency in child placement, encouraging adoption rather than family unification if adoption is in the best interest of the child.

2000 – The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 further eases one of the difficulties of international adoption by allowing foreign-born adoptees to automatically become American citizens.

November 19 is officially National Adoption Day, making it the perfect day for you to honor and celebrate your family’s role in making the world a better place.

So how can you and your family celebrate this important time of year? Here are a few ideas:

  • Create a scrapbook with your child – It’s one thing to talk about cherished memories, it’s another for them to be something tangible, something you can touch, and something you’ve created together. Add to it each year in November. It will quickly become one of your family’s most beloved possessions.
  • Connect with other adoptive families – Few things are more powerful than a shared experience. Learn from one another, grow with one another, and share the unique joy many other Americans cannot understand.
  • Take some family photos – It’s easy to let time slip between our fingers, so use this month as a nudge to take some photos of your family together. Make it an annual tradition. Just for fun, maybe even do photos with the same theme each year so you can see the changes as time goes by. Years from now, you’ll be thankful you did.
  • Organize a toy drive for children waiting to be adopted – There are children out there who are still waiting for their permanent home. Too many of them. Brighten their holiday season and let them know that their time will come.
  • Do your part to raise awareness – You don’t need to become a major adoption advocate, though we’d certainly welcome that. Even something as simple as sharing a few adoption-positive articles on your Facebook can help spread the word. We have dozens of informative adoption articles you are welcome to share.

Adoption is always something to cherish, but this National Adoption Awareness Month, take some time out to give it special attention. After all, adoption is helping change the world one child at a time.