November is National Adoption Month.
Lea Ann Gollihue, an adoption advocate in the area for the past decade through her For Jamie’s Sake organization, wishes more people recognized it.
“There are so many children, so many waiting to be adopted,” Gollihue said. “We need to draw attention and create awareness. So many don’t have a clue.
“Everybody knows that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There are so many events surrounding it. There’s the walks and all the Think Pink symbols. All that is great and important. We need that kind of awareness for National Adoption Month.”
Gollihue, who was wearing a white ribbon that is the symbol for National Adoption Month, said 25,000-plus age out of foster care every year. When a foster child turns 18, they are on their own, she said.
“No 18-year-old without any family structure is ready to face the world,” Gollihue said.
There is some extended care available for those 18 to 21 years old through the state but most of the foster children who turn 18 leave.
While many children are adopted, it’s mostly the younger ones, she said.
“Everybody wants the younger baby but every child needs someone,” Gollihue said. “There are too many children exiting the foster care system.”
Gollihue started For Jamie’s Sake in 2001 and she’s been beating the drum for adoption and foster care ever since.
“In a perfect world, everybody has a family, even if mom and dad aren’t married,” Gollihue said. “Imagine going through life without parents?”
Gollihue said like many others she has been shaped by her parents.
“I act like my father and look like mom,” she said. “Family is an important part of who we are.”
Melissa Rymer, who was an orphan from the time she was 10 years old, has worked with Gollihue at For Jamie’s Sake the past three years.
Like Gollihue, she is passionate about the importance of foster children being adopted and getting that family.
“I can relate to the kids,” Rymer said. “I know what it feels like. I’ve been to several adoption ceremonies and they’re awesome.”
Gollihue has done everything in her power to create awareness for adoption.
First local rally
“Our first awareness rally was in 2000 at (Ashland) Town Center,” she said. “We’re just the loudmouths, the voice for the voiceless.”
Gollihue said there are too many who don’t have a home or parents to watch them through life’s big and little moments.
“Things like graduation, weddings, the birth of the first child,” she said. “Just think how empty those would be without family?”
She said National Adoption Month will bring the kind of awareness needed to address the issue, answer questions and debunk myths.
“I want to believe people don’t know what a problem it is,” Gollihue said.
The television movies that show the “real” parents coming after their children, who were adopted out, makes the situation worse.
“Those shows on Lifetime don’t help at all,” she said. “There’s a trend in going overseas to adopt because you don’t have to worry about the birth parents coming back.”
Every year For Jamie’s Sake provides Christmas presents for the state foster care party in Lexington. They pass out the gifts on Dec. 3 at the Horse Park to the smiling children. It’s something that Gollihue and her family participates in every year.
“But I don’t like going and seeing some of the same faces because that means they haven’t been adopted into a family,” she said.
Gollihue wants do whatever she can to find a home for as many children as possible.
While she’s been told “she can’t save the world,” Gollihue takes it one day and sometimes one child at a time.
Several events are planned for the month including one on Nov. 19 at the Kyova Mall where adoption information will be readily available.
There will also be a walkathon that day from noon to 2 p.m.
For Jamie’s Sake is also looking for volunteers to help with a Christmas tree they are doing for the Festival of Trees and Trains at the Paramount Arts Center later this month.
There will be a 1980s dance at the National Guard Armory from 6 to 9 p.m on Nov. 12.
The first major effort to promote awareness of the need for adoptive families for children in the foster care system occurred in Massachusetts. In 1976, then-Governor Mike Dukakis proclaimed Adoption Week and the idea grew in popularity and spread throughout the nation.
President Gerald Ford made the first National Adoption Week proclamation, and in 1990, the week was expanded to a month due to the number of states participating and the number of events.
It is designed to promote positive perceptions and draw attention to the tens of thousands of children in foster care who wait and hope for permanent families.
To find out more information, call For Jamie’s Sake at (606) 327-5511.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2648.