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Twenty-three special Alaska children feel like they really belong to someone today.
Sure, it's great, if you're a kid, to own a computer, games, a cell phone and the latest styles. But, it's even greater if you have someone or someone has you.
We make this point now because this is Adoption Awareness Month, and in observing it, 17 Anchorage families adopted 23 children this week.
Alaska tallies several hundred adoptions a year. Federal statistics show that Alaska families adopted 643 children in 2008, the year with the most recent available figures.
Nationally, about 136,000 children were adopted in 2007 and again in 2008. That's a 6-percent increase since 2000 and a 15-percent increase since 1990.
Almost half of all adoptions — 46 percent — are handled through private agencies, while welfare agencies arrange about 39 percent. About 14 percent, or more than 17,000 children, are adopted internationally.
Alaska has the highest adoption rate per 100,000 adults in the nation, followed by Montana and Oklahoma.
The vast majority of adoptions nationwide are made possible by mothers in their teens and 20s. These young women who might have been adopted themselves or who are strongly influenced by their mothers, siblings, peers and boyfriends are the most likely to relinquish their babies.
The number of such young women has dropped dramatically since before 1973, when such relinquishments measured almost 20 percent of adoptions. The figure dropped to less than 1 percent in the 1990s. Undoubtedly, the increased availability of abortions as a result of their legalization in Roe vs. Wade in 1973 contributed at least in part to that decline.
But, of course, while babies are relinquished and adopted, many older children also need and find parents through foster-care adoptions. (These occur when foster parents decide to formally adopt instead of providing only foster care.) In 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there were 115,000 children in foster care awaiting adoption.
Federal statistics show that millions of women consider adoption; about a half follow through, and a quarter complete an adoption. About a fifth of those who adopt are single.
Men are twice as likely to adopt as women, largely because they more often than women adopt stepchildren when they remarry.
Adoption has created many and varied families. Some adoptions give young couples their only chance for a baby; others match older children with the parents they long for. Each one is a gift, a priceless one.
During Adoption Awareness Month, we celebrate adoption.