Monday, December 20, 2010

Our Holiday Wish

Holiday tunes bounce along nearly every airwave. Snowstorms have crippled our airports and thanks to freezing temps from Florida to the Dakotas, people are shivering! We have nearly turned the page of 2010 and find ourselves smack dab in the season of The Holidays! Hope, joy, light and delight permeate big and small screens with the magic of family—whether depicted through wonderful lives, bee-bee gun dreams, miracles on 34th street or a snowman who moves over the hills of snow!

It’s festive at the National Adoption Center these days. Some of our most dedicated corporate partners have collected personalized (long!) gift wish lists for the children on our adoption coordinators caseloads. Multiple gifts for each child were then purchased, wrapped and delivered to our offices at the ready for our coordinators to load their cars and deliver this bounty to children who are incredibly appreciative. And worthy of mention is that these corporations, with their broad vision and heart, do this every year!

Surrounded by generous people who embody the message of hope we at the Adoption Center experience this season of giving most directly. I can only imagine that throughout small and large cities the world around, similar loving gestures abound. While many charities help homeless families or those in economic hardship, the children who receive presents, though needy, are blessed to have their family. It’s not that kids in foster care are forgotten. But it’s a whole different story to be waiting for gifts than it is to be waiting for a family.

I am not suggesting that kids in foster care don’t have happy holidays. Gestures of those aware that this population is underserved give generously which most definitely makes a difference. And many loving foster parents and caring directors of foster group homes extend themselves to bring the children in their care happy holidays, happy birthdays, and wonderful lives.

But think about it. Kids are kids. Kids who live in foster homes just want to be like other kids: to receive gifts or observe traditions for Hanukkah, or Christmas, and/or Kwanza with their family. To be honored during a time when a good part of the world celebrates each other and the importance of family.

Our website (under the Video Center) hosts a 30 second “must see” message. It features a girl who wants a bike, a boy who wants a new video game, but the soulful message of one youth, in particular, is haunting: “Me? I just want a family.” Look into this boy’s eyes and catch the real meaning: this is not just a seasonal longing. This is an everyday dream.

What can be done to fulfill this “other” wish list of waiting children? The one not verbalized or written down. Or able to be contained in a gift box topped with a bow. Consider what the holiday season of 2011 will look like if, from this moment, more people have the vision to adopt and follow through. I bet that next year extra places would need to be set at holiday feast tables and more people would play Dreidel or read “The Night Before Christmas” together. Perhaps more sibling groups would be adopted, allowing more brothers and sisters to grow up together. If more people would offer something that has eluded waiting children—their very own place in a permanent, caring home—that everyday dream you saw in the eyes of that child in the video would become reality.

We know there are lots of newly formed adoptive families since this time last year. Congratulations! Give Frosty some company and dance through this season! In line with that famous song, find a meadow and build a snowman or a beach and build a sandman, or do whatever will make lasting family memories and create traditions for the next generations.

My wish: more people will choose the option of adoption. That by this time next year many more (at-this-moment) “unfound families” will find their very wanted child who will, by this time next year, finally “dream by the fire, to face unafraid, the plans that they made…” …together as family!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wednesday's Child Featured Child: Carlos

13 year old Carlos has a passion for football. This teen loves to play and is a great player for his local school team. Carlos also enjoys watching wrestling, reading books, and helping others. In the 7th grade, he does good in school and gets along well with his teachers and peers. Carlos can be shy and reserved when first meeting new people, but will soon open up after he feels safe and comfortable.

Because Carlos has dreams of playing professional football when he grows up, he met up with Wednesday’s Child host Vai Sikahema at University of Delaware-Blue Hens football for a look into how to actually get there. The two met with defensive lineman Siddiq Haynes. Siddiq took the two on a tour of the athletics dept., field, and finally into the weight room. On the field, the trio couldn’t help but throw balls around. Carlos was able to show Vai and Siddiq his skills. They then rang the team’s touchdown bell, which was VERY loud. “The weight room was fun”, said Carlos. Siddiq showed him some of the equipment and tested his strength on several of them.

Overall, the day was a great success! Vai sat with Carlos during lunch to talk about family. Carlos says family is important. He would like a family that would allow him to play sports and stay active. Contact with his sibling is important to him. Carlos needs a loving and caring family that will show support at his football games. At this point in his life, he dreams of not only scoring for his team, but scoring with a family! Will you be that family for Carlos?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wednesday’s Child Philadelphia Spotlight - Aaliyah

Meet 12-year-old Aaliyah. This beautiful preteen can be described as fun, loving, and energetic.  Aaliyah likes to draw, jump rope, and dance. In the 6th grade, she does well in school and really enjoys art class.  In the future she would like to become a doctor or nurse so she can help others.        

Aaliyah recently met up with Wednesday’s Child host Vai Sikahema at Philadelphia’s Please Touch Museum for a day of fun and excitement.  Aaliyah had a great time pretending to be Vai’s doctor.  They did grocery shopping and toured the SEPTA portion of the museum. They played the large  piano and overall simply had a great time. 

The day was definitely a success!  Vai later sat with Aaliyah at the cafeteria where they shared a meal and spoke about family.  Aaliyah says race does not matter.  She wants a family that will love her, play with her, and encourage her dreams for the future. 

Will you be that family for Aaliyah?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s Excellence Award

Chris Jacobs, Program Director, Ken Mullner, Executive Director and Gloria Hochman, Communications Director
I really enjoyed myself at the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s Excellence awards dinner dance on November 18 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Center City. The Center was honored as the non-profit of the year. We received our award, along with 11 small businesses recognized for their excellence, before 600 community leaders. We were the lone non-profit among a sea of for profit businesses. It was an interesting experience. The group of professionals we were celebrating with was all very different. For example, some included Center City restaurant owners, sellers of motorcycle parts, as well as technology innovators. At first I couldn’t understand what, if any, similarities our organization had with these other small businesses. Then I started listening to their stories.

Each group was being recognized for their creativity, vitality, stability and relevance. And what I realized was that we had a lot more in common than I originally thought. Each business began with a dream – ours was no different. NAC’s founder started in 1972 with a wooden recipe box on her kitchen table because she saw a need and wanted to fill it. Thirty eight years later, we have helped more than 22,000 children find their “forever families”.

Although our organization was the only one providing a social service to the region and beyond, we all had some things in common - a dream, flexibility to stay relevant and adjust to better serve our constituents and a drive and desire to be successful. “We are proud to have received this prestigious recognition,” says Ken Mullner, the Center’s executive director. “But there are still children—115,000 in the country and 1600 right here in the Delaware Valley—who count on us for their futures. We are committed to our belief that ‘there are no unwanted children…just unfound families.’ We will continue to find them.”

Friday, December 3, 2010

Defining Adoption Competency: Please tell C.A.S.E. what you think!

We would like to invite you to become part of a very important initiative.

Since 2008, Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.) has provided national leadership to a project to answer the call of the adoption community to build accessible, adoption competent mental health services across the country.

As a first step, C.A.S.E. convened a group of nationally recognized experts, including parents, who identified the competencies that mental health practitioners need – the knowledge, skills, and values that they should have. These experts helped to develop a definition of an adoption competent mental health professional.  A curriculum based on the competencies has been developed and the first group of mental health professionals is completing their training to be adoption competent in their clinical practices. 

Adoptive parents consistently report that their greatest post adoption support need is “mental health services provided by someone who knows adoption." We often hear parents, adopted persons, practitioners, and researchers say that services need to be “adoption competent” or “adoption sensitive.” Although the terms “adoption competent” and “adoption sensitive” are frequently used, there are not standardized, well-accepted definitions for these terms.

The definition that we are currently using is based on what experts think, but we want to hear from you about whether this definition is the right one.

If you are an adoptive parent, an adopted person, a birth parent, a member of an adoptive family, or a member of a family affected by adoption, please tell us what you think an "adoption competent mental health professional" is. Click here to take survey

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thanks to a Special Sponsor - Wendy's

The National Adoption Center relies on contributions from the public and private sector to do its critically important work.  One of our best partners is Wendy’s. Following in Dave Thomas’ tradition, this month Wendy’s not only continues its customary fundraising efforts but also gathers it employees to conduct a holiday gift drive for kids in foster care in the tri-state Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware region. So many children and youth will have a brighter holiday season thanks to generous partners like Wendy’s. We hope you will frequent them this month and throughout the year, and thank them for their generous support.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday's Child Spotlight - Blair

Blair, 14, is an active and friendly teen who loves playing basketball and baseball. Blair gets along well with both his peers and instructors in his 9th grade special education class where his favorite subject is Math. He loves animals and hopes to develop this passion in to acareer as a K-9 Police Officer.

Blair recently spent the day with the New Jersey State Police K-9 Unit at their K-9 Academy where he had the opportunity to observe the extensive and ongoing training process that both officers and their canine partners must undergo in order to prepare themselves for the job. Blair observed and assisted with some basic walking drills where he called out commands to the officers and their canines. After watching the dogs perform numerous other drills, Blair watched as Vai put on the padded arm and acted as a decoy in the decoy training component
of the Academy.

After successfully completing his first day of Canine Training, Sgt. Charous and the rest of the team presented Blair with a t-shirt, water bottle, and a hat to remember his day at the NJ State Police K-9 Academy. Following the day of training, Vai and Blair discussed what Blair is looking for in a family. Blair is looking for a permanent home with a family who cares about and respects him. As an animal lover, Blair would also love a family that has pets.

For more information visit

Monday, November 22, 2010

Raising Adoption Awareness This Thanksgiving Season

What can I do to raise adoption awareness?

I recently read an article about a remarkable, sixth-grader from Bowling Green, Kentucky named Noah. Noah learned a simple fact about kids in foster care that bothered him and from that he became inspired to spreading awareness about foster care and adoption. Noah learned that when kids are forced to move from home to home during their time in foster care, most of them carry their belongings in trash bags since they do not have proper luggage or backpacks. After hearing this troubling fact, Noah decided to organize a bag-collection drive so that kids in foster care could have proper luggage to make their moving process easier. Noah’s actions are ideal for this season of giving and a perfect way to help celebrate National Adoption Month this November.

Many of us want to help spread the word about foster care and adoption, but don’t know where to start. Here are a few ways that you can help:

Be Creative: Create fliers detailing the need for foster homes and ask to leave them in places of business. Don't forget contact numbers to your local foster care agencies.

Donate: Gather basic supplies and donate to your local foster or adoption agency. Call ahead and find out what they need. Many need school supplies, shoes, clothes, toys or bags.

Mentor: Through Big Brothers Big Sisters you can meet with a child 2-3 times a month and make a huge difference in his life by spending time with him. Not every child in the program is in foster care, but many are.

Volunteer: Many organizations that provide services for foster youth need volunteers to do many different duties. Some may include wrapping holiday/birthday gifts, sorting through donations, reading to the children or even playing games. Find out what your local children's organization needs are and see what you can do to help.

Involve Your Community: Ask your place of worship to offer a special prayer or sermon for children in foster care waiting for adoption.

Be Charitable: If you are unable to donate your time, donate some much needed funds to a credible, non-profit organization focusing on the needs of children. Every penny counts when it comes to helping children in foster care.

Eleven year old Noah is making a big impact - how can you?

Is there anything that you are doing or ideas that you have that are not listed above? If so, let us know! We’d love to hear your ideas.

To find out more information about Noah’s cause, visit:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

From the Desk of Gloria

This is National Adoption  Month and I look back 38 years to the day the National Adoption Center opened its doors.  It was a time that adoption was mainly for babies and no one knew whether anyone would consider adopting a child with Down syndrome or cerebral palsy, a child who was blind or a family of children who wanted to stay together.  Today, after having helped create families for 22,000 children, I think about the dramatic changes that have made that possible.  Among them were increasing interest in adoption from the federal government, the initiation of adoption subsidies, adoption events where prospective adopters could meet children waiting for families, focus on teenagers with the recognition that there are families who are interested in adopting them, the advent of adoption through the Internet, the rise of social media empowering would-be adopters to become more savvy when approaching agencies, and the advent of the Center’s  AdoptMatch program which allows those interested in adoption to connect online with welcoming agencies, then rate the service they receive.   The Freddie Mac Foundation and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption continue to make substantial contributions to making a permanent home reality for so many children.  So are media throughout the country who in print, on the air and online spread the word that 115,000 children in this country still wait for families.  The National Adoption Center is unwavering in its belief that “there are no unwanted children…just unfound families.”  It will continue to find them.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Spotlight: Thomas!

Happy Monday everyone! After a great weekend here in Philly, there is no better way to start the week than with a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids spotlight!

This week, I’m featuring Thomas, a smart 17 year old who is awaiting his forever family. Like most teenage boys, Thomas loves to hang out with his friends, talk to girls, listen to music and spend time on his computer. What many don’t know about him is that he is a gifted writer focusing on poetry and music lyrics. He’s even had some of his work published in his school’s magazine! Thomas says that his writing is a creative and positive way to express himself.  He keeps a collection of his songs in a book that he has been working on since the 7th grade.

When Thomas grows up, he has dreams of joining the marines for two reasons. One reason is to serve his country, and the second reason is to make his family proud. Thomas would like to have a forever family that likes to travel to different places. He needs a family who will listen, care, and respect his dreams and aspirations for his future. A forever family will give him the stability and structure he needs to know he is being supported through every move he makes.

If you are interested in becoming Thomas’ forever family, or becoming the forever family for any of our Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, please contact Crystal Allen at or 877-799-6900.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lest We Forget

This is a guest post from one of our staffers, Nancy. 

Lest We Forget –

Join me in a little fill-in-the-blanks exercise?

                “Is that your _______ answer?” 
                “And that’s ___________!”
                _____________ resting place.

The word for all three examples, of course, is FINAL. It’s a simple word, quite versatile, actually, forming phrases which connote possibilities of second-guessing or backing out, standing steadfast, and is even a synonym for “last”.  But when it comes to a ________ization hearing decreeing an adoption, the word holds different weight!  (For adoptive parents, words such as JOY, ECSTASY, and even DISBELIEF that they are _______ly parents, comes to mind.)  

November is National Adoption Month. Members of the National Adoption staff are scheduled to attend Adoption Day celebrations, fairs and expos to bring adoption awareness and encourage this option to begin or grow a family. Typically, during this month we get more calls about how to adopt, as the wonder of adoption is on the minds of many. There is a buzz of excitement in our offices in anticipation of attending finalization hearings which highlights this pinnacle in forming forever families.      

With the holidays just around the corner, newly formed families are excited to give thanks together for the first time, create new traditions, and bequeath family heirlooms, recipes and traditions to brand new generations. Truly, adoption positively transforms houses into homes, couples into families. An adoptive parent myself (21 years and counting), I hope families whose adoptions are made permanent never forget the joy of these moments. This is a milestone to celebrate! But…

lest we forget, there is another aspect to adoption decrees—just as _________.  The other side of the coin, just as real and life-changing, is the impact of __________izations on birth families. Finalization, for them, terminates their parental rights. For some, this could be a much sought relief, but for others, the beginning of lifelong grief. 

Ours was an open adoption and we kept in fairly close contact with our child’s birth mother for a number of years. Our gratitude to her was (and still is) beyond what words can ever express. Because of her decision, we had the fortune to create a family and share our lives with an amazing daughter. My husband and I had the idea to honor our child’s birth mother by sending a small gift (along with pictures) on our child’s birthday each year. We spoke about this with our daughter to the degree we felt she could understand as a further way to explain adoption to her. And part of our discussions centered around our gratitude to her natural parents.
Some people might say the gesture was merely a token.  I understand that sentiment and in some ways can agree.  Some might say the gesture was insensitive—unnecessarily dredging up the pain of separation.   To some degree I can also accept that reaction. 

To us, though, it was one way of not forgetting both sides. Granted, what we did could never be anything but a symbolic way to show our gratitude for this sacrifice. Adoptive parents may never know all the reasons their child’s natural parents chose not to raise their child, or whether that decision was made for them and something over which they had no control. But finalization is an appropriate time to appreciate that for every tear an adoptive parent sheds in elation, a birth parent may shed even more in loneliness, regret, and anguish.

Birth parents will always be a part of an adopted child’s life.  I daresay many natural parents continue to invest in their child’s welfare, as a silent partner, through thoughts, prayers or intentions in hopes their child has the brightest of futures and the happiest possible life.  (If the roles were reversed, I could imagine myself doing the same.) 

Not all adoptive parents are in the position to directly honor their child’s birth parent(s) but I wanted to write about a suggestion I have in line with this.  I propose the idea that adoptive parents do something in tribute to their child’s birth parents every year—whether on their child’s birthday, finalization anniversary, or another significant day (National Adoption Day, for example)—as a way to honor them—even though the birth parent may never know. 

To remember how finalization could have impacted a child’s birth parents, adoptive parents might hold  A Day of Honor or Day of Remembrance in which they do something (dedicate a volunteer opportunity or make a donation to a charity or family in need, for example)  intentionally, and do it as if the birth parents were the recipients. Adoptive families could create this new tradition and include discussion about adoption with their child(ren), encouraging their adopted child to honor their birth parents too.    

Haven’t we all watched a simple act of kindness, which made us (and others) follow suit?  An unsolicited “thank you.”  Holding the elevator door. Picking up someone’s dropped package.  Small, day-to-day pieces of life that snowball and can bring out a smile and make us remember how nice it is to care (and be care for).  Kindness begets more kindness—stranger to stranger, friend to friend, employer to employee, parent to child, child to parent, etc.  Sometimes it’s surprising to be on the receiving end of out-of-the-blue kindness; you’re never really sure why someone was so humane and thoughtful.  And while caring is catching, I am not necessarily advocating doing something nice for someone just to do something nice (although there is nothing wrong with that).  But doing something on a larger level specifically with the birth parents in mind—is not really a “pay it back” or “pay it forward,” but rather a not-so-random act of remembrance.   No flag waving.  No fireworks or press releases.  This is an inside job, and a very silent tribute to honor their sacrifice.

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day, a day when for one minute (11:11 am) people are encouraged to silently pay tribute to those who served (and currently serve) our country.  If we decided to participate, it didn’t necessarily matter whether or not we personally knew a Veteran or someone on active duty.  This is a symbolic gesture of a people in thanks who remember the sacrifices made.

So lest we forget the sacrifice of birth parents, I would hope this idea is enough to engender action.  I believe as adoptive parents and families we can find ways to (emblematically, as it were) “fill in the blanks” of those lives who immeasurably changed ours. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

What Does Adoption Mean to You?

As many of you know by now, November is National Adoption month.  This month provides us all with the opportunity to educate, publicize and celebrate adoption.  I wanted to find out from *one part of the adoption triad – the adoptive parents, what adoption means to them.  So I posed that question to multiple adoptive parents I know,  “What does adoption mean to you?”   This is what I learned….


“Adoption was the culmination of a years-long journey. It was both the most difficult thing I ever did, and the most fulfilling. If I could, I would do it all over again!”

Adopted father of one

“LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I always wanted to be a mother so adopting was my way to become one. “

Adopted mother of four

“As a childless couple with unfulfilled dreams, adoption was our dreamcatcher.

 Adoption provides choices, chances, and a large dose of hope. 

Sister Sledge’s, “We Are Family,” may not totally fit the word “adoption.” 
But it reminds me that no matter how diverse the backgrounds,
those who are family to each other create songs of life!

Adoption is how our family started.  Love and investment is how it was forged.

Adoption, to me, is weaving a tapestry that is finally 3-dimensional.   

Adoption has allowed us to celebrate the wonder of family!”

Adopted mother of one

“Adoption means family to me.   The quote from the Talmud that resonates for me about becoming a family is:
A family is a haven of rest, a sanctuary of peace and most of all a haven of love.     When our children joined us, our family felt complete.”

Adopted mother of two

“ Adoption for my wife and me means paying college tuitions 10 years after we thought we would be finished..........GLADLY!! “

Adopted father of two

"Adoption means so many things to me. First of all it means having the opportunity to grow our family and to have the chance to bring another human being into our lives. It also means having the chance to make a difference in someone else's life."

Adopted mother of one

“My daughters are the only two human beings who could have been my children.  We were meant for each other.  It is an absolute miracle that a countless number of seemingly random events, across two continents, came together to place us in each others lives; because it couldn't have been otherwise.  This I know with absolute certainty.”

Adopted mother of two

Whether you are a waiting parent or not, an adoptive parent, an aunt, uncle, grandparent, or sibling to an adopted child, I ask, what does adoption mean to you?

*edited to reflect that there are multiple important roles in adoption 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Presidential Proclamation--National Adoption Month

In a Presidential Proclamation, President Barack Obama said this week:

Presidential Proclamation--National Adoption Month

Giving a child a strong foundation -- a home, a family to love, and a safe place to grow -- is one of life's greatest and most generous gifts. Through adoption, both domestic and international, Americans from across our country have provided secure environments for children who need them, and these families have benefited from the joy an adopted child can bring. Thanks to their nurturing and care, more young people have been able to realize their potential and lead full, happy lives. This year, we celebrate National Adoption Month to recognize adoption as a positive and powerful force in countless American lives, and to encourage the adoption of children from foster care.

Currently, thousands of children await adoption or are in foster care, looking forward to permanent homes. These children can thrive, reach their full potential, and spread their wings when given the loving and firm foundation of family. Adoptive families come in many forms, and choose to adopt for different reasons: a desire to grow their family when conceiving a child is not possible, an expression of compassion for a child who would otherwise not have a permanent family, or simply because adoption has personally touched their lives. For many Americans, adoption has brought boundless purpose and joy to their lives. We must do all we can to break down barriers to ensure that all qualified caregivers have the ability to serve as adoptive families.

This year, on November 20, families, adoption advocates, policymakers, judges, and volunteers will celebrate the 11th annual National Adoption Day in communities large and small. National Adoption Day is a day of hope and happiness when courthouses finalize the adoptions of children out of foster care. Last year, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was honored to preside over a ceremony celebrating two foster care adoptions as part of my Administration's support for this important day.

Adoptive families are shining examples of the care and concern that define our great Nation. To support adoption in our communities, my Administration is working with States to support families eager to provide for children in need of a place to call home. The landmark Affordable Care Act increases and improves the Adoption Tax Credit, enabling adoption to be more affordable and accessible.
As part of the Adoption Incentives program, States can also receive awards for increasing adoptions and the number of children adopted from foster care. AdoptUsKids, a project of the Department of Health and Human Services, offers technical support to States, territories, and tribes to recruit and retain foster and adoptive families; provides information and assistance to families considering adoption; and supports parents already on that journey. I encourage all Americans to visit or for information and resources on adoption, including adoption from foster care.
As we observe National Adoption Month, we honor the loving embrace of adoptive families and the affirming role of adoption in the lives of American families and our country. Let us all commit to supporting our children in any way that we are able -- whether opening our hearts and homes through adoption, becoming foster parents to provide quality temporary care to children in crisis, supporting foster and adoptive families in our communities and places of worship, mentoring young people in need of guidance, or donating time to helping children in need. Working together, we can shape a future of hope and promise for all of our Nation's children.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2010 as National Adoption Month. I call upon all Americans to observe this month by answering the call to find homes for every child in America in need of a permanent and caring family, as well as to support the families who care for them.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.