Thursday, December 1, 2011

Medicating Children in Foster Care

State child welfare systems are moving children from foster care to permanency faster and in greater numbers than ever. At the same time, we recognize that these systems struggle to achieve positive outcomes for the children in their care who have complex social-emotional, behavioral and mental health problems. Children in foster care represent only three percent of children covered by Medicaid, yet, based on a study of pharmacy claims in 16 States, foster children enrolled in Medicaid were prescribed antipsychotic medications at nearly nine times the rate of other children receiving Medicaid. While medications can be an important component of treatment, strengthened oversight of psychotropic medication use is necessary in order to responsibly and effectively attend to the clinical needs of children who have experienced maltreatment.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Success Story - Lucas

Today we celebrate the adoption of Lucas, a teen whose dream came true when his foster parents, Nancy and David, adopted him this year!

Lucas was featured on Wednesday’s Child Philadelphia in 2008 and then again a year later. Wednesday’s Child Philadelphia, sponsored by the Freddie Mac Foundation, is a weekly child feature on NBC10 with former Philadelphia Eagle, Vai Sikahema.

Starting the journey to be only foster parents, Nancy and David welcomed Lucas into their home when Lucas was seven years old. They prayed he would find a home and agreed to have him until that goal became a reality. Seven years later, Lucas still had no permanent home.

In 2011, Nancy and David realized that their home was Lucas’ home and made it official in court! Lucas says he is still getting used to calling them mom and dad and corrects himself when he calls them by their names.

Vai met up with Lucas’ family to hear more about their great story. Lucas says he is so happy they adopted him. Nancy and David say they have been blessed to be the lucky couple to have Lucas permanently in their lives. Diagnosed with mild mental retardation, Lucas is for the first time in a regular education class. He is doing well and has many friends.

When Vai asked what their favorite family activity was, they all said simply playing cards and spending time together. So they pulled out a pack of Skip-Bo cards and Vai quickly saw why they liked that activity. The four shared laughs and stories and had a great time.

The Wednesday’s Child program, sponsored by the Freddie Mac Foundation, is a great recruitment tool. In fact, over 62% of the children featured on Wednesday Child Philadelphia now have a permanent home.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Changing the Foster Care Adoption Process

The September issue of Children and Youth Services Review provides a qualitative study of nine families going through the foster care adoption process; three of them have already dropped out. Researchers noted the factors that support completion: a caring, competent social worker; supportive family and friends; involvement in counselling or parent-support activities. They also identified hindering factors including poor worker performance; the time-consuming and daunting nature of the process; and matching parameters that were too rigid. They also found that families needed to hear from workers often during the long waiting process.

The research recommends rethinking the manner in which agencies match children by having prospective parents check criteria they would accept or not accept and presenting only children who exactly match those criteria. Do you believe these suggestions will help expedite the process?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Importance of Recruitment

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption released a new report outlining their 5-year rigorous, evidence-based evaluation and research, about their Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program (a child-focused recruitment model). DTFA's signature program, Wendy's Wonderful Kids (WWK), provides local adoption agencies (including us at the National Adoption Center) with grants to hire dedicated adoption recruiters who spend 100 percent of their job focused on finding waiting children forever homes. 

The report highlights that children in foster care who are served by the WWK recruitment program are 1.7 times more likely to be adopted than those not served by WWK. The research also highlights the impact of the WWK model is greatest among children who are older or those who have mental health disorders; a population of youth that have traditionally waited the longest for adoption or that are least likely to achieve adoption. The research, which was conducted by Child Trends, documents much-needed information about practices and policies that improve the likelihood of adoption for children in foster care.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gay Adoptions Are On The Rise

this post contributed by our intern, Malini Ragoopath

According to recent reports by the US Census Bureau and the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, the number of lesbians and gay men adopting children has tripled over the past decade and continues to be on the rise. There were 6,477 same sex couples who had an adopted child in 2000; that number grew to an astonishing 21,740 by 2009.

The National Adoption Center (NAC) is thrilled to hear of this development and can attest to rising interest in adoption by the LGBT community. During our most recent adoption match party in New Jersey, 50% of the families who attended were same-sex couples. Growing public acceptance of LGBT family life, coupled with more favorable legislation, as well the presence of more LGBT friendly adoption agencies all help to play a part in the growing interest of adoption by gay men and lesbians.

In addition to match parties, NAC offers resources and services for the LGBT community. This includes our LGBT Adoption Cafés where we present the basics of adoption, provide representatives from LGBT friendly adoption agencies, as well as feature a lively panel discussion with real adoption professionals and adoptive LGBT parents. We also have our online service, AdoptMatch, where adoption agencies profile themselves and potential adopters match themselves with agencies that are the “best fit” for them.

We are encouraged by the increased rate of LGBT adoptions and stand ready to be a resource for prospective families no matter what their sexual orientation.

To see the full report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, click the link below:

http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/2011_10_Expanding_Resources_BestPractices.pdf

Friday, October 28, 2011

Steve Jobs: A Visionary and an Adoptee

this post was written by our MSW Intern, Liz Mehaffey

In 1955, unmarried graduate students Abdulfattah John Jandali and Joanne Carole Schieble gave their child up for adoption. Schieble hoped her baby would be given a better future.

This child was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs, and grew up to become the legendary Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple, Inc.

On October 5, 2011, Steve Jobs left behind a remarkable legacy, and a world that will mourn his loss for years to come. Often compared to Thomas Edison for the caliber of his inventions, Steve Jobs was a visionary, and most recently named “Most Influential Man of the Year” by AskMen.

Stubbornly private in nature, Steve Jobs rarely mentioned his adoption. However, he was always quick to point out that his adopted parents were his parents. When asked by the New York Times what he would like to pass on to his children, Steve Jobs responded, "Just to try to be as good a father to them as my father was to me. I think about that every day."

In a 60 Minutes interview, Jobs remembered an interaction that many adoptees go through. When a childhood friend found out he was adopted, she asked,

“So does that mean your real parents didn’t want you?” Ooooh, lightning bolts went off in my head. I remember running into the house, I think I was (sic) crying, asking my parents. And they sat me down and they said, “No, you don’t understand. We specifically picked you out.” He said, “From then on, I realized that I was not just abandoned. I was chosen. I was special.”

In his 20s, Jobs conducted a search to find his biological family. Through that search, he found his biological sister, Mona Simpson. As the years progressed, he became closer to his sister, often displaying the books she authored in his office, and calling her frequently.

Adopted children come in all shapes and sizes, both young and old. And through adoption, foster children are given the opportunity to flourish and grow, and become part of a family that can love and support them. The Center understands that families are created through love, support and care. As an adoptee, and speaking for the Center, we believe that “There are no unwanted children, just unfound families”™.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Identity

contributed by intern, Abbigail Facey

Understanding one’s identity is a process that takes time to fully appreciate. For many it takes years to understand not only who they are but how their lives correlate to the functioning of the greater society. “How do I fit in the world?” is a question generations before us have pondered and one that will likely be contemplated for years to come. "What makes me unique, different from everyone else, and valuable to the world?" - question echoed throughout the ages.

Personally, I have found that the process of understanding my identity is directly correlated to the connection I have with my family. They have impressed upon me the importance of staying associated with others, honoring the aged, valuing hard work and dedication, and reaching out to those in need. While each family may have varied values and belief systems, I believe each of those value systems significantly impacts the development of one’s identity. To understand one’s identity is to develop a purpose driven life.

I believe that the National Adoption Center helps youth to do just that; develop a connection to the world and understand their identity in society. How? By championing adoption for all children in need, even the older youths, thus working to ensure that every child can have permanent connections to family. I would not be where I am today had it not been for the direction, guidance, care, and influence of my parents. I believe every child deserves the influence of parents who will offer the love and support a child needs especially in their formative years.
I am absolutely thrilled to be interning for an organization that cares so deeply about the development of youth. The Center works, not only for the betterment of young people, but society through its programs that work to prevent incarceration, homelessness, and high school dropout. (All of which occur at higher rates for those children who age out of the system.) It is my hope that through this internship I will learn the success stories of adopted children and their parents. I hope this in turn will help me to know more about the process of adoption, and may lead me to consider adoption for my family in the future.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Bullying Problem


this post contributed by our intern, Malini Ragoopath

Children can sometimes be cruel to one another; especially to other children who are different in any way. Sexual orientation, physical appearance, family income status, and even being adopted are just some of the reasons children may be bullied by their peers. This behavior is detrimental to children’s self esteem and confidence and can lead to fatal consequences.

The recent suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year old teen from Williamsville, NY who committed suicide this past week, is a disturbing wake up call to a problem that has been on a steady rise over the last few years. Rodemeyer had been bullied about his sexual orientation by his classmates for sometime, but was determined to overcome it and help other troubled teens in the process. Jamey became well known after posting an inspirational video on YouTube for other bullied children as part of the “It Gets Better” campaign.

We all know that no two people have exactly the same experiences or life stories and understand that being different should be embraced and not ridiculed. We all come from different walks of life and have unique stories that enhance our individuality. Some children who have been in foster care may be bullied for not having the “normal” mom or dad and can feel self conscious or have low self-confidence because of their “different” experiences. They may be teased, ridiculed, or picked on. It can be even more difficult for an adoptee who is also gay, lesbian, transgender, or a different race from their adoptive parents. More so than not, the main reason a child allows themselves to be bullied or even bully their peers is because of low self esteem or underestimation of their “value”. It is even more vital that parents of these adopted children be active in their child’s life, talk to them about bullying and encourage them to not be afraid of reporting this behavior.

Help your adopted children understand and value their individuality. Do not underestimate the power of a parent’s influence and talk to you child about bullying. Whether you suspect your child is being bullied, or may even be the bully, the same lessons should be passed on. Try to remind them of their value and distinctiveness and make them aware of the consequences of his or her actions and words. Be engaged and make sure you are aware of the anti-bullying policy set forth by your child’s school. Since you cannot be two places at once, try to take preventative measures at home and at school. Though you may be giving your child all your support at home, school is still the place where bullying may occur. We here at the National Adoption Center believe that by talking to your children, giving them the tools to help them from being bullied, and being engaged with your child’s school about anti-bullying you can help put a stop to this odious behavior. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act

this post was written by our MSW Intern, Liz Mehaffey


A bipartisan bill entitled The Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act (S. 1542/HR 2883) has just been passed unanimously by the Senate.  Earlier last week, the bill was passed by the entire House of Representatives. The bill is currently awaiting the signature of the president.

This bill directly affects foster care youth by reauthorizing past legislation, and extending until FY 2016 current policies and procedures that promote and provide stability and support for foster youth.  If the bill did not pass, the programs and waiver authority would have expired September 30, 2011.  This would result in the foster system losing almost $700 million to benefit foster care children.

This bill reflects The Center’s mission by encouraging permanency and support of our foster youth.  According to Representative Geoff Davis “The goal of these programs is to keep families together, while ensuring that children are protected from harm”.

This bill provides care for foster youth until their 21st (compared to their 18th) birthday, and creates support systems for the youth, by providing for them both mentally and physically. More significantly, this money from the bill helps youth reconnect to families, by encouraging kinship care, increasing sibling adoption placements, and reconnecting them with their biological families.  (If you want to read more detail about the bill you can go here:  http://geoffdavis.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=259454)

Since the bill will be implemented at no additional cost, Senator Hatch stated, “By not adding to the deficit, this bill provides a fiscally sound approach towards identifying solutions to many of the problems plaguing the child welfare system today.” The Center supports the passage of this bill, and encourages more legislation to be passed to support our foster youth.



Wednesday, September 14, 2011

LGBT Adoption Issues

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services recently stopped referring foster care and adoption cases to Catholic charitable groups and said it is planning to move all existing cases to other agencies. The action stems from a clash between Catholic doctrine and the state's new law granting the right for same-sex couples to seek civil unions. Catholic agencies have refused to license same-sex couples in civil unions as foster parents — a position state officials say is a deal breaker. The National Adoption Center fully supports the actions taken by Illinois as there should be no impediments to finding secure, loving homes for children in foster care. Where do you stand?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Umps Really Do Care!

Michael and Frank with Umpire Tichenor

On Friday, July 29th, participants from the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program got the chance to not only attend a Phillies game, but also received the VIP treatment from the UMPS CARES Charities and Phillies staff.

The day started off with a tour of the media room, where Michael and Frank (both New Jersey youth awaiting adoption) got the chance to sit in the “hot seat” usually occupied by Phillies' Manager Charlie Manual for interviews after the game. We then got to go onto the field to watch the visiting team (Pittsburgh Pirates) during batting practice. While on the field, umpire Todd Tichenor talked to everyone about his experience with becoming an umpire, and the importance of making good calls on the field and in life. Todd even showed everyone how the umps are able to view instant replays. As the tour concluded, we were all lucky enough to run into Phillies outfielder, Shane Vicotorino who gave us a quick hello.

Michael and Frank with Recruiter Crystal

Everyone was able to stay for the game. We had great seats near home plate where Todd was located. He made sure he found where we were seated and gave us a thumps-up during the game.

UMPS CARE Charities is a 501(c)(3) non-profit established by Major League Baseball (MLB) umpires to provide financial, in-kind and emotional support for America’s youth and families in need. Through our youth-based programs, professional baseball umpires enrich the lives of at-risk youth and children coping with serious illness by providing memorable baseball experiences, supporting pediatric medical care, and raising awareness for foster care children waiting to be adopted.

The Adoption Center of Delaware Valley would like to thank the UMPS CARES Charities, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and the Philadelphia Phillies organization (especially Ryan Hayes) for making this a fun and memorable day for everyone!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Economic Impact on Children

While most Americans are breathing a sigh of relief that the debt-ceiling ‘crisis’ is over, the damage it could cause to U.S. children may be just beginning. Few mainstream economists believe the bill signed by the President will do anything to jumpstart a sluggish economy or create jobs. That means a continuing rapid rise in child poverty rates, and with that, more children and youth will be lost in “the system”. And with the deal’s commitment to cut trillions more in federal spending in the coming decade, it’s unimaginable that children will be spared even more cuts.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Family's Perspective on the Adoption Process

It takes an incredible toughness to go through the adoption process. Our society likes to believe that those who adopt, simply get the idea, gather up a few hundred dollars and whisk out to their local ‘adoption agency’ or ‘birth person on the street’ to ask, ‘Can we have your baby?” If this is what you’ve thought adoption was about, you’re very wrong. The names below are fictitious, but the steps involved to adopt can be very true.

Mary and John have gone through several miscarriages and rounds of IVF. They have approximately $20,000 left. They’ve decided their funding will either be exhausted by continued attempts with IVF; or, they’ll bet on a sure thing with putting their monies into adoption. They feel as though they’ve been through the mire. They’ve been married 6yrs, have good jobs and feel good about making a decision toward something that will have a happy ending. (Adoption)

But before that happy ending can happen, Mary and John will have to undergo a grueling test of just how much they really WANT to have a baby in their home.

How?

By going down the long road of proving themselves worthy to adopt and parent children. This task of proving themselves will put them through one of the toughest journeys of their lives. The process is one of the most ‘one-sided events’ they’ll ever undertake. And, unless they’re well educated and well read, it’s very possible that they’ll lose a considerable amount of money before they have a newborn in their arms…..

Before anyone can legally adopt a baby, they have to have a completed home study. This document is essential to adopt domestically and internationally. The cost for a domestic home study often ranges from $1500.00 – $2000.00. (An international home study often costs more.) The home study involves individual interviews with the prospective parent; interviews with both parents; written referrals from friends, relatives, bosses, and sometimes, their pastor. It will require that the hopeful adoptive couple submit to full disclosure of their tax forms, their loans, expenses, their monthly budget and any other additional income or debts they might have. They’ll be asked if they have a will, life insurance and a designated person to parent their child should both of them die at the same time.

It will require them to write out a biography of their lives and how they met; how long they dated and what kinds of issues they might have dealt with—prior to and post marriage– that were easy or difficult. They’ll have to answer questions about their parents’ discipline; talk about their own ideas concerning children; how their expanded family feels about adoption and how good their sex life is—or is not. They’ll also be required to discuss their failed IVF treatments; whether they think they’re ready to have a baby through adoption and why they think they should be allowed to adopt at all. Oftentimes, their boss will have to submit a letter discussing how well they perform their job and how long they’ve been employed with that job.

If their state requires a foster license in order to adopt across state lines, they’ll have to complete 16 hours of PRIDE or MAPP classes meant for parents of foster children (even if their child won‘t be a foster child). These classes will include discussions and assignments about behavior disorders, sexual and physical abuse of children, how to discuss adoption with older children, and specific mental issues more often seen in older adopted children who‘ve been through the foster care system.

They’ll have to submit to a state (and sometimes national) background and fingerprint check; oftentimes, a CPR class; and usually one or more parenting classes. Sometimes, there are classes designed to explain a recurrent theory holding that even when their child is adopted, they should understand the child is actually not ‘theirs’, but still belonging to the biological family—whether their child will feel actually feel that way or not. (State foster care systems like to remind parents of the theory that most children will long for their biological family……a theory that oftentimes is not true.)

In short, Mary and John will have to expose their innermost feelings, insecurities and strengths about themselves, each other and those in their extended family; then allow others to tell them HOW and WHY those thought processes are either correct or need correction…depending on who their instructors are.

Through all of this, will be a caseworker who will write out the home study and sometimes put his/her own spin on what’s being said or written by Mary and John. More often than not, the caseworker will be a complete stranger to the hopeful adoptive couple.

Sound overwhelming? It can be. Yet this is just the beginning of an adoption journey.

Compare the above then, with those who choose to get pregnant (or can easily get pregnant).

How many documents does a pregnant couple have to fill out? Does anyone ask about their family background? Do they submit to background checks? (In fact, those convicted of sexual offenses continue to have the right to pro-create.) Does anyone ask them what their plans are for discipline or whether they have a Will or someone to parent their children should both of them die at the same time? Do they have to worry their insurance won’t pay for the pregnancy or the birth of their child?

If getting pregnant takes longer than they’d hoped, will the hopeful pregnant couple need to update their family history as adopting couples do every year (and sometimes, every six months)? Barring IVF treatments, will the hopefully pregnant couple have to pay monies to apply for the possibility of having a child? (Adoptive couples can pay thousands in application fees and possible situations.)

It’s frustrating, unfair and oftentimes, those in waiting will want to throw in the towel and quit altogether. Will you??

Friday, June 24, 2011

We Are Not a Statistic!

this post is a guest blog by one of our members of a program we run - the Teen Leadership Development Series... they had their final meeting of the season this past Wednesday and will resume in September




Hey my name is Zhade. I am 17 years old and I am a part of the Teen Leadership Development Series (TLDS). We learn important things necessary for life. For example, we learn things ranging from Independent Living skills, to learning how to deal with our family. We are all from The Division of Youth and Family Services otherwise known to others as DYFS. We are teens ranging from 15 to 19 who want to make a difference in people’s perception of DYFS kids no matter their age.

We want to get rid of the statistics that all DYFS kids are unable to be cared for and that we are incapable of handling ourselves and others. Guess what………WE'RE NOT A STATISTIC WE ARE HUMAN JUST LIKE YOU!!!!!!!! We are capable of many things that we are doubted for. Believe it or not, some of your favorite singers, actors, comedians, and even major people in our lives have been in foster care. For example Tommy Davidson, he was adopted and look at him…famous comedian. Do you still think we are incapable? This is why the TLDS is here to show and explain to the world that we are normal just like you or you. We are humanly capable of anything that anyone else is.

In the month of January we held a meeting and assigned people to certain positions such as president, vice president, treasurer, media, and so on. We did an exercise to simulate if someone was going to throw a party, what things we would bring to it, but instead we replaced the party with the group and had what leadership qualities would you bring to the group every time we meet and even outside of the group.

Also here at the group……you know what I don't like the term "group" instead how ‘bout we say family. Here at our family meetings we have a system to win money...YES real money. There is fake money we have that we call LEAD bucks, and every time we answer a question we are able to put one LEAD buck per answer to increase our chances of winning money. I personally like this because it allows us to interact with each other and our family leaders (TLDS Coordinators and Recruiters) and allows us to have fun. So this is a positive group that we all are a part of, even new members enjoy it. More from me Zhade, the media promoter, next month after our next meeting. Hope u enjoyed my first blog for our family TLDS.  Next time, and be safe.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Desire for a Family

Today's post is from Malini, our Marketing Intern

There was an interesting article on the Today Show website that introduced me to the concept of  “Adult Adoptions”. Adult adoptions are supposedly on the rise in the US, although not every state currently allows them. There are many different reasons as to why people go through with adult adoptions; the main reason being a continued desire of former foster youth for a permanent family and the support, guidance, and companionship than stems from that. Most children in foster care, available for adoption, understand this desire. A permanent, stable “family” is what most people want, no matter their age. It brought to mind the question, “What defines a family?” Is there a clear definition?

The article featured on the Today Show website tells the story of Jillian, adopted at the age of 29 by her co-worker and husband. Although Jillian was not in foster care, she did suffer an unfortunate childhood with abusive and troubled parents; a familiar situation for many foster youth. What are your thoughts are on Adult Adoptions after reading the article? Should other states, which currently do not recognize Adult Adoption, join Washington state in making them legal?


Picking your parents: Adult adoption creates new bond

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fixing the System

The story below from the Huffington Post is unfortunately very typical, and just about any state can be substituted for California. What can we do to make the system more user-friendly for prospective parents who want to adopt from the foster care system?

from the Huffington Post  May 25, 2011
For James and Stephanie, their experience with California's public agencies is where the adoption process became a story of frustration, unreturned calls, and irrational bureaucracy. It took over a year before they were even considered for a waiting child. Their struggle presents a case study in the obstacles that face anyone trying to adopt a child from a public agency in California.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-katz/california-adoption-why-is-it-so-hard_b_854715.html

Monday, May 23, 2011

Knowing Where You Came From

Some time ago, I wrote a magazine article about Mary Lou who learned when she was 30 that she had been adopted.  “I always knew I was different  from other members of my family,” she told me, “but I couldn’t put my finger on what I was feeling.”  From the moment she learned about her adoption, she became obsessed with wanting to find out more about her birth parents.  Every time she stopped her car at a red light, she peered into the car next to her to see if anyone looked like her.   When she sat under the hair dryer at the beauty salon, she scanned the faces of other women to see if she could detect  a resemblance.  She knew she had been born in a small town in Pennsylvania and when she accompanied her husband on a business trip to that town, she had a feeling she might get closer to her roots.   She told me that when she gazed out of the hotel window where she and her husband were staying, she had the feeling she was close to her birth mother.  She learned later that her birth mother had died, but was buried in a cemetery that she could see from that window.  While she was not able to meet her, it gave her a sense of peace to know more about her and what had happened to her.

I thought about Mary Lou when I read an editorial the other day with the headline, “Let the truth be set free.”  The article that followed described a bill passed by the New Jersey Assembly that, if signed by Governor Christie, would give adults access to their original birth records.   Only a handful of states allow that access.  In those that do, it is the experience that not every adopted adult takes advantage of that option.  Many of those who are adopted are content without digging into their past. However, for those like Mary Lou who agonized about her origin for years, access to their records would be freeing not only for them but for their adoptive parents who want their children to be as emotionally well-adjusted  as possible.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Responding to Match Party Comments

The following was written by Chris Jacobs our Program Director.

I would like to respond with some facts about National Adoption Center match parties. The children and teens who attend do know that they are coming to an event to meet families. The Center believes that not every child or teen is appropriate to attend a match party and no child/teen should be forced to attend. Children are prepared by their social workers to know what to expect, or in the case of our teens-only events, two preparation meetings are held with the teens before the match party to go over the agenda for the day, and address any concerns or questions they have.   

Of course, meeting families face-to-face is exciting and can also be scary---for the youth and for the families!    Center staff also meet with the families before each party to once again go over the agenda for the day and to coach them (because they are also nervous) about being sensitive to the youth, respecting their privacy and using this as an opportunity to interact and share what they have in common. The staff also provides some do’s and don’ts (no pictures taken with their cell phones, no promises made to youth, no discussion of adoption.)

The Center believes that the youth must have a voice in their own recruitment and our parties are planned to be “no pressure,” fun for the youth and always respectful of their feelings and privacy. There will inevitably be youth who attend for whom families do not request additional information. However, a match party is just one strategy their social worker can use to find them a family. The Center encourages the social worker to  discuss with the child, after the party, the child’s reaction to the experience.

It has been the experience of the National Adoption Center and other organizations that have sponsored such parties, that if the events are orchestrated with sensitivity and the children are prepared well before and talk with their social workers afterward, the experience will be a positive one for the child. As one enthusiastic social worker said, “In a perfect world, we would not need adoption parties.” The reality is that nearly 120,000 children around the country are yearning for permanent families. Attending such events increases their chances dramatically.”



Obama On National Foster Care Month

May is National Foster Care Month!—“Across America, there are families who need these children as much as these children need families,” said President Obama in his Presidential Proclamation for National Foster Care Month. Obama stated the Administration’s commitment to achieve security for every child and raised visibility to permanency initiatives at the Department of Health and Human Services. These initiatives are focused on reducing long-term foster care for children and over the next five years will invest $100 million in new intervention strategies to help youth move into permanent families. Recognizing that the Nation has a responsibility to provide the best care possible for children when they cannot remain in their own homes, Obama recognized the efforts of tireless individuals that work on behalf of children in out of home care. To access the White House press release visit:http://tiny.cc/900hv

Friday, May 6, 2011

Match Parties - are you for or against?

The National Adoption Center plans and executes multiple Match Parties throughout the year. These parties are a signature recruitment vehicle for the Center and a truly wonderful opportunity for children & youth looking to be adopted to interact with prospective parents in a safe, secure and fun environment. Our success rate is often as high as forty percent.

Countless new “forever families” have been created thanks to our Match Parties, yet we sometimes receive pushback from folks who believe these events are exploitive to the children. What do you think?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Finding Home


Our daughter found her birth/first family.  And when they responded—in kindness with no doubt a good dash of curiosity—they invited her to visit.  She took them up on the invitation.  (And yes, gut reaction: I was thrilled for her—and them—but, at the same time, died a little inside.)

An adult now, she needed no permission to go.  Using her own instinct to confirm this was the right time, she and her boyfriend made the trek several months ago. I heard later that all who gathered were delighted how well she fit in, particularly with sibling sisters—in looks, height, temperament—for they were amazed that they all share the “same” nose, thin hair, and baby blue eyes. (Amidst the giggles, their mantra:  “Oh, thank goodness, I’m not the only one!”)

It had been over 16 years since she’d seen them face to face.  I daresay she might not have remembered much of that visit, but I do. That was a trial because she wanted to stay with them. Felt right at home.  Did not want to get in the car and drive to our house. Kicked.  Yelled.  Begged.  The whole gamut of emotions.  All of it—anguish included—broke my heart at the time.

With screaming by her and blubbering by me, my husband had quite a time driving in torrential flooding rains through several states.  At one point, she started a new wave of hacking emotion and blurted once again, “I want to go back home—back there!”  When I protested and said we would miss her too much, she looked at me with a puzzled stare, “Well, I’d only stay if you and dad stayed, too!”  (Hmmm.  Good to know.)

We never hid from her the fact that she is adopted.  In fact, we used the term often–both casually and formally.  It was a natural, any day term she grew up hearing.  I imagine it shaped her identity somewhat, even when she was quite young and didn’t understand all of its ramifications. 

Carroll Connor (the actor who played “Archie Bunker”) was reported to have said to his adopted son, “It’s like this:  when your mother and I got married, she ‘adopted’ me and I ‘adopted’ her, and then we adopted you!”   I liked it.  Simple. Clean. Sweet. True.
 
And isn’t it true how much we do “adopt” each other within family circumstances, neighborhoods, church or temple communities, or even workplace teams!  We labor at cultivating harmony by adopting and adapting to the practices and ideas of others, even when doing so pushes our buttons.  Even as it makes us grow and reminds us that we are each a “work in progress.” 

We adapt and weave our unique threads in many tapestries within our lives. Sometimes we adopt good or even great things from one another.  Sometimes, we take on, shall we say, some less loveable characteristics.  Nonetheless, they help form us (and the tapestry to which we contribute), making us more of who we grow up and in to being.   
 
Remembering that didn’t stop my heart from pounding when she said she was going on her adventure.  Or when, at five, she wanted to stay in the house of her first parent.  Rather than react, we thought it best to respond—in kind and kindness.  But there are natural questions adoptive parents have.  Will she still love us?  Will she want to be with us?  And bottom line:  now what do we do?

I always sensed that her natural inquisitive nature would, at some point in her life, win out and she would opt to search for her biological roots.  We told her when she was ready to find her first family members, we would do whatever we could to help her. That she found them on her own was to her credit and her will.  (She has both, in spades!)  

One of the most difficult things any parent does is let their child(ren) grow up.  In an adopted child’s life, this might extend to being okay with or even supporting them to discover their roots and go “home” to a first parent.  Not easy.  Not necessarily comfortable.  But real, nonetheless.
 
During the visit, we Skyped.  After she left the chat, those who stayed behind told us how well she fit in and said how fun it was to see what a remarkable young woman she is becoming.  (Of course, we concur!)  I did my best not to cry (and, in a feat quite remarkable for me, succeeded!).  

Giving her wings and encouraging her to fly was a bit risky, because—well, she did just that!  (She’s always been and will forever be fiercely independent!)  Referencing the Khalil Gibran quote from The Prophet about our children being the arrows—I would say, in her case, she was both archer and arrow; she saw the target and willed herself there.  She discovered the door and could not but open it.  She looked for and found (another) home.   In her case, search and reunion resulted in a true reintegration that was wonderful for all involved.  Seeing them, Skype-face-to-Skype-face, after so many years was quite amazing; it was obvious how delighted they were to be with her again.   We heard their laughter, as natural and knowing as any family’s, for in the span of being together less than a week it was clear they cultivated private and “had to be there” jokes.
 
What I wondered (okay, worried) about was:  would she “settle” there–in that home–or would she return and still be “at home” with us?   It is a valid question to which only she held the answer! No matter the hurt on our part, we would have supported any decision she made.  So this left us with a choice:  be sad for me/us or be happy for her/them.  We chose and continue to choose to be happy for her/them. 
 
True to her nature, she let us know her most amiable answer:  to be in touch with all.  To love and respect all.  As the archer, she shot for a distant shore and could have remained there.  But, as the arrow, she found she could consider home, for her, where the heart is.  Hers.  Ours.  Theirs! 

Before she went, we faced the possibility that she might no longer acknowledge her adoptive home. After all, she had stars in her eyes, adventure in her back pocket, and a passion for the unknown as scintillating as any pioneer who crossed the prairies in search of a new home. 

Upon her return, I asked her what she felt about “family” now?  Her answer:  “Oh—nothing different, really.  Family?—it’s just bigger, that’s all.   I am like them in some ways.  And I am more like you and dad in other ways.  But it’s all good.”

While I experienced a wall between us and some quite palpable distance before she went, the months since her return, much to my surprise, there seems to be emerging a unique and different closeness—she calls a bit more often to tell us news and even asks our help now and again.

She went home and came home and is home—all at once. Based on this experience, this I know is true:  all of us are working toward going home and finding “home”—being with people we love and “at home” as ourselves with them.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Delaware Valley Legacy Fund’s Non-profit of the Year

We just received some extremely exciting news.  The National Adoption Center has been named the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund’s Non-profit of the Year!  To mark this honor, DVLF will present us with an award at their annual Heroes event. 

The Hero awards are given to youth (21 and under), adults, non-profits, and businesses who have bold ideas, act with selfless intention, are admired for their integrity, and are regarded as courageous in advancing the equality of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community in the Delaware Valley and beyond. 

We are honored by this award, but do not consider ourselves as heroes nor the work we do heroic.  But our work is meaningful and does make a difference. 

We saw this firsthand at a recent event tailored specifically to the LGBT community.  The event, called the LGBT Adoption Café, was a forum meant to introduce members of our local LGBT community to the world of adoption.  Among other things, there was a panel comprised of gay and lesbian adoptive parents and adoption professionals.  The discussion was honest and informative.  The day before the event – after months of partnering, planning, promoting and creating a worthwhile event the weather forecast called for torrential downpours and emergency flood warnings!  It was too late in the game to cancel; we had to take a deep breath and hope for the best.  That evening we were amazed at the turnout!  We had over 80 participants, all eager to learn about adoption.  It was evident that the event was needed and worthwhile. 

Our goal is to expand the pool of potential permanent families in the LGBT community and develop services for LGBT prospective families.  We do this through educating, advocating and promoting best practices for culturally competent services within the child welfare system.  Heroic?  No.  Addressing the fundamental human right to parent?  We certainly believe so.


The Delaware Valley Legacy Fund (DVLF) strives to increase philanthropy and grantmaking to support the community needs of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight-allied communities. DVLF advances philanthropy for the LGBT community through endowment building, fundraising, community outreach and education.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Possible Change in Virginia’s Adoption Policy

Getting to the Semantics
There is currently a movement in the state of Virginia where progressive gay and lesbian groups are urging Governor Bob McDonnell to support a proposed non-discrimination provision for the current adoption policy in Virginia. The change has to do with simple semantics. It calls for a modification of the language of the policy, which currently excludes unmarried couples from adopting. The new proposed language would prohibit delaying or denying someone the chance to adopt based on race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. This provision does nothing more than ensure that a person who seeks to adopt a child is not denied the opportunity simply because of who he or she is or what he or she believes. One positive outcome from this change is that hundreds of homes could potentially welcome children from the foster care system desperately waiting for a family.

The National Adoption Center has, for decades, been an advocate for the LGBT community and their rights to adopt. Through our proactive programs, we help spread the word to the LGBT community about their opportunities to adopt and welcome them as potential adopters. There are currently 5,000 children up for adoption in Virginia and we see the gay community there as one that widens the pool of prospective parents for these waiting children.

Governor Bob McDonnell currently not supportive of the language improvement and has until Saturday to give his official recommendation to the Social Services Board which has the final say in the matter. You can help push this provision forward by writing to Governor Bob McDonnell via his website (listed below) and urging him to lend his support. You can also visit the website for Equality Virginia, a leading gay rights group in Virginia, and send a letter to the Chair of the State Board of Social Services via a link on their homepage (link also listed below).

Equality Virginia:

http://www.equalityvirginia.org/

Write to Gov. Bob McDonnell:

http://www.governor.virginia.gov/aboutthegovernor/contactgovernor.cfm

Learn more about the National Adoption Center LGBT Initiative at:

http://www.adopt.org/assembled/lgbt_initiative.html

Friday, April 1, 2011

Is Cost a Factor?

Adoptive Families magazine recently surveyed its readers on the type and cost involved in their adoptions during the previous year. With over 1,800 parents responding, the 2009-2010 Cost of Adoption Survey reported the following mean costs: newborn (agency-$33,793, attorney-$31,465); international adoption (ranging from $28,254 in Ethiopia to $49,749 in Russia): and U.S. foster care ($2,704 and receive monthly subsidy averaging $604). Does the cost of adoption play a significant role in the type chosen?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Race and Adoption

I read with great interest an article the other day which noted that race should no longer be a key criterion for social workers seeking adoptive families for children in foster care in Great Britain, stressing that the priority must instead be to quickly find a child a new home. Issuing new advice to those working on adoptions, and dismissing critics including the National Association of Black Social Workers in the United States, Education Secretary Michael Grove, himself adopted as a child, is moving Britain closer in line to its European neighbors, who largely disregard a child’s ethnicity. What do you think?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Adopting Teens

Last week I had the chance to take three boys to a radio show to talk about the kind of families they hoped might adopt them. The boys were not the young school-aged children I often take to this show. One was 11, the other two were were teenagers—14 and 15; all of them still hope that there may be a family that will want them.

Teenagers often go unnoticed by prospective adopters. Some don’t know that teenagers are available to be adopted. Others hesitate to adopt an adolescent, believing that they can’t have much impact on the way he or she will grow up. I wish those skeptics could have been with me last week and listened to what the children said:

Shahid, 15: I want a family that will always care about me and will be there for me. I would give them love and make them proud of me.

Cinque, 11: I’m imaginative and like to think things through. I want to be an archeologist when I grow up and hope I will have parents to encourage me. My biggest hope is that soon I will be in a good home.

Zamir, 15: Having a family is so important to me. It’s what I want more than anything else. I would be a good son, help around the house and be kind to them and to other people. I haven’t given up.

More adoption agencies are focusing on teenagers. They know what happens when children “age out” of foster care without a permanent family. Teenage pregnancy rates soar. Drug and alcohol abuse are common. Their rates of crime, delinquency and mental illness escalate. That’s why the National Adoption Center has been holding adoption “match” parties for teenagers. Its next one, funded by the Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption Network (SWAN) is scheduled for Saturday, March 26 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Philadelphia.

People who have adopted teenagers say they wish they hadn’t hesitated…they wish they had done it sooner. “I can see how my son has changed since he has been with my partner and me in a stable home,” says Edward. “He can focus more on his schoolwork and his grades have improved. And he no longer worries that one day he’ll have to pack his bags and move on to the next home. He knows he’s here to stay.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday’s Child Philadelphia Spolight on Traquan


Meet Traquan! He is a respectful and outgoing 12-year-old with a passion for sports, matchbox cars and art classes. He is well-behaved and enjoys school, but above all he loves animals (especially dogs)! He would like to work in a pet store when he gets older, and he dreams of one day running his own animal shelter.

For Traquan, the location of his Wednesday’s Child taping was a no-brainer: an animal shelter! Traquan spent the day with Wednesday’s Child host Vai Sikahema and the crew at PAWS (Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society), a no-kill organization that cares for cats and dogs in need of homes. Traquan had the chance to play with Coco and Fred, two sweet and adorable dogs up for adoption. Traquan also held tiny kittens that craved attention while he and Vai chatted about his hope to find a family that loves animals as much as he does. He finished the day with a tour of the facility to get a better idea of how a shelter operates. Even though Traquan couldn’t take any animals home with him, he left knowing that the shelter would take good care of them until they could find their forever home!

The most memorable moment of the day was when Traquan revealed that he feels a special connection with foster animals because they are a lot like him. Just like Traquan, they are all waiting to go home to a good family that will keep them forever. He would take them all if he could, but first he needs to find his own loving and supportive family—pets preferred!

Will you be that family for Traquan?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday’s Child Philadelphia - Featured Brothers - Darius & Shaquan


Meet Darius, 18 and Shaquan, 16! Darius has a genuine love for computers while Shaquan is an aspiring rapper with a passion for poetry and hip hop. While these two brothers have a diversity of interests, they share a love for one thing: basketball! In school, they both do very well and participate on the basketball team.

Darius and Shaquan recently got to spend the day with Wednesday’s Child host Vai Sikahema and the crew at Funplex! The boys spent the day living the dream of most teenagers: playing fun games and chilling out! Darius and Shaquan challenged Vai to a game of air hockey before they all raced around the go-kart track. Laser tag was also a hit! Basketball was the final event before the trio headed for lunch.

Darius and Shaquan’s day at the Funplex was a blast for everyone involved! Now the boys are looking to find a family that will adopt them together. If that’s not possible, then they at least want a family that will allow them to maintain their special sibling bond.

Will you be that family for Darius and Shaquan?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Somewhere Under the Rainbow!

Wow Florida! It's about time you were able to fly!

In October, 2010 a ruling overturned the over 30 year ban on gay and lesbian adoption in the Sunshine State. While gays and lesbians had been permitted to foster parent, under Florida law those in the LGBT community were previously prohibited from becoming adoptive parents. That ruling should finally set you free. Time to celebrate! Right! Or is it?

Last summer I was in Florida to visit family and had the pleasure of meeting my sister’s fiancé’s sister and her partner. What I remember most was their heartfelt tears as they talked about their passion to become parents. They had done their homework; they knew over 6,000 children in their state alone were in the foster care system awaiting adoption. They were heartbroken that adopting was but a pipe dream. Seeing them together, it was obvious they cared about each other and would do whatever necessary to provide a loving, permanent home for a child.

That was pre-ruling. Looking at their options at that time, things seemed bleak. For one thing, they were scared about how to start and even what to do. Should they be honest, they wondered? They could then only foster parent. Should just one of them adopt, and refer to their partner as a “roommate”? Should their house rental be in only one name? Or should they just resign themselves to life without a child? Would it be better to move to a neighboring state, adopt, and eventually relocate back home? No easy answers.

Given the law in force last summer, they decided to foster parent. After the ruling, I heard they are overjoyed at the prospect of legally adopting and as I understand, have officially started the adoption process.

But Florida, now what gives? Just when you are finally granting rights and freedoms, I understand you are considering backpedaling. I (and probably many others) can’t help but wonder why? !

According to an article in the Ft. Lauderdale Examiner on January 27, 2011, Florida’s Governor, Rick Scott, wants to overrule the state’s new gay adoption policy. And his new Secretary of the Department of Children and Families appointee, David Wilkins, apparently shares his view.

What -- !?
Would it be more benevolent on their part to talk to those affected by such a tangible overruling? Might they consider such findings before proceeding?—

From the census taken in 2000, only 24% of homes had a married mother and father with children living at home.

The Florida court argues that children are better off raised in a two-parent heterosexual household. In fact, scientific studies have shown that children who grow up in one or two-parent gay or lesbian households fare just as well emotionally and socially as children whose parents are heterosexual. Studies have shown that children are more influenced by their interactions with their parents, than by their sexual orientation. With this in mind, the American Association of Pediatrics supports gay and lesbian couples adopting children.1

Florida LGBT Community, while you should be pinching yourself at the good news, you might be asking: is this still but a dream?

The National Adoption Center tagline reads: “There are no unwanted children, just unfound homes.” It seems there is quite a surplus of unfound homes in Florida that are more than ready to be” found”!

I hope those in Florida’s LGBT community who have already started the adoption process continue toward that goal, despite any bumps or roadblocks. As you wrestle with your courage, realize that many people are rooting for you. At some point, Florida will stop this fight.

Don’t give up. If not now, when? If not you, who? Click your red ruby slippers. Perhaps you could repeat Glinda’s watchword to Dorothy, with a twist: “There is nothing like making a home. There is nothing like making a home. There is nothing like making a home”. You know who you are ready to be: the “found” forever family who will parent your very wanted child with love and integrity.

In this time of confusion, remember the rainbow – such a source of pride and covenant. Rise above the difficulties and fly high under its glorious message!



NEWS! There is an upcoming event open to anyone living in easy driving distance of Philadelphia who would like to explore the options of LGBT adoption. The National Adoption Center’s LGBT Adoption Café will be held on March 10th from 6 – 8 pm. This is an educational event at which a complimentary light dinner will be offered. From explaining the basics of adoption to more probing questions, the panel will answer questions and assist one to advocate for themselves in the adoption process. To register, call 215-735-9988 x304 Beth Vogel.

(1) Taken from “Both Sides of the Issue” Lesbian and Gay Adoption Rights, By Kathy Belge, About.com Guide

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wednesday's Child Spotlight on Kareem!


Meet nine-year-old Kareem! This outgoing and friendly young man has a passion for staying active and learning new things. In his spare time he enjoys playing with monster trucks, watching SpongeBob, and playing outside. In the third grade, Kareem performs well academically and gets along well with his instructors and peers. He particularly enjoys math and gym classes. Kareem aspires to be a fireman.

Kareem recently got a peek into the Fire Department world as he met up with Wednesday’s Child host Vai Sikahema at the Philadelphia Fire Academy for a day of fun, learning, and adventure. The two met with Lt. Gilliam, who gave them a tour of the facility. They then headed to learn to ride a fire truck, a stimulator of course. Kareem also learned about many of the tools firemen use to do their job. They then suited up, and worked on a mission to save a baby from a building. Kareem felt like a superhero! As they headed out, Commissioner Lloyd Ayers met with Kareem and encouraged him to be his best. He shared some history about the Fire Department and listened as Kareem shared his goals about some day joining the team.

Kareem’s day at the Fire Academy was definitely a success! Vai later sat with Kareem to discuss what he is looking for in a family. Kareem longs for a family to call his own, one that will be his forever, and that will love and support him as he becomes a “grown-up.” He also hopes for a family with siblings to play with. A family that is caring, loving, and supportive will give Kareem a solid foundation for the future.