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, 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.

Monday, February 7, 2011

This just might surprise you….

contributed by Beth

I recently came upon an article in the New York Times that had very surprising data. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it seems that gay parenting has become more common in the South. That’s right, I said the South. The same states that are typically known for more conservative attitudes concerning family are becoming a hub for same sex couples and their families. Recent data shows that Jacksonville and San Antonio currently house the two largest populations of gay couples raising children. It was also found that gay couples living in states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas are more likely to raise a child than same sex couples on the West Coast and New York! The main reason for this seems to be the improvements made within the LGBT community, for example more gay-friendly churches have been emerging, as well as support groups for children that have same-sex parents. It is encouraging to hear that more and more regions are becoming accepting of gay parenting and providing culturally sensitive family support services for them. It is also a testament to the strength and perseverance of the organizations that support same sex couple adoption.

The National Adoption Center has been working with LGBT families for a long time and believes that many more members of the LGBT community would become interested in adoption if they knew more about it. That is why we are hosting a FREE, informative LGBT Adoption Café on March 10th, 2011. The event will be held at the Commodore Barry Club, The Irish Center in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia and will feature panel discussions with gay parents who have adopted in the past and adoption professionals who will offer their insights on the adoption process. It will also include adoption agency resource tables, as well as a complimentary light dinner. We believe that by spreading awareness to the LGBT community, more individuals and couples will become inspired to adopt and give a child the gift of a forever family.

For more information about the event,
Please contact Beth Vogel at: (215) 735-9988 ext 304.

Friday, February 4, 2011

My “Unadoptable” Son

Below is the story of a mother and her son. When others felt her son was “unadoptable” she knew otherwise.

My “Unadoptable” Son

I met my son when I worked a long term care facility for children. I am a physical therapist. Tim* came to the facility as a crack baby with multiple medical complications. He was born at 26 weeks in a crack house in Camden. Somehow he managed to survive his birth. He had three brain bleeds at birth, as well as hydrocephaly and seizures. A shunt was placed for the hydrocephaly. A feeding tube was placed because he couldn't coordinate drinking from a bottle. He spent months in Cooper Hospital’s NICU, and then did a stay in a rehab hospital. After that, he was moved to a residence for medically fragile children in Camden to await a foster home equipped to handle his needs. This was all before he turned one. A home wasn't found; he had some medical complications, so he was moved to the long term care facility where I worked.

Once at the facility, his birth mother was prevented from seeing him due to threatening staff. His birth father then surfaced, and he expressed interest in bringing Tim home. However he could never get his act together to do this.

I was Tim's PT from the time he arrived until I brought him home -- four years later. It took DYFS that long to finally terminate his parental rights! At that time I was leaving the facility to pursue another job in Early Intervention. I hated leaving Tim behind, and knew that his caseworker was not actively looking for a home for him. So I decided as a single parent that I would bring home home.

Tim's medical history reads like a train wreck. He has cerebral palsy, reflux, hydrocephaly, severe dysphasia, motor and cognitive impairments. He was 100% tube fed when I brought him home. I taught him how to eat, although he still doesn't know how to chew, so I have to chop his food up. We have multiple doctors’ appointments annually with all of his specialists at CHOP. He had two shunt surgeries last year in seven weeks. He sounds pretty “unadoptable” doesn’t he?

Now for the good part. He is an adorable loving boy who talks, walks, runs. He loves Monster trucks, plays video games, and is learning to read, do math, science, etc. He's not a "normal" 12-year-old. But he is my Time, and I love him! Even if he never made any more progress than where he was when I brought him home, I would have loved him as much as I do today. He is a true joy, and brings happiness to everyone he meets. My life would be empty without him.

* Not his real name

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Celebration of Family!

For those of us residing in the Northeast (or any cold climate for that matter), the words “pitchers and catchers report in two weeks” is music to our ears. What better way to escape the winter doldrums than by fantasizing about spring training??

Guests at the National Adoption Center’s annual Celebration of Family can do more than just imagine what it’s like to be a big-league ballplayer! Take a tour of Citizens Bank Park, home of the Phillies? Run the Bases? Take a few swings in the batting cages? You and your children can do all these and more at our April 8 event where we celebrate what adoption means to all of us - Family. All the exciting details are posted on our website. See you at the ballpark!