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29Mar

Hitting It Out Of The Park

This past Saturday we co-sponsored a matching event with SWAN (Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network) focused on older children (10+). We held the event at beautiful Citizens Bank Park, home of the Phillies. We had a wonderful turnout that included 19 children and 15 families. Most of the youth and families arrived feeling excited and a bit nervous. This mixture of feelings is normal for an event such as this one, but we do various activities throughout the day to lessen the stress of the day.

We began the day with separate meetings for the families and the youth. In these smaller groups, the participants met one another, got an overview of the day and their questions about the day answered. Our Master of Ceremonies, Joshua Strelbicki, led the youth and families through a variety of icebreakers and team-building games. The kids and families had fun completing the activities together. A buffet lunch featuring Philly cheesesteaks followed and a surprise visit by Phoebe Phanatic was a big hit.

Everyone then got to go on a “behind the scenes tour” of the stadium. Afterwards, the youth participated in an activity we call “Everyone Has a Voice.” The youth and Joshua sit in a circle and the kids talk about their hopes and dreams while the adults sit quietly and listen. We wrapped up the day with the kids decorating t-shirts while the prospective parents filled out information about the children they wanted to learn more about.

Here's one family's experience:
The family drove for two hours to attend the event and it was their first time attending something like this. They felt wary and nervous about the experience. They had previously been approved to adopt a child up to the age of ten, but after meeting the kids on Saturday asked their social worker to raise the age they are interested in to sixteen. They felt the most valuable part of the day for them were the interactive games. It helped to break the tension and helped them to meet every youth there. They left feeling that they wanted to take every child home! They also left feeling more confident in their ability to bring and older youth into their family!

20Mar

Measuring the Outcomes

Recently, the lack of effectiveness of federally-funded programs has been a topic in the news. We know that same yardstick - dollars per unit of effectiveness- is also important at non-profits. Continued funding for programs is contingent on evidence based-outcomes provided through data. Also, our staff needs to know what about our programs is working. Areas of professional practice, such as medicine, psychology, and also social work have had periods in the past where methods and practice were based on the anecdotal experiences of others and were not rooted in valid scientific evidence. Evidence-based practice is research finding that is derived from the collection of data. It is tested and proven rather than based on someone’s experience.

At the National Adoption Center, we do collect and analyze data and use it to inform our program work. Recently we decided to step it up a notch and work with a researcher to look at what data we are collecting for one of our core programs, Match Events. These events are held a minimum of six times a year and we have been surveying our attendees, the families, social workers and the youth. With the help of a researcher, we have crafted more meaningful surveys that will provide us with specific outcomes we are looking to measure. As an organization, it will benefit our work to look at every core program and evaluate its effectiveness, usefulness and all outcomes.

3Mar

How Not-For-Profit Accounting is Different from Other Accounting

contributed by Louis Gonczy, Director of Finance and Administration
Accounting at a not for-profit is quite different from other businesses. The goals and profit objectives run down very different paths.

In a for-profit business your objective is to show as much profit as you can. On one hand you try to generate as much income as possible while keeping expenses as low as possible. You will never spend money that you don’t absolutely need to spend for functioning and growing of the business.

At a not-for-profit like the National Adoption Center our objective is to help as many as we can, based on our mission. Here, as in a for-profit business, we also try to generate as much income (grants & donations) as we can. However our expense objective is to spend as much as we can! For example, we may receive a grant of $100,000 to help children in foster care with their adoption process. The grant may specify that the funds are only to be used for this purpose and any unused monies are to be returned to the grantor. As we proceed through the life of the grant, if we’ve been able to economize and have only spent $75,000, we’ll look for ways to spend the remaining $25,000 in ways that fit within the guidelines of the grant. The last thing we want to do is not spend what we've been graciously awarded to further help children in care.

In a for-profit business, if you have unspent monies, it is considered a good thing, while quite the opposite may be true at a not-for-profit.

13Feb

Why Do Some Adoptions Fail?

Too often in our line of work we get the bad news that an adoption placement has disrupted, and even worse, we occasionally get the news that there has been a dissolution in an adoption. In both situations, the parents, or parents-to-be have decided to give the child back to the state-run foster care system. "Disruption" is the term used when the relationship breakdown occurs before the adoption has been finalized in a court of law. "Dissolution" happens if the familial relationship is ended after the adoption has been legally finalized. At an adoption finalization, the presiding judge often reinforces to the adult(s) that the child(ren) that they are adopting are just as much (legally) their child(ren) as if they were biologically born to the family. We always hope that the parents are absorbing that point and embrace being a family even before the finalization occurs. So, what happens in these relationships that causes these breakups? Why is the disruption rate so high, especially in older youth placements?

I attended a training given by Pat Carter-Sage, M.Ed, NCC LPC, where she opened my eyes to some core issues that tend to be the root of disruptions. Pat Carter-Sage’s work centers around attachment theories and because many of our youth have attachment difficulties these points hit home. Briefly, here few of the core issues that she covered and that I have seen at work in cases of disruption that I have witnessed.

Entitlement. Often parents will struggle with what they are entitled to feel towards the child. They may question “Do I have the right to parent this child?” The child, after years of abuse and shame, may ask “Do I deserve this love? Family? Security?“ These questions in the child’s mind often lead to sabotaging the placement.

Unmatched Expectations. Unmatched expectations go in both directions, from parents and from the youth. Parents, along with their support systems, expect youth to come in their homes overflowing with gratitude and always displaying good behavior. This is not the feeling that most of the youth are experiencing. They are truly experiencing great loss from not being able to live with their birth families. For their part, youth often come with unrealistic expectations for the families. They may have been dreaming of their “perfect family” for years before being adopted only to realize that no family is going to be perfect.

Separation, Loss, and Grief. Again, this is experienced by both the parents and the youth in adoption. A friend, who is an adopted father of two, once told me “Adoption is the happiest ending for the most tragic event.” His statement made me think deeply then and I still think about that now, years later. The children are experiencing a tragedy of not living with their biological families, no matter how terrible the situation was, this is a very real trauma. We must allow them to grieve this. We cannot just assume the kids are happier now that they are out of the biological home, since the home was not suitable to care for them. From the adult's side, we often work with parents who have experienced infertility, or loss of a child, and have not fully grieved these experiences. Without properly dealing with these feelings, one cannot properly move forward and be a successful home.

With that all being said, how can we lessen the rates of disruption and dissolution? I think the main solution is asking for help. These issues are just a few of the issues that will come up, and they are all deep and complex. Education and counseling pre-adoptive placement, during the placement, and post finalization are vital to a successful adoption. No one goes into the adoption process thinking, well if this doesn’t work out then I can always just give the child back, no one thinks that their family will add to the statistic, but it does happen. Parenting in any capacity takes hard work, and there is no shame in asking for help.

27Jan

A Tasty Way To Get To Know Each Other

This past Saturday, the National Adoption Center in partnership with New Jersey’s Department of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) hosted their first match event of the New Year! Thanks to the lovely staff at Le Gourmet Factory Cooking School in Englewood, NJ our event went off without a hitch. This particular event was what we at NAC like to call a “Chat & Chew”. Essentially, it’s an event where families and youth make a meal together. On the menu we had, fresh honey scones with orange rosemary butter, romaine salad with blueberries and candied walnuts with grilled chicken in a lemon vinaigrette, maple and brown sugar glazed sausage, french toast dippers with maple yogurt, and a cinnamon raisin bread pudding with vanilla crème. And trust me, it tasted just as good as it sounds! At this event, we were fortunate enough to allow ten families to meet 12 awesome New Jersey youth who are eagerly waiting to meet their forever family. I personally love our Chat & Chew events because cooking and eating together is a great way to connect with one another. Just being able to observe the event from the side linebrought a smile to my face because everyone else was smiling. They all looked happy to be able to participate and excited to eat!

With any match event, you do have your sad moments where one of the younger attendees asks if the families would be taking them home after the event was over. Questions like this always break my heart because you can tell how bad these youth want to meet “that” family. The family that’s going to love them, support them, and give them the world. This is what drives NAC to host the best events possible. We want to be able to say we played a part in helping a youth find their forever family.

If adoption is something you have been considering I would like to invite you to our future match events. We host four match events for New Jersey from July to June. You do not have to be a New Jersey family to attend. However, only New Jersey youth will be at these events. If you are a licensed family and have a current homestudy, you’re eligible to attend. Our last 2 events will be in held in April and June. If you’re interested in learning more feel free to reach out. I would be happy to answer your questions!

Contributed by Anna Coleman. To speak with her, please call 267-553-1867 or email at acoleman@adopt.org

9Dec

A Season of Giving

With a little help from our friends at Wendy's, we've been able to spread the holiday spirit. Santa's elves begin their work in September, making sure to get the lists of children's wishes correct. This involves lots of emails, phone calls and visits. These lists are then sent to another set of elves (our Wendy's Elves) who purchase and wrap the gifts. Next we get the gifts to our office and re-distribute them to the children's foster homes, case workers or directly to the children themselves. It takes alot of coordination, but the thoughts of happy kids makes it all worth it!

Pictures on our Facebook page.

24Oct

Youth in Foster Care Giving Back


A great experience was provided to youth in foster care, their social workers and prospective adoptive families on Saturday, 9/10/16, when the Center hosted a Day of Service Match Event at the Community Foodbank of New Jersey. It was the youth in foster care in New Jersey who asked that they have an opportunity to volunteer to help others. They expressed a strong desire to give back to their communities.


We all arrived early that morning and Center staff helped everyone get acquainted with ice-breakers and team building activities. It was fun and got our energy up for the day! The social workers had time to present about their youth to the families while, in another room, the youth made cards expressing their thoughts about why they thought it was important to give back to those in need. Some of those cards are the images you see here. We then had lunch together and after lunch we all went to work. We put on our hair nets and entered the Clean Room to sort and pack kidney beans that would be distributed to hungry people all over the state of New Jersey. In just ninety minutes, we made 1536 bags of beans that would feed 768 families!


At the wrap up of the day, all expressed that it was a fun, rewarding day. The families who attended got a chance to interact with the youth, get to know them a little better and share a fulfilling experience. It is always the hope that these events bring about potential matches between the families and youth, but this event added a new element – community service to those in need.

8Aug

The Anchor Project

contributed by our Program Director, Christine Jacobs
The Adoption Center has never had a program devoted to creating mentor relationships for youth in foster care --but soon we will! To build the most robust program we can we have been researching the best practices in the field by talking with colleagues who have their own mentor programs for youth in foster care, reading all that we can about other mentoring programs, participating in mentoring-focused conferences and training with MENTOR, the National Mentoring Partnership.

Adoption Coordinator Paige Roller and I attended the two-day training entitled "How to Build a Successful Mentoring Program Using the Elements of Effective Practice". In addition to a ton of good ideas and best practices, we met some great Philadelphia folks who are currently running mentoring programs. Ours is unique to the group of local mentoring projects as we will focus on serving youth in foster care.

Stay tuned as we build this program! If you are interested in mentoring a 12-20 year old youth in foster care email Paige at proller@adopt.org so we can alert you when our program is up and running in 2017.

30Jun

The Importance of Sister Act

“The children were in awe.” “Another child wanted to know when the next enrichment event would be so she could go.” “My favorite part was seeing the children’s faces intently watching the show.”

Once a year NAC hosts an event for about 20 youth in foster care called an Enrichment Event. These quotes illustrate a few reasons why we have worked with our partners in child welfare to organize these events. Over the years, we have noticed that many times the youth in care miss out on special days or trips that other children would usually experience with parents or extended family. Our goal for Enrichment Events is to make these children feel extra special, while exposing them to an experience they may not have access to otherwise.

This year’s event started out with lunch at Hard Rock Café in Philadelphia. The youth loved looking at memorabilia and chatting with friends while they had lunch. We then walked to the Walnut Street Theater to see Sister Act on stage. The kids laughed and enjoyed the show. All the kids agreed it was a great show!

The need for these types of outings is so great for many reasons. For example, none of the youths had been to a professional theater production before! More importantly, these youth need and deserve a fun day that is just focused on them. A day when we aren’t talking about foster care or adoption. The day is spent only focused on having fun and taking in an experience together. It was a great day had by all, and personally I feel blessed to be able to be a part of it!

1Jun

Stan Hochman Compassion-for-Kids Fund

The Adoption Center raised $140,000 for the Stan Hochman Compassion-for-Kids Fund which will be used, in part, to create a video raising awareness about the more than 100,000 children in this country who wait to be adopted. Stan worked on the Center’s behalf for more than 30 years to focus attention on the children who lingered in foster care while waiting for someone to give them a permanent home.

Most people knew Stan Hochman because they had read his sports columns in the pages of the Philadelphia Daily News for more than half a century or because they heard his brilliant broadcasts on television or radio. But few knew about his passionate belief that all children need to be praised, encouraged, loved and given opportunities to grow into happy, productive and strong adults. That’s why he supported the National Adoption Center, the construction of the Miracle League field where kids with disabilities could play baseball and soccer, and the Urban Youth Academy, opening in July, where inner city children will receive academic and athletic opportunities.

More than 350 attended the Adoption Center’s Celebration of Family which honored Stan and where the Stan Hochman Compassion-for-Kids award was presented to the Codkind Family—Melissa, Mitch, Rachel and Ryan—for their teamwork in expanding adoption opportunities for children whose parents can’t raise them.
It, indeed, takes a village of people like Stan and the Codkind Family to give children the lifetime of love they deserve.

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