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By: Michelle Johnson, development intern

I’d say my first week here at the National Adoption Center is only the start of a life changing experience. Or better yet, a mind changing experience. I’ve never taken the opportunity to sit down and read stories about the lives of children who were forced to leave their parents because of various reasons, such as neglect or abuse. Or hear about a child that would be separated from the siblings they’ve known their entire lives. It makes me think about my own life and question … What would it be like to not know my own father? What if my mother decided she didn’t want me right after giving birth? What if I was forced to be separated from my sister? 

I attend Drexel University, one of the best schools in the country. I come from a very loving and supportive family. I have a great relationship with my parents and my older sister. That’s my reality. 

But for most of the children I’ve read or heard about, this is not the case. They’ve lived in numerous foster homes over the course of only a few years. Their lives are filled with insecurity and instability. Their 18th birthday brings them a sense of fear instead of celebration knowing that they’ll age-out of the system and have no support. Their chances of ending up in jail, on drugs or homeless are much higher than someone who comes from a supportive family. 

On the flip-side, I’ve also read success stories about children who were lucky enough to be adopted and accepted as part of a family. They have the parents they’ve always longed for. They no longer worry about waking up in a new home tomorrow. These are the stories I find the most heart-warming and touching. It makes me proud to work for a company that works to better the lives of children because they hold our future. 

When a baby is born, you never truly know their potential. It’s very possible that they could change the world and have their name written down in our history books. But do they even have the slightest chance if they’re never given the tools to be successful? If our president, Barack Obama, grew up in multiple foster homes and aged-out of the system with no support, he most likely wouldn’t be president today. This idea, to me, makes every child significant. I believe that everyone is born with a purpose or somewhat of a destiny. A reason why they were put on this earth. It’s a shame that some of these children will never reach their full potential because of something they had no control over. 

I realize now that adoption is much more than just caring for a child. It’s loving someone with different blood running through their veins as if they were your own. It’s giving someone the life they’ve always dreamed of. It’s showing people that being a parent means much more than just giving birth.

 

 
 
Adoption Cafe Panellists: Mark Woodland, Becky Birtha, Sarah Barnwell and Susan Shachter 

“I don’t know what the best thing is, but I am glad I am not the type of person who thinks that gays are from a different world. I am glad that I accept the fact that I have gay dads. I am glad that I'm more accepting of different types of families.”

Quote from an adopted youth involved in a research study looking at the perspectives of youth who were adopted by LGBT parents, conducted by AdoptUSKids. 

With two million LGBT adults considering adoption, foster care and adoption agencies are realizing they need to pay attention to this constituent group. The National Adoption Center and the Obama administration believe that the LGBT community is one of the largest untapped and underutilized resources of potential parents. There are close to 105,000 children living in foster care throughout the country who wait for families, more than 1600 in the Delaware Valley alone.

 
HRC Video

NAC’s LGBT Initiative aims to educate and support the LGBT community around adoption issues. The program helps the community identify a gay-friendly adoption agency or how to differentiate what might be an issue of homophobia or just the barriers and weaknesses of the “system”, for example. We host events which provide the opportunity for prospective adoptive parents to talk to gay and lesbian adoptive parents in a safe and welcoming environment. 

Last month we held one such event at the William way Community Center in Center City Philadelphia. Thirty five individuals attended our LGBT Adoption Café and listened to Mark, a gay man who has two adopted children, and Susan and Becky, lesbians who have adopted children, and Sarah, an attorney with expertise including estate planning and family law, in a lively and honest panel discussion. 

 
Adoption 101

“This event is for anybody who has ever considered adoption,” says Ken Mullner, the Center’s executive director. “We believe that every child deserves to live in a loving, nurturing and permanent family and that people from a variety of life experiences offer strengths for these children.”

The Center has always welcomed members of the LGBT community. In fact, in the late 70s, one of the first children for whom the Center created a family was placed with a lesbian in West Virginia. Fifteen years later, the child, then almost 20, told those who attended an anniversary dinner for the Center, “Thank you for finding me a family. Without the National Adoption Center, I wouldn't have one.” 

There was not a dry eye in the house. 

Please Act Today

 

Save the adoption tax credit is the effort of a national collaboration of organizations and people like you that have united to support the cause of adoption by advocating for the adoption tax credit.

While we all know that the adoption tax credit is a great help in finding children forever families and make adoption affordable for all, If Congress does not act, the tax credit as we know it will expire on December 31, 2012. As the law currently stands, the adoption credit is not refundable for 2012 as it was in 2010 and 2011.

EXCITING NEWS!

On Friday, September 21, bills were introduced to both the House (HR 4373) and the Senate (S 3616) that could potentially accomplish the goal of an adoption tax credit that is inclusive, flat for special needs adoptions, refundable and permanent.

We need your help to show members of Congress that refundability helps foster care adoption and lower middle income tax filers. One of the most effective ways is to contact your Representative and two U.S. Senators to express your personal story of how refundability affects your adoption story.

(Click here to see if your Representative is already a cosponsor)

ACTION:

How Do I Know Who to Contact?

To find your Representative, go to:http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/.

To find your Senators, go to:http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.

If you are planning to call, you can call the Capitol Operator at (202) 224-3121. One you reach the Senator’s office, ask to speak with the legislative assistant who deals with the adoption or tax issues. (You will have to call back to reach the second Senator and Representative.)

What Should I Say?

To help you, The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) has provided: a fact sheet on the tax credit as well as a sample letter that can be used as a guide when emailing or calling your Senators. 

We highly encourage you to share this announcement with other adoption advocates. The continuation of the adoption tax credit is vital to providing love, safety, and permanency to as many children as possible.

We hope you will join us in our advocacy efforts.

 
 

The National Adoption Center

In a New York Times article this summer, writer Sabrina Tavernise traced the recent increase in gay and lesbian couples adopting across the country. This is in the face of legal hurdles in many states that make adoption by same-sex parents an especially daunting process. What’s behind these numbers? And will the upward trend continue? In fact, advocates point to two primary reasons for the increase: the need for homes for children who are waiting for adoption, and growing acceptance among Americans of gays and lesbians. According to data from Gary Gates, a demographer from the University of California, Los Angeles, 19 percent of same-sex couples who were raising children in 2010 reported an adopted child as a member of the household, up from just eight percent in 2000. Gates estimates that four percent of the adopted population in the United States -- about 65,000 children -- live in homes in which the head of the household is gay or lesbian. 

Researchers from the U.S. Census Bureau recently examined the demographics of same-sex couple households with children. By analyzing Census data, it was found that 26.5 percent of lesbian couples had children in their household in 2008, up from 22 percent in 1990. For gay couples, the figure rose from five percent to 13.9 percent. Of course, not all of these children were adopted, but the numbers do point to an increased tendency among same-sex couples to raise children, and adoption is one way to do that. The sad fact is, the barriers remain even though research shows that sexual orientation does not impact one’s ability to be a good parent. Research findings provide favorable evidence to encourage the continued increase in adoptions by same-sex couples. 

Currently there are 107,000+ children in the U.S. foster care system waiting for families. Total foster adoption numbers had been on the rise each year until 2010, when fewer than expected took place. But as the number of adoptions by gay and lesbian couples grows, there may be new hope for many of our nation’s waiting kids.

 
If you are in the Philadelphia-area and would like to learn more, we are holding an LGBT Adoption Cafe September 20.Details here.

As an inner city elementary school teacher, my husband sees firsthand the staggering needs confronting youth in our community. Michael’s dad has been in jail since March; Isaiah is living with his grandma while his mother struggles to overcome her coke addiction; Samantha’s mom is struggling to pay the bills as a single parent. 

How can we possibly overcome the poverty, violence, drugs, gangs, crime and homelessness threatening youth in Philadelphia and in so many other areas? Can one person really make a difference for these kids? 

I admit I’ve been feeling pessimistic about it lately. It’s easier to just walk away from the problems; pack-up and move to the suburbs where I don’t encounter such stark need right on my own block. 

But deep down, I believe that it actually is possible for one person to make a difference in the life of a child, because I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen a shy, withdrawn child who has been neglected at home blossom under the guidance of a caring teacher. I’ve seen the hope that a loving foster parent can instill in a teen who has known nothing but heartache. I’ve seen kids in the neighborhood embrace futures of hope thanks to the positive outlets at their local afterschool program. 

So I say, yes, one person can make a major difference in the life of a child, whether as a teacher, baseball coach, mentor, or adoptive parent. When we are willing to be part of the solution we can make a significant impact in the way children grow up…one person at a time.

I am continually amazed by the resiliency of young people. Much more than us adults! An article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer sheds light on this fact through a story about Eric, a teen, who was brutally beaten throughout his life but in spite of it all delivered his high school’s valedictorian speech this past spring. Eric, a star student, will be a freshman at Temple University this fall! He is one of the lucky ones. There were adults – neighbors, foster parents, and teachers – who were paying attention and provided this young man a safety net when he needed it most. There are many, many other children like Eric who fall between the cracks. Their screams and pain go unnoticed; they are not helped along the way. 

Over 400,000 U.S. children were removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect last year. The child welfare system’s first priority is to get these children into a safe environment and work with the families to fix the problems that resulted in the child being taken away. But this is not a smooth road. It is fraught with trauma, disruption, many times more abuse, confusion for the children, and the list goes on and on. So when I hear about young people like Eric, I applaud the adults that got involved and I give Eric a standing ovation for his amazing ability and powerful inner strength to rise above it all and walk the path toward a successful life. 

Excerpt from the Inquirer article – Eric during his valedictorian speech: 

“What seemed gracious beyond his years and experience was his praise for family members - biological and chosen – in the audience. 

‘And on a special note to all the friends and family who are here for me today, I would like you guys to stand up and know that not only do I appreciate and admire you, but I want everyone here to admire you also because I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for all of you.’ “ 

We get a chance to meet incredibly resilient children like Eric at ourmatch parties or a Wednesday’s Child  taping for example. Their positive demeanor and personal determination stops us in our tracks and makes us work even harder to find them safe and loving homes. We can all learn a lot from Eric’s story. 

Read the full article.

authored by a student, Katlyn, who worked on our behalf last school-year, shared with permission from WomenElect 

By KatlynG1

There are 107,000 children in America waiting to be adopted.  In 1972, Carolyn Johnson founded the National Adoption Center with the belief that “there are no unwanted children, just unfound families.”  The center, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit, celebrated its 40th anniversary this April at the Celebration of Family: ART OF ADOPTION gala.  During this event, artists from the Philadelphia area created unique works of art based on the photos and stories of children living in foster care.  These pieces were auctioned off, with all proceeds benefiting the National Adoption Center.

The centerpiece of the gala was a commemorative video detailing the National Adoption Center’s vibrant history.  Team QUINTEssential, a team of nine students at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, created this unique feature presentation.  As a semester long assignment, Team QUINTEssential was responsible for sorting through 40 years of history to compile a compelling video that promoted adoption awareness.  During the course of their project, Team QUINTEssential had the pleasure of interviewing NAC’s founder, Carolyn Johnson.

Ms. Johnson currently resides in Philadelphia, but she was raised in Kenmore, New York and is proud to call Buffalo her home.  After graduating from the University of Buffalo, Ms. Johnson taught at Public School #31 for three years.  Since many of her students were foster children, Ms. Johnson “became aware of the many abused and neglected children in the city.”  After seeing an article in The Buffalo Evening News, featuring children waiting to be adopted, Ms. Johnson decided to adopt three children of her own.

With a passion to find homes for “difficult to place children,” Ms. Johnson founded the National Adoption Center at her kitchen table using a wooden recipe box, which she divided into three sections: waiting children, prospective parents, and possible matches.  Ms. Johnson never imagined that her “home-grown” adoption initiative would become a prolific organization with forty years of success.  Named the 2011 nonprofit of the year by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the National Adoption Center has found homes for more than 23,000 foster children.  The National Adoption Center’s dedication to forming families is a mission that remains close to Ms. Johnson’s heart.

As evidenced by Ms. Johnson, women from Buffalo have the ability to accomplish extraordinary goals.  Created with the intent of helping women discover how they can make a positive difference in their communities, WomenElect encourages women to pursue their passions in the political arena.  Please visit www.adopt.org to learn more about the National Adoption Center.  Click on the link below to view the National Adoption Center’s latest video about adoption “match” parties.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZd3dAhM_4A&feature=plcp

 
from our marketing intern, Alexis Jackson
 
All parents are aware of the steep learning curve that exists when raising a child—including everything from “How do you protect them without sheltering them?”  to “How do you get them to eat their vegetables?” 
 
This learning curve goes for adoptive parents as well; however, the questions include “How do I help them with their emotional and developmental issues?”  “How can I get them to open up?”  And for transracial adoption the question of cultural consciousness is raised – an increasingly important question in light of the fact that approximately 40 percent of adoptions in America are transracial. 
 
A quick scan of online adoption blogs and message boards, will result in an endless number of posts from parents concerned about what to name their child, where to put their child in school, and what ethnic holidays to celebrate all in an effort to establish their children’s cultural consciousness.  Learning how to groom a different texture of hair, though noticeably absent from most of these posts, is a critical part of this cultural consciousness. 
 
A few examples: Actress Angelina Jolie sought advice on how to care for her Black, adopted daughter’s hair; and many recall the Sesame Street “I love my hair” video that the show’s writers created for his adopted daughter when she expressed a desire for long, blond, straight hair.
 
Hair carries a significant cultural identity, and learning how to care for a child’s tight curls or pin straight tresses teaches that child how to take care of him or herself while also sending positive, affirming messages about that little person’s texture and cultural identity. 
 
Even today, as a Black woman raised by Black parents, I struggle with the cultural part that my texture represents.  I’m constantly trying to straighten it or put extensions in it simply because I’ve been taught that caring for my hair meant straightening it to make it more manageable.  This personal struggle has led me to seek affirming and helpful messages and videos on Pinterest and YouTube.
 
During one of my most recent “Pinterest sessions, I found this website specifically designed for White parents of Latino(a) or Black children called Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care. The White administrator whose daughter is Black wrote “Hi, I'm Rory, and I write about pretty much everything you wanted to know about my journey learning to care for my daughter's beautiful, naturally curly hair. It's a chronicle of what I do and why I do it.” 
 
'Nuff said!
 
This site not only provides step-by-step tutorials on how to care for hair, but also includes testimonials and product-reviews.  After spending just a few minutes on this site, I had learned about three new products and two new ways to increase my hair’s moisture retention—all things my parents  never taught me.
 
So, whether it’s locked, in an afro, straightened, naturally curly, or chemically processed, learning how to take care of hair is important.  And since a lot of cultural identity is coiled up in our tresses, let’s appreciate it for everything it is and teach our children, nieces and nephews included, to do the same.
Since we’re all learning, I encourage you to share your hair stories. Everything from saving a bad hair day to helpful websites on the topic is welcome!
 
 
Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman recently said that women don't need equal pay because money is more important to men. So it’s no surprise that Grothman has now introduced Wisconsin Senate Bill 507 in early 2012. The Bill would require the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect. One-third of Wisconsin's parents are single parents. But the law was written to criminalize an even larger sector, as it applies to even non-married couples, including, of course, same-sex couples. The National Adoption Center will be keeping a close eye on this Bill, which we of course strongly condemn.
 

The National Adoption Center’s 2012 Golf Classic: Tee Off for Kids is coming up on October 3rd, and we’re looking forward to one of our best tournaments yet! We’ll be honoring our 40th anniversary and celebrating the occasion at a new venue – the top PGA-rated course at Radnor Valley Country Club in Villanova, PA. 

The day will include a barbeque luncheon, the chance to win a Mercedes with a hole-in-one, and an awards banquet featuring an open bar, gourmet dinner and live auction. 

But the golf classic is about more than 18 holes and a fun day out of the office. It’s an opportunity to make an impact for the nearly 110,000 U.S. children living in foster care who hope for a family to call their own. 

In fact, one of Radnor Valley’s golf professionals is an adoptive father we know well. Nelson Ranco and his wife Ellen adopted Ezra from foster care four years ago. Ezra had spent much of his childhood in foster care before moving in with the Rancos when he was 13. Ezra quickly melded into the family. 

“We adopted Ezra to give him a family and for him to know he would have a family for the rest of his life,” Nelson said. 

Today, Ezra is 17 years old and a senior in high school. He loves art as well as sports, and dreams of playing football in college. 

It is for youth like Ezra that the National Adoption Center exists. So encourage your friends, coworkers and neighbors to come out and support this worthy cause. You won’t regret it! 

For tickets, foursomes and sponsorship info visit www.adopt.org or call Katie at 267-443-1874.

 
 

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