In February, the National Adoption Center, in partnership with the State of New Jersey, will complete an eighteen month program whose goal was to achieve permanent connections for older youth in foster care. NAC’s outstanding Program team worked with a caseload of twenty youth and developed teams of support for each child by unearthing past relationships. In some cases it was a teacher, a principal or even a coach that at some time was in the child’s life. These teams met monthly and provided much needed support for youth who were about to age out of care without a permanent connection. The culmination of this initiative was a spectacular luncheon retreat where everyone involved celebrated the connections that were made. Will these turn out to be lifelong connections? Will some end up adopted? We hope so. At the very least, they showed these courageous youth that they were not alone in the world; that there were indeed caring adults in their life who could offer, love and encouragement.
On January 8th, we hosted New Jersey’s first matching event of the year. It took place in Maple Shade, New Jersey at a popular bowling alley. For this event we were able to be of service to twenty youth who are in foster care and twelve families who are looking to adopt. The age group of the youth at this event was from twelve and up. The reason we choose to service this particular group of youth is because as you become older while in care, the chances of being adopted by a family begins to decrease. This is the unfortunate reality for some youth in foster care. It is also unfortunate that families who are looking to adopt are not particularly interested in adopting older youth. This is why our matching events are so important to us. We use these events as a platform to let families know that there are older youth who need forever families and they would love to be a part of yours.
Towards the end of the event we had families come to us and say “If I had known this event was for older youth I wouldn’t have attended; but I am so glad I did.” Even if you are a family looking to adopt younger youth, I would encourage you to give older youth a chance. You just might meet one that could change you and your family’s life for the better. Hope to see you at our next matching event!
The National Adoption Center and Wendy’s kicked of its hugely successful key tag campaign on January 4. Buy a key tag for $1 at all participating tri-state (PA/NJ/DE) Wendy’s restaurants between now and February 16 and receive a free Jr. Frosty with any purchase through December 31, 2016. What a great way to support the Adoption Center’s mission to find loving homes for children in foster care while snacking on a truly delicious desert. The key tag campaign has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for NAC over the years! We love Wendy’s!!
Parenting Special Needs Magazine, a bi-monthly online publication, has partnered with us to feature children with whom we work. Each issue will feature a photo and description of a child who waits to be adopted. The child featured in this issue is 17 and has Down syndrome. He is one of a growing number of teenagers who still hopes for a family to give him a permanent home.
When we opened in 1972, most children waiting for families were younger, mainly 5 or older, and many sibling groups even included toddlers. That was a time when adoption was considered mainly for babies and married couples who could not conceive biologically.
The world of adoption has changed. So has society. Today, the younger children we saw 40 years ago find homes more easily. But we are worried about the adolescents who will soon “age out” of foster care without the permanent families they need and want.
The kinds of parents considered as potential adopters have changed too. Single people are eligible to adopt; so are members of the LGBT community. It is recognized that many kinds of people can be excellent parents and help a child realize his/her potential.
Because so many of the Center’s children have special needs, we welcome the opportunity to work closely with this magazine. It reaches families who already have special children, appreciate their qualities and gain so much satisfaction from their achievements.
Here’s the link to the magazine: Parenting Special Needs Magazine
Lisa and Chris Jacobson of Lehigh Valley, PA had been through multiple disappointing rounds of fertility treatments. Even though Chris had a child from a previous relationship, his son only visited on weekends, and the couple yearned to be full-time parents.
Lisa’s mother lived across the street and had been a foster parent for 13 years. Fifteen-year old Jasmine had been in and out of foster homes for nine years when she moved into Lisa’s mother’s home. Jasmine agreed to do Wednesday’s Child and attend a matching event in the hopes of finding a forever family.
“It made me sad that Jasmine was going to an event handing out flyers to get people to adopt her,” said Lisa. “I came home and told my husband that Jasmine was the child we were meant to adopt.” Chris agreed immediately.
It was Good Friday, March 2013. Lisa asked Jasmine what she was looking for in potential parents. “What about people like us?” asked Lisa. Jasmine agreed that Lisa and Chris were the type she wanted to which Lisa replied, “No, what if we asked you to be adopted by us?” Within six months Jasmine was officially their daughter.
What was your reaction when the Jacobsons said they wanted to adopt you?
Jasmine: The first thing that came to my mind was, “Why would you want to adopt me?” I was so surprised. After being taken from my mom, being in care for so long and experiencing a failed match I had started to think that no one would ever want me.
How has your life changed since becoming part of the Jacobson’s family?
Jasmine: It’s so different. I had to get used to being hugged and loved and having things given to me because before I had to do everything on my own. I had to get used to people caring and worrying about me. Now I get to be a regular teenager too. I can do things like after-school activities, visit a friend’s house, and attend football games. I also have my driver’s permit.
How has adopting Jasmine changed your life?
Lisa: When first having struggles with infertility, I told my friends that I couldn’t adopt because there was no way I could love a child that wasn’t biologically mine. Truth is I fell in love with Jasmine right away. Jasmine knows I would die for her. I don’t feel any different about her than anyone else in my family. I actually think I love her more knowing where she came from and what she went through
Chris: It’s wonderful being a full-time dad and experiencing everyday life with my child and doing things together. It’s a joy to see her grow and to help her grow. Jasmine captured my heart right away. She’s such an amazing, well-rounded person. She’s definitely Daddy’s Girl and has me wrapped around her finger.
What surprised you?
Lisa: The actual adoption process didn’t take a lot of money or time. Jasmine moved in and in six months it was done. It wasn’t as hard as we had heard people talk about.
What would you say to people who are hesitant to adopt an older child?
Jasmine: When you adopt an older child you are changing the life of someone who grew up in poverty. You get to care for and love someone who is so vulnerable.
Chris: Go for it head first. Go in with a full heart and open mind and just do as much as you can for the child. Love them as much as you can, give support and be there for them.
Lisa: You are changing the life of a child whom others won’t give a chance. We aren’t saying it was always easy. We went through challenges together, but the end result is really worth it.
Lisa continued: Under my high school yearbook photo I included a quote that read, “I want a job that I don’t need, but a job that needs me.” Well I didn’t need to be a mom, but the job needed me. Being Jasmine’s mom was the job I was talking about all those years ago
Today Jasmine is a high school senior applying to colleges to fulfill her dream of becoming a social worker. Soon she will turn 18 and also become a big sister—within two months the Jacobsons will adopt the baby boy of a former foster youth who lived with Lisa’s mother.
It’s that time of year again! We’re putting the final touches on our next match event happening in January. For those that aren’t familiar with matching events, it is a carefully-planned event designed to bring together children waiting to be adopted with approved, home-studied families interested in adopting them. The children and youth participate in an entertaining day that focuses on them and also gives them the chance to meet other youth who are waiting to be adopted. These events enable youth to participate in the effort to find their adoptive families. Matching events have been a core service of the Adoption Center of Delaware Valley in the tri-state area of Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware for more than 25 years. These events are specifically for children awaiting adoption. We understand the desire to want to be a resource for these youth but for safety reasons, we only invite families who have completed a homestudy. (A homestudy is a process that is completed with a local adoption agency; we can help you begin the process, if you wish to.) If you’re a homestudied family interested in attending this event or would like some general information on how to start the homestudy process, please contact Anna Coleman at 267-443-1867 or at email@example.com.
It was so disturbing to read about the Utah judge who removed a foster child from their home because they were lesbians. Under the order issued Tuesday, Judge Scott Johansen had given state officials until Nov. 17 to remove the child. In his ruling, Johansen said research showed that children do better in homes with heterosexual parents. Court papers filed on behalf of the couple are not public, but they ask the court to reverse the order and prevent the child from being removed said their attorney, James Hunnicutt. "What [Johansen] did was obviously just unconstitutional and against the law," This order was then rescinded, but on December 4th there will be another hearing to decide what is in the best interest of the child.
The National Adoption Center strongly supports the rights of these foster parents. The consensus of social scientists is that gay couples are not any less fit to parent a child than heterosexual ones. In fact, NAC is hosting an LGBT Adoption Café this month (National Adoption Awareness Month) to identify and recruit LGBT parents for children in foster care. We commend companies like Wells Fargo, our event underwriter, for their support of equal rights under the law.
Marcella Pigford spent 23 years as a pediatric nurse for medically fragile children. In her mid-forties, she lost her job, and decided to seize the opportunity to enjoy the single life. She had options. Her children were grown. Marcella sold her house, opened a fashion boutique, and started traveling. But something was missing…
“I always dreamed of having a large family,” said Marcella. “One day I realized how much I missed caring for the babies in the pediatric nursing facility, so I called an agency about fostering children with special medical needs. That was the start of my happily ever after.”
Soon Marcella’s case worker called her about fostering Ar’nez, a two-year-old boy who had Cerebral Palsy, seizure disorder, cried a lot, was non-verbal, deaf, blind and underweight because he did not like to eat. Marcella agree.
While caring for Ar’nez, Marcella would sing him nursery rhymes and kiss his check. Ar’nez seemed so happy, and above all he had not cried once while in Marcella’s company. Marcella told her case worker that she wanted to adopt him despite doctors’ warnings that Ar’nez would likely never walk or speak.
“The power of love can make any weak man strong,” said Marcella.
Since the adoption, Marcella has secured additional physical therapy for Ar’nez who is trying to stand and walk. He is now considered healthy weight, and says, “Mama.” Once considered deaf and blind, Ar’nez can now hear out of his right ear and tracks Marcella with his eyes wherever she moves. He also claps his hands, plays patty cake, and gives kisses and high fives.
Destined to be Mother and Child
While bonding with Ar’nez, Marcella received a call to provide respite care for an Autistic boy. When the case worker gave Marcella the boy’s name (withheld here for privacy reasons), Marcella’s heart skipped a beat. The child’s name had a unique spelling – like another boy she had cared for from infancy to age two. The case worker sent Marcella the child’s picture, and upon seeing it, Marcella burst into tears.
“It was the same child I cared for! My heart was heavy because this child was released to go home with his biological mother. I immediately felt sad for him and knew he needed me. I felt his pain, his fears and knew that he had to be scared and afraid. Without even seeing him, I told the case worker that if he was available for adoption, my home would be his last stop.”
Marcella felt in her heart that the child would remember her. Marcella greeted him with a hug and told him she had missed him. Marcella then gave him a doctor’s kit as a gift and told him that when he was a “little peanut” she would listen to his heart and take his temperature. Now that he was a big boy, he could take care of her. He took the toy stethoscope and started to listen to her heart.
“I asked him if he could hear what my heart was saying, and he smiled,” said Marcella. “I told him that my heart was saying, ‘I love you and missed you, and I’m glad that you are here with me. He said, ‘Thank you Mommy’ and gave me a big hug. I was stunned and knew that he was destined to be my child.”
Marcella’s adoption of the second child will be complete on National Adoption Day (November 21) 2015.
Marcella encourages anyone who is thinking of fostering a child to consider adoption because it makes a huge difference in a child’s life.
“No child wants to feel like they are not wanted or don’t belong. The state will support children until age 21. All the resources are set up for you. If you have room in your heart and home to make a child’s dream come true with a forever home, it could be the best choice you'd ever make.”
Marcella added that her children are blessings from God who bring joy and happiness to her life on a daily basis. She looks forward to growing her family by fostering-to-adopt more children.
After seeing the movie The Blind Side—the story of a homeless teen taken in by a family that supported and encouraged him onto an NFL career—Karen Pascucci was inspired to adopt from foster care.
Karen’s husband John immediately agreed. John and Karen have both lived through difficult former marriages and divorces. “We could relate to how a child in foster care must be feeling,” Karen said. “The anxiety. Losing one’s foundation. These are relatable feelings.”
“We have more empathy because we’ve been through hard times,” John added. “We have a lot to offer as parents plus the time, lifestyle and an extra bedroom that felt empty.”
The Process & The Match
John and Karen’s home study took 9-10 months. They were approved by the end of May, attended their first foster-to-adopt match party on June 23, and new son Ethan was in the house by the end of August. The whole process cost the Pascuccis a couple hundred dollars.
It all started at the match party hosted by the Adoption Center of Delaware Valley (aka the National Adoption Center). The Pascuccis were looking for a 10 to 13 year old girl. “Instead, we got a 16 year-old man-boy,” Karen joked.
Despite having no emotional, physical or learning disabilities, Ethan was considered a “special needs” child simply because he was near emancipation age.
During the match meeting, an astute social worker felt Ethan and the Pascuccis would be a perfect fit, and asked them to lunch together. John and Ethan started bonding over sports. Karen jumped in and began teasing John. Ethan enjoyed their lighthearted banter.
The Pascuccis talked about their Friday pizza nights, their annual vacations, love of sports and their desire to support a child with college aspirations. At the end of the meeting, both selected each other as a match.
According to Ethan, it was the Pascucci’s active lifestyle that drew him in. “They travel, go rock climbing, to Phillies games… I could see myself living this kind of lifestyle.”
When Ethan joined the family, he was finally able to tap into his competitive drive and natural athletic abilities. Ethan decided to take advantage of his 6’ 4” tall stature and give rowing a try. Soon thereafter Ethan was fielding rowing scholarship offers from top schools. John, a former accomplished athlete, helped Ethan review the offers. Today Ethan is a sophomore at Syracuse University on a full rowing scholarship.
Not all family and friends were supportive at first. One family member met Ethan and said, “He’s a great kid, shockingly normal. If he is so wonderful, why didn’t anyone else adopt him?”
Another friend tried to discourage the Pascuccis but later said, “I am so glad you didn’t listen to me. Ethan’s a great kid.”
“If something happened to John and me, our biological daughter has a community around her of friends, school and neighbors who would step in to help. The difference is that Ethan never had a community built around him,” Karen observed.
The Pascuccis have children from other marriages with whom their relationships are strained due to contentious divorces. While some have embraced Ethan, some of John’s children decided to cut ties with him once he adopted Ethan.
Why Would a Teenager Wish to be Adopted?
Ethan really wanted a family, and someday wants grandparents for his children. He said his quality of life is dramatically better, and he loves having a home to go to for holidays.
Per Ethan, “Too many older kids aren’t considered for adoption. Everyone needs help whether they are 2 or 15 years old. More often than not, the older child is grateful for the opportunity. The 15 year old needs you as much as the toddler does.”
Advice from the Pascuccis on Adopting an Older Child
“You can take a perfectly normal child with an intact family, and then his world turns on a dime, and he is thrown into foster care. He will have issues to deal with,” Karen said. “If the child is over 10, the issues will be apparent in his behavior. When you actually know what they are, you can better deal with them.”
Teenagers can be reasoned with more than a younger child; they are willing participants in the adoption process.
Don’t forget what you were like as a teenager. All teenagers do knucklehead things. They are figuring things out.
Ethan was never taught how to study. He used to miss 30 days of school at a time. We needed to teach him a work ethic. We needed to find ways to motivate him. We never used “punishment,” it was “you lost a privilege,” but then we’d spin it into a positive.
When you adopt a child, you don’t have to deal with an ex-spouse. If we have to discipline Ethan, we deal with it together as a united front. This isn’t always the case when parenting with an ex.
Above all keep an open mind and remember, if children were perfect and self-supporting, they wouldn’t need parents at all.
The Pascucci's were honored this week as part of the Adoption Family Portrait Project. Here is a video of Karen speaking to the gathered representatives of Congress, adoptive families and professionals from organizations that work on behalf of adoption.
November is National Adoption Month and the National Adoption Center headed to D.C. to participate in Voice for Adoption’s Adoptive Family Portrait Project. The primary goal is to raise awareness among members of Congress about the real experiences and needs of families that have adopted children who were in the system. NAC and VFA want to spread the message that ALL waiting children are adoptable. We also want to educate members of Congress and their staff about the joys and challenges that adoptive families experience. Representing Pennsylvania was the Pasucci family who adopted their son when he was 16. What a great story!
On Facebook and Twitter we will be featuring a different child who is in need of an adoptive home Mondays through Thursdays. On Fridays we will share a story of a family created through adoption. Be sure to check out our pages and share our children's profiles -maybe you can help the next family come together!