My job as Program Director at the Adoption Center has been made easier over the past year because of a great team of adoption coordinators who work effortlessly together on all aspects of the Center’s programs. 

Sheina Martinez is our Family Advocate and Wednesday’s Child Coordinator. If you are a first time caller about adoption, you will receive a warm, welcoming response from Sheina who will encourage you, answer your questions and provide you with the correct information so you can move ahead with your plans to adopt. 

Amy Cressman, our Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter for children in Delaware, is our newest team member. She immediately embraced the Center’s philosophy “There are no unwanted children, just unfound families.” She fit in so well that we put her in charge of planning our next match party in Delaware, knowing that she would do a great job! 

I would especially like to recognize Crystal Allen, our Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter for south Jersey on her first year anniversary with the Center today. Crystal is a tireless champion for the children waiting for adoptive families and brings her energy, boundless enthusiasm and passion for the mission of the Center to work everyday. Happy Anniversary, Crystal and we hope there will be many more to celebrate together. 

Our program team is ready; don’t hesitate to contact them. 

Sheina Martinez, Wednesday’s Child Coordinator and Adoption Coordinator 
(215) 735-9988 @ ext. 311
Amy Cressman, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter/Delaware Adoption Coordinator
(215) 735-9988 @ ext. 319 or toll free (877) 799-6900
Crystal Allen, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter for South New Jersey and Adoption Coordinator 
(215) 735-9988 @ ext. 346 or toll free (877) 799-6900

Christine Jacobs
Program Director 

More than 500,000 children in this country live in foster care; l20,000 will not be able to return to their families. In Philadelphia, a new public awareness campaign, Raise Me Up, hopes to enlist volunteers and mentors for those children.

In a press conference yesterday, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and Department of Human Services Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose said that the city cannot do the job alone—that its citizens must step up and take a strong role in the lives of the children who are at risk of growing up homeless, despondent, less likely to complete high school and more likely to end up in a life of crime, addiction and poverty.

The Honorable Max Baer, justice of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, said that ideally children should be raised by their own families, if possible. When they cannot and are placed in foster care, he or she has a better chance of success if there is a mentor involved in his life. “Foster parents are wonderful,” he said, “but foster care is a flawed system. Children need permanent families.”

We agree. If a child can not be returned to his birth family, we believe that adoption should be his or her goal. Meanwhile, mentors and volunteers can help boost a child’s confidence and contribute to his self-esteem. But an adoptive family should be sought for him before he succumbs to the devastating outcomes inevitably visited on children without permanence in their lives. 

Happy Friday!!

This week I want to talk about the term “special needs” as applied to children in foster care and how non-social work professionals view this term. The “special needs” label in the foster care system means that there is something about the child that needs some extra attention. Did you know that having a sibling can categorize a child as having “special needs”? Wow, I guess I was special needs when I was a child! :-)

Having learning disabilities are another thing that classifies a child as “special needs”. Many children in foster care have a learning disability simply because they have changed schools often. So much so, that they have not had the opportunity to be on the same page as everyone else, and are constantly playing catch up. 

I wonder if individuals don’t adopt from the foster care system because they do not want a “special needs” child. To me, the term “special needs” just means they need someone special to parent them. If you are special and want to consider adoption, please contact me. I would like to answer your questions, concerns, and maybe even break some myths about adoption. 

What behaviors, needs or disabilities, do you consider special needs? What issues do you not consider special needs? 

Would a label of "special needs" automatically stop you from considering an adoption from the foster care system? Would you now ask for more clarification about what the special need is? 

SMART aka Sheina Martinez 

This week on Wednesday’s Child Philadelphia meet 14-year-old Oprah. This beautiful teen has a great sense of humor. Oprah can be shy when first meeting you, but when she finds a comfort level, she will have you laughing. Oprah is very active and plays volleyball and the trumpet in the band for her school. Oprah is a very bright student and does well academically. Her favorite classes in school are computers and music. 

Oprah recently had the opportunity to visit with gospel performer Tye Tribbett. Tye welcomed Oprah to his home to watch music videos, talk about the music industry, and give her some advice on keeping her head up. Oprah had a great time watching Tye Tribbett’s music performance on DVD and was overwhelmed with excitement in meeting a famous music performer. Tye signed and presented a photograph and CD to Oprah before the visit was over. 

The day was a huge success. Wednesday’s Child host Vai Sikahema was honored to be a part of this experience with Oprah. He joined in conversation with the two and also danced a little while watching Tye’s music video. Later, Vai and Oprah were able to sit together to talk about family and what it means to her. Religion is very important to Oprah. She would like a family that would allow her to express and practice her Christian beliefs. She would like to maintain contact with her siblings and would prefer a mom and dad, but will also accept a single mother. Oprah has come along way in accepting adoption as a goal for herself. She is now ready to welcome a forever family into her heart and hopes someone will be willing to accept her as a daughter. All families will be considered. For a profile and picture of Oprah, or to inquire about her, click here. 

The National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning (NRCFCPPP) will host a webcast on Wednesday, September 16 from 1-2 PM (Eastern time) about the importance of the relationship between foster and birth families.

When there is a good relationship, all parents can do a better job in meeting the children’s needs. Studies have shown that a team approach with planned contact between foster and birth parents has resulted in children returning home sooner, having more stable placements, developing better emotionally and achieving more in school. 

The experiences of the foster parents with the children in their care can yield valuable insights for the birth families when the children return to them. The webcast will highlight promoting meaningful partnerships between foster and birth parents as well as other family members and caretakers for the well being, safety and permanency of the children. The webcast is a Northern Virginia Foster Care and Adoption Initiative.

The National Adoption Center supports the goal of the NRCFCPPP to help children in foster care receive the love and security that only a permanent family, whether birth or adoptive, can provide.

Click to register for the webcast. 

Labor Day is fast approaching and we’re looking forward to celebrating the last holiday of the summer. (It seems like only yesterday that we fired up the grill to barbeque on Memorial Day.)

The gay and lesbian community in Vermont has another reason to celebrate this weekend. At midnight last Monday, a new law went into effect allowing same sex marriages. This brings to six the number of states in which this is legal. Along with Vermont, marriages for same sex couples are currently being performed in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa. Maine will allow same sex marriages this month; New Hampshire on January 1, 2010.

It is too soon to see how the new law will affect adoption by gay men and lesbians in Vermont, where LGBT individuals and same-sex couples may petition to adopt and a same sex partner may petition to adopt the partner’s child.

The number of gay and lesbian parents in the U.S. has been rising. In 1976 there were between 300,00 and 500,000 gay and lesbian parents. In 1990, an estimated 6 to 14 million children had a gay or lesbian parent.

According to statistics from the 2000 U.S. Census, the National Survey of Family Growth (2002) and the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting Systems (2004):


    • An estimate 2 million gay and lesbian people are interested in adopting.


    • An estimated 65,5000 adopted children are living with a lesbian or gay parent.


    • More than 16,000 adopted children are living with a lesbian or gay parent in California, the highest number among the states.


    • Gay and lesbian parents are raising four percent of all adopted children in the U.S


    • Gay and lesbian foster parents are raising approximately three percent of the nation’s foster children.


    • An estimated 13,000 foster children are living with lesbian or gay parents in the U.S.


As we celebrate the traditional end of summer holiday, we think of the 130,000 children in foster care through the country waiting to be adopted and hope that by Labor Day 2010, many of them will be in “forever” homes. 

A recent article in the Roundtable newsletter published by the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Adoption notes that there are three strategies that public and private adoption agencies can implement to increase adoptions from the foster care system:


    • Friendly and responsive customer service


    • Predictability about the adoption process


    • Support during the waiting period from home study to placement


Customer service begins with the initial call from a perspective adoptive family. The call must be answered in a timely fashion. It is critical that the agency be welcoming and helpful. If the agency says they are going to do something, even something as simple as sending information, they must do it. 

We hear far too many stories of perspective parents giving up due to poor customer service, an excuse that can no longer be tolerated. To that end, the National Adoption Center will be launching its Online Family to Agency Matching Service during National Adoption Month in November to insure that agencies are responsive to the needs of families. Like “Angie’s List”, families will have the opportunity to publicly rate the responsiveness of a particular agency(s). We believe this will instill much-needed accountability into the process. 

With the begining of the football season, there comes to light another example of a family providing the love and permanance for a child not born into the family. Jeremy Maclin was the number one 2009 draft pick for the Philadelphia Eagles. This Missouri native was informally adopted and raised by his coach and his family. The coach realized that when he'd drop Jeremy off at home after practice that he'd not go in, later he realized why. Eventually Jeremy moved in with the coach's family. Now he considers himself to have two families. While not the formal adoption we advocate for here at the Center, this is another example of how you can make a difference in a child's or teen's life. Obviously Jeremy got the support and encouragement to help him guide his natural talent into a rising (and as an Eagles supporter, we hope very successful) career. 

Among the other people whose lives have been changed by adoption are some well-known names. Here are just handful of the notables.
Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s is probably one of the most famous adoptees. He never knew his birth mother, and was adopted by a couple from Kalamazoo, Michigan, at the age of six months. Thomas's adoptive mother died when he was only five, and by the time he was 10, he had lost two stepmothers as well. He founded the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, whose mission is to “dramatically increase the number of adoptions of waiting children from North America's foster care systems.” Through its “Wendy’s Wonderful Kids” program, it works diligently to move children from foster care into permanent, loving adoptive homes.

Darryl McDaniels, A founding member of Run D.M.C. While researching his early years to write his autobiography, he was shocked to learn that he had been adopted when he was three months old. Even as a child, he knew that he did not look like the rest of his family and now he understood why. The news inspired him to search for his birth mother. A documentary chronicling his quest aired on the VH1 network in February 2006. The program ends with McDaniels reuniting with his birth mother. He thanks her for her choice because had he not been placed for adoption, Run-D.M.C. would have never existed. In September 2006, he received the Congressional Angels in Adoption Award for his work with children in foster care and promotion of adoption. 

Melissa Gilbert, actress. Best known for her role as Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie, she was adopted the day after she was born by actor and comedian Paul Gilbert and his actress wife, Barbara. The couple later adopted a son, Jonathan, who appeared with Melissa on the show. 

Faith Hill, singer and songwriter was adopted along with her two brothers when she was only a week old, she grew up in a small town in Mississippi.

Marilyn Monroe, never knew her father, and at age seven after her mother was too ill to take care of her, she was placed in foster care. In 1937, a family friend and her husband took her in. 

Lynnette Cole, Miss USA 2000 Of Puerto-Rican Heritage, she was placed in foster care as an infant. When she was 10 months old, she and her brother were adopted by a white couple who move to Tennessee in order to adopt the children, because of a law prohibiting adoption of children from a different race where they had lived before. Her adoptive parents had previously been foster parents to a succession of over 100 children.

Scott Hamilton, Olympic champion figure skater, was adopted at six weeks of age by two university professors, joining an older born-to daughter. Later his family adopted another son.

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple computers, Born in San Francisco, he was adopted by a couple in Santa Clara County. 

School supplies are being bought, bathing suits are on clearance, and here in the office, Match Party preparations are underway. Planning for Fall has begun!

On October 10th, the Adoption Center of Delaware Valley will be heading down to Sam Yoder Farm in Houston, DE. Children in Delaware’s foster care system, eligible to be adopted, will be invited to come to the farm for ‘Fall Fun Day’! Parents who are interested in foster care adoption, and who have completed or almost completed their home study, are invited to attend and meet with the children in a fun, relaxed, setting. Match parties are a great way for children and families to meet face to face, and have a chance to interact and make connections with each other. It is also an opportunity for children to meet other children waiting to be adopted. 

Sam Yoder farm is a working farm with plenty of chickens, cows, and goats, for everyone to check out. Games, crafts, face painting, and other activities are scheduled as well as lunch for everyone. The party will be held from 10am-2pm. It should be a beautiful fall day and we hope there will be a great turnout for this event! 

If you would like more information about this Match Party, or would like to be sent an invitation to the party, please call our office at 215-735-9988 and ask to speak with Amy Cressman. You can also reach me by email at Following the Delaware party, on October 24th, there will be a Teen Match party for waiting teenagers in New Jersey. Stay tuned for more information about this event! 

Not-so-happy Friday

As the weekend begins, I wonder if people’s minds turn from adoption, family, and relationships from Friday to Sunday. As an Adoption Coordinator, it is interesting to see the numbers inquiries about waiting children drop dramatically. Do we forget that there are kids who sit in foster care even on the weekend? Do we forget that someone has to do something? Because of the lack of interest in becoming adoptive parents during the summer months, it can sometimes be very lonely here. Where do people go? Do they take a break from caring?

While individuals drown themselves in their own activities, children in need wait and wait, and wait some more. I am deeply saddened that while life continues to go on for us, it also does for them. As a parent of two beautiful children, I look at them at night and wonder how life must be for those children who have never been tucked in, read a bed time story, praised, or even hugged. When will they get their turn? How dare we as citizens of the United States who have it so well compared to other countries allow OUR children to be subject to that neglect? 

The National Adoption Center does child recruitment of all sorts, and at times, we feel it’s not nearly as much as what is needed and deserved for waiting children. For example the Center places weekly columns in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Tribune; features children on NBC 10 and the Wednesday’s Child website; has two Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters (one for NJ and one for DE); and we also host at least two Match Parties a year where waiting children get to meet face-to-face with prospective adoptive families. 

Not all families can adopt or are in the position to adopt at this time, we understand that and hope you help our children in some other way. For those persons who are able to adopt, we are asking, begging, and challenging you to step up. Adoption is free of charge if adopting from the foster care system. Subsidy and medical assistance are available to families to help support the adopted child. 

The Adoption Center is open to ideas and recommendations of other ways we can get the word out about adoption….Please send your ideas and suggestions in to us!!

written by Sheina Martinez