Save the Date!

Tee-Off for Kids! 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

ACE Club, Lafayette Hill, PA

Attention Golfers: the 2009 golf season is upon us! As you dust off the clubs, make tee time reservations at your favorite courses and work on lowering that handicap, the National Adoption Center’s Development staff is preparing for another fantastic day of golf at the ACE Club in Lafayette Hill, PA. 

Why not cap off what is sure to be your best golf season yet by participating in the Center’s Tee-Off for Kids! golf outing on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 at one of the most premiere, beautiful and challenging courses in the Delaware Valley? The ACE Club is a serene and secluded 311-acre environment easily accessible from Center City Philadelphia and the outlying suburbs. The Club features a Gary Player Signature design measuring 7,500 yards from the tips. With five tee placements on each hole, it was created to accommodate the most discerning golfers of today and the equipment and ball technologies of tomorrow. 

Cocktails, dinner, a silent and live auction and awards for on-course contests will follow.

To learn more about how you and/or your company can get involved, please contact the Center’s Development Manager, Michelle Smolka, at 215-735-9988 ext. 343 or email her at:

Today we feature a guest blog from one of our Adoption Coordinator's Sheina Martinez.

Hello all, and happy Friday!!!!My name is Sheina Martinez and I am the Center’s Wednesday’s Child Coordinator and an Adoption Coordinator.

On Friday May 29th I visited Chicago for the Adoption Exchange Association's award luncheon. The center was presented two honors at this annual event. The first was as runner up National Wednesday’s Child feature story award. This competition judged entered Wednesday's Child television features from around the country. Philadelphia's entry with Vai Sikahema was voted second best of over twenty Wednesday’s Child nominees!

In the picture you can see from the left is Freddie Mac Foundation’s, Senior Community Relations Manager, Renette Oklewicz; me, Sheina Martinez; Wednesdays Child Philadelphia's host, Vai Sikahema; and NBC 10’s producer Lydia Reeves.

The second honor I received on behalf of the Center was the All Children All Family Seal of Recognition. The Center is the first adoption exchange to receive the seal. The seal confirms that the Center has met the ten bench marks HRC has defined to ensure that the staff of the agency is competent in working with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. 

Although I didn't get to see much of the city, Chicago was wonderful The awards luncheon was great! And I was proud to accept such honors on behalf of the Center. 

One of the major complaints of children who live in foster care is that their education is interrupted each time they move to a different foster home and need to change schools. They say that these disruptions put them at an academic and social disadvantage.

In an effort to remedy that situation, the first high school for children in foster care will open in Philadelphia in September, 2009. Called Arise Academy, the school will enroll 200 children from ninth through twelfth grade. In the event that a child is moved to another foster home during the school year, he will have the choice of changing schools or remaining at Arise Academy through the completion of his high school education.

It is expected that the children’s academic performance will improve and that they will feel more connected to the students they meet at school. Sixty percent of the children who have given input into the design, nature and intent of the new school have said that being a foster child in a school where most children live with birth parents has made them feel stigmatized. They believed that they would be more comfortable in a setting where all of the children were living in foster homes. Still, there is controversy about the wisdom of a school limited to foster children. Would it be better for them to remain in their neighborhood schools and learn adjustment to the larger world in which they will live? Or will their improved grades and more satisfying social connections be reflected in their increased self-esteem and an enthusiasm for learning? What do you think?

It can take upwards of $40,000 to adopt a healthy Caucasian infant in the U.S. International adoptions are all but closed (unless you happen to be a celebrity). Yet there are so many fantastic children currently languishing in foster care here in our own backyard who want nothing more then to have a loving parent. Why is that? Why don’t more want-to-be parents choose foster care to help them start the family they so earnestly wish for? Do they think it costs a lot of money to adopt from the system? Do they think adoption is only for infants? Do they think they’ll be “less” of a family? Do they think these kids are juvenile delinquents or worse yet, “damaged goods”? The answer to all these questions is a resounding NO!

What can the National Adoption Center do to make adoption of children from the foster care system a more “attractive” option?? Is is a matter of "marketing" or of fixing some part of the system? Or is it not what parents-to-be want? 

On Wednesday we told you a bit about the match parties which have already occurred this past month or so. Well tonight NAC staff is gearing up for another one, to be held tomorrow in Philadelphia. Last count I heard was that we'll have about 81 children and youths and about 40 families. To make an event like this work requires much, well, work.

For a few months now program staffers and interns have been coming up with a theme, finding the event location, making up brochures and recruiting families, children and youths. It's like party planning taken to the n-th degree as there is a very important motivation and process at the core of the event -- fostering meaningful interaction. (and making it fun!) We want connections to be formed that can be developed and explored in the coming weeks. From these connections, ideally some families will form.

We also realize and are excited that some other types of connections will occur. Like the support families can find from one another in our online adoption community, families get to interact with each other. I've heard the kind words exchanged, the "I've been there too" reassurances and the phone numbers exchanged by parents who have found strength with people in the same situation. The children and youths also have similar connections. It may be siblings who don't live together, but get to spend a few hours having fun together. Or members of our Youth Advisory Board who, while also there to find familial connections, are serving as leaders for the other children. Often these youths are not given the chance to be leaders, but through this event they are encouraged to take on that role.

So wish us success and we'll up date you next week on how it goes! Have a wonderful weekend everyone. 

“Family is very important because they’re the main ones you can look to when something goes wrong or you need a helping hand.”

“It would be really great having a home for the holidays, just sitting around and opening presents.”

“I need someone to be there for me.”

These are teens in foster care talking.

To help teens in Pennsylvania find “forever” families, we recently held two teen match parties (one in Philadelphia, the other in Pittsburgh), sponsored by the Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN). The goal was to bring together in a relaxed, fun setting teens waiting for a family and families wanting to adopt an older child. Families who had already completed their home study were invited to participate.

Prior to the parties, two events were held in each city to prepare the teens. A facilitator led them through a series of activities designed to help them feel comfortable and to see both what they had in common and how they differed. They learned that it was okay to be themselves. In addition, the teens felt empowered when they were asked for their input on activities for their match party.

The pre-events helped the teens to relax and enjoy themselves at the match parties as they interacted with potential adoptive families. At the match parties, each youth was presented with a certificate and a t-shirt imprinted with a photo of a person the teen said had influenced him/her.

In Philadelphia, 18 of the 22 teens attending the match party received inquiries from families, Nine of the ten teens attending in Pittsburgh had inquiries. After the parties, teens were asked for their views of the day. Among the responses:
• It was great and wonderful to be around new people, both kids and adults.
• Awesome…there’s somebody who cares for you and wants to help you find a family. .
• You get to meet families and other kids in the same situation.
• It was fun and entertaining.

Families also had a good time. One family said, “We truly enjoyed our day and meeting the kids. Hopefully, we have found a match. It is so much better to meet the children in person, as opposed to a picture on a web site.” 

During last week's speech at Notre Dame, President Obama made this comment: "[s]o let's work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term." My question is, what can he or government in general do to make adoption more available?

What parts of the system need assistance? More financial, medical andcounselling assistance for those women and men who want to work on an adoption plan? More financial assistance to the families who chose to adopt? Openness to all types of families, like single-parent homes, homes headed by members of the LGBT community or those older than typical? Encouragement of adoption from the foster care system? Encouragement of adopting older youth? Support of post-adoption services such as support groups and family counselling?

These are just a few issues. What would you tell President Obama if you had a chance to speak to him on this issue? 

The National Adoption Center has always believed that families interested in adoption should not be discriminated against because of race, gender, disability or sexual orientation. Our 37 years of experience has taught us that all kinds of people can make wonderful parents. That’s why it is distressing to hear the unreasonable biases of critics of gay adoption who insist that lesbians or gay men cannot possibly raise children in a healthy way. All of us know of heterosexual families who do not make ideal parents. It is not the sexual orientation that matters. It is the love, caring and respect shown to children that determine how they feel about themselves, the confidence they have and ultimately how they will grow up. 

One of the brightest, most alert and socially competent little girls we’ve ever met is being raised by lesbian parents. She is also extremely feminine, loves dresses and perfume and reads books about princesses. The concern that gay families will raise gay children is unfounded. After all, most lesbians and gay men were raised in heterosexual families. Adoption should be determined by the best interest of the child, and that means a home where he or she can experience unconditional love, be exposed to good values and be given an opportunity to develop her talents and skills with a prideful sense of accomplishment. 

Last night was our Celebration of Family gala at the Crystal Tea Room. The party was well-attended and it looked like a good time was had by all. Ron and Suzanne Naples were our honorees. And Clarence and Denise McGregor Armbrister were the recipients of our Alison Award. A special touch was having Mayor Michael A. Nutter come out to share a few words about our honorees. We thank him for taking time out of his busy schedule to honor the Naples and the Armbrister's in such a personal way. Vai Sikahema, Steve Highsmith and Stan Hochman did a great job keeping the event moring along.

Again, we'd like to thanks our sponsors: Wendy'sWawaWyethSunoco LogisticsPECOIndependence Blue CrossQuakerGreenbergTraurig,Consulting Services of Princeton, Margaret G. Jacobs Charitable Trust. Our volunteers from Independence Blue Cross and Aetna did a fantastic job, thanks to each and every one of you. We also thank all those who donated items for the auctions and all those happy shoppers!

A special thanks to Chris Marrero, our photographer for the evening. He captures special events and specializes in fine art portrait photography. See more of the night's photos on our social network site.

We've been very busy here at the Center this past month. We've had two successful match parties on both sides of Pennsylvania. Each match party also had two accompanying pre-events which served to introduce the youths participating with each other and us, exercise our active listening skills and work on being comfortable with their stories and themselves. If you haven't gotten to participate yet, don't worry, we have another match party at the end of May and more in the works! We'll keep you posted on the details.

This Wednesday we have our Annual Celebration of Family. Ron and Suzanne Naples are our honorees. Ron has just been appointed by Governor Edward Rendell as chief accountability officer for Pennsylvania’s stimulus-related efforts. He is the former CEO and current chairman of Quaker Chemical Corporation. Suzanne is a former Center board member. They have adopted from the foster care system. This year's Alison Award will be presented to Clarence and Denise Armbrister who adopted two children, a sibling group, from foster care. The Alison Award captures the spirit of Alison, the first child with Down syndrome, for whom the Center found a family. There are still tickets available, if you'd like to come. Call or email our office for more information.

Behind the scenes we have new interns with us for the summer, four have already started and we eagerly await 3 more! We love having the infusion of energy the interns bring and the new ideas and input on how to get the job done! Our social network site launched and we are also getting ready to relaunch our Freddie Mac Foundation's Wednesday's Child site. A fresh look for this new season!

We hope you're having a productive and exciting spring too!