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30Sep

Fore!

Fore! This past Monday was the National Adoption Center’s annual golf tournament. Equal parts fundraising and friend raising, it was an enjoyable afternoon for a very meaningful cause. Nearly 100 players enjoyed spectacular weather on a terrific suburban Philadelphia course. Despite the craziness of the Pope being in town, the tournament itself raised almost $50,000 for the Center’s programs. Board member and committee chair Chris Noyes did a wonderful job explaining how important it is to be able to find adoptive homes for so many children who are languishing in foster care. In particular he noted how our Match Events have a 35% success rate, and Wednesday’s Child a 60% success rate. Congrats and thank you to all our generous players!

Photos from the day are on our Facebook page.

3Aug

Serving the LGBT Community

A disproportionately high number of LGBT youth are in foster care, many having been abandoned by their families due to their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. These youth continue to struggle as they enter the child welfare system, where agency staff members often lack the skills and knowledge to provide them with the services they need and deserve.

An estimated 2 million LGBT adults are interested in adoption in the U.S. But, the LGBT community is often an untapped resource when it comes to finding families for children and youth in foster care. Agencies can significantly increase their pool of prospective foster and adoptive parents by ensuring they have the policies and practices in place to welcome and support LGBT resource families and recruit effectively for these families.

For these reasons, the National Adoption Center will be offering a region-wide one-day training next month to promote LGBT cultural competency among child welfare agencies. Adoption organizations across the country have recognized the importance of this work and use it to improve practice with LGBT youth and families.

All Children – All Families, a project of the Human Rights Campaign, will provide the training so agencies can achieve safety, permanency and well-being by improving their practice with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth and families. Participating agencies can work to meet ten key Benchmarks of LGBT Cultural Competency – from client non-discrimination policies and inclusive agency paperwork, to staff training and creating an LGBT-inclusive agency environment. Once these benchmarks are met, the agency is designated a “Leader in Supporting and Serving LGBT Youth and Families” and awarded the All Children – All Families Seal of Recognition. The

National Adoption Center was the first organization in the region to receive this seal and this is the second time NAC has offered this training.

The National Adoption Center is pleased to be able to offer this training at no cost thanks to the generous support of Wells Fargo.

2Jul

Join the Conversation!

The National Adoption Center has formed a Digital Strategy Task Force to address the changing world of technology and how it impacts adoption. More specifically, how can NAC be the center of the online adoption conversation? Chaired by Allan Frank, former chief technology officer for the City of Philadelphia and former NAC board president, the group consists of several members of the board of directors as well as the appropriate staff. The Adoption Center has always been a leader in using technology to increase the number of children who get adopted from foster care. In fact, back in the early 2000s NAC created the first online photo listing site in the country – Faces of Adoption. Now called AdoptUSKids and managed by the federal government, it has played a significant role in helping the National Adoption Center find forever families for more than $23,000 of our most vulnerable children. Join us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to join the conversation!
25Jun

Adoption Match Event


As day broke over Camp Agawam on June 13th, the weather was not looking very friendly. Storms the night before had knocked power out in many areas nearby. The ground was wet but the fish were still swimming in the pond.

As seventeen youth (together with their social workers) and nine families pulled into camp, the atmosphere filled with excitement and anticipation. The weather soon got in the spirit of the day and cleared up. We were ready to start the annual National Adoption Center/SWAN (Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network) older youth matching event.

These youth and families spent the day together, getting to know one another through team-building interactive games, fishing, kickball and other activities. The youth participated in an activity called “Everyone has a Voice” that allowed them to express their thoughts and feelings about being a teenager and their desires for their future. The adults got to listen and better understand the youth through these heartfelt, often articulate expressions.

Families and teens alike expressed their enjoyment of the day. Many families expressed an interest in learning more about the youth. As time goes by, we will keep you posted on any successful outcomes from the day. As the day finished, the sun was shining brightly over Camp Agawam.
22Jun

Glory on egg-shells day-oh (Gloria in excelsis deo)

It sucks, walking on eggshells.

As an adoptive parent, I felt I had to do it many times. It’s downright uncomfortable. None of us want to break those delicate membranes, for egg yolks run and are messy. And bits of shell can lodge in the most annoying places. And to keep peace, I did it.

What is curious is that our adult adoptive daughter finally told me that during her childhood and teenage years felt she had to do the same thing.

And what do you know?--each of us was walking gingerly on the I-don’t-want-to-hurt-your-feelings-or-your-pride “eggs” (issues). Unbeknownst to me, she felt she could not always “be herself” because she knew I was: 1) a sensitive soul, 2) an uber sensitive parent, 3) an incredibly over-the-top sensitive and protective-of-our-only-child adoptive parent.

So for years, rather than just walking softly, she (and I) began to dance ‘round the eggs by skirting emotions. Other kids ranted, “I don’t want you to be my mother. I hate you.” I never heard those words from her. At least not audibly. Could I tell she was struggling? Sure. But not wanting to probe and potentially be hurt, I kept silent.
So sometimes the dances intensified. She finally told me recently that even though she witnessed friends doing that to their parents on occasion, she could not bring herself to hurl those words for she knew (rightly so) that they would wound me too deeply. Thinking back now, I saw her bite her lip more than once. Sometimes her pain must have been so great.

But she chose silence. So, on the eggshells, she continued to walk. And other times, danced around it all. Me, too.

I have observed that many biological children don’t feel the need to dance around or walk on eggshells. Even if they shouted at their parents, the words wouldn't penetrate their parent’s shell the same way as it would an adoptive parent’s.

A sensitive soul herself, this adoptee, stopped before she railed. I was unaware she was dancing alone in her world while I did the same in mine. Delicately tip-toeing on the eggshells every day – oh. I am grateful for her kindness, but I am truly sorry it took her so long to “be herself.”

As an adoptive parent, my dances consisted of my agonizing over the “family” issue which was hard to bring up at all, much less without tears. (The all-too-familiar adoptive parent struggle: even if or when you know your birth family, will you still consider your dad and I to be your family?)

And so my soft treading and dancing continued, too.

If you are an adoptive family and this sounds like something happening in your life, perhaps you could look for signs in yourself and your children.

Perhaps your kids are suppressing their emotions. Perhaps you are, as well. As parents we probably wouldn't want to call attention to the fact that we struggle not to be ourselves in deference to how it might make them feel. All the while hearing the strains of “Gloria” as we do our best to find in our home peace, good will to all those abiding there. I am now of the option that we find the glory when we honor our rightful position for we are, by rights, parents and our adopted child is really our child!

In talking with adoptive and other parents, I believe now that all parenting could be considered dancing, but adoptive parenting and adopt-eeing in general might brings up some extra sensitive and raw emotions. Don’t we simply want to know—am I a good enough parent/son/daughter? Deep down, each parent and child, each human being is seeking acceptance.

Perhaps what any adopted child who is walking on eggshells or dancing around the eggs is really hoping their parents would magically perceive: “I don’t know if you can handle it if I, like friends raised by blood mothers and fathers would say ‘I hate you’ (in this moment) or ‘I wish you weren't my parent’ (in this moment) because actually this really has nothing to do with you, but I am frustrated that I got a B- on my test. Please understand me!”

And, on the other side, are adoptive parents walking and dancing at the same time wondering whether their child would somehow ‘get’ them whether or not they verbalize the biggest crisis in their hearts: “Can I tell you how much I hurt when I don’t know which family—us or your birth or friend/peer family—you will ultimately choose, or through what circumstance you will choose that one? Because we understand your desire to know them, to even be with them, but—just the same—we love you and want you to still love us and accept our love as one true and bona fide child—no matter what?”

Learning that she danced, and knowing how it felt to dance myself gave me perspective. Because she could be as honest as she has, I have decided to do the same. She has become much more herself. She voices. My husband and I voice, too.

And to that I say: Glory-be!

2Jun

Keeping You In The Loop

You may have noticed that you are no longer receiving a National Adoption Center newsletter.

Current and future trends in how people communicate tell us that attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, and organizations need to get their messages across in a more compact way. To this end, we’re going to begin to send out small online vignettes about individual children and families involved in the child welfare system. We think this will be the optimal way to create public awareness about the plight of children in foster care, and why they so desperately need a family to adopt them. Of course, some of our messages will also include a way for you to contribute financially to our mission.

We hope you will like our new way of sharing our work with you. Perhaps it will even prompt you to contribute your own adoption story, by sending it to us . We’d love to hear from you!

26May

Older Youth Adoption

How old is too old to look for a family? At 31 years old, I still need my parents. Think about it, when was the last time you reached out to your family? Was it your parents, a sibling, an aunt or uncle maybe a cousin? Did you call them? Did you text them? Did you see them at a holiday gathering?

For me, I talk to my mom almost daily. A quick text, a short check in, something as simple as trying to get a dinner idea. My parents were there on my high school graduation- my mom holding an embarrassing “Congratulations Princess Paige” sign. They drove me to drop me off at college. They listened to me homesick on my telephone calls. They picked me up and brought me home over holiday breaks. They sent me care packages. They gave me advice on my first job, my first apartment and my first car. My parents were there on my wedding day. My dad walked me down the aisle; we had a father/daughter dance. My parents were there when my children were born. They were a phone call away when I had a panicked, new-mom moment.

I have a place (in reality, too many places) to go on holidays. Our holidays are scheduled around visits with parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. Even though we may sometimes grumble through some visits, or have tired, whiny kids at the end of the day, I have somewhere to go. I have a place that is familiar and warm. When I walk into my parent’s house, I smell home. When I walk into a holiday dinner, I know my Gramma’s dishes will be prepared perfectly.

Recently we have had the opportunity to feature older children on our TV segment, and in print. The most recent was youth 19 years old, almost 20. The immediate response from some was to question why we are still working on behalf of an “adult”. It is true that these children can vote, join the military, buy cigarettes, etc., but they are still looking for their family.

Without finding a family, who is there embarrassing, I mean cheering, them on at their high school graduation? Who is there with advice on how to get a job, budget their bills, pay their taxes? Who is there to share in their joys and help them bear their sorrows? Where do they go for Thanksgiving? Who hands down family recipes to make their favorite meals?

We are committed to helping these children find a family for as long as we can. Whether you are 5, 18, 35, or 95 you still need a family.

20May

Not two people, families or situations are exactly the same…

Never have I been more cognizant of this “opener” than I am right now. I am a member of the Board of National Adoption and I have leaned on my fellow board members and our staff for insights into adoption ever since our son, Adam, came into our lives in 1991, just two days after his birth. I read and continue to read books on Transracial Adoption --our two older children are “home mades”, Adam is our gourmet take-out featuring flavors of South Africa, Polynesia and Western Europe, a complex - gourmet "take-out”. I have learned that asking for insight is essential…but advice is the tricky one…because nothing is ever precisely the same. Right now I am fresh into experiencing living without the physical presence of my soul mate…the father of our three children and the wind beneath my wings. He crossed over Christmas, 2014, in his sleep. Family and friends are so supportive but I know that even those I know well who are in my “same” situation cannot deliver a formula for coping, re-framing, living in the present. It has to be my unique crafting that forms my vision for now and the future. This is what is hardest and what is also the most reassuring. So, know there is no ONE way to address issues of adoption, relationships, love or loss. Your solutions must be your own and while you would be well advised to reach out for “insight” the beauty of your family and adoptive success is unlike that of anyone else on this planet. Just remember, you can be the wind beneath your children’s wings…never pulling them down, ever lifting them up and always encouraging them to fly on their own. They will grow and thank you for this…and more.

13May

Identity Lens / Identity Lends

All of us see life through a lens. A lens that we adjust to bring our life picture into—or sometimes out of—focus. At least it’s something I noticed when working registration at a recent Adoption Center matching event.

As families, youth, and their workers arrived at registration, what struck me first was the blend of timidity and hope in their faces. It stands to reason that there would be so much raw emotion on display. The kids—even those who have attended previous events in the hopes of finding their forever family—certainly have hope, but until the ice is broken, most start the day with cautious reserve. Perhaps they start out adjusting their lens to blur the picture of their expectations.

They might have asked themselves how much of their identity they need to share with these families and how to share it. And yet the families probably wonder how, in such a short amount of time, they can most effectively teach the kids about who they are and what they have to offer.

One consolation: no one needed to worry about revealing their “identity” with regards to adoption. But I can imagine it must not be like that in everyday life.

What goes through the minds and emotions of the youth in care? Who are they? How do they see themselves? How do they identify themselves? With what do they identify? They might not admit to classmates that they are in foster care or talk with their peers about their hope of being adopted. And even the families who have chosen the path of adoption may have had to quietly wrestle with infertility or bias to come to that point, and therefore not freely speak much about their “identity.”

So this silence begs the question: through what lens do they see themselves? How do they identify themselves?

Security officers ask to see our proof of identification at the airport or public building. Through the lens of what they see when they look at us and the identification we provide, they either stop us or allow us to pass through.

But ID “lenses” give limited information—descriptions of our eye and hair color, whether we need corrective lenses, our birthplace or our address. Our ID might have our signature and possibly an impossible un-likeness of ourselves that we would rather cover up with our thumb and a slight of hand (or is that just me?). Such “identification” does not suffice when we want people to know something more about the real us. For that, we use words or labels that often bridge our association with someone—something—we have in common.

When we are young, we might proudly (or perhaps despairingly) claim, “I go to pre-school” or “I am in kindergarten” or “I am a middle school student” and later might exclaim with a bit more confidence that we are a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior, a graduate student, or even a Ph.D.

Growing, becoming new people, accepting ourselves and others does change us. Those changes become part of our identity. And, through sharpening the focus of our identity, we inadvertently add new lenses—such as patience or tolerance—through which we see our self and our world.

When we identify as “being” something—a member of a club, association, fraternity, or group—we are provided yet another lens. By sharing our identity lenses, we hope to give others a way through which they will know more about us without the need for a lot of explanation.

What about a child in foster care? A teen who has been in the limbo of foster care for many years? What descriptive words would they use? How easy would anyone find to identify one’s self as “a potential adoptee” or “a waiting child.” Those words are an identity lens that does not show a complete picture.

Waiting children are like everyone else: identity is somewhat tenuous. How much do any of us explain about the real “us?” How much do we need to explain? I am sure it is much more comfortable to stay with identifiers like our favorite sports teams and what we want to be when we grow up. And that is a great beginning.

But each of us also wants to go deeper with some people. Our adopted daughter says whenever she meets and discovers the person is an adoptee—whatever their age—she feels an unspoken bond. She adjusts her identity lens based on the common thread. My own identity lens? For over a quarter of a century I have looked at life through the lens of an adoptive parent. Like our daughter, I feel an unspoken commonality (and, I would have to say, relief, in not having to explain but rather having the joy to share stories) when I meet other adoptive parents or adoptees. It is a bond in which there is a silent knowingness.

Perhaps that is what the youth and families attending felt, too. These events give them the chance not to have to explain everything. Their ID badge, as it were, was simply being there. By the end of the event, there was so much more hope and much less timidity in the faces of the kids and the families (and even on faces of the youth workers). It seemed like during the activities of the day, everyone had adjusted their lenses. Some probably even had the joy of sharing their stories with each other. Maybe this is a point as a lesson for us all: how much we look through our life “identity lenses” and base our reaction to and treatment of others on what we see?

Identity lenses can help us sharpen our insights from both our uniqueness and our differences, and help us know ourselves better by discovering our points of wonder as well as our points of fear. But we should realize they can also block us from getting to know someone better when we use our lens of prejudice for certain labels or categories before we probe more deeply.

“Identity lenses” len(d)s us chances to discover our tolerances but also to be evermore open, accepting and loving. We need to remember that we can choose the shutter speed and when to sharpen or blur the focus and even when we use a close up or wide-angle lens.

11May

NJ-CARES

My name is Kyana and I am a recent addition to the National Adoption Center family. I was brought on as a Recruitment Team Lead Facilitator to work on a grant, NJ-CARES, in collaboration with New Jersey’s Office of Adoption Operations. NJ-CARES’s purpose is to provide intensive-child-specific recruitment to children waiting to be adopted in New Jersey’s foster care system, in fact we are working with those who have been waiting the longest in foster care. The grant is using the teaming process, meaning each child has all of his workers (therapists, case workers and other professionals) come together to identify suitable permanence providers. My role in the project is to lead and facilitate Recruitment Team Meetings on a monthly basis to identify arenas in which to profile youth, recruit potential adoptive families and to secure a permanent team for the youth. I hope that through this project, New Jersey’s longest waiting youth in foster care will have a better chance at finding a “forever home”. While I am aware that this will be a challenging task, I am excited to be a part of the mission to better service youth in the foster care system. The National Adoption Center is excited to be able to provide new recruitment techniques that will help children in foster care find their forever families. Look out for future updates on how the grant is going as we work hard to find ways in which to decrease the number of children waiting for permanent, loving homes.

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