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!

One of the greatest struggles adoption workers can experience when working with their youth is the ability for the youth to be open and honest about the situations and problems they face. Youth tend to read workers very easily and know if the visiting worker has interest in who they are and what they are experiencing. When I visit my youth monthly, and sometimes bi-monthly, I make them the number one priority when they are in the room with me. I make sure they feel safe and that they can be vulnerable is of utmost importance. My conversations with my youth are focused on what they are currently experiencing, their true feelings about adoption, how their interactions have been with their foster family, group home workers, hospital workers and with whomever they currently reside.

When I am working with a child, I must shut out outside distractions such as my other work concerns and personal world. I am asking a youth to be vulnerable, a key component of open communication, and if I can’t give 100% attention, why then would the youth be 100% open with me? As a former foster youth and now adoption worker, I understand first-hand the emotional destruction youth face daily when no one will listen to them. When workers listen and try to understand youth, we get greater insight into the longest-waiting youth who desire to have a forever family. This insight may reveal pain, trauma, frustration, lack of validation, etc., but the youth now has a sounding board. Working with them then gives them a chance to heal, grow and overcome the past they are forced to face daily.

My advice to other workers: When working with youth, let them communicate with complete vulnerability by, you as a worker, setting aside all distractions and being compassionate for a child who is looking to you for help. The greater a distraction is for you, the greater the hurt becomes for the youth that is being served by you. Open and vulnerable communication from a youth opens a world of complete and personal trust. This trust should not be taken with lightheartedness, but with a heart of pure understanding and longing to make sure our youth are heard and their needs are met.

The Adoption Center will host a visitor from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption this month! Andrea, our program manager, will come to meet with the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters, Jason, (Delaware) and Anna (Southern New Jersey) and me, as I supervise their work. We look forward to the Foundation visits as we always learn how we might improve the work of finding permanent homes for the children we serve. This is quality time spent with Andrea as together we review our successes and look at our challenges. The Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program is an important component of the work of the Adoption Center. As the Dave Thomas Foundation says, “Unadoptable is Unacceptable!” Here at the Adoption Center we believe that if a child is unable to be reunited with their biological family, then a new adoptive family should be found. The Adoption Center believes, “There are no unwanted children, just unfound families”. Welcome, Andrea!

Do you remember picture day at school? I do. I would beg my mom to take her time with my hair and I was sure to pick out the prettiest outfit I could find in my closet. Unfortunately, some of the youth in foster care aren’t able to have the same experience as I did. This could be due to a number of things, their living arrangements, the way their school is set up, some may not want their photos taken, etc. This experience is even tougher to create for youth with advanced medical needs. As an adoption recruiter, I try my best to help my youth experience some sort of normalcy in their lives no matter the activity, picture day especially! Thanks to the help of the fabulous photographer Marge Kovatch and the staff from the facility that my youth reside in we were able to do just that for two of my youth.

Picture day turned out to be a special photo shoot just for them! The weather was nice and the foliage was beautiful; which was fitting for the two beautiful souls being photographed that day. Despite their challenges, they loved having the camera on them. All of their photos came out amazing and the photographer did an excellent job at capturing their personality in every single shot. We will be sure to share the photos once we get them!

The Philadelphia 76ers just selected two of our children to be a Strong Kid of the Game! Muhammad and Patrick will get the experience of a lifetime and will each receive: 4 lower-level tickets to a game, free parking, a tour of exclusive areas of the Wells Fargo Center, watch pregame warm-ups courtside, have photos taken in the press conference area, a custom jersey, have a photo taken with a player and receive on-court recognition! During the on-court recognition their name will be read and a video will play showing what the Strong Kid of the Game exemplifies. The National Adoption Center salutes the entire 76ers organization for their Strong community efforts!

Parenting Special Needs online magazine is now partnering with the us to feature children who wait to be adopted. In the current issue, you’ll meet Thomas, a three-year-old who now lives in a medical facility, but is ready to be discharged to a family that is committed to caring for him through adulthood and maintaining the services he needs for his optimum healthy development.

The magazine, which is published every other month, will continue to publish stories about children like Thomas, often members of an invisible population of children who live in foster care or special facilities because their birth parents cannot care for him. Thomas loves to smile and laugh, and enjoys warming himself in the sun while sitting in his specialized wheel chair. He likes hearing music and, like many children his age, he is comforted by the touch of his caregiver.

Sometimes, it feels daunting to find a family able to care for a child such as Thomas who has traumatic brain injury, cortical blindness and is prone to seizures

But there are people who want to share their capacity to love and embrace the challenges of caring for children with profound medical conditions. One such couple is Karen and Adam Owens who adopted Jayden, 3, whom they had seen on a “Wednesday’s Child” feature on Philadelphia’s NBC10. Jayden, too, has a traumatic brain injury from shaken-baby syndrome. He is deaf and breathes through a tube in his throat. But Karen and Adam believed they had something to offer a child with serious health issues. Karen has said, “I wish more people would adopt. All it takes is one person to say “yes. If not us, then who?

We recently had an extra-special Wednesday’s Child taping. One of the children we work with, "Tommy", really loves the Phillies, so we reached out to see if they would be interested in hosting a taping. They welcomed the Wednesday’s Child crew and Tommy with open arms! The first place we went was the clubhouse. Tommy was able to walk around the room and see each player's locker space -a great way to imagine what it’s like to get ready for a game. We then walked the same path the players walk out to the field. Since it was not a gameday, the Park was ours. There is something truly magical about being able to be in an empty stadium, to be able to sit in the dugout, throw some pitches and even stand at home plate!

Tommy also got to view the World Series trophy they won in 2008. The Phillies were so generous to have us, we were also stunned at the awesome gifts they had for Tommy. The Phillies presented him with a personalized jersey, a bat signed by Ryan Howard, t-shirts, a backpack, Phanatic socks and more! We were all overwhelmed with their hospitality, and couldn’t have imagined a better day.

On the surface a Wednesday’s Child taping is just a really fun day that we take the kids on, but is so much more than that. I am always in awe of the bravery it takes for our kids to volunteer to be on television The closest analogy I can think of is dating. Imagine being interviewed about your likes and dislikes, what you want in a partner and then having that interview be boiled down to two minutes to be shown on television in the Philadelphia metro area! That’s essentially what our kids are doing, but in search of a family. While it is heartbreaking that any child is ever put in the position to have to try to find their own family, it is a reality we work with.

Before a taping, we always work with the children and their case managers to make it as easy as possible for them. We let them know what to expect, a prepare them for the events of the day. Personally, it is always my goal to find a great venue and activity for the child, giving them an opportunity other children don't get. I also find that when the child gets engrossed in the activity his nerves fade, and his personality shines. We work with great children who happen to be living in foster care, we wish to convey how special they are in each and every segment we film. Lastly, thank you, thank you, thank you to the staff at the Phillies for making this a day Tommy will always remember!

All videos of Wednesday's Child can be seen on NBC10's website.

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.

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.

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!