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!

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.

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!