The sometimes volatile discourse surrounding the right of or appropriateness of gays and/or lesbian adults to adopt children yearning for permanence and forever families triggers, for me, memories of my “family secret”…a secret hidden at great emotional cost to me, my brothers and my mother. This secret undermined our financial security, sense of personal safety and was a crippling embarrassment. Our father’s alcoholism was, then, seen a disgrace rather than diagnosed as disease. Given the choice I’d take gay any day!

Were my parents loving and devoted? Yes…still no family is without difficulties and uniqueness. Adults who embody integrity, love, acceptance, stability, commitment, honesty, openness and candor are the bedrock of a civil society. Individuals embracing some or all of these attributes make superb parents and role models. Sexual preference may be descriptive but it is not defining of sound parenting.

Prejudice and intolerance are THE purgative anvils of a dysfunctional society,. These two often level irreparable harm to children and putrefy our humanity.

My own family is blessed with one adopted son among our three children. He is mixed racially – the rest of us are not. At age 3 he was often asked by children, “How come you don’t look anything like your mom?” His favorite answer, “Different strokes for different folks.” Those who are accepting count to him. Unaccepting people don’ t count.

Parental sexuality doesn’t count to children. Caring, courageous, loving parents are the wind beneath their children’s wings. This very wind gusts-away questions of sexual preference.

contributed by Kelly Wolfington, NAC Board Member

On September 29, President Obama signed the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act. The law will protect children from sex trafficking, enhance the Adoption Incentive program, enable children in care to participate in normal childhood activities and fund new post-adoption and post-guardianship supports. The bill’s movement through Congress was not easy, but well worth the wait. The National Adoption Center is particularly pleased that the new law prevents states from using the Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) as a case goal for children under 16. These children must now have a case goal of return home, adoption, guardianship or relative placement. Youth 16 and up may still have an APPLA goal but states must document ongoing efforts to achieve permanency and the rational for why other permanency options are not in the youth’s best interests. The National Adoption Center is grateful for the efforts of congressional leaders and child welfare advocates who worked so diligently to ensure passage of the bill.

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Every year, adoptive parents welcome tens of thousands of children and teenagers into supportive and loving families.
These mothers and fathers provide their sons and daughters with the security and stability of a safe environment and the opportunity to learn, grow, and achieve their full potential. During National Adoption Month, we honor those who have opened their hearts and their homes, and we recommit to supporting all children still in need of a place to call their own.

Over the past decade, more than 500,000 children have been adopted. However, there are still too many children waiting to be part of an adoptive family. This month -- on the Saturday before Thanksgiving -- we will observe the 15th annual National Adoption Day, a nationwide celebration that brings together policymakers, practitioners, and advocates to finalize thousands of adoptions and to raise awareness of those still in need of permanent homes.
To help ensure there is a permanent home for every child, my Administration is investing in programs to reduce the amount of time children in foster care wait for adoption and to educate adoptive families about the diverse needs of their children, helping ensure stability and permanency. We are equipping State and local adoption organizations with tools to provide quality mental health services to children who need them, and -- because we know the importance of sibling relationships -- we are encouraging efforts to keep brothers and sisters together. Additionally, last year I was proud to permanently extend the Adoption Tax Credit to provide relief to adoptive families. By supporting policies that remove barriers to adoption, we give hope to children across America. For all those who yearn for the comfort of family, we must continue our work to increase the opportunities for adoption and make sure all capable and loving caregivers have the ability to bring a child into their life, regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or marital status.

Throughout November, we recognize the thousands of parents and kids who have expanded their families to welcome a new child or sibling, as well as the professionals who offer guidance, resources, and counseling every day. Let us reaffirm our commitment to provide all children with every chance to reach their dreams and realize their highest aspirations.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2014 as National Adoption Month. I encourage all Americans to observe this month by answering the call to find a permanent and caring family for every child in need, and by supporting the families who care for them.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.

H.R. 4980 – The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act just passed the Senate by unanimous consent in the last hours before adjournment. The bill is to reauthorize the federal Adoption Incentives Program, renew the last year of funding for the Family Connections Grants and strengthen child welfare’s response to foster youth who fall victim to domestic sex trafficking. The National Adoption Center, along with many child welfare colleagues, has been tirelessly advocating for better investments into post-adoption services and increased efforts to secure permanent families for older youth in foster care. The bill will now be sent to the President for signature to become law.

The following provisions are related to adoption:
• The bill reauthorizes the Adoption Incentives Program for 3 years through FY2016 (to align with the reauthorization date of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program (PSSF)).
• The bill phases-in a move to incentives based on rate increases, provides incentives for guardianships for the first time, as well as provides a higher incentive for older youth adoptions and guardianships.
• The bill extends funding for the Family Connections Grants for one year.
• The bill strengthens the 2008 Fostering Connections Act provision requiring states to track and reinvest savings as a result of the federal Title IV-E Adoption Assistance de-link.
• The bill requires HHS to assist states with calculating these savings and requires annual reporting. Additionally, the bill requires that not less than 30 percent of these savings be spent on post-adoption/post-guardianship services, and services to sustain permanent outcomes (of which 20 percent is designated for post-adoption and post-guardianship services).
• The bill requires states to track data on disrupted and dissolved adoptions and guardianships.
• The bill eliminates “APPLA” – Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement – as a permanency goal for youth under age 16.
• The bill encourages the placement of children in foster care with siblings by adding clarifying language that all parents of siblings be notified within 30 days after the removal.

My name is Anna Coleman and I am currently a graduate student at Eastern University. As a grad student finding the time to do anything other than school work can be a pretty difficult task. Therefore during my summer breaks I try and take advantage of my new-found free time. Instead of spending the summer on a beach like I had planned to do, I was required to spend my summer elsewhere. Despite the fact that I couldn’t spend my summer as I had hoped, I found this "something else" to be much more rewarding. For the past six weeks I’ve been working as a program intern for the National Adoption Center.  Although my time here has been brief, I have found this organization to be instrumental in changing the lives of others.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a Wednesday’s Child taping of a sibling group of three. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Wednesday’s Child, it features children who are waiting to be adopted by loving families. The two tapings that I attended were done by NBC10 and KYW Newsradio. Each taping serves the same purpose: to create a feature profiling each child or sibling group. NBC10 features children with a television segment and KYW Newsradio features children with a radio interview segment. The first taping was for KYW Newsradio. When the kids arrived they seemed pretty nervous, but who can blame them? As a child, if I walked into a room full of adult strangers, I’d be nervous too. But Larry Kane, being the professional he is got the children to open up and talk about what they like to do for fun and what family means to them.

Things seemed too lighten up when we arrived at Arnold’s Fun Center to do the taping for NBC10. Although they seemed shy at first, they really opened up while at the Fun Center. You could not keep these three from smiling. They rode go karts, played some arcade games, and they even had enough time to get a game of laser tag in. All three kids really seemed to enjoy themselves. I know they say that a picture is worth a thousand words but actually being in the moment is worth so much more. These kids were taped in the moment being exactly who they are, kids! No masks, no facades, just their genuine selves. Which at the end of the day, what more could you ask for? Three fun loving kids looking for a forever family, and if anyone deserves it, it’s them.

The start of a new fiscal year brings new opportunities to identify forever families for our most vulnerable children, thanks to the National Adoption Center. We’ve been looking into the concept of Extreme Recruitment®, a new initiative which began in St. Louis with the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition. Extreme Recruitment® finds permanent homes for children by creating a dynamic team that works together, with a strong sense of urgency. It’s a race to find permanency using 12-20 weeks of intensive recruitment efforts and preparation and represents a significant shift in thinking from traditional practice. We believe Extreme Recruitment® has the potential to significantly decrease the number of children and youth seeking permanent, loving homes.  We will keep you looped-in as we continue to discover new ways to help children in foster care find their forever families.

Turning Points for Children held a Foster Family Café on Saturday, June 21 at the Oxford Circle Mennonite Church in northeast Philadelphia. The program included testimonials from a foster parent, a youth who is currently in foster care and presentations from Turning Points and the National Adoption Center. The presentations helped the families to understand what it means to be a foster parent and how children in foster care need the love and stability of caring foster parents to help them reach their potential.  Twenty families attended and asked many questions during the presentations and then shared lunch with the staff of Turning Points and the National Adoption Center.  Families who attended were invited to attend an orientation meeting with Turning Points to begin the process of becoming a foster family.  More than half the families signed up to attend the orientation!  

Last night I (Ken, Executive Director) had the pleasure of attending the Freddie Mac Foundation’s farewell reception in Washington D.C. The Foundation was created in 1991 as the philanthropic arm of Freddie Mac. Since that time, it has worked to make home a place where children and families thrive, giving more than $423 million to a long and diverse list of nonprofit organizations. The National Adoption Center is eternally grateful for the Freddie Mac Foundation’s support of our Wednesday’s Child program, which has helped to create so many forever families for children in foster care. We are proud of our 61% success rate and equally proud to have been associated with such an outstanding organization. Their 23 year legacy will live on for years to come.

We had a great turnout for our introduction to Turning Points for Children at Tacony Library last night! Over 40 families came to learn more about foster care and adoption and how they can become involved in helping children in their community. There were lots of good questions and interest! We hosted this event in partnership with Turning Points for Children and will be hosting another event like this on Saturday June 21st at Oxford Circle Mennonite Church located at 900 E. Howell Street in Philadelphia. For more information and to register click here.

Mother’s Day is right around the corner. As an adoptive mom, I consider this day special.

It, to me, signifies a rite of passage. Days when adoptive parents have earned the right to celebrate and be honored in that position.

Close to my own mom, I recall treasured Mother’s Day times with her. One that stands out to this day, presenting that infamous M-O-T-H-E-R poem--you know the --

M is for the million things something, something

O is for the (well, you get the picture)

--in crayoned drawn letters that I surely worked hard to create. Little did I realize as a youngster that my mother hated that poem--with a passion.

I never subjected it to her ever after. Nor the poem “Trees” or the song “Donkey Serenade” (we are going back here, I know—but then she is nearly 93)—things I learned made my mom cringe. I never told my mom that I was just a wee bit hurt by her frankness, and her (ahem, dare I say) insensitivity to her at-the-time only child. Don’t get me wrong:  I love my mom to bits and still do but, given my experience, I resolved early on that if I was ever blessed with raising a child, I would be grateful for any gift given to me.  

Happy to be spending this upcoming Mother’s Day with my daughter, I was reflecting that over these 25 years of her life that I have memories of some amazing and lovely Mother’s Day offerings. There are several I consider Mom Treasures:

  •  The gift of sweetness:  at age 5, a clutched-to rose, slightly wilted, but given with giggles and eyes that laughed with delight and made me cry.
  • The gift of thoughtfulness:  a laptop desk—because she knows I love to write and be comfortable doing it. This gift I have used nearly every day for the last nine years.
  • The gift of creative genius:  the very best breakfast/meal of my life—hands down—served on our best china to me in bed, no less, accompanied by a vase of wildflowers she picked herself, and with a menu I still haven’t forgotten: French toast, scrambled eggs, sausage (no easy task as she was vegetarian), parfait of fresh fruit and yogurt dressing she whipped together and (of course) coffee. It was made with so much love. To this day, I can’t recall ever having tasted a meal as delicious.
  • The gift of surprise:  treating me to a paint-on-pottery session to share her passion for art; she paid for the experience and even brought the snacks for our hours of fun. (The cup I made is one I used for years which now graces a prominent place on my bookshelf of precious things, positioned just so to ensure that the broken handle is not visible.) 
  • The gift of strength:  last Mother’s Day weekend, helping my husband and I move, and then making an amazingly good spread. I got to choose the menu.

But perhaps my favorite is something I look at it every day at least twice--for it is hung right above the bed. The credit for design and craftsmanship must be acknowledged. It is a plaque from the Willowtree creations.

  • The gift of soul:  this image of mother and child is the reflection of my long-suffering and enduring hope as an infertile woman that I would someday embrace a child of my own. Through the gift of love and the grace of God, my husband and I adopted a most beautiful child. This picture says what my meager words cannot.

As I gaze at this lovely memento daily, memories of other days that held just as much the thrill of a Mother’s Day celebration come across my mind’s garden—some that were quiet, some that were the unassuming everyday variety, and some with a little more bling:

  • Cooking together—dancing around the kitchen—cranking up the music real loud (something we did when my husband was generally not at home). 
  • Reading her Cinderella when she was age 5 or 6 and having her say (I am paraphrasing)—“Did Ella come from her stepmother’s tummy?”  “No.”  “Oh. I’m lucky ‘cuz even though I didn’t come from your tummy, I don’t think you’re an evil stepmother!”  (Made me smile; she said it with such resolute sincerity. Nice to know!)
  • Losing sight of her at Disney World when our 5-year old went down the wrong side of a four-sided slide in Mickey’s playground. We heard her wail about stranger danger (gosh, she was listening after all) so she was not out of sight for more than a few minutes (and we could hear her). Once she was safely back in our arms, through her tears she thanked a kind gentlemen she considered her hero because--according to her--“he saved my life because he found my parents!”  
  • Being asked to do her hair for prom (I am no beautician but did have a trusty set of electric rollers) two years in a row (!) rather than getting it done professionally to save money and allow me to participate in this adventure.
  •  Having “girl’s night” together once a week when she was young—watching movies, eating popcorn or nachos in bed—and giggling or crying. Just because.
  •  Staying home from work when she had scarlet fever at age three and making up a game by role playing and acting whatever I could remember about the Peter Pan-Captain Hook-Tiger Lily story, something she asked to play for years after that.
  •  She and my husband hip replacement-proofing the house, being with me the day of surgery and during my hospital stay, and also cooking and playing nursemaid to me once I was back home.
  •  Watching her and her friends do summer “Olympics” gymnastics right alongside the 1996 gymnasts on TV--walking on balance beams and clearing straddle horses visible to only them, and bowing before imagined audiences when they held up cards that said “9” and “10” for each other! 
  •  Surprising her by dropping by school to eat lunch, and her actually being glad and introducing me (with pride) to her classmates!
  •  Making me begin to “let go and let (her) grow” by earning a scholarship to Cambridge University in England for a summer program when she was only 14.
  •  Proving she was a girl of her word when she exclaimed “I want to be with you,” so much so that when I was on an extended phone conversation with a friend, she found a pair of scissors and cut one side of her hair, bringing the fistful of her locks and a hopeful smile but eyes that spoke to her uncertainty of what my reaction would be. (Let’s just say, this got my attention real quick.)

Parents have a mélange of memories:  funny, poignant, scary, or over-the-top-how-do-I-handle-this one moments. They can be the small snatches of life, the tender times we might not even recognize as future memories that will comfort us.

I urge mothers to remember the pictures of life as a parent that have captured your gaze, your heart!  Perhaps this could start the ball rolling. 

Even if we just write them down and pull them out at future times when we need a lift or a smile, memories can be healing. Your memories can be considered gifts—Mom Treasures.

I hope this Mother’s Day and those ever after will be landmark moments for adoptive mothers to realize our Rite of Passage is noteworthy—whether this is a position we have held for years, we are just embarking on this journey, or are somewhere in the process. Congratulations. It is your badge to wear proudly.

Motherhood. Parenthood. When you are in the ‘hood, you will most definitely have memorable days—whether or not they have something to do with a Hallmark holiday. And, just to warn you, some of them will undoubtedly make you feel daze-d!