Today we join in celebration the 119th birthday of Philadelphia’s Civic Flag. Our very own Wednesday’s Child host Vai Sikahema was honored with the Philadelphia Maneto Award as one of four recipients of bringing brotherly love to the city of Philadelphia with his contribution to Wednesday’s Child. Wednesday’s Child partners include the National Adoption Center, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and NBC 10. 

The day was beautiful and the event was very well attended!  Other honorees included Linda Cliatt-Waymann for her passionate and admirable work as Principal at Strawberry Mansion High School, Wei Chen for his dedication to social justice, safe and peaceful educational environments and overall understanding among youth and Dr. Ala Stanford-Frey, for her organization "It Takes Philly!" whose goal is to improve the lives of Philly youth, by providing them with critical exposure to career opportunities and a brighter future.

On Saturday, March 8th we hosted our Art of Adoption Match Event in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Child Protection and Permanency. A match event is an event that brings youth in foster care together with adults who have been approved to adopt for a day of getting to know one another. Match events are a rare opportunity for the youth and adults to interact one-on-one, get to know each other and decide if they wish to get to know each other better. Of course, we know some of these connections eventually lead to adoption.

Saturday’s match event included a fun day of art activities that focused on the youth. Artists from the Center for the Arts in Southern New Jersey, where the event was held, guided the youth in projects while prospective families were there to assist. Youth were asked to use art to define aspects of themselves. Different techniques such as collage, watercolors, crayons and calligraphy helped the youth express themselves. The overall atmosphere was relaxed and provided ample oppourtunity for youth and families to get to know one another.

This life-changing work wouldn’t be possible without our supporters, so we want to send out a huge thank you to the Center for the Arts in Southern New Jersey for their incredible support in making this a fun and exciting day. 

Recently, our daughter turned 25. Adopted as an infant, she has been and evermore will be the joy of this here-to-fore childless couple’s life.

It was rather surreal to see her—the pictures of her as an infant, as a toddler, young child, teenager flooded my mind—and to look at her now, as a grown (young) woman, called my heart to yield more than a couple of silent tears, revering my title as parent.

Although she was going to perform songs she had written over five-plus years at an open mic night and hoped many of her friends would celebrate with her, she exercised an amazing muscle in her heart:  she invited my husband and me to come!  (And what’s more, she and her friends made her birthday dinner to which we were also invited.)  When it was her turn on stage, the announcer told everyone that it was her birthday and with her first smile and guitar strum she took us all for an amazing ride of her passion to be a part of this world. She was, to very unbiased me, the star of the night. Even though she was to be surrounded by a number of her friends, and accompanied by a few, she, without blinking an eye made it a point of saying that her parents (as if it were a special thing she was proud of!) were “in the house.” And, I think I even heard her say, “Thank you, guys!” (Of course that could have been a universal shout out to everyone who came, but I think I’ll just keep it as directed toward us.)

Her oldest childhood friend was at that gathering to celebrate this landmark quarter-century birthday. Seeing the two of them together, I was reminded of something that happened on our daughter’s fifth birthday. When I recounted the story they both giggled and nodded that they, too, remembered…

When our daughter was five (her friend was six and a half), she announced to this friend she had known since she was two, “I am adopted.”  Although I was in the room when she said it, I was surprised that she blurted it out, and then reveal her understanding about what she had thus far gleaned about being adopted--which, to her, was something special.

I watched her friend’s reaction out of the corner of my eye. This declaration immediately prompted her friend to waltz over to me, hands on hips and vehemently announce, “She’s lying!  She told a lie.” 

“Oh?” I answered. “What was a lie?” 

“She said that she’s adopted. There’s no way. She said you didn’t give birth to her. So she has to be lying. You’ve always been her mother. She is your child,” and with confused eyes and knitted brow, “isn’t she?” 

How does one tell a child about the wonders and the miracle of adoption?  Can it make sense to such young children?  From the time we started talking to our daughter, we always used the word “adoption” and would say it regularly, not as a defense, not as an excuse, but as a term that she could come to understand was something completely normal and natural. We wanted that word to be something she didn’t struggle over, but instead accept as part of life and the special way we became a family.

I told this young friend (I’m sure I am paraphrasing, but to the best of my recollection I said something like this):   “Well, actually, she did not lie. She is adopted. It means that she didn’t come out of my tummy, but we were lucky enough to have her come into our lives. Adoption is a special way that some children join families. We are all lucky because we three became a family. She will always be our daughter. She will always be adopted. And she will always be loved.” 

Our daughter, after placing her hands on her hips, sauntered in front of her friend and with just the slightest upturned face mustering all the righteousness a five year old can, “See. Told you so. I did not come from her tummy. I am adopted.”

Her friend, puzzled and thoughtful for a minute then proclaimed, “Oh, I think that’s something like my mom and dad are planning.”

Knowing her parents well and never having heard this since they had four birth children, I was truly curious, “Are you sure?  Your mom or dad never mentioned that to me!” 

“Oh, I think it costs $12 a month. I heard them talking about it. Our friends do that. They have a picture of the girl on their refrigerator. So my mom and dad are thinking about doing it, too. I think you order a kid through the TV. Do you pay $12 a month, too?” She was referring to a Save the Children Foundation campaign to sponsor children living in another country.

I couldn’t help but smile at this child’s rather sweet life-view. This quite innocent perception of how things work. I am not disparaging that it is a wonderful and noble gesture to sponsor a child in a foreign country who might just have a greater edge in life from financial support and the hands-on gift of letters or gifts.

But, of course, a far deeper passion to impact the life of a child can happen through adopting. Parenting a child in the day-to-day is incomparable. As with any parenting, one will experience indescribable joy. And one will experience heartache of how to guide, to teach, to love their children through crises. The overwhelming measure of life worth, though, can come in the smallest moments—seeing them performing songs they wrote about life, about being raised, about becoming a good person from the influences of their whole life.

Giving a child a unique part of that whole life is an honor and a privilege. Loving someone fiercely enough to share your life with them—from the moments of high drama to the tenderness of good-night prayers, whether nursing them through a strep throats and fevers, driving lessons and packing lunches for school, this role might even be considered a “calling.”   

Hear anything? 

What do you get when you mix 13 energetic youth with 8 equally energetic performers…give up? You get a trip to NYC to see a performance of STOMP!

On Saturday, February 8, 2014 the National Adoption Center in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Child Permanency and Protection took 13 youth in foster care to see a performance of STOMP.  Matchboxes, brooms, garbage cans, Zippo lighters and more fill the stage with energizing beats at STOMP, the inventive and invigorating stage show that's dance, music and theatrical performance blended together in one electrifying rhythm (STOMP, 2014). Youth and their workers had the chance to witness first hand this amazing show that has been delighted audiences for over twenty years. 

Throughout the show were heard “oohs” and “awws” and even a couple of “that was awesome (s)”!. Following the show, the 8 member ensemble and production crew took time to answer questions, take pictures and sign autographs for our youth. What was amazing and generous is that although they were tired from their 90 minute performance and had a short dinner break before the evening's performance, the cast really took the time to talk with our young people.  And our youth had plenty of questions for them! We learned about what it takes to prepare for a show, the backgrounds of the performers and even where the production crew finds some of the props (you’d be surprised!). This was a first time trip to NYC for the youth and they loved their time in the Big Apple!

After the show, we ended our day with dinner at Maggiano’s! This was a real treat for our youth (and the workers)! Even while at dinner, we still could not talking about how exciting the show was! 

We would like to especially thank Wawa for their donation of lunches for the bus trip, the Orpheum Theatre and the cast and crew of STOMP for their hospitality, Maggiano’s for the delicious dinner and US Coachways for making sure that we traveled safely. This was a trip that none of us will soon forget! 

I just had an opportunity to read a new policy brief from the National Center for Policy Analysis entitled Adoptions from Foster Care. In it were the same frustrating barriers to adoption we see all the time: Untrained and Overburdened Caseworkers, Lack of Outreach to Potential Adoptive Parents (including very poor customer service), Difficulties of Interstate Adoptions and Lack of Subsidies for Adoption and Foster Care. One thing that NCPA did cite was the potential of reinstating institutional child care, otherwise known as Orphanages. A 2003 survey of over 800 orphanage alumni indicated that “nine out of ten respondents say that they would have preferred to have grown up in an orphanage rather than in foster care”. What do you think of this very controversial idea?

While watching the news last week, I saw a story that caught my attention.  It was about the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Horse, and millions of people in China were streaming home to be with family. The news called it the largest migration on the planet as millions of people are traveling. For some, who are migrant workers in cities such as Beijing, it is the only time that they get to be with their families. They have endured separation for a year or more as they work to better the lives of the family members they left behind.

The trains are so crowded with people that some go into a lottery just to get a ticket for home.  Home can sometimes be more than ten hours away by train. There is a Chinese saying, “Rich or poor, get home for the holiday.”  The travelers know that when they reach home they will see their loved ones, share meals with their family, and enjoy the firework celebrations. They endure the hardships of cramped, difficult travel and are elated that they are going home.

I thought about how much it means to me to see my family and be surrounded by them. Then I thought of the children in foster care for whom we work at the National Adoption Center.  Those who, through no fault of their own, no longer have their families and are still waiting for that luxury of having a place they can call home.  It made me proud of the work that we do every day to find just one more child in foster care what they each deserve; a secure home and a loving family.   

Every child deserves to live in a loving, permanent family.  That’s the reason why adoption is the preferred option for children whose parents are not able to care for them. 

The policy, known as APPLA—Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement for Children does not work in the children’s best interests.  It is just another way of providing temporary care that is not labeled foster care; but it does not give children the legal and emotional benefits of being part of a permanent family. 

New draft legislation attempts to restrict the use of APPLA by not allowing any youth under 16 to have APPLA as a goal.  It also requires that ongoing efforts to find a permanent family be documented.

 We believe it does not go far enough.  We agree with Voice for Adoption, the national organization that advocates for improved adoption policy, that APPLA cases be reviewed every six months (it is now 12).  We support the requirement of a report one year after APPLA is enacted for a child that would (1) determine the number of children in that state with a goal of APPLA; (2) the ages, gender, race and special needs of those children; (3) why other permanency options such as kinship care or adoption were not considered to be in the child’s best interest; (4) information about the youths’ involvement in the decision to pursue APPLA and other permanency options.    

Children, especially teenagers, often need the encouragement and support of their social workers to help make them aware of and understand fully the benefits of a permanent family.  No child should be “written off” as unadoptable and relegated to APPLA as another holding area until he or she ages out of the foster care system.  As the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption insists, “Unadoptable is not Acceptable.”

I was excited to hear that Comcast Corporation is building a brand new 59 story tower in center city Philadelphia. Dubbed the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, this massive investment once again highlights the tremendous impact technology has on our lives. It also reaffirms our vision that the use of technology can expedite the number of adoptions across the country. The National Adoption Center has always been a leader in the use of technology, and our innovative Wednesday’s Child USA initiative, along with our growing Adoption Community reasserts that.