this post was written by our MSW Intern, Liz Mehaffey

A bipartisan bill entitled The Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act (S. 1542/HR 2883) has just been passed unanimously by the Senate.  Earlier last week, the bill was passed by the entire House of Representatives. The bill is currently awaiting the signature of the president.
This bill directly affects foster care youth by reauthorizing past legislation, and extending until FY 2016 current policies and procedures that promote and provide stability and support for foster youth.  If the bill did not pass, the programs and waiver authority would have expired September 30, 2011.  This would result in the foster system losing almost $700 million to benefit foster care children.
This bill reflects The Center’s mission by encouraging permanency and support of our foster youth.  According to Representative Geoff Davis “The goal of these programs is to keep families together, while ensuring that children are protected from harm”.
This bill provides care for foster youth until their 21st (compared to their 18th) birthday, and creates support systems for the youth, by providing for them both mentally and physically. More significantly, this money from the bill helps youth reconnect to families, by encouraging kinship care, increasing sibling adoption placements, and reconnecting them with their biological families.  (If you want to read more detail about the bill you can go here:
Since the bill will be implemented at no additional cost, Senator Hatch stated, “By not adding to the deficit, this bill provides a fiscally sound approach towards identifying solutions to many of the problems plaguing the child welfare system today.” The Center supports the passage of this bill, and encourages more legislation to be passed to support our foster youth.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services recently stopped referring foster care and adoption cases to Catholic charitable groups and said it is planning to move all existing cases to other agencies. The action stems from a clash between Catholic doctrine and the state's new law granting the right for same-sex couples to seek civil unions. Catholic agencies have refused to license same-sex couples in civil unions as foster parents — a position state officials say is a deal breaker. The National Adoption Center fully supports the actions taken by Illinois as there should be no impediments to finding secure, loving homes for children in foster care. Where do you stand?

Michael and Frank with Umpire Tichenor

On Friday, July 29th, participants from the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program got the chance to not only attend a Phillies game, but also received the VIP treatment from the UMPS CARES Charities and Phillies staff. 

The day started off with a tour of the media room, where Michael and Frank (both New Jersey youth awaiting adoption) got the chance to sit in the “hot seat” usually occupied by Phillies' Manager Charlie Manual for interviews after the game. We then got to go onto the field to watch the visiting team (Pittsburgh Pirates) during batting practice. While on the field, umpire Todd Tichenor talked to everyone about his experience with becoming an umpire, and the importance of making good calls on the field and in life. Todd even showed everyone how the umps are able to view instant replays. As the tour concluded, we were all lucky enough to run into Phillies outfielder, Shane Vicotorino who gave us a quick hello. 

Michael and Frank with Recruiter Crystal

Everyone was able to stay for the game. We had great seats near home plate where Todd was located. He made sure he found where we were seated and gave us a thumps-up during the game.

UMPS CARE Charities is a 501(c)(3) non-profit established by Major League Baseball (MLB) umpires to provide financial, in-kind and emotional support for America’s youth and families in need. Through our youth-based programs, professional baseball umpires enrich the lives of at-risk youth and children coping with serious illness by providing memorable baseball experiences, supporting pediatric medical care, and raising awareness for foster care children waiting to be adopted. 

The Adoption Center of Delaware Valley would like to thank the UMPS CARES Charities, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and the Philadelphia Phillies organization (especially Ryan Hayes) for making this a fun and memorable day for everyone! 

While most Americans are breathing a sigh of relief that the debt-ceiling ‘crisis’ is over, the damage it could cause to U.S. children may be just beginning. Few mainstream economists believe the bill signed by the President will do anything to jumpstart a sluggish economy or create jobs. That means a continuing rapid rise in child poverty rates, and with that, more children and youth will be lost in “the system”. And with the deal’s commitment to cut trillions more in federal spending in the coming decade, it’s unimaginable that children will be spared even more cuts. 

It takes an incredible toughness to go through the adoption process. Our society likes to believe that those who adopt, simply get the idea, gather up a few hundred dollars and whisk out to their local ‘adoption agency’ or ‘birth person on the street’ to ask, ‘Can we have your baby?” If this is what you’ve thought adoption was about, you’re very wrong. The names below are fictitious, but the steps involved to adopt can be very true.

Mary and John have gone through several miscarriages and rounds of IVF. They have approximately $20,000 left. They’ve decided their funding will either be exhausted by continued attempts with IVF; or, they’ll bet on a sure thing with putting their monies into adoption. They feel as though they’ve been through the mire. They’ve been married 6yrs, have good jobs and feel good about making a decision toward something that will have a happy ending. (Adoption)
But before that happy ending can happen, Mary and John will have to undergo a grueling test of just how much they really WANT to have a baby in their home.
By going down the long road of proving themselves worthy to adopt and parent children. This task of proving themselves will put them through one of the toughest journeys of their lives. The process is one of the most ‘one-sided events’ they’ll ever undertake. And, unless they’re well educated and well read, it’s very possible that they’ll lose a considerable amount of money before they have a newborn in their arms…..
Before anyone can legally adopt a baby, they have to have a completed home study. This document is essential to adopt domestically and internationally. The cost for a domestic home study often ranges from $1500.00 – $2000.00. (An international home study often costs more.) The home study involves individual interviews with the prospective parent; interviews with both parents; written referrals from friends, relatives, bosses, and sometimes, their pastor. It will require that the hopeful adoptive couple submit to full disclosure of their tax forms, their loans, expenses, their monthly budget and any other additional income or debts they might have. They’ll be asked if they have a will, life insurance and a designated person to parent their child should both of them die at the same time.
It will require them to write out a biography of their lives and how they met; how long they dated and what kinds of issues they might have dealt with—prior to and post marriage– that were easy or difficult. They’ll have to answer questions about their parents’ discipline; talk about their own ideas concerning children; how their expanded family feels about adoption and how good their sex life is—or is not. They’ll also be required to discuss their failed IVF treatments; whether they think they’re ready to have a baby through adoption and why they think they should be allowed to adopt at all. Oftentimes, their boss will have to submit a letter discussing how well they perform their job and how long they’ve been employed with that job.
If their state requires a foster license in order to adopt across state lines, they’ll have to complete 16 hours of PRIDE or MAPP classes meant for parents of foster children (even if their child won‘t be a foster child). These classes will include discussions and assignments about behavior disorders, sexual and physical abuse of children, how to discuss adoption with older children, and specific mental issues more often seen in older adopted children who‘ve been through the foster care system.
They’ll have to submit to a state (and sometimes national) background and fingerprint check; oftentimes, a CPR class; and usually one or more parenting classes. Sometimes, there are classes designed to explain a recurrent theory holding that even when their child is adopted, they should understand the child is actually not ‘theirs’, but still belonging to the biological family—whether their child will feel actually feel that way or not. (State foster care systems like to remind parents of the theory that most children will long for their biological family……a theory that oftentimes is not true.)
In short, Mary and John will have to expose their innermost feelings, insecurities and strengths about themselves, each other and those in their extended family; then allow others to tell them HOW and WHY those thought processes are either correct or need correction…depending on who their instructors are.
Through all of this, will be a caseworker who will write out the home study and sometimes put his/her own spin on what’s being said or written by Mary and John. More often than not, the caseworker will be a complete stranger to the hopeful adoptive couple.
Sound overwhelming? It can be. Yet this is just the beginning of an adoption journey.
Compare the above then, with those who choose to get pregnant (or can easily get pregnant).
How many documents does a pregnant couple have to fill out? Does anyone ask about their family background? Do they submit to background checks? (In fact, those convicted of sexual offenses continue to have the right to pro-create.) Does anyone ask them what their plans are for discipline or whether they have a Will or someone to parent their children should both of them die at the same time? Do they have to worry their insurance won’t pay for the pregnancy or the birth of their child?
If getting pregnant takes longer than they’d hoped, will the hopeful pregnant couple need to update their family history as adopting couples do every year (and sometimes, every six months)? Barring IVF treatments, will the hopefully pregnant couple have to pay monies to apply for the possibility of having a child? (Adoptive couples can pay thousands in application fees and possible situations.)
It’s frustrating, unfair and oftentimes, those in waiting will want to throw in the towel and quit altogether. Will you??

this post is a guest blog by one of our members of a program we run - the Teen Leadership Development Series... they had their final meeting of the season this past Wednesday and will resume in September


Hey my name is Zhade. I am 17 years old and I am a part of the Teen Leadership Development Series (TLDS). We learn important things necessary for life. For example, we learn things ranging from Independent Living skills, to learning how to deal with our family. We are all from The Division of Youth and Family Services otherwise known to others as DYFS. We are teens ranging from 15 to 19 who want to make a difference in people’s perception of DYFS kids no matter their age.

We want to get rid of the statistics that all DYFS kids are unable to be cared for and that we are incapable of handling ourselves and others. Guess what………WE'RE NOT A STATISTIC WE ARE HUMAN JUST LIKE YOU!!!!!!!! We are capable of many things that we are doubted for. Believe it or not, some of your favorite singers, actors, comedians, and even major people in our lives have been in foster care. For example Tommy Davidson, he was adopted and look at him…famous comedian. Do you still think we are incapable? This is why the TLDS is here to show and explain to the world that we are normal just like you or you. We are humanly capable of anything that anyone else is.
In the month of January we held a meeting and assigned people to certain positions such as president, vice president, treasurer, media, and so on. We did an exercise to simulate if someone was going to throw a party, what things we would bring to it, but instead we replaced the party with the group and had what leadership qualities would you bring to the group every time we meet and even outside of the group.
Also here at the group……you know what I don't like the term "group" instead how ‘bout we say family. Here at our family meetings we have a system to win money...YES real money. There is fake money we have that we call LEAD bucks, and every time we answer a question we are able to put one LEAD buck per answer to increase our chances of winning money. I personally like this because it allows us to interact with each other and our family leaders (TLDS Coordinators and Recruiters) and allows us to have fun. So this is a positive group that we all are a part of, even new members enjoy it. More from me Zhade, the media promoter, next month after our next meeting. Hope u enjoyed my first blog for our family TLDS.  Next time, and be safe.
Today's post is from Malini, our Marketing Intern
There was an interesting article on the Today Show website that introduced me to the concept of  “Adult Adoptions”. Adult adoptions are supposedly on the rise in the US, although not every state currently allows them. There are many different reasons as to why people go through with adult adoptions; the main reason being a continued desire of former foster youth for a permanent family and the support, guidance, and companionship than stems from that. Most children in foster care, available for adoption, understand this desire. A permanent, stable “family” is what most people want, no matter their age. It brought to mind the question, “What defines a family?” Is there a clear definition?
The article featured on the Today Show website tells the story of Jillian, adopted at the age of 29 by her co-worker and husband. Although Jillian was not in foster care, she did suffer an unfortunate childhood with abusive and troubled parents; a familiar situation for many foster youth. What are your thoughts are on Adult Adoptions after reading the article? Should other states, which currently do not recognize Adult Adoption, join Washington state in making them legal?
Picking your parents: Adult adoption creates new bond
The story below from the Huffington Post is unfortunately very typical, and just about any state can be substituted for California. What can we do to make the system more user-friendly for prospective parents who want to adopt from the foster care system?
from the Huffington Post  May 25, 2011
For James and Stephanie, their experience with California's public agencies is where the adoption process became a story of frustration, unreturned calls, and irrational bureaucracy. It took over a year before they were even considered for a waiting child. Their struggle presents a case study in the obstacles that face anyone trying to adopt a child from a public agency in California.
Some time ago, I wrote a magazine article about Mary Lou who learned when she was 30 that she had been adopted.  “I always knew I was different  from other members of my family,” she told me, “but I couldn’t put my finger on what I was feeling.”  From the moment she learned about her adoption, she became obsessed with wanting to find out more about her birth parents.  Every time she stopped her car at a red light, she peered into the car next to her to see if anyone looked like her.   When she sat under the hair dryer at the beauty salon, she scanned the faces of other women to see if she could detect  a resemblance.  She knew she had been born in a small town in Pennsylvania and when she accompanied her husband on a business trip to that town, she had a feeling she might get closer to her roots.   She told me that when she gazed out of the hotel window where she and her husband were staying, she had the feeling she was close to her birth mother.  She learned later that her birth mother had died, but was buried in a cemetery that she could see from that window.  While she was not able to meet her, it gave her a sense of peace to know more about her and what had happened to her.
I thought about Mary Lou when I read an editorial the other day with the headline, “Let the truth be set free.”  The article that followed described a bill passed by the New Jersey Assembly that, if signed by Governor Christie, would give adults access to their original birth records.   Only a handful of states allow that access.  In those that do, it is the experience that not every adopted adult takes advantage of that option.  Many of those who are adopted are content without digging into their past. However, for those like Mary Lou who agonized about her origin for years, access to their records would be freeing not only for them but for their adoptive parents who want their children to be as emotionally well-adjusted  as possible.
The following was written by Chris Jacobs our Program Director.
I would like to respond with some facts about National Adoption Center match parties. The children and teens who attend do know that they are coming to an event to meet families. The Center believes that not every child or teen is appropriate to attend a match party and no child/teen should be forced to attend. Children are prepared by their social workers to know what to expect, or in the case of our teens-only events, two preparation meetings are held with the teens before the match party to go over the agenda for the day, and address any concerns or questions they have.   
Of course, meeting families face-to-face is exciting and can also be scary---for the youth and for the families!    Center staff also meet with the families before each party to once again go over the agenda for the day and to coach them (because they are also nervous) about being sensitive to the youth, respecting their privacy and using this as an opportunity to interact and share what they have in common. The staff also provides some do’s and don’ts (no pictures taken with their cell phones, no promises made to youth, no discussion of adoption.)
The Center believes that the youth must have a voice in their own recruitment and our parties are planned to be “no pressure,” fun for the youth and always respectful of their feelings and privacy. There will inevitably be youth who attend for whom families do not request additional information. However, a match party is just one strategy their social worker can use to find them a family. The Center encourages the social worker to  discuss with the child, after the party, the child’s reaction to the experience.
It has been the experience of the National Adoption Center and other organizations that have sponsored such parties, that if the events are orchestrated with sensitivity and the children are prepared well before and talk with their social workers afterward, the experience will be a positive one for the child. As one enthusiastic social worker said, “In a perfect world, we would not need adoption parties.” The reality is that nearly 120,000 children around the country are yearning for permanent families. Attending such events increases their chances dramatically.”