It’s that time of year again! We’re putting the final touches on our next match event happening in January. For those that aren’t familiar with matching events, it is a carefully-planned event designed to bring together children waiting to be adopted with approved, home-studied families interested in adopting them. The children and youth participate in an entertaining day that focuses on them and also gives them the chance to meet other youth who are waiting to be adopted. These events enable youth to participate in the effort to find their adoptive families. Matching events have been a core service of the Adoption Center of Delaware Valley in the tri-state area of Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware for more than 25 years. These events are specifically for children awaiting adoption. We understand the desire to want to be a resource for these youth but for safety reasons, we only invite families who have completed a homestudy. (A homestudy is a process that is completed with a local adoption agency; we can help you begin the process, if you wish to.) If you’re a homestudied family interested in attending this event or would like some general information on how to start the homestudy process, please contact Anna Coleman at 267-443-1867 or at

It was so disturbing to read about the Utah judge who removed a foster child from their home because they were lesbians. Under the order issued Tuesday, Judge Scott Johansen had given state officials until Nov. 17 to remove the child. In his ruling, Johansen said research showed that children do better in homes with heterosexual parents. Court papers filed on behalf of the couple are not public, but they ask the court to reverse the order and prevent the child from being removed said their attorney, James Hunnicutt. "What [Johansen] did was obviously just unconstitutional and against the law," This order was then rescinded, but on December 4th there will be another hearing to decide what is in the best interest of the child.
The National Adoption Center strongly supports the rights of these foster parents. The consensus of social scientists is that gay couples are not any less fit to parent a child than heterosexual ones. In fact, NAC is hosting an LGBT Adoption Café this month (National Adoption Awareness Month) to identify and recruit LGBT parents for children in foster care. We commend companies like Wells Fargo, our event underwriter, for their support of equal rights under the law.

Former Nurse Forgoes the ‘Single Life’ to Adopt Special Needs Children

Marcella Pigford spent 23 years as a pediatric nurse for medically fragile children. In her mid-forties, she lost her job, and decided to seize the opportunity to enjoy the single life. She had options. Her children were grown. Marcella sold her house, opened a fashion boutique, and started traveling. But something was missing…

“I always dreamed of having a large family,” said Marcella. “One day I realized how much I missed caring for the babies in the pediatric nursing facility, so I called an agency about fostering children with special medical needs. That was the start of my happily ever after.”

Soon Marcella’s case worker called her about fostering Ar’nez, a two-year-old boy who had Cerebral Palsy, seizure disorder, cried a lot, was non-verbal, deaf, blind and underweight because he did not like to eat. Marcella agree.

While caring for Ar’nez, Marcella would sing him nursery rhymes and kiss his check. Ar’nez seemed so happy, and above all he had not cried once while in Marcella’s company. Marcella told her case worker that she wanted to adopt him despite doctors’ warnings that Ar’nez would likely never walk or speak.

“The power of love can make any weak man strong,” said Marcella.

Since the adoption, Marcella has secured additional physical therapy for Ar’nez who is trying to stand and walk. He is now considered healthy weight, and says, “Mama.” Once considered deaf and blind, Ar’nez can now hear out of his right ear and tracks Marcella with his eyes wherever she moves. He also claps his hands, plays patty cake, and gives kisses and high fives.

Destined to be Mother and Child

While bonding with Ar’nez, Marcella received a call to provide respite care for an Autistic boy. When the case worker gave Marcella the boy’s name (withheld here for privacy reasons), Marcella’s heart skipped a beat. The child’s name had a unique spelling – like another boy she had cared for from infancy to age two. The case worker sent Marcella the child’s picture, and upon seeing it, Marcella burst into tears.

“It was the same child I cared for! My heart was heavy because this child was released to go home with his biological mother. I immediately felt sad for him and knew he needed me. I felt his pain, his fears and knew that he had to be scared and afraid. Without even seeing him, I told the case worker that if he was available for adoption, my home would be his last stop.”

Marcella felt in her heart that the child would remember her. Marcella greeted him with a hug and told him she had missed him. Marcella then gave him a doctor’s kit as a gift and told him that when he was a “little peanut” she would listen to his heart and take his temperature. Now that he was a big boy, he could take care of her. He took the toy stethoscope and started to listen to her heart.

“I asked him if he could hear what my heart was saying, and he smiled,” said Marcella. “I told him that my heart was saying, ‘I love you and missed you, and I’m glad that you are here with me. He said, ‘Thank you Mommy’ and gave me a big hug. I was stunned and knew that he was destined to be my child.”

Marcella’s adoption of the second child will be complete on National Adoption Day (November 21) 2015.

Marcella encourages anyone who is thinking of fostering a child to consider adoption because it makes a huge difference in a child’s life.

“No child wants to feel like they are not wanted or don’t belong. The state will support children until age 21. All the resources are set up for you. If you have room in your heart and home to make a child’s dream come true with a forever home, it could be the best choice you'd ever make.”

Marcella added that her children are blessings from God who bring joy and happiness to her life on a daily basis. She looks forward to growing her family by fostering-to-adopt more children.
The Pascucci Family
After seeing the movie The Blind Side—the story of a homeless teen taken in by a family that supported and encouraged him onto an NFL career—Karen Pascucci was inspired to adopt from foster care.

Karen’s husband John immediately agreed. John and Karen have both lived through difficult former marriages and divorces. “We could relate to how a child in foster care must be feeling,” Karen said. “The anxiety. Losing one’s foundation. These are relatable feelings.”

“We have more empathy because we’ve been through hard times,” John added. “We have a lot to offer as parents plus the time, lifestyle and an extra bedroom that felt empty.”

The Process & The Match

John and Karen’s home study took 9-10 months. They were approved by the end of May, attended their first foster-to-adopt match party on June 23, and new son Ethan was in the house by the end of August. The whole process cost the Pascuccis a couple hundred dollars.

It all started at the match party hosted by the Adoption Center of Delaware Valley (aka the National Adoption Center). The Pascuccis were looking for a 10 to 13 year old girl. “Instead, we got a 16 year-old man-boy,” Karen joked.

Despite having no emotional, physical or learning disabilities, Ethan was considered a “special needs” child simply because he was near emancipation age.

During the match meeting, an astute social worker felt Ethan and the Pascuccis would be a perfect fit, and asked them to lunch together. John and Ethan started bonding over sports. Karen jumped in and began teasing John. Ethan enjoyed their lighthearted banter.

The Pascuccis talked about their Friday pizza nights, their annual vacations, love of sports and their desire to support a child with college aspirations. At the end of the meeting, both selected each other as a match.

According to Ethan, it was the Pascucci’s active lifestyle that drew him in. “They travel, go rock climbing, to Phillies games… I could see myself living this kind of lifestyle.”

Post Adoption

When Ethan joined the family, he was finally able to tap into his competitive drive and natural athletic abilities. Ethan decided to take advantage of his 6’ 4” tall stature and give rowing a try. Soon thereafter Ethan was fielding rowing scholarship offers from top schools. John, a former accomplished athlete, helped Ethan review the offers. Today Ethan is a sophomore at Syracuse University on a full rowing scholarship.

The Detractors

Not all family and friends were supportive at first. One family member met Ethan and said, “He’s a great kid, shockingly normal. If he is so wonderful, why didn’t anyone else adopt him?”

Another friend tried to discourage the Pascuccis but later said, “I am so glad you didn’t listen to me. Ethan’s a great kid.”

“If something happened to John and me, our biological daughter has a community around her of friends, school and neighbors who would step in to help. The difference is that Ethan never had a community built around him,” Karen observed.

The Pascuccis have children from other marriages with whom their relationships are strained due to contentious divorces. While some have embraced Ethan, some of John’s children decided to cut ties with him once he adopted Ethan.

Why Would a Teenager Wish to be Adopted?

Ethan really wanted a family, and someday wants grandparents for his children. He said his quality of life is dramatically better, and he loves having a home to go to for holidays.

Per Ethan, “Too many older kids aren’t considered for adoption. Everyone needs help whether they are 2 or 15 years old. More often than not, the older child is grateful for the opportunity. The 15 year old needs you as much as the toddler does.”

Advice from the Pascuccis on Adopting an Older Child

“You can take a perfectly normal child with an intact family, and then his world turns on a dime, and he is thrown into foster care. He will have issues to deal with,” Karen said. “If the child is over 10, the issues will be apparent in his behavior. When you actually know what they are, you can better deal with them.”

Teenagers can be reasoned with more than a younger child; they are willing participants in the adoption process.

Don’t forget what you were like as a teenager. All teenagers do knucklehead things. They are figuring things out.

Ethan was never taught how to study. He used to miss 30 days of school at a time. We needed to teach him a work ethic. We needed to find ways to motivate him. We never used “punishment,” it was “you lost a privilege,” but then we’d spin it into a positive.

When you adopt a child, you don’t have to deal with an ex-spouse. If we have to discipline Ethan, we deal with it together as a united front. This isn’t always the case when parenting with an ex.

Above all keep an open mind and remember, if children were perfect and self-supporting, they wouldn’t need parents at all.

The Pascucci's were honored this week as part of the Adoption Family Portrait Project. Here is a video of Karen speaking to the gathered representatives of Congress, adoptive families and professionals from organizations that work on behalf of adoption.

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?