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27Nov

National Adoption Center/ SWAN Matching events 2018 Preview!

We are excited to announce that we are planning three older-youth matching events in Pennsylvania for 2018!

The dates and locations are:

    Philadelphia area on Saturday March 17th
    Western Pennsylvania on Saturday June 9th
    Central Pennsylvania on Saturday October 6th

Older youth matching events bring youth, ages 12 and older, together with families interested in adopting kids in this age group. Families need to have a completed homestudy in order to participate. We’ll spend the day together getting acquainted, finding out what we have in common with one another and generally having fun.

There is no cost to attend these events. Families in the past have said how much they enjoyed the chance to meet kids “live and in person.” Don’t miss out on this opportunity to meet an amazing group of kids who are in need of permanent, loving parents.

Want more information or to be added to our invitation list? Please contact Julie Marks, Older Youth program manager, at pateen@adopt.org or 267-443-1875.

20Jul

My First Wednesday’s Child Taping as the New Coordinator

Hi everyone! My name is Taylor Rotolo and I am the new Wednesday’s Child Coordinator/Adoption Coordinator at the National Adoption Center. I’ve been so thrilled to begin contributing to the fantastic team here who work tirelessly to build families and create meaningful community connections.

On July 11th, I arrived at AFC Gym in Bala Cynwyd, PA for my first Wednesday’s Child taping. I was a bit nervous, I will admit, but once I arrived I was met by a very welcoming community of all involved: the staff at AFC, Paige Roller (former WC coordinator) who showed me the ropes, the fantastic eleven year old child and his friendly social worker, and Vai Sikahema and the NBC team. Together, we went into a room with workout equipment.

Vai and the child set up some jumping blocks and practiced reaching for new heights together. The child also got right onto the rowing machine, seeing how far he could go that afternoon. It was in this setting that the child and Vai connected, talking about why family is important, what love means, and what our goals are in life. The child shared his dream of finding a forever family, and that it’s important to have a family in order to have people that you love and who love you back unconditionally. He said love looks like spending time together, eating meals together, and having fun together. The child shared his dreams of becoming a football player and was truly thrilled with the opportunity to spend time with Vai, a former player for the NFL.

We were then joined by Carlos Bradley, a trainer at the gym and a former football player for the Philadelphia Eagles, who showed the child the ropes of weightlifting machines, proper pushups, and the determination, grit, resilience, focus, and good character it takes to become a professional athlete. The child was all smiles – truly soaking up the experience, wisdom, and love shared with him that afternoon, as I was soaking up all that was shared with me. The commitment that the community makes to the Wednesday’s Child initiative is profound and inspiring. It is beautiful to see so many folks come together each week to support a child’s dreams of finding a forever family, and also plan their perfect day. I am thrilled to join this team and look forward to the learning I will experience, the hearts I will witness, and the adventures I’ll be sure to embark on with Wednesday’s Child and the National Adoption Center.

26Jun

What's a Wednesday's Child Taping Like?

contributed by Robyn James, Development Intern

Before interning at the National Adoption Center (NAC) I had never heard of Wednesday’s Child, so when I learned more about it I was excited to join the team for a taping. The day started out with me walking to The Art Institute of Philadelphia to meet up with my co-workers, however when I got there I couldn’t find anyone. After a couple minutes of waiting and walking around the building, I received a text saying that the venue was changed to the Philadelphia Culinary Arts School. Seeing as though I’m navigationally challenged I nervously set out to the new destination hoping that I wouldn’t get lost. About 20 minutes later, I walked into the Culinary School sweaty, hot, and relieved I made it there without any problems. Thankfully I got there right on time.

I walked into the kitchen and took a seat between two of my co-workers. We watched as Franklin ---the teen being featured--- was helped into his apron by the professional chef. A couple moments passed and then it was “lights, camera, action!” The chef announced that he and Franklin would be making homemade pasta. I’d never made homemade pasta or seen it be made so I was probably as excited and intrigued as Franklin was. For each step, the chef did a demonstration and then Franklin got the opportunity to try it out himself. With the help of TV magic the pasta was finished in about 15 minutes and Franklin got to eat his creation. From the smell and the way he devoured it, I’m sure it was delicious.

When the cooking was finished, it was time for Franklin’s interview. He was very shy and during the questioning glanced over at his social workers for reassurance. He was asked about what an ideal family would be for him, his definition of a family, among other things. While watching, I realized that he had probably thought about the answers to these questions millions of times. Listening to his answers made me appreciate the things I take for granted in life. I’ve never known what it was like to not have a family and the love and security that come with which they come. So, imagining a life without it was heartbreaking. I truly hope that this feature on Wednesday’s Child grabs the attention of the family Franklin is searching for and results in an adoption.

Overall, I had an eventful day and my experience at the taping helped me to better connect with the work I do as a Development Intern. Since I work in an office and never see the children, it was refreshing to see a real-life reminder of the important and positive role of the National Adoption Center as well as Wednesday’s Child. I’m excited to watch the finished segment as well as relearn how to make home-made pasta (by the time I got home I forgot the instructions). I hope you’ll watch the segment when it airs but if you miss it, don’t worry, you can visit NBC10’s website to watch Franklin’s segment and check out previous ones too!

13Apr

Behind the Scenes

What is an Educational Reconciliation Specialist? What does he or she do? An Educational Reconciliation Specialist is a person that works behind the scenes of the reunification process to reconcile families. In reality, most judges dislike removing children from their birth family and disconnecting the child from those they naturally have an attachment to. To foster and strengthen this bond judges like to refer families to an intensive therapeutic day program that will monitor the family and give those actively involved a 360 degree image of how well the family does at meeting their goals. The family is helped by a team of professionals with one of those professionals being the Reconciliation Specialist. The Specialist works closely with the family to help them achieve their goals and through therapeutic techniques increase the bond of the family. Does this method always work? Not all the time. There are many factors that cause a strain or present a significant challenge to the family such as trauma or the family’s willingness to meet their goals. In some cases the barriers a family might face is too great of a challenge and the primary goal is to do what is healthiest for the child.

What happens next is adoption. Before becoming an Adoption Coordinator and Recruiter here at the Center, I was an Educational Reconciliation Specialist. Like others, I would always wonder what happens next. What does adoption look like and is it different from what is seen on Television or Lifetime movies? The answer is yes! As a Coordinator and Recruiter my focus is the child and doing what is in their best interest. Through a gentle process I visit with the child/ren and take the time to learn who they are. Their likes, dislikes, things that make them happy, smile and encourage them see a happy future. As I learn about the child/ren I collaborate with a team of professionals to help that child find a forever family.

There is a lot to the adoption process that most do not see or are unaware of. There are some programs accessible and recommended by judges to be used as a resource before children are removed from their birth parent. Through my journey I have had the opportunity to meet some really great families who were reunified their children as well work with some really great children to help them find their forever family.

29Mar

Hitting It Out Of The Park

This past Saturday we co-sponsored a matching event with SWAN (Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network) focused on older children (10+). We held the event at beautiful Citizens Bank Park, home of the Phillies. We had a wonderful turnout that included 19 children and 15 families. Most of the youth and families arrived feeling excited and a bit nervous. This mixture of feelings is normal for an event such as this one, but we do various activities throughout the day to lessen the stress of the day.

We began the day with separate meetings for the families and the youth. In these smaller groups, the participants met one another, got an overview of the day and their questions about the day answered. Our Master of Ceremonies, Joshua Strelbicki, led the youth and families through a variety of icebreakers and team-building games. The kids and families had fun completing the activities together. A buffet lunch featuring Philly cheesesteaks followed and a surprise visit by Phoebe Phanatic was a big hit.

Everyone then got to go on a “behind the scenes tour” of the stadium. Afterwards, the youth participated in an activity we call “Everyone Has a Voice.” The youth and Joshua sit in a circle and the kids talk about their hopes and dreams while the adults sit quietly and listen. We wrapped up the day with the kids decorating t-shirts while the prospective parents filled out information about the children they wanted to learn more about.

Here's one family's experience:
The family drove for two hours to attend the event and it was their first time attending something like this. They felt wary and nervous about the experience. They had previously been approved to adopt a child up to the age of ten, but after meeting the kids on Saturday asked their social worker to raise the age they are interested in to sixteen. They felt the most valuable part of the day for them were the interactive games. It helped to break the tension and helped them to meet every youth there. They left feeling that they wanted to take every child home! They also left feeling more confident in their ability to bring and older youth into their family!

20Mar

Measuring the Outcomes

Recently, the lack of effectiveness of federally-funded programs has been a topic in the news. We know that same yardstick - dollars per unit of effectiveness- is also important at non-profits. Continued funding for programs is contingent on evidence based-outcomes provided through data. Also, our staff needs to know what about our programs is working. Areas of professional practice, such as medicine, psychology, and also social work have had periods in the past where methods and practice were based on the anecdotal experiences of others and were not rooted in valid scientific evidence. Evidence-based practice is research finding that is derived from the collection of data. It is tested and proven rather than based on someone’s experience.

At the National Adoption Center, we do collect and analyze data and use it to inform our program work. Recently we decided to step it up a notch and work with a researcher to look at what data we are collecting for one of our core programs, Match Events. These events are held a minimum of six times a year and we have been surveying our attendees, the families, social workers and the youth. With the help of a researcher, we have crafted more meaningful surveys that will provide us with specific outcomes we are looking to measure. As an organization, it will benefit our work to look at every core program and evaluate its effectiveness, usefulness and all outcomes.

3Mar

How Not-For-Profit Accounting is Different from Other Accounting

contributed by Louis Gonczy, Director of Finance and Administration
Accounting at a not for-profit is quite different from other businesses. The goals and profit objectives run down very different paths.

In a for-profit business your objective is to show as much profit as you can. On one hand you try to generate as much income as possible while keeping expenses as low as possible. You will never spend money that you don’t absolutely need to spend for functioning and growing of the business.

At a not-for-profit like the National Adoption Center our objective is to help as many as we can, based on our mission. Here, as in a for-profit business, we also try to generate as much income (grants & donations) as we can. However our expense objective is to spend as much as we can! For example, we may receive a grant of $100,000 to help children in foster care with their adoption process. The grant may specify that the funds are only to be used for this purpose and any unused monies are to be returned to the grantor. As we proceed through the life of the grant, if we’ve been able to economize and have only spent $75,000, we’ll look for ways to spend the remaining $25,000 in ways that fit within the guidelines of the grant. The last thing we want to do is not spend what we've been graciously awarded to further help children in care.

In a for-profit business, if you have unspent monies, it is considered a good thing, while quite the opposite may be true at a not-for-profit.

13Feb

Why Do Some Adoptions Fail?

Too often in our line of work we get the bad news that an adoption placement has disrupted, and even worse, we occasionally get the news that there has been a dissolution in an adoption. In both situations, the parents, or parents-to-be have decided to give the child back to the state-run foster care system. "Disruption" is the term used when the relationship breakdown occurs before the adoption has been finalized in a court of law. "Dissolution" happens if the familial relationship is ended after the adoption has been legally finalized. At an adoption finalization, the presiding judge often reinforces to the adult(s) that the child(ren) that they are adopting are just as much (legally) their child(ren) as if they were biologically born to the family. We always hope that the parents are absorbing that point and embrace being a family even before the finalization occurs. So, what happens in these relationships that causes these breakups? Why is the disruption rate so high, especially in older youth placements?

I attended a training given by Pat Carter-Sage, M.Ed, NCC LPC, where she opened my eyes to some core issues that tend to be the root of disruptions. Pat Carter-Sage’s work centers around attachment theories and because many of our youth have attachment difficulties these points hit home. Briefly, here few of the core issues that she covered and that I have seen at work in cases of disruption that I have witnessed.

Entitlement. Often parents will struggle with what they are entitled to feel towards the child. They may question “Do I have the right to parent this child?” The child, after years of abuse and shame, may ask “Do I deserve this love? Family? Security?“ These questions in the child’s mind often lead to sabotaging the placement.

Unmatched Expectations. Unmatched expectations go in both directions, from parents and from the youth. Parents, along with their support systems, expect youth to come in their homes overflowing with gratitude and always displaying good behavior. This is not the feeling that most of the youth are experiencing. They are truly experiencing great loss from not being able to live with their birth families. For their part, youth often come with unrealistic expectations for the families. They may have been dreaming of their “perfect family” for years before being adopted only to realize that no family is going to be perfect.

Separation, Loss, and Grief. Again, this is experienced by both the parents and the youth in adoption. A friend, who is an adopted father of two, once told me “Adoption is the happiest ending for the most tragic event.” His statement made me think deeply then and I still think about that now, years later. The children are experiencing a tragedy of not living with their biological families, no matter how terrible the situation was, this is a very real trauma. We must allow them to grieve this. We cannot just assume the kids are happier now that they are out of the biological home, since the home was not suitable to care for them. From the adult's side, we often work with parents who have experienced infertility, or loss of a child, and have not fully grieved these experiences. Without properly dealing with these feelings, one cannot properly move forward and be a successful home.

With that all being said, how can we lessen the rates of disruption and dissolution? I think the main solution is asking for help. These issues are just a few of the issues that will come up, and they are all deep and complex. Education and counseling pre-adoptive placement, during the placement, and post finalization are vital to a successful adoption. No one goes into the adoption process thinking, well if this doesn’t work out then I can always just give the child back, no one thinks that their family will add to the statistic, but it does happen. Parenting in any capacity takes hard work, and there is no shame in asking for help.

27Jan

A Tasty Way To Get To Know Each Other

This past Saturday, the National Adoption Center in partnership with New Jersey’s Department of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) hosted their first match event of the New Year! Thanks to the lovely staff at Le Gourmet Factory Cooking School in Englewood, NJ our event went off without a hitch. This particular event was what we at NAC like to call a “Chat & Chew”. Essentially, it’s an event where families and youth make a meal together. On the menu we had, fresh honey scones with orange rosemary butter, romaine salad with blueberries and candied walnuts with grilled chicken in a lemon vinaigrette, maple and brown sugar glazed sausage, french toast dippers with maple yogurt, and a cinnamon raisin bread pudding with vanilla crème. And trust me, it tasted just as good as it sounds! At this event, we were fortunate enough to allow ten families to meet 12 awesome New Jersey youth who are eagerly waiting to meet their forever family. I personally love our Chat & Chew events because cooking and eating together is a great way to connect with one another. Just being able to observe the event from the side linebrought a smile to my face because everyone else was smiling. They all looked happy to be able to participate and excited to eat!

With any match event, you do have your sad moments where one of the younger attendees asks if the families would be taking them home after the event was over. Questions like this always break my heart because you can tell how bad these youth want to meet “that” family. The family that’s going to love them, support them, and give them the world. This is what drives NAC to host the best events possible. We want to be able to say we played a part in helping a youth find their forever family.

If adoption is something you have been considering I would like to invite you to our future match events. We host four match events for New Jersey from July to June. You do not have to be a New Jersey family to attend. However, only New Jersey youth will be at these events. If you are a licensed family and have a current homestudy, you’re eligible to attend. Our last 2 events will be in held in April and June. If you’re interested in learning more feel free to reach out. I would be happy to answer your questions!

Contributed by Anna Coleman. To speak with her, please call 267-553-1867 or email at acoleman@adopt.org

9Dec

A Season of Giving

With a little help from our friends at Wendy's, we've been able to spread the holiday spirit. Santa's elves begin their work in September, making sure to get the lists of children's wishes correct. This involves lots of emails, phone calls and visits. These lists are then sent to another set of elves (our Wendy's Elves) who purchase and wrap the gifts. Next we get the gifts to our office and re-distribute them to the children's foster homes, case workers or directly to the children themselves. It takes alot of coordination, but the thoughts of happy kids makes it all worth it!

Pictures on our Facebook page.

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