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31Oct

Our Extraordinary Partner: Wendy's!

 

 
 
 
 
L to R: Sam Scott, Regional Director for Briad Group, Roberta Drakes, General Manager for Wendy's, Mushtaq Abdullahi, District Manager for Wendy's and Ken Mullner, Executive Director for NAC.

In addition to being Lead Sponsor for our 40th Anniversary Gala and Golf Tournament, Wendy's also designated us as beneficiary of the proceeds from its Frosty Key Tag Campaign. Wendy's restaurants in the tri-state area sold key tags for one dollar during January and February, allowing buyers to get a free Frosty each time they made a purchase throughout the year. Wendy's important partnership supports the work we do expanding adoption opportunities for children living in foster care.

 
 
 
29Oct

Notes from NAC’s Development Department:

For the purposes of this blog post I thought I would give you all a glimpse into the world of nonprofit fundraising...

Nonprofit organizations depend largely on public funds – government contracts, grants from foundations, corporate gifts and individual donors. The more diverse an organization’s funding base the better, because it can be dangerous to rely too heavily on one source of income. Many nonprofits experienced this firsthand during the recent recession because government funding, foundation giving and corporate support took major hits. 

Contrary to what you may think, individual donors are the largest source of funding for nonprofits, comprising about 70% of the sector’s nearly $300 billion worth of contributions! Individual donors also prove to be the most loyal, since they continue to give even during tough economic times. That shows how important it is for nonprofits to connect with individuals like you! 

So, while I still spend much of my time writing grants to local foundations and while we still hold our government contracts in high regard, it’s also important to share our story with individual donors in a powerful way. 

I encourage you to learn more about the National Adoption Center’s story by perusing our website; get to know the children we serve, the families we have created and the work that has yet to be done for the nearly 110,000 youth across the U.S. who are waiting for the love and stability of a family. 

P.S. – you can become part of our story by making a gift today! 

26Oct

Match Parties Return to the UK

The National Adoption Center’s influence is not just national but international. Over three years ago, adoption staff from the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) contacted us inquiring about our match parties. Our staff shared their expertise and best practice materials on how to design and execute a match party.

Fast forward a few years and in early 2011, the UK held their first “activity day,” better known as an adoption or match party here in the states. While these events have had extremely successful outcomes, creating “matches” for 23 out of the 120 children who have been to the three events held so far, these activity days remain extremely controversial as the UK tries to spread awareness. 

The UK’s first match party took place in the mid-1970s and quickly went out of favor in the 1980s with critics describing them as “adoption speed dating” which forced agencies to find new family-finding methods. As time has progressed and figures have shown a drop in placements, the UK has decided to reconsider hosting adoption parties, a method which has taken place for over 30 years in the US and have proven to be twice as effective compared to any other method of family finding for children.

“Activity days” have now returned to the UK as a pilot project involving nine local authorities, several adoption agencies, and made possible by the external funding and management of BAAF. BAAF’s adoptions staff has remained in contact with the National Adoption Center throughout their re-launch and our organization has been thrilled to help share materials and lend a hand in the creation of a successful match party. 

As an organization that has been successfully hosting match parties for over 25 years, our program which has blossomed into a model for the country, is proud to have branched overseas and support BAAF’s efforts in bringing children in need one step closer to a loving, caring, permanent home. 

To read more about BAAF’s “activity days” click here. 

12Oct

Family – Times Two, Part Three

part 3 of 3

Okay, perhaps you have guessed how the story ends. You are probably right but there are a few unknown twists and turns. The main point of this series: forging forever families, whether with birth or adoptive children and family members. That adoption is an amazing way to form one’s family. And that in the end, forgiveness and love are what matters.

This series has comedy and quirky moments, a theme song or two, many other family-oriented storylines and more and special moments that were undeniable life lessons. One of the translated titles isUnexpected You—quite descriptive of what happens in losing a child, finding a child, finding a child in an orphanage (or foster care!), and finding room for a child in one’s heart. Even finding the courage to decide to parent. Sometimes the prospect of loving beyond the borders of one’s life brings an “unexpected you”. Unexpected love. Unexpected parent or child. Unexpected other family. Unexpected life. 

Reflecting on how many “unexpected you” youth wait in foster care—whether in group homes or foster homes, who dare to dream of a forever family, a forever home, I think the elements of this drama didn’t just make for good television (whatever the language), it makes forgreat perspective! 

I agree--58 whole episodes with subtitles is a lot to tackle. It’s notDownton Abbey but it had special charm for me. Since adoption is a major topic in my life, I allowed myself the luxury of watching. I realize that all adopted children experience Family—Times Two, whether or not they ever meet or live with their birth family. I learned things about myself and my own angst. I know our daughter is in touch with her birth family. I know she had enjoyed coming to know them. I know she exhibits Nature a lot (although sometimes—rather unexpectedly—Nurture finds its way in, too). I applaud her because I also know that she works hard not to pit one of her families against the other. So I work hard not to feel intimidated that she has two families. This drama taught me to celebrate even the unexpected in adoption. To not be afraid to wear blue jeans, a plaid shirt and vest—to be comfortable, casual and so myself, no matter that she has family, times two—when we are together I let her know how happy I am to see and be with my daughter.

10Oct

Family – Times Two, Part Two

part 2 of a 3 part series

Most good drama plots are crafted to keep the viewers interested and this one followed suit: the young doctor and his wife end up renting in the small apartment building of the older parents searching for their son. You see where this is going: yes, indeed, the miracle of the small screen brought these two families (really one family) together. Traditions of the “old country” clash with the newly-from-America couple. Episode after episode both sides search for what is right beneath their noses. Not without some antics and emotions we discover (and finally so do they) that the doctor from America is their son! Ah, if only search and reunion would be as magical for all who embark. 

The scenes of him as a lost young boy and those when he was adjusting to living in an orphanage were some of the most memorable. The drama portrayed beautifully how he misjudged his own feelings about love and family. How he couldn’t understand what had happened. Why had he been abandoned? He was confused and ashamed and blamed himself for everything. His memories became blocked. He bottled his emotions to the point that he would not speak or laugh. And he was quite inconsolable. Asian born prospective parents living in the United States learned about and fostered then adopted him, giving him unimagined experiences and opportunities. His adoptive family consisted of parents and a brother, and he sought out other adoptees among his classmates. The viewer gets the impression that it was a slow process to get him to stop crying every day and draw him out of his shell, but from the caring and understanding of his adoptive family, he experienced healing. As he drank in their love, he became uber loving. 

Just as poignant are the scenes of his birth family members following every lead. Flashbacks showed how each of them was heartsick, powerless to do much else. Showing, too, how they coped with life and put up with each other through this unforeseen and devastating loss. Their growing depression and sadness as individuals and as a family was so believable, I could often feel the weight of the mantle on their shoulders. 

The shock of the adult doctor learning that not only were his birth parents still alive but living next door, was captured well. The nuances of family life (in his birth family he was the only son in a family of four children) in an honorific society (three generations lived together—grandmother, parents, and sisters with extended family in the same building) were new—not to mention somewhat awkward. In more comic than tragic scenes, the viewer is able to see the twists and turns of how challenging it was for his wife to accept and (gulp) finally like—even love—her in-laws. (The series opens with her declaration that one of the main reasons—apart from love—she married her husband was because he was adopted. She rationalized that since he was an orphan she would not need to deal with the cultural norm of serving and living near/with in-laws, a proposition that sounded almost too good to be true; dealing with his adoptive parents half a world away was much easier.) She was less than thrilled when he acted on his hope to search for his birth family. Her shock in learning the lady next door that she bickered with day in and out was her mother-in-law? Priceless. 

While the feelings of loss by birth parents and son are explored in depth, in later episodes we have the chance to meet his foster/adoptive parents when they visit. His birth parents are shocked by the way he talks, jokes and even wrestles with his adoptive dad. They realize how formal and timid they are in loving him. It becomes apparent that the focus of finding their son was their ideal, yet coming to love him as a person/an adult was another thing entirely. 

We learn more of the adoptive family’s story and how they struggled to get their son to open up and be himself with them. They were not always confident about how to love him. Wondering who he had been before the trauma of separation. Wondering if they were doing a good job. Wondering if his family would search for and find him. More healing took place as the two fathers talked and learned from each other. The same happened with the mothers. But most moving was the outpouring of genuine thanks each set of parents offered the other. 

What this brought to me the idea was nature vs. nurture, illusion versus reality and that perhaps expectations in searching for birth family is heartfelt but may not live up to one’s imagination. Once someone searches for their ideal and then finds the reality, what then? Search and reunion is a step in the process of healing, too. In this story, the birth parents seem a bit hurt (understandably) that he doesn’t totally favor them only. In fact, he is quite even and measured in his love for and reactions toward all of them. Remarkably, I see this with myself and our daughter, too. I am the one who is a bit hurt that she doesn’t favor us only. Yet she, in her wisdom, heals me by her steadfast love for her (entire) family—times two. 

The actors are a remarkable troupe. I couldn’t help wonder how much research they did into adoption or if some of them have personal connections to adoption. The birth mother, portrayed by a veteran actress, was totally convincing in her role. I cheered with her when she found her son. Yet when she treated his wife condescendingly, I became upset. What she learned about the circumstances of the separation made me re-think my upset. When the story went deeper into her psyche and her story, the viewer learns the real reason for the separation and how and why she particularly struggled. Her memories triggered, we are able to see how much she suffered in silence and took the mental abuse and cold shoulder from both her mother-in-law and husband. And even as an adoptive mother, I could almost feel how alone a birth mother separated from her child would feel. 

For over 30 years the birth parents lived under the shroud of guilt and pointed the finger of blame at one another and themselves. They envisioned his life was tough (wondering, of course, was he even still alive). They had no idea where he was or who he was. They had no idea what a kind and giving person he had become, flourishing with chances, love and laughter through his adoption. With only their memories of him as a little boy, they were disheartened and felt that his life was ruined. But upon meeting and talking to the parents who raised their son for the bulk of his life, they saw how living with guilt had done nothing to help him but had made their lives miserable. Also, they began to recognize that they were walking on eggshells around this adult son they did not know, they worked on ways not to be strangers. Unexpectedly, each of them began to change, opening up and finding grace, forgiving themselves and one another for things they never had the courage to talk about. This was an eye into the heart of birth families separated from their children, regardless of why. 

What is interesting is though the doctor worked to build bonds and was quick to embrace his grandmother, parents, sisters, aunts, uncles and niece as family, he does not pit one of his families against the other. He offers both sets of parents treasured (and expected by the culture) filial piety. He is benevolent and works to put them (not to mention his wife) at ease. He neither chooses one family over another nor takes for granted the love that either family gives him—even though that love is expressed in such different ways. When his birth mother harshly criticizes his wife, he defends his spouse and politely, but firmly, insists his mother talk to him if she has any more such grievances. He does it with such sincerity, his mother stops in her tracks. Despite being hurt by these words, his birth parents marvel at his good character, attributing that to how he was raised. This makes them feel a bit intimidated to meet his “other” family. But his integration of feelings for both sides is quite notable. He forgives. He loves. Period. Both sides. Both families. 

His birth mother and father stressed over what to wear when greeting their son’s adoptive parents at the airport. Careful to choose just the right dress/sports jacket, jewelry and such, they wondered if they would make a good enough impression. Would his adoptive parents think they are pretentious? Would they send the right message and be welcoming enough? Off the plane walks his adoptive parents in blue jeans, plaid shirts and vests—comfortable, casual and so themselves. They might have been honored (not to mention apprehensive) to meet his birth family, but what I was most struck by is they were happy to see and be with their son! 

At one point in the story the doctor and his wife learn they are pregnant (although neither of them wanted a child). Yet there is a second “generation” of adoption that comes into play for them. At the hospital the doctor meets an orphan who is a patient (the word “orphan” was used in subtitles or perhaps because the child lived in a group home/orphanage). He sees how much this young boy was like himself at that age—frustrated that he couldn’t communicate about how lonely and scared he was. We get to see more snatches of the doctor as a little boy as he unlocks the memories of his younger self, forgiving the circumstances of what happened, and then living with greater inner freedom. 

This story had a number of pinnacles. Here is one. The little boy did not talk (just like the doctor when he was little). Through flashbacks we see the intense pent-up feelings of the doctor at that age. He took the boy for a walk and with extreme tenderness and knowing counsels him, “It’s not your fault. None of this is your fault.” Learning the circumstances of his own life in the orphanage (which I won’t reveal in case you decide to watch this series), leads him to understand that forgiveness is indeed noble and mighty and essential to healing. This is a gift he received from his adoptive parents and birth parents alike which he can give to this young boy who feels unloved and unsure about life. 

The next scene shows the doctor as a little boy comforting this little boy in the present day. The little boy began to smile when he realizes that the doctor (as a child) is his friend. And the viewer senses how much he would like to father this little boy permanently. In his heart, he consciously decided to parent. 

Another pinnacle: the realization by the doctor’s wife about the miracle of adoption. At one point the little boy wanders from the hospital. She hears that he has been picked up by the police and is at the station. On behalf of her husband, she goes to the station to pick him up. He sobs and clings to her skirt, uttering the first word the audience hears him say--“Mom!” It seems he decided she should parent. 

Even when the couple becomes pregnant, she can’t help but think of that little boy who doesn’t talk and has little joy in his life. While her husband has broached the subject of adopting him, she tells him she can’t commit to that. Yet she suggests they buy him a gift and deliver it personally. The boy smiles when he puts on his new clothes, but his countenance drops again when they leave. They wave and promise to come visit soon again. 

When they get to the car, the doctor’s wife remembers she has another package to give to the orphanage but on her way to the office is shocked by what she sees. Middle-schoolers and their parents have come to do “community service” work at the orphanage. A middle school boy wants to take a picture with the little boy. Because he does not smile for the posed picture the mother of the middle-schooler is infuriated. She wants to get a good picture to prove her son did his community service work and made a good impression. She literally pushes away the little boy and with a chocolate bar entices a little girl who does smile to take a picture with her son. 

The doctor’s wife sees how dejected the little boy is and begins to yell at the middle-schooler’s mother who retorts, “Well, just who are you to him?” 

“Me? I am (large pause)-- his mother.” With the fury of a true Tiger Mother, the doctor’s wife defends the little boy and realizes how unexpectedly love for him has settled in her heart. She and her husband look into adoption, but don’t find an easy road. 

Even though they feel resolute and excited at the prospect, when they announce this to the entire family, they face an additional roadblock: his parents do not agree. For them, the topic of adoption is bittersweet. However, the doctor’s father relents and declares he will be there for this young boy, happy to help raise him since he never had a chance to raise his own son. His mother makes no such statement. Those of us watching wonder, will this stop the couple?

8Oct

Family – Times Two, Part One

part 1 of a 3 part series

A number of months ago I stumbled upon an Asian TV drama with a theme rooted in adoption. (Come to find out, apparently many of their dramas/mini-series touch on this topic.) Nonetheless, this one captured my attention and then my heart and, despite reading subtitles for over six months, I thoroughly enjoyed all 58 (!) episodes. It was extremely well acted and moved my heart beyond words. Unique to this series is that adoption is showcased through two generations and from the viewpoint of both birth and adoptive parents through international and foster care adoptions. Being an adoptive parent myself, it piqued my interest. That one of my best friends adopted brothers from Korea gave me a further reason to watch. I found its core was about how healing adoption can be. It talked about bridging gaps and broadening views regarding what it takes to adopt a child. And that what it takes to parent is, in part, not as much a question as a decision. 

Several major storylines intertwine: an Asian man became a doctor in America and returns to serve his birth homeland bringing the medical expertise he gained at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and also hopes to search for his birth family. As he and his wife look for and secure a place to live, viewers learn that he had been in foster care and adopted in the States when he was a young child (presumably six or seven). Another storyline shows parents in their sixties searching for their son. He went missing at around age five after an unexpected fire explosion in the street separated him from his family. They continued to search for him for over 30 years. Finding him was the focal point of their lives.

6Oct

Golfing for a Cause

 
It was the big day – our 2012 Tee-Off for Kids Golf Classic was finally here. I turned off my alarm clock and started digging through the closet for my tan “National Adoption Center” staff t-shirt. I cringed at the sound of heavy rain outside my window. The gray sky did not look promising. Would it clear up enough for the golfers to play? Bad weather was really going to hurt our numbers, and we had hoped this event would raise close to $60,000.
As I drove to Radnor Valley Country Club the sun started to peek out. Phew! The golfers arrived, dropping off their clubs and finding their assigned carts. After a BBQ luncheon, everyone gathered around the putting green for the opening contest and then the shotgun start sent the teams out to their respective tee holes.
Radnor Valley’s course proved to be gorgeous, and the golfers came back smiling a few hours later. We enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and cocktails before the buffet dinner and program. Phil Barnett and Bob Bechtold, board members and golf chairmen, talked about the National Adoption Center’s work of finding families for children living in foster care and thanked the golfers for supporting this important mission. Sports broadcaster Stan Hochman led an exciting live auction featuring sports items, a vacation home in the Poconos and a threesome to Merion Golf Club – home of the 2013 US Open! We closed the night out with the day’s awards and prizes, along with a make-your-own ice cream sundae bar!
All in all, the 2012 Tee-Off for Kids Golf Classic was a success. We raised nearly $60,000 and also built awareness to the need for adoption among the 105,000 youth living in foster care across the US.  
3Oct

Potential

By: Michelle Johnson, development intern

I’d say my first week here at the National Adoption Center is only the start of a life changing experience. Or better yet, a mind changing experience. I’ve never taken the opportunity to sit down and read stories about the lives of children who were forced to leave their parents because of various reasons, such as neglect or abuse. Or hear about a child that would be separated from the siblings they’ve known their entire lives. It makes me think about my own life and question … What would it be like to not know my own father? What if my mother decided she didn’t want me right after giving birth? What if I was forced to be separated from my sister? 

I attend Drexel University, one of the best schools in the country. I come from a very loving and supportive family. I have a great relationship with my parents and my older sister. That’s my reality. 

But for most of the children I’ve read or heard about, this is not the case. They’ve lived in numerous foster homes over the course of only a few years. Their lives are filled with insecurity and instability. Their 18th birthday brings them a sense of fear instead of celebration knowing that they’ll age-out of the system and have no support. Their chances of ending up in jail, on drugs or homeless are much higher than someone who comes from a supportive family. 

On the flip-side, I’ve also read success stories about children who were lucky enough to be adopted and accepted as part of a family. They have the parents they’ve always longed for. They no longer worry about waking up in a new home tomorrow. These are the stories I find the most heart-warming and touching. It makes me proud to work for a company that works to better the lives of children because they hold our future. 

When a baby is born, you never truly know their potential. It’s very possible that they could change the world and have their name written down in our history books. But do they even have the slightest chance if they’re never given the tools to be successful? If our president, Barack Obama, grew up in multiple foster homes and aged-out of the system with no support, he most likely wouldn’t be president today. This idea, to me, makes every child significant. I believe that everyone is born with a purpose or somewhat of a destiny. A reason why they were put on this earth. It’s a shame that some of these children will never reach their full potential because of something they had no control over. 

I realize now that adoption is much more than just caring for a child. It’s loving someone with different blood running through their veins as if they were your own. It’s giving someone the life they’ve always dreamed of. It’s showing people that being a parent means much more than just giving birth.

1Oct

LGBT Adoption - Cafes & More

 

 
 
Adoption Cafe Panellists: Mark Woodland, Becky Birtha, Sarah Barnwell and Susan Shachter 

“I don’t know what the best thing is, but I am glad I am not the type of person who thinks that gays are from a different world. I am glad that I accept the fact that I have gay dads. I am glad that I'm more accepting of different types of families.”

Quote from an adopted youth involved in a research study looking at the perspectives of youth who were adopted by LGBT parents, conducted by AdoptUSKids. 

With two million LGBT adults considering adoption, foster care and adoption agencies are realizing they need to pay attention to this constituent group. The National Adoption Center and the Obama administration believe that the LGBT community is one of the largest untapped and underutilized resources of potential parents. There are close to 105,000 children living in foster care throughout the country who wait for families, more than 1600 in the Delaware Valley alone.

 
HRC Video

NAC’s LGBT Initiative aims to educate and support the LGBT community around adoption issues. The program helps the community identify a gay-friendly adoption agency or how to differentiate what might be an issue of homophobia or just the barriers and weaknesses of the “system”, for example. We host events which provide the opportunity for prospective adoptive parents to talk to gay and lesbian adoptive parents in a safe and welcoming environment. 

Last month we held one such event at the William way Community Center in Center City Philadelphia. Thirty five individuals attended our LGBT Adoption Café and listened to Mark, a gay man who has two adopted children, and Susan and Becky, lesbians who have adopted children, and Sarah, an attorney with expertise including estate planning and family law, in a lively and honest panel discussion. 

 
Adoption 101

“This event is for anybody who has ever considered adoption,” says Ken Mullner, the Center’s executive director. “We believe that every child deserves to live in a loving, nurturing and permanent family and that people from a variety of life experiences offer strengths for these children.”

The Center has always welcomed members of the LGBT community. In fact, in the late 70s, one of the first children for whom the Center created a family was placed with a lesbian in West Virginia. Fifteen years later, the child, then almost 20, told those who attended an anniversary dinner for the Center, “Thank you for finding me a family. Without the National Adoption Center, I wouldn't have one.” 

There was not a dry eye in the house. 

27Sep

Adoption Tax Credits

Please Act Today

 

Save the adoption tax credit is the effort of a national collaboration of organizations and people like you that have united to support the cause of adoption by advocating for the adoption tax credit.

While we all know that the adoption tax credit is a great help in finding children forever families and make adoption affordable for all, If Congress does not act, the tax credit as we know it will expire on December 31, 2012. As the law currently stands, the adoption credit is not refundable for 2012 as it was in 2010 and 2011.

EXCITING NEWS!

On Friday, September 21, bills were introduced to both the House (HR 4373) and the Senate (S 3616) that could potentially accomplish the goal of an adoption tax credit that is inclusive, flat for special needs adoptions, refundable and permanent.

We need your help to show members of Congress that refundability helps foster care adoption and lower middle income tax filers. One of the most effective ways is to contact your Representative and two U.S. Senators to express your personal story of how refundability affects your adoption story.

(Click here to see if your Representative is already a cosponsor)

ACTION:

How Do I Know Who to Contact?

To find your Representative, go to:http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/.

To find your Senators, go to:http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.

If you are planning to call, you can call the Capitol Operator at (202) 224-3121. One you reach the Senator’s office, ask to speak with the legislative assistant who deals with the adoption or tax issues. (You will have to call back to reach the second Senator and Representative.)

What Should I Say?

To help you, The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) has provided: a fact sheet on the tax credit as well as a sample letter that can be used as a guide when emailing or calling your Senators. 

We highly encourage you to share this announcement with other adoption advocates. The continuation of the adoption tax credit is vital to providing love, safety, and permanency to as many children as possible.

We hope you will join us in our advocacy efforts.

 
 

The National Adoption Center

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