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3Dec

We thank Jeremy Maclin!

 

Jeremy Maclin, a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, grew up in an emotionally chaotic family until, as a sophomore in high school he went to live with the family he says “made me what I am today.” But he hasn't forgotten what it was like before he had a loving, secure family. Jeremy has, therefore, declared himself a spokesman for the National Adoption Center: for each Eagles home game, he invites an adoptive family to the game as his guest, giving them the chance to go to the warm-up before the game and meet with him in the locker room when the game is over. John Thomas and three of his children, who attended the first game against Baltimore, said it was an incredible experience, one that the children will always remember. Seven more adoptive families will have the same opportunity over the course of the season (one story of which we have already shared with you).

30Nov

#AdoptHope Wrap-Up

 
Wharton students, left to right: Natalie, Ainsley, Armin, Nilesh, Kashfia 

 

Our #AdoptHope event held at Shops at Liberty Place last week was a huge success in spreading awareness about the many children in foster care who await the love and support of a forever family. Many passers-by were given the opportunity to ask questions they had about adoption and foster care, pick up pamphlets provided by several different adoption agencies, and gather information on the many children that we work with here at the National Adoption Center.

The goal of this event was to educate others about adoption through the use of informative resource tables and provide interactive activities that reveal surprising myths and facts adoption. NAC staff, our Philly Fellowgot to working side-by-side with students from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania to create this event. We are extremely pleased that we had the opportunity to celebrate National Adoption Month with others in the community and continue to push forward with public awareness initiatives. 
        

 

Quote from Brittani, Wharton student and event performer, “I know I personally learned a lot about adoption and so did the rest of the team, which is awesome because now we will be able to educate others”

 
Myra, Adoptive mother of special needs children, and Beth, NAC's Marketing Director
                                   

We had a scrapbook where people could record their thoughts about adoption and family, here are a few of the messages left:

“Special children need special homes” 

“I definitely want to adopt someday” 

“It’s a wonderful thing” 

What would be your message? 

19Nov

#AdoptHope

from a team of Management 101 students who have been working on a project to assist us & who have worked with our Philly Fellow and our Marketing Manager

 

Throughout the past two months, our team [from UPenn, Wharton] has thoroughly enjoyed working with the National Adoption Center to organize the #AdoptHope event, a public awareness event that will be held today Monday, November 19 at Liberty Place in Center City Philadelphia. 

Adoption has closely touched the lives of many of our team members, so we’re truly excited to have had the opportunity to help NAC celebrate National Adoption Month on their 40th anniversary. 

Our event’s goal is to educate people about adoption through the use of informative resource tables and interactive activities that debunk surprising myths and facts about adoption. We will also have live entertainment from students of the University of Pennsylvania and a raffle with a chance to win some great prizes. As guests leave the event, we hope that they will take a minute to share their experiences with adoption or something they have learned by writing in our “Share Your Story” scrapbook or conducting an interview that will feature in a future promotional video.

 

This experience, from the inception of the initial concept to the creation of the final posters, has helped us to realize the dedication and organization that go into planning an event. The work of the National Adoption Center is truly inspiring, and it was an honor to be part of this exciting time for them. Although we were already passionate about adoption going into this project, we have learned so much by taking on this project and hope that our guests will also be inspired to support the National Adoption Center in their mission to help thousands of youth #AdoptHope. 

4Nov

Day-at-the-Eagles

 
Here’s one of the families that participated: (left to right) Marianne Cadieux, Jeremy Maclin and Cadieux’s children, Jamie, Mariah and Valawn.

 

Every time the Philadelphia Eagles play a home game, a lucky family with children it has adopted has a chance to observe the team’s warm-up, cheer at the game and meet afterward with Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles wide receiver. Maclin, who was raised by parents who were not his birth family, understands the feelings of other children with similar experiences. Therefore, he has become a supporter of the National Adoption Center and has initiated the Day-at-the-Eagles experience for the families.

 
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.

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