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I am continually amazed by the resiliency of young people. Much more than us adults! An article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer sheds light on this fact through a story about Eric, a teen, who was brutally beaten throughout his life but in spite of it all delivered his high school’s valedictorian speech this past spring. Eric, a star student, will be a freshman at Temple University this fall! He is one of the lucky ones. There were adults – neighbors, foster parents, and teachers – who were paying attention and provided this young man a safety net when he needed it most. There are many, many other children like Eric who fall between the cracks. Their screams and pain go unnoticed; they are not helped along the way. 

Over 400,000 U.S. children were removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect last year. The child welfare system’s first priority is to get these children into a safe environment and work with the families to fix the problems that resulted in the child being taken away. But this is not a smooth road. It is fraught with trauma, disruption, many times more abuse, confusion for the children, and the list goes on and on. So when I hear about young people like Eric, I applaud the adults that got involved and I give Eric a standing ovation for his amazing ability and powerful inner strength to rise above it all and walk the path toward a successful life. 

Excerpt from the Inquirer article – Eric during his valedictorian speech: 

“What seemed gracious beyond his years and experience was his praise for family members - biological and chosen – in the audience. 

‘And on a special note to all the friends and family who are here for me today, I would like you guys to stand up and know that not only do I appreciate and admire you, but I want everyone here to admire you also because I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for all of you.’ “ 

We get a chance to meet incredibly resilient children like Eric at ourmatch parties or a Wednesday’s Child  taping for example. Their positive demeanor and personal determination stops us in our tracks and makes us work even harder to find them safe and loving homes. We can all learn a lot from Eric’s story. 

Read the full article.

authored by a student, Katlyn, who worked on our behalf last school-year, shared with permission from WomenElect 

By KatlynG1

There are 107,000 children in America waiting to be adopted.  In 1972, Carolyn Johnson founded the National Adoption Center with the belief that “there are no unwanted children, just unfound families.”  The center, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit, celebrated its 40th anniversary this April at the Celebration of Family: ART OF ADOPTION gala.  During this event, artists from the Philadelphia area created unique works of art based on the photos and stories of children living in foster care.  These pieces were auctioned off, with all proceeds benefiting the National Adoption Center.

The centerpiece of the gala was a commemorative video detailing the National Adoption Center’s vibrant history.  Team QUINTEssential, a team of nine students at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, created this unique feature presentation.  As a semester long assignment, Team QUINTEssential was responsible for sorting through 40 years of history to compile a compelling video that promoted adoption awareness.  During the course of their project, Team QUINTEssential had the pleasure of interviewing NAC’s founder, Carolyn Johnson.

Ms. Johnson currently resides in Philadelphia, but she was raised in Kenmore, New York and is proud to call Buffalo her home.  After graduating from the University of Buffalo, Ms. Johnson taught at Public School #31 for three years.  Since many of her students were foster children, Ms. Johnson “became aware of the many abused and neglected children in the city.”  After seeing an article in The Buffalo Evening News, featuring children waiting to be adopted, Ms. Johnson decided to adopt three children of her own.

With a passion to find homes for “difficult to place children,” Ms. Johnson founded the National Adoption Center at her kitchen table using a wooden recipe box, which she divided into three sections: waiting children, prospective parents, and possible matches.  Ms. Johnson never imagined that her “home-grown” adoption initiative would become a prolific organization with forty years of success.  Named the 2011 nonprofit of the year by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the National Adoption Center has found homes for more than 23,000 foster children.  The National Adoption Center’s dedication to forming families is a mission that remains close to Ms. Johnson’s heart.

As evidenced by Ms. Johnson, women from Buffalo have the ability to accomplish extraordinary goals.  Created with the intent of helping women discover how they can make a positive difference in their communities, WomenElect encourages women to pursue their passions in the political arena.  Please visit www.adopt.org to learn more about the National Adoption Center.  Click on the link below to view the National Adoption Center’s latest video about adoption “match” parties.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZd3dAhM_4A&feature=plcp

 
from our marketing intern, Alexis Jackson
 
All parents are aware of the steep learning curve that exists when raising a child—including everything from “How do you protect them without sheltering them?”  to “How do you get them to eat their vegetables?” 
 
This learning curve goes for adoptive parents as well; however, the questions include “How do I help them with their emotional and developmental issues?”  “How can I get them to open up?”  And for transracial adoption the question of cultural consciousness is raised – an increasingly important question in light of the fact that approximately 40 percent of adoptions in America are transracial. 
 
A quick scan of online adoption blogs and message boards, will result in an endless number of posts from parents concerned about what to name their child, where to put their child in school, and what ethnic holidays to celebrate all in an effort to establish their children’s cultural consciousness.  Learning how to groom a different texture of hair, though noticeably absent from most of these posts, is a critical part of this cultural consciousness. 
 
A few examples: Actress Angelina Jolie sought advice on how to care for her Black, adopted daughter’s hair; and many recall the Sesame Street “I love my hair” video that the show’s writers created for his adopted daughter when she expressed a desire for long, blond, straight hair.
 
Hair carries a significant cultural identity, and learning how to care for a child’s tight curls or pin straight tresses teaches that child how to take care of him or herself while also sending positive, affirming messages about that little person’s texture and cultural identity. 
 
Even today, as a Black woman raised by Black parents, I struggle with the cultural part that my texture represents.  I’m constantly trying to straighten it or put extensions in it simply because I’ve been taught that caring for my hair meant straightening it to make it more manageable.  This personal struggle has led me to seek affirming and helpful messages and videos on Pinterest and YouTube.
 
During one of my most recent “Pinterest sessions, I found this website specifically designed for White parents of Latino(a) or Black children called Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care. The White administrator whose daughter is Black wrote “Hi, I'm Rory, and I write about pretty much everything you wanted to know about my journey learning to care for my daughter's beautiful, naturally curly hair. It's a chronicle of what I do and why I do it.” 
 
'Nuff said!
 
This site not only provides step-by-step tutorials on how to care for hair, but also includes testimonials and product-reviews.  After spending just a few minutes on this site, I had learned about three new products and two new ways to increase my hair’s moisture retention—all things my parents  never taught me.
 
So, whether it’s locked, in an afro, straightened, naturally curly, or chemically processed, learning how to take care of hair is important.  And since a lot of cultural identity is coiled up in our tresses, let’s appreciate it for everything it is and teach our children, nieces and nephews included, to do the same.
Since we’re all learning, I encourage you to share your hair stories. Everything from saving a bad hair day to helpful websites on the topic is welcome!
 
 
Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman recently said that women don't need equal pay because money is more important to men. So it’s no surprise that Grothman has now introduced Wisconsin Senate Bill 507 in early 2012. The Bill would require the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect. One-third of Wisconsin's parents are single parents. But the law was written to criminalize an even larger sector, as it applies to even non-married couples, including, of course, same-sex couples. The National Adoption Center will be keeping a close eye on this Bill, which we of course strongly condemn.

Greetings all! I want to formally introduce myself since I hope to contribute more to this blog throughout my year of service at the National Adoption Center/Adoption Center of Delaware Valley. My name is Abiodun (Abi) Azeez, and I recently graduated from Princeton University (class of 2012) with a degree in Public and International Affairs (Public Policy). I’m serving as a Strategic Advancement Associate at NAC, where I will be working in several different areas including website development, public relations, and fundraising. 

 
While I intend to go on to graduate school in the near future, I knew that I could benefit a lot from spending some time after undergrad working in the “real world” to get a clearer sense of my professional direction. I also wanted to spend more time in Philadelphia, my hometown, working in the non-profit sector because I had an invaluable experience working at one in this city in the past and feel that there are a lot of opportunities in the non-profit sector for graduates here. This is what motivated me to apply for Philly Fellows—an organization that connects a select number of graduates to work opportunities in non-profit organizations in Philadelphia—which ultimately matched me with NAC. I am happy to be working at NAC, and am even more excited (after some initial nervousness and uncertainty about what exactly I would be doing) now that I have completed my first full week of work. 
 
I had no prior experience, academic or otherwise, with foster care or adoption before coming to NAC. But, as aforementioned, I am interested in child welfare and saw this as a good opportunity to learn more about the policies, challenges, future directions, etc. of the foster care and adoption systems. In addition, I wanted to see what unique role NAC plays in promoting the adoption of foster children. NAC serves older children in foster care, some of whom have special developmental, emotional, health, and other needs. I wondered how the organization has been able to find families for these kids when, as the organization recognizes, younger (infant, toddler) children have been popularized in the media. I quickly learned that at the heart of NAC’s success in promoting the adoption of older foster children lies is its child-focused recruitment strategies— Freddie Mac Foundation's Wednesday’s Child, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, and match parties, to be specific. As time goes by, I am gaining knowledge of other steps NAC is taking to better respond to the needs of foster and adopted children, and prospective and adoptive families to ensure that these children are able to thrive in safe, healthy forever families. And, even though I’m new here, I am excited about where the organization is planning to go in the future.
 

The National Adoption Center’s 2012 Golf Classic: Tee Off for Kids is coming up on October 3rd, and we’re looking forward to one of our best tournaments yet! We’ll be honoring our 40th anniversary and celebrating the occasion at a new venue – the top PGA-rated course at Radnor Valley Country Club in Villanova, PA. 

The day will include a barbeque luncheon, the chance to win a Mercedes with a hole-in-one, and an awards banquet featuring an open bar, gourmet dinner and live auction. 

But the golf classic is about more than 18 holes and a fun day out of the office. It’s an opportunity to make an impact for the nearly 110,000 U.S. children living in foster care who hope for a family to call their own. 

In fact, one of Radnor Valley’s golf professionals is an adoptive father we know well. Nelson Ranco and his wife Ellen adopted Ezra from foster care four years ago. Ezra had spent much of his childhood in foster care before moving in with the Rancos when he was 13. Ezra quickly melded into the family. 

“We adopted Ezra to give him a family and for him to know he would have a family for the rest of his life,” Nelson said. 

Today, Ezra is 17 years old and a senior in high school. He loves art as well as sports, and dreams of playing football in college. 

It is for youth like Ezra that the National Adoption Center exists. So encourage your friends, coworkers and neighbors to come out and support this worthy cause. You won’t regret it! 

For tickets, foursomes and sponsorship info visit www.adopt.org or call Katie at 267-443-1874.

 
 

Today we 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!

If you are thinking about foster adoption or are currently an adoptive parent, it is important for you to know some of the benefits that you and your adopted child are eligible to receive. 

Did you know: 

  • That foster adoption costs you little to nothing compared to private adoptions that may cost you between $5,000 - $40,000 (including international and domestic infant adoption) 
  • State and federal assistance programs offer financial help to adoptive parents of eligible children to help offset medical fees and any other necessary costs that may arise during the adoption process and throughout your child’s life until he or she turns 18. Types of financial assistance may include: 
    • Monthly government subsidies and reimbursements (Federal and State)
    • Special loans and grants 
    • Paid medical coverage for children (Medicaid card) 
    • Visit this site for more information about the Federal IV-E Adoption Assistance. Program guidelines. State assistance programs vary by state. Check your individual state guidelines on this website. 
  • Adoption Tax Credits : Families who adopt children from foster care under the responsibility of a Title IV-E agency are eligible for a one-time tax credit of up to $13,000 to help offset court costs, legal and travel expenses, and other miscellaneous fees directly related to a legal foster adoption. 
  • Employer Adoption Benefits: A growing number of companies have begun to offer benefits to employees who adopt. These benefits can include financial reimbursement for legal fees, agency fees, and post-adoption counseling. Some employers even offer paid leave time, and help finding resources and referrals if you desire more information or support. 
  • Scholarships: Many organizations and foundations have scholarships in place specifically for children adopted from the foster care system. This will ensure a bright future for your child and help secure a higher education for him or her. 
  • Probably the greatest benefit of adoption from foster care is providing a child the priceless gift of a loving, safe and permanent home.

Here’s the dilemma: how does a parent be supportive when an adopted child spreads his or her wings and grows up? When looked at in the course of human events—…well, one can make an “about face”, parent to child. Even adoptive parent to birth parent. 

Liberating one’s child and encouraging them to “be who you are” and “be who you are meant to be” is daunting! When the child is age five or seven or even twelve, the parental controls are much more front and center in the lives of both parent and child. But it is through the teenage years (and especially beyond) that the real “about face” starts. 

A child’s about face is more about shifting their gaze from their parent’s face to those of their friends or perhaps a mentor—be that at church, through sports, the arts, or school. Though we may fight against it, they start to listen to voices other than their parents’ and this becomes more their norm. A parent’s voice might still be strong, but it isn’t quite as deafening or impressive or perhaps thought of as necessary to listen to as it once was. 

What about a child adopted as a teenager? He or she could make a huge about face and, instead, begin to listen to the voices of love they had not heard before, or for a very long time. Their about face could be life-changing in an instant! And that about face is life-giving and powerful for both sides. 

The beauty of the legacy forged in an adoptive home—no matter the child’s age—I’d say is mostly all about face! Face to face, an adopted child might be loved in ways they never would have had the adoption not taken place. Face to face, had they not adopted adoptive parents might never opened their own reservoir of care or grown in their ways of loving. 

An adoptive parent surely does not want to lose face by hearing, “You’re not my real parents,” particularly if this involves an about face by a child one has loved and raised. This is the vulnerability adoptive parents face by taking the risk to adopt. So, again, it is most all about facing this monumental choice. 

Such words—whether spoken verbally or conveyed through an adopted child’s facial expression—might cause an adoptive parent’s face to turn slightly from their child—yes, hurt, but encouraging them to grow up, while keeping the memories of their together times. 

I was once asked in a job interview, “What was the hardest thing you ever had to do?” I answered something about a job-related activity. In retrospect, I should absolutely have answered the hardest thing I've had to do in life was to allow my child to grow up! To make a change from parenting with tighter reigns to parenting with faith in my child as she faced forward in her own life. 

Doing so has taken an about face made in slow and painful degrees. I have come to think about birth parents. They did their about face when giving up their child. Not being able to live face to face with their child, they walked in a different direction. How many of them ponder “What if…?” and “I wonder what my child is like?” 

I see how wholly courageous that was and continues to be! My own about face—allowing our child to grow up by living through them turning their face from us to their own new world—has been hard. Yet it has given me a new respect of how birth parents feel.

Could I have been so idealistic or naïve about how very tough this stage of life would be? I marvel at how strong birth parents have been—whatever the reason—in doing their about face. You might wonder, if given the chance to do it again, would I? That I could face you, I would hope my eyes could convince you that being an adoptive parent has been the most blessed event ever. 

Still vulnerable? Yes. Truly. To be a parent—birth or adoptive—is full of lessons of facing one’s self, of loving, of being human—and humane! Being an adoptive parent might be an “about face” from one’s childhood dreams and wishes. But take it from one who knows: it is no less important, no less amazing. It is just one way of facing and living life!

 
Photo Credit: Cory Popp
 
An extra special thank you to the Jaws Youth Playbook for sponsoring our adoption match partyon June 23rd! 37 children and 25 families came out to the Riversharks’ Campbell Field in Camden, NJ, in hopes that they would make a connection.
 
[Side note: For those of you who don’t know what an adoption match party is, it’s an event that brings youth in foster care together with adults who have been approved to adopt for a day of getting to know one another. Match parties are a rare opportunity for the children and adults to interact one-on-one, and we often see “magic” happen in the form of a connection that may lead to adoption.]
 
Saturday’s match party included a fun day of healthy, sports-themed activities in line with the Jaws Youth Playbook’s mission to improve the overall health and wellness of at-risk youth, primarily in the Greater Philadelphia region. The kids enjoyed water ball tosses, relay races and a baseball clinic, and the adults kept up as best as they could too!
 
By the end of the day we had an impressive 71 inquiries from adults who were interested in learning more about the youth. It is our hope that many of these initial inquiries will progress to permanent adoptions and families!
 
This life-changing work wouldn’t be possible without our supporters, so we want to send out a huge thank you to Ron "Jaws” Jaworski's and the Jaws Youth Playbook, as well as the Riversharks for their incredible support. We’d also like to thank Wawa for sending 15 absolutely amazing volunteers out to help us make this a day the youth and families would never forget!

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