What's a Match Party Like?

contributed by Abbigail Facey, Program Intern
As the teens enter the room one can feel the excitement building. It takes these thirty young people only a few minutes to gain their composure, survey their surroundings and strike up conversation with neighboring youth; the hum of chatter and laughter quickly begins to fill the room. Amidst this sea of budding friendships, prospective parents and adoptive families offer nervous smiles, and firm handshakes, as they attempt to begin conversation with these lively young people.
“For some prospective parents, this is the first time they have attended a Match Party,” explains Crystal, an adoption coordinator with NAC. “While they are excited to finally meet face-to-face with children, versus reading their bio or viewing their picture—there is a certain level of anxiety that each family faces.”
NAC – which expands adoption opportunities for children living in foster care – has led the way for 25 years in facilitating matching events, designed to introduce prospective parents to older youth who hope to be adopted. By focusing on teenagers, NAC’s goal is to eliminate the sense of competition often present between older youth and younger children at typical matching events.  
“When children of all ages attend match parties, families tend to  inquire more about the younger kids, those under 10,” says Sheina, an adoption coordinator at NAC. “That wasn’t fair to the older kids.” 
For Sheina, the best part about the Teen Match Parties “is seeing families who originally were interested only in children under 8 years old, having great conversation with a 12 year old and completely change their outlook.”
At these parties, the youth spend quality time with their peers who face similar challenges; they are able to express their feelings and show their personalities in a safe and supportive environment. Myenisha, a child who attended a Match Party, said “You get to meet families and other kids in the same situation.” This connection helps children understand that, while they may be experiencing significant transitions within their lives, they are not alone.  “The children tend to be relaxed at the event because they have been prepared by their Case Manager or Adoption Recruiter,” says Crystal.  “We let them know that they always have support and are not alone.”
NAC’s latest Match Party this past Fall was at The Funplex in East Hanover, New Jersey. After having created 14 similar parties with her team over the past three years, Allen said “We have it down to a science.  We were initially worried about there being too many distractions for the kids at the event, but it worked out really well.”
One way NAC's staff prepares teenagers for the Adoption Party event is through two pre-party events, led by a motivational group facilitator. These events assist teens in becoming more comfortable and confident about moving forward with the Match Party.
The process of finding qualified prospective adoptive parents poses a greater challenge for NAC—unfortunately, a smaller percentage of prospective families consider adopting older children. Even with the realities of a smaller pool of families interested in teens, NAC has a long and successful history of success.  These are teens who might still be lingering in the foster care system alone, who instead successfully found a forever family. 
 “The hard work put into the event is well the worth the effort,” Sheina said. “The entire office does a lot to prepare for the event—the paper work, the calls made for monetary donations is all worthwhile to see parents and kids engaged in conversation. The ultimate goal of our efforts is to create a match between prospective parents and children.”
That effort does not go unnoticed by the children attending the event. Thalia who attended described the party as, “awesome… because there’s a lot of people who care about you.”
As NAC approaches its 40th year anniversary, Thalia can be sure that those who care about her and her story will continue to work toward finding the perfect home for her and others who need someone to make a difference in the way they grow up.  

Waiting Children

There are about 500,000 American children in the foster-care system on any given day. Of these, 100,000 will be or already are available for adoption. Few are orphans. In fact, most still have at least one birth parent. However the parent is unable to care for his/her children through circumstance, such as having a tough addiction problem. Or maybe the parents neglect the children or, worst of all, maybe the children were abused - leaving social workers and the courts no choice but to place them with foster parents who can provide a safe haven and genuine, though temporary, care. Many of these kids have "special needs." They may be older or paired with a brother or sister. Some may be physically or emotionally fragile. But no child is "unadoptable."

There are many great parents out there who are eager to open their homes and their hearts to these wonderful boys and girls. How can we bring these parents and kids together? What will it take to help the thousands of American children in foster care? There's no easy answer, and each child in each state presents unique challenges because, unfortunately, adoption laws vary from state to state. We can, however, do a lot to make it easier for waiting kids and parents to connect and build families. Every child deserves a home and a loving family. By improving adoption process, we help the children find the permanence they need. 


Our Holiday Wish

Holiday tunes bounce along nearly every airwave. Snowstorms have crippled our airports and thanks to freezing temps from Florida to the Dakotas, people are shivering! We have nearly turned the page of 2010 and find ourselves smack dab in the season of The Holidays! Hope, joy, light and delight permeate big and small screens with the magic of family—whether depicted through wonderful lives, bee-bee gun dreams, miracles on 34th street or a snowman who moves over the hills of snow! 

It’s festive at the National Adoption Center these days. Some of our most dedicated corporate partners have collected personalized (long!) gift wish lists for the children on our adoption coordinators caseloads. Multiple gifts for each child were then purchased, wrapped and delivered to our offices at the ready for our coordinators to load their cars and deliver this bounty to children who are incredibly appreciative. And worthy of mention is that these corporations, with their broad vision and heart, do this every year! 

Surrounded by generous people who embody the message of hope we at the Adoption Center experience this season of giving most directly. I can only imagine that throughout small and large cities the world around, similar loving gestures abound. While many charities help homeless families or those in economic hardship, the children who receive presents, though needy, are blessed to have their family. It’s not that kids in foster care are forgotten. But it’s a whole different story to be waiting for gifts than it is to be waiting for a family. 

I am not suggesting that kids in foster care don’t have happy holidays. Gestures of those aware that this population is underserved give generously which most definitely makes a difference. And many loving foster parents and caring directors of foster group homes extend themselves to bring the children in their care happy holidays, happy birthdays, and wonderful lives. 

But think about it. Kids are kids. Kids who live in foster homes just want to be like other kids: to receive gifts or observe traditions for Hanukkah, or Christmas, and/or Kwanza with their family. To be honored during a time when a good part of the world celebrates each other and the importance of family. 

Our website (under the Video Center) hosts a 30 second “must see” message. It features a girl who wants a bike, a boy who wants a new video game, but the soulful message of one youth, in particular, is haunting: “Me? I just want a family.” Look into this boy’s eyes and catch the real meaning: this is not just a seasonal longing. This is an everyday dream. 

What can be done to fulfill this “other” wish list of waiting children? The one not verbalized or written down. Or able to be contained in a gift box topped with a bow. Consider what the holiday season of 2011 will look like if, from this moment, more people have the vision to adopt and follow through. I bet that next year extra places would need to be set at holiday feast tables and more people would play Dreidel or read “The Night Before Christmas” together. Perhaps more sibling groups would be adopted, allowing more brothers and sisters to grow up together. If more people would offer something that has eluded waiting children—their very own place in a permanent, caring home—that everyday dream you saw in the eyes of that child in the video would become reality.

We know there are lots of newly formed adoptive families since this time last year. Congratulations! Give Frosty some company and dance through this season! In line with that famous song, find a meadow and build a snowman or a beach and build a sandman, or do whatever will make lasting family memories and create traditions for the next generations.

My wish: more people will choose the option of adoption. That by this time next year many more (at-this-moment) “unfound families” will find their very wanted child who will, by this time next year, finally “dream by the fire, to face unafraid, the plans that they made…” …together as family! 


Wednesday's Child Featured Child: Carlos

13 year old Carlos has a passion for football. This teen loves to play and is a great player for his local school team. Carlos also enjoys watching wrestling, reading books, and helping others. In the 7th grade, he does good in school and gets along well with his teachers and peers. Carlos can be shy and reserved when first meeting new people, but will soon open up after he feels safe and comfortable.

Because Carlos has dreams of playing professional football when he grows up, he met up with Wednesday’s Child host Vai Sikahema at University of Delaware-Blue Hens football for a look into how to actually get there. The two met with defensive lineman Siddiq Haynes. Siddiq took the two on a tour of the athletics dept., field, and finally into the weight room. On the field, the trio couldn’t help but throw balls around. Carlos was able to show Vai and Siddiq his skills. They then rang the team’s touchdown bell, which was VERY loud. “The weight room was fun”, said Carlos. Siddiq showed him some of the equipment and tested his strength on several of them.

Overall, the day was a great success! Vai sat with Carlos during lunch to talk about family. Carlos says family is important. He would like a family that would allow him to play sports and stay active. Contact with his sibling is important to him. Carlos needs a loving and caring family that will show support at his football games. At this point in his life, he dreams of not only scoring for his team, but scoring with a family! Will you be that family for Carlos? 


Medicating Children in Foster Care

State child welfare systems are moving children from foster care to permanency faster and in greater numbers than ever. At the same time, we recognize that these systems struggle to achieve positive outcomes for the children in their care who have complex social-emotional, behavioral and mental health problems. Children in foster care represent only three percent of children covered by Medicaid, yet, based on a study of pharmacy claims in 16 States, foster children enrolled in Medicaid were prescribed antipsychotic medications at nearly nine times the rate of other children receiving Medicaid. While medications can be an important component of treatment, strengthened oversight of psychotropic medication use is necessary in order to responsibly and effectively attend to the clinical needs of children who have experienced maltreatment. 


Success Story - Lucas


Today we celebrate the adoption of Lucas, a teen whose dream came true when his foster parents, Nancy and David, adopted him this year! 

Lucas was featured on Wednesday’s Child Philadelphia in 2008 and then again a year later. Wednesday’s Child Philadelphia, sponsored by the Freddie Mac Foundation, is a weekly child feature on NBC10 with former Philadelphia Eagle, Vai Sikahema. 

Starting the journey to be only foster parents, Nancy and David welcomed Lucas into their home when Lucas was seven years old. They prayed he would find a home and agreed to have him until that goal became a reality. Seven years later, Lucas still had no permanent home.

In 2011, Nancy and David realized that their home was Lucas’ home and made it official in court! Lucas says he is still getting used to calling them mom and dad and corrects himself when he calls them by their names. 

Vai met up with Lucas’ family to hear more about their great story. Lucas says he is so happy they adopted him. Nancy and David say they have been blessed to be the lucky couple to have Lucas permanently in their lives. Diagnosed with mild mental retardation, Lucas is for the first time in a regular education class. He is doing well and has many friends. 

When Vai asked what their favorite family activity was, they all said simply playing cards and spending time together. So they pulled out a pack of Skip-Bo cards and Vai quickly saw why they liked that activity. The four shared laughs and stories and had a great time. 

The Wednesday’s Child program, sponsored by the Freddie Mac Foundation, is a great recruitment tool. In fact, over 62% of the children featured on Wednesday Child Philadelphia now have a permanent home.



Changing the Foster Care Adoption Process

The September issue of Children and Youth Services Review provides a qualitative study of nine families going through the foster care adoption process; three of them have already dropped out. Researchers noted the factors that support completion: a caring, competent social worker; supportive family and friends; involvement in counselling or parent-support activities. They also identified hindering factors including poor worker performance; the time-consuming and daunting nature of the process; and matching parameters that were too rigid. They also found that families needed to hear from workers often during the long waiting process. 

The research recommends rethinking the manner in which agencies match children by having prospective parents check criteria they would accept or not accept and presenting only children who exactly match those criteria. Do you believe these suggestions will help expedite the process? 


Importance of Recruitment

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption released a new report outlining their 5-year rigorous, evidence-based evaluation and research, about their Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program (a child-focused recruitment model). DTFA's signature program, Wendy's Wonderful Kids (WWK), provides local adoption agencies (including us at the National Adoption Center) with grants to hire dedicated adoption recruiters who spend 100 percent of their job focused on finding waiting children forever homes. 

The report highlights that children in foster care who are served by the WWK recruitment program are 1.7 times more likely to be adopted than those not served by WWK. The research also highlights the impact of the WWK model is greatest among children who are older or those who have mental health disorders; a population of youth that have traditionally waited the longest for adoption or that are least likely to achieve adoption. The research, which was conducted by Child Trends, documents much-needed information about practices and policies that improve the likelihood of adoption for children in foster care.

Gay Adoptions Are On The Rise

this post contributed by our intern, Malini Ragoopath

According to recent reports by the US Census Bureau and the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, the number of lesbians and gay men adopting children has tripled over the past decade and continues to be on the rise. There were 6,477 same sex couples who had an adopted child in 2000; that number grew to an astonishing 21,740 by 2009. 

The National Adoption Center (NAC) is thrilled to hear of this development and can attest to rising interest in adoption by the LGBT community. During our most recent adoption match party in New Jersey, 50% of the families who attended were same-sex couples. Growing public acceptance of LGBT family life, coupled with more favorable legislation, as well the presence of more LGBT friendly adoption agencies all help to play a part in the growing interest of adoption by gay men and lesbians. 

In addition to match parties, NAC offers resources and services for the LGBT community. This includes our LGBT Adoption Cafés where we present the basics of adoption, provide representatives from LGBT friendly adoption agencies, as well as feature a lively panel discussion with real adoption professionals and adoptive LGBT parents. We also have our online service, AdoptMatch, where adoption agencies profile themselves and potential adopters match themselves with agencies that are the “best fit” for them. 

We are encouraged by the increased rate of LGBT adoptions and stand ready to be a resource for prospective families no matter what their sexual orientation. 

To see the full report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, click the link below:


Steve Jobs: A Visionary and an Adoptee

this post was written by our MSW Intern, Liz Mehaffey

In 1955, unmarried graduate students Abdulfattah John Jandali and Joanne Carole Schieble gave their child up for adoption. Schieble hoped her baby would be given a better future. 

This child was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs, and grew up to become the legendary Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple, Inc. 

On October 5, 2011, Steve Jobs left behind a remarkable legacy, and a world that will mourn his loss for years to come. Often compared to Thomas Edison for the caliber of his inventions, Steve Jobs was a visionary, and most recently named “Most Influential Man of the Year” byAskMen

Stubbornly private in nature, Steve Jobs rarely mentioned his adoption. However, he was always quick to point out that his adopted parents werehis parents. When asked by the New York Times what he would like to pass on to his children, Steve Jobs responded, "Just to try to be as good a father to them as my father was to me. I think about that every day." 

In a 60 Minutes interview, Jobs remembered an interaction that many adoptees go through. When a childhood friend found out he was adopted, she asked, 

“So does that mean your real parents didn’t want you?” Ooooh, lightning bolts went off in my head. I remember running into the house, I think I was (sic) crying, asking my parents. And they sat me down and they said, “No, you don’t understand. We specifically picked you out.” He said, “From then on, I realized that I was not just abandoned. I was chosen. I was special.”

In his 20s, Jobs conducted a search to find his biological family. Through that search, he found his biological sister, Mona Simpson. As the years progressed, he became closer to his sister, often displaying the books she authored in his office, and calling her frequently. 

Adopted children come in all shapes and sizes, both young and old. And through adoption, foster children are given the opportunity to flourish and grow, and become part of a family that can love and support them. The Center understands that families are created through love, support and care. As an adoptee, and speaking for the Center, we believe that “There are no unwanted children, just unfound families”™.