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Virginia’s General Assembly recently passed a state law which allows any adoption agency, including state-funded agencies, to turn away qualified adoptive parents based on religious and moral beliefs, including sexual orientation. The legislation codifies last year’s State Board of Social Services regulation to allow faith-based organizations to reject prospective parents based on gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation and family status. While the prevailing debate mainly focuses on faith-based convictions to join children with gay parents, the sweeping language leaves room for further discrimination by private agencies on the basis of religious and moral criteria of their choosing. Governor Robert McDonnell signed this anti-gay adoption bill when it reached his desk. Virginia now joins North Dakota as the only two states having what is termed a “conscience clause” in law. This is in contrast to nine states which explicitly prohibit this kind of discrimination in adoption. Virginia state law already prohibits unmarried couples to adopt, but does allow single people to adopt, regardless of sexual orientation. 

There are approximately 1,300 children in Virginia waiting to be adopted and this law further limits the number of safe, loving and permanent caregivers that are available to them. The National Adoption Center STRONGLY rejects the premise that any prospective parent(s) should be rejected based on race, gender, religion and sexual orientation. What do you think? 

 
 
Not in this case. The board, volunteers and staff (present and former) at The National Adoption Center will take full credit for all four decades of its existence! We are forty years old and we are proud of it! 
 
 
Since our founding in 1972 our mission has been consistent – to expand adoption opportunities for children living in foster care throughout the United States, and to be a resource to families and to agencies who seek the permanency of caring homes for children.
 
In honor of this milestone we invite YOU to share 4 ways that you have impacted a child.
 
Ok, we’ll start…
 
  1. We have found homes for 23,000 children since 1972
  2. We are currently working hard on behalf of children like 11 year old Aphrodite  who wants a loving home to call her own
  3. We helped provide holiday gifts for children in foster care through the generous partnership with local Wendy’s franchises
  4. Due to our weekly WednesdayChild features on NBC10, 12 year old Nadir had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be on the court while the Philadelphia 76er’s held their practice, throw some hoops with host Vai Sikahema, and meet  some of his favorite players including Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, and Louis Williams!
 
Ok, now it’s your turn…… 

With just over 2 months to go to file 2011 taxes, we wanted to remind you about the Adoption Tax Credit. Information provided by Voice For Adoption.

The Facts:

  • Since 2003, families who adopted a U.S. child with special needs from foster care could claim a federal adoption tax credit even if they had no adoption expenses (as long as they met the fairly generous income requirements). 
  • Children who receive adoption assistance/subsidy benefits are considered children with special needs. Even families who receive a deferred subsidy ($0 per month but medical coverage through the subsidy program) are eligible. 
  • All adoptive families (except those who adopted a step-child) are eligible for the credit, but those who adopt children other than those with special needs must have—and be able to document, if requested by the IRS—qualified adoption expenses. 
  • For 2010 and 2011 the credit was made refundable. If parents who adopted as long ago as 2005 had credit to carry forward into 2010, that amount of the credit also became refundable. In 2010 and 2011, parents can claim the credit even if they don’t have income or any tax liability. 
  • The amount of the credit for 2011 is $13,360 per child. 

The Information: 
IRS Form 8839 Instructions: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i8839.pdf 
IRS Form 8839: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8839.pdf 
IRS – adoption tax credit FAQ’s:http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=231663,00.html 

Tools & Resources from the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC): http://www.nacac.org/taxcredit/taxcredit.html
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.  

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. 

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! 

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? 

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. 

 

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.

 

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? 

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