Desire for a Family

Today's post is from Malini, our Marketing Intern
There was an interesting article on the Today Show website that introduced me to the concept of  “Adult Adoptions”. Adult adoptions are supposedly on the rise in the US, although not every state currently allows them. There are many different reasons as to why people go through with adult adoptions; the main reason being a continued desire of former foster youth for a permanent family and the support, guidance, and companionship than stems from that. Most children in foster care, available for adoption, understand this desire. A permanent, stable “family” is what most people want, no matter their age. It brought to mind the question, “What defines a family?” Is there a clear definition?
The article featured on the Today Show website tells the story of Jillian, adopted at the age of 29 by her co-worker and husband. Although Jillian was not in foster care, she did suffer an unfortunate childhood with abusive and troubled parents; a familiar situation for many foster youth. What are your thoughts are on Adult Adoptions after reading the article? Should other states, which currently do not recognize Adult Adoption, join Washington state in making them legal?
Picking your parents: Adult adoption creates new bond

Fixing the System

The story below from the Huffington Post is unfortunately very typical, and just about any state can be substituted for California. What can we do to make the system more user-friendly for prospective parents who want to adopt from the foster care system?
from the Huffington Post  May 25, 2011
For James and Stephanie, their experience with California's public agencies is where the adoption process became a story of frustration, unreturned calls, and irrational bureaucracy. It took over a year before they were even considered for a waiting child. Their struggle presents a case study in the obstacles that face anyone trying to adopt a child from a public agency in California.

Knowing Where You Came From

Some time ago, I wrote a magazine article about Mary Lou who learned when she was 30 that she had been adopted.  “I always knew I was different  from other members of my family,” she told me, “but I couldn’t put my finger on what I was feeling.”  From the moment she learned about her adoption, she became obsessed with wanting to find out more about her birth parents.  Every time she stopped her car at a red light, she peered into the car next to her to see if anyone looked like her.   When she sat under the hair dryer at the beauty salon, she scanned the faces of other women to see if she could detect  a resemblance.  She knew she had been born in a small town in Pennsylvania and when she accompanied her husband on a business trip to that town, she had a feeling she might get closer to her roots.   She told me that when she gazed out of the hotel window where she and her husband were staying, she had the feeling she was close to her birth mother.  She learned later that her birth mother had died, but was buried in a cemetery that she could see from that window.  While she was not able to meet her, it gave her a sense of peace to know more about her and what had happened to her.
I thought about Mary Lou when I read an editorial the other day with the headline, “Let the truth be set free.”  The article that followed described a bill passed by the New Jersey Assembly that, if signed by Governor Christie, would give adults access to their original birth records.   Only a handful of states allow that access.  In those that do, it is the experience that not every adopted adult takes advantage of that option.  Many of those who are adopted are content without digging into their past. However, for those like Mary Lou who agonized about her origin for years, access to their records would be freeing not only for them but for their adoptive parents who want their children to be as emotionally well-adjusted  as possible.

Responding to Match Party Comments

The following was written by Chris Jacobs our Program Director.
I would like to respond with some facts about National Adoption Center match parties. The children and teens who attend do know that they are coming to an event to meet families. The Center believes that not every child or teen is appropriate to attend a match party and no child/teen should be forced to attend. Children are prepared by their social workers to know what to expect, or in the case of our teens-only events, two preparation meetings are held with the teens before the match party to go over the agenda for the day, and address any concerns or questions they have.   
Of course, meeting families face-to-face is exciting and can also be scary---for the youth and for the families!    Center staff also meet with the families before each party to once again go over the agenda for the day and to coach them (because they are also nervous) about being sensitive to the youth, respecting their privacy and using this as an opportunity to interact and share what they have in common. The staff also provides some do’s and don’ts (no pictures taken with their cell phones, no promises made to youth, no discussion of adoption.)
The Center believes that the youth must have a voice in their own recruitment and our parties are planned to be “no pressure,” fun for the youth and always respectful of their feelings and privacy. There will inevitably be youth who attend for whom families do not request additional information. However, a match party is just one strategy their social worker can use to find them a family. The Center encourages the social worker to  discuss with the child, after the party, the child’s reaction to the experience.
It has been the experience of the National Adoption Center and other organizations that have sponsored such parties, that if the events are orchestrated with sensitivity and the children are prepared well before and talk with their social workers afterward, the experience will be a positive one for the child. As one enthusiastic social worker said, “In a perfect world, we would not need adoption parties.” The reality is that nearly 120,000 children around the country are yearning for permanent families. Attending such events increases their chances dramatically.”

Obama On National Foster Care Month

May is National Foster Care Month!—“Across America, there are families who need these children as much as these children need families,” said President Obama in his Presidential Proclamation for National Foster Care Month. Obama stated the Administration’s commitment to achieve security for every child and raised visibility to permanency initiatives at the Department of Health and Human Services. These initiatives are focused on reducing long-term foster care for children and over the next five years will invest $100 million in new intervention strategies to help youth move into permanent families. Recognizing that the Nation has a responsibility to provide the best care possible for children when they cannot remain in their own homes, Obama recognized the efforts of tireless individuals that work on behalf of children in out of home care. To access the White House press release visit: 


Match Parties - are you for or against?

The National Adoption Center plans and executes multiple Match Parties throughout the year. These parties are a signature recruitment vehicle for the Center and a truly wonderful opportunity for children & youth looking to be adopted to interact with prospective parents in a safe, secure and fun environment. Our success rate is often as high as forty percent.
Countless new “forever families” have been created thanks to our Match Parties, yet we sometimes receive pushback from folks who believe these events are exploitive to the children. What do you think?

Finding Home

Our daughter found her birth/first family.  And when they responded—in kindness with no doubt a good dash of curiosity—they invited her to visit.  She took them up on the invitation.  (And yes, gut reaction: I was thrilled for her—and them—but, at the same time, died a little inside.)

An adult now, she needed no permission to go.  Using her own instinct to confirm this was the right time, she and her boyfriend made the trek several months ago. I heard later that all who gathered were delighted how well she fit in, particularly with sibling sisters—in looks, height, temperament—for they were amazed that they all share the “same” nose, thin hair, and baby blue eyes. (Amidst the giggles, their mantra: “Oh, thank goodness, I’m not the only one!”)
It had been over 16 years since she’d seen them face to face.  I daresay she might not have remembered much of that visit, but I do. That was a trial because she wanted to stay with them. Felt right at home.  Did notwant to get in the car and drive to our house. Kicked.  Yelled.  Begged. The whole gamut of emotions.  All of it—anguish included—broke my heart at the time.
With screaming by her and blubbering by me, my husband had quite a time driving in torrential flooding rains through several states.  At one point, she started a new wave of hacking emotion and blurted once again, “I want to go back home—back there!”  When I protested and said we would miss her too much, she looked at me with a puzzled stare, “Well, I’d only stay if you and dad stayed, too!”  (Hmmm.  Good to know.)
We never hid from her the fact that she is adopted.  In fact, we used the term often–both casually and formally.  It was a natural, any day term she grew up hearing.  I imagine it shaped her identity somewhat, even when she was quite young and didn’t understand all of its ramifications. 
Carroll Connor (the actor who played “Archie Bunker”) was reported to have said to his adopted son, “It’s like this:  when your mother and I got married, she ‘adopted’ me and I ‘adopted’ her, and then we adoptedyou!”   I liked it.  Simple. Clean. Sweet. True.
And isn’t it true how much we do “adopt” each other within family circumstances, neighborhoods, church or temple communities, or even workplace teams!  We labor at cultivating harmony by adopting and adapting to the practices and ideas of others, even when doing so pushes our buttons.  Even as it makes us grow and reminds us that we are each a “work in progress.” 
We adapt and weave our unique threads in many tapestries within our lives. Sometimes we adopt good or even great things from one another. Sometimes, we take on, shall we say, some less loveable characteristics.  Nonetheless, they help form us (and the tapestry to which we contribute), making us more of who we grow up and in to being.   
Remembering that didn’t stop my heart from pounding when she said she was going on her adventure.  Or when, at five, she wanted to stay in the house of her first parent.  Rather than react, we thought it best to respond—in kind and kindness.  But there are natural questions adoptive parents have.  Will she still love us?  Will she want to be with us?  And bottom line:  now what do we do?
I always sensed that her natural inquisitive nature would, at some point in her life, win out and she would opt to search for her biological roots. We told her when she was ready to find her first family members, we would do whatever we could to help her. That she found them on her own was to her credit and her will.  (She has both, in spades!)  
One of the most difficult things any parent does is let their child(ren) grow up.  In an adopted child’s life, this might extend to being okay with or even supporting them to discover their roots and go “home” to a first parent.  Not easy.  Not necessarily comfortable.  But real, nonetheless.
During the visit, we Skyped.  After she left the chat, those who stayed behind told us how well she fit in and said how fun it was to see what a remarkable young woman she is becoming.  (Of course, we concur!)  I did my best not to cry (and, in a feat quite remarkable for me, succeeded!).  
Giving her wings and encouraging her to fly was a bit risky, because—well, she did just that!  (She’s always been and will forever be fiercely independent!)  Referencing the Khalil Gibran quote from The Prophetabout our children being the arrows—I would say, in her case, she was both archer and arrow; she saw the target and willed herself there.  She discovered the door and could not but open it.  She looked for and found (another) home.   In her case, search and reunion resulted in a true reintegration that was wonderful for all involved.  Seeing them, Skype-face-to-Skype-face, after so many years was quite amazing; it was obvious how delighted they were to be with her again.   We heard their laughter, as natural and knowing as any family’s, for in the span of being together less than a week it was clear they cultivated private and “had to be there” jokes.
What I wondered (okay, worried) about was:  would she “settle” there–in that home–or would she return and still be “at home” with us?   It is a valid question to which only she held the answer! No matter the hurt on our part, we would have supported any decision she made.  So this left us with a choice:  be sad for me/us or be happy for her/them.  We chose and continue to choose to be happy for her/them. 
True to her nature, she let us know her most amiable answer:  to be in touch with all.  To love and respect all.  As the archer, she shot for a distant shore and could have remained there.  But, as the arrow, she found she could consider home, for her, where the heart is.  Hers. Ours.  Theirs! 
Before she went, we faced the possibility that she might no longer acknowledge her adoptive home. After all, she had stars in her eyes, adventure in her back pocket, and a passion for the unknown as scintillating as any pioneer who crossed the prairies in search of a new home. 
Upon her return, I asked her what she felt about “family” now?  Her answer:  “Oh—nothing different, really.  Family?—it’s just bigger, that’s all.   I am like them in some ways.  And I am more like you and dad in other ways.  But it’s all good.”

While I experienced a wall between us and some quite palpable distance before she went, the months since her return, much to my surprise, there seems to be emerging a unique and different closeness—she calls a bit more often to tell us news and even asks our help now and again.

She went home and came home and is home—all at once. Based on this experience, this I know is true:  all of us are working toward going home and finding “home”—being with people we love and “at home” as ourselves with them.

Delaware Valley Legacy Fund’s Non-profit of the Year

We just received some extremely exciting news.  The National Adoption Center has been named the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund’s Non-profit of the Year!  To mark this honor, DVLF will present us with an award at their annual Heroes event. 
The Hero awards are given to youth (21 and under), adults, non-profits, and businesses who have bold ideas, act with selfless intention, are admired for their integrity, and are regarded as courageous in advancing the equality of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community in the Delaware Valley and beyond. 
We are honored by this award, but do not consider ourselves as heroes nor the work we do heroic.  But our work is meaningful and does make a difference. 
We saw this firsthand at a recent event tailored specifically to the LGBT community.  The event, called the LGBT Adoption Café, was a forum meant to introduce members of our local LGBT community to the world of adoption.  Among other things, there was a panel comprised of gay and lesbian adoptive parents and adoption professionals.  The discussion was honest and informative.  The day before the event – after months of partnering, planning, promoting and creating a worthwhile event the weather forecast called for torrential downpours and emergency flood warnings!  It was too late in the game to cancel; we had to take a deep breath and hope for the best.  That evening we were amazed at the turnout!  We had over 80 participants, all eager to learn about adoption.  It was evident that the event was needed and worthwhile. 
Our goal is to expand the pool of potential permanent families in the LGBT community and develop services for LGBT prospective families.  We do this through educating, advocating and promoting best practices for culturally competent services within the child welfare system.  Heroic?  No.  Addressing the fundamental human right to parent?  We certainly believe so.

The Delaware Valley Legacy Fund (DVLF) strives to increase philanthropy and grantmaking to support the community needs of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight-allied communities. DVLF advances philanthropy for the LGBT community through endowment building, fundraising, community outreach and education. 



Possible Change in Virginia’s Adoption Policy

Getting to the Semantics 
There is currently a movement in the state of Virginia where progressive gay and lesbian groups are urging Governor Bob McDonnell to support a proposed non-discrimination provision for the current adoption policy in Virginia. The change has to do with simple semantics. It calls for a modification of the language of the policy, which currently excludes unmarried couples from adopting. The new proposed language would prohibit delaying or denying someone the chance to adopt based on race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. This provision does nothing more than ensure that a person who seeks to adopt a child is not denied the opportunity simply because of who he or she is or what he or she believes. One positive outcome from this change is that hundreds of homes could potentially welcome children from the foster care system desperately waiting for a family.

The National Adoption Center has, for decades, been an advocate for the LGBT community and their rights to adopt. Through our proactive programs, we help spread the word to the LGBT community about their opportunities to adopt and welcome them as potential adopters. There are currently 5,000 children up for adoption in Virginia and we see the gay community there as one that widens the pool of prospective parents for these waiting children.

Governor Bob McDonnell currently not supportive of the language improvement and has until Saturday to give his official recommendation to the Social Services Board which has the final say in the matter. You can help push this provision forward by writing to Governor Bob McDonnell via his website (listed below) and urging him to lend his support. You can also visit the website for Equality Virginia, a leading gay rights group in Virginia, and send a letter to the Chair of the State Board of Social Services via a link on their homepage (link also listed below). 

Equality Virginia:

Write to Gov. Bob McDonnell:

Learn more about the National Adoption Center LGBT Initiative at: 


Is Cost a Factor?

Adoptive Families magazine recently surveyed its readers on the type and cost involved in their adoptions during the previous year. With over 1,800 parents responding, the 2009-2010 Cost of Adoption Survey reported the following mean costs: newborn (agency-$33,793, attorney-$31,465); international adoption (ranging from $28,254 in Ethiopia to $49,749 in Russia): and U.S. foster care ($2,704 and receive monthly subsidy averaging $604). Does the cost of adoption play a significant role in the type chosen?