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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?

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.
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. 

 

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: 

http://www.equalityvirginia.org/

Write to Gov. Bob McDonnell: 

http://www.governor.virginia.gov/aboutthegovernor/contactgovernor.cfm

Learn more about the National Adoption Center LGBT Initiative at:

http://www.adopt.org/assembled/lgbt_initiative.html 

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?

Last week I had the chance to take three boys to a radio show to talk about the kind of families they hoped might adopt them. The boys were not the young school-aged children I often take to this show. One was 11, the other two were were teenagers—14 and 15; all of them still hope that there may be a family that will want them. 

Teenagers often go unnoticed by prospective adopters. Some don’t know that teenagers are available to be adopted. Others hesitate to adopt an adolescent, believing that they can’t have much impact on the way he or she will grow up. I wish those skeptics could have been with me last week and listened to what the children said:

Shahid, 15: I want a family that will always care about me and will be there for me. I would give them love and make them proud of me.

Cinque, 11: I’m imaginative and like to think things through. I want to be an archeologist when I grow up and hope I will have parents to encourage me. My biggest hope is that soon I will be in a good home.

Zamir, 15: Having a family is so important to me. It’s what I want more than anything else. I would be a good son, help around the house and be kind to them and to other people. I haven’t given up.

More adoption agencies are focusing on teenagers. They know what happens when children “age out” of foster care without a permanent family. Teenage pregnancy rates soar. Drug and alcohol abuse are common. Their rates of crime, delinquency and mental illness escalate. That’s why the National Adoption Center has been holding adoption “match” parties for teenagers. Its next one, funded by the Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption Network (SWAN) is scheduled for Saturday, March 26 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Philadelphia. 

People who have adopted teenagers say they wish they hadn’t hesitated…they wish they had done it sooner. “I can see how my son has changed since he has been with my partner and me in a stable home,” says Edward. “He can focus more on his schoolwork and his grades have improved. And he no longer worries that one day he’ll have to pack his bags and move on to the next home. He knows he’s here to stay.” 

Meet Traquan! He is a respectful and outgoing 12-year-old with a passion for sports, matchbox cars and art classes. He is well-behaved and enjoys school, but above all he loves animals (especially dogs)! He would like to work in a pet store when he gets older, and he dreams of one day running his own animal shelter.

For Traquan, the location of his Wednesday’s Child taping was a no-brainer: an animal shelter! Traquan spent the day with Wednesday’s Child host Vai Sikahema and the crew at PAWS (Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society), a no-kill organization that cares for cats and dogs in need of homes. Traquan had the chance to play with Coco and Fred, two sweet and adorable dogs up for adoption. Traquan also held tiny kittens that craved attention while he and Vai chatted about his hope to find a family that loves animals as much as he does. He finished the day with a tour of the facility to get a better idea of how a shelter operates. Even though Traquan couldn’t take any animals home with him, he left knowing that the shelter would take good care of them until they could find their forever home! 

The most memorable moment of the day was when Traquan revealed that he feels a special connection with foster animals because they are a lot like him. Just like Traquan, they are all waiting to go home to a good family that will keep them forever. He would take them all if he could, but first he needs to find his own loving and supportive family—pets preferred! 

Will you be that family for Traquan? 

I read with great interest an article the other day which noted that race should no longer be a key criterion for social workers seeking adoptive families for children in foster care in Great Britain, stressing that the priority must instead be to quickly find a child a new home. Issuing new advice to those working on adoptions, and dismissing critics including the National Association of Black Social Workers in the United States, Education Secretary Michael Grove, himself adopted as a child, is moving Britain closer in line to its European neighbors, who largely disregard a child’s ethnicity. What do you think? 

Meet Darius, 18 and Shaquan, 16! Darius has a genuine love for computers while Shaquan is an aspiring rapper with a passion for poetry and hip hop. While these two brothers have a diversity of interests, they share a love for one thing: basketball! In school, they both do very well and participate on the basketball team. 

Darius and Shaquan recently got to spend the day with Wednesday’s Child host Vai Sikahema and the crew at Funplex! The boys spent the day living the dream of most teenagers: playing fun games and chilling out! Darius and Shaquan challenged Vai to a game of air hockey before they all raced around the go-kart track. Laser tag was also a hit! Basketball was the final event before the trio headed for lunch. 

Darius and Shaquan’s day at the Funplex was a blast for everyone involved! Now the boys are looking to find a family that will adopt them together. If that’s not possible, then they at least want a family that will allow them to maintain their special sibling bond.

Will you be that family for Darius and Shaquan? 

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