Wow Florida! It's about time you were able to fly! 

In October, 2010 a ruling overturned the over 30 year ban on gay and lesbian adoption in the Sunshine State. While gays and lesbians had been permitted to foster parent, under Florida law those in the LGBT community were previously prohibited from becoming adoptive parents. That ruling should finally set you free. Time to celebrate! Right! Or is it? 

Last summer I was in Florida to visit family and had the pleasure of meeting my sister’s fiancé’s sister and her partner. What I remember most was their heartfelt tears as they talked about their passion to become parents. They had done their homework; they knew over 6,000 children in their state alone were in the foster care system awaiting adoption. They were heartbroken that adopting was but a pipe dream. Seeing them together, it was obvious they cared about each other and would do whatever necessary to provide a loving, permanent home for a child. 

That was pre-ruling. Looking at their options at that time, things seemed bleak. For one thing, they were scared about how to start and even what to do. Should they be honest, they wondered? They could then only foster parent. Should just one of them adopt, and refer to their partner as a “roommate”? Should their house rental be in only one name? Or should they just resign themselves to life without a child? Would it be better to move to a neighboring state, adopt, and eventually relocate back home? No easy answers. 

Given the law in force last summer, they decided to foster parent. After the ruling, I heard they are overjoyed at the prospect of legally adopting and as I understand, have officially started the adoption process. 

But Florida, now what gives? Just when you are finally granting rights and freedoms, I understand you are considering backpedaling. I (and probably many others) can’t help but wonder why? ! 

According to an article in the Ft. Lauderdale Examiner on January 27, 2011, Florida’s Governor, Rick Scott, wants to overrule the state’s new gay adoption policy. And his new Secretary of the Department of Children and Families appointee, David Wilkins, apparently shares his view. 

What -- !? 
Would it be more benevolent on their part to talk to those affected by such a tangible overruling? Might they consider such findings before proceeding?—

From the census taken in 2000, only 24% of homes had a married mother and father with children living at home. 

The Florida court argues that children are better off raised in a two-parent heterosexual household. In fact, scientific studies have shown that children who grow up in one or two-parent gay or lesbian households fare just as well emotionally and socially as children whose parents are heterosexual. Studies have shown that children are more influenced by their interactions with their parents, than by their sexual orientation. With this in mind, the American Association of Pediatrics supports gay and lesbian couples adopting children.1

Florida LGBT Community, while you should be pinching yourself at the good news, you might be asking: is this still but a dream? 

The National Adoption Center tagline reads: “There are no unwanted children, just unfound homes.” It seems there is quite a surplus of unfound homes in Florida that are more than ready to be” found”! 

I hope those in Florida’s LGBT community who have already started the adoption process continue toward that goal, despite any bumps or roadblocks. As you wrestle with your courage, realize that many people are rooting for you. At some point, Florida will stop this fight. 

Don’t give up. If not now, when? If not you, who? Click your red ruby slippers. Perhaps you could repeat Glinda’s watchword to Dorothy, with a twist: “There is nothing like making a home. There is nothing like making a home. There is nothing like making a home”. You know who you are ready to be: the “found” forever family who will parent your very wanted child with love and integrity. 

In this time of confusion, remember the rainbow – such a source of pride and covenant. Rise above the difficulties and fly high under its glorious message! 

NEWS! There is an upcoming event open to anyone living in easy driving distance of Philadelphia who would like to explore the options of LGBT adoption. The National Adoption Center’s LGBT Adoption Café will be held on March 10th from 6 – 8 pm. This is an educational event at which a complimentary light dinner will be offered. From explaining the basics of adoption to more probing questions, the panel will answer questions and assist one to advocate for themselves in the adoption process. To register, call 215-735-9988 x304 Beth Vogel. 

(1) Taken from “Both Sides of the Issue” Lesbian and Gay Adoption Rights, By Kathy Belge, Guide 

Meet nine-year-old Kareem! This outgoing and friendly young man has a passion for staying active and learning new things. In his spare time he enjoys playing with monster trucks, watching SpongeBob, and playing outside. In the third grade, Kareem performs well academically and gets along well with his instructors and peers. He particularly enjoys math and gym classes. Kareem aspires to be a fireman. 

Kareem recently got a peek into the Fire Department world as he met up with Wednesday’s Child host Vai Sikahema at the Philadelphia Fire Academy for a day of fun, learning, and adventure. The two met with Lt. Gilliam, who gave them a tour of the facility. They then headed to learn to ride a fire truck, a stimulator of course. Kareem also learned about many of the tools firemen use to do their job. They then suited up, and worked on a mission to save a baby from a building. Kareem felt like a superhero! As they headed out, Commissioner Lloyd Ayers met with Kareem and encouraged him to be his best. He shared some history about the Fire Department and listened as Kareem shared his goals about some day joining the team.

Kareem’s day at the Fire Academy was definitely a success! Vai later sat with Kareem to discuss what he is looking for in a family. Kareem longs for a family to call his own, one that will be his forever, and that will love and support him as he becomes a “grown-up.” He also hopes for a family with siblings to play with. A family that is caring, loving, and supportive will give Kareem a solid foundation for the future. 

contributed by Beth

I recently came upon an article in the New York Times that had very surprising data. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it seems that gay parenting has become more common in the South. That’s right, I said the South. The same states that are typically known for more conservative attitudes concerning family are becoming a hub for same sex couples and their families. Recent data shows that Jacksonville and San Antonio currently house the two largest populations of gay couples raising children. It was also found that gay couples living in states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas are more likely to raise a child than same sex couples on the West Coast and New York! The main reason for this seems to be the improvements made within the LGBT community, for example more gay-friendly churches have been emerging, as well as support groups for children that have same-sex parents. It is encouraging to hear that more and more regions are becoming accepting of gay parenting and providing culturally sensitive family support services for them. It is also a testament to the strength and perseverance of the organizations that support same sex couple adoption.

The National Adoption Center has been working with LGBT families for a long time and believes that many more members of the LGBT community would become interested in adoption if they knew more about it. That is why we are hosting a FREE, informative LGBT Adoption Café on March 10th, 2011. The event will be held at the Commodore Barry Club, The Irish Center in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia and will feature panel discussions with gay parents who have adopted in the past and adoption professionals who will offer their insights on the adoption process. It will also include adoption agency resource tables, as well as a complimentary light dinner. We believe that by spreading awareness to the LGBT community, more individuals and couples will become inspired to adopt and give a child the gift of a forever family. 

For more information about the event, 
Please contact Beth Vogel at: (215) 735-9988 ext 304.

Below is the story of a mother and her son. When others felt her son was “unadoptable” she knew otherwise. 

My “Unadoptable” Son

I met my son when I worked a long term care facility for children. I am a physical therapist. Tim* came to the facility as a crack baby with multiple medical complications. He was born at 26 weeks in a crack house in Camden. Somehow he managed to survive his birth. He had three brain bleeds at birth, as well as hydrocephaly and seizures. A shunt was placed for the hydrocephaly. A feeding tube was placed because he couldn't coordinate drinking from a bottle. He spent months in Cooper Hospital’s NICU, and then did a stay in a rehab hospital. After that, he was moved to a residence for medically fragile children in Camden to await a foster home equipped to handle his needs. This was all before he turned one. A home wasn't found; he had some medical complications, so he was moved to the long term care facility where I worked.

Once at the facility, his birth mother was prevented from seeing him due to threatening staff. His birth father then surfaced, and he expressed interest in bringing Tim home. However he could never get his act together to do this.

I was Tim's PT from the time he arrived until I brought him home -- four years later. It took DYFS that long to finally terminate his parental rights! At that time I was leaving the facility to pursue another job in Early Intervention. I hated leaving Tim behind, and knew that his caseworker was not actively looking for a home for him. So I decided as a single parent that I would bring home home.

Tim's medical history reads like a train wreck. He has cerebral palsy, reflux, hydrocephaly, severe dysphasia, motor and cognitive impairments. He was 100% tube fed when I brought him home. I taught him how to eat, although he still doesn't know how to chew, so I have to chop his food up. We have multiple doctors’ appointments annually with all of his specialists at CHOP. He had two shunt surgeries last year in seven weeks. He sounds pretty “unadoptable” doesn’t he?

Now for the good part. He is an adorable loving boy who talks, walks, runs. He loves Monster trucks, plays video games, and is learning to read, do math, science, etc. He's not a "normal" 12-year-old. But he is my Time, and I love him! Even if he never made any more progress than where he was when I brought him home, I would have loved him as much as I do today. He is a true joy, and brings happiness to everyone he meets. My life would be empty without him.

* Not his real name 

For those of us residing in the Northeast (or any cold climate for that matter), the words “pitchers and catchers report in two weeks” is music to our ears. What better way to escape the winter doldrums than by fantasizing about spring training??

Guests at the National Adoption Center’s annual Celebration of Familycan do more than just imagine what it’s like to be a big-league ballplayer! Take a tour of Citizens Bank Park, home of the Phillies? Run the Bases? Take a few swings in the batting cages? You and your children can do all these and more at our April 8 event where we celebrate what adoption means to all of us - Family. All the exciting details are posted on our website. See you at the ballpark!
Do you have a cell phone?  Is there anybody you know over the age of 18, ur no let’s make that, over the age of 16, who doesn’t have a cell phone?  Did you know that 2009 ended with 285,646,191 cell phone users, equal to 91% of the US population?!?  That’s a lot of people walking around chatting on the phone.
·Growth of text messaging in the US over 150 Billion messages per month
·US cell phone subscribers on average sent and received357 text messages per month vs. 204 voice calls a month
OMG!  That’s a lot of texting!
The statistics tell the story – people are communicating and receiving news and information differently.  Most people, as we have established, have a cell phone.  It is that one constant that is always on you.  It is the most personal communication vehicle that most people are using.  For this reason, non-profit organizations and businesses are trying to figure what the most cost effective, efficient and impactful ways to communicate with their constituent base is.  Many believe that one of the ways to enhance your communication and public awareness is through mobile communication.
At the National Adoption Center we have engaged in a mobile strategy to manage, develop and nurture our customer and prospective donor relationships.  This direction makes sense when you hear stats like “mobile data traffic is expected to increase by a cumulative annual growth rate of over 100% over the next five years”. 
This is all new territory really.  Everybody is figuring this out through trial and error to a certain extent.  Haiti showed us that mobile giving is an effective way to ask for money when there is a sense of extreme urgency.  Of course it’s a bit easier when you can promote it through American Idol or when Bono is your spokesperson.  But small NGO’s don’t have that luxury.  So we join the other pioneers embarking on this great vast cellular expedition hoping to find gold!  LOL! 
So for now, I invite you to join our Adoption Mobile Alerts list by texting NAC to 27138.  Mobile alerts will be sent to your mobile phone no more than 4x a month with timely adoption information. (No hidden fees.  Msg and data rates may apply.) 
Voice for Adoption, an advocacy group of nationwide adoption leaders, has placed two issues that impact adoptive families on their agenda for 2011; post-adoption services and inter-state placements. One issue affects families before they find a child to adopt and the other after an adoptive placement has occurred.
The National Adoption Center has known over its history that the needs of families don’t end when an adoption is finalized in the courts. Many families face challenges in parenting the children who have lived in foster care, moved numbers of times and experienced multiple losses in their lives. Parents who face challenges raising the children they have adopted realize that having information about adoption-sensitive therapists, attachment specialists and others who can support the newly-formed family are critical to the success of some adoptive placements.
Since the early days of the Internet, the Center has been active in making inter-state placements happen for families. It was our first website, FACES of Adoption, launched in 1995, that made the children in foster care in all fifty states visible to potential adoptive families across the country. We have always believed that barriers to placements across state lines should be minimized to allow more children to find the loving, permanent family they deserve, regardless of where the family resides.
The Center is pleased, as a member agency of Voice For Adoption, to support these agenda issues and will continue to advocate for families for increased post-adoption support services and the elimination of barriers to adoption across state and local jurisdictions. 

The following is a guest piece by one of our Board Members, Kelly Wolfington. 

Back when our "home-made" son was 12 and our "home-made" daughter 7, my husband and I thought we were "born to be parents". (By the way I refuse to use the term "biological" or "natural" child... they seem so antiseptic and inaccurate... just what is unnatural about an adopted child? Our two children were such a joy and we loved the parent process so full with joyful rewards, the inevitable challenges notwithstanding.

So, one evening, when out to a romantic dinner, my dear spouse spontaneously asked, "If there were anything you could do to improve our lives what would it be?" Without hesitation I replied... another child... but this time I would adopt." He was stunned that I could be so quick and yet had never even shared this thought before. So, now it was his turn. "What his one thing you would do?" His response, "I don't have anything so why don't we go with yours." Thus began a 6-year odyssey trying to help the spirit of our next child find his or her path of destiny to us.

Having two "biological/natural" children already we figured we would have to go outside America's shores. Back then trans-racial adoptions were actually being reversed by some Courts. We were resolutely unwilling to have our family or our adopted child suffer the uprooting pain of such a tragic post-placement separation.

Upon completion of a home-study and the associated group sessions we were ready to begin. First Columbia. All our paperwork was approved (including fingerprints, tax returns and criminal records). Columbia then closed down its adoption program. Next to Bolivia. Same story. Next to Paraguay ... but their last rule was that both adoptive parents live in Paraguay for around 4-6 weeks continuously. We would not leave our home-made children for so long. Then... a miracle... my lifetime best friend told me of a local agency that handled quasi-open adoptions. I took our bushel basket of paperwork with me and in about 3 months a computer match was made for us with a woman anticipating delivery in January (only 2 months away!).

On January 12, 1991 our son, Adam, was born. On January 14 he was in our arms. We readied ourselves for another cakewalk through parenting. But, as our home-mades were meeting the challenges of adolescence, our young son, Adam, was traveling his own unique journey... with issues we simply did not anticipate, did not understand and had no adequate source for insight to unravel his difficulties. (Turns out the year he was born an amazing book was published that I discovered 18 years later and I am so thankful for this find.) Our adopted son was struggling unconsciously with a package of questions and confusions. Some seemed obvious... but these he denied.. such as a sense of abandonment. Others, it turns our could have been foreseen and even empathized into neutrality had we been aware and head he been able to articulate what was going on. 

My coming articles will share what we have learned through life as adoptive parents. Howe we all benefited from communications, therapy and most of all, research and reading about the adopted child's tangled, often subconscious anxieties that translate into fear, frustration; even anger. Demystification has blessed us with the most powerful bond of love imaginable with and for our son, Adam. I hope some of what we have experienced will be helpful to others. 

Today's post is a guest peice by our staffer, Nancy.

Trust. Five little letters. Big meaning. When one adopts, that word becomes HUGE. Trust is most definitely a part of the adoption process. The agency has to trust your intention to adopt and work on your behalf. You have to trust that the adoption agency you work with will approve you as adoptive parents. If you work with a lawyer, trusting him or her is also part of the process. 

But most of all, I think you need to trust in yourself that you are ready for this commitment--no matter what comes! (And believe me, for some of us, lots of “stuff” comes!)

Many girls dream about their weddings and white picket fences, but I dreamed most about being a mother. When I had a nearly impossible time conceiving, I had to trust there was a way I would someday be a parent. For my husband and me, that miracle happened through adoption. 

We were elated—the joy our daughter brought to our lives was unbelievable. We trusted that our “identified adoption” (the birth parents have a say in who adopts their child) would be relatively uncomplicated. We were referred to an agency and engaged them fairly quickly. We interviewed several lawyers and chose one with nearly a whole wall full of pictures of children he helped become adopted. (Seemed like his track record was nearly unparalleled.) We thought our adoption would be finalized with relative ease. What we did not know is that somewhat blind trust could have cost us our adoption. 

Perhaps knowing a bit of our story will help anyone in the process, especially when facing snags, to trust the bottom line. What we could not have known was that our supposedly easy adoption would take nearly 18 months to complete—but given our circumstances, should have been done a lot sooner. The lawyer we trusted so completely had a staff member who unknowingly filed our paperwork in a dead file. That original paperwork was not found for over six months. Needless to say, this delayed our finalization!

We had five (count them---five!) social work visits which, at the time, was the norm in the state in which we adopted. We had a great rapport with our social worker, but since our case seemed to drag on, we found she had been transferred to another agency location and we had to start all over with a different social worker. Even though the agency had everything required in our file, the new social worker asked all the same questions, verified again and again the same details, needed updated clearances, as I remember, etc. More time. More hassle. I understood their need for thoroughness, but to us, it was rather daunting.

We felt the first social worker had been accepting of us as a couple and trusted our desire to adopt and raise our daughter (who was already in our home). Our social worker had seen the three of us together, and she told us she felt we were solid! The new social worker was nice, but much more aloof. We (I) didn’t trust that we had the same foundation or footing with her. I remember at the end of her second visit, receiving no obvious verbal clues, wanted to boldly ask, “Well, do you approve us or not?” It was a nerve-wracking time to say the least. (By the way, I did end up asking her—calmly and over the phone—and she laughed softly, “Of course! It’s obvious you three are a family!” So much for being afraid to ask questions!)

We had to trust that even though we were (what felt to us) “scrutinized” (twice, mind you), things would work out. Perhaps you will trust me when I say: sometimes blind trust needs to take a back seat to trusting in yourself. It is perfectly within your rights to ask questions and advocate on your own behalf, should that become necessary. 

Case in point! When we didn’t hear from the lawyer for a long time, we naturally just “trusted” that things were okay. No phone call from his office with a court date, or more questions we needed to answer. No nothing. Then one day we received papers from his office that indicated our case was being terminated for lack of our response. Terminated? What? We weren’t terminating the adoption! We had gotten a verbal approved on our homestudy, so the agency and the social worker weren’t “terminating” it. I was in contact with the birth mother and knew she wasn’t terminating it. What in the world--?

Our lawyer matter-of-factly told us that he didn’t have our signed papers. Excuse me? We signed and had sent them in months ago. Good thing for my gotta-keep-a-copy-of-all-documents philosophy. I made a copy of our copy and hand-delivered them that day!

Oh. Their mistake, they said. So sorry, they said. And a few days later, we received our original paperwork with a scrawled note that it had been misfiled. Someone probably had to root through a bunch of files to find it!) 

Trust is a powerful word. No one is infallible. “Stuff” comes! So if there is too much silence as you are in the adoption process, going with your gut is critical. I would say: trust most of all in your desire to create your forever family--and do your best to overcome the odds of Murphy’s and assorted other laws that might keep you from your goals of parenting a child. (And remember, that child is counting on you!) 

If you feel you are playing “Wheel of Fortune” in your adoption process and need a vowel to solve the puzzle, you don’t need Vanna to help! Remember “U”/”you” are in the very center of T R _ S T! 

Juwon, 13 and Tyrek, 10, are brothers who share similar interests. Enrolled in regular education classes, they do well in school and get along with their teachers and peers. Aspiring musicians, they dream of one day playing in a band together. Juwon and Tyrek also like playing sports and watching funny movies in their free time. 

As fans of music, Juwon and Tyrek met up with Wednesday’s Child host Vai Sikahema at the School of Rock. There they had a great opportunity to test their skills. Juwon loves the drums while Tyrek is a guitar player. They got a private practice session with a staff member at the school. After getting warmed up, the boys got on stage with Vai ready to rock! They also got to meet the kids in the school’s house band, who all reminded the brothers to keep practicing and encouraged them to follow their dreams.

The day was definitely a success! Vai later sat with the boys to talk about family. Both Juwon and Tyrek long for the day they will be adopted. They hope for a loving and caring family who live in a safe neighborhood. All families will be considered. 

Will you be that family for Juwon and Tyrek?