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This is a guest post from one of our staffers, Nancy. 
 
 
Lest We Forget –
 
 
 
Join me in a little fill-in-the-blanks exercise?
 
 
 
                “Is that your _______ answer?” 
 
                “And that’s ___________!”
 
                _____________ resting place.
 
The word for all three examples, of course, is FINAL. It’s a simple word, quite versatile, actually, forming phrases which connote possibilities of second-guessing or backing out, standing steadfast, and is even a synonym for “last”.  But when it comes to a ________ization hearing decreeing an adoption, the word holds different weight!  (For adoptive parents, words such as JOY, ECSTASY, and even DISBELIEF that they are _______ly parents, comes to mind.)  
 
November is National Adoption Month. Members of the National Adoption staff are scheduled to attend Adoption Day celebrations, fairs and expos to bring adoption awareness and encourage this option to begin or grow a family. Typically, during this month we get more calls about how to adopt, as the wonder of adoption is on the minds of many. There is a buzz of excitement in our offices in anticipation of attending finalizationhearings which highlights this pinnacle in forming forever families.      
 
With the holidays just around the corner, newly formed families are excited to give thanks together for the first time, create new traditions, and bequeath family heirlooms, recipes and traditions to brand new generations. Truly, adoption positively transforms houses into homes, couples into families. An adoptive parent myself (21 years and counting), I hope families whose adoptions are made permanent never forget the joy of these moments. This is a milestone to celebrate! But…
 
lest we forget, there is another aspect to adoption decrees—just as _________.  The other side of the coin, just as real and life-changing, is the impact of __________izations on birth familiesFinalization, for them, terminates their parental rights. For some, this could be a much sought relief, but for others, the beginning of lifelong grief. 
 
Ours was an open adoption and we kept in fairly close contact with our child’s birth mother for a number of years. Our gratitude to her was (and still is) beyond what words can ever express. Because of her decision, we had the fortune to create a family and share our lives with an amazing daughter. My husband and I had the idea to honor our child’s birth mother by sending a small gift (along with pictures) on our child’s birthday each year. We spoke about this with our daughter to the degree we felt she could understand as a further way to explain adoption to her.And part of our discussions centered around our gratitude to her natural parents.
 
Some people might say the gesture was merely a token.  I understand that sentiment and in some ways can agree.  Some might say the gesture was insensitive—unnecessarily dredging up the pain of separation.   To some degree I can also accept that reaction. 
 
To us, though, it was one way of not forgetting both sides. Granted, what we did could never be anything but a symbolic way to show our gratitude for this sacrifice. Adoptive parents may never know all the reasons their child’s natural parents chose not to raise their child, or whether that decision was made for them and something over which they had no control. But finalization is an appropriate time to appreciate that for every tear an adoptive parent sheds in elation, a birth parent may shed even more in loneliness, regret, and anguish.
 
Birth parents will always be a part of an adopted child’s life.  I daresay many natural parents continue to invest in their child’s welfare, as a silent partner, through thoughts, prayers or intentions in hopes their child has the brightest of futures and the happiest possible life.  (If the roles were reversed, I could imagine myself doing the same.) 
 
Not all adoptive parents are in the position to directly honor their child’s birth parent(s) but I wanted to write about a suggestion I have in line with this.  I propose the idea that adoptive parents do something in tribute to their child’s birth parents every year—whether on their child’s birthday, finalization anniversary, or another significant day (National Adoption Day, for example)—as a way to honor them—even though the birth parent may never know. 
 
To remember how finalization could have impacted a child’s birth parents, adoptive parents might hold  A Day of Honor or Day of Remembrance in which they do something (dedicate a volunteer opportunity or make a donation to a charity or family in need, for example)  intentionally, and do it as if the birth parents were the recipients. Adoptive families could create this new tradition and include discussion about adoption with their child(ren), encouraging their adopted child to honor their birth parents too.    
 
Haven’t we all watched a simple act of kindness, which made us (and others) follow suit?  An unsolicited “thank you.”  Holding the elevator door. Picking up someone’s dropped package.  Small, day-to-day pieces of life that snowball and can bring out a smile and make us remember how nice it is to care (and be care for).  Kindness begets more kindness—stranger to stranger, friend to friend, employer to employee, parent to child, child to parent, etc.  Sometimes it’s surprising to be on the receiving end of out-of-the-blue kindness; you’re never really sure why someone was so humane and thoughtful.  And while caring is catching, I am not necessarily advocating doing something nice for someone just to do something nice (although there is nothing wrong with that).  But doing something on a larger level specifically with the birth parents in mind—is not really a “pay it back” or “pay it forward,” but rather a not-so-random act of remembrance.   No flag waving.  No fireworks or press releases.  This is an inside job, and a very silent tribute to honor their sacrifice.
 
Yesterday was Veteran’s Day, a day when for one minute (11:11 am) people are encouraged to silently pay tribute to those who served (and currently serve) our country.  If we decided to participate, it didn’t necessarily matter whether or not we personally knew a Veteran or someone on active duty.  This is a symbolic gesture of a people in thanks who remember the sacrifices made.
 
So lest we forget the sacrifice of birth parents, I would hope this idea is enough to engender action.  I believe as adoptive parents and families we can find ways to (emblematically, as it were) “fill in the blanks” of those lives who immeasurably changed ours. 

As many of you know by now, November is National Adoption month.  This month provides us all with the opportunity to educate, publicize and celebrate adoption.  I wanted to find out from *one part of the adoption triad – the adoptive parents, what adoption means to them.  So I posed that question to multiple adoptive parents I know,  “What does adoption mean to you?”   This is what I learned…. 

 
 
WHAT DOES ADOPTION MEAN TO YOU?
 
“Adoption was the culmination of a years-long journey. It was both the most difficult thing I ever did, and the most fulfilling. If I could, I would do it all over again!”
 
Ken
Adopted father of one
 
 
 
“LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I always wanted to be a mother so adopting was my way to become one. “
 
Mayra
Adopted mother of four
 
 
 
 
“As a childless couple with unfulfilled dreams, adoption was our dreamcatcher.
 
 Adoption provides choices, chances, and a large dose of hope. 
 
Sister Sledge’s, “We Are Family,” may not totally fit the word “adoption.” 
But it reminds me that no matter how diverse the backgrounds,
those who are family to each other create songs of life!
 
Adoption is how our family started.  Love and investment is how it was forged.
 
Adoption, to me, is weaving a tapestry that is finally 3-dimensional.   
 
Adoption has allowed us to celebrate the wonder of family!”
 
 Nancy
Adopted mother of one
 
 
 
“Adoption means family to me.   The quote from the Talmud that resonates for me about becoming a family is:
A family is a haven of rest, a sanctuary of peace and most of all a haven of love.     When our children joined us, our family felt complete.”
 
Christine
Adopted mother of two
 
 
“ Adoption for my wife and me means paying college tuitions 10 years after we thought we would be finished..........GLADLY!! “
 
Clarence
Adopted father of two
 
 
"Adoption means so many things to me. First of all it means having the opportunity to grow our family and to have the chance to bring another human being into our lives. It also means having the chance to make a difference in someone else's life."
 
Melissa
Adopted mother of one
 
 
“My daughters are the only two human beings who could have been my children.  We were meant for each other.  It is an absolute miracle that a countless number of seemingly random events, across two continents, came together to place us in each others lives; because it couldn't have been otherwise.  This I know with absolute certainty.”
 
 
Kathy
Adopted mother of two
 
 
Whether you are a waiting parent or not, an adoptive parent, an aunt, uncle, grandparent, or sibling to an adopted child, I ask, what does adoption mean to you?

*edited to reflect that there are multiple important roles in adoption 

In a Presidential Proclamation, President Barack Obama said this week:

Presidential Proclamation--National Adoption Month

Giving a child a strong foundation -- a home, a family to love, and a safe place to grow -- is one of life's greatest and most generous gifts. Through adoption, both domestic and international, Americans from across our country have provided secure environments for children who need them, and these families have benefited from the joy an adopted child can bring. Thanks to their nurturing and care, more young people have been able to realize their potential and lead full, happy lives. This year, we celebrate National Adoption Month to recognize adoption as a positive and powerful force in countless American lives, and to encourage the adoption of children from foster care.

Currently, thousands of children await adoption or are in foster care, looking forward to permanent homes. These children can thrive, reach their full potential, and spread their wings when given the loving and firm foundation of family. Adoptive families come in many forms, and choose to adopt for different reasons: a desire to grow their family when conceiving a child is not possible, an expression of compassion for a child who would otherwise not have a permanent family, or simply because adoption has personally touched their lives. For many Americans, adoption has brought boundless purpose and joy to their lives. We must do all we can to break down barriers to ensure that all qualified caregivers have the ability to serve as adoptive families.

This year, on November 20, families, adoption advocates, policymakers, judges, and volunteers will celebrate the 11th annual National Adoption Day in communities large and small. National Adoption Day is a day of hope and happiness when courthouses finalize the adoptions of children out of foster care. Last year, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was honored to preside over a ceremony celebrating two foster care adoptions as part of my Administration's support for this important day.

Adoptive families are shining examples of the care and concern that define our great Nation. To support adoption in our communities, my Administration is working with States to support families eager to provide for children in need of a place to call home. The landmark Affordable Care Act increases and improves the Adoption Tax Credit, enabling adoption to be more affordable and accessible.

As part of the Adoption Incentives program, States can also receive awards for increasing adoptions and the number of children adopted from foster care. AdoptUsKids, a project of the Department of Health and Human Services, offers technical support to States, territories, and tribes to recruit and retain foster and adoptive families; provides information and assistance to families considering adoption; and supports parents already on that journey. I encourage all Americans to visit AdoptUsKids.org or ChildWelfare.gov/Adoption for information and resources on adoption, including adoption from foster care.

As we observe National Adoption Month, we honor the loving embrace of adoptive families and the affirming role of adoption in the lives of American families and our country. Let us all commit to supporting our children in any way that we are able -- whether opening our hearts and homes through adoption, becoming foster parents to provide quality temporary care to children in crisis, supporting foster and adoptive families in our communities and places of worship, mentoring young people in need of guidance, or donating time to helping children in need. Working together, we can shape a future of hope and promise for all of our Nation's children.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2010 as National Adoption Month. I call upon all Americans to observe this month by answering the call to find homes for every child in America in need of a permanent and caring family, as well as to support the families who care for them.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.

BARACK OBAMA

It’s that time of year again. The air is brisk, the leaves are changing, and it’s almost time for us give thanks for the positive things in our lives. Many kids in foster care all over the US will be giving thanks this season for the new beginnings they are about to embark on with their new forever families. National Adoption Day, which takes place on November 20th this year (Saturday before Thanksgiving), will be the day hundreds of adoptions will be completed. 

National Adoption Day is a collective nationwide effort that celebrates and raises awareness about families who are adopting and the 123,000 children still living in foster care in need of a home to call their own.

National Adoption Day was launched in November 2000 with seven participating states. Today, all 50 states participate along with the District of Colombia and Puerto Rico. The National Adoption Day Coalition includes advocacy organizations, like our friends at the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and the Freddie Mac Foundation, to help encourage others to adopt from foster care.

This year, Philadelphia Family Court will celebrate on November 19th with the finalization of many adoptions and a festive party to follow. Every Monday in November, the National Adoption Center will be staffing informational tables in the lobbies of Center City buildings that get high foot traffic. (http://www.adopt.org/content/eventcalendar.html) 

Go to http://www.nationaladoptionday.org/ to learn about events, volunteer opportunities and how to become an adoption advocate. So this season, before you start in with the turkey legs and cranberry sauce, get involved and help a child find a forever family. 

This past Saturday, we hosted a Matching Event at Brunswick Lanes in New Jersey. There were thirty-five children and youth in attendance and almost all received at least one inquiry. Here’s just one piece of feedback we received from a prospective parent: 

I would like to thank you and the dedicated staff that collaborated on the Match Party on Saturday for a very memorable experience and opportunity. The event was eye opening in so many ways. The children were beautiful, charming and funny. Those pictures on the website do no justice to their beauty. I was familiar with some of the children from the website and the profile book. I have been busy searching for our "sons" and it was funny seeing them in person. It could somehow be related to meeting celebrities. They came alive and became ever so real. Their personalities were amazing; they were open about their wish for a family; shared their goals and favorite foods and other things; and made us feel comfortable with their laughter and jokes. To be honest, I did not want it to end. We fell in love with so many of the children we encountered. My husband is now praying we hit the lottery, so we can build a bigger home to fill up with children.

This is why we do these events, to have a guided interaction between the youths and adults so they can relax, have fun and get to know each other. We know once these groups meet that some matches will be made that day and hopefully a good percentage of these matches will result in placements. We also know that we are making the prospect of meeting more families and being adopted a bit less scary for the youth. After all, this day wasn't so bad, right? The youth also see that there are people out there interested in adopting older children, a message they may not have gotten enough. For adoptive parents the road can be long and intrusive and by having actual youth in front of them they can re-energize to make it through the last parts of the process to make their adoption dream a reality.

Watch here for announcements about our next Matching Events, you only need to be a homestudied family who wishes to adopt to attend. 

The National Adoption Center was just named the Outstanding Nonprofit of the Year for 2011 by the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.  When I heard about the award, my mind shot back 38 years when the Adoption Center was just a dream.  We didn’t know then whether anyone would want to adopt a child with Down syndrome or cystic fibrosis or a family of four brothers who needed a home together. Happily, the dream became a reality and we have helped create families for more than 22,000 children in the country. Not one was a healthy baby. We’ve come a long way—from a wooden recipe box on someone’s kitchen table with sections for children, for potential families and for “matches”-- to the technology- based processes we now have to bring children and families together… and give them the personal service that can usher them through their adoption journey.  Our experience tells us that our vision and imagination must continue to propel us, that we must pursue our mission to demonstrate that “there are no unwanted children…just unfound parents.”  We count on everyone interested in the welfare of children to help us make a difference in the lives of the children who count on us.    

As you know we organize Philadelphia's Wednesday's Child program with the generous support of the Freddie Mac Foundation and NBC10's talented producers, camera people and host, Vai Sikahema. We also rely on members of the community to donate their time and selves to making a child’s day special. We’ve had doctors who have gotten WC participants operating room access; sports teams who give tours, equipment, jerseys and a practice time; chefs who’ve shared techniques and skills and delicious food; and countless others. We get to hear their stories of why they have stepped up to help, but you rarely do. Below we have a letter from KJ Rose who met with the Wednesday’s Child youth for this week, Amber. Thanks to KJ and all those who have opened up their lives to our kids!

 
 
"Wednesday's Child" Testimonial
 
When I first got the call to participate in "Wednesday's Child", I believe my excitement was focused merely on the opportunity to give back.  However, I had no idea that upon meeting Amber, she would have such a profound impact on my life!  

I must admit that I initially thought that I'd have to sell myself as a recording artist to her considering my slight obscurity, but on the contrary she was more than elated to receive anything I had to offer.  We sang, laughed, and bonded in such a short amount of time and what struck me most was her Resilience!  Amber radiates from the inside out in a way that belies her story of being in the adoption system since the age of 6.  Music is her release and safe haven giving her an uncanny sense of Hope, which is the message that I believe resonates throughout my music as well.  This commonality led me to the realization that our introduction was not just a coincidence but Predestined.


Amber challenged me to be present in every moment and take nothing for granted.  During her interview she was asked of her ideal family and responded, "There's no perfect family, I just want one that needs ME and not one that I feel like I'm interrupting".

Amber knows her value and understands that she also has an assignment and a destiny to fulfill.  Although she graciously thanked me for my time, I was the one inspired - Thank YOU Amber!

 

The program team is exceptionally busy for the upcoming National Adoption month in November. Sheina Martinez, Crystal Allen, and Amy Cressman are coming to a Philadelphia lobby near you! These dedicated adoption coordinators decided that for National Adoption month they would create awareness about the needs of the children in foster care who are waiting for a forever family by setting up displays in the lobbies of some of the largest office buildings in Center City Philadelphia. 

They will be available each Monday in November to answer your questions about adoption and provide adoption information to interested families. Look for them if you are in the Philadelphia area from 11a.m. to 2 p.m. in the following locations:

Monday, November 1, Comcast Center, 1701 JFK Boulevard

Monday, November 8, 1500 Walnut Street

Monday, November 15, 1500 Market Street

Monday, November 22, Liberty Place, 1625 Chestnut Street

Do stop by and say hello!! 

Yesterday the report "Keeping The Promise: The Critical Need for Post-Adoption Services to Enable Children and Families to Succeed" was released by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. It was authored by Susan Livingston Smith and is endorsed by a full complement of adoption-related organizations, such as ours. The full report may be viewed here:
http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/research/2010_10_promises.php

According to the report, over 90% of those who have done any sort of adoption are "satisfied" with their adoption. Children who have been adopted are at more risk of having developmental, emotional and/or other challenges. Families who have adopted are 3 times more likely to be in some sort of supportive care. (This is due to increased need and to increased openness to asking for help.) Many post adoptive services exist, mainly developed and delivered to those who have adopted from foster care, but have been curtailed or limited due to federal and state budget cuts. These services are critically needed by families who have taken any of the roads to adoption. These services also need to be more thoroughly studied to verify their efficacy and improve them as needed. 

We will do our part, working to increase the availability of post-adoption services. Please do yours too. Read the paper (or even the summary) and take action. We can guide you if you need help in knowing what to do.

NBC 10 Sports host Vai Sikahema is an amazing person and not just because of his reporting! As the Freddie Mac Foundations' Wednesday’s Child Coordinator for Philadelphia for over 3 years, I have the priviledge of seeing him in action each week. Of all the things he is involved in, he always talks about how Wednesday’s Child is his favorite thing to do. He comes each week ready to meet a new child in hopes that the Freddie Mac Foundation Wednesday’s Child program will assist us in finding the child a forever home. Vai is active, engaging, and genuinely excited about his role as the Freddie Mac Foundation Wednesday’s Child host. 

As a father of four children, he understands the importance of family. He is dedicated and passionate about learning about each child and often shares his experience at the tapings with other friends and family who may be interested in adoption. 

On the shoots, he goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that the child is having a good time. Whether he’s learning to bake with a future chef, shooting hoops with a future all star player, going through a maze with a young child, or simply talking to an older teen about their dreams to have a forever family — Vai is dedicated to America’s waiting children. 

We wish to congratulate him today upon being named one of the Shepherds of Peace by the Good Shepherd Mediation Program. He certainly deserves the honor. 

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