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2Dec

Public Hearings - Philadelphia Foster Care

While everyone is recovering from Thanksgiving and making preparations for the holidays, the Adoption Center is planning for critically important Public Hearings. We have been asked to testify before the Joint Committee on Public Health and Human Services and Legislative Oversight on adoption and foster care policies and programs in the City of Philadelphia. We hope to explore ways to improve the process by decreasing wait times, implementing strategies to reduce the number of children that age out of the system and address concerns that discourage people from considering adoption.

The hearing will occur on Tuesday December 15 at 10:00AM in Philadelphia City Council Chambers (City Hall Room 400).

Staff, volunteers, and adoptive parents representing the National Adoption Center/Adoption Center of Delaware Valley will provide testimony as to their experiences with “the system” and recommending changes that would help expedite increased adoptions of our most vulnerable children and youth.

We invite you to be present at these hearings. If you cannot attend, we encourage you to write a letter/e-mail describing your own experiences, or those of someone you know along with any recommendations you may have. Please send your correspondence directly to me and it will be distributed to the Committee prior to the hearings.

In Pennsylvania alone there are 20,000 children in foster care with an average stay of more then 2 years (and sometimes as many as 6) in multiple homes. Every year more then 1,000 “age out” without a permanent family. Please send us your thoughts (email to nac@adopt.org) to include in the meeting. You may also leave any comments in the comments section below. We’ll provide an update in January. 

30Nov

Celebrations for All

Last week in the US we celebrated Thanksgiving. Traditionally this is the kickoff to the holiday season and the many celebrations held at this time of year. Whatever your background, most of the celebrations revolve around family and home. It goes without saying that for some this can be a very difficult time of year. For us, this time of year serves to reinforce our mission -- that all children deserve a family, not just at holiday time, but all year long. 

Here we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving with our “NAC family” and have lunch together this year. We all contributed a dish and there was a cornucopia of good food to share and enjoy. We also shared our thoughts about what we were thankful for this year. Most of us shared their thanks for family, friends and co-workers and their satisfaction with the work we do for on behalf of children and families. You can visit our social network, AdoptSpeak, at www.adopt.org to see photos of our Thanksgiving. From our “NAC family” to yours, we wish you a very holiday season full of peace and joy. 

17Nov

Book Review: Water Steps

Water Steps
by A. LaFaye
for ages 8-12

Eleven-year-old Kyna is terrified of water and with good reason. When she was only three, she and her family were caught in a torrential downpour that capsized their boat. The only survivor of the storm, Kyna was rescued by Mem and Pep, an Irish couple, who later adopted her and raised her as their own. Overwhelmed by fear of water and everything associated with it, Kyna couldn’t even go for a swim. Even water touching her skin provoked an anxiety attack.

Mem and Pep loved everything about the water and tried very hard to help her take small steps—water steps--over the years to overcome her fear. This summer Mem and Pep decide she is ready to take the final step and rent a cabin on Lake Champlain for the summer. Kyna desperately protests but she has no choice but to go with them. She has no memory of her birth family, but during the summer she realizes that her fear is keeping her from these memories and from her adoptive family’s love of water. She also learns that among the tales told her by her Irish parents are clues to her original parents’ secret.

Filled with delightful Irish tales about silkies (seals by day, men and women at night), leprechauns and fairies, Water Steps has much to offer youngsters struggling to overcome their own fears and to anyone fascinated by myths and fantasies. 

13Nov

Wendy's Wonderful Kids Spotlight – Jowelle

This Friday, I wanted to highlight one of my favorite Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, Jowelle. It is always a pleasure to visit Jowelle each month and get caught up on the latest news about her friends, school life, and what is going on in her foster home. A typical 12-year-old, she enjoys music, movies, playing on the computer, and hanging out with friends. Jowelle is one of the most athletic girls I have worked with. She is on her school’s field hockey team, and hopes to also be on the basketball and softball teams later this year. I was able to go to one of Jowelle’s field hockey games, and got to see her in action (her team won of course)!

Jowelle has big dreams about her future. She thinks she will become a lawyer one day, because she is good at winning arguments! Jowelle is working hard to be on the honor roll this year, and so far it looks like she might be able to reach this goal.

Jowelle is looking forward to being adopted. She has no preferences about her future family’s race, religion, or composition, just as long as they are "young, active, and nice"! She imagines herself going shopping and to the movies with her Forever Family. She is also looking forward to celebrating holidays together, and being a normal family.

If you would like to find out more information about Jowelle, or any of the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids of Delaware, please feel free to contact me. I can be reached at 215-735-9988 ext. 319 or by email atacressman@adopt.org. Have a great weekend! 

9Nov

Adoptive Family Portrait Project

o celebrate National Adoption Month, Voice for Adoption runs the Adoptive Family Portrait Project. Today, framed photos and stories about adoptive families will be displayed in Washington, DC. These portraits are then given to each Congressional office where it is to be displayed with the goal is to raise awareness of both the joys and challenges that families experience by adopting children from foster care.

Here is the story we shared with Senator Specter about the Clark family. We've included the questionnaire in it's entirety at it's an important story to share.

Children’s names, ages, and descriptions (background/time in foster care, age when adopted if applicable, personalities, hobbies, special needs, etc.):

Javaun is now 12 years old. He was in foster care for three and a half years after the death of their mother from cancer and abandonment by his biological father. Javaun was adopted on June 19, 2009 ten days after he turned 12. He is very popular boy in school and out. He is very outgoing and friendly now, but initially was shy. He is video game enthusiast and loved cartoons. He has a healthy appetite and loves cheese pizza. He dreams of becoming a football player. His goal is to good grades to allow him to play little league football. Having been raised in a female led foster home, what Javaun truly needed was a supportive father figure in his life.

Saymere is now 7 years old. He will soon turn eight in November 11, 2001. He too was in foster care for three and half years after the death of their mother from cancer and abandonment by his biological father. Saymere was seven years old when he was adopted. Saymere is a shy boy, but will open up when he gets to know you. He is well known in school and currently in an advanced second grade class. Saymere likes to read. He likes to also draw superhero characters. Once an avid Iron Man fan, he now proudly has a GI Joe book bag. Saymere has benefited from having a strong male presence and has come to understand what it means to be apart of a forever family.

What motivated you to adopt?

My mother died suddenly when I was 17 leaving me to look after a then 9-year-old sister. My grandmother was on record as our legal guardian, but she had a stroke six weeks after my mother passed away and was in no condition to care for us. I put myself through school and took on the task of raising my sister on my own. Raising my sister was hard, but in my heart, I always wanted a son.

I had grown up with only my grandfather to look to as a role model for what a father was supposed to be. You see the man I had come to know as my grandfather, Robert Luckey, actually met my grandmother shortly before I was born. He became my inspiration as well in knowing that he took on the challenge of raising my grandmother’s eight sons and three daughters, when her first husband decided he would not. He never once said no when we were in need and was always there to lend a friendly ear or a helping hand.

My grandfather was there to bring me home from the hospital and when my own father chose not to be a part of my life, he showed me how to be a man in a world he didn’t even have a hand in bringing me to. I soon learned family is not based on blood but it is based on the love you have for the person you have in your lives.

As a teacher, I have worked with many students who are in foster care and who may have been adopted. When I first looked seriously at adopting one of the children turned up in my school. As fate would have it, he was assigned to me to be a mentor. However, all attempts I made to see about adopting him were met with deaf ears.

Apparently, he had turned 12 and social workers change the goal for children when they turn 12 from adoption to finding permanent legal custody. This did not deter me; it only strengthened my resolve to welcome a child into my home. Raising my boys now, I have decided that they would not be the last children I welcome in my family.

What recruitment efforts or campaigns, if any, were effective in helping you decide to adopt a child from foster care?

I attended several match parties sponsored by the National Adoption Center. They have always been supportive in my efforts to adopt even when I did not have my profile completed. I also watched the NBC 10 Wednesday Child Specials. In addition, my girlfriend donated money to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. I had watched their “Home For The Holidays” special.

What role have post-adoption services played in making it possible for you to adopt and meet your children’s needs? Please describe the post-adoption services and support you have used and how they help your family.

I have attempted to get tutoring for my son to no avail. My agency was less than supportive in my efforts to adopt and I have not heard from them since. Even on the day my boys were being adopted, they were at the courthouse to support another family and did not even know that I had gotten a finalization date.

What in your opinion makes your family unique? Please explain.

I am a single father raising two sons. At a time when men are being blamed for the breakdown of the traditional family, I chose an alternative route to starting mine. At times, this can be a challenge because you go through all the usual challenges of a family, but it is harder when it is only one parent. I think I hear Dad a hundred times a day.

By the grace of God, a co-worker recommended me to an excellent after school program the supports me as a parent. They have extended hours, they pick up my sons on half days and keep them on the days when teachers report, and students do not.

What challenges, if any, has your family experienced through adoption?

I think the major challenge that my family has faced is the lack of support from the adoption agencies. I would like to sing their praises and say my agency supported me but they did not. I had to write a letter to the Philadelphia Department of Human Services’ acting Commissioner to get my profile completed. Even then, I went through three workers before my adoption was finalized. This was a challenge unto itself because this allowed my clearances to lapse, which held up the procedures.

What do you think is most important for members of Congress to understand about adoptive families and adopting children from foster care?

I would like Congress to simplify the process. I did not mind the hurdles to become certified as adoptive parent, for example, the fingerprints, the clearances, the mountains of paperwork. Since I started the adoption process in 2005, I have watched children age out of the system and once viable forever families become discouraged by all of the red tape.

Who will be there when these children graduate or when they go their senior prom? Where will they spend Christmas or Thanksgiving? Who is going to be there when they start a conversation as my youngest son does, “Don’t you know?”

Then, there are the workers who are not concerned with finding a family for these children. They are more concerned with keeping a job by shifting them from one home to the next. As a teacher, I am often accused of wearing my heart on my sleeve because I treat each child as I would treat my own. Maybe some social workers need to start to do that.

Is there a quote, artwork, poem, or a letter to your Congressman that your children would like to submit about their adoption experience?

Javaun says “In my family, I feel like I am a part of something. You can look forward to your future. It’s exciting to be adopted because somebody loves you and cares for you.”

Saymere says, “I feel happy. I finally get to get somewhere where it is right. I just like it here and I want to stay.” 

6Nov

Adoption Fraud

Recently, a Long Island attorney promised a couple desperate for a baby that he could find an infant for them. The cost, he said, would be $65,000 which the couple handed over happily—a small price, they thought, for the baby they wanted so much.

Unfortunately, there was no baby, just a money-making scheme for the attorney.

We understand how logic and reason can become elusive when an infant seems close enough to touch. However, we caution would-be parents to be wary. It is best to deal with a licensed adoption agency, if possible. 

If you are working with an attorney or other intermediary, ask questions. Where is this baby coming from? Who are the parents? Will or have both mother and father relinquished rights to the baby? What do the laws of the state in which the papers were signed say about a parent changing his or her mind? Have the birth parents been counseled so that they are making their decisions thoughtfully and will not change their mind? What is the baby’s health status? When can you see the baby? A trip to another state, if necessary, can save a lot of angst. And, most important, do not allow money to leave your hands until you have actually seen the baby. 

Following these suggestions can help you avoid the heartache experienced by the couple for whom, it turned out, there was no baby. 

4Nov

Never Too Late for a Family!


This week on Wednesday’s Child, we are kicking off National Adoption Month with a success feature on how it’s never too late to find your forever family. Meet Kiana and her mother, Ms. Patricia! Kiana was adopted at the age of 17 by her teacher, Patricia, who happened to be watching Wednesday’s Child one night. Prior to the feature, Patricia did not know Kiana was available for adoption. After seeing the Wednesday’s Child feature, Patricia inquired on Kiana’s history and secretly got certified as an adoptive parent. When Kiana was notified that Patricia wanted to adopt her, she was in shock and very excited!! Kiana is thankful to now have a family that includes a wonderful mother; two sisters to look up to; one brother who will always have her back; a niece she can mentor; and many aunts and uncles. 

Kiana’s success taping was a day to celebrate. Many family members and friends were there to support her as Wednesday’s Child host Vai Sikahema came to her home to learn of their story. Patricia welcomed Vai with open arms and a cake which read, “WE ARE FAMILY”. Patricia is very thankful of the Wednesday’s Child program which has opened the opportunity to add a new member to her family. Kiana is now 18- years-old and doing well in school.

On behalf of Wednesday’s Child Philadelphia, I want to thank all the dedicated parents who have stepped up to the plate and adopted. The Wednesday’s Child program, sponsored by Freddie Mac, is a great recruitment tool. Many families have a new addition to their family. In fact, over 40% of the children featured on Wednesday Child Philadelphia now have a permanent home. 

 
2Nov

Our Core Beliefs

As we begin National Adoption Month, it is a good time to remember our mission here. 

We believe there are no unwanted children, just unfound families. Since our founding we have helped to place more then 22,000 children and youth from foster care into adoptive families.

We acknowledge that there are several types of appropriate permanency. We believe adoption is the best choice.

We believe the current amount of time it takes to adopt from foster care is unacceptable and untenable.

We believe additional public and private resources should be made available so barriers can be removed and more children and youth can be adopted.

All month we'll be highlighting existing programs and services, introducing new ones and working with you to allow more children to achieve permanence in their lives. 

27Oct

Help for Those Who Age Out

Each year more than 20,000 young people “age out” of the foster care system. For many of them, their childhood and adolescent years were marked by the instability of multiple placements. As a result, these youth are at a higher risk for unemployment, poor academic achievement, early parenthood and homelessness than their peers living at home with their families.

When youth in foster care “age out,” they no longer have the assistance of the state or foster families and many of them do not have the skills to live on their own. According to an article in Children’s Issues, in just four years after leaving foster care, 25% of “aged out” youth have been homeless, 42% have become parents, fewer than 20% are able to support themselves, and only 46% have graduated from high school.

Unable to earn a wage sufficient for obtaining suitable housing, many end up in homeless shelters. In Philadelphia, the People’s Emergency Center (PEC) and the University of Pennsylvania School of Design are collaborating in a project to develop innovative affordable housing. The project, the Bernice Eliza Homes in the West Powelton section of the city, is a recently opened new six-family apartment house catering to hard-to-place homeless youth with children.

According to Gloria Guard, president of the non-profit PEC, which provides shelter and service to homeless families, there is a great demand for this type of housing. Many of those in the organization’s shelters have “aged out” of the city’s foster care system. For them, the PEC is providing hope for the future as well as a home. 

23Oct

LGBT Adoption

The Center’s initiative directed at the LGBT community to encourage consideration of adoption coincides with the adoption anti-discrimination bill introduced by U.S. Representative from California Pete Stark. His bill would restrict federal funds for states that discriminate in adoption or foster care on the basis of marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Stark’s legislation is a response to the 25,000 children each year who “age out” of the child welfare system without a permanent home. 

We agree with Representative Stark that members of the LGBT community could reduce those numbers dramatically if they felt welcome as prospective adopters. The Center is working with adoption agencies to make that happen.

It is estimated that 2 million lesbian, gay or bisexual persons are interested in adoption. The backlog of children in foster care who desperately want to belong to a family could benefit dramatically if they could be “matched” with some of those individuals or couples.

There are nine states—Florida, Mississippi, Utah, Michigan, Arkansas, Nebraska, Kentucky, Ohio and Wisconsin—that explicitly prohibit LGBT couples from adopting children. This condition exists despite the numerous studies indicating that children who grow up in gay and lesbian homes are as well adjusted, happy and healthy as those raised by heterosexual parents. It is love and caring, not sexual orientation, that make the difference in the way a child grows up. 

Representative Stark believes chances of the legislation passing this Congress are “pretty good,” and said that a hearing could take place this year in a House Ways & Means subcommittee. He is looking for a Republican co-sponsor for the legislation, then will work on getting Senate companion legislation introduced.

The Center supports the legislation. We hope you do too. You can respond to us here, reach out to your Representatives and Senators and/or contact someone in a “red state” and ask them to contact members of Congress or their senators, pointing out that this legislation will make a difference in the way thousands of children grow up. 

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