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13Oct

Why We Do This

This past weekend we had a Match Party in Houston, Delaware. Sam Yoder's Farm provided a gorgeous setting and while it was windy, the weather held for us. The purpose of a Match Party is to provide a relaxed atmosphere for guided interactions between adoptable youths from foster care and home studied families. We play games or participate in activities which get the adults and youths talking to each other and working together on common goals. 

My station was the pumpkin painting table. Here each person got a small pumpkin or two to paint. (Pumpkins graciously donated by Steve fromHurricane Hill Farm in Coatsville, Pennsylvania.) The youths jumped right into this activity. Some designs were abstract, some modern, some pretty, some goofy and some traditional. Each unique as the child. 

As they painted the potential parents chatted with the youths. Some offered encouragement and really focused on the child's painting. While other potential parents painted alongside the children while chatting with them about unrelated topics. Most stayed engrossed in the activity for the full time allotted. Whether the enthusiastic participation was as a distraction from the normal concerns at such an event or because of a sense of fun, it doesn't matter. The painting served as the icebreaker it was meant to be. From my vantage point, I could see all the typical family interactions which take place -encouragement, correction, freedom and boundaries. I could see that some adults were comfortable in the role of "parent" while others still needed to find their way. 

The reactions of the children also varied. Some were eager to show their talent, some defended their unique visions. Some comfortably chatted to anyone who listened while others depended on adults carefully drawing them out. Between the planned activities and lunch, there was plenty of time for people to get comfortable and chat. 

Our hope is that these interactions result in matches that will result in permanent families. We'll have a later post giving out the results of this party. (Although it can take 6 months to a year to know significant outcomes.) From the smiles on kids' faces I know we were successful in making a day for the youths to enjoy. The parents also looked like they had fun. Hopefully all got to see that the potential parents and the children are all just normal people. No one needs to be scared or worried about the other. Some people are shy, some talkative; some happier than others. Regardless all children deserve a permanent home full of love and security. 

BTW: we have a Teen Match Party coming up in northern NJ next week. If you're a homestudied family, we'd love to have you come on out. Call us at 215-735-9988 or email callen@adopt.org to register. 

7Oct

The LGBT Community and the 2010 Census

In March 2010, everyone in the U.S. will be asked to fill out a Census questionnaire. The results of the data collected will directly affect how more than $400 billion per year in federal and state funding is allocated to communities for neighborhood improvements, public health, education, transportation, and much more. In addition, the census is used to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, to redistrict state legislatures,

The Census does not ask if the respondent is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. To help the LGBT community complete the form, the Human Rights Campaign has listed “10 things to know about the 2010 Census” on its website (www.hrc.org/12634.htm). 

Among the suggestions:
• LGBT couples who are married should check “husband” or “wife.” Other same-sex couples should check “unmarried partner.”
• Transgender people should identify with whichever sex on the census form they feel best applies to them.
• LGBT people of color in bi-racial relationships should consider identifying as head of household.

HRC also notes that the Obama administration has directed the Census Bureau to determine what changes need to be made in tabulation software to include married same-sex couples in census reports. Hopefully, this can be done so that everyone’s marriage will be treated with equal respect. 

5Oct

National Adoption Day

Nia Vardalos, who adopted a child from foster care, has been named spokesperson of the 2009 National Adoption Day in November. In making the announcement, the National Adoption Day Coalition said the award winning actress/writer/director will share her story as an adoptive parent. Vardalos, Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee for the motion picture My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and her husband, Ian Gomez, adopted a 3-year-old girl last year.

Vardalos is an advocate for foster care adoption in the United States. “My goal is to raise awareness about foster family agencies who can connect prospective parents with the 129,000 legally free children in the United States waiting for a family,” Vardalos said. “I am pleased to spread the message that American foster care, while maintaining the highest level of screening, does not discriminate against applicants for reasons of income level, marital status or sexual orientation.”

Of the children in foster care in the U.S. waiting for adoption, here are some statistics, provided by Voice for Adoption.

47% are nine-years-old and older
Nearly 42 months is the average stay in foster care
Children of color stay in foster care longer and have fewer adoptions than their
white peers
Nearly 90% of children adopted from foster care in 2006 had special needs
In 2006, more than 26,000 “aged out” of foster care

2Oct

Terminating Parental Rights

“If it comes to a point that the family is so toxic for the child that termination of parental rights and staying in foster care (thus making the child free to be adopted) is in the child’s best interest, I don’t have a problem with it at all. Why would I want to keep a connection between a toxic parent and a child?” This is one judge’s comment in a recent Brief by Child Trends a research organization based in Washington D.C. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it. Yet often it seems that judges are loathe to terminate parental rights. Is this because of a belief that it is a right to raise a child any way a parent sees fit? 

What advice would you give the judiciary in helping them to decide when it’s appropriate to terminate the parental rights of a child? Is it ever appropriate or not appropriate? Would it help more children to be adopted rather then continue to languish in foster care while waiting for their biological parents to “get their act together?” 

28Sep

WWK Spotlight

Meet the newest addition to Wendy’s Wonderful Kids in Delaware, Na’Heim! I had a great time hanging out with Na’Heim at our first visit. He was outgoing and friendly with me right from the start! Na’Heim was eager to show off what a talented artist he is. He loves writing his name in bubbles letters, and can draw any animal you ask him too! He is an expert at games like Sorry and Uno, and has a very competitive nature. We played several rounds of Uno and Tic Tac Toe, and he concentrated very hard to win! Na’Heim is a big sports fan, and thinks that football is his best sport. He is always up for a game of football or his second favorite sport, basketball. 

Na’Heim is an adorable boy with so much energy. He has been through a lot in his short life, and is receiving services to deal with the trauma that he has faced. Na’Heim needs a stable family that will provide loving role models and give Na'Heim an opportunity to excel. Na’Heim says that he would like a fun family who is always willing to play with him and have good food at dinner time! He also would like to have pets in his home that he can take feed and take care of. 

The Wendy’s Wonderful Kid’s program is the signature program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Since the Delaware program launched on January 1, 2005, we’ve had 33 finalizations and there are 9 children currently matched and placed with their future forever families! If you would like more information on Na’Heim or on the Wendy’s Wonderful Kid’s Program, please contact me at acressman@adopt.org, or at 215-735-9988 x319. 

25Sep

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

My job as Program Director at the Adoption Center has been made easier over the past year because of a great team of adoption coordinators who work effortlessly together on all aspects of the Center’s programs. 

Sheina Martinez is our Family Advocate and Wednesday’s Child Coordinator. If you are a first time caller about adoption, you will receive a warm, welcoming response from Sheina who will encourage you, answer your questions and provide you with the correct information so you can move ahead with your plans to adopt. 

Amy Cressman, our Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter for children in Delaware, is our newest team member. She immediately embraced the Center’s philosophy “There are no unwanted children, just unfound families.” She fit in so well that we put her in charge of planning our next match party in Delaware, knowing that she would do a great job! 

I would especially like to recognize Crystal Allen, our Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter for south Jersey on her first year anniversary with the Center today. Crystal is a tireless champion for the children waiting for adoptive families and brings her energy, boundless enthusiasm and passion for the mission of the Center to work everyday. Happy Anniversary, Crystal and we hope there will be many more to celebrate together. 

Our program team is ready; don’t hesitate to contact them. 

Sheina Martinez, Wednesday’s Child Coordinator and Adoption Coordinator 
(215) 735-9988 @ ext. 311 smartinez@adopt.org
Amy Cressman, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter/Delaware Adoption Coordinator
(215) 735-9988 @ ext. 319 or toll free (877) 799-6900 acressman@adopt.org
Crystal Allen, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter for South New Jersey and Adoption Coordinator 
(215) 735-9988 @ ext. 346 or toll free (877) 799-6900 callen@adopt.org

Christine Jacobs
Program Director 

23Sep

Raise Me Up

More than 500,000 children in this country live in foster care; l20,000 will not be able to return to their families. In Philadelphia, a new public awareness campaign, Raise Me Up, hopes to enlist volunteers and mentors for those children.

In a press conference yesterday, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and Department of Human Services Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose said that the city cannot do the job alone—that its citizens must step up and take a strong role in the lives of the children who are at risk of growing up homeless, despondent, less likely to complete high school and more likely to end up in a life of crime, addiction and poverty.

The Honorable Max Baer, justice of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, said that ideally children should be raised by their own families, if possible. When they cannot and are placed in foster care, he or she has a better chance of success if there is a mentor involved in his life. “Foster parents are wonderful,” he said, “but foster care is a flawed system. Children need permanent families.”

We agree. If a child can not be returned to his birth family, we believe that adoption should be his or her goal. Meanwhile, mentors and volunteers can help boost a child’s confidence and contribute to his self-esteem. But an adoptive family should be sought for him before he succumbs to the devastating outcomes inevitably visited on children without permanence in their lives. 

18Sep

"Special" Needs

Happy Friday!!

This week I want to talk about the term “special needs” as applied to children in foster care and how non-social work professionals view this term. The “special needs” label in the foster care system means that there is something about the child that needs some extra attention. Did you know that having a sibling can categorize a child as having “special needs”? Wow, I guess I was special needs when I was a child! :-)

Having learning disabilities are another thing that classifies a child as “special needs”. Many children in foster care have a learning disability simply because they have changed schools often. So much so, that they have not had the opportunity to be on the same page as everyone else, and are constantly playing catch up. 

I wonder if individuals don’t adopt from the foster care system because they do not want a “special needs” child. To me, the term “special needs” just means they need someone special to parent them. If you are special and want to consider adoption, please contact me. I would like to answer your questions, concerns, and maybe even break some myths about adoption. 

Question: 
What behaviors, needs or disabilities, do you consider special needs? What issues do you not consider special needs? 

Would a label of "special needs" automatically stop you from considering an adoption from the foster care system? Would you now ask for more clarification about what the special need is? 

Sincerely, 
SMART aka Sheina Martinez 

11Sep

Meet Oprah!

This week on Wednesday’s Child Philadelphia meet 14-year-old Oprah. This beautiful teen has a great sense of humor. Oprah can be shy when first meeting you, but when she finds a comfort level, she will have you laughing. Oprah is very active and plays volleyball and the trumpet in the band for her school. Oprah is a very bright student and does well academically. Her favorite classes in school are computers and music. 

Oprah recently had the opportunity to visit with gospel performer Tye Tribbett. Tye welcomed Oprah to his home to watch music videos, talk about the music industry, and give her some advice on keeping her head up. Oprah had a great time watching Tye Tribbett’s music performance on DVD and was overwhelmed with excitement in meeting a famous music performer. Tye signed and presented a photograph and CD to Oprah before the visit was over. 

The day was a huge success. Wednesday’s Child host Vai Sikahema was honored to be a part of this experience with Oprah. He joined in conversation with the two and also danced a little while watching Tye’s music video. Later, Vai and Oprah were able to sit together to talk about family and what it means to her. Religion is very important to Oprah. She would like a family that would allow her to express and practice her Christian beliefs. She would like to maintain contact with her siblings and would prefer a mom and dad, but will also accept a single mother. Oprah has come along way in accepting adoption as a goal for herself. She is now ready to welcome a forever family into her heart and hopes someone will be willing to accept her as a daughter. All families will be considered. For a profile and picture of Oprah, or to inquire about her, click here. 

9Sep

Bridging the Gap: Families Working Together Webcast

The National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning (NRCFCPPP) will host a webcast on Wednesday, September 16 from 1-2 PM (Eastern time) about the importance of the relationship between foster and birth families.

When there is a good relationship, all parents can do a better job in meeting the children’s needs. Studies have shown that a team approach with planned contact between foster and birth parents has resulted in children returning home sooner, having more stable placements, developing better emotionally and achieving more in school. 

The experiences of the foster parents with the children in their care can yield valuable insights for the birth families when the children return to them. The webcast will highlight promoting meaningful partnerships between foster and birth parents as well as other family members and caretakers for the well being, safety and permanency of the children. The webcast is a Northern Virginia Foster Care and Adoption Initiative.

The National Adoption Center supports the goal of the NRCFCPPP to help children in foster care receive the love and security that only a permanent family, whether birth or adoptive, can provide.

Click to register for the webcast. 

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