What do you get when you mix 13 energetic youth with 8 equally energetic performers…give up? You get a trip to NYC to see a performance of STOMP!

On Saturday, February 8, 2014 the National Adoption Center in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Child Permanency and Protection took 13 youth in foster care to see a performance of STOMP.  Matchboxes, brooms, garbage cans, Zippo lighters and more fill the stage with energizing beats at STOMP, the inventive and invigorating stage show that's dance, music and theatrical performance blended together in one electrifying rhythm (STOMP, 2014). Youth and their workers had the chance to witness first hand this amazing show that has been delighted audiences for over twenty years. 

Throughout the show were heard “oohs” and “awws” and even a couple of “that was awesome (s)”!. Following the show, the 8 member ensemble and production crew took time to answer questions, take pictures and sign autographs for our youth. What was amazing and generous is that although they were tired from their 90 minute performance and had a short dinner break before the evening's performance, the cast really took the time to talk with our young people.  And our youth had plenty of questions for them! We learned about what it takes to prepare for a show, the backgrounds of the performers and even where the production crew finds some of the props (you’d be surprised!). This was a first time trip to NYC for the youth and they loved their time in the Big Apple!

After the show, we ended our day with dinner at Maggiano’s! This was a real treat for our youth (and the workers)! Even while at dinner, we still could not talking about how exciting the show was! 

We would like to especially thank Wawa for their donation of lunches for the bus trip, the Orpheum Theatre and the cast and crew of STOMP for their hospitality, Maggiano’s for the delicious dinner and US Coachways for making sure that we traveled safely. This was a trip that none of us will soon forget! 

I just had an opportunity to read a new policy brief from the National Center for Policy Analysis entitled Adoptions from Foster Care. In it were the same frustrating barriers to adoption we see all the time: Untrained and Overburdened Caseworkers, Lack of Outreach to Potential Adoptive Parents (including very poor customer service), Difficulties of Interstate Adoptions and Lack of Subsidies for Adoption and Foster Care. One thing that NCPA did cite was the potential of reinstating institutional child care, otherwise known as Orphanages. A 2003 survey of over 800 orphanage alumni indicated that “nine out of ten respondents say that they would have preferred to have grown up in an orphanage rather than in foster care”. What do you think of this very controversial idea?

While watching the news last week, I saw a story that caught my attention.  It was about the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Horse, and millions of people in China were streaming home to be with family. The news called it the largest migration on the planet as millions of people are traveling. For some, who are migrant workers in cities such as Beijing, it is the only time that they get to be with their families. They have endured separation for a year or more as they work to better the lives of the family members they left behind.

The trains are so crowded with people that some go into a lottery just to get a ticket for home.  Home can sometimes be more than ten hours away by train. There is a Chinese saying, “Rich or poor, get home for the holiday.”  The travelers know that when they reach home they will see their loved ones, share meals with their family, and enjoy the firework celebrations. They endure the hardships of cramped, difficult travel and are elated that they are going home.

I thought about how much it means to me to see my family and be surrounded by them. Then I thought of the children in foster care for whom we work at the National Adoption Center.  Those who, through no fault of their own, no longer have their families and are still waiting for that luxury of having a place they can call home.  It made me proud of the work that we do every day to find just one more child in foster care what they each deserve; a secure home and a loving family.   

Every child deserves to live in a loving, permanent family.  That’s the reason why adoption is the preferred option for children whose parents are not able to care for them. 

The policy, known as APPLA—Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement for Children does not work in the children’s best interests.  It is just another way of providing temporary care that is not labeled foster care; but it does not give children the legal and emotional benefits of being part of a permanent family. 

New draft legislation attempts to restrict the use of APPLA by not allowing any youth under 16 to have APPLA as a goal.  It also requires that ongoing efforts to find a permanent family be documented.

 We believe it does not go far enough.  We agree with Voice for Adoption, the national organization that advocates for improved adoption policy, that APPLA cases be reviewed every six months (it is now 12).  We support the requirement of a report one year after APPLA is enacted for a child that would (1) determine the number of children in that state with a goal of APPLA; (2) the ages, gender, race and special needs of those children; (3) why other permanency options such as kinship care or adoption were not considered to be in the child’s best interest; (4) information about the youths’ involvement in the decision to pursue APPLA and other permanency options.    

Children, especially teenagers, often need the encouragement and support of their social workers to help make them aware of and understand fully the benefits of a permanent family.  No child should be “written off” as unadoptable and relegated to APPLA as another holding area until he or she ages out of the foster care system.  As the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption insists, “Unadoptable is not Acceptable.”

I was excited to hear that Comcast Corporation is building a brand new 59 story tower in center city Philadelphia. Dubbed the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, this massive investment once again highlights the tremendous impact technology has on our lives. It also reaffirms our vision that the use of technology can expedite the number of adoptions across the country. The National Adoption Center has always been a leader in the use of technology, and our innovative Wednesday’s Child USA initiative, along with our growing Adoption Community reasserts that.

Elvis is 15 years old and loves animals of all kinds. We took him to the Instectarium to learn all about bugs! And he had a blast. The best part was when Vai was speaking with him and Elvis tricked him into eating an insect larvae! 

There is even a huge exhibit of live cockroaches! Elvis was a bit put off by that, but who wouldn't be? He was intrigued by the scorpions and asked many questions about them. 

Elvis is looking for a structured family who can guide him into adulthood. Here is his video.

Pope Francis recently called for a rethink in the way the Catholic Church deals with the children of gay couples, warning against "administering a vaccine against faith".  "On an educational level, gay unions raise challenges for us today which are sometimes difficult to understand," Francis said. Though the Church has often been in conflict with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community over its opposition to same-sex marriage and to homosexuality, Francis has drawn praise for attempts to be inclusive. You may have read that in July he reached out to gays, declaring that "if someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?"

The National Adoption Center believes that no one should be excluded from adopting due to race, religion or sexual orientation. That’s why we’re proud to be one of only a handful of organizations nationwide that has received the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) All Children-All Families Seal of Recognition as a leader in supporting and serving LGBT Youth and Families.

We hope you enjoy our brand new website which debuted last month. Available in a desktop, tablet and mobile version, the site brings to life all the beautiful children on whose behalf we work. If you haven’t already, do take the time to go to the Meet the Children section in particular. I think you’ll be impressed with their heartwarming stories. All of these children dream of having a permanent family that will always be there for them, a family to give them a lifetime of love. Also take the time to note our generous sponsors. We simply couldn’t do our work without them. Lastly I encourage you to go to our Giving page. We hope you’ll consider supporting the National Adoption Center during this holiday season.