Bill & Jen of TLC’s The Little Couple have a Special National Adoption Day Message for You

National Adoption Day is officially here! The dreams of thousands of children and families will come true today, at National Adoption Day celebrations in courthouses all across the nation where judges finalize more than 4,500 adoptions of children from foster care.

We are thrilled to announce that CCAI’s 2014 National Angels in Adoption™ honorees, Bill Klein and Dr. Jen Arnold of TLC’s The Little Couple, created a special National Adoption Day message to help celebrate this special day. Bill and Jen are adoptive parents and cannot imagine life without their precious children, Will and Zoey.

Will you help us raise awareness about these 4,500 adoptions as well as the almost 108,000 children and youth in foster care still waiting for a loving family to call their own? Share Bill and Jen’s video today to show your support of National Adoption Day on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram or by forwarding this email. Be sure to use with the following hashtags: #natadoptionday#nationaladoptionday, and #CCAIadoption.

As our friend and supporter, we want to celebrate this day with you too! Follow CCAI on FacebookInstagram and Twitter and be sure to tag us as you share the video! Together, we can be the difference for so many children seeking their forever families.

Watch Erik’s Surprise – The Power of Being Adopted at Age 18

 

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November is National Adoption Month!

Celebrate  National Adoption Day  with CCAI Foster Youth Internship Program™ participant, Erik Barrus, by watching the  video of a special surprise he experienced at the 2015 Angels in Adoption™ Gala and reading his speech!

Erik’s Story

I first entered foster care when I was 14 years old and was placed in group homes the entire time because I was an undesirable, teenage male. The first two group homes I went into were little more than warehouses for children. They were cold…overcrowded…and unwelcoming. However, when I was 16 years old, I was placed at Open Gate Ranch and welcomed with open arms. I had a place to call home and people to call family. You see, the amazing couple that ran the Ranch, Craig and Becky Barrus, ended up adopting me as an adult when I was 18 years old. I need you all to understand this does NOT happen for most teenage boys in foster care! Not to mention the fact that children virtually never get adopted from group homes. But Craig and Becky have adopted a total of six boys, giving us all a forever family.

My adoptive parents have been a large influence in my life and have guided me to help others who are currently in foster care. They’ve taught me what it means to be a part of a family. For the first time I felt like I had a mother and father that loved and cared about me and I was their son. They taught by example how to give and receive love, and how families are always there for each other – through thick and thin. Some people say that blood is thicker than water. Though this may be somewhat true, my parents do not abide by that at all. They take boys into their home from all across the State of Montana and give them a safe refuge as well as unabashed love.

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U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) surprised Erik Barrus by appearing on stage after Erik’s speech to congratulate him. Photo Credit: David Madison

Children, even teenage boys, need adoption to feel love and permanency. That is a big reason why I applied to the CCAI Foster Youth Internship Program™ in D.C. this past summer. I have always wanted to work in an arena where I could effect change. CCAI and their internship gave me that opportunity. I was able to work with the Senate Finance Committee as they considered group home reform. This was a fortuitous placement, because much of my experience in foster care was in group homes. As a Foster Youth Intern, I was able to learn so much about how I can help children who are still in foster care and are hoping to find their own forever families. The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute gave me the opportunity to share my story and use it to, hopefully, impact Members of Congress, and by extension, kids in foster care across the country.

Tonight, we celebrate those who step forward to provide children and youth loving families. They are truly terrestrial “angels.” My parents gave me the gift of family, as well as a chance at a bright future – things I didn’t have growing up and didn’t even think were attainable. Being part of a family was something I always hoped for, but never thought was possible for me to have. I honestly was not sure that I was worthy of such a beautiful gift. I am so grateful for this opportunity that I have been given to be here and speak to you about the importance of fostering and adopting children and youth. It is cliché, but children are the future and if we are failing them now then how can we expect them to succeed in the future. If they are not granted normalcy as a child how can they be expected to be “normal” adults.

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Erik Barrus was embraced by his dad, Craig Barrus. Erik had no clue his dad was going to surprise him on stage at the 2015 Angels in Adoption™ Gala! Photo Credit: Gordon Wenzel

My dad has always pushed me to do my best, try new things, and to expand my horizons. I cannot imagine being here in our nation’s capital to be a voice and representative for children in foster care if it were not for my father always pushing me out of my comfort zone and to strive for success. My dad and mom have helped to make me that man I am today and for that I will be forever grateful and forever in their debt.

Save the date for CCAI’s #GivingTuesday!

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With more than 415,000 children in foster care and an additional 100,000 waiting to be adopted, CCAI is dedicated to raising awareness and providing programs that support the children across this nation and around the world in need of permanent, safe, and loving homes and eliminating the barriers that hinder these children from realizing their basic right of a family. Choose CCAI on December 1st for #GivingTuesday and help us create a spectacular display of love and support for these vulnerable children. Your support will make the difference, each and every donation will make an impact!

 

Photo Essay: An Inside Look at the 2015 Angels in Adoption™ Program

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CCAI’s Angels in Adoption™ Program consists of three days of events in Washington, D.C. where those who have made an extraordinary contribution in the lives of children through adoption or foster care are celebrated by Members of Congress.

Take a look at some of the highlights from the 2015 Angels in Adoption™ Program!

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CCAI kicked off the Angels in Adoption™ activities with a tour of the U.S. Capitol Building!
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Congressional Coalition on Adoption Co-Chair, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), spoke to Angels in Adoption™ honorees at the Senate Congressional Breakfast.
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Congressional Coalition on Adoption Co-Chair, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), celebrated the Roland Family’s recent adoption at the Senate Congressional Breakfast.
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CCAI Advisory Council Member, U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), congratulated his constituents, the Lightner Family, at the Congressional Luncheon.
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Congressional Coalition on Adoption Co-Chair, U.S. Representative Karen Bass (D-CA), congratulated Angels in Adoption™ honorees Bruce and Denise Kendrick for opening their hearts and home to children in need of a loving family.
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U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) met with Angels in Adoption™ honorees during Hill Day.
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2015 Angels in Adoption™  Gala Red Carpet! Left to Right: Becky Weichhand, Jack Gerard, Claudette Gerard, Erik Barrus, Korie and Willie Robertson.

 

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Gala emcee’s Willie and Korie Robertson shared from their hearts: “We are honored and humbled to be a part of the Angels in Adoption™ Gala again this year. Adoption has been a huge blessing to our family and we want to do all that we can to support adoptive parents and help children in need find their forever families.” (Korie’s new book “Strong and Kind” releases on October 19th.)
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CCAI Executive Director, Becky Weichhand, spoke about CCAI’s mission of children in families. “The  Angels in Adoption™ Program is an opportunity to share the story of the heroes who have helped children in U.S. foster care and orphans around the world realize their basic right to a family.”
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Foster Youth Intern Alumni, Erik Barrus, received a hug from his adoptive dad, Craig Barrus. During the Gala, Erik shared his story of being adopted at age 18 out of foster care. CCAI surprised Erik on stage by flying in Craig from his home in Montana. “My parents gave me the gift of family, as well as a chance at a bright future–things I didn’t have growing up and didn’t even think were attainable. Being part of a family was something I always hoped for, but never thought was possible for me to have. I honestly was not sure that I was worthy of such a beautiful gift.”

 

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Emmy nominated actress, Connie Britton’s acceptance speech. “I can’t imagine anything that would mean more to me than receiving this award.”
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Singer and actress, Rachel Crow received her Angels in Adoption™ award from Congressional Coalition on Adoption Co-Chair U.S. Representative Trent Franks. “I am motivated to see that each child feels loved and important and is given the opportunity to find a stable, loving home that will enable them to pursue their talents and dreams – just like I was.”
Rachel Crow invited all who had been in foster care or adopted to join her on stage as she sang “Fight Song.”

 

 

 

2015 Foster Youth Internship Program™ Congressional Report and Briefing Release

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We are pleased to share with you the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s 2015 Foster Youth Internship (FYI) Program™ report Embracing Our Past, Empowering Their Future: Why Child Welfare Reform Matters. We hope you are enlightened and inspired as you read personal accounts and innovative solutions from the Foster Youth Interns as they highlight areas of child welfare in need of reform and propose creative policy solutions to federal policymakers.

The electronic copy of the report is now available HERE, and a video of the Congressional Briefing is available HERE!

This year’s policy topics include:

  • Foster Children of Parents with Serious Mental Illness: A Forgotten Population
  • Collecting Relevant Information to Address Adoption Disruption and Dissolution: It’s Not Just About the Numbers
  • Increasing Positive Outcomes for African-American Males in the Foster Care System through Adoption
  • Addressing the Overuse of Psychotropic Medication Among Foster Children
  • Every Life Matters: Trauma-Informed Training and Peer-to-Peer Support Groups to Prevent Foster Youth and Alumni Suicide
  • “Family Group Homes” as a Chance at Normalcy for “Hard-to-Place” Teens
  • Redefining Homeless: Improving the Outcomes for Aged Out Foster Youth
  • Closing the Educational Gap: Addressing the Need for Educational-Vocational Specialists
  • Fostering a Culture of Silence: The Need to Improve Reporting of Sexual Abuse in Foster Care
  • Investing in Foster Youth’s Futures: Improving Access to Extracurricular Activities and Supportive Relationships
  • Reaching Higher Goals: Improving Educational Outcomes for Foster Youth
  • Mental Health for Foster Children: Creating Consistency Among States

To learn more about the FYI Program, please visit www.ccainstitute.org.

2015 Foster Youth Internship Policy Report Preview: Adoption of African-American Males and Adoption Dissolution

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Twelve current and former foster youth are participating in CCAI’s Foster Youth Internship program, spending their summer interning for Members of Congress on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, July 28 at a Congressional Briefing, they will use their legislative knowledge combined with their personal experience to educate federal policymakers on opportunities for reform in the U.S. foster care system. Each intern has researched and will provide a preview of two of the interns’ report topics.

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Lindsey Harrington, Age 21

Internship assignment: Representative Paul Ryan  (R-WI) Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee

Report focus: Increasing adoptions of African-American males in foster care

Why it’s important to Lindsey: “Without permanency, African-American males are the ones who are most likely to bounce around the child welfare system and age out without a family to call their own.”

Destiny

Destiny Reid, Age 20

Internship assignment: Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

Report focus: Disrupted and dissolution adoptions

Why it’s important to Destiny: “I am a product of a failed adoption. People only see the good sides of adoption and an adoption failing is hardly ever talked about in communities or in the media. A recommendation that  I am working on is how the government should start tracking disrupted and dissolution adoptions.”

Be sure to attend the Congressional Briefing on Tuesday, July 28 to learn about Lindsey’s and Destiny’s policy recommendations on increasing adoptions of African-American males in foster care and how to address and try to prevent failed adoptions. If you are unable to make it, you can download a copy of the report at www.ccainsitute.org once it is released on the 28th!

2015 Foster Youth Intern Policy Report Preview: Psychotropic Medications and Supports for Foster Children of Parents with Serious Mental Illness

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Twelve current and former foster youth are participating in CCAI’s Foster Youth Internship program, spending their summer interning for Members of Congress on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, July 28 at a Congressional Briefing, they will use their legislative knowledge combined with their personal experience to educate federal policymakers on opportunities for reform in the U.S. foster care system. Each intern has researched and will present creative policy solutions on a range of topics. For the six days leading up to the briefing, we will provide a preview of two of the interns’ report topics.

Matthew

Matthew Broderick, Age 22

Internship assignment: Representative Markwayne Mullin (R-OK)

Report focus: Overuse of psychotropic medications for youth in foster care

Why it’s important to Matthew: “I watched my little sister turn into a completely different person. These medications caused her to be in a constant zombie-like state, and it was frightening.”

Cierrena

Cierrena Spataro-Haynes, Age 24

Internship assignment: Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Report focus: Supports for foster children of parents with Serious Mental Illness (SMI)

Why it’s important to Cierrena: “I was not prepared for my experience in court-ordered supervised visitation with my biological mother who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. I had to make sense of my biological mother’s behaviors without any direction.”

Be sure to attend the Congressional Briefing on Tuesday, July 28 to learn about Matthew’s and Cierrena’s policy recommendations on psychotropic medication and visitations with biological children for youth in foster care. If you are unable to make it, you can download a copy of the report at www.ccainstitute.org once it is released on the 28th!