CCAI hosts Haiti Convening to assist in rebuilding Haiti’s child welfare system

CCAI’s “Building a Foundation for Haiti’s Children and Families” convening on May 21, 2010 successfully brought together Haitian officials, United States’ and international experts from various child welfare and protection organizations to discuss the short- and long-term needs of Haiti’s vulnerable children and to determine how they might individually and collectively support the Haitian government in the development of a child welfare system that preserves and protects a child’s right to a permanent and loving family.  This convening provided a critically important  opportunity to share, listen and learn about the most effective ways to serve Haiti’s children and families in the wake of the disaster as well as how to build a strong, sustainable child welfare system long term.

Minister Yves Cristalin during his speech

CCAI was especially honored by the participation of His Excellency Raymond Joseph, Minister Yves Cristalin, Madame Bernard Pierre, and Senator Mary Landrieu.

Visit CCAI’s Haiti Convening page for more information and footage from the convening.

Social networking… now for adoption?

Image from parentsdish.com

NBC aired an interesting story a couple days ago entitled “Couple adopts baby via Facebook.”  This Kensington, MD couple appeared with their adopted son to share their story.  They had struggled with infertility for months before ultimately trying IVF treatment, but their pregnancy tragically ended in miscarriage of the twin babies at 20 weeks.  Sean Edlavitch and Melissa Segal turned to adoption, but knew they could be waiting years for a baby.  They were very open with their situation, setting up a blog and emailing friends and family about their hopes to adopt.

Parentsdish.com’s article, ‘Facebook Makes a Couple’s Adoption Dream Come True” tells the story: “Edlavitch says he didn’t know much about blogging beyond the fact that he could sign up for a free website, but that didn’t stop him from creating “Melissa and Seth Adoption” in 2008. He also signed up for a Facebook account, but really didn’t expect any adoption information he posted there to go much beyond his own circle of online friends.  But it did reach much farther than that — and much closer, in a way. A friend of Edlavitch’s shared the couple’s information with his Facebook friends, and an old acquaintance of that friend responded. She knew a woman looking for an adoptive family.”

While this private independent adoption story is very unique, it does open the door to conversations about how Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social networking sites can affect adoption.  What are you thoughts about this story?

How can the federal government improve foster adoptive parent recruitment?

In continuing to celebrate National Foster Care Month, CCAI hosted a briefing last week to discuss what the federal government can be doing to improve parent recruitment for youth in foster care.

In an effort to bring lessons learned in the field to impact federal legislation, CCAI convened this briefing to present data and trends in foster care, and share lessons learned from successful parents recruitment models.  This briefing examined data related to older youth, who more frequently languish in care and are more likely to age out of care without any promise of permanence.  Agency representatives shared information about their innovative recruitment models and how federal policy was supporting their work or if policy barriers needed to be removed to allow for best practices to be used in the field.

The panel spoke to over 40 Congressional staff and adoption professionals. Click here or on the image below to view the full footage of the briefing. Also, the materials presented are available at CCAI’s website.  Be sure to check back in a few days for a 2-page in-depth summary of lessons learned that were presented at the briefing.

The panel echoed the need for an increase in federal funding to support post-adoption services.  In addition, several unique components of their models were shared, including:

1.  Using local TV and radio media to raise awareness in the community

2.  Using child-focused recruitment to identify any connections the youth may already have to caring adults that could become an adoptive parents, such as a teacher, mentor, or extended family member.

3.  Using the same software and technology that debt collectors use to find extended family members who may be adoption options.

4.  Bringing agency representatives to recruitment events so that adults start the adoption process before even leaving the event where they have just heard from youth themselves, social workers, and other adoptive parents.

5.  Allowing relationships to build naturally by using a mentor-to-adopt model.

Perspectives on the legacy of National Foster Care Month

As part of CCAI’s effort to highlight National Foster Care Month, we asked several individuals to share their opinions on NFCM.  All of these people share a common interest in the child welfare system, but each brings a different perspective to the discussion.  Please read below to see how a U.S. Senator, a former foster youth, a social services program director, and a journalist all respond to the question:

5 years from now, what do you want the legacy of National Foster Care Month to be?

“Come 2015, we would have many more persons all over this country willing to help us reunify kids with their own families safely and, if not possible, to simply be the kid’s family forever through adoption or guardianship.”  –Elizabeth Black, Executive Director of Child Permanency for Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services

“As Co-Chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, I am encouraged by the dedication of the 220 members who continue to advocate and work to provide children in foster care with a loving home and family each and every day. I am hopeful that when National Foster Care Month is celebrated, five years from now, we will see the impact that legislation like the Chaffee Foster Care Independence Act and the Fostering Connections Act has had on improving the outcomes for youth in foster care. I am confident that the awareness raised by the events being held across the country during the month of May, will encourage willing and able adults to take the opportunity to change the life of a youth in foster care, whether it is through adoption, being a foster parent, mentoring or advocating on behalf of orphans.”  –Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

“In five years, I would like to see National Foster Care Month be remembered as the catalyst for a nationwide movement which ultimately provided one person committed to unconditional love and compassion for every orphaned child.”  -Mikelle Wortman, foster care alum and 2008 Foster Youth Intern

“In the next five years I hope to see—and be a part of—a complete shift in the way the news media covers foster care.  I hope that National Foster Care Month will result in an overall increase in rigorous and holistic coverage of the system and will be the precursor to a movement in the general public to take up our collective duty for our collective children.  National Foster Care Month gives the news media and the general public this window into the realities of the system which is invaluable.  Knowing that the solutions are out there will empower the people to rise and fight to assure that children are cared for.”  -Daniel Heimpel, Project Director of Fostering Media Connections

What would you like the legacy of National Foster Care Month to be? Comment and share your thoughts with fellow foster care advocates!

Are you my mother?

We all remember reading the children’s book Are You My Mother? and laughing at the comedy in the confused baby bird trying to find his mother.  Unfortunately, searching for a mother is the reality for kids in foster care, and this Sunday is another painful reminder of this. They have been removed from their home in an effort to protect their safety, but the cost of a safer life is sometimes a lonely life.  Read below to hear from Betty, a young adult who spent years in foster care searching for a mother before finally being adopted.

Sunday is Mother’s Day! Children and parents will be heading off to church, having Sunday brunch, planting in the garden and just spoiling mother by bringing breakfast in bed. What about the 26,000 of the 463,000 children in foster care nationwide who age out of foster care to live on their own? How do they celebrate Mother’s Day?  For those fortunate enough, the day is spent with the “family” they have built for themselves.  However, many are not fortunate and this May 9th will be a day of longing for that essential connection.

Sunday marks my 8th anniversary spending Mother’s Day with my adoptive mom; and the 8th year since the death of my biological mother. Because of this, Mother’s Day is a very special day to me. I take the time to thank my biological mother for bringing me into this world and spoil the mother I now have. Mom and I love to go shopping, go out to eat, spend a day here and there in New York, and listen to Christmas music in the car together when we’re feeling down.  We volunteer together or just hang out and chat about life when we miss each other. I never look at my adoptive mom as my “adoptive” mom, but rather as my mother I always had. It’s funny how fast my mom and I bonded when I first moved in. I never had anyone to read books to me, take care of me when sick, or just spend time with. So at the age of 14, I was reading Dr. Seuss books, learning how to cook, and learning how to be a regular kid.

This Mother’s Day I’m going to go visit my biological mother’s grave and plant sweet pea flowers in honor of her for bringing me into life. My mom would always call me her little sweet pea and I would hate it. Now that I’m older, I love sweet peas flowers and buy the scent at Bath & Body Works; and it always gives me sweet memories of her. The second portion of the day will be spent with the best mother in the world in my eyes. I won’t spoil the surprise I have in store for her, but I can tell you no matter how we spend the day, it will be like any other mother and daughter; and I’m grateful to have her in my life.

Betty with her family

For children who are displaced from their biological family, Mother’s Day is about the big things and also about the little things in between it all. Thank you to all you moms out there. Happy Mother’s Day!!!!