Adoption documentaries premier 8/31

POV is launching a series of adoption documentaries to air August 31st, September 7th, and September 14th on PBS.  (Be sure to check your local listing or click here).  The first film, Wo Ai Ni (I love You) Mommy by Stephanie Wang-Breal follows a Long Island Jewish family as they travel to China to adopt an 8 year old orphan.  The film shows the struggles Sui Yong faces as she leaves her Chinese foster family and adjusts to life in America.  Through her eyes, we witness what it feels like to be adopted by a loving, yet foreign American family and culture.

Be sure to read the filmmaker’s interview to learn about her inspiration for the film and her experience coming to know this family.  Stephanie shares, “Adoption is complicated. In this case, Faith gains a new family, but she loses a very loving foster family. She gains a new language, a new home, a new sister and brother, but she loses her birth language and access to her culture. As we see her blossom, we also see her shed something that we all want her to hold dear. I hope that people realize that, although it’s great that she’s developing into this new human being, her journey is also very complicated. There are all these losses at the same time, for everyone, even for [the adoptive parents].”


What is it like to be torn from your Chinese foster family, put on a plane with strangers and wake up in a new country, family and culture? Stephanie Wang-Breal’s Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy is the story of Fang Sui Yong, an 8-year-old orphan, and the Sadowskys, the Long Island Jewish family that travels to China to adopt her. Sui Yong is one of 70,000 Chinese children now being raised in the United States. Through her eyes, we witness her struggle with a new identity as she transforms from a timid child into someone that no one — neither her new family nor she — could have imagined. Click here to read more.

What’s new in international adoption?

The months leading up to the annual August recess are always very busy ones, most especially in the second session of Congress.  This year is no exception.  Congress’ hefty agenda the past few months involving health care, the financial sector, and oil spill response has not stopped Congressional leaders in adoption from pursuing introduction and passage of key international adoption measures nor deterred them from fulfilling promises to serve as advocates for adoptive parents hoping to adopt from Guatemala, Russia, Uganda, and Nepal.

Check back over the next 2 weeks for a series of posts focused on individual countries and international adoption in general.  Read below for our first post on one of the many initiatives that have been underway on Capitol Hill in recent months.


According to the most recent figures from USCIS, approximately 1300 Haitian children were approved to enter the U.S. as part of the Agency’s post-earthquake humanitarian parole policy. The immigration of these children into the United States has thus far required that USCIS employ a series of policies and procedures most often used when addressing the needs unaccompanied alien children.

The Administration has done everything they can within the existing letter of the law to put these children into the position they would have been had the earthquake never occurred.  Motivated by this same goal, Congressman Fortenberry (R-NE) and Senators Gillibrand (D-NY) and Inhofe (R-OK) introduced legislation entitled “Helping Haitian Immigrants to Immigrate Immediately Act” or the HELP Haiti Act (HR 5283/S. 3411). This bill allows the nearly 1300 children who after the earthquake entered the United States for the purpose of adoption to become legal permanent residents. Without this legislation these children and their families would be subject to a two to four year immigration process and in the interim would be deprived of the benefits of having a permanent status in the United States.

Families who are in the process of adopting these children have already faced issues with adding these children to their health insurance, enrolling in school, and obtaining other benefits which are based on immigration status.  This bill passed the House of Representatives on July 20, 2010 and was agreed to by unanimous consent in the Senate on August 4, 2010.

One Former Foster Youth Transitions to Life on Capitol Hill

In the early month April, I was preparing for my summer internship in Washington, DC.  As I boarded the airplane on May 29th leaving Clearwater, Florida, I remembered saying, “this is just the beginning of a new life.”  I had just graduated with my Bachelor’s and was ready to start my career fighting for foster youth in our nation’s capital.

During my first week in Washington, I thought it would be hard to adjust with no family or friends around. However, as the days went on, I realized that it was time for me to go after my dreams and truly learn through this experience.  I spent the summer interning with the Senate Finance Committee and being a part of the policy world.

As the end of my internship neared, I was faced with a tough decision of staying in DC to pursue my dream, or returning home to my siblings and friends and the only life I only ever knew.  I decided this was my chance to make something happen for myself, and I approach my supervisors expressing my interest to stay in the position longer.

I’m excited to report that for three weeks now I have been working as a “Deputy Intern Coordinator Assistant”.  I could not be where I am today without the experience I had this summer as a FYI Intern.  I was forced out of my comfort zone and have conquered many fears that ultimately led me  to reach this goal I had set of obtaining a permanent job in DC.

Fellow 2010 FYI Interns, you guys encouraged me to be steadfast in my dreams and not let anything get in my path!  There were days, many of you made me laugh, but most importantly, you all showed your love and passion to make a difference within the child welfare system.  Together, we can make a change and provide hope to the thousands of children in foster care.  Just remember, no matter where you are, or what you’re going through, we are family and family stick together.

CCAI, thank you for believing in us and opening our eyes to the world of endless opportunities made available!  Five years ago, I would have thought I was dreaming!  But, because of you, I have been exposed to a new world of opportunities, new life journey and a forever family. Because of your endless dedication, I have been given an adopted family (always dreamed of), through Carri.  Thank you so much.  This allowed me to see how God works and realize those who surround me, truly care and want to see me proposer.  Because 5 years from now- you will know you had a part of my success!

-Nicole Marchman, 2010 Foster Youth Intern

2010 Foster Youth Interns Leave Their Mark on Capitol Hill

CCAI is proud to announce the release of the 3rd annual policy recommendations report authored by the 2010 Foster Youth Internship Class.  Nicole, Sam, Jeremy, Serena, LaTasha, Markus, Wendy, Josh, and Victor spent their summer in DC reading reports and analyzing legislation related to 3 major topics in child welfare: Federal Financing, the Adoption and Safe Families Act, and the Chafee Foster Care Independence Act.  This report is their way to forever leave their mark on federal policymakers.

These individuals arrived in DC with passion and a purpose: to improve the foster care system for their 463,000 brothers and sister in care.

Markus spent his summer learning about the Adoption and Safe Families Act.  It was 2 years after he had aged out of the California foster care system before he even learned that there is such as thing as foster care adoption.  He spent 16 years in foster care not knowing that kids were adopted from foster care, or that this could have been an option for him.

Wendy chose to spend her summer studying federal financing of the foster care system.  She entered care after years of watching her widowed father struggle with grief and later alcoholism.  Wendy’s frustration was that had her father known about services available to them, she and her siblings could have avoided being placed in foster care.

As you read through the pages, remember the 9 individuals who made themselves vulnerable in sharing their personal stories.  They have spent a collective 81 years in the foster care system and have many ideas to share about how to improve the system.

How can we address the shortage of adoptive homes for kids in foster care?

CCAI convened a group of adoption experts to present data and trends in foster care and share lessons learned from five successful foster and adoptive parent recruitment models. While not by design, a considerable amount of the briefing examined data and program examples related to placing older youth who more frequently languish in care.  As the highlighted programs are demonstrating, there is no such thing as an unadoptable child, merely unfound families.

Experts from around country flew to DC to share success and lessons learned with federal policymakers and advocates.  Rrecruitment programs that were represented include:

1) Wendy’s Wonderful Kids

2) Wait No More

3) Real Connections (Rhode Island)

4) You Gotta Believe! (New York)

5) Weekend Miracles (DC and Los Angeles)

While each of the programs presented during the briefing were unique, it could not help but be noted that the presenters and the programs they presented on had some of the same lessons learned.  When making future federal funding and policy decisions, federal policymakers should keep in mind the following:

1) Resource Gaps –Every one of the highlighted recruitment programs was in essence filling in a human or financial resource gap in the public system.  In the case of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids the solution was a full time, trained worker, in Wait No More these gaps were filled through a partnership with the faith based community and in Real Connections, the solution lie in providing services the system did not have the staff to provide.  Congress needs to figure out how to either help support the public private partnership model across the board or consider other ways to promote these gaps being filled.

2) Youth Voice – Another key theme throughout was that youth in the system should not only have a voice but a choice in their own long term permanency planning.  As important, they need to be appropriately supported and encouraged when exercising that right. 

3) Data Mining – These successful programs found that much of the information and relationships needed to secure a permanent placement for the child was already somewhere in the children’s case file (i.e information about a teacher/mentor, mention of extended families).  This information was just not being mined for.  Presenters universally agreed that making this tool a part of their programs was a critical part of their ultimate success.

4) Messaging – Presenters agreed that how and what messages were conveyed to prospective adoptive parents is a key factor to success.  In the case of WWK, the fact that recruitment was child centered was key and Wait No More stressed the need to be open and honest about the realities of parenting previously traumatized children.  And all agreed that the central message should be that older kids need a family just as much as younger children and that parenting an older child is just a rewarding.

For a full summary of briefing, click here.

Had I known how to save a life…

Mentoring has longtime been an accepted practice of encouraging young people to set positive goals, improve their attitude, and help them meet challenges of everyday life.  For youth in foster care, these trusting relationships are vital in helping youth cope with their current situation and past loss.  Over the years, study after study has confirmed what common sense tells us, that mentoring in successful in promoting school success and discouraging unsafe activities.

Just last year, a study on mentoring was concluded that found mentoring also has a positive effect on mental health outcomes.  The study’s participants reported greater satisfaction in life and lower symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.  This is significant in that youth in foster care are far more likely to suffer from PTSD in addition to ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, and many other mental illnesses.

These findings suggest that even for the most vulnerable children, rigorous intervention efforts can make a difference and may lead to better outcomes and healthier futures,” said Heather Taussig, PhD, the study’s researcher.

Each Congress, several pieces of legislation related to mentoring are introduced.  While it is important to express our support for legislation that encourages this successful and effective activity, what’s more important is making the decision to become a mentor.  There are youth in your own community who could benefit from you taking an interest in their life.  To be inspired, see the powerful advertisements from the Casey Family Program’s campaign to promote mentoring.  To find out how to become a mentor, visit