Mothers Making a Difference

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CCAI Executive Director Kathleen Strottman

Tennis legend Arthur Ashe once said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” I have always loved this quote and have tried to make the sentiment behind it part of the mission and work of CCAI.  If you look at what we do, hopefully one message is clear: everyone can play a role in ensuring that all children have a family to call their own. In honor of Mother’s Day, I would like to highlight the power and conviction of three amazing adoptive mothers (all I might add Angels in Adoption) who every day use what opportunities they have to make a tremendous difference for children. I am so proud to know them all and so grateful for all that they do.


Jane Aronson

Angel in Adoption 2000

Best known as the “Orphan Doctor,” Jane Aronson is the adoptive mother of two boys, Ben and Desalegn. As the Founder of the Worldwide Orphans Foundation (WWO), Jane works to transform the lives of orphaned children. WWO examines the medical and developmental conditions of children who live in orphanages, and identifies immediate healthcare needs and advocates for their well-being through the Orphan Ranger Program.

As an adoption medicine specialist who has evaluated more than 4,000 children, Jane has been in private practice and serves at the Director of International Pediatric Health Services in New York City. As if these roles don’t keep her busy enough, Jane has just published a beautifully touching book, Carried in Our Hearts, which provides first-hand accounts from parents and children whose lives have been touched by adoption. The book’s title is taken directly from the mouth of a five-year-old girl, Bailey, who was adopted from china. “My mommy didn’t carry me in her tummy, she carried me in her heart,” explains Bailey.


Deborra-Lee Furness Jackman

Angel in Adoption 2013

Recognized by the Film Critics Circle of Australia as a best actress, Deborra-Lee Furness Jackman’s stardom didn’t make adopting from her home country any easier. After encountering insurmountable challenges when trying to adopt a child from Australia, Deb and her husband, Hugh, decided to begin the process in the US.

Despite the fact that her story had a happy ending—Deb and Hugh are now the proud parents of two children, Oscar and Ava—Deb has not stopped advocating for children in Australia who do not have a family to call their own. As the founder of National Adoption Week in Australia, Deb personally calls on individuals to become champions of children without families. She is also the Director of Worldwide Orphans Foundation Australia, a World Vision Ambassador, and the Patron of the Lighthouse Foundation, an organization in Melbourne that works with homeless children.

Deb’s passion for ensuring that every child has their basic human right to a family recognized is best summed up with a quote from a column she authored in the Australian Women’s Weekly:  I can’t think of anything more important than ensuring that every child in this world has at least one person who has their best interests at heart, someone who cares about them so they know they are loved and valued.


Nia Vardalos

Angel in Adoption 2011

Those who had the pleasure of watching Nia Vardalos star in My Big Fat Greek Wedding will be pleased to know that she is just as charming and hilarious in person as she is on screen. Nia and her husband, Ian, adopted a little girl, Ilaria, from the US foster care system. As the National Adoption Day spokesperson, Nia used her personal story to inspire thousands of other prospective adoptive parents to consider foster adoption as a wonderful way to build a family.

In her new book, Instant Mom, Nia chronicles her journey to parenthood and beyond. Perhaps the most priceless gifts that Nia bestows upon readers are honesty and humor. Nia describes the first couple of months after Ilaria became a member of her family and admits that there were many moments when the scene inside her house wasn’t picture-perfect, like when her daughter would throw her toys in frustration. But she also  describes such touching memories like when, for months, she and Ian took turns sleeping on a cot in her daughter’s bedroom so that she wouldn’t wake up afraid—they literally texted each other when the one on “cot duty” had to go the bathroom in the middle of the night! Ilaria woke up one evening to find her mom sleeping next to her and rubbed her hand against Nia’s cheek. These highs and lows are what all adoptive parents experience when they bring  a child into their family, and Nia reminds us all that this process is normal, unpredictable and, most importantly, transformative.


On this Mother’s Day, I would like to thank all of the moms out there who started where they were, used what they had and did what they could to ensure that every child has a family to call their own. And a special thank you to my own mother who inspired me to do the same.

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The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness about the millions of children around the world in need of permanent, safe, and loving homes and to eliminating the barriers that hinder these children from realizing their basic right of a family.

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