Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

By Kathleen Strottman

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Despite the daunting winter weather, today millions of Americans will take to the roads, the air and the rails to travel home in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.  I cannot think of a better example of how ingrained the ideal of family is in our society than Thanksgiving, a day when we come together to share in a bountiful meal and give thanks for our collective blessings.  Like many of you, I will begin and end Thanksgiving Day with an overwhelming amount of gratitude for the blessing of my own family.  And if tomorrow is like most of my other Thanksgiving celebrations in recent years, I will revel in watching my children build lifelong memories with their grandfather, aunts, uncles and cousins.

At some point tomorrow I will observe what has become another annual tradition.  I will pause and say a prayer for the millions of children all over the world who will spend this holiday alone.  There is not a day that goes by my heart does not ache for these children, whose dream of a family to share holiday traditions with seems more like an unreachable dream than a soon-to-be reality.  Yet on a day designed to serve as a reminder of just how much having a family means in our lives, it aches all the more.

CCAI was founded on the simple yet profound belief that every child needs and deserves a family to call their own.  We go to work each day with the hopes of identifying the legal and policy barriers which prevent children from realizing their basic right to a family.  While we still have a long way to go before we reach our goal of a family for every child, we have taken many steps toward making this dream a reality this year.  For this I am incredibly grateful.

More specifically, this year I will give thanks for:

10. The Adoption Tax Credit Working Group and the Save the Adoption Tax Credit Campaign.  There is no doubt in my mind that this organized, effective campaign played a major role in making the adoption tax credit a permanent part of the tax code. This means more children will find families.  I also firmly believe this group has what it takes to convince Congress to make the Adoption Tax Credit refundable.

9. Senator Charles Grassley (R- IA), who has been a leader in the Congressional Coalition on Adoption for over a decade, and who recently reminded all in attendance at the Voice for Adoption Portrait Project reception of how important the goal of a family really is when he said, “We must always remember that foster care is meant to be a layover, not a destination.”

8. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and Wendy’s Wonderful Kids who continue to prove there is no such thing as an unadoptable child.  I am particularly grateful for their recent video, which reminds us that meeting your child for the first time, no matter when that moment occurs, is always a once in a lifetime experience.

7. Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy, who served at this year’s Angels in Adoption Gala emcees.  Their passion for adoption, their giving hearts and their unmatchable wit made this year’s gala one to remember.

6. Dr. Charles Zeanah of Tulane University, whose passion and commitment to deinstitutionalizing children and improving foster care is second to none.   CCAI was very fortunate to have Dr. Zeanah join us on our 20/20 Vision Program’s Congressional delegation to Korea, Cambodia and Vietnam in February.  Additionally, his presentation to a key group of Guatemalan officials in April during our Pathways to Permanency training moved some in the group to tears.

5. For Pat O’Brien and his legacy at “You Gotta Believe,” an organization wholly committed to finding forever families for older children.  This recently posted YouTube video is just one example of the thousands of families who have been born as a result of Pat’s tenacity.

4. The USG Action Plan for Children in Adversity – the first ever federal policy to acknowledge that reducing the number of children outside of family care should be one of our universal foreign policy goals.  The release of this important plan has opened the minds of many federal policymakers to the idea that food and shelter do not make children thrive, families do.

3. For Dr. Sharen Ford, who retired this year after nearly 30 years with the Colorado Department of Health and Human Services.  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said – “to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is to have succeeded.”  Dr. Ford, tens of thousands of our nation’s most vulnerable children have breathed easier because of you.

2. For the Foster Youth Interns (FYIs) from this summer and every summer before.  Not a day goes by that I am not inspired by their example.  I am so proud to see you each grow into the leaders you were always meant to be.

2013 Foster Youth Interns on the steps of the Capitol

1. For my incredible staff who every day make me proud to be the Executive Director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

CCAI staff with 2013 National Angel in Adoption Deborra-lee Furness and husband Hugh Jackman
Not Pictured: Our awesome Director of Operations, Dan!


A Shift in Americans’ Attitudes about Foster Care Adoption

At CCAI, we believe that one child without a family is one child too many.  Right this very minute, more than 100,000 children in the United States’ foster care system are waiting to be adopted.  Last year, nearly 30,000 foster youth turned 18 and emancipated from care without the families they need and deserve.

In an ideal world, the general population would be well informed before developing opinions about important issues such as child welfare. The reality is, however, that most people gather their information from hearsay or biased media outlets. Television shows like NBC’s The Office or Fox’s The O.C. portray foster youth in a wide spectrum of abnormalities, ranging from slightly weird to unstable to dangerous or unmanageable. As a result, many potential candidates for foster parenting opt for other adoption options because they believe that fostering a child would be too difficult. Tragically, their mistaken views add to the growing number of children left without families.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption partnered with Harris Interactive to conduct the 2013 National Foster Care Adoption Attitudes Survey to more than 1,400 American adults to gain a broader understanding of their attitudes concerning adoption. With this survey, a follow-up to a similar survey taken in 2007, the Foundation hoped to “better understand Americans’ attitudes about foster care adoption, their belief about the children waiting to be adopted and their perceptions of the foster care system.” Just recently, they released the findings of the survey to the general public, which can be viewed here.


Among the survey’s main findings:

  • While 51 percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement that all children are adoptable, only 27 percent of those surveyed would consider adopting a child 12 and older.
  • Many American adults still believe that “the foster care adoption process is overwhelming and expensive.”
  • 43 percent of adults said, based on what they had heard or seen, that it was either very difficult or extremely difficult to adopt a child from foster care.

This survey comes six years after DTFA’s initial survey.  The most notable change in attitudes between then and now is that a greater number of Americans understand that children who are in foster care are the victims of abuse and neglect, not dangerous delinquents.  In 2007, 59 percent of respondents thought children adopted from foster care were more likely to have problems with behavior and self-control. In 2012, the number fell 13 points to 46 percent.

So what does all this mean for policymakers?  Below are just a few current policy areas which might help to address the issues identified by the survey.

  • Adoption Tax Credit:  While the process of foster adoption is actually very inexpensive, there are costs which come with raising a child who is adopted from foster care.   According to the 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents, only one quarter of individuals who adopt children from foster care have incomes greater than $87,000. Without the support of a refundable credit, the majority of adoptive families might not be able to afford such costs and worse, the fear of not being able to meet them, might deny a child a family. As Congress continues to consider tax reform, it is essential that they understand the importance of continuing to provide a refundable adoption tax credit for families. 
  • Post-Adoption Services: Adopting from foster care can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime.  But those who have done it will tell you that raising a child who has experienced early trauma is not without its trials.  For adoption from foster care to be the lifelong commitment it is meant to be, it is important that families have access to post-adoption services.  Despite their critical importance, there is little to no dedicated federal funding for post-adoption services.
  • Adoption Incentives:  As the survey indicates, the hardest to place children are often children older than 12.  States who are using traditional child-recruitment strategies are not likely to be successful in finding these children homes.  Although the current adoption incentive program doubles the incentive for placing older youth, a child over nine is half as likely to find a home through adoption.  Federal policymakers need to consider how to incentivize the use of child-focused recruitment models, such as Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, to provide a loving home for every child in need.

For the purpose of this post, CCAI only used a portion of the information resulting from the survey. The complete 2013 National Foster Care Adoption Attitudes Survey can be found here.

Save the Adoption Tax Credit

CCAI is excited to serve as the Secretariat for the Executive Committee of the Adoption Tax Credit Working Group (ATCWG).  Save the Adoption Tax Credit, a national collaboration of 100 organizations that have united to support the cause of adoption, is an effort of the ATCWG. These are the other organizations on the Executive Committee with whom we are working closely:

The Adoption Tax Credit has existed since 2003 and has made adoption a more viable option for many parents who might not otherwise have been able to afford adoption, allowing them to provide children with loving, permanent families. Unfortunately it is due to “sunset” in its current form at the end of this year unless Congress and the Administration act.

The Adoption Tax Credit Working Group’s goals are to have an adoption tax credit that is:

  • Inclusive: Children, whether adopted from foster care, through intercountry adoption, or through private domestic adoption should be able to benefit from the adoption tax credit.
  • Permanent: The adoption tax credit should become a permanent part of the tax code to ensure continued support to those who bring children into families through adoption.
  • Refundable: The adoption tax credit should be refundable to ensure that families with moderate and lower incomes receive the full benefit of the credit.
  • Flat for Special Needs: All families who adopt a child with special needs should be eligible for a “flat” tax credit, meaning they can claim the maximum credit without documenting expenses. This distinction, which is already in current law, recognizes the fact that many of the expenses associated with adopting children with special needs show up after an adoption is finalized.

More than 100,000 children are currently in the U.S. foster care system awaiting forever homes. There are a growing number of children worldwide who are living in institutions, on the streets or in other situations outside of the care of a loving family.

The work of the adoption tax credit is not done.

To learn more about the effort to save the “A.T.C.” and to see the full list of the Adoption Tax Credit Working Group members, go to

Or check out their Facebook page at