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