What Barriers Remain: Areas of Needed Adoption and Foster Care Reform in the 113th Congress
This coming Saturday, November 23rd, we will celebrate National Adoption Day and approximately 4,500 adoptions of children in foster care that will take place in courthouses across the nation. It is a day of celebration as well as a poignant reminder of the nearly 100,000 children in foster care still awaiting their own adoption day.
The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute exists because we not only believe that every child needs a family, but also that they can find that family – no matter what their age or circumstances. Toward that goal, we continue to raise awareness of the policy barriers that prevent children in the U.S. and around the word from finding their forever families. We will work daily with policymakers to address these barriers until every last one is removed.
We are pleased to announce the release of our report, What Barriers Remain: Areas of Needed Adoption and Foster Care Reform in the 113th Congress. This report highlights several areas where the U.S. Congress might work to reduce the number of children living without families in the U.S. and abroad. It is our hope that all who read this new report, from Members of Congress to adoptive parents, Members of the Administration to foster youth, will work in partnership with us until every child in need of a family finds permanency.
At CCAI’s recent Angels in Adoption gala, we asked each of our awardees and presenters to submit a family photo along with a quote explaining what family means to them. To join in our celebration of National Adoption Day on November 23rd, would you consider submitting your own family’s photo and quote to firstname.lastname@example.org with “ Family Photo” in the subject line? We might just post it in an upcoming CCAI blog!
“Families don’t have to match.” Sean and Leigh Anne Touhy
“Family is love, security and people who will encourage you to follow your dreams.” George Dennehy
“The family provides the gymnasium in which God enables us to develop spiritual maturity.” U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black
“Family is someone who picks you up at the end of a long day” Kathleen Strottman
“The only thing bigger than time is family; and the only thing bigger than family is God.” Representative Trent Franks
“Every child deserves a loving family. We need to do all we can to support the countless families across the country that are willing to open their hearts and their homes to children from across the globe.” Senator Amy Klobuchar
“Family are the people who care for your heart and your spirit, often our circle of friends become a family tribe that grows as we define ourselves through a lifetime of experiences and relationships.” Rita Benson LeBlanc
“And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them; and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, ‘Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me.’” – Mark 9:36-37a Senator Roger Wicker
“My family makes me smile and laugh and cry and dance and want to be the best I can be. They are my world, my joy and my greatest love.” Deborra-lee Furness
“My family is built through adoption. My husband was adopted from an orphanage in Ireland when he was 5 years old, and, together, we have brought two wonderful children into our family through adoption. I grew up in a loving and large family and know how important it is for children and adults to have a family they can count on.” Senator Mary Landrieu
“I think it’s important for people to know that we adopted Will before we became rich and famous. And I say that because I think sometimes people think that only the rich and famous have what it takes, the money, the staff, to give a home to a child. But the truth is anyone can do it, once you have committed to make that kind of difference in a child’s life.” Willie and Korie Robertson
“Our forever family means everything to us, both in this life and the life to come.” Jack Gerard
The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s Holiday Newsletter is available here.
National Adoption Day 2012
CCAI/CASA Holiday Wish List Program
Kathleen Strottman: All I want for Christmas is a Family for Every Child
CCAI Field Visit to Columbus, Ohio
Please note the pending adoption and foster care legislation is included on pages 8-18 and upcoming events are listed on page one.
During this holiday season, we are once again reminded of the important role family plays in our lives. On behalf of all of us at CCAI, thank you for supporting us as we work to ensure that every child has their right to a family realized.
To recognize the last day of National Adoption Month, CCAI asked former Foster Youth Intern, Marchelle Roberts, to write about how adoption has impacted her life.
I was adopted when I was 12 years old and it truly changed my life. After having suffered the loss of my younger brother through sibling separation, I looked to adoption as a way for me to keep my younger sister with me. I knew my adoptive mother loved us before she even adopted us, but I also knew that the foster care system had its ways of taking things from me and I didn’t want my sister to be another one of those things.
Being placed with my adoptive mother saved me from sexual and emotional abuse that I had suffered in foster homes before and I knew that I wanted to continue living a stable life with my sister. After three years of being her foster child, when my adoptive mother asked if I would be okay with being adopted the first thought I had was “Of course!” I had already felt so much a part of the family but she explained that certain things would change and the love she had for us would only grow. With my and my sister’s adoption, on the same day, at the same time, came new names and a fresh start.
Being a permanent part of the Roberts family, I was given so many opportunities that I most likely would not have been afforded as a foster child. I traveled out of the country on numerous occasions, worked as a youth mentor and volunteered my time in the city of Camden. Now, at 23 years old, I am the oldest of nine children, eight of whom are adopted. I graduated high school at the top of my class and I am currently a soon-to-be Temple University graduate. I feel that I am truly blessed to have had a second chance at life and I thank my mother almost every day for saving my siblings and me.
I also have never referred to her so much as my “adoptive mother” because she never made me or my siblings feel like anything less than her children. She opened her heart at the age of 21 to her first foster/adoptive child and never ceases to prove her love for all of us.
When I think back to the day I was adopted, I remember hugging my sister, who was a tiny one-year-old, and feeling a sense of comfort and relief; relief because I no longer had to fear being taken away or losing my sister. I know that adoption is not always the answer for every child or every situation, but I also know that adoption saved my life, and gave me a better future.
In celebration of National Adoption Month, CCAI asked former Foster Youth Intern, Ashley Lepse, to share about the day the judge and her family finalized her adoption.
“Can I hit it again?!” I asked the judge as I held the gavel with excitement. I had been anticipating this day for four years, and wanted to make sure it was official—I would forever more be a Lepse. “Sure,” she said smiling with compassion in her eyes. I hit the gavel one more time and the courtroom exploded with clapping and cheering.
It was official, my siblings and I were apart of the Lepse family.
We walked off the stage and into our family’s arms. My siblings and I smiled at each other with a sense of belonging that at the ages of nine, eight, and five we had never felt. Our past was filled with neglect, and dominated by parents scarred by domestic violence and drug abuse. When we were removed we were placed in two foster homes that just perpetuated those memories and added a new layer of abuse. But finally— we were brought to loving people who took care of us and became our parents.
Now on August 20th 1998 it was official, we are a family. My sister Gabby and I in our pretty matching green dresses and my brother in his spiffy new suit had much to look forward to the next few days. After much paper work earlier that morning, then the court appearance, and the lunch at the Walnut Room in Marshall Fields, we would be the guests of honor at our adoption party the following day.
My parents had rented out the YMCA for a party with family and friends. We had spent many months preparing and planning the biggest party our family would ever throw. We each got to pick our favorite food to be catered and we created a special family program. My sister and I had decided that we wanted to do a duet to “Sisters, Sisters” by Irving Berlin, and practiced this for a month before the big day.
After a beach day at Foster Beach, we were excited to be on our way to the party. A bit late, we showed up and were showered with an immeasurable amount of love. In retrospect, it seems like an even bigger deal at 23 than it did when I was nine. We got there just in time for our hour of swimming— my parents had worked hard to rent out the entire pool. Following the swimming was food and the program. My sister and I went up there and performed our duet, which was the closest I ever got to a singing career. Family and friends filled the room, all in tears as my dad and mom told the story of us three little child coming into their homes and filling their lives with more joy and love than they ever could have imagined.
Their words and sincerity will forever be imprinted in my memories. The party had finished quicker than we all wanted it too, and it was time to go home–our forever home. Later that day we were told that my grandparents on my dad’s side had planned a special family reunion to Disney World for the following November. Our adoption day was and forever will be the happiest day of my life.
Tomorrow, Saturday, November 17, people all throughout the United States will recognize National Adoption Day. As part of this celebration, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute wants to share “You Just May Be” a music video we produced in partnership with national singer-songwriter Karyn Williams. “You Just May Be” celebrates adoption and reminds individuals, families, and organizations all over the world that anybody can make the difference in the life of a child without a family. As Karyn tells us in the introduction, all you have to do is say, “Yes!”