How Adoption Changed My Life

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. 

The Roberts Family.
The Roberts Family.

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.


It’s official!

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.

Then: Ashley (left) and her sister and brother.

“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: Ashley (middle) and her sister and brother.

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.

The Lepse Family.

Happy National Adoption Day!

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!”

Happy National Adoption Day!

Rise and shine, sweet child of mine

Inspired by a National Adoption Day court proceeding, Judge Jim Barfield wrote ‘Rise and Shine’.  His song was part of the 10th year celebration for National Adoption Day in Atlanta in honor of the adoptive families coming through the Fulton County Juvenile Court.  We are happy to make this song available for your use in celebrating National Adoption Day tomorrow!  Enjoy listening to Rise and Shine!

Washington, DC National Adoption Day Celebration, 2010

By Jim Barfield, (composed in support of National Adoption Day) copyright 2011

With the stroke of a pen,
A new family begins,
And it’s true beauty,
Will never end,
Rise and shine, rise and shine,
Sweet child of mine,
Rise and shine,
Rise above the things,
That pull you down,
And shine through the blindness,
That’s all around,
Rise and shine, rise and shine,
Sweet child of mine,
Rise and shine,
Rise above wrong turns in every road,
Shine your light straight from your soul,
Rise and shine, rise and shine,
Sweet child of mine,
Rise and shine,
(Bridge) I want you to know – I’m here to stay – I’m right beside you – each step of the way.
With open hands – and open heart – I will cherish each moment – doing my part,
(so you can) Rise and shine, rise and shine,
Sweet child of mine, rise and shine.

Celebrate National Adoption Month

Today is the first day of National Adoption Month.  Throughout the month, policymakers, social workers, adoption advocates, and families will be coming together to raise awareness about the 107,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted.  The Administration for Children and Families has a portion of their site devoted to information about National Adoption Month.

In a few short weeks, nearly 400 communities across the country will be hosting events on Saturday, November 19th in celebration of National Adoption Day.  These events are not only a special occasion for nearly 5,000 children that will be adopted during these events, but also is a way the community can come out to support families and learn about how to get involved in the life of a child in foster care.

These children need your help.  They are at risk for languishing in foster care for years not knowing the love and security of a family and never having their full potential realized because no one is encouraging or supporting them.

Please consider promoting National Adoption Day (NAD) in the following ways:

  • Encourage Elected Government Officials to support NAD.  Reach out to officials on the local, state, and federal level to encourage them to attend an event, issue a press release, write an op ed, issue a proclamation, or blog or tweet about NAD.  Call their office or send an email referring them to visit for resources.
  • Engage the Media and Local Business.  Reach out to your local event planner and ask them if they need help inviting the local media, asking businesses to donate goods to the event, or ask faith-based organizations to promote this event.
  • Write, Blog, Facebook, or Tweet about NAD.  Encourage others in your community to get involved, and be sure to link to @natadoptionday and use the hashtag #nationaladoptionday.
  • Impact the Life of a Child.  Reach out to local government and non-profit agencies in your area to get more information about how to mentor a child, become a Court Appointed Special Advocate, provide respite care for children, become a foster parent, or adopt a child in need of a family.  Click here for more information.

The most wonderful time of the year

The most wonderful time of the year–no, not the holiday season–but National Adoption Month is drawing to a close.  I wanted to use this last Adoption Month post to draw attention to activities that have been taking place this month since my first post on this topic.  I’m excited to share many new activities were started this year, and will hopefully continue to grow in the future to accomplish our shared vision of a family for every child.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commemorated National Adoption Month through a video message in which she highlighted that over the past decade 200,000 children have been adopted internationally.  Secretary Clinton shared that the U.S. Department of State is committed to safeguarding the interests of children, birth parents, and adoptive parents worldwide.  As evidence to this commitment, Secretary Clinton announced early this year the appointment of Ambassador Susan Jacobs as Special Advisor for International Children’s Issues who works to ensure the child’s best interest is the heart of every international adoption.

The global media company Clear Channel celebrated National Adoption Month in conjunction with the Heart Gallery NYC by broadcasting pictures of children waiting in foster care to be adopted on a Times Square screen.  Thousands of New York City residents and visitors learned about the need for adoption.

Tampa Bay Rays’ right-hander, James Shields, along with his wife Ryane are committed to helping children in foster care find homes.  The Shields have worked with the Tampa Bay Heart Gallery for a few years now, recording PSAs and most recently holding a blown-up picture of one of the boys waiting to be adopted on the field.

Voice for Adoption launched their Adoptive Family Portrait Project during an event on Capitol Hill.  During November, Members of Congress display constituent family photos in their DC office in order to raise awareness about foster care adoption.

Joint Council dedicated posts each day on their blog to share one successful adoption story, one unsuccessful adoption story, and one action that individuals can do to help children’s welfare domestically around the world.

Do you know of other unique National Adoption Month activities?  Be sure to comment in order to share information about the great work taking place on behalf of this effort!