It’s no secret around here that summer is one of the most exciting and favorite times for CCAI. With our programs in full swing, and almost as many interns as staff members, there’s a certain energy in the office that cannot be matched.
Now, those of us in DC are finally putting away our winter coats, driving around with our windows rolled down, and anxiously awaiting the cherry blossoms‘ peak bloom. But we think what’s even more exciting is that in just 2 months the 2010 FYI Class will be ascending on DC to start this year’s FYI program.
Just earlier this week one of our FYIs from last summer called the office. We’re privileged to not only share a life-changing summer with these interns, but to also be included in their lives months and years after they return to their homes. John Paul said something to us so touching that I asked him if I could share his thoughts. I believe his words are powerful and speak to the influence of the FYI program much better than any CCAI staff member ever could. John Paul said,
‘When I came to the FYI program, it was different. I had never experienced a program for former foster youth that treated us like capable adults or expected us to be able to surpass our peers. Chelsea, Emily, Mark, Rebecca, and Kathleen pushed us and encouraged us when times got hard. My supervisor from last summer and I still talk to each other and have lunch together when I visit DC. During the FYI program, I learned so much about myself and my abilities that I have been able to push pass the fear that I might not be good enough for the real world. Every time things start to get hard or I start doubting that I can do something, I just remember the experiences I had with the FYI program and how I could do things I never thought I’d be able to do. I got the opportunity to do something that so few people my age get to do, let alone former foster youth. Without the FYI program, I know that I would never be aware that I could be as good as anyone else, if not better.’
Please continue to check back as we continue to prepare for the arrival of 12 extraordinary students who will soon be making their way to DC to forever impact the lives of foster children as they too are forever changed.
Since November of 2009, millions of Americans have been flocking to the theater to see the Blind Side, a movie based on the inspiring real life story of NFL Player, Michael Oher, and his adoptive parents, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy. We were all thrilled to see the movies’ incredible success culminate last week in leading lady, Sandra Bullock’s, receipt of an Oscar for her portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy. Last September, CCAI had the great privilege of honoring Sean and Leigh Anne as one of three 2009 Angels in Adoption. Having had the honor of spending two days with these real life heroes, I can say that the movie is but a glimpse of the incredible people that they both are.
The morning after the Oscars, Leigh Anne sat down with the Today show to discuss her reaction to “Sandy’s” big win. Leigh Anne puts into terms what we all know to be true. First, that we as a country cannot afford to continue and sit by while tens of thousands of children age out of a foster care system without ever having the promise of a permanent, loving family fulfilled. As she so beautifully puts it, in doing so, we are taking the risk that the man or woman with the ability to cure cancer will instead get lost in a life on the streets. And her second point is equally powerful. Making a difference in the lives of children in foster care is something we can all do something about. Some of us may feel called to be a foster or adoptive parent to these youth. Others may feel called to mentor them. And others still may choose to use their voice to speak out on their behalf. Whatever our calling might be, the important thing is that we step up and answer it.
It is my sincere hope that we have yet to see the real impact this movie has had on the minds and hearts of Americans. It is my fervent prayer that the message of this movie inspires Americans to learn how they might make a difference in the life of a young person like Michael. And in the meantime, CCAI will continue to use its voice to speak out for these amazing young people and the impact that having a loving family can have on their lives.
Now that many of the cameras have left Haiti and we’ve viewed the last footage as the heroic volunteers pull from the rubble, we must now refocus our attention on the good people who remained to set about the daunting and important work of “rebuilding” a nation. Our work initially after the earthquake was to work with Members of Congress, the State Department, and USCIS to finalize adoptions and process visas of children who were just weeks and a final signature away from coming home permanently to their forever families.
In an earlier post, our Executive Director, Kathleen Strottman, shared her views on the need to not merely rebuild the child welfare system that existed in Haiti prior to the earthquake, but to take this opportunity to build a better child welfare system, taking lessons learned from other disasters, such as the 2004 tsunami. Just last week we released our CCAI Position Statement on the Orphan Needs in Haiti. In this statement, we call on U.S. and international officials to observe the principle that the optimal setting for a child to be raised is in a family, among other principles.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper reported last month a story entitled, “Haitians Want Orphans to Stay”. What is so disappointing about this video
is that it shows how people continue to fail to see that it is not only food and walls that are required for children to survive and thrive, it is the love and support from a family. While orphanages are meant to meet the basic needs of children, there are some needs that only families can provide–that sense of security and constant love that every child will continue to need well beyond childhood and into adulthood. This is why we are continuing to fight for the children of Haiti, as well as children in the U.S. and around the world, to have their basic right to a family finally met.
I wanted to highlight 2 upcoming adoption-related conferences that you might be interested in attending.
Joint Council on International Children’s Services is hosting their annual conference on March 17th-20th in Baltimore, MD. This would be a good place for anyone interested in international adoption to get information about the process! The also offer workshops and Continuing Education credits. Here is a link to their website. As part of the agenda this year, they will be having an Adult Adoptee and Adoptive Family Day on Saturday, March 20th. There will be a track for international adoptees over 15+ years of age, as well as post-adoptive and pre-adoptive parent tracks.
Also coming up is the Center for Adoption Policy’s Annual Adoption Law and Policy Conference. This will take place at the New York Law School on Friday, March 5th. Their keynote speaker, Dr. Charles Nelson, will speak about Deficits, Intervention and Recovery after Severe Social Neglect in Romanian Orphans. View the agenda and register, or you can visit their website.
Please feel free to comment to add information about other adoption conferences, or to share feedback if you’ve attended previous conferences from JCICS or CAP.
We are glad you have taken the time to visit our blog and learn more about our efforts on behalf of the millions of children around the world in need of permanent, safe and loving homes. Whatever your need or interest, we invite you to join us in our work to remove the barriers that hinder children from realizing their basic right to a family.
At CCAI we believe that there is no such thing as an unwanted child, merely unfound families. Working together we can make the dream of a family a reality for every child.
We hope to use this blog to update the public on what the organization has been doing and solicit feedback from those interested in our work.