National Adoption Day Celebrated By Hundreds of Courts Nationwide in its 12th Year

November 1, 2011

[Note: This entry posted on behalf of Cynthia J. Billey, Esq., National Adoption Day Coalition Events Coordinator; Director, Foster Children's Adoption Project, The Alliance for Children's Rights.]

Every day in America, children who entered the foster care system as victims of abuse or neglect become available for adoption. Most will wait at least three years before being adopted.  Sadly, one in five children will “age out” of foster care without ever being adopted into a family. According to AFCARS FY 2010 data, there are approximately 408,000 children and youth in foster care, and of these children and youth, 107,000 are legally freed for adoption and currently waiting for a family.

In the face of such daunting statistics, there is something you can do to make a difference in the lives of these children in need of homes. On November 19, 2011, judges, adoption professionals, volunteer lawyers, child advocates, children and parents in hundreds of communities across the country will come together to celebrate the 12thannual National Adoption Day. In addition to finalizing the adoptions of thousands of children from foster care, these courts, agencies and communities will work to raise awareness of the 107,000 children who are still waiting for their forever family. Since its inception in 2000, more than 35,000 children have been adopted from foster care as a part of National Adoption Day celebrations held in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

As a member of the National Adoption Day Coalition, I would like to encourage you to become a part of this important national effort by taking the lead in planning a National Adoption Day event in your jurisdiction. The NCJFCJ and its members have been critical to the success of National Adoption Day. It was the Model Court in Los Angeles, under the leadership of Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Michael Nash that developed the groundbreaking “Adoption Saturday” program that became the model for National Adoption Day when, in 2000, the National Adoption Day Coalition envisioned a single day each year – the Saturday before Thanksgiving – on which courts in all jurisdictions would open their doors just to finalize and celebrate foster care adoptions. Nine jurisdictions participated in the first-ever National Adoption Day in 2000 – Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Los Angeles, New YorkCity, Omaha, and Washington, D.C. Since then, nearly all the Model Courts along with hundreds of other courts in jurisdictions from coast-to-coast have participated in National Adoption Day.*

Many states, such as Texas, Florida, California, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Washington, have taken the challenge to involve as many counties as possible within their states to celebrate National Adoption Day. Last year, for example, Texas organized National Adoption Day events in 44 counties and over 730 adoptions were finalized, accounting for 15% of all the adoptions that took place on National Adoption Day. Massachusetts, through the collaborative efforts of the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange, the Department of Children and Families, and the Juvenile and Probate and Family Court Departments of the Massachusetts Trial Courts, organized National Adoption Day events in six courthouses from Springfield to Boston, Salem to Brockton. Governor Deval Patrick greeted the families at the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse in Boston and offered a warm “Welcome Home” to the 148 children being adopted into 115 different families in the six courthouses that day.

Last year, judges all across the country were moved and inspired by National Adoption Day events.  In Rockford, Illinois, the Seventeenth Circuit Court celebrated its 7th annual National Adoption Day celebration at the Winnebago County Criminal Justice Center. Chief Judge Janet Holmgren said, “It is a very special privilege to be able to play a role in creating permanent, loving homes for the children and families involved in National Adoption Day.  The stories behind the adoptions are very personal and moving and it truly is a day of celebration. Today, 18 children from our community were adopted and are now permanently united with loving and caring families. Their future is bright and full of hope.” In New Brunswick, New Jersey, Surrogate Kevin Hoagland, whose office facilitates the adoption process in Middlesex County, said “We are very happy to participate in this national event. Today, 23 children were adopted; 16 families were created or expanded. It’s a happy day, and we’re hoping that by highlighting the process, we are opening doors for many other families to be formed.” Superior Court Judge Travis Francis, the assignment judge in Middlesex County called NAD “the happiest day of the year in the courthouse.” The Clinton County Family Court in St. Johns, Michigan celebrated their 8th annual Michigan Adoption Day with eight adoptions finalized during the special ceremony. “This year we could have had so many (adoptions) to finalize on Adoption Day,” said Judge Lisa Sullivan. “We actually had people call to say they would like to reaffirm their adoptions. The enthusiasm has been building the past few years.” And in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where 24 children were adopted in the Pottawattamie County Courthouse Saturday morning, one family described the day as “crazy, exciting, emotional, overwhelming, and awesome.” Judge William Owens of the 8th Judicial District inIowa said that eight children were adopted in Wapello County on their National Adoption Day.  “I think [this day] publicizes for people the importance of adoption, it also publicizes how many kids are actually out there waiting to be adopted who are in foster care, that really need the safety and permanency that a home can bring them,” Judge Owens said.

In Syracuse, New York, the ringing of brass bells (as a judge completed an individual adoption) and applause and cheers could be heard throughout the morning at the On Center as 51 children were adopted during the 11th annual NAD ceremony. All of Onondaga County’s Family Court judges along with judges from Oneida, Oswego and Cayuga counties presided over the adoptions. Supreme Court judge and former Onondaga County Family Court Judge Martha Walsh Hood has been the driving force behind the local Adoption Day ceremonies since they began there 11 years ago. Syracuse’s NAD ceremony had previously taken place at the Onondaga County Courthouse, but was moved to the ballroom of the On Center to accommodate the crowds. As one of the first cities to host an NAD ceremony, Syracuse boasts a long record of participation in the event. “We have a very activist Family Court, and when we heard about this opportunity, we jumped on board,” said Judge Walsh Hood. “This is an excellent way to raise awareness of the fact that November is National Adoption month, that there close to a half million children in foster care with over 100,000 awaiting adoption and that there are almost 500 in Onondaga County.” Walsh Hood said the event is significant, particularly this time of year, because it emphasizes the importance of family. “Having someone to take care of you, someone who’s there for you, it’s a basic human need,” she said. “Unfortunately there are so many people who don’t have that. But National Adoption Day is nice because it connects people and fills that need. It makes all of us thankful for what we have.” Said King County Superior Court Judge Dean Lum, Chairman of the Washington State National Adoption Day Steering Committee, who was himself an adopted child, “The profound and positive impact of adoption on the life of a foster child can’t be over-stated. Children who suffer the loss of their parents find a new foundation of love and support through adoption, and that foundation provides them a solid base throughout their lives.”

Organizing a National Adoption Day event in your court and community is surprisingly simple – the local child welfare agency identifies foster children whose adoptions are ready for finalization; attorneys volunteer their time to prepare the legal paperwork for adoptive parents; judges open their courts on National Adoption Day to finalize the adoptions; and the court, adoption agencies, CASA, bar associations and other community groups collaborate to make the event a special celebration for children and adoptive families. Courtrooms are decorated with balloons, arts and crafts or entertainment (such as face-painting, balloon-animal making or a clown) is provided for the children, the adopted children receive teddy bears or other gifts, and refreshments are served. Adoption hearings are often followed by a celebratory luncheon or cake and punch reception for adoptive families at the courthouse or other location. Beyond the courthouse, Adoption Day celebrations also have been held at local parks, the children’s museum, and the local aquarium. Other National Adoption Day events are organized around inviting all foster children whose adoptions were finalized in that jurisdiction in November or during the year and their adoptive families to a fun and special celebration! Watching a community come together to plan and support National Adoption Day is almost as rewarding as seeing the former foster children’s dreams of having a permanent family come true.

All the resources you need to plan and execute a successful National Adoption Day event can be obtained at the National Adoption Day Web site,www.nationaladoptionday.org/get-involved. 

One of the goals of National Adoption Day is to finalize and celebrate adoptions from foster care in as many communities as possible in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. This furthers the larger collective goal to raise public awareness of the needs of foster children in every community across the United States for a permanent, loving home. The more communities that participate in National Adoption Day, the more awareness we are raising collectively and the more we are increasing permanency for all children in foster care. You can help by officially registering your National Adoption Day event at www.nationaladoptionday.org/get-involved. Once registered, your event will appear on the NAD Website as part of a map of all communities in all 50 states participating in National Adoption Day.

The National Adoption Day Coalition can be of assistance as you plan an NAD event, including:

  • Online tool kits at www.nationaladoptionday.org/get-involved/tools-for-event-planners, including an event planning toolkit; a media toolkit including template press releases, fact sheets, etc.; template letters to involve government, businesses and faith-based organizations; and a toolkit for companies to support NAD events and adoption awareness.
  • A complimentary NAD 18×24” banner when you register your event atwww.nationaladoptionday.org.
  • An Order Form to purchase Fiesta® teddy bears at a discounted price for the children being adopted at your event.  The cost is $2.25 a bear, payable by check or money order to Fiesta® when you order the bears. You may download Order Form when you register your event.
  • NAD logo merchandise such as banners, balloons, mugs, pens, bags, shirts, stickers, etc. may be purchased at a discounted cost. When you register your NAD event, you will be steered to a separate website (www.elkpromotions.com/nationaladoptionday/) to order the discounted items.
  • Artwork to download at www.nationaladoptionday.org to print logos/posters/flyers for your event.
  • Information about your event listed on www.nationaladoptionday.org and in national press materials.

National Adoption Day is organized locally by courts, child welfare agencies and private agencies or other community partners such as CASA and bar associations, and is led by a Coalition of organizations dedicated to improving the lives of children – The Alliance for Children’s Rights, Children’s Action Network, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, and Freddie Mac Foundation.

For assistance planning your event, you may contact National Adoption Day Event Coordinator, Cynthia Billey, at (213) 368-6010 or c.billey@kids-alliance.org. For assistance involving your local Members of Congress in your event, contact Emily Collins at (202) 544-8500 or Emily@ccainsistute.org. For media relations, contact Dace de la Foret at (614) 224-8114 or delaforet@paulwerth.com.

I hope your court and jurisdiction will join us in making this year’s National Adoption Day the best ever. Please post a comment to this blog and let us know what you are planning this year or your thoughts about your past participation in National Adoption Day!

*Albuquerque, Alexandria, Anchorage, Atlanta, Bangor, Billings, Brighton, Baltimore, Boston, Camden, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Colorado Springs, Concord, Denver, Des Moines, Detroit, Fargo, Fort Wayne, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Louisville, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Newark, New Orleans, Oakland, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Providence, Reno, Rockford, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa, Toledo, Tucson, Upstate New York (e.g., Syracuse, Rochester, Ithaca), West Palm Beach, Wichita and many more.

 

     

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