|AAC Established 1978 www.americanadoptioncongress.org September/October, 2009|
ANALYSIS OF SURVEY
REVEALS MEMBERS' VISION
FOR THE AAC'S FUTURE
We would like to extend a heartfelt "Thank You!" to all of you who took the survey, and who forwarded it to key players. The 2009 AAC ‘Perspectives’ survey was an opportunity to check in both with the membership and people whose interests closely resemble our own, and with whom we often work alongside.
Now that 247 responses have been thoughtfully compiled and analyzed, one thing is clear: the AAC is a unique organization. We consist of people touched by adoption in all sorts of ways. While, overall, there is more involvement on the part of adoptees, there is a sizeable number of birthparents, and a recent increase in involvement by both adoptive parents and adoption professionals.
Many people indicated they were interested in volunteering in some capacity. As an all-volunteer organization, we look forward to welcoming these folks, and greatly appreciate their support. The work that the AAC does simply would not be possible without dedicated volunteers.
But, what really sets us apart from many other nonprofit organizations, especially those inclusive of such a wide variety of people from all across the country, is the level of personal healing and support our members seek and find within the organization. Many of you eloquently pointed out the value and meaning you find in being surrounded by others with shared experiences. You also told us you consider influencing adoption reform legislation at the local, national, and provincial levels to be equally important.
Legislative reform is a major issue for our membership and our organization. We concluded from some comments that the board must do a better job of communicating to you about our advocacy efforts. The AAC lends expertise, financial support and advice when asked by state and provincial organizations throughout the year, as well as providing support for public education about the need for adoption reform.
Survey responses confirmed that conference discounts constituted a major reason for people to join the AAC. The biggest barriers to conference attendance are cost and length of our annual conference. To address this, the AAC plans to hold two shortened and less costly conferences in 2010: one in the spring, in Sacramento, California; and one in the fall of 2010, on the East Coast. The AAC website will contain updates as we firm up our plans.
Finally, the board is examining ways to support and advocate for members from around the country and in Canada. We are investigating high-tech, instantaneous communications strategies to disseminate information among members, and to create broadened public understanding for anyone interested in our mission.
Where do we go from here? Those of you who indicated you would be open to contact from the Board of Directors, a board member will be connecting with you in the next few weeks, to discuss any further ideas you might have about the AAC. In the coming months, and years, the AAC will continue to provide you with up-to-date legislative information and guidance, and provide opportunities for you to connect with others who share your understanding of the adoption experience. We hope you will continue to check in with us, and let us know how we are doing as the organization grows.
Thank you again, not only for participating in the survey, but also for your patience as we worked through some technical glitches inherent in web-based surveys. Your feedback and participation were greatly appreciated. We are thrilled to see so much investment in the AAC’s future!
Katy Perkins, Chair
AAC's Membership Development
THE AAC'S VIDEO PROJECT:
Real Stories, Real People, Real Ideas
By Wendy Rowney
AAC Education Chair and Canadian Liaison
Truth. Recognition. Connection. Family.
These are important concepts in adoption. The search to find them, or to ensure others understand what they mean to us, permeates our daily lives and influences the way in which many of us see the world.
As an adoptee, I know first hand that adoptees need to know the truth about our origins, and that our parents need to know the truth about where we ended up or started out. Birth mothers need recognition that surrendering a child to adoption often was not a choice, and adoptees need recognition and understanding for their dual identitIes. Connection (and loss) occur at the time of adoption, and another connection occurs when a reunion takes place; we all need these connections and losses to be recognized and accepted. For those of us living adoption, family can become a fluid term, and can grow to encompass both those with whom we have lived and loved, and those with whom we have a genetic connection. All of these family connections are valid and meaningful.
When the AAC’s Education Committee set out to make short videos on adoption truths, we did not plan on having these concepts at the centre of four videos. We had no idea the videos would be about concepts rather than about people, or rather about positions in the triad. We had intended to make three short videos: one would focus on adoptees; another on birth parents; and, the third video would focus on adoptive families. Their purpose would be to educate the general public about adoption and our lived experience. Our goal was to show these videos on YouTube where, we hoped, people outside the adoption community would see them and understand our truths a little better.
We began the process in the spring of 2008 by asking AAC members to share with us both photos of themselves and their thoughts on adoption and reunion. Photos began arriving in my mailbox from people whom I had never met, and who lived a continent away from me. Strangers, unaffiliated with the AAC, wrote to me asking if they could participate in the project; they had heard of the videos and wanted to tell their stories and have their voices heard. People shared their thoughts on reunion, identity, loss, and all of the jumbled ideas and emotions that are tied up in adoption.
I began the sorting process. I made three piles of photos, for three videos: adoptees, birth parents, adoptive families. But the photos refused to stay in the piles in which I had placed them. Adoptees appeared with their birth parents on the day when they had reconnected, and with their adoptive families on the day they had arrived in their new homes. There were casual shots of families, both by birth and adoption, relaxed and informal. There were more formal shots taken on the reunion day, two people standing stiffly together staring at the camera, and then the same two people some time later, relaxed and at ease. There were pictures of babies and children, of pregnant women and young women who, with pain visible in their eyes, had recently surrendered a child. There were smiling blended families, brought together through adoption reunion, at baby showers and weddings.
The photos simply refused to cooperate with me by remaining in the three stacks I had created for them.
And so I realized we didn’t have three videos focusing on clear-cut issues. We had four stories that needed telling, and these stories were not really about the individual members of the triad. The stories were about four ideas that suffused everything people had written to me and appeared in so many of the pictures I had received. These stories were about truth, recognition, connection, and family.
Since the videos were meant to be short, naturally I had to create a simple plot line to hold each of them together. We could not explore any of these ideas in depth and from every point of view or, like the Energizer Bunny, they would go on and on and on and on. I needed to try and link each concept with a simple plot line that could unfold and be explored in just a few minutes.
For the first video, I took phrases and ideas that people had sent to me. With their words, I created a reflective piece that highlighted why adoptees needed to know the truth about their origins. In the second video, I combined elements from several women’s stories to tell a fictional account of a young woman who had surrendered her child to adoption, had never forgotten her, and who longed to find her adult daughter. Her understandable need to have both her story and her motherhood recognized was the motivation behind this piece. The third video once again used phrases people had sent to me to explore the connections adoptees and their parents by birth felt when they reunited. The final video was told from the viewpoint of an adoptive mother, as she reflected on the meaning of family in the wake of her daughter’s reunion.
Each video used photos sent to us. The faces of adoptees and their family members demonstrate, I hope, that both adoption and reunion have an impact on real, ordinary people.
You may go to YouTube right now and watch the first two videos. You can find them by following these two links:
Adoption and Truth:
Birthmothers Never Forget:
I hope you like these videos. As I write this article, the second group of videos is nearing completion; I hope they will also appear on YouTube early in the fall. Please watch for future editions of the Beacon, for links to the two videos still in production.
Please share all four videos with others, so we can all help people come to understand that those of us in the adoption community need to know the truth about ourselves, have this truth recognized, find connections with family members, and watch our families grow within these new connections. Truth, recognition, connection, and family.
AAC BOARD MEMBER IN ATTENDANCE
AT MARCH FOR ADOPTEES' RIGHTS
By Macy Oosthuizen
Mid-Atlantic Regional Director
Overall, the event was a good one, although, I am sure the weather kept some away. It was a rainy, soggy, and steamy day. The event was very well organized by the folks from www.adopteerights.net. I was very impressed with their professionalism, materials and energy. The event was meant to coincide with the National Conference of State Legislatures, www.NCSL.org.
We marched through the streets of Philly shouting, “You’ve got yours…we want ours.” We got tons of honks and claps from people on the street. It was very, very respectful, but definitely marching for a cause. We finished the march at the convention center, where the NCSL was being held. We continued to mill in front of the two entrances/exits of the convention center. All legislators and staff of legislators were wearing tags showing their name and state, so we would personalize our approach to those in states without OBC bills. Those legislators from states with OBC bills, we asked if they could give ten minutes of their time and talk with someone from one of the other states.
Most people were courteous to us and took our flyers. Others were completely dismissive, and yet still others would stop and listen to what we had to say. Adopted adult and former state senator Paula Benoit from Maine was inside, at the Adoptee Rights booth, trying to chat up folks on the inside. Next year, the NCSL conference will be held in Louisville, Kentucky, on July 25-29, 2010.
Organizers of the march: www.adopteerights.net
Legislators' conference: www.NCSL.org
Macy Oosthuizen’s photos and videos of the event:
Adoption Network Cleveland
Receives Federal Adoption
By Linda Schellentrager
Adoption Network Cleveland
CLEVELAND, Ohio – The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) chose Adoption Network Cleveland to be among the 16 recipients of its Adoption Excellence Award for 2009. The award was presented to Betsie Norris, executive director and founder of Adoption Network Cleveland, at the HHS’ awards ceremony in Arlington, Virginia on August 4, 2009.
Adoption Network Cleveland holds an organizational membership in the AAC. Earlier this year, Adoption Network Cleveland and the AAC co-sponsored a national conference in Cleveland.
The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) established the Adoption Excellence Awards program in 1997, to recognize outstanding accomplishments in achieving permanency for America’s children waiting in foster care. Adoption Network Cleveland is a recipient of the award in the category, “Adoption of Minority Children from Foster Care.” The award recognizes the extraordinary contributions Adoption Network Cleveland has made in providing adoption and other permanency outcomes for minority children in foster care. African-American children continue to be disproportionately represented in the public child welfare system and, as a result, are a primary focus of placement efforts.
In 2002, Cuyahoga County, Ohio was faced with an unacceptable number of children in permanent custody of the child welfare system waiting for adoption – 1,700. Today, that number is 647, thanks in part to the efforts of Adoption Network Cleveland, which was selected in 2003 to lead an initiative, named Adopt Cuyahoga’s Kids. This initiative brought together 14 public and private adoption agencies to work in a collaborative versus competitive atmosphere with the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services.
The heart of Adopt Cuyahoga’s Kids is Child Centered Recruitment (CCR), a new methodology developed by Adoption Network Cleveland, known in the community as ‘Child Centered Recruitment by ANCsm.’ CCR’s methods are used with those most at risk of “aging out” of the foster system without a permanent family. Youth with a CCR worker have a voice in the adoption process, and their background is researched for connections that can possibly be re-established. Adoption is no longer something that happens to the child; instead it is a journey where the child now feels included.
This method of recruitment of parents for African-American youth has proved to be highly successful, compared to traditional methods. One component of the initiative focused on a group of 780 young people who were most at risk of aging out. Of those 780 young people, 78% were African-Americans. Using CCR, 84% of them were placed in permanent homes with African Americans. By contrast, with traditional methods, only 64% of African American youth were placed were African Americans. CCR methods also resulted in doubling the initiative’s original three-year goal of finding loving homes for 165 youth, by finding homes for 332 young people.
CCR’s methods have not only been proven to help deal with disproportionality in the child welfare system, these methods also saved money. For every dollar spent on adoption of youth from foster care, CCR saved three dollars in other costs.
ABOUT ADOPTION NETWORK CLEVELAND
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The American Adoption Congress comprises individuals, families and organizations committed to adoption reform. We represent those whose lives are touched by adoption or other loss of family continuity. We promote honesty, openness and respect for family connections in adoption, foster care, and assisted reproduction. We provide education for our members and professional communities about the lifelong process of adoption. We advocate legislation that will grant every individual access to information about his or her family and heritage.
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