Adoption Day Goal 11/22/12 11/22/12 1:04:00 PM
Printer Friendly Version
Trina Bridges celebrates with her new sons Braxton (in arms) and Brady.
By Lorraine Boyd
Adoption Day Goal: Communicate Need
For ‘Forever Homes’ for Foster Children
The Daily Record
There’s a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Day.
Seventy youngsters became official members of their “forever homes” last Saturday – National Adoption Saturday – in downtown Omaha when the families and friends descended on the Omaha Civic Center’s courtrooms. It is the 13th year for the ceremonies in Omaha.
Gov. Dave Heineman proclaimed November Adoption Awareness Month to spotlight children in foster care who are waiting to find permanent, loving families.
“Many Nebraskans look forward to spending the upcoming holidays renewing traditions with their family,” he said. “Meanwhile, children across our state in foster care won’t share these special days with a permanent, stable, loving family. I’m asking Nebraskans to consider adopting foster children and I want to thank the parents who have opened their hearts and homes to the children who are in the child welfare system. Adoptive parents are making a positive impact every day in the lives of the most vulnerable children in our state,” he said.
“I want to thank the parents who have opened their hearts and homes to the children who are in our child welfare system. Adoptive families are making a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable children in our state.
In 2012 in Nebraska, more than 200 foster children had been adopted prior to Saturday’s ceremonies, with another 130 expected to be adopted before the end of the year.
Beginning in L.A.
The Los Angeles Adoption Day Program started in 1997 as a partnership between The Alliance, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, the Department of Children and Family Services and Public Counsel Law Center. The innovative program began as a solution to the overwhelming number of foster child adoptions, which were stuck in a backlog.
The idea was simple: On four Saturdays throughout the year, attorneys, court staff and judges volunteer their time to complete hundreds of foster care adoptions in a single day. The backlog soon began to disappear, and the still-active program boasts the completion of over 20,000 adoptions to date.
“Each year nearly 30,000 children turn 18 without having forever families,” said Janis Spire, president and CEO of the Alliance for Children’s Rights, and member of the National Adoption Day Coalition. “Can you imagine living your entire childhood without a family? The longer children are in foster care, the more at risk they are of leaving foster care without being adopted. Every child deserves a nurturing family and a safe home.”
In 2000, The Alliance, with support from the Dave Thomas and Freddie Mac foundations, took this program to the next level as a founding partner of National Adoption Day.
Over the past 12 years, The Alliance and a coalition of NAD partners have led a grassroots awareness campaign to grow the program in more cities around the country. Nearly 40,000 children in foster care have been adopted thanks to the program.
Since 2007, all 50 states – as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam – have participated in National Adoption Day, with events held in nearly 400 cities. NAD now completes the adoptions of over 4,000 foster kids in a single day.
Home for the Holidays
Cynthia Billey has been at Alliance since the program’s inception. The attorney is director of the Foster Children’s Adoption Project there. She serves as the liaison between NAD and Omaha’s adoption day planners.
“The idea to open the courthouse on a Saturday was originally conceived to clear up a huge backlog in foster care adoptions in Los Angeles,” Billey said. “After seeing its success, we started talking to other jurisdictions about expanding the practice to other cities.
“With the support of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and Freddie Mac Foundation and other partners, we launched National Adoption Day, to be held on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.” The day was chosen in an effort to bring foster children home for the holidays.
“Omaha joined the cities of Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Dallas and El Paso, in participating in the first nine events. In the first year, around 2,000 adoptions were finalized on National Adoption Day.
“Juvenile Court Judge Wadie Thomas was on board from the beginning. And Omaha has been with us ever since. And Omaha has stayed with the original model, opening the Courthouse just to finalize adoptions.
“Not only is it important for its judicial actions, but for its celebration too. It is such a step forward to provide homes for these children.”
“Omaha and NAD are in a mutual admiration society,” Billey said. Omaha is “the model, still doing it the way it was envisioned. And now it has spread in Nebraska to Hastings, Norfolk and Lincoln (although Lincoln celebrates on December 1).” Council Bluffs also participates.
Billey noted that there are a lot of myths about children languishing in foster care and about the process of adopting them.
“Our ultimate goal for this day is to continue to raise awareness.”
The National Adoption Day Coalition survey found that the most significant obstacles to the adoption of teenagers from foster care are the personal dynamics of adults, including age, economic/housing issues, and the presence of children in the household.
“We have to get past the Ozzie and Harriet mold,” Billey said. Children in foster care are adopted by three types of families: former foster parents (53 percent), relatives (32 percent) and non-relatives (15 percent). Of those families, 67 percent are married couples, 28 percent are single females, 3 percent are single males, and 2 percent are unmarried couples.
Take Trina Bridges, for example.
The single Omahan, the daughter of an adoptee, began fostering newborn Brady in 2008. In 2010, still fostering Brady, she brought home another newborn, Braxton. It was instant love in both cases. November 17, 2012, became the most anticipated day in her life, when she would truly become the mother of these two little boys, now two and four (on November 20).
She described how her life has changed for Nebraska Families Collaborative: “I can compare it to looking out a window before, my life was good, and it was like a wonderful summer’s day. Since I have signed the petition and know it’s all going to be final, it’s like a spring filled day with a new breath of fresh air and colors that I never realized were there before.”
She urged others to consider adoption. “Take that step. Life is filled with opportunities to make a difference in not only your life, but in the life of a child. Even though you may feel as if you don’t have enough money, you can’t be a stay at home parent, or your home is perfect, to a child having a place to call home and a parent or parents who loves them for just being them, makes you their hero. Every child is a miracle and what a glorious opportunity we have to be a part of that miracle’s growth.”
Saturday, leaving Juvenile Court Judge Doug Johnson’s courtroom with two little pre-schoolers in tow, Bridges said they have made a difference in her life, “all for the good.”
Why foster, then adopt, the boys? “I wanted to make a difference in a child’s life.” And that it has, for everyone. “This Christmas is going to be amazing,” she said.
“And this Thanksgiving I have so much to be thankful for. My heart is overflowing with joy right now,” she said.