What a way to start the morning! I am so excited to be part of this event. I was welcomed by some amazing individuals and found a great table to join, full of individuals who were so welcoming and full of information.
Let me tell you where I am at – I am attending the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Summit being held at the Hilton Columbus at Easton. This is a three day Summit that focuses on finding forever families for children in foster care.
We were welcomed by Angela Marshall, Director, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids. She gave us such a warm welcome and set the day up for us in regards to what we will learn. There was a wonderful Native American blessing done by Liz Ashling (New Mexico Recruiter) followed by a message from Rita Soronen, President & CEO, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.
We heard from Senator Mary Landrieu and then the Director of Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), Michael Colbert.
We heard about how there are so many children in need of adoption, and it isn’t all babies, there are so many ranging in age from 9 to 17 and are in foster care environments and need homes. There are children with disabilities, learning problems and behavioral issues who are in need of homes and not just a foster home, a permanent home and to be adopted.
The Keynote was given by Terry Cross, Executive Director, National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA). He shared how individuals can develop professional cultural competence in adoption. It was really interesting to see how different things are on the Indian Reservations and in the Native American culture.
General Session then started and the topic was how to work effectively with child’s network and child welfare jurisdiction. The panelists were Kevin Campbell, Author of the Family Finding Model and Expert Consultant/Trainer for the National Institute for Permanent Family Connectedness (NIPFC) at Seneca Family of Agencies, Dr. Greg Manning, clinical psychologist, Judge David M. Gooding, Duval County Dependency Model Court, Fourth Judicial Circuit, State of Florida, Loris Hord, Treatment Foster Parent, The Buckeye Ranch and Kelly Gruber, Training Manager, Institute for Human Services.
I was enlightened by Robin Campbell who sat next to me about Parental Right Termination and how each state is different when it comes to recruiting for a new permanent family. In my opinion it is really frustrating viewing this vicious circle from the outside. I was unaware that if parental rights are terminated that it means children can never be in touch with them again, which then can turn a child into a liar, or a runaway because they want nothing more than to have some kind of interaction with their birth parents and their birth parents families (aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins). How can they system change to work with extended family as well to find a home for the child instead of always going outside of the circle they are familiar with?
I also found it interesting that each state has different ways of handling adoption and when adoption recruitment is allowed to start taking place. If you know a child is going to be put into the “system” and become adopted, why not start looking immediately vs waiting to find that forever family for the children.
The general session was great. It was full of experts sharing stories and how we can get individuals to work together and how to be proactive and make things happen.
Lois shared with us this quote:
One hundred years from now,
It won’t matter what car I drove,
What kind of house I lived in,
How much I had in my bank account,
Nor what my clothes looked like,
But, the world may be a little better
Because I was important in the life of a child.
Kelly shared with us this quote:
If You Want to Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want to Go Far, Go Together.
Judge Gooding was very adamant about sharing how meeting with families, training families, working with the families and especially the children is important for the judges as well as the entire child’s network. Him and his team has a three hour presentation on how to expedite adoptions. He encourages engagement with foster parents, as there is nobody who knows that child better.
He encourages agencies to use the media, the media is your friend. Meaning making sure that you hi-light children being adopted and the families that are adopting the children. He says it is about what you do everyday to find a permanent home for the children.
It was then Q & A time
(1) Working to find ways to involve judges and stopping the stigma of judges being social workers in black robes.
(2) As a foster parent it is important to communicate with the children and let them know that you will work on their issues with them instead of sending them off to someone else.
(3) The difference between a social worker and a recruiter is when the social worker feels the kids are “safe” and “sound” they do not actively work towards adoption. A recruiter comes out, gets to know the children and works towards adoption.
(4) Encourage your children to love “more than one mom” and that is okay (give permission) and explain to them what adoption is and how it is going to work.
(5) It is best in mental health to facilitate dialogue to see how you can push things to go along.
(6) Don’t always go with “dreaded stable placement” and instead work through/past that.
(7) What is permanency? Learn about it and what the most therapeutic model for the child is.
(8) Using foster families to recruit for a permanent/adoptive family.
- diagnosisim -
- Do not discount the need that children have for high quality health care, a permanent home can help establish that.
- Focus on child well-being and finding them forever families
- For mental health to invite and challenge all the communities our children are in to engage and assist in addressing the needs of not just the children, but their homes as well.
- Use the line “if we can bill for it, we will come”
- Get to know the recruiter as a person, so that when there are issues, they are addressed right away – almost along the lines of over-communicating.
- How often are you listened to? Make sure your voice and the children’s voices are heard, welcome them into your home, be honest and if you are unhappy with something, discuss it. Open the lines of communication.
- You can’t over-love a child. Every child is adoptable. They are important people.
- Permanency is the right of the child. Each person should walk away with it.
- Set the highest of expectations when working towards finding permanency for the children.
It is now time for lunch and then we will listen to Ambassador Susan Jacobs, Special Advisor for Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State and Pat O’Brien, Founder, You Gotta Believe!