In celebration of National Adoption Month, Voice for Adoption (VFA) hosted its 17th annual Adoptive Family Portrait Project on November 10th, 2021. This year’s theme: 2021: Unresolved ACES – Access to mental health services and impacts it has on permanency. With a special thanks to VFA Communications Policy Associate intern, Derya Ozcan, and in collaboration with CWLA Public Policy Associate interns, Mykhail Helm, Lily Neuhaus, and Devon Longstreet, efforts of outreach to family’s district and state representatives brought together over 40 unique families with their representatives to share their stories and experiences in foster care and adoption. Hosted by VFA Executive Director, Schylar Baber, The Adoptive Family Portrait Project kicked off its event with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) giving a special statement to all adoptive families expressing his overwhelming support for foster care, kinship care, and adoption. Later, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), co-chair of the Congressional Adoption Caucus, offered remarks to the attendees.
The Ellis Family shared one of many heart-warming stories in which two siblings were able to remain united in a family. While the siblings have other family members with unknown whereabouts, the two are committed to reuniting with their birth siblings. With support from their adoptive family, an emphasis on keeping siblings together and finding permeance quickly is what is needed for remaining children in foster care.
Following the messages of the Ellis Family, Burke Wallace gave a message from The Birk Family: Diversity & Acceptance of LGTBQ Parents. Through many organizations, stigmas, and stereotypes against LGTBQIA+ often hinder parents apart of the community from adopting children. Many of which are required to hurdle barriers both legally and culturally, but families like the Gagné Family have been able to overcome these immense odds of adoption as a gay couple. Much like the Ellis family, the Gagné Family were able to adopt two siblings with other siblings still in foster care. Although the challenges have been great, the Gagné Family shows that LGBTQIA+ parents are ready and willing to support children in foster care and provide a safe and loving home for children that need it most.
After the sharing of adoptive family’s stories, VFA announced several recipients in the National Adoption Month award ceremony. Thanking the many advocates, legislators, and families that give children an opportunity of a healthy and permanent home. Foster care and adoption have a long road towards the betterment for youth, and each family contributes to the wellbeing of each child in foster care.
VFA’s Family Portrait Project is a signature event. VFA pairs families who have adopted a child from foster care or helped them find permanence with a Senator or Representative from their home state or district. Once paired, VFA helps each family develop the narrative for their journey to permanence and adoption. These stories include lessons learned, laughter and tears, love, and compassion. Each story also contains a request to Congress from the family. Usually, the event takes place live on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, but due to COVID-19, the 2020 & 2021 events were entirely virtual.
For more of adoptive family testimonies and stories see the link provided: https://voice-for-adoption.org/stories