Adoptions Together’s Statement on the Supreme Court’s Decision to Overturn Roe v. Wade

Supreme Court

 

Adoptions Together was founded on the principles of inclusivity, acceptance, and social justice. Although Friday’s Supreme Court decision was not a surprise, we are still trying to process the potential impact, and know there will be far reaching implications for women and children throughout our country. We also know the impact will be most significant for those who already lack access to resources and support. As an organization, we will continue to be guided by our core values that center the importance of family well-being, self-determination, and access to reproductive health services for all.

We remain committed to providing all-options counseling in response to an unintended pregnancy. All-options counseling includes unbiased, transparent information about parenting, abortion, and adoption. Adoptions Together will continue to provide case management services to help expectant parents feel equipped to manage the complexity of whatever path they pursue.

Leading up to this ruling, we have seen the commodification of children and the weaponization of adoption on all sides of this debate. We know that adoption can be a beautiful way to build a family, and we cannot ignore the loss, grief, and pain that often exists for all members of the adoption constellation. The decision to place a child for adoption has been painted as an easy solution to the lack of access to safe and legal reproductive health care. This narrative is false and dangerous and minimizes the lifelong impact that an adoption plan has on both birth parents and the children that they choose to place.

There is fear that this decision is the beginning of new laws and future Supreme Court decisions that will threaten voting rights, civil rights, protections for the LGBTQ+ community, and access to contraception. In the face of an ever-changing and uncertain landscape, Adoptions Together stands firm in our conviction to advocate for, value, and serve every child, every family, every step of the way.


Why I Give: Sheila Stinson

Donor Spotlight Graphic - Sheila Stinson

 

How did you first get involved with Adoptions Together?
I was introduced to Adoptions Together by Margo Devine, a good friend who knew I was interested in learning more about adoption and how I might be able to help.

What made you decide to give your first gift?
During my first meeting with Janice Goldwater, I felt her passion and devotion to adoptive children and families, learned more about the challenges all parties in the adoption process endure, and how Adoptions Together was helping. While I had considered becoming an adoptive parent at that time, I was not ready to take that step. However, I knew I wanted to contribute in some way so I decided to become a financial donor.

Why do you enjoy giving to this organization?
I am confident my gifts are being used to help children and adults come together to form families, and will help families and children overcome challenges that may arise in the years to come.

What inspires you about Adoptions Together?
Adoptions Together’s devotion and dedication to helping older youth in foster care.

What is your favorite program/service/etc to donate to?
I do not donate to any one program or service because I trust that my gifts will be used by Janice and her team efficiently and effectively for their highest priorities at the time.

What do you hope to accomplish through your philanthropy?
Providing much-needed resources to help connect families with children and create long-lasting families. It is really that simple.

What do you wish everyone knew about this cause?
Older youth in foster care are usually not the focus of adoption agencies because it is often “easier” to find parents for newborns or very young children. Janice and her team spend their time, talent, and resources on finding homes for older youth in foster care, which I believe is especially important. Adoptions Together is a unique organization and a treasure for our community.


Why I Give: Michele Bond

Donor Spotlight Graphic - Michele Bond

 

How did you first get involved with the organization?
During 40 years as a Foreign Service Officer I frequently had assignments that involved assisting U.S. families who were adopting foreign-born children. Similar to a neo-natal nurse, I was an expert about the challenges that can be involved with the process of completing an adoption, but knew much less about the families’ experiences after they brought their children home. I only knew that adoptions, and the urgency of encouraging and supporting adoptive families, was important to me. After I retired, a friend introduced me to Janice Goldwater and to Adoptions Together. I was deeply impressed with the breadth and range of services, including opportunities to celebrate and to share insights, that Adoptions Together offers to adoptive families at all ages and stages of life. The more I have learned, the more I have appreciated the importance of Adoptions Together’s commitment to be a trusted resource for families every step of the way, including after those children grow up and have families of their own.

What made you decide to give your first gift?
Every child deserves to grow up in a family. When a family is struggling, there should be resources to help see them through to a stronger foundation, or to help ensure a safe outcome for the children with a relative or in another loving home. I was honored to be asked to join Adoptions Together’s Board. The commitment, initiative, and energy of the staff and the Board inspired me to want to contribute my own “time, talent, and treasure” to that team effort.

Why do you enjoy giving to this organization?
Almost by definition, in my experience, adoptive families are also adaptive, resilient well-springs of positive energy. As a result, AT events like the annual family picnic, the golf event and Taste in Potomac are tremendous fun. We are friends, parents, a community working together to ensure all the children in our community have the resources, attention and loving support they need and deserve to thrive. I enjoy being part of the AT community and am proud of AT’s years-long record of effective, high-impact programs and careful use of resources.

What is your favorite program/service/etc to donate to?
Of all the great Adoptions Together initiatives, my favorite are the marvelous, innovative family finding programs which search for family members or friends whom children who have grown up in foster care may have lost touch with. All too often, these children leave the system entirely on their own, without having one single person whom they have known all their lives. So many moves, new schools, new placements, abrupt shifts…so Adoptions Together created a solution that has already changed the lives of an incredible amount of children. An expert team – including a former bounty hunter – with the permission of a teenager in foster care, reads each child’s file, identifies people who were at some point close to the child (relatives, teachers, neighbors, foster parents), tracks them down and explores the possibility that they might serve as mentors as the children head out into the world on their own. Almost without exception they have connected these young people with individuals who remember them as children and are willing to be a resource to them. What an incredible concept! I wish we could train teams for every city and community.

What do you hope to accomplish through your philanthropy?
I hope to equip Adoptions Together to reach more families and children who can benefit from their expertise and from connecting with other families. I also hope to enlist others to support Adoptions Together and contribute their energy to increasing the visibility and addressing the needs of vulnerable children.

If you were talking to someone else about giving to our organization, what would you tell them?
I would tell them Adoptions Together is an organization that strengthens every family in our community, not only those with adopted children. In addition to families, Adoptions Together works with social workers, hospital staff, teachers, and others to help them better address challenges that affect us all: living with disabilities, building self-esteem, blended and inter-racial families, life transitions.

What do you wish everyone knew about this cause?
If you are looking for ways to make a difference, here is an organization that is thoughtfully and purposefully working to move children from foster care to permanent loving homes and working to support families who have opened their homes to the most vulnerable children in our community.


A Statement on the War in Ukraine: Support for Adoptive Families

Transracial Adoptee Holding Hands with Mother

 

As the war in Ukraine intensifies, Adoptions Together is holding the Ukrainian people in our hearts and prayers. We are also thinking of those who live here in the United States and consider Ukraine or Russia as their homeland. As we witness the violence and devastation unfold in the news and in our social media feeds, we are acutely aware of the potential impact that these horrific events may be having on families who have adopted children from this region. The images and stories are deeply traumatic, and the suffering is palpable.

We know that children and adults who were adopted from Ukraine and Russia have a deep connection to their culture of origin. Many may be worrying about birth family who remain in their home countries, and others may be struggling with how to manage the growing anti-Russian sentiment that is being expressed in our country and throughout the world. Even for those of us who don’t have a personal connection to the region, the images of war and suffering can significantly impact our own mental health and the mental health of our loved ones.

For those supporting the ones who are hurting, we know that we can’t change the devastating consequences of the war in Ukraine. What we can do is remain attuned, aware, and available to our children, friends, and spouses as they experience the complexity of emotions being triggered by daily images of violence and terror in their homeland. We can lean into and initiate difficult conversations, answer questions and address concerns in a developmentally appropriate, direct way, validate and explore feelings and fears without judgment and minimization, and utilize our own networks of support so that we can be there for others.

Below are some resources that may be of interest, especially if you are supporting children and teens:

Talking with Children About War

Talking with Children about Ukraine

Adoptions Together will be hosting a Community Town Hall on March 16 as a forum of support for adoptive parents. For more information, click here.


Adoptions Together’s Response to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s February 21, 2022 Opinion

Transracial Adoptee Holding Hands with Mother

 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton recently issued an opinion classifying medically necessary gender-affirming care to youth as child abuse. AG Paxton’s statement stands in direct opposition to extensive scientific knowledge and the evidence-based care recognized by numerous professional societies, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, Endocrine Society, and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Adoptions Together holds the foundational principle that every child has the human right to healthcare responsive to their whole person, including their identity and their experiences. Age-appropriate medical care based on clear evidence that results in undeniably positive outcomes is not child abuse. We adamantly oppose and renounce any legal or legislative activity that would seek to deny a child’s access to necessary healthcare. Governor Abbot and AG Paxton’s directive has dire consequences for the children and youth it impacts and is an indefensible motion that goes beyond political discussion.

Transgender and nonbinary youth face an incredible amount of disproportionate discrimination, abuse, and violence leaving them in a vulnerable position to suffer higher rates of homelessness, suicide, child welfare involvement, and other negative outcomes with lifelong effects. Healthcare that intentionally meets their needs profoundly reduces these risks to their mental and physical health and social well-being. The AG’s statement effectively supports the invalidation and dehumanization of transgender and nonbinary youth in society that is at the root of these immense challenges, creating an environment even more difficult to grow up within.

As experts in trauma, relational psychology, and applied neuroscience, Adoptions Together recognizes that the best way to prevent negative outcomes is to treat the entire individual with care responsive to their specific needs. Healthcare systems should create spaces of healing and should be accessible to all. Children are the future of society and making life-saving healthcare inaccessible to children who are already vulnerable to disproportionate suffering due to their identity is a rejection of all that we stand for. Adoptions Together stands for legal and legislative actions that affirm our youth, prevent suffering, and support our most vulnerable populations at every stage of their life.

Click on the following for helpful resources:

  • Click here to learn more about gender-affirming healthcare.
  • Click here to learn more about gender inclusive & responsive healthcare systems.
  • Click here to learn more about what it means to be transgender or nonbinary.
  • Click here to learn how you can be an ally for transgender and nonbinary youth.

More Than a Black Square: Actions Matter (2022 Revisitation and Updates)

Transracial Adoptee Holding Hands with Mother

 

As we celebrated and reflected on Black History Month throughout the month of February, we’re revisiting last year’s blog post, “More Than a Black Square: Actions Matter.” In this post, we shared that a core goal of Adoptions Together is to address systemic racism and white supremacy through the services we deliver. It’s important to note that this is a pivotal focus of our organization year-round, not just in the month of February.

We put truth to these words through our actions. In honor of this year’s Black History Month, we’re reviewing the commitments we made last February and sharing honest feedback, recommitments, and new steps we’re taking in 2022 to address implicit or explicit racism and white supremacy in the child welfare system. Click through the information below to learn more.

Internal Initiatives and Community Building:

Diversity Committee:

  • 2021 Response ▽

    Adoptions Together’s Diversity Committee was formed in the fall of 2019 and officially started meeting in 2020. Beginning in June 2020, in addition to planning training opportunities and making policy recommendations, our Diversity Committee instituted monthly Brown Bag Zoom Lunches, creating a safe space for our staff members and contractors to come together to listen, learn, and have respectful, yet unapologetically frank conversations.

  • 2022 Update ▽

    Throughout the past year, we were thrilled that the Diversity and Inclusion Committee meetings became an opportunity for connection, growth, and productive discussion for our staff. In an effort to continue to learn based on feedback, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee is revamping and enhancing the meetings for 2022 as well as connecting with the staff on a more regular basis. One example of an initiative is sharing contributions of a specific culture and/or intersection of cultures each month. For February, the Committee shared information about successful, dynamic change makers in the Black community including Bayard Rustin, Brad Simms, and Ayana Elizabeth Johnson.

Stronger Together | Processing and Leading Social Change

  • 2021 Response ▽

    An initiative that began in January 2021 and includes weekly full staff dialogs to process personal feelings, create mutual understanding and support, and identify practice changes and new services that will enhance the impact of the agency. The well-being of our team is critical to our ability to provide optimal services and staying flexible and responsive to the needs of the community ensures that we are delivering the highest impact services possible.

  • 2022 Update ▽

    Started after the January 6 insurrection, the Stronger Together meetings were an excellent opportunity for empathetic check-ins with staff throughout much of 2021 as together we navigated the many difficult feelings that emerged.

Domestic Infant Placement Program Policy

  • 2022 Update ▽

    While race has always been at the forefront of our mission since our inception, over the past 2 years we have deepened our conversations and study regarding race and practice in our programs and as an agency at large. We listened to experiences from staff, people who were adopted interracially, families who adopted interracially, and clients and colleagues of color who bravely shared their own trauma. Additionally, we turned the lens to ourselves and to our practices to find ways that we could do a better job aligning our values with our policies.

    Specifically, in our Domestic Infant Program, we have identified ways that we can prioritize race when measuring the best interests of the children that we place for adoption. The voices of adoptees are consistently encouraging adoption professionals to place children in same-race families when possible. Their lived experiences and adoption reflections have emphasized the great importance of healthy racial and cultural self-identity and connection to birth culture. This can certainly be achieved by intentional, culturally competent, interracial adoptive parenting, but is most effectively achieved through placing children with a parent(s) that mirrors their racial and/or cultural background.

    As a result, Adoptions Together will be putting the highest value on race when making placement decisions for infants whose birth parents do not want to choose an adoptive family. In these circumstances, when possible, infants will be placed with the longest waiting family who has a matching profile and one or both adoptive parents is of the same race of the child. At the same time, we continue to support and celebrate interracial adoption and are committed to preparing prospective adoptive families to parent interracially as they are chosen by birth families.

Salary Transparency

  • 2022 Update ▽

    In alignment with our organizational commitment to equity, several salary-related changes began in 2022 including updates to our salary guidelines, standardizing salaries for existing staff, and posting accurate salary ranges for all positions moving forward. Between January 1, 2021 and January 1, 2022, we made market adjustments to 100% of the job classification bands and made corresponding adjustments to individual salaries to bring them in line. In 2022 we will update our performance review system to include a wider range of feedback and merit-based salary increases.

2023-2025 Strategic Plan

  • 2022 Update ▽

    2022 is the bridge year as we prepare our next strategic plan for years 2023-2025. SMARTIE Goals will be implemented, ensuring that we are infusing a DEI lens in creation of these pivotal goals for 2023-2025.

Trainings:

  • 2021 Trainings ▽
    • Janice Goldwater, Founder & CEO, participated in the six month Anti-Racist Leadership Series through Leadership Greater Washington; and serves as a working member of Achieving Race Equity in Child Welfare (Maryland state-wide workgroup).
    • Audra Hurd, Operations Director, attended the Sorkin Center at Compass’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Event that focused on what to consider and where to begin when developing culture, policies, and programs that support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within a nonprofit. Audra is also registered to attend a three-part Policy & Practice Training with the Human Rights Campaign’s All Children-All Families Project.
    • Adoptions Together has regular staff training and participated in the first of a series of all-staff Diversity & Inclusion Training, led by Kia Silver-Hodge, SPHR, CPEC, Coach and Inclusion Strategist.
    • Four members of our team are enrolled in the Helen J. Serini Foundation’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Training. This multi-part series focuses on helping organizations create and sustain more inclusive environments by changing their cultures and identifying how their policies, practices, and procedures unwittingly create barriers to inclusion and belonging.
    • Staff members are participating in the Adoption Exchange Association’s educational programming focused on race and equity in the child welfare system. Some sessions include Reducing Racial Disproportionality Among Waiting Youth in Need of Permanency and We Must Do Better For Children: Race and Equity in Foster Care and Adoption.
  • 2022 Trainings ▽
    • In October 2021, our team met for another All-Staff Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training with Kia Silver-Hodge, SPHR, CPEC, Coach and Inclusion Strategist and Beth Wheeler, LICSW, of Edges Education and Consulting, LLC. Last year’s session was led by thoughtful staff feedback collected anonymously and focused on discussion of our internal and external DEI practices, what progress has been made, and what we can do differently moving forward. It also focused on gaining a stronger understanding of gender, gender diversity, and how to continue providing inclusive care for individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+.
    • We will be working to ensure our DEI policies align with all staff levels and goals through additional consultant partnerships in 2022.
    • As an appointed member of the Maryland Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, Janice Goldwater serves as a member of the Achieving Racial Equity Workgroup that focuses on recommendations for an anti-racist child welfare system. She continues to participate in state-wide and community initiatives to grow her knowledge and ability to be catalyst for change in the child welfare system.

HRC Accreditations:

  • 2021 ▽

    Adoptions Together is a recognized 2019 and 2020 Innovator of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s All Children – All Families Project. HRC’s All Children – All Families, a project of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, promotes LGBTQ inclusive policies and affirming practices among child welfare agencies and formally recognizes those agencies that are leading the field with innovative approaches to inclusion. All staff are currently involved in additional trainings as we work towards this achievement in 2021.

  • 2022 ▽

    Adoptions Together was again honored to be recognized as a 2021 Innovator of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s All Children – All Families Project. All staff are currently involved in additional trainings as we work towards this achievement in 2022.

Community Services:

Interracial Adoption Group (INTAG)

  • 2021 Response ▽

    After hearing feedback from our existing Transracial Adoption Family Group, we added the Transracial Adoption Children’s Group to provide a safe space of emotional support for children and youth adopted transracially to engage in open discussion and guided activities focused on civic and cultural topics that impact their lives. This group aims to increase their consciousness of their resilience, self-worth, and the value they add to their family, community, and the world.

    We also revamped the private Transracial Adoption Facebook Group to provide increased opportunities for learning and interaction on a day-to-day basis.

  • 2022 Update ▽

    Adoptions Together renamed the Transracial Adoption Groups the Interracial Adoption Groups (INTAG) after internal and external discussion and the conclusion that “transracial” may no longer be the most effective way to describe these families. With the societal awareness of, and advocacy around the word “transgender,” we want to reduce confusion that the word transracial can create. Using the word “interracial” or “racially diverse” or “mixed race” to describe the adoption of a child of one race by the parents of another race is more consistent with the practice and also better understood by the general community. The agency also significantly expanded the scope and frequency of group meetings in 2021, bringing in new team members with lived experience to help facilitate those discussions.

    The Interracial Adoption Facebook Group continues to be a catalyst for discussion, questions, and connection for those who have adopted interracially.

Interracial Adoption and Parenting Webinar

  • 2021 Response ▽

    For the month of February, we have waived the registration fee for the Transracial-Transcultural Adoption and Parenting webinar. Families who adopt transracially or transculturally will face a unique set of concerns that require careful thought, preparation, and ongoing education. This webinar is designed to educate prospective and current foster and adoptive parents about the important issues involved in transracial and transcultural adoption including selecting a school and community that embraces differences, educating extended family members, responding to intrusive questions, and preparing your child to confront racism.

  • 2022 Update ▽

    21 participants were able to increase their toolkit by viewing the Interracial Adoption and Parenting Webinar for free in February 2021. We are excited to again be offering this webinar for free during May 2022 which is National Foster Care Month.

In 2022, we are recommitting to the work and growth that lies ahead and will continue to provide updates of our progress and actions. As always, we welcome your feedback.


Why I Give: Melvin Petty, ERP International

Donor Spotlight Graphic - Melvin Petty

 

How did you first get involved with the organization?
I was introduced to Adoptions Together by Jack Abel, a good friend and mentor. Jack connected me with Janice Goldwater, the CEO and Founder, almost two decades ago. The agency’s mission, “To build healthy lifelong family connections for every child and to advocate for continuous improvement of systems that promote the well-being of children,” inspired me. Janice’s enthusiasm and energy to impact change immediately captured my attention.

What made you decide to give your first gift?
Sandra and I decided to give to the agency 20 years ago because we strongly believe in building healthy families. We recognize the difference between success and failure for many children is their support system, which starts with vibrant family life.

Why do you enjoy giving to this organization?
We give because we see the agency’s impact on the lives of so many families, approximately 15,000 since its inception, especially in minority communities and children with disabilities. We admire the dedication and commitment of the AT leadership team and staff. We are impressed with the efficiency in which program services are delivered and the preservation of donations—allowing 90% of the contributions to be directly delivered to the programs.

What is your favorite program/service/etc to donate to?
My two favorite programs to donate to are the Heart Gallery and the Taste of Potomac. The Heart Gallery is a portrait exhibit of children in need of adoption. The children featured on the gallery are from Maryland, DC, and Virginia, and many of them are eligible to be adopted by families in any part of the country. We’ve sponsored the Heart Gallery for the past few years. We do so because we believe this is an excellent way to allow every family and child to build a lifelong family together.

The Taste of Potomac is an annual gala sponsored by the Potomac community. It connects the entire AT ecosystem, connecting the donors, celebrity chefs, kids, and families in a celebratory evening. We all come together to have a wonderful time supporting the mission of Adoptions Together. The live auction and the fantastic food keep everyone coming back, including us.

What do you hope to accomplish through your philanthropy?
We hope that families seeking kids and kids seeking families can connect and experience the same joy and support we receive within our own family each day.

If you were talking to someone else about giving to our organization, what would you tell them?
I would tell them this extraordinary mission can make a tremendous difference in so many lives. I encourage them to take the time to learn about the agency’s focus, which is often finding families for hard-to-place kids.

What do you wish everyone knew about this cause?
We are all byproducts of our families one way or another. Many of us have great families who have helped us get through the tough times, and others are committed to creating a better version of the family that left them behind. I believe the AT mission connects them both and produces unmeasurable outcomes for so many lives.


Adoptions Together Recognized by Human Rights Campaign Foundation for LGBTQ+ Inclusion Efforts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Maryland, Virginia, DC) – Adoptions Together, a nonprofit organization founded in 1990 that supports children and families in the DMV formed through adoption, guardianship, foster care, and kinship care, proudly announced that it is being recognized in 2021 Change-Makers at the highest level of inclusion – Innovative Inclusion. 2021 Change-Makers is the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s third annual report highlighting 119 child welfare agencies across the country who have worked with the HRC Foundation’s All Children – All Families (ACAF) program to improve the services they provide to the LGBTQ+ community, including children in foster care, 1 in 3 of whom are LGBTQ+, and prospective foster and adoptive parents.

Janice Goldwater, Founder & CEO of Adoptions Together, stated, “For over 31 years, our team has worked to build, strengthen, and support all children and families, including those in the LGBTQ+ community, each and every day. We are honored to work in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and be recognized in 2021 Change-Makers at the Innovative Inclusion level. Our organization firmly believes that all people – regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and race – deserve the love of a stable family to learn, grow, and heal throughout their entire life.”

“The third edition of our Change-Makers report shows that, despite the many hardships of the last year, more organizations than ever before are working alongside the Human Rights Campaign Foundation to make impactful change for the LGBTQ+ youth and families they serve,” said Alison Delpercio, Human Rights Campaign Foundation Director, All Children – All Families. “This year’s participants also demonstrated a growing commitment to intersectionality and ensuring organizational policies and practices do not reinforce the same systems of oppression that put youth and families at risk in the first place. By taking on these challenges, the change-makers featured in our 2021 report are models for youth-serving professionals everywhere.”

The release comes at a time when many have been sounding the alarm about the particular risks foster youth face due to COVID-19. LGBTQ+ inclusion work in foster care systems could not be more important. Studies have shown us that LGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented in foster care, and that child welfare systems must do more to ensure that the trauma of foster care, where LGBTQ youth already face an increased risk of both negative experiences and outcomes, is never compounded by that caused by unsafe and non-affirming foster homes:

  • Approximately 1 out of every 3 youth in foster care is LGBTQ+
  • LGBTQ+ youth report higher rates of mistreatment while in care
  • LGBTQ+ youth report more frequent placement disruptions
  • LGBTQ+ youth report a higher likelihood of being placed in congregate care settings

The agencies featured in this report conducted an internal self-assessment, provided professional development to staff and implemented ACAF’s “Benchmarks of LGBTQ Inclusion,” which track policy and practice changes within agencies.

The 2021 Change-Makers report features three “Tiers of Recognition,” which celebrate the progress agencies have made toward becoming fully welcoming to their LGBTQ+ clients. Adoptions Together was recognized at the highest level, Innovative Inclusion. At this level, agencies are pushing themselves beyond the solid foundation they have built and implementing innovative approaches to LGBTQ+ inclusion in each of the seven key policy and practice areas. Benchmarks at this level also require agencies to demonstrate leadership in areas like policy advocacy or organizational partnerships.

Since 2007, hundreds of child welfare agencies across the U.S. have used ACAF’s resources to enhance their efforts to achieve safety, permanency, and well-being for LGBTQ+ youth and families. Read the full report here.

About Adoptions Together: Adoptions Together, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, supports children and families formed through adoption, guardianship, foster care, and kinship care with specialized services offered at locations in Maryland, Virginia and DC. Through its expertise in family services, adoption, education, therapy, and public-private and community partnerships, the agency has touched the lives of more than 15,000 families and children since it was founded 30 years ago. Adoptions Together’s mission is to build healthy lifelong family connections for every child and to advocate for continuous improvement of systems that promote the well-being of children. One of the agency’s guiding principles is inclusivity: all families and children are welcome regardless of gender, age, race, religion, wealth, health, marital status, or sexual orientation. With a holistic network of more than three dozen innovative services that build and strengthen families, Adoptions Together is one of the most diverse independent social service agencies serving Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC.

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More Than a Black Square: Actions Matter

Transracial Adoptee Holding Hands with Mother

 
Since our inception, a core goal of Adoptions Together is to address systemic racism through the services we deliver. We fundamentally believe that systemic racism is a human rights issue, and we are dedicated to addressing diversity, inclusion, and equity both internally and externally with the clients we serve.

In June 2020, Adoptions Together issued a statement in response to systemic and institutionalized racism that was brought into the spotlight by a long-overdue national reckoning. As an organization committed to always looking for blind spots and determining what we can do even better, we knew that we had to take the moment as an opportunity to reexamine the role of racism in the child welfare system and deliberately adjust to work against implicit or explicit racism.

In the statement, we shared, “Adoptions Together was built on the value of welcoming every child and family in need of our services. We cherish the diversity in the community we serve. We know that many people in our community are in terrible pain. Trauma that occurs in the context of relationship heals in the context of relationship. Now is the time to show up, to listen, to learn and to reach out and support those who are hurting most.”

After releasing this statement, we immediately began to examine our own practice—sharing our personal and collective experiences, searching for shortcomings, and stretching to see what we could do differently. This is just the beginning of a process of exploring changes that need to be made to better ourselves and the systems in which we operate.

As we celebrate Black History Month, we’re sharing the steps we have already taken and reaffirming our commitment to showing up, listening, learning, and supporting those who are hurting most.

Internal Initiatives and Community Building:

  • Diversity Committee: Adoptions Together’s Diversity Committee was formed in the fall of 2019 and officially started meeting in 2020. Beginning in June 2020, in addition to planning training opportunities and making policy recommendations, our Diversity Committee instituted monthly Brown Bag Zoom Lunches, creating a safe space for our staff members and contractors to come together to listen, learn, and have respectful, yet unapologetically frank conversations.
  • Stronger Together | Processing and Leading Social Change: An initiative that began in January 2021 and includes weekly full staff dialogs to process personal feelings, create mutual understanding and support, and identify practice changes and new services that will enhance the impact of the agency. The well-being of our team is critical to our ability to provide optimal services and staying flexible and responsive to the needs of the community ensures that we are delivering the highest impact services possible.

Trainings | Adoptions Together staff members are engaging in the community to broaden our knowledge base and impact:

  • Janice Goldwater, Founder & CEO, participated in the six month Anti-Racist Leadership Series through Leadership Greater Washington; and serves as a working member of Achieving Race Equity in Child Welfare (Maryland state-wide workgroup).
  • Audra Hurd, Operations Director, attended the Sorkin Center at Compass’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Event that focused on what to consider and where to begin when developing culture, policies, and programs that support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within a nonprofit. Audra is also registered to attend a three-part Policy & Practice Training with the Human Rights Campaign’s All Children-All Families Project.
  • Adoptions Together has regular staff training and participated in the first of a series of all-staff Diversity & Inclusion Training, led by Kia Silver-Hodge, SPHR, CPEC, Coach and Inclusion Strategist.
  • Four members of our team are enrolled in the Helen J. Serini Foundation’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Training. This multi-part series focuses on helping organizations create and sustain more inclusive environments by changing their cultures and identifying how their policies, practices, and procedures unwittingly create barriers to inclusion and belonging.
  • Staff members are participating in the Adoption Exchange Association’s educational programming focused on race and equity in the child welfare system. Some sessions include Reducing Racial Disproportionality Among Waiting Youth in Need of Permanency and We Must Do Better For Children: Race and Equity in Foster Care and Adoption.

Recognized 2019 and 2020 Innovator of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s All Children – All Families Project:

  • HRC’s All Children – All Families, a project of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, promotes LGBTQ inclusive policies and affirming practices among child welfare agencies and formally recognizes those agencies that are leading the field with innovative approaches to inclusion. All staff are currently involved in additional trainings as we work towards this achievement in 2021.

Community Services:

  • After hearing feedback from our existing Transracial Adoption Family Group, we added the Transracial Adoption Children’s Group to provide a safe space of emotional support for children and youth adopted transracially to engage in open discussion and guided activities focused on civic and cultural topics that impact their lives. This group aims to increase their consciousness of their resilience, self-worth, and the value they add to their family, community, and the world.
  • We revamped the private Transracial Adoption Facebook group to provide increased opportunities for learning and interaction on a day-to-day basis.
  • For the month of February, we have waived the registration fee for the Transcultural-Transcultural Adoption and Parenting webinar. Families who adopt transracially or transculturally will face a unique set of concerns that require careful thought, preparation, and ongoing education. This webinar is designed to educate prospective and current foster and adoptive parents about the important issues involved in transracial and transcultural adoption including selecting a school and community that embraces differences, educating extended family members, responding to intrusive questions, and preparing your child to confront racism.

We are committed to the work and growth that lies ahead and will continue to provide updates of our progress and actions. As always, we welcome your feedback.


Empowering Transracial Adoptees To Own Their Voice on the Path From Childhood to Adulthood: Part 1

Transracial Adoptee Holding Hands with Mother

 

Empowering children to hear, value, and own their voices starting at a young age is core to raising strong and confident human beings. At Adoptions Together we recognize the critical importance of a parent’s role in nurturing the development of their child’s voice. As a place of lifelong growth and healing, we offer support groups and counseling to strengthen resiliency, provide children and their families guidance they need in the moment, and recommend tools to create lasting stability.

This series, born from our Transracial Adoption Family Support Group (TAG), will provide a platform to hear from transracial adoptees and their families as they navigate and grow on the path of life. We’ll also discuss common questions and concerns of this community.

For the first part of the series, Mindy*, a long-time member of the group, shares her views and experiences encountering race early in her children’s lives.

As the white mother of two Black children, a  6 year-old girl and a  3 year-old boy, Mindy knew she needed to find a place for her children to see similar families and freely ask questions to find their voices early in life. TAG brings together children and their families, creating a safe space to offer advice, ask questions, and grow as a family unit and community. The support group is facilitated by Adoptions Together counseling professionals who are trained in these highly-nuanced topics.

With conversations about race, a critical question that naturally arises is when to introduce a child to the concept—especially a child who is adopted transracially. The next question is how to do so.

From conversations and anecdotes discussed in TAG, Mindy says it’s clear that there is no definitive answer. Children who do not look like their parents often encounter uncomfortable questions from their peers, and these questions put parents in a challenging spot. As the parents in TAG meet with one another, they continually acknowledge how important it is to have the right resources for difficult conversations with their children in order to lead them to better find their voices and develop empathetic worldviews in which they are powerful advocates for themselves and others.

Questions may arise at any time and children should never be shut down. Instead, Mindy and the other TAG parents focus on identifying resources (through TAG and elsewhere) that are accessible for their children based on age and maturity level. By answering questions and exploring topics openly, children are validated and have the tools to discover their own self-expression and perspective.

One of Mindy’s primary goals is the development of her children’s voices as their own, empowering them to advocate for themselves and others in all matters, regardless of the scope. Her daughter is building this skillset through TAG by learning how to voice her opinions, share appropriate, thoughtful responses when faced with negativity, and better understand how kids sometimes perceive their skin and hair, especially in comparison with their parents. TAG has provided structured learning opportunities within the group for children to practice owning their voice and feeling comfortable in the moment with another child.

When children are given the chance to learn to use their voices, doors are opened in their development as individuals. For children like Mindy’s, resources like TAG allow them to have spaces that foster positive growth, cementing who they are and will become in the future.

*Name has been changed for confidentiality.