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.
- • 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.