By Rita L. Soronen, President & CEO
Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
“She never has to worry again. She’ll always have a home.” Dwain Hargis sums it up in describing the security his family is able to give his adopted daughter, Olivia. It is the sentiment that drives the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption to advocate for foster care adoption and it is the feeling that every child waiting in foster care deserves. This year, on November 18, the Foundation anticipates that more than 5,000 children will have that feeling as their adoptions are finalized on or around National Adoption Day.
Celebrated across North America, this day is a time to celebrate the extraordinary and ever so simple act of human love – creating or expanding a family through adoption and embracing a child with all of the hope a family generates. By doing so, adoption from foster care fuels a promising future for thousands of our most vulnerable children and youth.
Nearly two decades ago, National Adoption Day was simply a notion built on the innovative Adoption Saturday effort of Michael Nash, the former presiding judge of Los Angeles County’s Juvenile Court. He opened the court on Saturdays, engaged the volunteer efforts of court personnel and finalized adoptions to reduce the backlog of one of the busiest courts in the nation. Adoption Saturdays became courthouse celebrations, and caught the attention of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and its partners, the Alliance for Children’s Rights and the Freddie Mac Foundation.
On November 18, 2000, the Foundation and its partners encouraged seven cities to launch the idea of opening their courts the Saturday before Thanksgiving to finalize and celebrate adoptions from foster care. From the original press release for that first National Adoption Day in 2000, Dave Thomas, our founder who was also adopted noted, “Thanks to the efforts of many people who are opening their hearts on this special day, these children will experience the joys of a permanent, loving home this holiday season and for years to come. We hope their example will inspire other communities to step forward and reach out to the thousands of children in foster care who still need families.”
Mr. Thomas’ hope of inspiring other families has become a reality. From that first event, the National Adoption Day Collaborative grew to include the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and Action for Children and from the participation of seven initial cities to last year more than 400 events in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Guam and a cumulative total of nearly 65,000 adoptions.
Today, this annual, one-day event has made the dreams of thousands of children come true by encouraging efforts throughout the year with policymakers, practitioners, community leaders and advocates to not only finalize adoptions but elevate the awareness of the more than 110,000 children who continue to wait for a family and a home.
Each day, through no fault of their own, children enter foster care as a result of abuse, neglect or abandonment. Each year, more than 20,000 youth who have been freed for adoption and waiting for families turn 18 or 21 and leave foster care without the family we promised. National Adoption Day has engaged the media and thousands of families to elevate the national conversation about foster care adoption. This year consider adding your voice. For the children who are still waiting, you can make a difference.