Last week, an email popped up on my phone with the subject line: Angels in Adoption Awardee Welcome Packet.
I thought it was spam and almost deleted it, but I (thankfully!) opened it and started reading:
Congratulations on your selection as the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s (CCAI) 2013 Angel in Adoption™! Being selected as an Angel in Adoption™ and celebrated by your Member of Congress a very high honor. To that end, I hope that you are able to attend the Washington, D.C. awards program, ceremony and gala. Please visit www.angelsinadoption.org and review the important attachment to this email for information regarding the award.
When we were finalizing Joseph’s adoption in Nigeria, Bruce Braley (a congressman in our parent’s district of eastern Iowa) and his staff worked really hard (like, making calls to the consulate at 3 a.m. CST time and logging about a billion emails to the state department!) to help Joseph secure his visa. And we are very honored and humbled that Congressman Braley nominated us for this award!
We know a lot of really amazing adoptive families and child advocates, and we feel really undeserving of this award. Adoption has been an incredible blessing to us — we are so not the angels here! We view our adoption of Joseph as one small piece of a much bigger orphan care picture. We believe in advocating for children and families, whether that’s through family preservation, foster care, or adoption.
What’s the Congressional Coalition on Adoption?
The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) is a non-profit organization that works to raise awareness about the needs of children without families and to remove policy barriers that hinder children from knowing the love and support a family provides. Their programs bring together policymakers and individuals with direct foster care or adoption experience. They’ve found that when policymakers hear direct experiences of those affected by orphan and child welfare policy, they become engaged and work to bring about legislative improvements in an effort to ensure each child has their right to a family realized.
The Senate Co-Chairs of Congressional Coalition on Adoption are Mary Landrieu (LA) and James Inhofe (OK). The House Co-Chairs are Michele Bachmann (MN) and Karen Bass (CA). For those of you who are interested in a list of all the other members, you can check it out here. (For the great state of Iowa: Sen. Chuck Grassley, Sen. Tom Harkin, Rep. Bruce Braley, Rep. Tom Latham, and Rep. Steve King.)
What’s the Angels in Adoption award? (I’m pulling this part right from their website!)
Angels in Adoption honors individuals, couples, and organizations from across the nation that have made an extraordinary contribution on behalf of children in need of families. These heroes hail from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico and represent the wide spectrum of individuals involved in the adoption and foster care process. Since the program’s inception in 1999, almost 2,000 Angels have received this honor. CCAI also honors a select number of National Angels in Adoption. As the name implies, these are individuals whose contributions in the fields of adoption or foster care have had a national impact.
Thanks to a very generous scholarship from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, we’re excited to attend the Congressional Coalition on Adoption’s events in Washington, D.C. in just two weeks. We’re bringing both Joseph and Asher (AND my amazing mom will be coming to help wrangle them!). I’m so humbled that we get to experience this as a family. (PRAYYYY that our boys do well on the plane, and that other flyers have heaping loads of patience for the crazy that we’ll likely bring to our flights!)
We’re looking forward to the opportunity to connect with and learn from leaders across the country who are committed to investing in the lives of children here and abroad. We’ll tour the U.S. Captiol, attend a Angels in Adoption congressional pin ceremony, be part of a “Making the Most of Your Voice” legislative seminar, visit with members of congress, and attend the Angels in Adoption Reception and Gala, which boasts more Congressional participation than any chid welfare event in the nation.
This year’s National Angels in Adoption awardees are Deborra-Lee Furness Jackman and Willie + Korie Robertson of Duck Dynasty. (My dad is super excited about me sending him a picture of THE BEARDS.) The gala will also feature former awardees, Sean + Leigh Anne Tuohy, whose story inspired the The Blind Side.
I’m especially looking forward to hear Deborra-Lee Furness Jackman speak. She is an Australian director, producer and child advocate. She’s a World Vision Ambassador, founder of National Adoption Awareness Week and the executive director for the Worldwide Orphans Foundation in Australia. She’s a mom to two adopted kids. And, bonus: She’s married to Hugh Jackman (!!!).
Deborra wrote a piece for CNN last week about fighting the global orphan crisis. Her op-ed is so on point and very much worth reading. Really, please read it. This is just one excerpt I shouted Amen! to:
I am not a learned scholar or professional worker in international adoption. I am not even an adoption advocate — I am a child advocate. I am an individual who has witnessed what life is like for children who don’t have anyone to watch their back, or teach them right from wrong, to care about what they think or feel, or the basic human need to feel loved, to feel safe and secure and to feel that they actually matter. I believe everyone deserves be the object of someone’s affection.
Oh, okay, ONE MORE excerpt I loved, just in case you don’t jump over there to read the whole thing:
My dream would be that there would be no need for adoption and that every child could remain with birth families. When adoption is the best option for these kids, I totally advocate for a well-run system that serves these children and families
I believe the biggest reason that intercountry adoption does not work at an optimum is because we have not put in the mind power and energy and resources needed to create a system that works ethically and expediently.
So, we are, a little family in the heart of the Midwest, trying to learn how to become advocates. For pregnant mamas, in the U.S. and in developing nations, who need a little help finding jobs that provide sustainable income that allow them to care for their families — and keep their babies. For sweet little ones (and when I say little, I mean children of all ages!) here who need families. And for those sweet little ones abroad who need families, too.
While we continue to be involved with and support organizations that help empower families to stay together, we know that sometimes that is not an option. In spring of 2012, we were able to tour Iowa with Congressman Braley to help him introduce bi-partisan legislation to make the adoption tax credit permanent to help future families that hope to adopt. IT PASSED. He says he was inspired by Joseph…how cool is that?
We’ve spent time at Cornerstone of Hope Orphanage in Nigeria twice, and we’ve seen first-hand what life looks like for a child in need of a safe and loving family. We continue to advocate for these children from our small corner of Iowa. We believe that all children have the right to a loving family, and we’re so appreciative to learn more ways to help advocate for them and learn how to connect them with families in transparent and ethical ways.
We also feel deeply about children who are “stuck” in the intercountry adoption process. Without Congressman Braley’s help (and assistance from Sen. Grassley and Sen. Harkin, and child advocate McLane Layton), Joseph would probably still be in an orphanage. (The gravity of this is almost incomprehensible.) The amount of bureaucratic red tape that can come with international adoption is heartbreaking, because at the end, there is a vulnerable child who has already gone through incredible trauma + loss, unable to join the safe + loving family that waits for them. We’ve heartbreakingly seen this with Devine, a 6-year-old girl Joseph spent time with in his orphanage. A family from the U.S. went through the same very arduous process we did, but because of discord and disconnect from the different U.S. agencies involved, they were not able to bring her home, and Devine still waits.
We know that there are leaders who are are part of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute who have the ability to come together to streamline the process while maintaining high levels of ethics and transparency, and the opportunities we would have in Washington, D.C. to learn and hear from leaders would help us advocate for Devine and the thousands of others like her who are stuck in the middle of paperwork, continuing to wait for a family. We’re excited by the prospect of getting to attend the legislative seminar on making the most of our voice.
Together, we can rise up and be a megaphone for those little voices who are so often unheard.
So (to sum up an entirely loooong post) while we’re so honored to receive an award, we point straight to Jesus. We don’t stand for children because we’re amazing people — we’re just trying (keyword: trying — and often times failing) to love how He taught us to. And while we’re excited to connect with so many of our country’s leaders, our ultimate hope is in the Kingdom of God, not the kingdoms of this world.
We place our hope in the one who heals, restores, and redeems. The King who loves the powerful and the powerless. The one makes beauty from the broken, and will someday make all things new.