2012 ??

Thursday, December 29, 2011

As 2012 is just around the corner, I can’t help but wonder what we’ll say a year from now when we look back. Will the world end on 12-12-12 ? Going out on a limb, I’ll say probably not. Here’s my hope…. that 2012 will be a watershed year – for Gladney as we celebrate our 125th anniversary, for the field of adoption as we confront a myriad of challenges and opportunities, and for our country as we face a critical election in November. When I look back over my lifetime at what I consider watershed years for American society as a whole, I think of 1968, 1980 and 2000. All were election years and all were Olympic years. As is 2012. Is another watershed year in store for us ? For ourselves and for Gladney, we can make it so.

Christmas Carols

Monday, December 12, 2011

Just about everyone has their list of favorites, so here’s my top 10 list:
10. Here Comes Santa Claus
9. Little Drummer Boy (Bing Crosby and David Bowie)
8. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (Bruce Springsteen version)
7. I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas
6. I’ll Be Home for Christmas
5. O Come All Ye Faithful
4. Joy to the World
3. Silent Night
2. O Holy Night
1. Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Over-rated are:
In Excelsis Deo
The First Noel
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Deck the Halls
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Jingle Bells

Do you share my opinion or have I ticked you off with my over-rated list ?

Top 10 Misconceptions about Adoption

Friday, November 18, 2011

by Frank Garrott

Each year thousands of people in the U.S. recognize and celebrate the creation of “forever families” on National Adoption Day. While adoption has existed for nearly as long as the human race, even today many longstanding myths and misconceptions about adoption linger. As we mark National Adoption Day on Nov. 19, here are some adoption misconceptions that should be put to rest.

Birth parents are not allowed any contact with their child once adoptions are finalized. In most cases, it is up to the birth parents to choose whether to have an “open” adoption or a “closed” adoption. In open adoptions, birth parents and adoptive families elect to learn about each other’s identities and backgrounds, and may remain in contact with each other throughout the child’s life. The degree to which this occurs varies, but the birth parents play a key role in determining the level of engagement.
Placing a child for adoption is a sign of weakness. Many birth parents confront the “pressure to parent” from influencers in their lives. Some are even led to believe if they choose adoption that they don’t love their child.  The fact is that adoption is one of the most courageous decisions birth parents can make – believing that placing their child for adoption will ultimately lead to a better life for their child.
Birth mothers who grieve after placing their child for adoption made the wrong decision. The pressure to parent has a counterpart post-adoption. Observers often assume that a birth mother’s sense of grief or loss post-placement is indicative that she feels guilty and regrets her decision. In truth, most birth mothers do experience sadness after placing a child for adoption, but that grief does not typically equate to guilt. The sense of guilt is usually ascribed by outsiders. In fact, grieving is a healthy part of the healing process, and leading adoption facilities, such as the Gladney Center for Adoption, provide information, tools and support to help birth mothers cope with grief post-placement.
Birth mothers who are familiar with the adoption process are less likely to choose adoption. The level of one’s exposure to adoption is a key factor in a person’s decision about whether to place their child for adoption. In fact, the more someone has been exposed to adoption, the more likely they will choose adoption as an alternative to parenting or abortion. This underscores the need for adoption education programs.
Older adoptive children are so broken that they will never heal post-adoption. It’s a common belief that older children may be so traumatized from their past situations that they can never attach to an adoptive parent. It is true that many older children have suffered abuse, neglect or have been shuttled from one foster home to another, and they often display negative behaviors as a result. But no child is “beyond repair” and most adoptive children will successfully attach to their parents when they are placed with a loving family. Education is profoundly important when adopting an older child and the Gladney Center for Adoption is committed to ensuring adoptive parents are prepared for that journey.
Special needs adoptive children always have severe mental or physical handicaps, or health issues as well. Just as with non-adoptive special needs children, adoptive special needs children vary in the level of medical or other care they may require. The fact is there are many, many healthy infants and children available for adoption, both domestically and internationally.
International adoption is easier and cheaper than domestic adoption. It is commonly perceived that people choose to adopt internationally because it is cheaper and easier than in the U.S. With international adoptions, typically adoptive parents have to spend weeks in the country where they plan to adopt – sometimes for multiple visits. The travel costs and the time away from work often results in a higher overall cost to adopt. The fact is most people who choose to adopt from a foreign country feel a particular affinity with that nation and the children there.
Adoption is prohibitively expensive.  Adoption fees can be expensive for parents, but the real costs of an adoption often exceed an agency’s fee, especially among non-profit agencies who provide living arrangements, medical care and or counseling for the birth mothers.  Even with traditional fee-based adoptions, agencies will typically work with parents to establish a sliding-scale fee, and many adoptive parents are currently eligible to receive a $13,000 US federal tax credit. It’s also important to note that adoptions can be nearly cost-free, especially if adoptive parents consider adopting an older child from within the foster care system or a special-needs child.
Adoption takes years and years to complete. The adoption process is complex and there are multiple waiting periods – waiting to be approved as an adoptive parent, waiting for a match and waiting until you take custody of your child. However, depending on the type of adoption someone is choosing, the wait time for adoption can be as little as 12 to 18 months.  
Adoptive families face the same challenges as biological families. Adoptive families, whether a child has been adopted at birth or at a later stage in their life, experience many of the same joys and challenges as biological families. However, they also experience joys and challenges that may be unique to adoptive families. That’s why the Gladney Center for Adoption provides a host of educational and counseling services for all parties to an adoption – the adoptees, adoptive parents and birth parents – for their lifetimes.  Our Pathways program ensures that forever families can count on us for support in their adoption journeys – forever. 

A Calling or a Career

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I recently finished reading Richard Stearns’ book, “The Hole in Our Gospel”, which is one of the best books I have read in years. On page 93, he quotes Pastor John Ortberg:

“American society does not talk much about calling anymore. It is more likely to think in terms of career. Yet, for many people a career becomes the altar on which they sacrifice their lives.

A calling, which is something I do for God, is replaced by a career, which threatens to become my god. A career is something I choose for myself; a calling is something I receive. A career is something I do for myself; a calling is something I do for God. A career promises status, money or power; a calling generally promises difficulty and even some suffering - and the opportunity to be used by God. A career is about upward mobility; a calling generally leads to downward mobility.”

I do think people can be called to the for-profit world just as they are called to non-profit service and people in the non-profit community can treat their vocation as a career or a calling.

I can confidently say that at Gladney, most of our staff views their jobs as a calling. And the way Pastor Ortberg describes a calling captures well the mindset and heart of our staff.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I'll be in D.C. from July 5 - 8 attending the National Council for Adoption's annual conference. Gladney co-founded NCFA in 1980.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

This Thursday, I will be a guest on Andrea Harrington's radio blog at 2:00PM Central time talking about the challenges that adoptive parents face, as well as the adoption community as a whole. Stay tuned for info on how to join in.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

As everyone in the field of international adoption is aware, placements from Ethiopia have slowed dramatically in 2011 and the outlook remains unsettled. As a non-profit organization which has been focused on building families for 125 years, Gladney plans to continue our noble mission for the next 125 years. In order to be in a position to do so, we have been forced to reduce staff. Any time an organization reduces staff, morale is impacted, perhaps even more so in a close-knit social work environment.

So we are taking steps to strengthen morale. At a recent staff meeting, we posed the questions: What does great morale look like and how can we get there?

It prompted me to personalize the question – What does great morale look like for me? When is my morale at its peak?

My morale is highest when:

• I am making a difference for an organization that is making a difference
• I feel valued and appreciated; my contribution is recognized
• There are reasons to be optimistic about the organization’s direction
• I enjoy my co-workers
• The work environment is fun
• I feel like I’m part of a team that is pulling in the same direction
• I’m proud to tell people who I work for
• There is shared ownership and a sense of urgency in the mission
• I have confidence in the integrity and vision of leadership


Monday, June 13, 2011

Does a child’s right to a family trump a country’s right to a child or vice versa ?


Friday, April 8, 2011

I recently returned from a 10-day trip to Ethiopia. Meeting US and Ethiopian government officials; encouraging staff; speaking at a conference; seeing projects we fund, etc.

The memories that linger, however, are visits to orphanages and foster care centers. To be candid, I usually feel a bit uneasy just before I walk into an orphanage. My family and close friends who have known me for many years would probably say that I’m among the least likely people to connect with orphans.

That’s why I’m so convinced that God walks beside me during these visits. Once I put my foot in the door, something awakens inside – I go from anxiety to excitement at being used to bring some small measure of joy to these kids. I become a kid again and really have a blast playing with them.

When we were at the orphanage in Hawassa, the caregivers finally took the kids in for dinner. It was like I was playing in my backyard again and Mom said it’s time to come in. I wanted to set my watch back like I used to years ago so I could keep playing, although that never did work too well.

So our time at the orphanage comes to an end. I do wonder if we’ve simply created chaos with our arrival and departure or if perhaps we have brought them some degree of hope. In any event, I get back in an air-conditioned car and begin to think about heading home in a few days to be with my family.

These children…… their smiles fade, their loneliness returns, and if their spirits aren’t broken, they may dream of finding a family and a real home someday.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

It’s fairly well-known, but still shocking, that over 1 billion people survive on less than a dollar per day. I saw several of them in the last week while I was in Ethiopia – from the women in rural areas carrying huge stacks of wood on their backs to people of all ages foraging through trash at the large dump on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. For me, the ability to put individual faces and stories with the statistics brings a much greater sense of urgency to the problem.

I agree with former Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin, that all decisions are based on probability analysis, at least implicitly.

As I watched humans compete with vultures and goats for scraps at the dump, I was struck by the notion that these destitute people are conducting their own probability analysis – the risk of starving to death against the risks associated with eating rotten, diseased garbage.

Tougher choices than what we face, huh ?

I wanted to avert my eyes, but instead I just focused intently on these helpless people, trying to burn the images in my conscious, so they don’t fade.

But some may not be completely without hope, because through the generosity of several of our Gladney families, a program to provide nourishing food for the elementary school age children who otherwise would be working with their parents to pick through garbage is being implemented. This program will also enable them to attend school and potentially break the cycle of poverty, at least in their families.

Turning 60 !

Monday, March 14, 2011

No, not me! I have a much older sister who is entering her 7th decade and I believe she would want me to ask all my friends to share in her joy during the sunset years of her life. I could think of no more fitting way to get the word out than to write a post on my blog.

I don’t feel old at all, until I think about having a 60-year old sister!

We were the classic younger brother / older sister growing up. I did everything in my power to annoy her and I was very good at it. Her response was this look that said “you are so disgusting”.

Actually, we became quite close over the years, based in large part on our shared Christian faith. She helped pray me in, although I came kicking and screaming.

Happy Birthday, Dorinda, and don’t worry, there’s no sign in your yard this time.

Intercountry Adoption

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Intercountry adoption (ICA) is non-existent, statistically speaking. Last year, just over 11,000 children were adopted into the U.S. from other countries. The world’s orphan population is variously estimated between 143,000,000 and 163,000,000 with some estimates even higher. You do the math - less than .01%.

Yet so much time, thought and other resources go into shaping and reshaping agreements, laws, regulations and procedures governing ICA, as well as continuous, sometimes acrimonious, sometimes self-serving debate on the “best interest of the child”.

Many of us in the field of ICA are working to change this .01%, but consciously or not, we’re simply working at the margins to address a problem of enormous magnitude.

Let’s just throw in the towel. Let’s redeploy all of our efforts to another noble cause, or……

Let’s get serious and confront the fundamental challenges and barriers, and bring about systemic change so that ICA truly becomes a viable part of the solution to the orphan crisis rather than a statistical footnote.

Will we be content if ICA addresses .02% of the problem by 2020? I know I won’t. A reasonable target is 1%. This can happen if 1) the adoption community takes a hard line against any behaviors we witness that are not grounded in absolute integrity, and 2) we align our priorities with those of the countries where we work.

Memorable Quotes

Monday, February 28, 2011

“The best time to plant an oak tree was twenty years ago; the second best time is now.”

“The great tragedy of the average man is that he goes to his grave with his music still in him.” (Longfellow)

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

In different ways, these quotes are driving to a similar theme – reminding us to live purposely; live passionately; live intentionally.


Friday, February 18, 2011

“You’re not leadin’ if no one’s followin’.“ Most of us have heard this statement or a variation. I think it’s true…to a point. Occasionally, a person or an organization has to stand alone and lead from conviction even if theirs is a single voice. I’m reading Eric Metaxas’s powerful biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian martyr who stood up to Hitler and the complicit German church and was executed for his defiance just before the end of the war. Bonhoeffer “stood in the gap” and paid for it with his life. Though he has been dead for over 60 years, he still speaks today through his written words and his life that backed them up. A man of deep conviction and a courageous leader.

Whether an individual or an institution, I believe leadership can be summed up as follows: Bold in Vision; Disciplined in Execution; Humble in Spirit.

Gladney has been a leader in the field of adoption for 125 years. We aim to continue that legacy by being bold, disciplined and yes, even humble, as an organization.

How do you define leadership?

An Excellent Movie

Monday, January 24, 2011

Have you seen “The King’s Speech”? It’s the story of King George VI, who became king when his older brother abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson. George VI, who was known as Bertie before he became king, had a serious stuttering problem and had no interest in being king with all the public speaking it entailed. But he rose to the occasion in one of the most critical times in British history – just before and during World War II.

The story is really about friendship, his with a commoner, his speech therapist. At a deeper level, it is a story about how one person can truly speak life into another person. Sadly, the reverse is just as true. Bertie was hampered by cruel and discouraging comments from those around him, especially his father and brother. But when someone came along and spoke encouragement into his life, he came alive and realized his full potential, as England rallied around him as their symbolic leader at the hour of their greatest need. He gained his voice both literally and figuratively.

Speak words of life into those around you this week. And go see this movie !

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Walking past a TV screen, very few things will cause me to stop and adjust whatever my current plans had been – perhaps a favorite movie that I hadn’t seen in a long while, like “Remember the Titans”, “Hunt for Red October”, “Dr. Zhivago”. Or a sports event deep in the archives – 1 of the 3 Ali-Frazier title fights, the 1958 Baltimore Colts – New York Giants overtime championship game. Or a speech…

Specifically, one speech – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. Given the content, his delivery, the size of the crowd, and the context (the turmoil in the country at the time), I think it was the greatest speech in my lifetime and one of a handful of the best speeches in American history. It’s only 17 minutes – you can just read it and choke up. Words matter, especially when delivered eloquently with conviction and backed by action.

We talk about impact at Gladney. That speech had impact that continues to reverberate almost 50 years later. We are proud to celebrate the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr.


Monday, January 3, 2011

I recently read a list of 300 scientific facts, mainly about humans and animals. Here are my 5 favorites:

“There are about 32 million bacteria on a square inch of your body, most of which are harmless.” ‘most of which…’ - is that supposed to make us feel better ?

“Pigs sunburn easily.” This is kind of sad since all they do is lie around in the sun.

“You’re more likely to have a heart attack on Monday than any other day.” Makes sense.

“Humans typically fall asleep within seven minutes.” I’m bringing up the average.

“You can’t lick your elbow.” I suggest you try this when no one can see you.