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Published by info, 2018-07-31 06:56:48

ICare Flipbook

I-CARE flipbook-2

Q &A’s with adoption professionals across the country
about why they choose a career in adoption

Nothing is more important than family. Here at AEA our members

share the philosophy that every child deserves a family. Family
building requires a skilled, knowledgeable, supported and
committed workforce. By strengthening the skills and connections
of adoption workers, AEA increases foster care adoptions.
On the next few pages, you will read Q&A’s with adoption workers
from across the country. We hope learning about their work will
inspire you to join the profession too. You are needed now more than ever!
The most recent federal count shows a troubling increase in the number of children in the
US foster care system –396,966 in 20121 vs. 437,465 in 2016; there were more than
117,000 children who are waiting to be adopted. While, on average, 55,000 children are
adopted annually, more than 25,000 children leave the foster care system without parents
each year. Far too many young adults succumb to homelessness, rely on public assistance
and experience unemployment and dismal educational outcomes as a result of not being
adopted by their 21st birthday.
Due to the opioid epidemic, the number of children needing permanent homes is expected
to grow significantly. A strong adoption workforce will be essential to help find loving
adoptive homes for children affected by the epidemic if and/or when these children
become available for adoption.
AEA’s “I-CARE about kids” testimonial project will shed light on the many meaningful and
exciting adoption careers that await you if you chose this career path. Thank you for your
interest in learning more about how you can make a difference in the life of a child.

Kamilah Bunn, CEO
Adoption Exchange Association

1 https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/afcarsreport24.pdf

2

I-CARE ABOUT KIDS
Testimonial Project

3

“You can help children learn they
are worthy of love and have
unlimited potential.”

Patricia Hebert
Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter
Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services
Lafayette, Louisiana

Q: What are your major job responsibilities?
A: I have worked in child welfare with a focus on adoptions for a total of 10 years. My positions
have included adoption worker, adoption supervisor, and my current positon as a Wendy’s
Wonderful Kids Adoption Recruiter. As a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter, I work directly
with children who are typically considered “difficult to place” due to their age, medical or
mental health problems, and/or being part of a sibling group. I follow a child-focused
recruitment model. This model focuses on getting to know children and their network to
locate an adoptive family. This network includes family (biological and foster), teachers,
coaches, and any others with whom the child interacts. I also provide support services to
children and families and assist by locating appropriate resources for children while they are
transitioning into an adoptive home and until adoption finalization. I also try to remain in
contact with families after finalization to answer questions or assist as needed.

Q: Why did you decide to enter the child welfare field and how did your education and/or work
experience lead you to helping children in foster care find permanent, adoptive homes?
A: I began my social service career determining eligibility for government aid programs. This
was the usual entry job for beginning state service workers. A natural progression was to
move to the area of child welfare, but like most areas of social work, you have to enjoy this
area of work to make it a career. I began working as a foster care worker, while returning to
school to obtain my MSW. When I graduated, I began working in adoptions and really enjoyed
working with children and families toward permanency. After working in adoptions for four
years, I began supervising adoptions for a few years, before moving on to be a manager in
child protection, family services and foster care. While serving as a manager, I frequently had
young adults who had aged out of the system come to my office to visit. Most of them told
me stories of their struggles trying to succeed without a strong family presence. One young
man was extremely intelligent but dropped out of school due to money issues and not having
a parent or other adult to help, which intensified his struggles. I also had young adults who
had aged out come to my office to show me their new vehicle. They were so proud of their
accomplishment and I was happy for them, but also thought it would have been nice if they
had a family with whom they could share this good news. While working in adoptions, there
is the opportunity to help these youth who otherwise would have aged out of the foster care
system. For this reason, I left my management position and became a Wendy’s Wonderful
Kids Recruiter when the position became available.

4

Please describe some of the most rewarding experiences you have had while helping
children in foster care find a forever home.
Some of the most rewarding experiences I have had were helping children finally get adopted
after they had been in 30 to 40 placements. I have had teens that have been in detentions,
psychiatric hospitals, and psychiatric treatment facilities experiencing frequent moves due
to their “behavior.’ Many people consider these children to be “unadoptable.” Too often,
these children have negative self-images and think no one will want them. Due to their
frequent moves, they often have no reliable adult in their life. In Louisiana, when children
move to another region, they get another adoption social worker who lives in that area. Using
the WWK model, I follow them throughout all their moves. It is rewarding to see the surprise
and happiness on a teen’s face when I walk into the detention center. They learn to trust you
and provide input for possibilities of an adoptive home. I have had teens adopted by adults
whom they met in their group homes. When these children were moved, they continued their
relationship with these significant adults and were adopted by them. Another rewarding
experience is reuniting children with their biological family they had not seen in years. When
I begin working with a child, they often tell me of significant people who are no longer in their
life. Often these significant people may have not been able to care for the children when they
entered foster care, but their situations have improved and they can now adopt. One little
girl had been in psychiatric hospitals four times in one year. I reconnected her with a close
relative she had not seen in years. Although it took much work, the relative was able to get
certified and adopted her. The child stated “I knew if I kept going in hospitals, the social
workers would get tired of chasing me and let me go home to relatives.” It worked! She has
not been hospitalized since and is doing well both academically and behaviorally. This was
not only rewarding but demonstrated to me the importance of listening to children closely.

What would you say to someone to encourage them to choose working with children in
foster care?
When working with children in foster care and helping them get adopted, you have the
opportunity to make a difference in these children’s lives. We all know the statistics about
children who age out of foster care. They end up homeless, dropping out of school or being
incarcerated. Most of these children have experienced trauma and mistakenly think there is
something wrong with them. I often hear young children say “I am bad” because this is what
they have been told when they acted out in anger due to their past trauma. When working
with these children you can help them learn they are worthy of love and have unlimited
potential. This can be accomplished by finding the right family for children through their
input.

Patricia has worked in the field of adoption for 10 years. She attended the
University of South Louisiana where she obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in
Business Administration (Business Communication). Later Patricia attended

Louisiana State University where she obtained her MSW.

5

“You have the opportunity to work
with amazingly resilient children
and families.”

Brandi Hill
Child Welfare Policy Specialist
Foster Care Court Improvement Program
Department of Juvenile & Family Services
Annapolis, Maryland

What are your major job responsibilities?
I am the Child Welfare Policy Specialist for The Foster Care Court Improvement
Program for the State of Maryland. The Foster Care Court Improvement Program is
a federal grant-based program created to improve how the court system handles
child welfare cases; and to address barriers preventing timely achievement of
permanency for foster youth, including adoption.

In my role as Child Welfare Policy Specialist for the Maryland Foster Care Court
Improvement Program (FCCIP) I monitor state and federal policy and legislative work
concerning child welfare; I provide training and technical assistance to Maryland
judicial officers and child welfare stakeholders. I facilitate the implementation of new
program initiatives and best practices as they relate to Children in Need of Assistance
(CINA) cases.

Why did you decide to enter the child welfare field and how did your education and/or
work experience lead you to helping children in foster care find permanent, adoptive
homes?
In high school I decided that I wanted to be an adoption social worker when I “grew
up.” As part of a military family, I lived in very diverse environments throughout my
childhood. This changed when my family moved to a small town in Minnesota during
my junior year of high school, where I was the only person of color in my graduating
class. I encountered a lot of overt and covert racism. There were several younger
youth in the community who had been adopted internationally. I wondered if their
experiences were similar or different than my own, given that they had grown up in
this community. This curiosity led to my interest in transracial adoption and racial
identity development. I was able to interview several of the families in my community
that had adopted internationally as a part of my honor’s project in college. Both of my
internships in graduate school were at adoption agencies.

6

Adoption has been my personal and professional passion for many years. In my
current role as a supervisor, I have focused my attention on changing the attitudes
and approach of the Department of Social Services and the local court regarding the
importance of adoption as a permanency option as well as creating partnerships with
external agencies in an effort to identify resources for youth with a plan of adoption.
Please describe some of the most rewarding experiences you have had while helping
children in foster care find a forever home.
When I was providing direct services, I had the opportunity work with a sibling group
of four, which included a four year old, three year old and infant twins. I thought one
of my families would be a perfect match for these siblings. They had a two year old
that they had adopted as an infant and three young adult children. When I contacted
the mom she was driving. I told her she might want to pull over. After I shared the
information about the children, all she could say was “Holy cats! Holy cats!” She and
her husband discussed the children that evening and contacted me the next morning
to say that they were ready to have the children placed with them. The family was
able to adopt the children and they are doing great today.
What would you say to someone to encourage them to choose working with children
in foster care?
Working in the field of child welfare field can be very rewarding work. You have the
opportunity to work with amazingly resilient children and families. As one of my
friends once told me, “You have the coolest job ever! You get to help create families.”

Brandi has worked in the field of adoption for 14 years. She attended Macalester
College where she received her Bachelor degree in Cross Cultural Family Studies.

She attended University of Minnesota where she obtained her MSW.

7

“Adoption workers need to
work well with collaborators,
show empathy and
understanding…”

Lisa Funaro
Executive Director, Massachusetts Adoption Resource
Exchange (MARE)
Newton, MA

What are your major job responsibilities?
As Executive Director of MARE, a nonprofit organization, I work with our Board of Directors
and Executive Team to provide adoption recruitment services to the state of MA. I am
responsible for fiscal management, strategic development, overseeing fundraising and
providing leadership around best practices in adoption.

Why did you decide to enter the child welfare field and, in particular, help foster children to
find permanent, adoptive homes?
Children in foster care, who cannot live with their birth families, are vulnerable and voiceless
and need strong advocates. As a person who grew up in a family that was always there for
me, I felt I could make a difference in the world by helping kids find that same security and
love. It’s been a long journey that has expanded my knowledge significantly beyond adoption
practice.

How did your education, career choices and work experience lead you to the place you are
today?
I was always interested in social work and went straight to graduate school from
undergraduate study. I always had an interest in adoption and pursued it as a 2nd year field
placement in graduate school. I was placed at MARE! I was then hired and worked here for
three years before heading out to run adoption programs in Rhode Island and MA. I returned
to MARE as Executive Director in 2006.

As an agency leader, what are the qualities, education and skills you look for in an adoption
worker?
I look for an education that includes social work and if not specifically a BSW or MSW, I look
for exposure to family systems theories, child welfare and the impact of trauma on
individuals. Adoption workers need to work well with collaborators, show empathy and

8

understanding and most of all understand the urgency in moving children to permanence as
quickly as possible!
Working with foster children can be challenging. What does your agency offer to ensure that
your workforce has the skills and support needed to be successful?
As an adoption exchange, we do not work directly with children on a daily basis. But we do
employ two Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters who do see children regularly. We provide
good supervision and access to peers who can share experiences and best practices. Though
our work as an adoption exchange doesn’t have us in direct contact with children, we provide
support to the adoption workers who do, by offering a training workshop once a year as well
as a statewide social workers recognition event annually.

Lisa has worked in the field of adoption for 35+ years. She attended Tufts
University where she received her Bachelor’s in social psychology. Lisa went on
to attend Boston University School of Social Work where she obtained her MSW.

9

“When you believe in a youth in
foster care, they will never
forget you!”

Heather Simmons
Associate Director of Adoption
Lund Family Center, Burlington, VT

What are your major job responsibilities?
In my current role of Associate Director of Adoption, I oversee the child focus recruitment
program and supervise two Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiters and three Permanency
Planning Counselors. I organize the Vermont Heart Gallery and continue to be part of the
recruitment of foster, respite and adoptive families in Vermont.

Why did you decide to enter the child welfare field and how did your education and/or work
experience lead you to helping children in foster care find permanent, adoptive homes?
In 1998, I began my career working as an Extended Hours Childcare Coordinator working with
children from birth to 13 years old. These children lived in families where their
parents/guardians needed to work non-traditional hours, were attending school or needing
respite. During this time, I was working with some youth who were in foster care and found
myself wanting to learn more about helping these youths. During this time, I saw an
advertisement for an adoption counselor at Lund and decided to apply.

IN 2000, after a long process, I was hired as a Permanency Planning Counselor with Project
Family at Lund working with youth in foster care, who did not have a permanent home
identified. I began working one-on-one with youth, developing relationships, learning who
they were, what they wanted in a family, and how to find that family for them. Some of the
other roles I had was to work collaboratively with three of our 12 district offices in Vermont,
hold community events for general, target and child specific recruitment. The youth I worked
with were located throughout Vermont and in surrounding states, and I visited with them on
a monthly basis. I would recruit for homes throughout the United States and located homes
as far away as Hawaii, California, Mississippi and Virginia.

During my time as a Permanency Planning Counselor, I also took on the role as the Rural
Recruitment Coordinator and oversaw our federal Rural Recruitment grant. During this
grant, there were five rural recruiters who provided general and targeted recruitment
throughout Vermont. The recruiters were recruiting for foster, respite and adoptive families.
This was an exciting part of my job as it was a new and unpaved territory. There were always
new people to talk with and new parts of the state to see. A new idea meant there was a new
person to recruit.

10

I then transitioned into a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter, which allowed me to receive
valuable training and support through The Dave Thomas Foundation of Adoption, which
sponsored this new initiative. I enjoyed this job tremendously. I was then promoted to
Associate Director of Adoption and continued to be the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Supervisor.
In my current role of Associate Director of Adoption, I oversee the child focused recruitment
program and supervise two Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiters and three Permanency
Planning Counselors. I organize the Vermont Heart Gallery, a traveling photo display of
children needing an adoptive home and continue to be part of the recruitment of foster,
respite and adoptive families in Vermont.
Describe some of the most rewarding experiences you have had while helping children in
foster care find a forever home.
There are so many rewarding experiences: the moment you realize the youth finally believes
or trusts you, the smiles, the laughter you have never heard before, the life that comes back
into the eye of a child when they meet their family for the first time, the sound of a youth when
they let go of deep sigh when the judge says their new adoptive name and makes the
adoption final! Then years later when your phone rings and the youth is on the phone to say
thank you!
What would you say to someone to encourage them to choose working with children in
foster care?
The youth in foster care are the youth we have forgotten about and we need more individuals
to help youth in foster care find their talents, strengths and voices to be heard! When you
believe in a youth in foster care they will never forget you!

Heather has worked in the field of adoption for 18 years. She attended Trinity
College of Vermont where she received her Bachelor’s in
human services.

11

“If you are up for the challenge
and are committed to
improving outcomes for
children and families, this is the
career path for you.”

Ruth McRoy
AdoptUSKids Evaluator
Faculty member, Boston College School of Social Work
Research Professor, The University of Texas at Austin School
of Social Work

What are your major job responsibilities?
Currently, I serve as Research Professor and the Lead Evaluator for AdoptUSKids, the
national photolisting service, and as a faculty member at Boston College School of Social
Work.
How did your education and/or work experience lead you to helping children in foster care
find permanent, adoptive homes?

A variety of factors have led to my desire to help children in foster care find permanent,
adoptive homes. These include: 1) my training in social work; 2) experience recruiting and
placing infants and children for adoption; 3) consulting with adoption agencies on finding
families for African American children; and, 4) conducting research on a variety of topics
including open adoptions, transracial adoptions, African American adoptions, barriers to
adoption, successful adoptive families among many others. All of these multiple experiences
over the years continue to influence my commitment to recruiting, retaining and supporting
adoptive families.

Describe what you do, how your work contributes to finding permanent homes for foster
children and the challenges and rewards of your profession.

Currently, I lead an evaluation team at the University of Texas at Austin, which is responsible
for evaluating all components of AdoptUSKids, a federally funded national project that
supports child welfare systems and connects children in foster care with families. Through
our evaluation of all components of AdoptUSKids, we have been able to identify strategies
that work to successfully recruit and retain adoptive families for children.

Also, I have been part of other research projects which have examined longitudinal outcomes
of openness in adoption for birthmothers, adoptive parents and adopted children as well as
two studies of adoptions from foster care by families living in very rural areas.

12

Informing the nation’s adoption workforce about our findings and the implications for
practice will, hopefully, reduce the time to permanency for children in care. Also, through
teaching courses on adoption and foster care, presenting research findings at national and
local conferences and consulting with public and private agencies, my goal is to increase the
likelihood that we are able to improve child welfare practice and increase permanency for
foster children.
What would you tell someone who is considering entering the adoption profession but not
sure just what career path they want to pursue?
It can sometimes be challenging, yet always rewarding, for you to have the opportunity to
find adoptive families for the thousands of children in the nation’s foster care system who
are waiting. Also, if you are interested in research, I would strongly encourage you to partner
with scholars and child welfare practitioners who are focused on improving service delivery
through the development and implementation of more evidence based child welfare
practices. If you are up for the challenge and are committed to improving outcomes for
children and families, this is the career path for you.

Ruth has worked in the field of adoption for 30 years. She attended the
University of Kansas where she obtained her Psychology and Sociology. Ruth
went on to attend the University of Kansas for her MSW and she received her

PhD in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin.

13

“I never felt as if I had a
job. I had a purpose
and that purpose filled
every single day with
joy.”

Dixie van de Flier Davis
Executive Director, Retired
The Adoption Exchange, Aurora, Colorado

What were your major job responsibilities?

I began as a caseworker, counseling birth parents and prospective adoptive parents.
I became a supervisor and launched a program within my agency for foster care
adoptions. I founded The Adoption Exchange and was its President/ Executive
Director until my retirement. At the time of my retirement The Adoption Exchange
had offices in five states, a national training contract and approximately 50
employees.

How did your education, career choices and work experience lead you to the place
you are today?

I began my career in juvenile probation and saw what was happening to children in
foster care with no plan or permanent family. That motivated me. I attended
workshops to learn about myself and my talents, to learn how to manage, and to gain
the confidence that I could help accomplish something important for some of the
most vulnerable children in our society. I discovered that people in the community
cared about the children once they knew their circumstances; so finding volunteers
and funding partners was a joyful and exciting thing. I discovered that the media
would and could make a huge impact to help get the message out. And, I discovered
that very talented people wanted to use their skills and contacts as board members,
staff and volunteers. Every one of them had something to teach me and something
to contribute to the goals – to give every child a loving family and to support those
families. Every day was exciting and important because the children would be
growing up alone, if we failed to do what we knew to do.

As an agency leader, when you reflect on your career, what are the qualities,
education and skills that prepared you for a career in adoption?

14

It takes lots of energy and a single-minded focus to do this work, a love of talking with
people and a willingness to try new things. Sometimes it is necessary to challenge
the status quo, and other times it is necessary to find a way to simply help the existing
system do what it is intended to do. There is great joy in every one of those
(sometimes invisible) accomplishments along the way.

Why did you decide to enter the child welfare field and how did your education and/or
work experience lead you to helping children in foster care find permanent, adoptive
homes?

I saw that this population of children was not receiving the attention they needed and
discovered that there were people longing to claim them and become their parents.
I wanted to invest my time doing something that really needed to be done.

What other advice would you offer to those working in the profession or considering
joining the field of adoption?

 First, discover your purpose in this life. Figure out what it is you are on this earth
to do. It is easy to commit to something that looks difficult to others when the
simple truth is that it is your purpose – your mission. And that is where you feel at
home. That’s where you don’t count the hours but instead take pleasure in getting
lost in your work.

 Next, ask yourself what you want your life to look like when you’re in your
seventies. What do you want to accomplish by then? Where do you want to be
and who do you want to have around you at the end of your life?

 Now, ask yourself what it will take to make that happen. What do you need to do
by way of education, what do you need to do by way of relationships in your life to
help you live out your purpose, what work experiences do you need, and what
recreational, vocational and spiritual experiences will help you achieve your
purpose? When you take inventory, you will know what changes you need to
make in your own life.

 Finally, look around you to see where you are needed.

I never felt as if I had a job. I had a purpose and that purpose filled every single day
with joy.

Dixie has worked in the field of adoption for 40+ years. She founded her own
adoption agency, The Adoption Exchange, and was the executive director until
she retired in 2005. Dixie obtained her Bachelors degree from the University of

Colorado, and her Masters and Doctorate degrees from the University of
Northern Colorado.

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