NACAC part 4 Community Champions
(This is part 4 of my NACAC inspired series).
Chances are many of you have never heard of this great initiative designed to pull the various threads of adoption together. The Community Champions Network exists to motivate and inspire adoption advocates, to spur parent-led support groups on and to coordinate advocacy efforts throughout the various corners of North America. It was created in 2006 with funding by Jockey Being Family, the clothing and underwear company, to help expand post-adoption services. Numerous sites were chosen in various provinces and states, each one because they were lacking in post-adoption services. In Canada, the Atlantic provinces and Ontario were chosen. Alberta was initially to be a site, but around about the time they were being chosen the Alberta government stepped up with funding to build a variety of progressive post-adoption supports. One of those initiatives meant that every parent who adopted through the Alberta child welfare system was to be given a subsidy. The government chose to recognize that adoptive parents would face lifelong challenges with many of their children and would require support. The subsidy initiative also meant some parents who had maintained longterm foster placements out of financial necessity were moved to finalize the adoptions, a much better solution for foster youth. Studies have shown foster youth fare better in permanent homes than foster homes and it is more cost effective for governments to do this. Since 2006, various parent groups, adoption agencies and advocates have come together to create a variety of excellent and innovative post-adoption resources as a result of the network (CCN). Some groups have built speak out teams and hosted a variety of events to increase adoption awareness. Speak out teams consist of teenagers and adopted youth who are able to use their own stories to tell professionals and politicians why the system doesn’t work and what changes need to happen. Some have held Kids and Judges Days, events designed to help bridge the gap between legal services and youth, to help youth also get over the fear of courts and the court process. Until recently many states and provinces have lacked insight at all, maintaining the attitude that adoption ends when finalized in court. And yet what we know to be true is quite the opposite, that adoption is a lifelong process. Adoptees will, throughout different developmental periods in their lives, revisit grief and loss issues that are common to the adoption experience. Adoptees also sadly have greater likelihood of managing mental health issues than the general population. This and the fact that many adoptive parents end up adopting children with special needs, means there are additional stressors on adoptive families that are not there for families created in traditional ways. NACAC’s Kim Stevens has done a remarkable job pulling the various threads of adoption networks and parent groups together to knit a tapestry that’s beginning to appear slowly in these various communities and Jockey too is to be commended for their commitments. But more than that in all of this, the adoptive parents, foster parents and advocates who are often left championing these causes in their spare time are to be commended. These are the true community champions.