CHICAGO -- Three
Illinois programs/families were selected to receive the 2003 Adoption
Excellence Award from the United States Department of Health and Human
Services. Family Tree Adoption Connections, One Church One Child, and
Maria and Evan Thomas received the prestigious award on November 6, 2003
at a Washington, D.C. ceremony. The award was established in 1997 to recognize
outstanding accomplishments in achieving permanency for America's children
in foster care by states, child welfare agencies, organizations, courts,
businesses, individuals, and families. Nominees are recommended for Adoption
Excellence Awards based on: measurable impact or outcomes, collaboration/partnerships,
use of technology, innovation/uniqueness, leadership, outreach, use of
volunteers, return in investments, ability to replicate, and community
In the United
States, there are nearly 542, 000 children in foster care. Over 65, 000
of those are free for adoption and awaiting a permanent home. The following
Illinois agencies/families are recognized for their commitment and contribution
to this cause:
Adoption Connections (Support for Adoptive Families Category) nominated
by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services
Tree Adoption Connections program supports adoptive families in Vermilion
County through an array of services that empower them in a non-threatening
and nurturing environment. The program reaches out to families who may
have feelings of mistrust or alienation associated with more traditional
family-based services such as counseling or other "clinical"
services and offers them a welcoming setting that normalizes their concerns.
Through reducing stress and increasing positive interactions within and
between adoptive families, the program brings hope and healing to many
parents and their children.
includes a variety of family-oriented activities, such as multi-family
outings, parent educational and support groups, parent retreats, family
weekend camps, and activities for adopted youth. Educational support groups
bring parents together for presentation by guest speakers, while children
participate in their own structured activities.
Family Tree Adoption Connections served 152 clients in support groups
for parents and children, 33 clients in parenting classes, 22 in adoptive
parent support groups, and offered childcare for 46 children. They offer
these programs to families on an annual grant-funding budget of $34,541
supplemented by fund-raising and volunteer efforts.
One Child (Public Awareness Category) nominated by the Illinois Department
of Children and Family Services
One Child (OCOC) has been a leader in special needs adoption for 23 years.
The program was created in the state of Illinois in 1980 with leadership
provided by Father George Clements, along with a group of ministers, the
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, and other governmental
it is estimated that over 15,000 Illinois children have been adopted as
a direct result of the recruitment and community outreach efforts of OCOC.
Over 20,000 presentations have been made in churches, schools and programs,
and thousands of community members have been made aware of the need to
adopt children. Since its inception in Illinois, thirty-eight states and
the District of Columbia have formed One Church One Child organizations.
An estimated 60,000 children have been adopted nationally because of the
One Child has been a leader in the development of best practice around
recruitment and retention of adoptive families. It has a unique training
program for its recruiters, most of whom are foster or adoptive parents.
Each recruiter is linked to an OCOC member church and has direct and personal
contact with church members. In addition, One Church One Child has led
the state in developing sound follow-up and tracking practices from family
inquiry to the placement of children and adoption finalization.
success is in part due to its many collaborative and unique partnerships.
It works with private agencies to see that families are licensed and matched
with waiting children. It has a history of working in partnership with
and providing leadership to the state's other recruitment efforts, including
the award winning Corporate Partnership for Recruitment of Adoptive Families
program, Howard University's HOTEP (Holding on to Every Person) program,
The Casey Foundation's Family to Family program, the Breakthrough Series
Collaborative on Recruitment, and countless community based and targeted
Evan Thomas (Individuals and/or Family Contribution Category) nominated
by the Adoption Information Center of Illinois
not only exhibit many of the qualities of an ideal adoptive family, but
they have also been outspoken advocates for finding loving homes for America's
waiting children. They have adopted four waiting children: Reuben James,
17, and three related sisters, Beatriz, 15, Julia, 13, and Grace, 12.
The youngsters are thriving in their care due not only to the Thomases'
loving support and bright-eyed optimism, but also to their absolute commitment
to maintaining sibling bonds. For example, after the Thomases adopted
Beatriz and Julia, they were informed about an opportunity to bring Grace
into their home. "How could we refuse?" said Mrs. Thomas.
family also ensures that the children have regular visits with siblings
who live elsewhere. While many families say they understand the importance
of the sibling bond, few go to the lengths that the Thomases do to nurture
and maintain those bonds. They are great examples to other adoptive families
in this regard.
serve as adoption advocates for waiting children in general and have written
various articles regarding adoption. They have also lent their time and
energy to various adoption conferences and other forums, highlighting
the rewards of adopting older children. Even the Thomas children are strong
adoption advocates and have written articles about the rewards and challenges
of being adopted. The Thomas family is leading by example and helping
increase public awareness of this very critical issue.
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services