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About Us

Mission & History

Our Mission

We connect and empower individuals, organizations and communities impacted by adoption and foster care, and we provide a source of healing for those in need.

Our Vision

An inclusive community supporting all people impacted by adoption and foster care.

Our Values

Inclusiveness*: We draw strength from that which unites by embracing all people, honoring diversity and accepting differences.

Collaboration: We choose to be a catalyst for outstanding practices by fostering relationships internally and externally among individuals, organizations, and communities.

Courage: We stand for our mission and an individual’s right to self-determination even at the risk of compromising mainstream acceptance.

Trust: We promote a sense of security and hope through honesty, authenticity, and openness.

*Adoption Network Cleveland is fully committed to inclusiveness. Adoption touches people of all cultures, backgrounds, and walks of life. Throughout our organization, we celebrate this fact by:

  • Embracing all people
  • Respecting the diversity of the people we serve
  • Reflecting inclusivity in our leadership
  • Responding through our policies and programs

Acknowledging and accepting our differences, we choose to draw our strength from that which unites us.

How do we accomplish our mission?

Adoption Network Cleveland accomplishes its mission by:

  • Creating a safe place for those touched by adoption and foster care to pursue personal empowerment. This includes but is not limited to: adoptees, birthparents and family, prospective adoptive parents, adoptive, kinship, and foster families, youth in foster care, and foster care alumni.
  • Providing opportunities for peer support and education for those impacted by adoption and foster care and the professionals who serve them.
  • Developing and advocating for best practices in adoption practice, policy, and law.
  • Creating and implementing high quality programs and services based on best practices in the field.
  • Convening and leading public-private partnerships; promoting progressive system change.
  • Promoting public awareness and social change regarding adoption and foster care issues throughout the broader community.
  • Creating possibility through promoting openness, cooperation, and collaboration in adoption and foster care.

Our History

Adoption Network Cleveland was founded in 1988 by Betsie Norris, an adoptee, after she successfully searched for her birthparents and recognized the unmet needs of adoptees, birthparents, and adoptive parents. Adoption was once seen as a simple legal event. For 30 years, Adoption Network Cleveland has offered programs and services that recognize adoption as a complex, lifelong and intergenerational journey with ongoing issues for all those whose lives are touched by it. Core programs and services include our Adoption Helpline, General Discussion Meetings, professional trainings, search assistance, a newsletter, pre- and post-adoption educational opportunities, advocacy, and a speaker’s bureau. The organization promotes community awareness and social change by advocating for progressive policies in adoption practice, policy, and law.

Adoption Network Cleveland was a fully volunteer organization until 1995, at which point the founder, Betsie Norris, was hired as the Executive Director. With a small staff and budget, the organization had a big impact and a volunteer base of over 200.

In 2002, the Community Vision Council staffed by the United Way of Greater Cleveland identified the large backlog of 1,700 youth in foster care waiting for adoption in Cuyahoga County as a crisis that needed an immediate and well-coordinated solution. Chosen to serve as the lead agency for the Adopt Cuyahoga’s Kids Initiative, Adoption Network Cleveland transformed adoption in our community by redesigning the system for adoption of waiting youth in Cuyahoga County through an innovative public-private partnership. These systemic innovations were instrumental in reducing the number of youth available for adoption in Cuyahoga County from 1,700 in 2004 to fewer than 600 in 2017.

Through the Adopt Cuyahoga’s Kids Initiative, Adoption Network Cleveland has developed a comprehensive methodology to address multiple barriers to permanency for youth in need and has been successful on a far greater scale, providing a replicable model for other areas experiencing crises in the public child welfare system. Placing an initial group of 332 youth in adoptive homes between 2004 and 2006 saved taxpayers an estimated $29.5 million in case management and $22.2 million in increased social services for youth who aged out for a total savings of $51.7 million. Since 2007, an additional 90 youth have been placed with adoptive families through Child Centered Recruitment. Besides these financial costs, the human costs of aging out of the foster care system are incalculable. 

In recognition of the success of this Kids Initiative, Adoption Network Cleveland received a 2009 Adoption Excellence Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the area of Adoption of Minority Children and Youth, one of many awards the organization has received.

View a timeline of our history and accomplishments.

Our Impact This Year (Oct. 2018-Sept. 2019)

  • People Served


  • Volunteer Hours


  • Donors and Members


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