Betsie is an adoptee who searched for and was reunited with her birthparents in 1986, when she was in her mid-twenties. Much to her surprise she found that her birthmother had married her birthfather not long after her birth and they subsequently raised three sons. She was welcomed with open arms by her birthparents, siblings and the entire extended family.
Having made the journey to a successful reunion on her own, in 1988 Betsie founded Adoption Network Cleveland to provide support and assistance to others who are touched by adoption. The organization was at first a fully volunteer effort, and as it grew, she became the organization’s first executive director in 1995. Since then Betsie has become a frequent spokesperson in the media and has assisted in over 2,000 adoptee-birthparent reunions. With a wide array of programs and services, Adoption Network Cleveland serves as a successful national model for effective service and advocacy for members of the adoption community including adoptees, adoptive parent, birthparents, youth in foster care and related professionals.
for additional information about the history of Adoption Network Cleveland.
Betsie has worked tirelessly on legislation to reform Ohio's adoption laws since founding Adoption Network Cleveland and has been part of several work groups on the state level on the subject. As a result, adoptees, birthparents, adoptive parents and siblings have greater access to information about one another in Ohio than they otherwise would, and 400,000 adoptees adopted in Ohio’s formerly “closed” period 1964-1996 have access to their original birth certificates effective March 2015. The story of her involvement is highlighted in the short documentary An Adoptee ROARed in Ohio: The Betsie Norris Story
by Jean Strauss, which debuted at the Cleveland International Film Festival in 2014. Click here
to view the film.
Betsie is co-author with Jayne Schooler of Journeys After Adoption: Understanding the Lifelong Process (Bergin & Garvey, 2002). She served as a board member of the national American Adoption Congress
from 1997-1999 and currently serves on the board of The Donaldson Adoption Institute
. Trained as an RN with a specialty in child psychiatry, Betsie earned a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Case Western Reserve University in 1996. She is a member of the Leadership Cleveland Class of 2012. Her recent awards include:
- 2015 The Eleanor R. Gerson Leadership in Social Justice Award from Greater Cleveland Community Shares
- 2015 Women who Excel Award's Progressive Entrepreneur Winner from Smart Business magazine
- 2015 Virginia Colson Award for Service to Families and Children from the Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies: OACCA
- 2014 Advocate of the Year Award from the Ohio Adoption Planning Group
- 2013 Pillar Award for Community Service "Executive Director of the Year" from Medical Mutual and Smart Business Magazine
- 2012 Champion Award from the National Center for Adoption Law & Policy
- 2011 Adoption Excellence Award for increased adoptions for older children by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- 2010 inductee into the Shaker Heights High School Hall of Fame
- 2009 Foster Care Hero Award from the Rona R. Carter Scholarship Fund
- 2005 Woman of Note from Crains Cleveland Business
- 2005 Angels in Adoption Award from the United States Congress
- 2005 Hearts of Hope Award from Beech Brook
- 2004 Emma Mae Vilardi Humanitarian Award from the American Adoption Congress
In addition, under her tenure, the organization has received the following awards:
- 2014 Parent Group of the Year Award from the National Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC)
- 2013 Member Organization of the Year from Greater Cleveland Community Shares
- 2012 Drenda Lakin Memorial Award for Continuing Services to Adoptive Families from Voice for Adoption in Washington, DC
- 2009 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Adoption Excellence Award
- 2005 Anisfield Wolf Memorial Award from The Cleveland Foundation and The Center for Community Solutions
for a downloadable version of Betsie Norris' bio.