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 more than 20 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 in response to anyone touched by adoption include our Adoption Helpline, General Support and Discussion Meetings, professional trainings, search assistance, a newsletter, pre- and post-adoption educational opportunities, a lending library, 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 of the United Way of Greater Cleveland identified the large backlog of 1,700 children and teens in the permanent custody of the child welfare system waiting for adoption 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 700 in 2011.

Through the Adopt Cuyahoga’s Kids Initiative, Adoption Network Cleveland has developed a comprehensive methodology to address multiple barriers to adoption 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.

For a timeline of our history and accomplishments, click here.
“Adoption Network Cleveland is always willing to share resources and expertise.”
Tenneh Johnson Kemah, LCSW-C, Maryland
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