Anniversaries are often a moment to reflect on moments and milestones of a journey. As Adoption Network Cleveland celebrates an important anniversary this year, I find myself recounting the snapshots of the last 30 years of my journey and of this life-changing organization. I was 25, full of questions about myself, my origins and my medical history. My search for my roots took me a year — something that today would take probably less than a day. My adoptive family was all in with me.
The results surpassed my expectations, finding that my birthparents, who were in college when I came along resulting in my birthmother being sent away to a home for unwed mothers, had married after my birth and raised three children — my full brothers.
In 1988 I was just an adoptee with a story, an experience, an idea, a yearning for a community of understanding, and a lot of passion. Wanting to start an organization to help others I jumped in with both feet. Our first activity led to an article in The Cleveland Plain Dealer and listed my home phone number for interested people to contact.
Remember, this was before the Internet, before Google, and newspapers were well-read and the go-to place for information. From that article I got 275 phone calls in three days and we were off and running – proving that I wasn’t alone and that this was an idea whose time had obviously come!
I was swept away and built the organization as a volunteer for those first seven years, working more than full-time hours. In 1995 I left my job as a nurse to fully live into my passion as our first professional staff person as Executive Director. Our cornerstones of advocacy, education and support — the hallmarks of Adoption Network Cleveland’s work — are embraced by our community and have been groundbreaking.
My vision was to bring people together, to create community, as well as to provide individual support and life-changing services. I wanted us to impact the system of, the culture of, adoption so that the system would work better for the people most directly affected. To attack the secrecy head-on and promote truth, transparency and understanding — to create systemic change.
And, together we have!
We have created a nationally-recognized, award-winning, and dynamic organization.
Through our collective vision, working together, we have achieved and surpassed my original vision and kept going. We have impacted hundreds of thousands of people. We have built community, helped people heal through relationships, helped build and sustain families, and we have created social change.
We’ve impacted the adoption system through our Adopt Cuyahoga’s Kids programing, legislation to decrease barriers to the adoption of kids in foster care — the kids who need stability most, and through our success convincing the state to allow all Ohio-born adoptees access to their original birth certificates.
Yet, there is still lots of work to do…as you might know we recently expanded our scope and are now Adoption Network Cleveland: The Ohio Family Connection, as we now serve lots of folks beyond Greater Cleveland, and other types of families providing homes for kids in need such as those formed through kinship as well as adoption.
There have been so many people involved along the way. You make all of our successes possible — we truly couldn’t do it without you. Thank you for being here through the years, and this year to help us celebrate, to support us, and to sustain us. Here’s to 30 wonderful years behind us, and to the next 30 ahead!