Few Nevadans realize that November has been designated as National Adoption Month by every American president since Gerald Ford. Fewer yet know about the good deeds of The Adoption Exchange, a growing not-for-profit organization that has helped more than 4,100 children nationwide find permanent homes since it was founded in 1983. But an increasingly active group of local community leaders are working to change that by supporting and expanding an organization they say is needed now more than ever.
The Adoption Exchange has a simple mission: to connect children in the foster care system with qualified families who want to adopt them. It focuses most of its efforts on recruiting families for children who have survived abuse and neglect and providing training and education to professionals who work in the field. The organization also provides information and support to families who adopt.
“The Adoption Exchange is focused on the hard-to-adopt children,” said Assistant Clark County Manager Virginia Valentine, a member of the organization’s Nevada Advisory Committee. “Adoption is the best chance these children have to be cared for, to have a family, to just lead a normal life.” Like other supporters of the organization in Nevada, Valentine has a personal connection to The Adoption Exchange. As the parent of an adopted daughter, she said she has learned first-hand that “there’s a direct correlation between permanence and success.
“Children with multiple foster-home placements have more problems as adults, and society pays for those problems through the justice system and the welfare system,” Valentine said, echoing the comments of Clark County District Judge Nancy Saitta, who chairs The Adoption Exchange Advisory Committee in Nevada. “Placing a child with a ‘forever family’ improves that child’s chances of leading a rewarding and successful life. These benefits then ripple through our society,” she noted.
Since coming to Nevada in January of 2000, The Adoption Exchange has helped find “forever families” for hundreds of children who were waiting in the foster care system for a place to call home. In fiscal year 2003-04, Saitta said the organization helped find permanent homes for 285 children nationwide, including at least 25 in Nevada.
The organization now has offices in five of its eight member states. That includes Nevada, where Saitta, Valentine, Nevada Coordinator Sharon Feeney and their fellow Advisory Committee members are busy marketing its mission through adoption fairs, fundraisers, newsletters and “Wednesday’s Child,” a television news segment on adoption anchored by Dave Courvoisier that airs each Wednesday at 6 p.m. on KLAS-TV Channel 8 in Las Vegas.
Besides helping children find families, supporters say the charity has also saved Nevada taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, based on national statistics showing state taxpayers spend an average of $20,000 per year to care for each child in the foster care system. Saitta said Nevada has about 1,800 children in the foster care system waiting for permanent homes.
About The Adoption Exchange
The Adoption Exchange is a non-profit 501(c) (3) child welfare organization founded in 1983 to work for safety and permanence in the lives of foster children. Initially an exchange point for caseworkers to discuss placement of children with families seeking to adopt in the Rocky Mountain region, the organization has grown considerably over the years and now impacts national trends in child welfare, employs more than 35 paid staff and counts on scores of volunteers to carry out its mission. Since its inception, the agency has helped find families for more than 4,100 children with a broad range of special needs.
The Adoption Exchange needs families interested in adopting children, as well as those interested in becoming volunteers or making donations. For more information, visit www.adoptex.org or call (702) 436-6335.