Adoption Coalition of Texas
More Children Find Permanent Homes
ACF PROVIDES A BACKBONE FOR A UNIQUE COLLABERATION MOVING CHILDREN FROM FOSTER
CARE TO ADOPTION.
In any given year there are about 700 children in foster care in Central Texas. The challenge of finding permanent adoptive homes for these kids is a big one. Often the children passed over for adoption are teenagers, children with special needs, sibling groups and others, all waiting to join a permanent family.
In 1999, a group of public and private child-placement organizations sought to form a collaborative to increase adoptions, specifically for children cycling through foster care. For years, the group struggled to jell, until it reached out to Austin Community Foundation for help in 2003.
ACF took the fledgling organization under its wing. Armed with a grant application and a firm belief in the mission, ACF identified a donor willing to contribute more than $60,000 to seed the project- the largest donation the Adoption Coalition has received to this day.
Tracy Eilers, Executive Director of the Adoption Coalition, says, "ACF took this leap of faith. The believed in this idea and let us leverage their reputation to grow." Because ACF handles all the administrative tasks of being a nonprofit, Eilers doesn't have to rely on partner agencies to provide back-office support. That structure has allowed the Coalition to create innovative programs that have shown remarkable success.
Its most successful project to date is The Heart Gallery, which pairs local photographers with children in foster care to create intimate, moving portraits. The portraits are displayed in galleries across the state, offering a different view of these"forgotten" children.
"It's really about showing the personalities of these children, while at the same time using the events as an opportunity to teach families about adoption."
A few years ago, The Heart Gallery go thte attention of the Wendy's food chain, founded by Dave Thomas, himself an adopted child. The chain has since made the Coalition a signature program of its Wendy's Wonderful Kids project, which funds adoption programs that successfully move foster children into permanent homes.
With each success, ACF has helped the Coalition create a strong organization with the backbone to serve as the hub for multiple agencies. When each agency worked separately, says Eilers, it took a family nine months to a year to get to adoption. "But the Coalition removes the competition and the red tape. Now we can get a family through the system and with an adopted child within three months."
When the Coalition launched under ACF's watch, the annual adoption rate was 320 children. Last year it aided in the adoption of 730 children, an increase of more than 70 percent in five years.
"ACF succeeded in helping launch and now sustain the Coalition," says Eilers. "I think they would be shocked to see the depth of what they helped create."