Public Adoption and Why It’s So Important

By Katie Friend, MA

Adoptions Listing Service and Inquiry Unit and Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Adoption Supervisor Katie Friend says after 25 years in social work, building trusting and genuine relationships with our most vulnerable youth is not only important but priceless. Read more about how she sees herself as a matchmaker for children in foster care looking for their forever home.

It may sound cliché, especially with “Friend” as your last name, but I like helping people. Providing knowledge and assistance is very rewarding. Child welfare allowed me to tap into a wide variety of experiences such as finding valuable resources for youth and families and increasing my ability to be objective while being an advocate for our most vulnerable. Although I work very closely with the youth, families and other professionals at the Center for Law and Social Work, I still feel as if my role is more behind the scenes. Often times I am steering the process with a gentle nudge or in a more demanding way if necessary. It feels good to be viewed as a valuable and respected member of the team. It’s often said that the rewards received from social service aren’t financial but come in the form of the lives you touch and help change for the better.


The youth I work with have complicated stories. There’s seldom a happy reason behind a child coming into foster care. Therefore, establishing trust can be difficult, especially with our youth who have been in care for many years. By the time they’re assigned onto my caseload, they’ve told their story 1,000 times to countless people- case workers, therapists, teachers, foster parents and classmates. They’ve been placed in a foster home they liked and then were pulled out. They’ve formed bonds that were broken again and again by the system and here I am, asking them to trust an adult…again. The heartbreaking challenge is when the trusting relationship is formed and you don’t have any available families for them. You see the hurt in their eyes and the hopelessness. Most families see a stigma attached to kids 13 and over and are hesitant to take a chance on a youth older than age 8.


Not every story is heartbreaking though. When a match is made and the child is brought to meet his or her prospective parents, everyone is on their best behavior. Over time you see the walls break down, you see the authenticity come out and you get a feel for how they’ll come together as a unit. It’s one of my favorite parts about my job at CLSW- seeing a child be brave enough to trust adults once more and seeing the adults fall in love with the child.


The importance of our youth having lifelong connections can’t be stressed enough. They say it takes a village and I love being part of and helping to create that village. Hopefully the Village is an adoptive family but if the Village is something different, that can be great too. Our youth need mentors, teachers, coaches, fictive kin and biological family to wrap their arms and resources around our youth forever- not just until age 18.
Working for the Adoption Listing Service of Illinois at CLSW has opened my eyes to the urgent need for adoptive families for our youth 8-17 years old. They are the faces you come across time after time on various adoption websites. Yes, their past contains trauma. Breaking down barriers, building trust and self esteem is hard work but it is very possible. It’s a myth that youth 8-17 don’t want to be adopted; they do and they tell me often and I can see it in the eyes of the ones not willing to say it out loud. The youth are not perfect and the changes are slow to manifest but they want and deserve a stable, nurturing, supportive and loving family. You may have heard an ad about becoming a foster parent that says “You don’t have to be perfect to be a foster parent”; and that is the truth. These children are not looking for “perfect families”. We have in depth conversations with our youth about what they want in a family. They are open minded and we talk honestly about our families who are of various ethnicities, races, gender, marital status, sexual orientation. What these children want most above anything else is a family that will care for, love, and support them.


Katie Friend is the Adoption Listing Service and Inquiry Unit and Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Supervisor with The Center for Law and Social Work. Last year at the annual summit she received Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Supervisor of the year Award. She is a former Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter and has been working in social services for 25 years.

http://www.clsw.org/public-adoption-and-why-its-so-important/

Grandfamilies: Grandparents adopting their grandchildren

By Ashley Reed, CLSW Attorney-At-Law

Why would anyone delay his or her retirement and step back into the role of raising children?  The answer is simple for grandparents raising their grandchildren: the children are worth it.  The reality of grandparents raising their grandchildren is becoming an all too familiar family dynamic in today’s society.  Many may hear this and think of what the grandparents are giving up and all the things that had to go wrong in a family’s life for this to happen.  But in reality, there is so much good happening for these grandparents and grandchildren.  Giving a child the gift of security in knowing they will have a stable home that can’t be disrupted on a parent’s whim is invaluable to the emotional development of a child.  

I was recently in court representing a family for adoption.  A grandmother was adopting her two granddaughters who are both in elementary school.  The granddaughters had lived in their grandmother’s home, on and off with their mother, their whole life.  Five years ago, their mother left the girls there and had not returned to care for them.  Unfortunately, both of the girl’s parents suffer from mental health issues and drug addiction.  Living with “grannie” is the one constant the girls have known throughout their short life. When the Judge asked the girls if they knew why they were in court that day, both of their faces just lit up.  They very clearly told the Judge that “grannie is going to adopt us so we can stay with her forever”.  No matter how much she has assured them in the past that she would keep them safe, there was clearly the lingering question of what would happen if mom or dad showed up again.  To hear our client rave about the positive characteristics of both of her granddaughters was also a welcome reminder to me of the love she was pouring into them every day. She doesn’t see these girls as preventing her from retirement.  She sees them as rays of sunshine that add so much to her world.  She just kept repeating that these girls are worth it. We left court that day and the sense of relief in all of them was evident from the hugs, smiles and literal skip in the girls’ steps. This sense of joy and relief is not an uncommon occurrence when working with grandparents and grandchildren through adoption and it is one of the reasons why those of us in the field love to help these families.  The road leading to our office is never an easy one for the families, but the smiles and the skip as they walk home together seems to make it all worth it.     

I am fortunate to be able to work with many families who are experiencing the benefits of grandparents adopting their grandchildren.  The choice for a grandparent to adopt typically comes at the end of a long line of steps and decisions for the family.  The biggest hurdle for families can often be the fact that parents’ rights have to be terminated before the adoption can be completed.  As a parent (and as a grandparent), it is understandable that to permanently change the relationship between your child and their children is a very difficult decision to make.  Ultimately, the decision to adopt a grandchild gives that child a sense of long-term stability and strengthens the bond between grandchild and grandparent.  While the formality of a final adoption order severs one familial tie, it also provides the grandparent with the knowledge that they are now in control and can care for their grandchild in the best way possible.  

Adopting a grandchild puts grandparents in the role of parent, allowing them to make more decisions for their grandchildren without restrictions.  Educational decisions and medical decisions affecting grandchildren’s health and well-being are just a few examples.  Adoption also allows grandparents to have a say in who will care for the child upon their passing. It allows grandparents to pass along many benefits to their grandchild that would not otherwise be possible including insurance benefits, social security benefits, college grants and scholarships, legal rights to estate issues in the future, and more.

The Center for Law and Social Work was founded as a resource for grandparents raising grandchildren. We provide legal services for adoption and wrap around social work services to ensure a smooth transition for your forever family. Please contact me at areed@clsw.org with any questions or to set up an appointment.


http://www.clsw.org/grandfamilies-grandparents-adopting-their-grandkids/

Porchlight Counseling Services receives grant from VNA

In the time of the #MeToo movement, the need for a program like Porchlight Counseling Services is more evident than ever before. This grant from the VNA Foundation, in the amount of $50,000, will make it possible for Porchlight to serve an even greater number of people who need these services the most.

Did you know that according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), an estimated 90% of sexual assault survivors on college campuses don’t report the crime to their school or to the authorities? Time and again, Porchlight is contacted by students who have been scared to speak out, and who have struggled to complete their coursework and resume their lives after an assault.

Through the support of individual donors and grants like the one awarded by the VNA Foundation, Porchlight can continue its mission to reach out to these students, who too often feel alone and in the dark. By providing free counseling services to these survivors, Porchlight strives to bring them back into the light.

Learn more about Porchlight Counseling Services by visiting our sister website here.

Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Awards $140,000 Grant to CLSW

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Every child deserves a family.

That is the mission of CLSW’s newest program, the Adoption Listing Service of Illinois (ALSI). You may be wondering why this program is so important. What makes ALSI deserving of a grant from Wendy’s Wonderful Kids? What is ALSI, and why does it matter?

Everyone in the state of Illinois who is interested in adopting or fostering through the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) gets directed to CLSW. Yes, you read that right- everyone in the entire state who wants information on adoption and fostering gets directed to the ALSI program at CLSW. Not only does CLSW manage the Adoption Information call number (1-800-572-2390), but it is home to a wonderful team of Adoption Recruitment Specialists.

It takes a special kind of person to be an Adoption Recruitment Specialist. They work directly with licensed families and with foster children ready for adoption to find the right family for each child. Wendy’s Wonderful Kids has recognized how truly exceptional the ALSI recruiters are. They have granted CLSW $140,000 so that the ALSI Adoption Recruitment Specialists can truly dedicate time and energy into matching children with their forever families.

Not only that, but our very own supervisor to ALSI, Katie Friend, was recently recognized for her hard work and dedication. Wendy’s Wonderful Kids selected Katie as the winner of the Outstanding Supervisor Award. The staff at CLSW are unbelievably proud of her! Read more about Katie here.

Thank you Wendy’s Wonderful Kids! CLSW thanks you on behalf of all the beautiful children in Illinois who are dreaming of their new families!

CLSW’s own is recognized by Wendy’s