Last night, I returned from Washington DC, where I was able to lobby on behalf of adoptive families.
CCAI). I got the award after being recommended by Senator Richard Burr for my work in the adoption field over the last 9 years professionally, but over the last 16 years personally.
Getting an award is always a huge, humbling honor. For me, however, this was about being given a voice. A voice to share concerns with some of the most powerful people in the world. On Wednesday, I was given the opportunity to speak with the staff of Representative Tim Walberg of Michigan, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, and Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. I was able to speak in person with Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Representative Jim Langevin of Rhode Island. I was escorted by Jeff Brooks, an attorney with Adams and Reese LLP (he does a ton of important things regarding governmental relations, representing clients legislatively on matters of transportation, appropriations, public works, education and the environment). Mr. Brooks was the chief counsel and director of special projects for Congressman Richard Baker.
I was able to sit in a legislative meeting concerning funding and laws for international adoption and the foster care system here in the US. I was honored to be in the meeting with many other adoption advocates and lobbyists, including Becky Shipp of the Senate Finance Committee, Diedra Henry Spires of the Senate Finance Committee, Barbara Pryor who works with Senator Rockefeller, Ryan Martin with the House Committee on Ways and Means/House Human Resources Subcommittee, and Paul Foldi, who works for Senator Lugar of Indiana and serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
|Where our Legislative meeting took place.|
|Chillin' with Jeff... needed caffeine to get through the day!|
I haven't even mentioned getting to speak with Kathleen Strottman, CCAI Executive Director, and probably the most well-connected woman in Washington when it comes to matters of children's rights. I'm pretty stoked to have her phone number now. Another resource I can use when someone needs help at any point in their adoption process.
Are you wondering why I'm telling you all this? I'm telling you this because adoption and children's rights are huge parts of my life. Not only am I an adoptive sister and mother, but I am an adoption professional. I represent my clients and my friends who are having complications with their adoption process abroad, or here within the US. You guys, the people I mentioned above are heroes. Regardless of political party or how their images are painted in the press, they work tirelessly on our behalf to provide funding for foster kids, to change outdated laws, to provide financial help and services to adoptive families, and to work with us on embassy issues. These people come together and literally fight for children's rights. And they are winning.
|Our lobbying group outside of Rep. Walberg's office, with his staff member Joanna Brown|
|Our lobbying group and some dude on the right doing a weird thing with his legs|
|Preparing to speak, in Senator Burr's office!|
|I really should be more mature in these moments. Peace, y'all.|
|These were my favorite ladies! I got to spend the day with Senator Landrieu's sisters, one of whom is an adoptive mama (Russia). These ladies are CHAMPIONS for adoption reform and children's rights. I love them! Plus, they are hilarious!|
The Representatives listened intently to my stories, YOUR stories, about problems we're having at our Embassies abroad regarding international adoption. They were dismayed and concerned about how their own citizens, and subsequently their citizen's adopted children, are basically being treated like criminals at our own embassies. Our representatives want to see power hungry leaders within our Embassies stopped. They want investigations into possibly unethical adoptions started a long time before the child's country of origin gives Americans custody. If they have been given custody, they want the visa process to be expedited and for our own Embassies to stop the crazy, made-up requirements that they decide on without any outside authority. They want reform within the USCIS to stop preventing legitimately adopted children from coming home in a timely manner. They want to stop fraudulent adoptions.
They want to do all of this because I told them your stories. I told them what was going on "in the field." THEY NEED TO KNOW OUR STORIES.
We can no longer just complain about what's going on. Friends, you have access to your congressional representatives. They WANT to hear from you. They NEED to know your stories or they won't know how to change the laws or challenge CIS to get rid of the policies that our hurting our children. I told THEM what YOU are dealing with. They have asked me to tell YOU to call THEM and set up meetings with their staff members. Either in person or on the phone. SHARE YOUR STORIES and ask for help! And please, BE RESPECTFUL! Regardless of party lines, and regardless of whether or not you hate them for certain opinions or issues or you didn't vote for them. Regardless of all that, they represent YOU. Be kind, be clear, and tell your stories. You will get much, much further with your concerns regarding adoption if you use your voice in a respectful but forceful manner.
After meeting with these incredible people and running from building to building to make our meetings on time, we caught the metro to get ready for the Angels in Adoption Gala, which took place in the Reagan building.
|My new friend, an adoption advocate in a hospital in Colorado. She counsels adoptive families and birthmoms. Fellow award winner. She rocks!|
|US Senate Chaplain Barry Black giving the blessing.|
|the ceiling! so cool.|
|Me with Senator Mary Landrieu, who is, hands down, the most vocal and forceful member of Congress when it comes to adoption and foster care advocacy. She is simply the best!!!! I was beyond honored and humbled to be in her presence.|
|The husband who made it all possible!|
|The feet that suffered, all in the name of lobbying on YOUR behalf :). You're welcome! But seriously, my feet have never hurt this much. Even when I danced on point. I thought I'd picked good shoes...|