Friday, October 7, 2011

Becca goes to Washington.

Well friends, it's time to tell you about that award I mentioned.

Last night, I returned from Washington DC, where I was able to lobby on behalf of adoptive families.

The congressional award I received is called "Angel in Adoption" and it was from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (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. 

National Angel in Adoption Winner Scott Fujita of the Cleveland Browns. He is a huge adoption advocate and was adopted as a white little boy by a Japanese dad and a white mom. It was so interesting hearing him speak about growing up white but in a Japanese family culture. He loved both his white and his Japanese cultures and got a kick out of teachers questioning his Japanese last name. He emphasized the love of his parents overcoming any racial identity issues he had, but also how they fostered a love for all the cultures he was blessed to be a part of. 

Laura Ingraham! I know, she's very Republican and very controversial. But all controversies aside,  this woman is a Champion for children's rights and has adopted three children... she has a transracial family :). That's my profile on the far left, and I'm standing with Kathleen Strottman (Director of CCAI) and one of Sen Landrieu's sisters. At this level of child advocacy, Republicans, Democrats, and everyone in between are good, good friends. It's awesome to see differences put aside! 

Me and Nia Vardalos ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and other big films)! She adopted her daughter at age 3 from foster care and is a huge advocate for adoption and children. She told me how much she loved her homestudy social worker, which made me happy, of course :). 

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... 
Well esteemed readers, I hope you enjoyed reading about one of the most exciting and powerful days of my life. I missed the "pinning" ceremony because Zach had a few tests to take on Tuesday when that took place, but once I receive that award in the mail I'll take a pic and show it to you... apparently it's pretty cool. I'm honored to be your newest adoption reform lobbyist, and I'll do my best to work for reform wherever it's needed. We're off to a good start, thanks to the amazing CCAI!


  1. You are the coolest girl ever. Ever.

  2. so awesome! congrats, becca and way to go! woot woot!

  3. Awesome, Becca!!!! This is soooo beyond cool! you ROCK!

  4. Awesome awesome awesome! And THANK YOU for being our voice. As a mama who recently just had to fight her own government to bring her son home, I really appreciate it!!! :)

  5. So proud of you! So glad for you! So goad for the adoption world to have you! You deserve this award...I couldn't be happier for you. Grinning ear to ear.

  6. Becca, you are so awesome!!! You totally deserve this award! Shoot, I would have given you an award for being the best social worker ever! :) Thank you for being such an amazing advocate!

  7. I don't know if I can be friends with you anymore. You are too cool for me!!!

  8. SOOOO awesome! I'm proud of you (and slightly jealous!!;) We're adopting two from ET! 8-9 year old girl and baby boy!!!!! :)

    Mama to 2 special needs Ukrainians!

    P.S. I played Senator Landrieu in my 12th grade government class! She's been around awhile, and I LOVE what she stands for! :)