Artwork for podcast Who Am I Really?
032 – Intervew With The Gift Of Adoption Fund
Episode 3228th October 2017 • Who Am I Really? • Damon L. Davis
00:00:00 00:31:11

Share Episode


Today I’m bringing you something a little different for #NationalAdoptionMonth. There are a lot of people, processes, and policies integral to the adoption of a child, raising a child, and supporting that person’s desire to search for their birth family. I’m bringing you a few stories from across the adoption continuum. The first is that of the Gift Of Adoption Fund (, a volunteer-driven non-profit organization that raises funds to provide adoption assistance grants to complete the adoption of vulnerable children. Gift of Adoption’s CEO Pam Devereux shares a little of her own story of being personally driven to helping others, the mission of the organization, and how she hopes many more of us will consider donating to charities that support adoption because, ultimately, the welfare of all children is on all of us.

The post 032 – Intervew With The Gift Of Adoption Fund appeared first on Who Am I...Really? Podcast.

Pam (00:00):

Adoption is sort of like a one day sort of thing, but then the family is forever and so hearing about the ripple effect of that to me is what warms my heart and it just makes me feel grateful for what we're able to do.

Voices (00:23):

Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

Damon (00:30):

This is Who Am I Really, a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members? I'm Damon Davis and today I'm bringing you something a little different. Normally Who Am I Really shares stories of adoptees trying to connect with their birth families, but in talking to so many adoptees, it has become clear to me that there are a lot of people, processes and policies integral to the adoption of a child, raising a child and supporting that person's desire to search for their birth family. There are birth parents, foster parents and adoptive parents. There are social workers, search angels, policymakers in court systems and advocacy groups all contributing their piece to the adoption community. For National Adoption Month, I'm bringing you a few stories from across the adoption continuum. Don't worry. I still have reunion stories planned, but I wanted to share some other perspectives too. The first is that of a volunteer driven nonprofit organization that raises funds to provide adoption assistance grants to complete the adoption of vulnerable children. The organization is called The Gift of Adoption Fund and my guest today is Pam Devereaux, CEO of The Gift of Adoption. You may hear me refer to it as GOA. You can find them online at Pam shares a little of her own story of being personally driven to help others. The mission of Gift of Adoption and how she hopes many more of us will consider donating to charities that support adoption because ultimately the welfare of all children is on all of us.

Damon (02:13):

I asked Pam a little bit about herself because I really wanted to know what kind of person becomes CEO of a charitable organization that helps fund adoptions. She's from Chicago and she studied business at the University of Illinois. Pam told me she always felt the urge to help others and wanted to join the Peace Corps when she was younger. She graduated college, got a job in banking instead then achieved her master's degree and wondered what the next move for her should be. At her next job in the insurance industry, she developed the skills and responsibilities for her business unit that would mold her for the next move into philanthropy. In the 1990s Pam joined the Make A Wish Foundation.

Pam (02:52):

I guess I really thought, um, in college that I would end up helping out, you know, maybe going the Peace Corps or something like that. I think I always had a heart for doing something bigger for others. Make A Wish was really growing in brand and organizational structure. And so some of the background I had from Zurich Insurance helped in Make A Wish and at Make A Wish, I was there almost about eight years. We really grew the organization and the Illinois chapter was one of the largest chapters around the nation and just a great exposure to great leaders and great board membership and governance. And again, sort of that idea of taking an idea that was growing and kind of putting a structure behind it. I followed a board chair to Ernest and Young, so I got a chance to move back into the for profit sector, was part of Ernest and Young for awhile. And at that time I adopted my daughter. I was a single person at the time and adopted my daughter from China. She was about one when she came home. And sort of the confluence of all of those things had me meeting the Founder of Gift Adoption, Gene Wyka, he and his wife Lucy cofounded Gift of Adoption. And really at that time, just the culmination of all things, kind of that idea from a business perspective of taking, taking an idea and moving it into an operation and kind of that startup thing is really attractive to me. So when I met the founder, I joined the national board and then shortly after that a year or so in, they were looking for new leadership for The Gift of Adoption. And so I, I raised my hand, I sort of had my hand raised for me. Uh, yeah. So then I became part of The Gift of Adoption team.

Damon (04:29):

That's amazing. What did the founder say to you when you first met that sort of attracted you to the organization?

Pam (04:37):

You know what, what I love about Gene is he's a visionary, uh, but he's also super, super practical. And so what I loved about Gift of Adoption was it's clarity of purpose. You know, I love one focus. I think really being an expert and excellent and then, and the leader in the one thing you do is something that's very attractive to me. So Gift of Adoption at that time and still is the largest, um, organization providing adoption assistance grants on a nondiscriminatory basis. So what he said was that this is an idea that can grow. And he also really to me, talked about how this idea complimented the existing structures that were already in place for adoption. You know, there's so many phenomenal things happening from legislators and advocacy groups and all the agencies that have been around some for a hundred, a hundred plus years. But ultimately, you know, for me common sense is adoption is at some level of financial transaction. I mean it really does take funds to get it done.

Damon (05:39):


Pam (05:40):

And to me the idea that that would be an impediment was really troublesome and I thought it's something we definitely could tackle. And so I just again love the simplicity and clarity and just really that complimentary mission that I think can make a nonprofit excellent.

Damon (05:56):

Yeah, it's a really phenomenal mission. And I think, you know, for me as an adoptee, I was clearly sort of part of the transactional process of the thing. So as I started to delve more and more into this space of what the entirety of the process looks like, it didn't even really occur to me before that time that there were actually some significant costs, monetary costs that a family has to be ready to, um, to go for. And if they are willing to bring home a child and, and that shouldn't be an impediment. You're absolutely right. Tell me a little bit about where Gift of Adoption comes along in the process and, and so you've said, just say it again, like you give, you give grants, tell me a little bit more about the process of how a family comes to you and where you are supportive to that family in their process.

Pam (06:47):

So families, uh, come to us in the process pretty much they can come to us at any time. Um, where we interject and where we provide adoption grants is for that last leg of funding. But a lot of times we'll talk to families, we'll encourage them to apply, we'll actually connect him to other providers. I mean, we love people who have a heart for adoption and um, you know, it doesn't cross everybody's mind and when it does, you know, we're very, very interested and keeping that enthusiasm going. I think the Dave Thomas Foundation research shows that one in four families seriously consider adoption for their own family. And so we have a big heart for that. But then they go on to say that only, um, 2% sort of start the process and one completes the process and financial barriers are one of the key things that keep people from moving forward or completing an adoption.

Damon (07:39):


Pam (07:40):

So in general, we love when people are interested in this and we feel so grateful. That's why everything we would do works because America's the most adoptive nation, um, in the, in the world and many families, um, one in six families have a firsthand experience with, with adoption. So they find us anytime, but mainly when we can provide adoption grants is for that last bit of funding to complete the adoption. So our grants of up to $7,500 usually are the last 10 to 20% of costs needed to complete an adoption. And so we're really partnering with families who have accredited home studies, who have been matched with a child. Um, they have a bonafide financial need and we're just that last bit of funding to get them over that hurdle.

Damon (08:26):

I'm on the Capital Region Chapter Board of Gift of Adoption and on one of our coordinating calls. A GOA representative said there are times when children in sibling groups may actually be divided if one of the siblings ages out of care. It's heartbreaking to think that sibling groups, the only family those kids know could be separated if they're not adopted. I shared with Pam that hearing that scenario renewed my desire to be a part of Gift of Adoption because that is a situation we can work together to prevent.

Pam (08:59):

Yeah, Damon. So we really follow the vision and the original priority of the founders, which is to really place the most vulnerable children first. So we have tons of people who apply to us. We say yes to as many as possible, but because of funding barriers we're able to only say out of every three applicants we can say one yes to one and and we have to say no to two. So again, we want to say yes to as many as possible, but given the limited financial resources, we continue to prioritize adoption grants for kids who from our view are really looking at what could be their only chance at having a family. And like you said, these are children who are siblings sets, older, sometimes special needs physical, um, emotional special needs. Just times where this can be their one shot at having a family. This is really who, who we want to prioritize.

Damon (09:54):

Pam shared a story that exemplifies the very reason Gift of Adoption exists. One family GOA helped, had been blessed to have their own children but found themselves desperately wanting to help Haitian children in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010. Using an adoption agency, they followed the rigorous process of being certified for adoption, but the adoption agency presented them with an opportunity to adopt a sibling group, a six month old, a two year old and a four year old here in the United States. Their family needed to make an adoption plan for them to get a better opportunity for their lives. Pam received the call asking to assist the family.

Pam (10:35):

You know, it was so interesting because literally like on a Sunday evening, I got a call from that adoption agency that said, you know, if this family decides they would like to move forward, we know they're qualified. Can you help them? Can you assist them with a grant? And we said, absolutely. This is what we, this is why we exist. And so what was really neat though, run one at one quick thing. So yet they said, we said yes. They said yes, it all happened and the children are all merging and becoming close friends. But what was really neat, the dad in the story, the adoptive dad had said, you know what? It was this wonderful window of opportunity. He said, because we understood from our agency that if we weren't able to move forward soon or somebody wasn't, these children would have been split up and not been able to stay together as siblings. And he said that his mom, this, this adoptive father's mom had in fact been in foster care and had been split up from her siblings. So he said it was like this unique, wonderful way to sort of right that. And uh, you know, he said, we went forward in faith and said we just duty calls. And so now they're just this happy regular family.

Damon (11:41):

That's really amazing. That's, that's really incredible. Pam and I chatted about the entire continuum of adoption. So I asked her what elements she would like to see changed. One idea was that we need get the real stories of adoption out there. Being realistic about the fact that just like any other home, we're talking about children, families and all of the complexities of family dynamics. Pam also said that many people who aren't directly involved in a child's adoption don't know how to get involved to help. And that donating to Gift of Adoption is a great way to do more.

Pam (12:15):

I think, you know, there'd be a lot of agreement around the idea that, you know, you want to debunk any misconceptions about it. Illusions, you know, that are overly positive or disillusions that are overly, you know, I mean it's, it's family, it's children, it's life, you know, it's happy, it's messy, it's all those things. And so I think really just debunking any kind of misconceptions about, you know, children who are adopted, adoption, the process, all that stuff. So I think just getting...