Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bartlett Press: Parents Spread Word About Adoption Options

Dina and husband Tom Ackermann pose with children Anna Lee and Mia at the Bartlett Public Library for its adoption informational meeting Monday night. On the table are scrapbooks of the family's adoption journey.

By Kristen Lepore,
Bartlett Press
Thu Nov 19, 2009, 02:32 PM CST

Bartlett, IL -

As a young woman, Bartlett resident Dina Ackermann remembers seeing a program on television about little orphan girls in China. She told herself that one day she would help the cause.

Years later, she and her husband tried having children of their own for about a year, but with no results, Ackermann said adopting a child from China was an easy decision.

“I’ve always wanted to adopt,” she said. “We needed kids, and there were kids who needed parents.”

The process of adopting her first child, Anna Lee, took about a year and a half. Through the agency Sunny Ridge Family Center, she and her husband went with a group of 10 other families to China to pick up Anna Lee when she was just 9 months old.

On Monday night, Ackermann organized an adoption informational meeting in honor of National Adoption Awareness Month (recognized in November) at the Bartlett Public Library. The Evangelical Child & Family Agency was on hand to present information about different types of adoption, and residents told stories of their personal experiences.

The goal of the meeting was to remove roadblocks and educate people who are thinking of adopting, Ackermann said. About a year ago, she began A Voice for His Children, a program based out of Willow Creek Community Church meant to spread information and support about adoption, foster and orphan care.

At Bartlett’s board meeting Nov. 3, Village President Mike Kelly read a proclamation declaring November as National Adoption Month.

“I really believe Bartlett is a very family-oriented community,” Ackermann said. “If they knew more about adoption, more people would adopt, foster or take care of an orphan.”

Representatives from the Evangelical Child & Family Agency said out of the 500,000 children in foster care, only 130,000 are able to be adopted, because of the long process it takes for children to become legally free from their biological parents. According to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, there were 16,160 children in foster care in June 2007.

Shortly after the Ackermanns brought Anna Lee into their family, they decided to adopt again.

“I knew I wanted another, but I didn’t know how I could afford it,” Ackermann said.

Fortunately, her neighbors held a silent auction and were able to raise $7,000. She and her husband were also able to use money from their 401K, because there is no penalty for withdrawing when the money is to be used for adoption — something most people are unaware of, Ackermann said.

Nine months later, she brought home 4-year-old Mia. After living in an orphanage for a year, Mia had spent three years with foster parents.

Ackermann and Amy Braido, co-founder of adoption advocacy group The Echo Foundation, both shared their stories of adopting older children internationally at Monday night’s meeting. Although there can be challenges, Braido encourages people to investigate the option.

“The fact that older children are less desirable did not sit well with me,” Braido said.

With three biological children of her own, Braido adopted her son from Ethiopia when he was 12 years old. The process took about eight months and despite negative stories she had heard, Braido considers her experience a success story.

Ackermann hopes A Voice for His Children will continue to dispel myths and share the truth about adoption.

“My calling right now is to lead A Voice for His Children and help others through their journey of adoption,” Ackermann said. “I want to break down barriers and hold people’s hands, because that’s what I needed.”

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