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NCFA Announces 2021 Awardees Ahead of National Adoption Month

As National Adoption Month approaches – it has been celebrated annually in the U.S. since 1985 – so does NCFA’s Adoption Hall of Fame ceremony and reception scheduled for November 2nd in Washington, D.C. Since 1982, NCFA has honored and celebrated the contributions of individuals and organizations in the adoption community through this annual awards ceremony. We are proud to announce this year’s awardees and highlight their inspiring contributions to the cause of adoption.

Dr. Elizabeth Bartholet is the 2021 inductee to the Adoption Hall of Fame. Dr. Bartholet is the Morris Wasserstein Public Interest Professor of Law and the founder and faculty director of the Child Advocacy Program (CAP) at Harvard Law School.

Dr. Bartholet became an advocate for adoption following her own international adoption journey. Over the years, she has used her platform to advocate for international adoption and child welfare around the world. Her work has been published in The Boston Globe, Global Policy, and The Journal of Law & Ethics of Human Rights, as well as numerous law reviews.

“For decades, Dr. Bartholet has worked tirelessly on behalf of orphans around the world and children in foster care in the United States. For the past 15 years it has been my privilege to work alongside Dr. Bartholet in various ways and see firsthand her commitment to the right of every child to have a permanent, loving family,” said Chuck Johnson, NCFA President and CEO. “She is one of the most passionate, articulate, and effective advocates for children’s rights and solid adoption policies that I know,” Johnson added.

In addition to the Adoption Hall of Fame award, three Friend of Adoption awards will be presented to recognize those who have made significant contributions to the field of adoption. United States Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Representative Adam Smith of Washington, and Sidley Austin LLP are all recipients of the 2021 Friend of Adoption Award.

Senator Wicker has advocated fiercely for the adoption community with a special focus on intercountry adoption. In September 2020, Senator Wicker made a powerful speech on the Senate floor about the importance of intercountry adoption and called for his colleagues to join him in addressing the current threats and obstacles that have led to its decline. His active leadership on this issue is reflected in the many Congressional letters, department meetings, media appearances and published op-eds he has conducted on behalf of the adoption community.

“Throughout his many years in Congress, Senator Wicker has been a consistently courageous voice in calling for accountability from policy and decision-makers to address the significant decline in intercountry adoption which has left thousands of children around the world waiting for a family,” said Kristen Hamilton, NCFA Director of Strategic Initiatives and Communications. “Always willing to hear from concerned constituents and the larger adoption community, Senator Wicker has demonstrated strong leadership as an adoption advocate and we are honored to recognize his impact with the Friend of Adoption award this year.”

Also receiving the Friend of Adoption Award this year is Representative Adam Smith of Washington’s 9th congressional district. Representative Smith is deserving of this year’s Friend of Adoption award due to his dedication, engagement & advocacy in the cause of adoption. As an adoptee himself, Representative Smith has paid particular attention to issues faced by adoptees and has been an outspoken defender for the rights of adoptees.

This year, Representative Smith introduced H.R.1593 - The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021. If passed, this bill would amend the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 in order to give citizenship to individuals legally brought to live in the U.S. through intercountry adoption but who were excluded by the CCA, and ensure automatic citizenship for every full and final adoption by a U.S. citizen.

“Representative Smith has a long history of supporting adoption and child welfare issues, including introduction of the Adoptee Citizenship Act,” said Ryan Hanlon, NCFA Vice President of Education, Research, and Constituent Services.” Congressman Smith is the co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, helping provide leadership and focus to adopted-related policy and legislation on Capitol Hill.  He and his staff team have demonstrated a willingness to work in a bi-partisan, bi-cameral manner with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure all those impacted by adoption have their voices heard.”

NCFA also looks forward to recognizing the international law firm Sidley Austin LLP with the Friend of Adoption Award for their commitment to and defense of intercountry adoption. In 2018, intercountry adoption suffered a significant blow when a regulation was illegally implemented outside of the proper rulemaking process which prevented agencies from providing information about waiting children and issued a ban on “soft referrals” (seeking pre-approval for a match of prospective adoptive families with a child) until after the completion of a home study. As a result, agencies struggled to recruit families and intercountry adoptions declined even further.

With the expertise and commitment of Sidley Austin LLP, NCFA sued the Department of State and won the case on a successful appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, effectively ending the ban on soft referrals and clearing the way for agencies to once again advocate more effectively for waiting children.

“Sidley provided a high caliber team of attorneys to serve as pro bono representation to NCFA’s legal challenge to guidance issued by the Department of State,” said Hanlon. “Led by Dan Hay, they put in long hours and significant devotion to ensuring that they heard from the adoption community, understood the relevant legal issues, and represented NCFA and the wider community well. The Sidley team was professional, committed, and very enjoyable to work with. Their legitimate concern for adoption-related policy and their dedication to providing high quality legal services was evident in every interaction.”

Finally, NCFA is pleased to recognize Kathryn Jean Lopez with this year’s Excellence in Adoption Media Award.  Lopez is a senior fellow with the National Review Institute, an editor-at-large for National Review, and a syndicated columnist for Andrews McMeel Universal.

“Kathryn Jean Lopez has faithfully used her platform to emphasize the importance of access to reliable adoption information for women experiencing an unintended pregnancy. She has been a champion for adoptive families, and a thoughtful, articulate voice to policymakers,” said Johnson.

In addition to the Excellence in Adoption Media Award, in 2016, Lopez also won the Washington Women in Journalism Award for Outstanding Journalist in Periodicals. Her work has been widely published in outlets throughout the nation.

We congratulate all of our 2021 awardees and thank them for their commitment, sacrifice, and dedication to advocating for and serving all members of the adoption community. Please consider joining us as we recognize them on the evening of November 2nd, 2021 in downtown Washington, D.C. – registration is required but the event is free to attend.