A Movement Begins
In 1969, a dedicated group of adoptive parent group leaders decided that families across North America would benefit from a training event where they could share information and support one another. From this idea, the North American Conference on Adoptable Children was born.
A few years later, at a conference in St. Louis, Missouri, the parents realized that a formal organization would serve as a strong, consistent voice for children in foster care. Incorporation papers were filed, and in 1974, the North American Council on Adoptable Children came to life.
NACAC’s initial board president, Linda Dunn, operated the first information and resource office from her home in Riverside, California. Activities included the annual conference, the quarterly newsletter Adoptalk, and parent support.
The Growing Years
In the late 1970s, under the leadership of second president Laurie Flynn, NACAC began a strong legislative advocacy effort. The organization was instrumental in the passage of the Adoption Opportunities Act of 1978 and the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980. This legislative focus spurred the establishment of an office in Washington, D.C., and Laurie Flynn became the first executive director, leading a staff of nine employees.
After struggling through the mid-1980s, NACAC entered a new phase when Joe Kroll became executive director. During this time, NACAC relocated to Minnesota and rebuilt its core activities. A new emphasis involved the development of support groups in communities of color.
In 1989 NACAC helped create the Adoption Council of Canada, providing Canada with its own national voice for children and adoptive families. NACAC staff and board made a critical decision in 1990 to begin publishing child welfare research briefs. Seminal publications Barriers to Same Race Placement and Countering the Call for a Return to Orphanages reflected the organization’s commitment to all waiting children.
During the middle and late 1990s, NACAC continued to grow as a voice for children who need permanent families. The organization developed a resource center on adoption subsidies, created transracial adoption resources, and built strong relationships with the foster care community. At the same time, NACAC has helped communities across the country reform systems so that children spend less time in foster care before finding an adoptive family.
In the late 1990s, NACAC began to work more in its home state of Minnesota, partnering to provide a statewide post-adoption services network, recruiting and retaining prospective adopters, and taking on key policy issues such as a fight against the establishment of a local orphanage.
As the new century dawned, NACAC further enhanced its work to change public policies to better serve children and families. In 2003, NACAC joined The Pew Charitable Trusts in calling for federal financing and court reforms that would greatly enhance children’s chances of achieving permanence with their birth families, kin, or adoptive families. NACAC also worked to improve adoption assistance policies for children around the U.S., and promoted changes in the federal adoption tax credit to best support families who adopt foster children. As always, the organization continued to advocate for post-adoption services to help families better meet the needs of children who have experienced trauma.
Several years ago, NACAC expanded its leadership development work to include working with young people who had experienced foster care or adoption. Like the work with parent leaders, NACAC identifies strong leader candidates, offers training and support, and helps them create support and advocacy networks for their peers.
Throughout the years, the NACAC conference has remained at the heart of the organization’s mission. At past events, waiting children have found new families, and two families led by single parents have even found each other—creating a wonderful blended family with 10 adopted children. At all conferences, participants have learned from one another and returned to their communities with renewed dedication and inspiration.
Today, NACAC promotes adoption from foster care; supports, informs, and empowers adoptive, foster, and kinship parents and young people who experienced foster care and adoption; educates child welfare professionals; and advocates that children have families and families have support.