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NACAC History

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.

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 a need a 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. We partnered with Casey Family Programs to host educational sessions to improve the recruitment and retention of resource families for vulnerable children. 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. As an organization, we have worked to change the Multiehtnic Placement Act, improve adoption assistance policies for children around the U.S., and promoted changes in the federal tax credit to best support families who adopt foster children.

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.

Timeline of Major Activities


Adoptive parent group members from Canada and the U.S. gather for the first conference in Montreal, Canada.


Parent group leaders incorporate NACAC as a non-profit organization, and Linda Dunn from Riverside, California is elected first president.


The first NACAC resource office opens in Linda Dunn’s garage, and the first Adoptalk newsletter is published.


Laurie Flynn from York, Pennsylvania is elected second president.


The first NACAC Advocate of the Year award is given to Congressman George Miller at the Seattle conference.


A Washington, D.C. office opens and financial support from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation provides funding to hire Laurie Flynn as the first executive director.


Roy Maurer becomes second executive director.


Conference now held annually. Membership begins to diversify. Joe Kroll volunteers to become executive director. Office moves from Washington, D.C. to Joe’s basement in Minnesota.


Office opens in Minnesota with three part-time staff. NACAC receives Adoption Opportunities funds to provide mini-grants to parent support groups, and receives a five-year grant from the Public Welfare Foundation.


NACAC helps found the Adoption Council of Canada, and receives a minority recruitment grant to help start support groups in African American communities. Parent group work becomes a focus of local efforts.


NACAC begins publishing child welfare research briefs on topics such as orphanages, barriers to same race placement, and adoption assistance.


A grant from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services enables NACAC to begin work on a two-year Collaborative Court Education Project. Research is conducted and publications produced on critical issues in the field of special needs adoption. Network News is first published.


HHS-funded National Parent Group Grant competition allows NACAC to make 21 small grants to parent support groups in 17 states. The two-year National Parent Leadership training project begins.


Parent Group Partners Project provides 18 mini-grants in 16 states to help develop new minority adoptive parent support groups. An Adoption Opportunities grant funds the establishment of NACAC’s resource center on adoption subsidies, including a help-line and staffing to provide technical assistance.


With grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, NACAC begins a series of public policy projects designed to improve children’s chances of finding a permanent, loving family more quickly.


NACAC kicks off an Adoption Month project, in which we partner with Wendy’s to distribute posters featuring waiting children across the U.S., develop materials to help celebrate Adoption Month every November, and raise awareness about waiting children.


NACAC is honored at the White House as a recipient of the Adoption 2002 Excellence Award for support to adoptive parents. Transracial adoption resource program is developed.


Work begins on the Adoption 2002 Support Project to help agencies increase the number of adoptions from foster care by the year 2002, a goal identified by President Bill Clinton in his Adoption 2002 Initiative.


Through a contract with the Minnesota Department of Human Services, NACAC initiates the MN ASAP (Minnesota Adoption Support and Preservation) program, in collaboration with the Minnesota Adoption Resource Network, bringing a comprehensive program of adoption information and post-adoption support to families in Minnesota.


The Minnesota Recruitment Project begins to develop community-based, parent-led activities to recruit foster and adoptive parents. Advocacy against proposed orphanages in Minnesota escalates.


In collaboration with Casey Family Programs, NACAC holds the first Recruiting and Retaining Resource Families session of the Breakthrough Series Collaborative.


NACAC begins a partnership with AdoptUsKids to provide parent group leadership training.


NACAC holds first annual AdoptWalk to raise funds and promote adoption.


With funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts, NACAC raises awareness about the Pew Commission’s child welfare reform recommendations by hosting community forums featuring parents and youth around the U.S.


NACAC launches, with funding from Jockey International's Jockey Being FamilyTM initiative, the Community Champions Network (CCN). Through CCN, NACAC helps leaders in eight communities build coalitions to advocate for post-adoption services.


NACAC hosts its first Canadian national parent leadership training—helping group leaders learn to better support adoptive families in their provinces.


NACAC is part of a national effort that is instrumental in passage of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, the most comprehensive child welfare reform in more than a decade.

North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC)
970 Raymond Avenue, Suite 106
St. Paul, MN 55114
phone: 651-644-3036
fax: 651-644-9848
e-mail: info@nacac.org