Massachusetts Nonprofit Spotlight: Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE)
This feature is part of a recurring series on Massachusetts nonprofits, through which Boston Mamas Founder + Editor Christine Koh donates her digital real estate in order to shine a light on great work that is happening in this fine state to help those in need. If you work at or know of a fantastic Massachusetts nonprofit worthy of feature, fill out this form!
Today’s spotlight is on Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE), an organization that bridges the gap between children in Massachusetts state foster care and families looking to adopt. The responses below are written from the voice of MARE staffer Olivia Daprile.
What is the story behind Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE)?
The Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE) was founded in 1957 in order to bridge the gap between children in Massachusetts state foster care and families looking to adopt. MARE was one of the first five adoption exchanges in the country and one of the first exchanges to be privately funded, with trustees from both the private and public sectors of adoption.
MARE was then, and is now, the bridge between the state agency (DCF), contracted adoption agencies and adults interested in adoption. MARE has a long history of creative and innovative programming that has expanded to include services related to the recruitment, matching and referral of adoptive parents seeking children, as well as a variety of training, support and advocacy activities.
Some of the creative and innovative services and recruitment tactics have included WBZ's Wednesdays Child, started in 1981 by Jack Williams to feature children seeking adoption on the news, and the Heart Gallery, a display of striking photographs featuring children in foster care, which rotates around the state to create exposure for the children who are featured as well as to spread awareness about the need for adoptive families.
What is the mission of Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE)?
MARE finds adoptive homes for children and teens waiting in foster care. We collaborate with the Massachusetts Department of Children & Families (DCF) and contracted adoption agencies to connect potential adoptive parents with youth waiting for adoption.
Additionally, MARE develops public awareness and recruitment programs to inform the public about the children who wait, and who can adopt from foster care.We use these programs to attract potential adoptive families and then help them navigate the adoption process.These programs also serve to recruit adoptive families for specific waiting children. MARE's goal is to find a permanent home for every child and teen waiting in foster care awaiting adoption.
Who Does Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE) help?
The Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE) serves children and teens in foster care awaiting adoption, families who are seeking information about adoption, and DCF social workers as the bridge between all parties in the adoption process. MARE has a long history of creative and innovative programming that has expanded to include services related to the recruitment, matching and referral of adoptive parents seeking children, as well as a variety of training, support and advocacy activities.
WHAT ARE Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE)’s CORE COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES?
Every year, MARE hosts a variety of community activities. One of our largest adoption events is Adoption Options, which was hosted at the Jordan's Furniture store in Reading, MA this past fall.
Families interested in learning more about adoption are invited to come speak with MARE staff and experienced families about the process. The event also brings together DCF social workers from around the state, children in foster care seeking adoption, and families who are certified to adopt to meet in a fun, casual atmosphere. There is no cost to families, and light refreshments will be served.
In May of each year, MARE hosts its Annual Walk/Run for Adoption. In 2018, over 500 participants came out to walk, run, and raise funds for MARE. Community members of all ages are welcome to attend this family friendly event and join in all the activities onsite including face painting, a family photobooth, and parkour demonstrations. The event is May 19 this year!
WHAT IS THE PROVEN IMPACT OF Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE) SO FAR?
Since opening our doors, MARE has found permanent homes for over 6,300 Massachusetts children. MARE served over 920 children over the course of the last year through our programming, recruitment tools, and matching. With MARE's help, 270 children have found forever families in 2017.
Over the course of 2017, MARE was contacted by 1,615 new families and responded to each one with the information that the family was seeking. 34 mentor/mentee relationships were made between new adoptive families and experienced adoptive families as part of MARE's peer support efforts.
WHAT IS ONE OF THE MOST COMPELLING EXAMPLES OF HOW Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE) HAS MADE A DIFFERENCE?
It is a delicate and difficult proposition to find a family that will be perfect for a waiting child. The process is often rife with false starts, frustration, and disappointment. It is never easy. Yet, there is no time limit to how long MARE will work on behalf of a waiting child; no maximum number of recruitment tools we will use. Because we are invested in finding a home for each one of these unique and worthy kids.
Veronica turned 18 in December. She had been registered with MARE since a few months before her tenth birthday and, as of November, she was still waiting for a forever family.
After she was legally freed for adoption in 2010, MARE was able to utilize all of its recruitment tools on Veronica’s behalf. She attends adoption parties, has been featured on Wednesday’s Child on WBZ-TV4 (3 times) and in numerous newspapers and online publications, and has photo and video profiles posted on the MARE website.
Every few months for the past 8 years, the Child Services Team scours the MARE database for matches.
When a potential matching family is identified for a waiting child, the Child Services Coordinator reviews the family’s homestudy (a comprehensive assessment completed by DCF) and, if believed to be a potential fit, forwards it with a recommendation to the child’s adoption worker. Veronica needs a female-only family where she would be the only or the youngest child. Her forever family needs to be able to provide support for her cognitive delays and personal history.
Many potential families expressed interest in Veronica. It is easy to be drawn to her sweet smile and infectious dancing (once she has warmed up, her shyness disappears!). However, finding an appropriate family constellation that is prepared for her needs and history is challenging. Veronica was matched three times between 2014 and 2016. Each of the families met Veronica at an adoption party and started to move forward in the process with home visits. None ended up being the family that Veronica needed.
MARE’s Child Services Team has worked just as hard on Veronica’s behalf in the last two years as it did when she was newly registered. Child Services Coordinator Rebecca Raposa set a goal in her 2016 annual performance review to increase recruitment efforts for Veronica. At that time, Veronica was one of nearly 150 children on Rebecca’s caseload.
In April of 2016 Rebecca met with Veronica’s adoption worker at DCF along with the Adoption Unit Supervisor to formalize a plan for recruitment. Following that meeting, Rebecca engaged in targeted outreach to groups supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as the LGBTQ community. She reached out to all 18 local chapters of The Arc, as well as the state headquarters, along with 26 different advocacy groups and nonprofit organizations serving or championing those with disabilities. Rebecca provided information on Veronica, links to her online profiles, and a request to share the information within their networks. Many responded by featuring Veronica in newsletters or on social media. Rebecca also had great luck with LGBTQ groups including Boston Pride and PFLAG.
Veronica’s profile was also shared extensively within the religious and Spanish-speaking communities. Ricardo Franco, MARE’s Family Support Services Coordinator brought Veronica’s Heart Gallery portrait to churches and community events. He spoke to leaders about her need for a family and asked them to share her profile with their groups.
That summer, Rebecca met with Veronica in person at her residential program. Typically only the intensive recruitment by Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiters includes meetings with waiting children, but Rebecca wanted to personally assure Veronica that MARE, DCF, and others were still working to find her a family. Rebecca also arranged for Veronica to meet Ashia Ray, a blogger and photographer who was interested in spending a day with a teen in foster care. The resulting blog post in October generated dozens of inquiries about Veronica. She received a lot of gifts, a pen pal, and a visiting resource (an adult that makes a long-term commitment to be a friend and meet with a child on a monthly or bi-monthly basis).
Just over a year later, a month before she turned 18, Veronica found out that her pen pal was going to become her adoptive mom. She moved into her new home on December 29, 2017.
WHAT ARE THE TOP NEEDS OF Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE)?
Thank you, Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE), for all you do for families in Massachusetts! If you want to support MARE, an easy way would be to share this feature. And another great way would be to drop them a donation!