Family is not about blood, it’s about who is willing to hold your hand when you need it most.

-Author Unknown.

One of the boards that I have the opportunity to serve on is the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI).  CCAI is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the millions of children around the world in need of permanent, safe, and loving homes. CCAI is an amazing organization doing incredible things on behalf of those who need it most.

I just completed a really uplifting process for the organization. I was able to participate in reviewing nominations for their annual Angels in Adoption recognition.  The award honors individuals, couples, and organizations that have made extraordinary contributions on behalf of children in need of families.  Hundreds of nominations have poured in from around the country this year.

Reading through over 60 nominations assigned to me reminded me of an angel that changed the course of my life – my adoptive mother Dorothy.  Mom started a foster care home as a young mother of three. Over the course of fifteen years she was blessed to care for over 40 foster care children and adopt six of us. Dorothy taught us, whether we were her biological children or not, that we were built for something more. It didn’t matter if we were young, teenagers, a different color than her, or even if we had physical and mental disabilities, she empowered us to believe we could do big things.  We were proud to be her children – and she was our angel.

I’ve often wondered what made mom so special, what made her want to turn her life upside down so that our young lives could be made right.   She’s not one to want or seek recognition; she prefers to fulfill her mission of love from behind the curtain. All she wanted was to provide a secure, warm, and accepting place for children who were having difficult times.  She wanted us to know that there was a place where we were accepted and loved, where we were good enough.

As I read through each nomination, I kept seeing my mother’s face and hearing her voice through each story of courage and sacrifice.  Each new nomination confirmed, what I already knew in my heart, that angels are real.  In a world full of hurt and injustice, angels move among us, diligently accomplishing their mission. Unseen and unrecognized these angels of adoption hold our hand when we need it most.

These angels are a living testament of hard working, ordinary Americans who take in abused and neglected children from all over the world. One young woman took in 30 children in 5 years.  One family had seen their last biological child move out only to feel the call to do more and open up their empty nest to those in need.  Older children sometimes have a real difficult time being adopted – being passed over for those who are younger, yet there were families who went out of their way to seek out teenagers to foster and adopt.  Still other Angels had a heart for those with special needs or severe medical problems.

I read how some of the children stayed for just a short time, while other children have been united with their forever family. It was evident to me that the impact of these angels on the children in their care, regardless of how long they stay, will be felt for the rest of their life.  Then there were the nominations that I looked through that were sent in from adopted children who took the time to record how their lives have been forever changed because of angels who believed in them and empowered them with safety, security and hope.

The process of reviewing so many amazing nominations encouraged me and I hope in retelling a few of the stories it brings encouragement to you.  It reminded me of a verse in the New Testament, Hebrews 13:2 records, Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unaware. 

My mother and the hundreds of individuals, couples, families and organizations who were nominated this year are living proof that angels are real. They walk among us and it seems as if they are strangers (unseen with no acknowledgement) to most of the world. They are always backstage, unnoticed and unheralded.  Yet their life’s mission carries this nation forward on wings of love and compassion that will impact generations to come.

The effort each fall by CCAI to recognize angels from across the nation is one small way to bring people like my mom, Dorothy, from behind the curtain. Next month we will gather in Washington D.C. at the Reagan building and bring many of them out on stage.  I know the angels are busy changing lives but I hope for just a few moments they are able to come out from behind the curtain and take a bow.

You can learn more by visiting the website: www.ccainstitute.org.