Permanently changing the lives of children in foster care. If that sounds like a lofty goal, it is. It also happens to be the purpose of the Adoption Coalition of Texas, a nonprofit collaborative partnership of child placing agencies that verify and approve foster and adoptive families. The Coalition is founded on the belief that children should not age out of foster care without the support of a family system.
The Adoption Coalition was recently selected from among 807 applicants as the recipient of the 2011 Collaboration Prize, a $162,500 national award funded by the Lodestar Foundation, a grant-making organization that supports nonprofits by encouraging philanthropy.
The Collaboration Prize shines a spotlight on collaborations among two or more nonprofit organizations that gain greater impact by working in partnership. Lutheran Social Services, a founding partner of the Adoption Coalition, was instrumental in the organization becoming a reality, through a grant written by LSS grant writer Cecelia Blanford in 2002.
The Adoption Coalition focuses on increasing the number of adoptions among hard-to-place children of all ethnicities, including teens, sibling groups, and medically fragile children. The success and true impact of this organization is best understood through a simple statistic: In the early days of the Coalition, adoptions in Texas Region 7 averaged 370 per year. They are now up to 780. It is noteworthy that many older kids who were in the system for a long time are included in this group.
“The Collaboration Prize is a tremendous honor,” said Tracy Eilers, executive director of the Adoption Coalition for its first seven years, now a member of the board of directors. “It means that our collaborative approach, focused on doing what is right for the children, has a ‘seal of approval’ from national corporations and foundations. But the legacy that keeps us going every day is the number of kids who now have forever families and opportunities for the future.”
The Adoption Coalition of Texas, working with the Austin Community Foundation and Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, collaborates with five child-placing agencies: CPS, Arrow, LSS, Marywood, and Pathways.