Today is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. It’s a touchstone moment in history and I have no doubt that you know at least a part of that iconic speech that was made in 1963.
The Coalition was born of a dream, as well: the dream of foster and adoptive parents that we all could do better for our children, youth, and families. A dream that those who are currently in foster care would find permanence, safety, and stability. A dream that we would no longer see children suffer from abuse or neglect. A dream that all our children will be successful in their futures.
How the dream began
Our dream came to life in August 1982. That’s when the Coalition for Children in Families, Inc. came into existence, made up of groups of parents and professionals from across the state, with the primary mission of lobbying for and implementing a full service adoption exchange for Wisconsin. One of the first orders of business was to create a new exchange book. The Coalition called it, “Lives Full of Beautiful Promise.” It was published in October of 1982.
At the same time, Coalition members were lobbying at state legislative hearings – more needed to be done and funding was needed to do it. Thanks to the diligent efforts of many individuals, a line item was added to the state budget mandating an adoption exchange. In August of 1984, the Coalition for Children in Families, Inc., who had been awarded the contract for this service, published the first issue of the new Wisconsin Adoption Exchange book. At the time, it was a binder filled with stories and photos of children waiting for families. A limited number of binders were available at adoption agency offices and libraries across the state. Today you know this as the ADOPT! magazine.
The most eloquent advocate
So many people were involved in the creation and continuation of the Coalition, from the birth of the idea that sparked our organization, to the continued work that we do every day. Perhaps one of our very finest and most eloquent advocates was an 18-month-old little girl, Annie.
Annie was the first child listed in “Lives Full of Beautiful Promise.” Our efforts helped Annie find a family and then she continued to help us. In April of 1983, the Committee on Children and Human Development met to hear testimony on Bill A-152 that would mandate the existence of funding for an adoption information exchange in Wisconsin. Advocates spoke first, using statistics and examples, the boring things that legislators must listen to daily.
Then Trilogy Anderson stepped up to the microphone holding 18-month-old Annie in her arms. She talked about the real problems and the real joys that her new daughter brought into her life and her family.
While she talked, all eyes were on Annie. They could see the oxygen tanks she needed to breathe and a tube directly into her stomach that she needed to eat. They noticed that her blue eyes didn’t look back at them and that, tucked into the top of her diaper bag, was a stethoscope. But they could not help but also see that, in her mother’s arms, in her own permanent family, she was the most beautiful, most valued and most loved baby girl in the world.
Without a word, Annie told them, and they agreed. Thirty years later, they still agree. And we have been honored and blessed to be a part of so many children’s, youth’s, and family’s lives. Thank you for being on this journey with us. Thank you for making our dream become a reality every day. Thank you for helping the dreams of so many come true.