In the Beginning – The Eighties
Adoption Rhode Island, formerly known as the Ocean State Adoption Resource Exchange (OSARE) was established on July 1, 1981 as a branch office of the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exhange (MARE) to meet the growing needs of the Rhode Island adoption community. Elizabeth Crum served as the first Executive Director. At that time there were only two staff members — a director and a secretary. In the first three months over 30 children were identified as needing recruitment and matching services from the newly formed organization. Early on relationships were developed with local television, newspapers, and radio media to help the organization with recruitment efforts. In December of 1983 OSARE was incorporated by the state of Rhode Island.
Policy and practice was shaped by the new Board of Directors, composed of adoptive parents, adoption agency representatives and others concerned about adoption. Lisa Funaro was named OSARE’s new Executive Director in 1984. The first National Adoption Month events to raise public awareness and the first adoption party were held that year. In 1985 OSARE joined with the Rhode Island Family Court, the Urban League and other community organizations to organize the state’s first conference on permanency planning for Black children and their families. Originally, OSARE was housed on the campus of DCYF in Providence, then in 1986, moved to Pawtucket.
In 1987, OSARE sponsored the first two hour telethon, a powerful public education and recruitment tool as well as a successful fundraiser. In 1989 the agency welcomed a new Executive Director, Jeff Katz. That year OSARE found families for 38 out of the 47 children in need of families.
A Time of Growth – The Nineties
Our fruitful collaboration with NBC10 on Tuesday’s Child began in 1990. The first statewide adoption conference was held in 1992. In 1993 the first annual Tuesday’s Child/Paul Arpin Van Lines Golf Tournament was held. OSARE in collaboration with Hasbro and Governor Almond initiated Families First in 1996, a unique public/private partnership of government, judiciary, business, human services and private philanthropy committed to permanency for children in state care.
In 1997, OSARE officially became Adoption Rhode Island. Between 1997 and 1998 the agency developed a website, started offering parent outreach and support services and expanded its office space.The agency participated in a national effort to reform child welfare practice and improve the lives of children in foster care. Adoption Rhode Island was instrumental in helping to pass the Adoption Safe Families Act and other legislation. As a result of the new state and federal legislation, the agency received a dramatic increase (115) in the number of children in need of permanent families. In 1999 the agency expanded the annual conference to include a full day adoption conference for DCYF staff. Also that year Adoption Rhode Island said goodbye to Jeff Katz and welcomed Darlene Allen as the incoming Executive Director. Of the 112 children registered with Adoption Rhode Island, 55 found permanent families.
Expanded Services – 2000-Present
In March of 2000 the agency sponsored a two-day conference with over 600 parents and professionals in attendance. The agency formed the the Special Needs Adoption Coalition (SNAC). SNAC members represent state and private agencies that serve children and families linked by adoption. The group meets monthly to share information, advocate for policy and practice changes, and collaborate with programs and initiatives that improve the lives of waiting children and adoptive families.
In the Spring ARI collaborated with SNAC to develop YouthSpeak Rhode Island. This team of young people share their stories and insights about the foster-care system. In the year 2000 ARI developed specialized/intensive recruitment services for children who are traditionally “harder to place.” That year ARI received the Harry Kazarian award for commitment to children. Between 2001 and 2002 ARI developed additional services for waiting children and adoptive families. A social worker was hired to help develop the child and family support program.
In the first year, the program served 12 children and families utilizing individual, group and family support modalities. ARI also established the Hope for Children program, an educational and supportive service for waiting and adoptive children. Inspirational speakers who have experienced foster-care and/or adoption meet with children to give them hope and help them to realize that success is possible. Executive Director Darlene Allen was a recipient of the congressional Angels in Adoption Award. Adoption Rhode Island collaborated with Big Kids for Little Kids to send siblings separated in foster care to camp together. ARI opened the Child and Family Support Center in March 2003. This center provides a warm and inviting space for groups meetings and recruitment activities. It also houses an expanded library of resources for children and families touched by adoption.
In 2009, Adoption Rhode Island moved to our current location at Two Bradford Street in Providence. Since then, our staff has grown significantly, as have both our recruitment and matching, as well as our support programs and services. Our partnerships with the community have grown in proportion with the evolving and expanding needs of the population we serve.
Currently we serve 150-200 children who need family recruitment, 25-30 in youth empowerment, over 200 families in our adoption matching program, 600 in education and 40 in the support program. The array of services continues to evolve to reflect the current needs of the children and families we work with.