The local nonprofit ensuring no child goes without a home
What do Steve Jobs and Eleanor Roosevelt have in common besides being famous? They were both adopted.
“November is National Adoption month, and it’s a great month to raise awareness,” says Nicole Conning, director of Harmony Family Center in West Knoxville. “I think the general public doesn’t realize the need in our backyard.
“On any given day in Tennessee there are over 800 kids in full guardianship of the state meaning parental rights have been terminated,” Conning says. “They are ready to be adopted. Half are in identified placement but the other 400-plus do not have any permanency option identified. This Thanksgiving, as we all think of gathering around a table with our families, these children have no family.”
Not everybody is going to be a foster or adoptive parent, she says, but everybody can help, whether it’s supporting foster families or mentoring foster children at school.
Harmony Family Center was founded in 1996. The agency initially emphasized the private adoption side and still assists with private adoptions, but today it also helps with the adoption of children in the foster care system.
“Adoption has always been the foundation of what we do, but we do so much more than that,” Conning says. “We have 100 staff statewide who are the most passionate, tenacious folks who care. I think the really neat part is that through a variety of contracts we have with the state, we do pre-approval training. We can help anyone wanting to become a foster or adoptive parent. We have the most comprehensive pre- and post-adoption program in the country for parents who have adopted or are on the cusp of adopting.”
Conning says adoption found her.
“I’ve been at Harmony almost 16 years and in the child welfare field 27. I’ve never looked back. I’m so passionate about making sure kids have somebody in their corner. No child should be without a home. What’s so deeply rooted for me is the desire to do our part and stand in the gap and help find these kids a forever home.”
During the holidays the center has a variety of special needs. For example, many of the kids in foster care or full guardianship live in residential settings. Providing Christmas presents is a way for those kids to not be forgotten. To find out more about adoption, becoming a foster parent or helping support the program at this time of year, visit harmonyfamilycenter.org.