Adoption, foster support group buoyed by recognition, DC trip

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Last month, The Village for RI Foster and Adoptive Families was honored in Washington D.C. at the Angels in Adoption three-day event, sponsored by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCIA). Traveling to Washington D.C. to accept the award were three of the founders of The Village, Maya Colantuono, Kelley Fluette, and Elaine Gabellieri.

“CCIA hosts this Angels in Adoption event every year in September to highlight issues surrounding adoption to those in Congress,” said Gabellieri. “There is a lot of advocacy, a lot of networking and it helps to raise awareness.”

Colantuono was familiar with the event, as she and her family were honored by the organization last year as well as attending on behalf of the Cranston organization this year.

“Every year a member of Congress can nominate someone, and this year we were nominated by Jack Reed,” said Gabellieri.

The group met up with two other Rhode Island nominees, Bridget Kinsella and Susan Fink, and were made aware of a third nominee, Marlene Williams, who was unable to attend.

Although the trip got off to somewhat of an uncertain start, thanks to a cancelled flight, the group managed to accomplish a great deal in the time they were there.

“We missed the breakfast ceremony and the awards ceremony when our flight was cancelled,” said Fluette. “However, we were able to meet all four of our Rhode Island representatives and we were able to share our issues and our concerns with each of them.”

The group spent a full day on Capitol Hill, called Hill Day, speaking to Sheldon Whitehouse, Jack Reed, Jim Langevin and David Cicilline.

“We shared our concerns, our needs, and the things we felt they could do to help us,” said Gabellieri. “They all really gave us their time and attention.”

The group was pleased with the genuine interest that the representatives showed when presented with the issues of adoption and foster care in Rhode Island, such as the effect of the opioid crisis and the lack of programs to address it in the state.

“Some of the concerns we shared seemed to surprise them,” said Fluette. “They had some suggestions and some advice and they were very interactive. We didn’t feel rushed.”

One of the other main events of the trip was The Gala, a formal evening event held in the Ronald Reagan Building, emceed by a local comedian and adoptee, Willie Moore Jr., and attended by many notable guests, including Scott Hamilton and his wife, Hamilton as an adoptee, and now adoptive parents themselves, who were guest speakers.

“We met some really interesting people there,” said Fluette. “We listened with bated breath to some of the ideas and things that people are doing all over the country, and those people were interested in what we are doing here.”

Gabellieri noted being particularly awed by one speaker who was blind and adopted blind triplet boys who had the same degenerative disease he had, and worked together in partnership with the birth mother to raise the three boys who are now heading to college.

“You hear stories like that, and you’re just amazed. You realize there are lots of amazing things, lots of creative things going on in other places,” she said. “It was such a great networking opportunity.”

All of the women felt that not only was it nice to be recognized and honored at such an event, but felt recharged and excited upon returning home as well.

“It’s pretty exciting that they have this program and care to even have such an amazing event, such a meaningful opportunity,” said Fluette. “It gave us so many connections with people who all have the same ideas and same goals as we have. Sometimes we can get burnt out too, and this was very inspiring, it recharged us. We felt that they listened to us and wanted to help us.”

Gabellieri agreed.

“For a grassroots organization such as ourselves, we really needed that. We are still establishing who we are in our community, in Rhode Island, and this recognition made us feel valuable and meaningful.”

As an organization that offers so much support to others, the Washington D.C. trip served as a support system for The Village.

“This was our support group for people like us who do what we do,” said Fluette.

The Village offers regular updates on their Facebook page and website for those looking for ways to help, or for support in the foster and adoption processes. Visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thevillageri123/ and their website at www.rivillage.org.

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