Adoption Rhode Island securing safe homes, stable futures for adoptive children 

Business Excellence Awards 2018
Excellence at a social service agency: Adoption Rhode Island

For 34 years, Adoption Rhode Island has been focused on permanently placing children with families, but its services go beyond just that part of its mission.

The nonprofit works in three areas: adoption and permanency services; children and family support; and youth transition services. The organization’s goal is to promote and support the placement of children who are waiting for adoption, and to improve the well-being of foster and adopted children and their families.

“No. 1, the focus has been on getting the message out there to different people,” said Darlene Allen, the CEO and executive director, who has been with the organization since 1999. “A lot of people didn’t know what we do. We did an analysis with stakeholders, and we heard a lot of misconceptions. We have been building awareness of what we are.”

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As a business, Adoption Rhode Island increased revenue by more than 50 percent during the last five years, going from $1.4 million in fiscal 2014 to $2.2 million in fiscal 2018. And the fiscal 2019 budget is $2.5 million.

Fifty-five percent of the nonprofit’s revenue comes from public/government contracts, while the rest is from corporate, individual, and foundation support, and special fund­raising events. The organization reports that only 10 percent to 12 percent of its revenue goes to administrative costs, with the remaining almost 90 percent going to services.

Adoption Rhode Island employs 27 people, while providing services to approximately 1,500 to 1,800 individuals and families, reaching at least 10,000 people across Rhode Island and the country. The organization says that every day in Rhode Island there are approximately 2,000 children in and out of home placements and under the care of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families.

“We have people with a lot of personal experience,” said Allen. “Almost everyone has had some personal experience, whether it be through adoption or being an adoption family or being a mentor. This is personal and professional to them.”

With its increases in revenue, Adoption Rhode Island has been able to expand investment, starting with the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program in 2015 and more recently in its Child and Family Support programming. And it has created the Youth Transition Services, which works with youth who are “aging out” of the program and finding themselves at risk.

When children age out of the system, they are at risk for an increased rate of unemployment, behavioral health symptomology, poor physical health, homelessness, unintended pregnancy and trouble with the law, according to Adoption Rhode Island.

“We spend a lot of effort getting them through high school and into post-high school,” said Allen. “We want to give them job opportunities to break the cycle of child welfare.”

To tackle this problem, Adoption Rhode Island is using its resources and partnerships with stakeholders to provide more services through the Teen Focus program, which directly served 54 youths who were on track to exit the system without care and a high school diploma. It is the first of its kind in the state.

“Adoption Rhode Island was a key stakeholder in the development of, advocacy for, and passage of the Voluntary Extension Care Act legislation that increased the age of DCYF services from 18 years to 21 years of age and gives young adults access to improve their transition to independent adulthood,” said ­Allen.

The program was funded by DCYF, and Adoption Rhode Island says it is already seeing positive results in its first year.

Working with the Judith McSoley Fund for Children at the Rhode Island Foundation, Adoption Rhode Island is launching the first Rhode Island chapter of the national foster care alumni association. Using their experiences as being part of the foster care system, the group is expected to bring perspective and ideas to the organization.

“They have personally experienced this,” said Allen. “Hopefully, they will provide an invaluable resource to us.”