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23 years ago, I flew halfway across the world to China to get my daughter, Anna. It was truly a life-changing experience, and being a parent has been one of my greatest joys in life. When our group of soon-to-be-parents were at the orphanage, there was a little two-year-old girl who followed us around. We played with her while we were there, but in the end we all met our new babies and returned to our homes. It broke my heart that we had to leave that little girl and so many other children behind in an orphanage without any promise of a forever family. I also wasn’t satisfied with the information I received as an adoptive parent, so I decided to start my own nonprofit agency soon after returning home.

In the beginning it was just me, a phone, and a computer at my kitchen counter. Almost on a whim, I wrote a proposal for a $1.6 million grant thinking there was no way I could get it. Imagine my shock when 2 months later I was asked for a budget revision! I knew at that point it was highly likely we had gotten the grant. After filling out the forms on a typewriter, on September 10th, 2001, I drove to the airport and sent off the paperwork. When 9/11 happened, I thought the grant might be cancelled because all of a sudden there were so many people in need, and everything was thrown into confusion for a while. The grant was still awarded to us, however, and suddenly Harmony had 5 full-time employees.

The agency has only continued to grow from there. Who could’ve ever imagined that Harmony would grow into the 182-employee, $6.5 million agency it is today? We have touched the lives of over 85,000 children and families, and Harmony saves the state of Tennessee $6 million annually by keeping children out of state custody.

My vision is for Harmony to expand our services to the entire state of Tennessee. I also want to continue to grow our equine therapy program because it’s making a huge difference in the lives of so many children. I also envision our Paws for Kids dog therapy becoming a model program that can be emulated across the country. With your continued support, we can reach the goal of supporting over 100,000 children and families by the end of 2018. Children are my passion, and nothing makes me happier than being able to make such a huge, positive impact in the lives of so many children and families.


In a recent Upworthy article, Sandra Bullock made a good point about why we should stop referring to her kids as “adopted” children. The article on Upworthy questions why we use the adjective adopted to describe children who’ve been adopted while we don’t use other adjectives to describe how other children became a part of our family in different ways. Sandra Bullock believes we should just refer to them as “our kids” and not “adopted children” because ultimately, they are part of the family no matter how they got there in the first place. Upworthy writer and adoptive mother Laura Willard also pointed out that when people ask her whether she plans to “have any kids of her own,” she takes issue with the wording. Implying that adopted children somehow don’t count as “her own” children can make adoptees feel insecure and disrupt the fragile family bonds that are just beginning to form.

I felt the need to respond to this specific article because it makes a very valid point. Adoption is just a way that a person joins a family. It is not a condition. I don’t like it when people talk about being adopted as if it’s a condition or a label that dominates every aspect of a person’s life. Adoption is an event when one set of parents—the birth parents—legally release their rights to a child and another set of parents assume parental rights to the child. We don’t talk about how much the neighbor’s “biological kid” was driving too fast through the neighborhood or how your cousin’s “biological baby” born last week is so adorable. We leave off the qualifier “biological” and simply refer to them as the neighbors’ kid or your cousin’s baby. As mentioned in the Upworthy article, no one calls their kid their “whoops, we forgot to use protection” child or their “IFV” child. If an adjective isn’t necessary when talking about biological children in an everyday context, why should one be necessary for adopted children?

We must remember that, despite the old adage about sticks and stones, words do have power. Children pick up on things quickly, and using an adjective like “adopted” can suggest to these children that others don’t truly see them as part of the family unit. There’s a beautiful saying that goes, “Adoption is when a child grows in its Mommy’s heart instead of her tummy.” The saying highlights the fact that regardless of how they came into our lives, they are still our children. Actress and adoptive mother Valerie Harper once stated, “However motherhood comes to you, it’s a miracle.” Joining a family is about being accepted into the fold and becoming part of the group, but when we use labels like “adopted,” it highlights differences between the child and the family, and it can contribute to a sense of alienation or isolation. Why does the exact makeup of a family matter? As Robbie Couch points out in the article, “Families are not made with cookie cutters, after all. They come in all sizes, colors, ages, and genders—and no one construct is more legitimate than any other.”

As people who work with adoptive and foster children and families, we at Harmony Family Center are on a mission to encourage the healthy development and growth of both children and families. In our line of work, we work with children who have been profoundly impacted by trauma and the families who accept these children into their homes. The journey is never an easy one, but it is very rewarding in so many ways. We hope we are able to change the future by helping each kid find their forever family so that children may live their best lives.

If you are interested in reading Sandra Bullock’s article go to:

Sandra Bullock Nailed Why We Should Stop Saying ‘Adopted Child.’ Mic. Drop.