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National Adoption Awareness Month to Kick Off in Anchorage with "Fostering Hope Forum"

October15, 2013, Anchorage, Alaska - November is National Adoption Awareness Month and Governor Sean Parnell and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Office of Children's Services are pleased to welcome a Fostering Hope Forum on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, at Wayland Baptist University, 7801 East 32nd Avenue in Anchorage. The event, presented by the Arrow Child & Family Foundation, will feature informative discussions by national leaders in child welfare, the Alaska Center for Resource Families and Alaska's Children's Trust.

According to the Office of Children's Services, 1,952 children lived in out-of-home placement statewide (with
41 percent of them living in the Anchorage area) as of Sept. 1, 2013. This number is approximately 100 children more than last year at the same point in time. Approximately 700 children in Alaska are awaiting adoption, per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"As we approach the holidays, when family gatherings are such a special part of the season, I am reminded of the legions of children in foster care who do not have a loving family and a home they can call their own," Governor Parnell said. "If you are thinking about adoption, I encourage you to consider adopting a foster child. The State of Alaska will provide the information and resources you need to change the life of a hurting child forever, so please help us find forever families for these children."

The Fostering Hope Forum is designed to educate, promote, resource and mobilize local community and church leaders, child welfare professionals and caring families to provide hope for foster children removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect. Nationally prominent speakers will be featured:

  • Rhonda Sciortino overcame abandonment, abuse, poverty, filth and hunger, and built a life of affluence, order, fulfillment and excellent relationships. Her desire is to help others mine the lessons from their pain and apply them to create their own success. She founded, built and sold two successful companies. She has written several books, including "Succeed Because of What You've Been Through" and the first in the Emerge Successfully series of gift books, "The Prayer That Covers It All." She serves as national child welfare specialist for Markel Insurance Company, and hosts "Rhonda's Radio Show" on am590 The Answer in Southern California. Sciortino has been featured on numerous radio and TV segments, including "The Today Show."
  • Mark Tennant grew up in the foster care system in Pennsylvania, and has dedicated his life to ensuring that vulnerable children and families receive caring, effective services. Tennant is founder and CEO of the Arrow Child & Family Foundation, and founder and chairman of the board of Arrow Child & Family Ministries, an international Christian provider of foster care, adoption services, and programs for families in crisis. In May 2012, Arrow opened Freedom Place, the first comprehensive care facility in Texas for victims of domestic child sex trafficking, and one of only five such facilities in the United States. One month later, Arrow opened a similar facility in Honduras for girls rescued from the streets of Tegucigalpa. Tennant graduated from Oral Roberts University with a pastoral degree and has served on the Texas Alliance of Child & Family Services board of directors as president and past president.
  • Dr. Sharen Ford has shown a lifelong commitment to helping children find permanent, loving homes. She recently retired after 30 years with the Child Welfare Division of the Colorado State Department of Human Services, most recently as manager of its Permanency Services Unit.
    In that role, she oversaw critical state programs, including the Foster Care Program, Adoption Program, Kinship Care, Relative Guardianship Assistance Program, Recruitment and Retention of Foster and Adoptive Families, the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, the Interstate Compact on Adoption Medical Assistance, and Child Welfare - Protective Child Care. Ford has also served as board president of the National Association of Administrators for the Interstate Compact on Adoption Medical Assistance, board member of the National Association of State Adoption Program Managers, president of the board of the National Association of State Adoption Program Managers, and board member of the Christian Alliance for Orphans. Her work has earned her the Angels in Adoption "Paul Singer Award" (2012) from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, the Adoption Activist Award (2011) from the North American Council on Adoptable Children, and the Adoption Excellence Award (2009) for "Individual Contributions" to the field from the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Jason Johnson is chief church engagement officer with the Arrow Child & Family Foundation and the former lead teaching pastor at Woodlands Point Community Church, which he founded in 2008 in The Woodlands, Texas. In 2012, Johnson helped found the board of directors (on which he now serves) for The Orphan Care Network, an organization committed to resourcing families, churches and organizations for the cause of foster care and adoption. His passion is equipping and mobilizing the Church with God's heart for the marginalized and the theology of adoption.

The daylong Fostering Hope Forum will culminate with a concert featuring Nashville recording artist Jimmy Wayne, whose songs "Do You Believe Me Now," "Stay Gone" and "I Love You This Much" hit the Top Ten on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. The concert, at 7 p.m. at Faith Christian Community Church, 4249 Wisconsin Street, will be open to the public. Admission is a new, unwrapped toy or a $20 gift card to be given to local foster children and families for Christmas.

For more information and to register for the forum ($20 per person or $30 per couple), visit www.fosteringhopeforum.org or call Chris Scott at 907-243-1777, ext. 41.

Arrow Child & Family Ministries is an international, Christian provider of child welfare and education services for abused and neglected children and families in crisis. Through the engagement of both government and the local church, Arrow provides an array of services including foster care, adoption, child sex trafficking rehabilitation, and specialized education. All programs and services advance the wellbeing of children, families and communities while promoting Christian responsibility and a commitment to strengthen family life. The Arrow Child & Family Foundation was formed recently to further advance the mission of Arrow, and facilitate a global effort to connect church and government to eradicate the epidemic of throwaway children. The foundation will be a strong voice in the Christian community to equip and mobilize the church, and an advocate in human services to improve child welfare services across America. The Fostering Hope Forum series is an initiative of the foundation.

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