BRIDGING THE GAP
for 65 years
LETTER FROM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR & BOARD PRESIDENT
This year, MARE celebrates its 65th anniversary! We’ve been finding homes for children and teens in foster care since 1957 and we are proud of this sustained commitment.
Like many nonprofits, our historic anniversary comes with tension – in an ideal world, MARE wouldn’t exist. In an ideal world, children would not need to be removed from their families of origin. In an ideal world, there would be an overflowing number of families willing and ready to adopt kids in need of permanent homes. In an ideal world, the foster care system wouldn’t fail so many children, leaving them to enter adulthood with no meaningful family connections.
We don’t live in an ideal world. That’s why MARE exists and why our mission is more critical than ever. We exist to bridge the gap between a beleaguered foster care system and the right of every young person to the permanency and unconditional love of family. For sixty-five years, we’ve been bridging that gap – especially for the kids most likely to be left behind or ignored. Today, that gap is greatest for youth of color, sibling groups, teens, LGBTQ+ youth, and those with disabilities.
The ways we’ve addressed the gap have changed over the years: from our first Photolisting in 1969, to beginnings of media recruitment with Sunday’s Child and Wednesday’s Child in the 70’s and 80’s, we’ve always sought to use every means available to make a difference for the kids how need us most.
Even after 65 years, we are still finding new ways to innovate. We are building connections with communities of color to help close gaps in equity. We are providing bold new training on topics families need the most, including trauma-informed parenting and transracial adoption. Most importantly, we are orienting as much of our events, services, and staff time as possible towards those kids who wait the longest for permanent homes.
We don’t plan on stopping. We’re as strong as we have ever been. As long as the children of foster care need us, we will be here – for another 65 years and beyond -- until every child has a permanent place to call home.
Bridget Chiaruttini - Executive Director
Dana Lehman - Board President
65 years of innovation
In the 1960s, MARE developed a pictorial newsletter, the first of its kind in the nation, to profile the children waiting for adoption. This newsletter eventually became the MARE Photolisting® manual, with hundreds of profiles and pictures of waiting children, available for viewing in nearly 400 libraries and agencies state-wide. The service has been copied throughout the United States and Canada and became the primary means by which prospective parents learned about hundreds of waiting children.
In the 1970s MARE began its long-standing collaboration with the Boston Globe in publishing “Sunday’s Child.” This transformed the public’s perception of adoption and the children who need permanent homes.
Adoption Meet & Greets
In the late 1970s into the early 1980s, MARE collaborated with other agencies to develop adoption parties, a fun activity-filled event designed to give children a chance to interact with prospective parents in a low-key atmosphere.
The success of the Sunday’s Child features in educating the public and recruiting families for specific children led to the creation of the TV feature “Wednesday’s Child” in 1981. News Anchor Jack William’s of WBZ-TV-4 has interviewed and showcased more than 900 children on the weekly Wednesday’s Child feature since 1981; more than 550 of those children have been adopted.
In the 2000s, MARE began its annual Heart Gallery, a photographic exhibit of portraits of waiting children. Permanent Heart Gallery exhibits are hosted at the four Jordan’s Furniture stores, while a traveling exhibit brings the portraits and information about adoption from foster care to high traffic venues, including shopping malls, train stations, hospitals, and museums around the state.
Wendy's Wonderful Kids
In 2006, MARE was awarded a grant from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, to establish a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Program in Western MA. This staff person works exclusively with a caseload of approximately 15 youth that have been waiting for an adoptive home the longest. The focus is on finding a permanent connection or family resource for a child, including exploring people from his or her past.
In 2008, MARE began a video snapshots program, producing videos of waiting children and having them available on the MARE website.
THIS YEAR'S STATS
of children placed were children who typically wait the longest for adoptive homes
teens were placed in adoptive homes
families received MARE services
more events than before the pandemic
where are they now?
"There is no question that initiatives like Wednesday’s Child work. There are many children in foster care and not enough avenues to promote the need for families. When my brother and I were 11 and 12 years old we were featured in the MARE Manual, Sunday’s Child program, and Wednesday’s Child segment. After these segments occurred, we found our forever home. To me, adoption meant permanency, to have a place I could call home and a real sense of family."
Alfred Spittler was adopted in 1981 after his adoptive family saw him on Wednesday’s Child, a TV segment — a long standing partnership between WBZ and MARE. Over four decades after his adoption, Al is happily married and has two sons. He runs a local daycare and is always ready to lend his voice in support of foster care adoption.
"Being a child in foster care is pretty tough, honestly. It takes a lot. I swapped houses every week or so, which was not fun. After a while I got used to it, sadly. When I was adopted, I felt amazing. I was able to get out of foster care and find a great family who genuinely loved me. I have been with them half of my life and we have the best time. We travel a lot together and enjoy spending time. We have been to Florida, New York, and other places. Adoption to me means having a family and more opportunities."
Dominick Tinnirella was 10 years old when his adoptive mom saw him featured on Wednesday’s Child and decided he belonged with their family. He is now a high schooler with ambitions of becoming a scientist or a psychologist. In the future, Dominick sees himself adopting children from foster care to help those in the same situation he was in.
"At the beginning, it was very hard. It took me many years to just be able to trust other people and trust myself. I grew a lot emotionally over the last few years. It’s a process, it takes time. There are a lot of different avenues that go into being an older youth that was adopted. There is trust, communication, education, and family. It’s important to shed light on all of them together and let your parents help you along in that journey. I couldn't have done it without my parents helping me. That is a big aspect of it: family and all the support systems that I had."
Heather Cavanaugh was a teenager when she was adopted in 2011 after her adoptive family saw her profile in a MARE listing at their local library. Today, Heather is completing her graduate degree in social work at Bridgewater State University while interning at a middle school and working part-time as a therapist. For over two years, she has been a CASA volunteer. Once she graduates, she wants to work with young children.
"What it means to me to be adopted is to have a loving and trusting family. When I first came to live with my mom, I didn't exactly trust her, but I soon learned that she really cared about me and loved me."
Christopher Ecker was adopted in 2011 after his mom learned about him at a MARE matching event in Boston. He had seven homes in two years. Today, Christopher is an energetic eleven-year-old who is part of the cross-country team and loves animals. Besides having a dog and a cat, he is now the proud owner of a bearded dragon!
"Back in the 90s, single men were just starting to adopt, let alone special needs children. But now I have four children with autism in the more profound spectrum. MARE played a huge part in the adoption of my second son, C.J. I saw him at a Jordan’s Furniture party and thought ‘That is my son.’ He is the social one of the four, loves people, and is very athletic. He goes to the gym, does all the grocery shopping for the house, donates things to animal shelters, and other things like that. My goal as a parent is to make sure they are exposed and people see that they live very productive and happy lives."
Peter Wyman adopted two children on the autism spectrum and two with Down Syndrome and autism. Three of them are now adults in their thirties while the youngest just turned eighteen. They are a very active family that has traveled the world together.
"Being adopted means finding a forever family, a family that makes me feel safe, loved, and will always be there!"
Darius Noonan is a kind eleven-year-old who was adopted when he was two. His big passion is fund-raising so he can give kids in foster care a Trouble the Dog stuffed animal. When he was in the care of DCF, he received one of these dogs and it gave him so much comfort that he wants other kids to have the comfort of this stuffed animal. He is big on giving back, he always says “I know how the kids in care feel!” When he gets older, he wants to be a famous YouTuber and would love to adopt to give a child the gift of a forever home and a better future.
bridging the gap
for our community...
Building Connections with Communities of Color
Addressing inequities for children of color in the foster care system is one of our top priorities. One of the best ways to achieve greater equity for these kids is by recruiting more families of color into the adoption process. This year we’ve focused on building connections in communities color, most especially by creating a brand-new position to focus exclusively on this important work: an Outreach and Support Coordinator for Black and Latino Families.
Training and Support for Families
Strengthening and supporting families in the adoption process is critical to creating stable, permanent adoptive placements. This year we provided 10 sessions of training on trauma-informed parenting to over a hundred families, giving them the tools they need to parent youth who have experienced foster care. We also provided families with new trainings and resources on trans-racial adoption, equipping them to provide racially aware and culturally competent placements for children of color.
We know there are a ton of people who care about youth in need of adoptive homes who aren’t in a position to adopt. That’s why we launched The Neighborhood this year! It’s a brand new community of supporters and do-gooders that provides action items for raising awareness, getting involved, and making a difference for kids in foster care.
...and for the children who need us most!
Over 25% of all placements this year were teens! How did we do it? We brought a focus on older youth to every aspect of what we do: events featuring older children, new partnerships to work with youth over the age of 18, and an emphasis on each of our staff members’ caseloads to recruit for children over the age of ten.
This year we hosted our first ever LGBTQ+ matching event, using a unique model that put the voices of these youth front and center – resulting in 50% of the youth who participated now being matched with a prospective adoptive family. We’ve also improved our data collection methods to make sure we are authentically representing the youth we serve and how they wish to be presented.
Children with Disabilities
An autistic teen who had been in foster care most of his life. A blind quadriplegic young boy. A seven-year-old with ADHD and developmental delays and a young man with sickle cell anemia and learning disabilities. What do all these kids have in common? They are amazing young people usually overlooked by potential adoptive families who all found forever families thanks to our Specialized Recruitment Coordinator!
Our focus on children with disabilities paid dividends this year with multiple placements. Not only that, but other child welfare agencies across the country are sitting up and taking notice – looking to us as a model for how to better these youth.
Department of Children & Families
Grants & Corporate Support
General & Administrative
Change in Net Assets
Net Assets Beginning of the Year
Net Assets End of Year