Shonda Rhimes and TLC’s The Little Couple Recognized as National “Angels in Adoption”

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Award honors individuals and organizations that have enriched the lives of foster and adoptive children in the United States and abroad

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) today recognized Shonda Rhimes, Creator of Scandal, Private Practice and Grey’s Anatomy, and Dr. Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein, stars of TLC’s The Little Couple, as 2014 National Angels in Adoption™. These celebrities and numerous Members of Congress joined fellow honorees Debra Steigerwaldt Waller, Chairman and CEO of Jockey International, and 123 Angels from across the country celebrated by their Members of Congress at CCAI’s 16th annual awards gala at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. Mark Walberg, host of the PBS series Antiques Roadshow, served as emcee and singer/songwriter Sara Groves performed.

“The Angels in Adoption™ Program recognizes the unsung heroes who have worked on behalf of the welfare of children in U.S. foster care and children in need of families around the world,” said CCAI Interim Executive Director Becky Weichhand. “All of those honored have helped children realize their basic right to a family, giving them the chance to flourish. We hope others will hear their stories and be inspired to do the same.”

Each of the National Angels in Adoption™ spoke about their commitment to improving the lives of children.

Dr. Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein, stars of TLC’s The Little Couple, adopted two children. “We’ve often been told that our children are fortunate to be with us. But truly, we are the lucky ones. They bring more joy than we could have ever imagined,” said Arnold. And on international adoption, “The way I see it, the path we took to become parents led us around the world twice to find our children. They were always ours; they just had a different zip code for a while,” said Klein

Also honored with the prestigious Paul Singer award for corporate and/or governmental leaders who have gone above and beyond to promote adoption was Debra Steigerwaldt Waller, Chairman and CEO of Jockey International, Inc. Waller, herself adopted as an infant, founded The Jockey Being Family® Foundation, that helps to strengthen adoptive families by funding post-adoptive services at national and local adoption-related nonprofit organizations.

“My continued commitment is to strengthen adoptive families for successful futures and to give them help when they need it the most, after an adoption is finalized. I have seen firsthand the positive impact post-adoption support and services have had on families,” said Waller. “Unfortunately, too many adoptions fail, and even one failed adoption is one too many.” She said she is honored that this important work is recognized through the prestigious Paul Singer Award.
Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La), Co-Chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption and a founder of the Angels in Adoption™ program, spoke about her own connection to adoption, “Adoption built my family. My husband was adopted and together we were blessed to adopt two wonderful children. I was fortunate to have a large and loving family growing up, and then to raise a family with my husband,” she said. “My experience reminds me every day how important it is for everyone, adults and children, to have a family they can count on. It is our responsibility as citizens to fight for them, and that is why the Angels in Adoption™ program is an important opportunity to honor unsung heroes who have enriched the lives of foster children and orphans in the United States and abroad,” Landrieu added.

Sara Groves, an award winning singer, songwriter and artist-advocate performed at the gala. Over her sixteen-year career, Sara’s narrative-driven music has explored the soul of the imperative to 'bind up the broken hearted.' Believing that adoption helps mend the hearts of children and their adoptive parents, Sara has partnered with a variety of organizations in adoption advocacy, and has participated in many events to support adoptive families.

The Angels in Adoption™ program was established in 1999 as a Congressional press conference to honor outstanding individuals. Since then, the program has evolved into a yearlong public awareness campaign that culminates in an annual awards gala and celebration in Washington, D.C. More than 2,000 Angels have come to Washington in celebration of adoption and the families it creates. Past National Angels in Adoption™ honorees include Ne-Yo, Muhammad Ali, Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Jane Seymour, First Lady Laura Bush, Katherine Heigl, Al Roker and Exteme Makover: Home Edition.

To request an interview with any of the National Angels in Adoption™ and/or media credentials for the gala, please email Brian Franklin at brian@brianfranklincommunications.com

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (http://www.ccainstitute.org) is a non-governmental, nonprofit organization that strives to be an objective, educational resource for information critical to advancing the efforts of federal policymakers on behalf of children in need of homes. To learn more about CCAI, follow the organization on Twitter (http://twitter.com/ccainstitute), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/theccai) and YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/ccainstitute).

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Brian Franklin