In 2005, Pastor Brian Mavis and his wife, Julie, were in Colorado beginning their journey into foster care. At the same time, Janet and Ryan Kelly were deep into politics working on a statewide campaign in Virginia. Neither couple realized then that they were laying the foundation for a first-of-its-kind solution to address a major issue and largely invisible population in the U.S.
Over the next few years, the Mavis family partnered with the state to make foster children the stars of their own stories using high quality photos and videos. Brian and Julie introduced these photos and videos into the faith community with a challenge to respond. Their challenge was answered, and with the collective effort of many organizations on the ground, within only a few years the number of children available for adoption in Colorado had dropped from over 800 to 280 – a number the state has maintained.
Meanwhile in Virginia, the Kellys’ political path and personal adoption story led them to launch a campaign with the Governor called “Virginia Adopts.” This pioneering effort used the power of the Governor’s office, social media, and a collaborative approach to match over 1,000 children with permanent families in just one year as well as recruit additional support into the Virginia foster care system.
Enter businessman, Joe Ritchie, and his Fox River team in Chicago, who specialize in public-private partnerships and bringing a business approach to the not-for-profit world. Laura Doherty, Joe’s lead on Fox River’s new Orphan Care & Adoption Initiative, was on the hunt for best practice and solutions to this very same national issue.
All three stories collided together for the first time in May of 2015. After meeting and vetting the work in Colorado and Virginia, Joe and the Fox River team knew they had found something special in not only these two models, but in the hearts of their leaders. They saw a solvable problem and, confident they had the right people on the bus, felt ready to move forward.
Together they launched America’s Kids Belong in 2015 and consider themselves honored to join the fight for permanency and belonging for every child.