Adoption-conference speaker: ‘The need is great’
By Sean Barron
During the past 30 years, the Rev. George Clements has been pivotal in helping more than 200,000 children nationwide find adoptive, nurturing homes.
Nevertheless, he says, much work remains.
“The need is great and keeps getting more and more,” Father Clements said during Wednesday’s dinner reception and kickoff to the 24th annual One Church, One Child National Adoption and Foster Conference at the Avalon Inn, 9519 E. Market St.
Sponsoring the three-day conference is the local OCOC initiative, in conjunction with children- and adoption- service agencies in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
The OCOC initiative was founded in the early 1980s in Chicago by Father Clements, who intended to reach out to the local religious community to identify adoptive families for minority children in the system.
More than 1,000 churches of all denominations in 35 states are members of OCOC, including 24 local churches.
OCOC’s primary goal is to ensure that black and biracial children successfully transition from the foster-care system to adoptive families.
Another aim is to strengthen and support current programs while developing new ones throughout the U.S. that are effective in education and advocacy, as well as recruitment of permanent homes for the children, its mission statement says.
The conference continues from 9:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. today and 9:15 a.m. to noon Friday at the Avalon Inn. Workshops and speakers will focus on topics such as competent parenting, community mobilization, alcohol and drug addictions and the legal process as it relates to the child-welfare system.
Father Clements, 79, noted that the country’s foster-care system has seen a large increase in the number of children mainly because of a greater number of teenage pregnancies, as well as drug-addicted parents and tough economic times.
“All of this makes the system top-heavy,” he added.
Father Clements tried to get families from mostly black churches to adopt minority children, many of whom had been abused, abandoned and neglected. In 1981, he also became the first priest in the history of the Catholic Church to adopt a child.
His story is the basis for the 1987 made-for-TV movie “The Father Clements Story,” starring Louis Gossett Jr.
Hosting Wednesday’s kickoff event was the Rev. Dr. Lewis Macklin II, pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Youngstown.
Additional remarks came from Warren Mayor Michael J. O’Brien, who gave Father Clements a key to the city.