July 25, 2011
Authors: Betsie Norris, Executive Director & George Graham, Director of Development & External Relations, Adoption Network Cleveland
When Social Venture Partners selected Adoption Network Cleveland as an investee in 2007, the organization had just completed a three-year start up period as lead agency for the Adopt Cuyahoga’s Kids Initiative. The Initiative addressed a crisis in the public child welfare system in Cuyahoga County, where there were 1,700 children and youth waiting for adoption in 2002. Adoption Network Cleveland achieved tremendous results, including placing 332 youth in adoptive homes between 2004 and 2006—more than double the goal of 165—through a methodology developed for the Initiative named “Child Centered Recruitment.”
Fresh on the heels of the success of the Kids Initiative start-up, Adoption Network Cleveland sought the assistance of Social Venture Partners to develop a business plan, with the able assistance of lead partner Jon Adams. Adams and Betsie Norris, Executive Director of Adoption Network Cleveland, shared a connection as founders of organizations that experienced rapid growth. “Jon was the perfect partner for us,” states Norris. “Through the Kids Initiative, Adoption Network Cleveland had grown by a factor of 10, but Jon grew a business far beyond that. He brought a keen business mindset and creative ideas about ways to package what we have to offer in order to expand our reach.”
Virtually every urban area in the US is facing the issue of large numbers of children and youth waiting for adoption, and the Kids Initiative provides a successful model for addressing the issue comprehensively and systematically. The leadership and board of Adoption Network Cleveland were committed to finding ways to reproduce the program in other areas.
As Adams and Norris were exploring various business models, Adoption Network Cleveland was contacted by Adoptions Together in Baltimore, MD, to help institute components of the Kids Initiative in Washington, DC. “Jon was very helpful in thinking through ways to set up the consulting arrangement to ensure that it would add to our bottom line,” says Betsie Norris. Recently Adoption Network Cleveland has also entered into conversation about working with another county in Ohio.
While the financial crisis that many states and counties are currently experiencing means that fewer funds are available to replicate the Kids Initiative in other areas, Adoption Network Cleveland will continue to push forward with business planning, which is a key strategy in the organizational strategic plan, adopted in January 2010. Adams will serve on the work group, along with Norris and several Board members with business development experience.
The investment made by Social Venture Partners has been critical for Adoption Network Cleveland. In addition to the expert advice in designing ways to replicate the success of the Kids Initiative, the funding has helped position the organization to realize a new revenue stream from these efforts, which will help to sustain Adoption Network Cleveland into the future.