[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[November 24, 1998]
[Pages 2088-2090]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a National Adoption Month Reception
November 24, 1998

    Thank you very much. I asked Charday if she was happy about being 
here, and she said, ``Yes, but I'm a little nervous.'' [Laughter] And I 
said, ``Well, all these people are your friends, just remember that.'' 
And I thought she did a terrific job. Don't you think she did? I think 
she did. [Applause]
    Governor and Mrs. Edgar, Senator Levin, Senator Landrieu, 
Congressman and Mrs. Oberstar, Mayor Barry, thank you all for joining us 
here today. I'd like to thank the previous participants on the program--
Mayor-elect Williams, for the power of your example which speaks louder 
than our words. And Mrs. Williams, we're glad to have you here today, 
and we wish you well in your new endeavors. Judge Hamilton, thank you 
for your work and the power of your example. And Dave Thomas, he said 
some very nice things up here about Hillary and me, but the truth is 
that no other citizen in the United States today or ever has done as 
much as a private citizen to promote the cause of adoption as Dave 
Thomas. And we are very grateful to him. Thank you, sir.
    I'd like to thank Secretary Shalala, the longest serving and, 
notwithstanding her voice today, the most effective Secretary of Health 
and Human Services in our history.

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    I want to congratulate all the families who are here today and thank 
them for coming. And I hope Judge Hamilton is right; I hope that the 
images of them that go across America today will inspire other parents 
to do the same. I want to also congratulate the Adoption 2002 award 
winners and thank them for the work they are doing in their States and 
    I'd also like to say a special word today. Before we came in here, 
Dave Thomas said, ``Well, you know, your administration has done more 
than any in history to promote adoption.'' And I told him that the real 
reason for that is because it has been a consuming passion of the First 
Lady for as long as I have known her. I remember when we were young and 
we hadn't been married long, when she had a client, a couple in Arkansas 
who were foster parents and who were in the foster system, and the rules 
then didn't permit them to adopt. And she waged a long and sometimes 
lonely legal battle through our courts to get that couple the right to 
adopt the child they loved very much and had already invested a great 
deal in. And it began to change things for a lot of families in our 
    I remember when she organized more than 25 years ago the Arkansas 
Advocates for Families and Children, and one of their missions was to 
improve the system of adoption, as well as the system of foster care in 
our State. And so I can tell you that while many people have played a 
role in what we have been able to do--especially in the remarkable 
bipartisan cooperation we've enjoyed in passing these two important 
adoption bills--no one deserves more credit than Hillary for what has 
happened in the last 6 years, and I'm very grateful to her.
    As all the speakers have said, we are working hard on making good on 
our commitment to find our foster children the homes and the futures 
they deserve. We do want to double the number of adoptions by the year 
2002. We want to reform our Nation's whole approach to this profoundly 
important issue, to make the system work better for the children and the 
families it should be serving. With pioneering efforts like those in the 
State of Illinois, we are getting closer to our goal of doubling the 
number of children adopted or permanently placed by 2002.
    Between 1996 and 1997, the number of adoptions increased by 10 
percent, from 28,000 to 31,000. We know, however, that that cannot be 
the sole measure of our progress. We also must ask ourselves whether our 
child welfare system always puts the health and safety of our children 
above all else; whether children have the chance to live out their 
dreams and fulfill their potential; whether families who open their arms 
can actually reach to embrace a child in need.
    As we celebrate National Adoption Month, Americans can take pride in 
the progress we're making, but we know there is much more work to be 
done. We know geographic and other barriers to adoptions still exist. We 
know we have to do a better job in informing America's families about 
the many children who wait in the foster care system for adoption.
    To give those children the permanent homes they need, to give our 
families the opportunity to give them those homes, we must make 
technology a partner and propel the public welfare system into the 21st 
century. Today, therefore, I am directing the Secretary of Health and 
Human Services to work with the States, the courts, the private 
agencies, to report to me within 60 days on a plan for a national 
Internet-based registry of children waiting to be adopted everywhere in 
the United States.
    As Hillary said, there are 100,000 children, just like those whom we 
clapped for today, in foster care still waiting for permanent adoptive 
homes. The Internet holds the potential to shorten their wait, to make 
an on-line link between foster care centers and families looking to 
adopt. Some States and private partners already are forging these 
connections, bringing together families in Alaska and children as far 
away as Pennsylvania, for example.
    We want to build on these efforts to the extent that it is possible 
and appropriate, working closely with the States, supporting their 
efforts, learning from them. We can use the Internet to promote 
adoptions while protecting the confidentiality of children and families. 
Technology has given us an important tool, and we should use it.
    Again, Thanksgiving is approaching. Families across our Nation will 
come together to express their gratitude for all the things that matter 
most. We sometimes speak of the comforts of home as the small blessings. 
But when you look into the eyes of these children today, we remember 
that there are few greater blessings.
    I'd like to encourage more families to follow the example of those 
we have honored here

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today, to open their arms, their hearts to children who need them very 
much, to give them the futures they deserve, and to make sure that in 
all of the Thanksgivings to come, we will all be blessed as a nation as 
more and more of our children come into loving homes.

    A very happy Thanksgiving to all of you. And now let me invite all 
of you to join us to celebrate this special day with a reception in the 
State Dining Room.

    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:26 p.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to adoptee Charday Mays, who 
introduced the President; Gov. Jim Edgar of Illinois and his wife, 
Brenda; Jean Oberstar, wife of Representative James L. Oberstar; Mayor 
Marion S. Barry, Jr., and Mayor-elect Anthony A. Williams of Washington, 
DC, and Mr. Williams' wife, Diane; Chief Judge Eugene N. Hamilton, 
Superior Court, Washington, DC; and Wendy's International, Inc., senior 
chairman Dave Thomas, founder, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. The 
National Adoption Month proclamation of October 29 is listed in Appendix 
D at the end of this volume.