By Margarita Rozenfeld
CEO, Incite International & YES!Circle
It was two years ago that I met Terry Baugh, founder of the nonprofit organization Kidsave, who since 2000 has devoted herself to connecting forgotten orphanage and foster kids with families and caring adults. She has changed the lives almost 3,000 children — and she changed mine.
But from 2008 to 2010, I had the honor of serving as the chair Kidsave’s annual fundraisers, Kismet for Kidsave. It was an incredible learning and growing experience that was as exhilarating as it was challenging. They were two years that I will never forget.
Just days before Kidsave’s May 3, 2011 fundraiser, “The Main Dish,“www.kidsave.org/maindish.”:http://www.kidsave.org/maindish/ I sat down with Terry to talk about her important organization.
Margarita Rozenfeld: What inspired you to create Kidsave International?
Terry Baugh: I have had the opportunity to travel to many developing countries around the world, and I was always struck by children on the street. They pulled at my heart. But when I went to Russia to adopt my daughter, I saw children who were lethargic, penned, and lined up. Well, that is just not the way kids are supposed to grow up.
When I returned to the U.S., the faces of these children haunted me. I told my dear friend and business colleague, Randi Thompson, about what I saw. She was also an adoptive mom. So on her next trip out of the country, she went to visit an orphanage and saw the same problem, but magnified because the children, who were in their mid-teens, were being put out on the street.
They had no chance for success and were prey to all sorts of terrible things. It was shocking. So we started Kidsave, because no other organizations were doing anything to move orphanages’ kids into permanent families and we felt change was clearly needed. It is not okay for kids to grow up without parents.
Margarita Rozenfeld: Why does Kidsave focus on older children?
Terry Baugh: We focus on older children because most organizations and governments don’t. Sadly, no one even counts children in orphanages, so we don’t even know the extent of the problem worldwide, but in the United States it is said that a child 9 and above in the foster-care system has a better chance of aging out of the system without a parent than getting adopted.
Margarita Rozenfeld: That’s tragic. Older kids are valuable human beings with the bad luck to have had parents who were not able to care for them — and help them develop as productive human beings.
Terry Baugh: Exactly. These children are amazing survivors and they are talented, loving kids. When we first started Kidsave, we actually thought we would focus on babies — like everyone else. But once we met the older kids we were hooked. There is a great deal of satisfaction that comes with seeing a child who had no chance for a future suddenly fall in love with parents — and they with the child. It’s not easy for any of them, but these children are resilient survivors and when they learn they can finally trust adults again, amazing things happen with their lives and they succeed.
Margarita Rozenfeld: Does Kidsave only work internationally?
Terry Baugh: Kidsave is a global organization. Our goal is to give 1 million children families or connections to adults by 2020. We have created a model program that we believe is the key to making this happen. We currently have this model operating in Russia, Sierra Leone, Colombia, and the United States.
A big focus of ours is foster care. We have developed the hosting program model, which we call Weekend Miracles, that enables older kids in the foster system to meet people in the community — rather than remain hidden from view. Once these kids meet people, amazing things begin to happen.
Kidsave has helped about 145 kids through Weekend Miracles and 44 percent of them have been adopted and others are in the hosting process — connected — and in the process of finding a long-term connection through hosting. What’s also very cool for any thinking politician is that Weekend Miracles Los Angeles has a documented savings to LA taxpayers of $3.3 million dollars because of Kidsave’s work.
These are program costs only. It does not cover the tremendous costs to society for children avoiding crime, prostitution, homelessness, teen pregnancy, and dropping out of school — all common and costly effects of kids not having parents.
Margarita Rozenfeld: Could you share a recent success story about one of your Kidsave families?
Terry Baugh: I’m very inspired by Amanda Mason. She came to Kidsave with her sister-in-law several years ago. Both families decided to host for the summer and both families were just advocates. After some scrambling, they found families for both the children they were hosting. Last summer Amanda and her husband Greg came back to host and advocate again.
They have five daughters — blonde and beautiful — and because they were an advocate family we placed them with a child we thought needed help. Rather than the girl they asked for, we placed a boy in their home for the summer. Jhonatan was everything the girls weren’t — wiggly, energetic, and into boys sports — and he was very smart.
The girls loved him. Amanda and Greg loved him. And by the time the summer visit was over, they were no longer an advocate family, they were adopting. Jhonatan will be home forever in just a few weeks and the Masons can’t wait. Amanda has kept a blog about her experience. You can read it at http://www.theperfectsummerforamiracle.blogspot.com/.
Margarita Rozenfeld: Could you tell me more about your upcoming fundraising event? It sounds delicious.
Terry Baugh: Every spring Kidsave does a cocktail party as a way to casually introduce the community to the organization, give people an opportunity to network, and give Kidsave the opportunity to raise funds. This year we decided to giver our attendees’ taste buds a treat! We have recruited some very interesting chefs, who will all be serving tastings of their “best main dish.” We even have the chef of the new restaurant that is so popular in New York, Serendipity. It’s about to open here so Main Dish attendees will have an early Washington preview.
The event is designed for fun — it is actually a competition — so attendees will have an opportunity to place the title of “best main dish” on the chef whose entry they prefer. NBC4 Anchor Barbara Harrison will be the MC for the event this year, and we hope to offer attendees a program that will touch them and help them understand why we work so hard to help children find families. In addition to the food — and drink — we have a terrific auction lined up — with some great trips, dining opportunities, and unique experiences. It will be fun.
About Kidsave’s May 3 Fundraiser
Tickets are $95 per person or $180 per couple in advance; $100 at the door. All proceeds will benefit Kidsave. For more information or to register go to: www.kidsave.org/maindish. For questions about the event, send an email to email@example.com, or call 202.253.3838.
About Margarita Rozenfeld
Margarita Rozenfeld is the CEO of Incite International, a leadership development firm specializing in diverse and mission-focused organizations; and is the founder of YES!Circle, a networking and educational organization for entrepreneurs in the DC region. Rozenfeld is also very passionate about community involvement, and especially Kidsave.