NCFA intern Devin Pierce chats with us about her grandfather's impact on her life and on the field of adoption. Mr. Bill Pierce was one of National Council For Adoption's founders and served as the organization's president and chief executive for 20 years. Bill was an outspoken advocate for children and was a prominent leader in the adoption community. He lived in Bethesda, MD, and passed away in 2004 from cancer.
How old were you when you first learned about adoption and your grandfather’s work?
I grew up with stories and memories of my grandfather’s personality and hobbies. Around the age of eleven or twelve, I started to think more about what I might want to do in the future. This led me to the idea of social work. My parents and grandmother started to explain more about NCFA and my grandfather’s contributions and work in the area of adoption policy.
What are some things you remember hearing about National Council For Adoption when you were growing up—from your grandfather and from other relatives?
The stories I was told growing up were often the more humorous stories—for instance, once Grandpa was invited to appear in an interview segment with Brian Williams. Grandpa was in the studio in Washington, DC and Brian Williams and another interview subject—who was against adoption—were both in New York. The man in New York was very argumentative and Grandpa started getting frustrated because Brian Williams wouldn’t let him have any airtime. Finally Grandpa got so angry he pulled off his headset and told the producer he was leaving. The camera focused on Grandpa’s discarded headset and Brian Williams made a big deal about his “guest” leaving. Some of my family were watching that night, and they laughed because Grandpa just wasn’t going to be in a one-sided debate and that was that.
How was adoption talked about in your family?
Conversations about adoption have always been positively received and encouraged within my family. Many of our close family friends have adopted children with the help and guidance of my grandfather, and these adopted children have turned out to be among my closest friends.
Can you tell us more about your own interests, and what you might like to do in the future?
I am a rising senior in high school, so planning for college and jobs has been a major part of my life this past year. I am interested in working on behalf of orphaned and foster children, and plan to major in social work as of now. Due to my grandfather’s history as well as my aunt’s social work career, I have been able to hear firsthand why the field is such an important area to work in. I would love to work in adoption someday, though I have not decided if I want to be on the policy side or more of a hands-on social worker.
Why did you want to intern at NCFA?
I plan to acquire a job involving adoption when I am older, so I thought it would be informative. Having the chance to intern and learn at an organization that my grandfather founded in the area of work I am most interested in is a great opportunity.
What areas and issues are you focusing on in your work with NCFA?
I’m focusing on learning everything I can about the organization. I learned about The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption in the intern introduction. NCFA’s mission and everything regarding how the nonprofit organization works on behalf of adoption are the main areas I am focusing on this summer, along with possible legislation and government issues relevant to adoption, foster care, and child welfare. I want to leave with a strong understanding of NCFA and the work it does today.
How does it feel to be working here, given your grandfather’s legacy?
It is especially rewarding to work here because I am constantly able to learn more about my grandfather, who was sadly in my life for such a short time. Seeing pictures around the office and hearing stories from people here has been eye-opening and has made me realize how much my grandfather contributed to the world of adoption.
Do you have any favorite memories of your grandfather?
I was around five when my grandfather died, which makes it hard to remember many memories of my time spent with him. Thankfully one of the few memories I have is a delightful way to remember him. One day when I was around five years old, I was sitting on my grandfather’s lap; he had been going through chemotherapy and this caused him to lose his hair, which I did not fully understand at the time. While I was looking up at him I noticed a spot on his head (which was a birthmark) and asked him what it was. He looked down, smiled at me, and said, “That is where the angels kissed me to let me know everything would be okay.”
Adoption has changed a great deal in the years since your grandfather retired from NCFA. Which changes are most striking or surprising to you?
The processes and requirements that guide the adoption process have changed drastically over the years to strengthen protections for children. Adoption practices are far more open today than they were when my grandfather was the founding president of NCFA, and open adoption is also more common. There are follow-up visits and social workers are supposed to stay involved to make sure the children will be in a safe nurturing environment. I’m especially interested in studying The Hague Convention, which is the biggest change in intercountry adoption, designed to make the process safer and more transparent.