It seems fitting that the announcement and transition occurred in January as it’s also the fifteenth anniversary of my joining the staff at Adoption Today and Fostering Families Today. Fifteen years ago this month my life took a new direction – one that I never expected would give my life so much meaning. I was a young 20-something, a newlywed with ambition and drive to one day work at a magazine. And Richard Fischer, founding publisher of Adoption Today and Fostering Families Today magazines, gave me that opportunity.
When I started at Adoption Today and Fostering Families Today magazines I had no real connection to foster care or adoption outside of knowing a few people here or there who had adopted or were adopted. I couldn’t count my love for the book “Anne of Green Gables” that shares the story of orphaned Anne Shirley finding a family, as preparation for the job. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, but I was excited to use my journalism and design skills to enhance the publications.
Richard and his wife Annie founded the publications after adopting their daughters, Nicole and Jenna, from China. Struggling to find help for their youngest daughter from doctors and specialists who didn’t understand international adoption, Richard started a publication that would help families find support post-adoption. That commitment to offering support and sharing all perspectives in adoption – including the often unheard voices of birth parents, adoptees and foster youth – were important aspects of the publications.
Every day was filled with meaning as we all worked together to share information and advice from professionals about adoption and foster care.
A family-run business, Annie kept track of the books and subscriptions while Nicole and Jenna entertained us with their cute kid antics. Slowly we became an extended family, especially as I added my own children, Brianna and Hunter, to the mix.
But beyond that family grew an even larger family, a network of individuals across the country that Richard and I connected to through adoption. They shared their stories, their heartbreaks, their missions for justice and their heart for adoption. On any given day Richard and I would find ourselves moved to tears as we interviewed and shared the stories of countless adoptive families, adoptees and birth parents. Annie would answer the phone and spend an hour talking with a newly adoptive parent about the journey to their children.
One day in particular a local children’s author stopped by and ended up sharing that he and his wife had been struggling with infertility issues. I just happened to be designing a new cover of Fostering Families Today with two cute little boys that just captured my heart. Richard and I showed the author the picture, and watched in amazement as he instantly connected to those kids and called up his wife so they could start their fostering journey.
Adoptive parents, even our UPS driver, would bring their children into our office periodically and we would witness firsthand the magic of families created through adoption. To a child who was once living in an orphanage among hundreds of other children held lovingly in their new adoptive mom’s arms is in describable.
When Richard passed away Thanksgiving Day, he left a whole lot of heart behind. When sharing the stories of children who found families through adoption, tears would come to his eyes. When he heard stories of children in the foster care system who aged out with no one, he committed to helping make things better. He was a man of heart and action – his heart was always for the children and his action was the creation of two publications that would help foster and adoptive families raise their children.
It’s hard to capture what it means to work alongside someone like Richard, but in the end I’m thankful for the mission he gave me, that he helped me to understand that there’s so many adoptive families, birth parents and adoptees who need support and commitment to make things better. If I hadn’t taken that job “just to work for a magazine” 15 years ago, who knows what drab, unfulfilling stories I might be writing today.
I’m thankful for what Richard’s taught me and that I’m now able to continue his work with the help of Fostering Media Connections. With missions aligned, Fostering Media Connections will help these publications continue, grow and flourish and together we’ll take up the mission of the man with a big heart for kids.
Kim Phagan-Hansel is the editor of Fostering Families Today and Adoption Today magazines (www.adoptinfo.net). She is also the editor of two books, The Kinship Parenting Toolbox and The Foster Parenting Toolbox. In 2014, Phagan-Hansel received an Angel in Adoption Award from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. She is also a wife and mother living in Wyoming.