Leveraging a National Issue

Maine Children's Home for Little Wanderers

Leveraging a National Issue to Generate Local Awareness

Objectives:

Build awareness of the Maine Children’s Home adoption program as the longest-operating adoption program in Maine

Position the adoption program leadership as knowledgeable experts in their field

Inform Mainers interested in adopting a Haitian child that new adoptions of Haitian children were not currently being processed but there were thousands of children in the U.S. and in other countries waiting to be adopted.

Situation Analysis: 

The Maine Children’s Home is the longest-operating adoption program in Maine. The adoption program also helps fund all of the other programs the agency operates to support Maine children and families in need. However, until recently, the agency had not proactively promoted the program or the significant experience of the adoption experts that staffed it. After completing a Marshall Plan® for the organization, NMC was tapped to help implement the plan and spread the word about the good work and success stories of the Maine Children’s Home.

Many of you will remember the catastrophic earthquake that occurred in Haiti in 2010. News reports following the earthquake generated much confusion about the many Haitian children, called orphans by many news networks, who had become separated from their families as a result of the catastrophe but, in reality, may not have been orphaned. As a result, adoption agencies throughout the U.S. were immediately flooded with calls from those wanting to adopt the children. NMC saw an opportunity for the Maine Children’s Home to set the record straight about the situation as well as build awareness and esteem for its adoption program.

Methods: 

NMC interviewed long-time adoption program staff member Caroline Hutchinson about the situation in Haiti and further researched the situation via the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services. The agency then drafted a press release informing Mainers that, despite national news reports that seemed to indicate there were many orphaned children immediately available for adoption in Haiti, there were no new adoptions being processed. Hutchinson was featured as the primary source of information and expert on the issue. The Maine Children’s Home’s positioning as the longest operating adoption agency in the state was included near the top of the release to lend credibility to Hutchinson’s comments. Through the release, Hutchinson clearly explained why adoptions had been halted and why select Haitian children were being brought to the United States – something the national news reports had failed to do. The release was issued to all Maine media outlets, and NMC made one follow-up call – to Maine’s Associated Press bureau.

Results:

The Associated Press picked up the story and within hours Google News generated a long list of “hits” in Maine and beyond. WCSH 6 and WABI TV 5 both visited the Maine Children’s Home to interview Hutchinson and Executive Director Sharon Abrams, resulting in news spots on both stations. WCSH 6 followed up with a sit-down interview with Hutchinson on its live Sunday morning talk show. This 20-minute interview enabled Hutchinson to not only discuss the situation in Haiti but also share information specific to MCH’s adoption program. Additional media outlets that developed stories based on the release included Boston.com, the Bangor Daily News, the Capital Weekly, and The Valley Voice.

All news coverage stated that The Maine Children’s Home adoption program was the longest operating program of its kind in Maine. This, combined with Hutchinson’s knowledgeable comments, helped position it as the state’s leading adoption program. Since The Maine Children’s Home was the first and only adoption agency to proactively make a statement about the misinformation surrounding adoptions in Haiti following the earthquake, the resulting coverage clearly positioned the organization as an authority and leader in adoption.

The day after the news coverage aired, the program received six adoption phone inquiries. Over the next several weeks it received 36 adoption phone inquiries as a result of the coverage, and Internet inquiries also spiked.