Introducing August’s inspirational woman: Nikki Potter! Nikki is the Director of Education and Post Adoption Services of All God’s Children International in Vancouver, Washington. All God’s Children is a faith-based organization that works in the U.S. and abroad to create lasting change for millions of orphans worldwide living in institutions and opens up more paths to family and independence. Nikki clinically supports families through the adoption process and after their children come home, she provides education, counseling, and resources.
Read more about Nikki and the work she does by checking out the interview below.
How did you get to the position you are in now? What things did you say “yes” to God in along the way?
Way back in undergraduate school, when I began the road to social work, I knew that I wanted to work in this specific field. I’ve been in social work for 12 years now, but before I found my way to adoption, I spent the majority of my career in therapeutic parent coaching and as a Child and Family Therapist.
I truly believe that saying yes to God in those positions gave me the experience and knowledge to do what I do now. I see God’s orchestration of what I needed to learn and experience to do this well. It was a perfectly lined path.
Where do you see God in your daily work?
Everywhere! I believe that adoption is our spiritual truth and such an incredible representation of God’s redemptive work. Watching children heal, grow, connect and thrive when they are in their forever family reminds me of the wholeness that we all receive in the love of God.
I have seen “miracle placements”, families who say “Yes!” to children with severe medical needs with uncertain futures, including terminally ill children who get to experience the love of a family if even for a short amount of time.
What does a hard day look like?
Hard days are days where we see the heartbreaking side of adoption. As beautiful and wonderful and truly holy as adoption is, adoption is born out of trauma and loss on every level. I read files of children that break your heart right in two and make you question if there is goodness in the world. Children abandoned, abused, neglected.
I also support families that are working through parenting children who have been deeply affected in their brains, bodies, identities, and spirits by their histories. It’s not easy to walk into trauma with someone, especially a child.
What does the best day look like?
I have a cork board above my desk and pinned on it is the number of children that I have had the complete honor of being very small part of their journey to their forever home, their family. The best day is every day I get to see that number change. Today it’s at 234. I also have pictures of children after they have been home and you can actually SEE the impact of love on a child. It’s a beautiful thing.
What is the average length of time it takes for an international adoption to be completed?
This varies from country to country as well as by the identified special needs that a family is open to parenting. It can range from about a year to upwards of 7-8 years for some “healthy child” programs.
Are there certain factors that go along with high orphan rates such as poverty, corrupt governments, cultural norms, etc.? What do you see as the main contributor to children needing to live in orphanages?
It is estimated that there are over 8 million orphans living in institutional care in the world. To put that in perspective, that’s nearly the population of New York. Children enter care due to deeply rooted systemic problems such as lack of education, lack or resources, corruption, poverty, misguided policies, addiction, and loss of biological family.
The impact of growing up in institutional care/foster care without adequate nurturing care is significant. Adverse childhood experiences have a cumulative toll on physical/mental health and development. Most children, when they arrive home in their forever family, are developmentally half their chronological age and have an IQ that is 20 points lower than children raised in a family.
Can you tell us about the work that All God’s Children International does as an organization?
What I love about our agency is that it is not just an adoption agency, it’s an orphan care agency. In the countries we work in, we provide prevention initiatives to stabilize families to keep them together, such as micro-grants. We are involved in active policy work to change and influence child welfare policy through the highest levels of government to create clear paths to family and independence.
We are developing independence programs to support orphans aging out of care. One such is the Dream Home in Bogata, Colombia that we are launching just next month that will house 24 girls who have aged out while they pursue college!
We also provide family-like care for orphans by working to elevate orphan care in institutions through child sponsorship and caregiving trainings. Lastly, we build families through adoption both internationally and domestically.
What is something your organization needs or may be lacking at the moment?
There are so many different ways people can join AGCI in our work to create lasting changes for the 8 million orphans living in institutional care around the world. Not everyone is called to adoption, but I do believe more are called than we see. If you intend to parent, seek God’s guidance on how to build your family. Even if you aren’t called to adoption, God’s world instructs us in James 1:27 to care for orphans. Anyone and everyone can do that! You can sponsor a child in care to make sure they their basic and medical needs are met until there is a permanency plan in place for that child. Be an advocate for the crisis and for agencies who are active in it. Check out our website for more information about AGCI’s work and how to partner with us. https://allgodschildren.org/
Who are women in your personal or professional life that inspire you?
I have been blessed with so many incredible woman in my life that support me personally and professionally. Wonderful social workers who have taught me how to do and stay in this hard work without being broken by it. There was a woman named Dr. Karyn Purvis, a Psychologist out of Texas who developed a therapeutic intervention called Trust Based Relational Intervention that merges attachment, brain science, and child development with the belief that there is no child who is outside of the reach of deep healing. This has become the perspective that I now support families from and I have the utmost respect for her life’s work.