Judy Polk-Sebring tells us why working with Adoptions Together is so important to her!
By Roshan Farazad
Judy Polk-Sebring is hardly an average Washingtonian. In a city that puts much attention on material wealth, social stature, and politics, this blonde-haired, brown-eyed, tan, and stylish lady focuses her energy elsewhere; she spends most of her time taking care of her family and working with Adoptions Together, a non-profit adoption organization.
“Being that I was adopted and my brother was adopted, working with an adoption agency is very dear to me. I wanted to give back,” said Polk-Sebring, sitting outside on the deck of her Colorado-inspired home in Potomac, Md.
Polk-Sebring was born in Chicago, Ill. and adopted as an infant; her adoptive parents took her back to their home in Washington, D.C., the city that has been her home ever since.
“My parents never kept my adoption a secret. I knew that I was adopted since I was a child,” she said.
Polk-Sebring graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, with a bachelor’s degree in family community development. She eventually got married to her first husband and they had three children, Evan, 26, Jordan, 23, and Justine, 20. It was not until she was pregnant with her third child when Polk-Sebring said she became curious about who her birth parents were.
“When you have your own kids, you want to see the similarities that you have with your own parents, and how the environment and genetics play a role in the type of person you are,” Polk-Sebring stated.
“I wasn’t looking for my ‘real parents,’” she said. “I have my own parents, my own family. You can’t define a parent as someone who gave birth to you.”
Polk-Sebring eventually hired a private detective to find her birth mother. About seven to nine months later, he found her.
Polk-Sebring arranged to meet with her. Her birth mother gave Polk-Sebring her biological father’s contact information, but Polk-Sebring decided not to reach out to him because he didn’t even know she existed.
“What I got from the experience of meeting my birth mother was that we are all a huge product of the environment,” Polk-Sebring said.
She took this new understanding with her to Adoptions Together.
Janice Goldwater, founder of Adoptions Together, started the agency when she saw that many children, who needed to be adopted, were being discriminated against and turned away from agencies if they had disabilities, or if their mothers were drug addicts or HIV positive.
“That’s where our program comes in,” said Polk-Sebring in a Potomac Almanac article, “Finding ‘Forever Families.’”
Goldwater created an organization that would take any child and give them permanent homes so they do not have to be placed in foster care. According to the Adoptions Together website, “permanency in a healthy family is best for children.”
Polk-Sebring said she uses Adoptions Together as an avenue to get these children into permanent homes. She is currently the secretary of the board of directors but focuses on the major fundraisers.
For the past three years, Polk-Sebring has hosted the Taste of Potomac at her home. Approximately 300 people attend each year and last year the event raised $40,000 for Adoptions Together.
“Every year Judy will go around to every restaurant in the area and get them to donate anything for the fundraiser, whether it was food or gift certificates,” said Polk-Sebring’s second and current husband Stuart Sebring.
The difference between Polk-Sebring’s fundraisers and other fundraisers is that almost all of the money made at these fundraisers actually goes towards the cause.
“About 95 percent of the stuff for events is donated. Many of these other charity events are only about the glitz and glamour, not the cause,” Polk-Sebring said. “My philosophy is that you don’t want to spend $500,000 to make $100,000.”
Before working with Adoptions Together, she helped start an adoption advocacy program, Share the Care for Children, with Juwan Howard, basketball player for the Washington Wizards, at the time.
According to Polk-Sebring, the program supported the need for children to be placed in permanent homes instead of being moved around in foster care where they tend to be victims of abuse.
About 13 years ago, Polk-Sebring received Toyota’s Woman of the Year Award, which recognizes women in the community who have made a positive impact in the lives of others.
“It is really a joy to work with Judy because she is so focused on the mission of our organization. She works with her heart and her head, and uses her own life experiences. She gives so much of herself to better the lives of others,” said Goldwater.
In her 17 years of working with Adoptions Together, Polk-Sebring has had a lot of experience working with adopted children, adoptive parents, and birth mothers.
“One of the most amazing things I’ve seen is watching a birth mother hand over her baby to the adoptive parents. It takes a big person to realize that they cannot care for their child. It’s very intense,” she said.
What are Polk-Sebring’s future plans?
“I will be involved with Adoptions Together for the rest of my life,” she said. “I want to raise awareness about the kids who need to be adopted. These are the kids of our future.”
If you would like to contribute to Adoptions Together, you may visit their website for more details.