Article  Human Dignity  Life  Marriage and Family  Religious Liberty  Adoption

Tirelessly advocating for children: A tribute to Becky Weichhand

“You do not know what tomorrow will bring . . . for you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).  

This verse has consumed me since seeing the jarring news yesterday of the death of one of the best and brightest adoption advocates of our generation. Becky Weichhand, the executive director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), “lost her valiantbattle against cancer and passed away surrounded by family,” the CCAI reported on social media. A committed follower of Christ, we take great comfort that Becky is with her Savior whose love and grace she displayed in abundance to all who were blessed to know her.  

The team at the CCAI, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 2001, provide resources and information to members of Congress in order to “make the dream of a family a reality for every child.” Becky came to CCAI in 2009 from Michigan to serve as CCAI’s director of Policy. She was named its executive director in 2014.

To those of us in the adoption community blessed to work with Becky, she was unforgettable.  I got to know her in my previous role as the vice president of Advocacy for Children at Focus on the Family. Becky and I were both lawyers passionate about public policy, adoption, and child welfare. And we wanted to do all we could to help waiting children get into families and ensure adoptive families had the support they needed to love and raise their kids well.

We also shared a belief and commitment that the faith community can and should play a crucial role—with government—in helping children in need of families. In a climate where the witness of people of faith is sometimes marred by partisan excess, Becky was a consummate diplomat who worked with anyone and everyone who wanted to advance the cause of adoption. And it wasn’t a front. She wasn’t a secret partisan hack putting up with “others” because she had to.  Becky genuinely understood the importance of working together in a pluralistic society to advance the common good. She led teams across the globe to learn more about the needs of the world’s orphans and put on CCAI’s prestigious Angels in Adoption gala each year in Washington, D.C.

Michael Wear, who worked in President Obama’s Faith Based Office, noted that he worked with no one more closely than Becky and her predecessor, Kathleen Strottman, on the annual National Adoption Day events of President Obama’s first term. Becky worked with Wear to get the adoption tax credit made permanent and to “bring youth in foster care to the White House so that the nation’s top policymakers could hear directly from them, rather that just hearing about them.”  He went on to note that “those meetings deeply impacted (his) White House Domestic Policy Council colleagues.” That’s how Becky was: deeply impacting. She was both head and heart. She knew adoption advocates needed to provide facts and stir hearts.

What struck me early on about Becky was her vibrancy. She was somehow both fierce and gentle; compassionate and tenacious; loving with a steel spine. Becky was brilliant, beautiful, kind, and fun. It’s hard for me not to cry as a type this. She always wanted to know how she could pray for you, and she had a determined faith that God would move mountains to set lonely children in families (Psa. 68:5). She was very clear that we had lots of work to do to cooperate with God in that mission. Becky also went out of her way to serve people. She once drove me around Washington, D.C., in the dark of a winter night so I wouldn’t be on my own trying to find my way to an unfamiliar hotel. We prayed together in her car. 

Becky was tireless. Some of my favorite memories are from our last adoption policy battle together. It never occurred to me in a million years that it would be our last. In November 2017, there was an attempt in the House of Representatives to substantially weaken the adoption tax credit. Becky was the general with the information and, along with ERLC policy staff and others, she worked from morning to night to provide lawmakers with the information they needed to understand the importance of the tax credit. I remember teasing her that I was too old for conference calls at 10 p.m., but Becky, along with many others, just kept working. And her efforts paid off. The adoption tax credit was saved, which means more children will get the families they deserve. Becky did important work with faith and perseverance.  

What you’ve probably noticed from the picture of our beautiful friend is that she was so young and full of life. It feels especially cruel to lose someone like Becky. It’s hard to comprehend.  So, as Becky did, we trust that God will use this horrible loss of our beloved friend for both the good of others and for the glory of his merciful name. This is her legacy in her life and death. Becky’s sister Laura wrote this verse on her Facebook page:  “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).  Well done, beloved Becky. We miss you already.

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