by Kim Phagan-Hansel
It was a promise of children that led Richard and Annie Fischer down the path to intercountry adoption. It was a serendipitous newspaper article that would turn the couple’s sights to China, and a specific notation that China wanted “older” parents. So after meeting with Joshua and Lily Zhong of Denver-based Chinese Children Adoption International, the Fischers were committed to adopting from China. At that time, the wait was less than a year and they were off to Kunming in Yunnan Province to adopt their oldest daughter, Nicole. Immediately smitten with their new daughter and her birth country, they committed to adopting again almost immediately after returning from China. Delayed by the country’s shut down to revamp the adoption program, the Fischers’ wait was just a little longer than it had been for Nicole. Unfortunately, when Richard arrived in Maoming in the Guangdong Province of China, the minute their newest daughter Jenna was placed in his arms, he knew she wasn’t well. In his quest to find answers for his ill daughter, Richard struggled to find the truth and the information he needed to get her help. It was that difficult time that ultimately led Richard to found Adoption Today in 1998. He anxiously reached out to the small, but growing adoption community to fill the pages of the magazine with the most current information. The very first issue included many leaders. “I would not be the person I am without Dick Fischer,” shares long-time contributor Terra Trevor. “His guidance, friendship, editorial expertise and kindness, shaped me into the woman and writer I have become.” In true groundbreaking fashion, he also reached out to young adult Korean adoptees, specifically those who had been raised in transracial families. He believed in the importance of their stories and experiences in helping new adoptive parents learn, grow and do better. Some of the earliest Reflections editors included Jessica Medinger, Whitney Tae-Jing Ning, Ashlee Yong-Soo Lewis, Jinny Jordan and many others. “As a young twenty-something that thought she knew it all, Dick always made me feel much wiser than I was and always made me feel truly valued by asking me questions and really listening to me,” said Jinny Jordan, Korean adoptee and former Reflections editor. “The incredible opportunity he gave me to write for Adoption Today gave me a confidence in my adoptee voice and a safe platform to share it. I am grateful that Dick took a chance on me and allowed me to write for the magazine for many years.” With each issue he continued to grow the information provided through a series of contributors. In his work with the magazine and in his effort to raise his transracially adopted daughters in the truth and light, he reached out to various resources, including Heritage Camps. The family’s annual vacation was at Chinese Heritage Camp where they could surround their children with other families and children who reflected their own. Richard was instrumental in helping to found Chinese Heritage Camp II in the heart of the Asian community in Denver. He was especially instrumental in developing a strong high school program for that urban camp, and was the favorite “Chinese Emperor” during ceremonies at both Chinese Heritage Camps! After his work in the international and domestic adoption community, Richard began to learn more about the plight of children in foster care and the real lack of training and information for foster parents. In 2001, Richard launched Fostering Families Today with the assistance of editor Cynthia Peck. In 2002, Kim Phagan-Hansel joined the editorial team, where she has remained for 15 years. “It has been such an honor to work alongside Dick to help him build two award-winning publications that share the realities foster and adoptive families face every day,” said Phagan-Hansel. “His work has touched countless children and families across the country and his heartfelt dedication will be felt for years to come.” Since its inception, Fostering Families Today has grown into a bimonthly publication that provides quality training opportunities and information for foster parents nationwide, with the ultimate goal of educating families so they can help the children in their care. Over the years, both publications have grown in scope and reach across the country and world. Some of their long-term partnerships include The Adoption Exchange, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Christian Alliance for Orphans, National Foster Parent Association, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Children’s Rights, Child Welfare League of America, and countless adoptive and foster families, as well as the children they have raised. In Colorado, he has played a strong role in building and strengthening the adoption community, including involvement with Project 1.27, the launch of the Colorado Heart Gallery and several other projects to promote the adoption of children from foster care. “Richard Fischer has been an advocate for children for more than 20 years,” said Dr. Sharen Ford, program director for Focus on the Family’s adoption and orphan care outreach and former foster care manager for the state of Colorado. “He developed Colorado’s first portable Heart Gallery. He developed, assembled and transported the Heart Gallery in his car to suburban and rural communities. His goal: to raise awareness about Colorado’s waiting children. He knew that children of all ages needed a family. Richard was filled with grace.” In 2003 Richard was honored with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s Angels in Adoption Award. In 2012, the publications were honored by the National Association of Social Workers in the media category. And in 2014, Fostering Families Today received an Adoption Excellence Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. On November 4, Richard received the inaugural For the Children Advocacy Award, named in his honor, from Timberline Church in Fort Collins. Richard passed away November 24 surrounded by family. Richard’s tireless efforts can simply be summed up by his long-time editorial signature — for the children.