Each adoption begins with a heartbreak. A mother, forced to give away her most precious gift. A helpless child, left destitute of a family’s love. Mending such broken hearts was William Pierce’s purpose in life.
For each tragedy-struck child, Mr. Pierce saw a loving family. His calling of compassion made him a tireless advocate of adoption and a pioneer of adoption friendly policies. In 1980, he founded the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) and served as its president for the next two decades. He fought for better adoption policies everywhere — in the press, in state legislatures, on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Pierce’s efforts led to congressional passage of many measures that made adoption easier, such as the establishment and subsequent expansion of the tax credit for adoption expenses. To reduce barriers to transracial adoption, Mr. Pierce pushed for passage of the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act of 1994. That bill was followed by the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, which created incentives for states to move children out of foster dwellings and into the homes of families. Shortly before leaving the presidency of NCFA, Mr. Pierce helped to conceive the Infant Adoption Awareness Act. The bill, which passed as part of the Children’s Health Act of 2000, gave health and pregnancy counselors training in how to present adoption as a constructive alternative to undesired pregnancies.
Mr. Pierce also pushed for adoption-friendly policies overseas. Perhaps most notably, he helped establish intercountry adoption systems — with more transparency and better predictability — through the Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention of 1993.
Robert Parker, the chairman of the NCFA Board of Directors, said, “Long may [Mr. Pierces] tireless, compassionate example inspire us all, for the sake of the mission of children around the world with need of loving, permanent families.”
The poet Emily Dickinson wrote, “If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.” Mr. Pierce, the mender of countless broken hearts, was 68-years-old when he died yesterday. He lived to make individuals whole. He did not live in vain.
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