Seven years ago Michaela Sims adopted her first child.
Five years ago she adopted her second.
This month, she received the “Angels in Adoption” award from the Washington, D.C.-based Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization.
The award, which she received on the recommendation of U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., recognized her work on Capitol Hill as a lobbyist for adoption issues.
“Whether at work or home, Michaela’s heart for children creates stability and opportunities that a child would otherwise never gain, and that has made her an angel to hundreds of children around the world,” Warner said in a statement.
Sims, a 1988 graduate of Gross High School, unhesitatingly attributes her concern for children to her upbringing.
She is the daughter of Dan and Mary Jean Sims of Bellevue. Dan died in 2008 at the age of 71.
“The best teachers are right at home, right?” she said. “I grew up in an environment where both my mom and dad were very giving people, and so I have a natural tendency to want to help.”
After graduating in 1992 from St. Louis University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and in 1996 from the Creighton University School of Law, she expected to become a public defender.
In 1997, she cold-called all five of Nebraska’s members of Congress, seeking an internship.
Sen. Bob Kerrey responded, and Sims embarked upon a 10-year education in the ways of Washington, as legislative director for Kerrey and as legislative counsel for U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson.
But the clock was ticking on her political involvement.
“After Nelson won in 2006, my husband and I had just adopted our first child and I knew I would soon leave,” she said.
The lobbying industry beckoned, and Sims worked for the Bockorny Group from 2007 to 2012.
A year ago, she and Jennifer Bell formed Chamber Hill Strategies, a bipartisan lobbying firm that deals heavily with health care law and tax law. Sims is a Democrat, Bell a Republican.
“It’s been a wonderful year, and one of the great things that has happened is that we were given the opportunity to work as a lobbyist for the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys,” she said.
The academy, she said, is an atypical client because it is a nonprofit.
“As the mom of two adopted children, working with the adoption attorneys has been such an incredibly rewarding experience,” she said. This year, she persuaded members of Congress to attach a measure addressing a matter that has long rankled adoption advocates to a pending immigration bill.
Infants adopted from poorer regions of the world often have no birth record, Sims said, and so their age is frequently estimated. Sometimes, when puberty hits, it becomes obvious that the children are older than their estimated age. State laws permit age estimates to be adjusted, but the U.S. Department of Homeland Security does not recognize the adjustments, which causes a child to have two official birthdates.
This plays havoc with their lives as the children grow older and seek official documents such as driver’s licenses and passports.
The amendment advocated by Sims would require recognition of state adjustments.