Putting Family First – The USG’s Action Plan for Children in Adversity

19 12 2012

zemzemI first met Zemzem in a southern village in Ethiopia.  As we sat in her small store which proudly stood at the entrance path to her village she told me about her sister who had died four years prior and of her struggle to raise her four nieces and nephews.  With no income other than a monthly contribution from a U.S. based sponsorship program, she found caring for four children more than she could bear.   With no government help available and no aid other than the inadequate monthly stipend, Zemzem placed the youngest of the children in an orphanage and expressed her hope that another family would love and parent her niece.  After months of languishing in the orphanage, her niece ultimately found an appropriate, safe, permanent family in the U.S.

As we continued to sit in the cramped space that was both her store and the home for herself and her now three children, Zemzem spoke with sadness about her loss, her longing to know how her niece was doing with her new family, and her decision to place another of her children in the orphanage.  And yet despite the sadness in her story, Zemzem’s eyes lit up with a hope and pride I so often see in the families I meet in my journeys.

Why with so much loss and sadness did Zemzem’s eyes light up?  Because the NGO that facilitated the adoption of her niece began an innovative family strengthening program in her village.  After one-year of training and two small loans, Zemzem has a thriving business selling much needed grains, bread and nuts to her community (with plans to begin wholesaling!).   With great pride Zemzem spoke of how she no longer needs the monthly aid on which she had become dependent.  Her business produced more than 3 times the income of the stipend and she no longer felt the need to place any of her children in the orphanage.

Zemzem closed our time together with pride, hope, and also a bit of a sales pitch asking for investors in her business.  But what I really saw in her was not only a savvy business owner, but a proud mother who with some one-time support, moved from loss and sadness to hope and fulfillment.

Before there was a US Government Action Plan for Children in Adversity, Zemzem’s life and story embodied it.   Just like Zemzem and the programs that gave her the ability to put her family first, the Action Plan puts family first by enabling families to care for their children; prevent unnecessary family-child separation and promotes appropriate, protective and permanent family care.  As just as Zemzem spoke with pride and hope built on sadness, we too should be sad that it took us this long to state the importance of family care for all children and yet filled with hope that the Action Plan will support evidence based programs; from family preservation to intercountry adoption, that make safe permanent family care a reality for all children.





CCAI Foster Youth Congressional Briefing

2 08 2011

As a summer intern with Joint Council, I’ve had great opportunities to meet inspiring people, learn tons about international child welfare, and participate in the meaningful work Joint Council does. As my internship rapidly approaches its conclusion, I can say attending the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) Foster Youth Intern Briefing last week has been one of the highlights of my summer.

At the Briefing, CCAI’s Foster Youth Interns, fifteen young adults who have personally been in the US foster system, presented the policy recommendations they developed this summer for US foster care. Well-researched and well-formulated as they were, the personal experiences the interns interwove was what gave the recommendations the most weight.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget when one of the interns told the spellbound audience that he had just been adopted at the age of 25. Whether born in Baltimore or Beijing – whether 2, 12, or 22 years old – every child needs the opportunity to have a permanent home so they can experience the love only family can provide.

Sarah Neville
Community Outreach Intern





Ethiopia: US Dept of State Adoption Notice – Delays Expected

5 04 2011

The Department of State has published a Notice on Ethiopian Adoptions: Significant delays remain likely for cases presented to Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs after March 8, 2011. The content of the notice is supported by Joint Council’s understanding of the current status of intercountry adoption in Ethiopia.

The highlights of the notice are;

• Adoption cases presented to the Federal Court of First Instance prior to March 8, 2011 will be processed expeditiously.

• Cases presented to the Court after March 8 will be processed in a more deliberate manner. MOWYCA will process these cases at a rate of approximately 5 per day.

• Prospective adoptive parents who did not reach the court summons stage before March 8, 2011, should expect significant delays in the progression of their paperwork through the Government of Ethiopia.

Click here for the full text of the alert.

 





Ethiopia Meeting & Conference Call: Did You RSVP?

5 04 2011

Please note that if you are intending to participate in tomorrow’s (April 6th) USCIS meeting and conference call regarding Ethiopia, you must RSVP for each person calling in (see below info on registering). USCIS’s dial-in capacity is being limited to only those who have sent their RSVP.

Joint Council strongly urges everyone who is interested in Ethiopian adoptions, the protection of children and families and our collective roles in ensuring ethical adoption remains a viable option for children, to participate in the call tomorrow.

To RSVP, send an email to public.engagement@dhs.gov and include “Ethiopia – Phone/Webinar” in the subject line.

To read the full announcement and invitation, please click here.

We look forward to your participation during tomorrow’s call.

 





Amercian University to host “Stolen Children: Illegal Practices in Intercountry Adoption”

1 04 2011

The UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic at Washington College of Law, American University is presenting Stolen Children: Illegal Practices in Inter-country Adoption and the Need for Reform on April 4, 2011 from 6:30 – 9:00 pm.

Joint Council’s Tom DiFilipo will participate as a panelist and will address both the role of social services in the prevention of abuse and abuse related consequences of adoption closures.

The event is open to the public and includes the following speakers.  We encourage all who are interested in protecting the rights of children and families to attend and participate in this robust discussion.

Keynote Presentation
Norma Cruz
Guatemalan human rights activist
President of the Fundacion Sobrevivientes (Survivors Foundation)

Panel Discussion
Tom DiFilipo
President & CEO
Joint Council on International Children’s Services

Karen Rotabi
Professor of Social Work
Virginia Commonwealth University

David Smolin
Professor
Cumberland School of Law

Alison Dilworth
Office of Children’s Issues
U.S. Department of State





Ethiopia: USCIS to Conduct Briefing on Ethiopian Adoption

25 03 2011

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will facilitate a meeting on Ethiopian adoptions for all stakeholders including adoptive families.  The meeting will take place on April 6, 2011.  The USCIS announcement and invitation is available below or here.

It is our understanding that USCIS will have adequate access lines for all who RSVP (as requested in their invitation).  If you intend on participating, please be sure to RSVP so that USCIS can ensure they have sufficient capacity on the conference call.

___________________________________________________

USCIS Stakeholder Meeting on Ethiopian Adoptions

Wednesday, April 6, 2011 @ 1:00 – 4:00pm (EDT)
White Oak Conference Room
20 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20529

The USCIS International Operations Division and the Office of Public Engagement invite you to participate in a stakeholder meeting in which we will brief on some of the findings of the recent interagency site visit to Addis Ababa to review Ethiopian adoptions. Members of the USCIS and the Department of State team that visited Ethiopia will provide the briefing and answer questions about its content.

This engagement will be available to any interested parties by teleconference and webinar with a small number of in-person participants.  Due to space constraints, in-person participation will be by invitation only. We request that in-person invitees send a single representative to attend in-person unless requesting clearance for a second in advance.

To Participate in the Session

All individuals and organizations planning to participate in this engagement must respond to this invitation. Please contact the Office of Public Engagement at public.engagement@dhs.gov by April 3, 2011, and reference the following in the subject line of your email:

  • If you plan to attend in person, please reference “Ethiopia – In Person”
  • If you plan to attend by phone, please reference “Ethiopia – Phone/Webinar”

Please also include your full name and the organization you represent in the body of the email.

Once an RSVP email has been received, USCIS will provide you call-in and webinar details.
We look forward to engaging with you!





Ambassador Jacobs Travels to Cambodia and Vietnam

15 03 2011

The US Department of State has issued the following statement regarding Special Advisor for Children’s Issues Ambassador Susan Jacobs visit to Cambodia and Vietnam.

Since joining the Office of Children’s Issues, Ambassador Jacobs has been a tireless advocate traveling to Kyrgyzstan, Guatemala, South Korea and Ethiopia.  Joint Council both appreciates and supports Ambassador Jacobs continuing efforts to work with governments around the world.

The full text of the Department of State’s statement can be found below and here.

 


Special Advisor for Children’s Issues Ambassador Susan Jacobs will visit Cambodia and Vietnam March 16 – 23 for meetings on intercountry adoptions.

In Cambodia, she will meet with government officials and non-governmental adoption stakeholders to discuss how the United States can work together with the Cambodian government to further support Cambodia’s efforts to fully implement a new law on intercountry adoption. Adoption from Cambodia was suspended in 2001.

In Vietnam, Ambassador Jacobs will meet with government officials to discuss Vietnam’s stated goal of acceding to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The United States welcomes Vietnam’s strong efforts to create a child welfare system and an intercountry adoption process that will meet its obligations under the Convention. The processing of adoptions for Vietnam was suspended in 2008.

For more information about intercountry adoption in Cambodia and Vietnam, visit:
http://adoption.state.gov

For updates on Special Advisor Susan Jacobs’ trip, follow her on twitter: http://twitter.com/childrensissues





Ethiopia – Update 3/14/11

14 03 2011

Various blogs and listservs are reporting that the Ethiopian Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs has announced a revised plan which includes the processing of 20 adoption cases per day.  While Joint Council has also been provided with this information, it is our understanding that no decision has been made or announcement published by the Government of Ethiopia.

We believe that it is premature to speculate on the intentions of the Ministry but rather seek to continue to partner with the Government of Ethiopia and use this opportunity to increase child and family protections while continuing intercountry adoption.  Joint Council fully supports the government’s efforts to increase the capacity for regulatory oversight of service providers, strengthen the review of each adoption case and expand social services to Ethiopian children and families.

 

 





Ethiopia Update 3/10/11

10 03 2011

Processing Limit
It has been confirmed that the new policy of limiting the number of adoption cases processed by the Ethiopian Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs went into effect today, March 10, 2011 with 5 cases being completed.   While a staffing change at the Ministry was confirmed as having occurred earlier in the week, this did not affect the implementation of the new processing limit.

Emergency Campaign for Ethiopian Children
To date, over 29,000 concerned individuals have signed the petition requesting a reconsideration of the new policy.   We continue our daily dialogue and will respectfully present the signatures, petition and letter to the Government of Ethiopia early next week.

Briefing by the Department of State Office of Children’s Issues
We, along with other key stakeholders and adoption service providers licensed by the Ethiopian government to provide intercountry adoption services, will participate in a briefing by the Department of State Office of Children’s Issues, on Friday, March 11, 2011.  An update will be published sometime after the meeting.

Ongoing Discussion
It is our understanding that discussions regarding the new policy and its impact on children living without permanent parental care continues within the Ethiopian government and amongst all stakeholders.

We remain hopeful and continue to support the Ethiopian government’s efforts to increase the capacity for oversight of adoption cases, regulation of service providers and provision of social services to vulnerable families and children.





Ethiopia: Campaign Update

9 03 2011

In only 24-hours, over 11,000 concerned individuals have joined our Emergency Campaign for Ethiopian Children by signing our petition. We extend our thanks to all who have supported this initiative by signing the petition, distributing the campaign information and expressing your support of child protections and ethical adoption.

Today, we have continued our communication with the Ethiopian government and respectfully brought the outpouring of concern to them. We believe that there may have been positive developments and will provide further updates as information is confirmed.

 

 








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