Be The Answer for Song

4 11 2010

Song’s story is one of many for Joint Council’s National Adoption Month Adovocay Campaign. The campaign entitled “I Am The Answer” highlights stories of  children who have been part of the adoption system in some way. Some stories highlight a child finding their forever family while others are not as lucky. We encourage you to take the time to learn more about Joint Council’s National Adoption Month Advocacy Campaign by Clicking Here and then support Being The Answer by completing each task every day in November.


The first time I met an orphaned child who was blind, my heart ached for her.  The orphanage was crowded and loud, and she sat all day on her little chair looking overwhelmed.   I was told that her future would be difficult, as she could not attend public school, and she would most likely never find work.   The orphanage staff told me there was a good chance she would be institutionalized her entire life, simply for being blind.

So when we first learned of baby Song, I knew we had a difficult decision to make.  He had been diagnosed with retinoblastoma, an eye cancer.  Treatment involves removal of the eye, which we quickly did, knowing he could still see with his left eye.  Here he is shortly after that surgery.

Unfortunately, at his next medical exam, we learned that cancer was in his left eye as well.   To save his life, we would have to remove both eyes, leaving Song permanently blind.   This was a very difficult decision, as I knew that without adoption, we could be committing him to life in an institution.  But it was the only option to save his life, and so surgery was done.   Subsequent CT scans have shown that he is cancer free, and for that we are so thankful.  His orphanage agreed to submit him for international adoption, and he is now on China’s shared list.  But sadly, no one has stepped forward to choose him.

In June, I had the honor to meet little Song in person.   Of course I knew from his photos what a beautiful little boy he was, but meeting him face to face took my breath away.   Song is only 2 years old, but he talks like a little adult.  He happily chatted all through lunch, commenting on every dish and asking who everyone was.   Since losing his sight, his other senses have become increasingly sharp, and he could tell immediately when I was near.    His caregivers told us again and again how very smart he is, and they are all hoping that a family will want him as their son.   Without adoption, the reality is that Song’s life has little hope.   But with a family to support and love him, and provide this remarkable and intelligent little boy with an opportunity to go to school,  I know his future can be unlimited!

Amy Eldridge

Executive Director, Love Without Boundaries

(Song currently has an adoption grant towards his adoption expenses through LWB)

Be The Answer for Song  by spreading the word about the challenge and Joint Councils work!  Find our facebook page by clicking here and “like” our page and refer our page to 5 of  your friends!

Be The Answer for Jason

3 11 2010

To learn more about Joint Council’s National Adoption Month Advocacy Campaign-Click Here

Editor’s note: Today’s story comes from Steven Walker, former foster child, adoptee, and adoption advocate.  For more on Steven Walker, please visit his Official Page on Facebook.

November is National Adoption Month. It’s easy for me to celebrate National Adoption Month, because I made it. I survived the system and have become an advocate for children. However, there are many children that aren’t celebrating. It’s just another depressing month in their lives. This is a story of a friend of mine, whom I grew up with in the foster care system…

Already filled with anger and hurt, tears stream down his face as the social worker tells him they will try to find him a family for National Adoption Month.  As hope begins to fade, he sees his stuff get packed into black trash bags and his siblings move to a different home. Every night, he cries himself to sleep. What will happen to him? What will happen to his siblings? He lays there thinking.

The little boy struggled all his life, entering Foster Care at age three. He tried to be a good boy, but kept learning new details of his life. When he was five he found out he had a little sister born in Guatemala, who was adopted by a family. The agency told the family that she had no siblings. He also had seven brothers and sisters in several states across America. Most of them have been adopted or have landed in group homes. The little boy had little time to focus on his siblings as he and his sister that he was currently living with were being abused by their foster family. The dad beat them. The mother forced them to watch porn and put on their own show. At night, the boy started gaining weird feelings for his sister. He was removed from that home and his sister stayed.

The next day, he was shoved into the back of a county car and moved to a suburban family, who let him know they wanted a little girl and are only keeping him into another family can be found and to help pay for the father’s back surgery. The little boy kept crying again. He was only there five months, but it felt like an eternity of pain and anguish.

He then moved in with a couple who were in their 70’s. Things were going pretty good. They treated their grandchildren better than him, because the grandchildren were blood, but at least he wasn’t getting beaten. He lived with this couple for a year and a half, when the foster mother died and the father became ill. Their children tried taking them in but gave up after two weeks, in fear for their children.

He moved into a group home, where he was labeled as violent and likely to molest. He stayed there until just shy of his 16th birthday, when another family was willing to give him a shot. He stayed with this family for over a year. Two months short of his 18th birthday, he saw the parents get into a physical fight over whether they should keep him or not. They went on vacation in another state to decide. They came back with the answer, No. They felt he was a good kid, but said his past was too hard to overlook.

The boy felt out that all of his siblings were adopted. None of those families wanted him because of the labels put on him: ADHD, Violent, Anger Issues, Attachment Issues, Lies, Steals, Self-Injures, and risk of hurting others. They didn’t understand that he just wanted love.

The boy aged out. He became homeless. He ended up getting arrested for beating up a man who stole his coat. Sentenced to a year in jail. He walked in saying, this shouldn’t be too hard I’ve lived in prison my entire life. As he received free time in the prison yard, he began to talk to other people, and found out, a lot of them have aged out too. He wished something could be done….

This is a common thing in America. Children keep getting abused, entering foster care, getting abused there, receiving labels, aging out, repeating the trend. We need change…

Please help!!! BE THE ANSWER for children…

Be The Answer for Jason by  checking out the “I am One” Video here and visiting the campaign site

Be The Answer for Mbali

1 11 2010

To learn more about Joint Council’s National Adoption Month Advocacy Campaign Click Here

Mbali means flower in Zulu.  It describes the little girl I held in my arms as she past perfectly.  Gentle, delicate and only able to bloom for a short period of time.  I first met Mbali two weeks before she passed away.  It was my first day in South Africa and at TLC, the child’s home I would be calling home for the next few months of my life.  Young, bright-eyed and bushy tailed and not really knowing what I was getting myself into, it was my first time in an orphanage (although I hate that term and hate it being applied to TLC).  I was over-whelmed by the sites

and sounds – all the children playing and crying at the same time.

I was partnered with, Ester, a young volunteer from Germany who had lived at TLC for six months.  She alone was caring for eight young babies between the ages of two and five months.  She taught me about their feeding schedule, their needs and personalities.  All of the eight babies had been transferred there from the same hospital in the same week.  The hospital was in a very poor section of Johannesburg and had a number of highly contagious viruses passing through the pediatric wards at the time so the children where set up in a little room removed from the rest of the nursery – so as to not spread anything they had gotten from the hospital to the other children at TLC.  As Ester taught me about the children I was in awe of how she seemed to know everything about each of the kids.  She explained that Nathanael had trouble sleeping and had a blood curtailing scream.  Payton was the smallest, born extremely prematurely, and slept all the time.  And Mbali, she was very, very sick – she wouldn’t eat and was becoming very dehydrated.  She told me all about Joanna, who worked at TLC and did not have a lot of formal training with the health issues of babies and children but had years of working with the babies at TLC.  It was Joanna’s responsibility to determine if Mbali needed to go to the hospital.  A few minutes later Joanna flew into the room.  Mbali was quickly whisked off to the hospital – Joanna was afraid that without medical intervention she would pass in the next few hours.  I was scared, to say the least.  It was a jolt of reality like I had never had before.

Two weeks later I had gotten my bearings a little bit – I’d gotten into the groove of 12 hour shifts of feeding, changing and playing with little ones for six days a week.   It was now my turn to do the nigh shift – a 13 hour shift (day and night shift volunteers over-lap for a one hour period everyday) during which volunteers do much of the same work they do during the day – feed, change and play with babies.

That same day Mbali returned from the hospital.  The hospital did not return her because she had improved.  They returned her to TLC because they knew they couldn’t do anything for her.  The hospital needed the beds for children they felt they could actually help.  At four months of age, having been abandoned by her mother at birth, Mbali was being left for dead by the best hospital staff in Sub-Saharan Africa.  There was no room to try to care for her any longer.

Arriving for my night shift I was told Mbali was being cared for by Thea, the amazing woman who started TLC, but that soon they would be bringing Mbali to me to care for her during the night.  I would receive training on how to feed her through the tube the hospital had inserted and if I needed anything during the night I could find Thea or her daughter Pippa.  About an hour later Pippa brought Mbali in to me.  She explained how to feed her through the tube and explained that I needed to pay extra special attention to her that night and continued to say that if I needed anything to have one of the other volunteers come find her.  A few hours later I was holding Mbali and trying to feed another child when I noticed her breath was short and weak.  Suddenly and calmly, there in my arms she let out one last breath.  And that was it.  She was gone.  I called to one of the other volunteers to go find Pippa.  A few of the other babies were crying but I was afraid to put her down – I wasn’t ready to leave her.  I hadn’t yet known her.  The other babies kept crying.  I tried to care for them while holding her but it wasn’t working.  Where was Pippa?  I needed to decide, hold her after her death or care for the others.  I put her down and picked up another child.  I’m sure it was just a matter of minutes, but it felt like forever until Pippa came in.  I looked at her scared, “She’s gone” I said.  Pippa hugged me, said she expected it to happen but just not that quickly.  She whisked her away and I went back to my tasks.  Just like that, Mbali had passed and I needed to move on.  I had seven other children to care for and nine more hours of my shift.  I continued…

I’d like to say I’d known her better.  That I had spent months caring for her, that I had gotten to know her.  I can tell you small things about her, the things I made myself learn so that someone knew them…the birthmark on her leg and the pleas to end the pain in her eyes.  The truth is, no one knew her.  Just like the thousands of orphans who pass away every day.  They are nameless, faceless children.  This month we are going to try to give the nameless, faceless children a voice.  Some of the children you will hear about this month have already passed.  Others are waiting for someone to step up and care for them, hoping for a family.  I hope you take the steps this month to help these children – maybe you can’t adopt them but maybe you can help spread the word about their needs – do it everyday in memory of my little “flower.”

Be The Answer for Mbali by reading and learning about HIV.  Click here for more information.

Daniel and Chantelle are The Answer

1 11 2010

To learn more about Joint Council’s National Adoption Month Advocacy Campaign Click Here

I’m an “over-protective” mom. (If you look up ‘over protective’ in the dictionary, you’ll see me.) I’m the mom who considers bike helmets non-negotiable and doesn’t allow the kids to lick the cake batter bowl because they could get salmonella poisoning from the eggs. Our house rule is no driver’s licenses until the kids are 18, I spray door knobs with Lysol, and (no joke) I cut grapes in quarters until my kids are in kindergarten. (Hey! Don’t laugh! Studies show that grapes are the perfect size and shape to get lodged in little throats, and they are 1 of the top 5 most frequently choked on foods!) Yes, I’m over protective and, to be honest, I’m PROUD of it. My children were entrusted to my care and they are my treasures. I would die for them. I don’t believe in wishy washy, mamby pamby, half-hearted parenting. My kids are my life and I would do anything to protect them. Anything.

Fast forward to our story. I was surfing the net one day for other blogs of adoptive moms. I ran into a couple of blogs by some ladies named Carolyn and Erin. As I read about their families, I realized that they had not just ‘adopted’, like our family… they had adopted kids with HIV. *Full stop.* All I could think was

“WOW. Isn’t it great that these families have the courage to do that. But I never could.”

I was intrigued, though, so I poked around and was truly surprised and amazed to find a bunch of other families that had also done this “unthinkable” thing. Why weren’t they TERRIFIED for the safety of their other children? Were they careless parents? Why were they okay with something so RADICAL and RISKY!? We had 4 kids in our home already and the thought of putting them in danger was 100% unacceptable. No way. No how.

But… I’m curious by nature and I’m a researcher at heart…so I started researching. I read everything I could get my hands on about HIV/AIDS and the adoption of children with the disease. And a funny thing happened… the MORE I read, the LESS I feared.

My husband started researching with me. Expert after expert, scientific study after scientific study… they all confirmed over and over again that HIV is spread through SEX and DRUG NEEDLES, not bizarre accidents or causal contact Period. (And if we can’t believe experts like Dr. Joel Gallant of John Hopkins Center for Global Health, then who the heck CAN we believe!?)

Is there a teeny tiny, itty bitty, almost imperceivably small risk that an accident could happen and someone in our family could get infected from a blood spill? Well, yes. But there is NOTHING that we do every day that does NOT involve a risk THAT TINY. Eating could involve choking. Going outside could involve lightening strikes or West Nile virus or Swine Flu or terrorist attack. Swimming could involve drowning. Riding in the car or on an airplane could involve a crash. The list in endless.

Every day I put my kids in the car KNOWING that the risk of death from riding in a vehicle is 1 in 84. (According to the National Safety Council.) Even for HEALTHCARE WORKERS (who deal daily with blood spills and needles!) the risk of contracting HIV from one of their patients in a NON-sexual, NON-drug use way is 1 in 1000. Among NON-healthcare workers, causal household transmission JUST DOESN’T HAPPEN! (click for proof)

This was starting to sound much less “bizarre” and a whole lot more DOABLE!

Next stop – our 3 local doctors (our pediatrician and the 2 doctors of mine and my husband’s).

Our pediatrician said it was “Great that you are doing this! How exciting!” and wanted to make sure we were aware of the financial aspect and that we could find a good pediatric infectious disease specialist. She discussed how she worked with other HIV+ kids and, thus, had experience in this area. As she talked for several minutes about these things she ever-so-casually slipped in

“…and of course the child would present no danger to your family…”

and then continued on to other matters. I was so pleased with yet another resounding confirmation that HIV is nothing to be scared of.

Then I met with my main doctor and asked, “Do you have any thoughts about the safety of my other kids living with an HIV+ child?” to which she leaned back in her chair and quickly answered,

Oh no, I wouldn’t BAT AN EYE at that!!

(Those were her exact words. When she left the room for a minute to get some paperwork, I grabbed the pen in my purse and WROTE IT DOWN!) She then shared that a relative of hers is HIV positive and has done wonderfully on the ARVs for over 16 years now. She did warn us, however, that the STIGMA might be the only real challenge in regards to raising an HIV positive child. (making that about the zillionth time I had heard that warning)

My husband’s doctor was also very positive and encouraging and had no pressing worries for our other children whatsoever.

SO…Of course initially we had all those thoughts, What about our other kids? Would they be safe? What about accidents?” But, for us, it came down to a CHOICE between LOGIC or FEAR.

If we’re going to go with FEAR than we had to at least be consistent. If being around an HIV+ child was too much of a risk, then we should stop using cars, going outside when it’s raining, visiting amusement parks, going swimming, jumping on trampolines, horseback riding, and every other widely accepted but FAR more statistically ‘dangerous’ activity.

Just because the letters ‘H’ ‘I’ ‘V’ strike fear in our hearts doesn’t mean that this fear is LOGICAL or that we have to RESPOND irrationally to it. My 4 year old is afraid of ANTS, but that doesn’t mean his fear is LOGICAL. In the end, we decided to choose Logic and tell Fear to take a hike.(because, contrary to hanging out with HIV+ people, hiking IS dangerous!)

So, after all the research and consultations with medical professionals, the fear faded away and in its place came hope and potential for the future. Now we are the proud parents of a beautiful little 6 year old HIV+ girl from Ethiopia who has richly blessed our lives.

Thus, now I am an overprotective mom to 5 kids instead of 4. And still proud of it. :-)

-Daniel & Chantelle

Daniel & Chantelle were The Answer for this child, Be The Answer by reading and learning about HIV. Click here for more information.

The 30 Day Challenge!

31 10 2010

I’d like to introduce you to someone…She’s very special to me.  In so many ways she is the catalyst for who I am today.  She single handedly changed the course of my life.  The first time I held her in my arms I was frozen with fear – afraid I might just break her. She was so fragile, so limp, so weak.  Today, however, she is at peace.  Her name is Mbali.  She is the inspiration, foundation, and motivation for every Joint Council monthly newsletter, entitled Mbali’s Messages ( click here to subscribe now ).  Every month, at the bottom of each newsletter you can find these simple words about Mbali and her Message “Mbali was a four-month-old abandoned HIV+ orphan in South Africa who passed away in the arms of a Joint Council staff member.” That staff member was me.  For many years, Mbali’s memory was held only in my heart.  Through Mbali’s Message, Joint Council honors Mbali’s short life and the millions of orphaned children who die everyday without a family or a loving embrace. Our goal at Joint Council is to provide a vision of hope that children will never again pass from this world parentless and alone.

Since we started Mbali’s Message two years ago, Mbali has given a quiet but constant voice to the children of the world that I, Joint Council, and the global community have failed –  those who pass alone without the love of a family.  But today, and every day in the month of November, Mbali ‘s voice AND the voices of the thousands of children like her will be heard loud and clear.  As part of National Adoption Month Joint Council will be leading an advocacy campaign,  entitled “I am the Answer…” .  Everyday this month we will honor the children who have passed alone, who suffer alone today, and who have not yet found an answer with the love of a family.  We ask you to Be The Answer for them.  It’s easy to Be The Answer for a child.  Give 5 to 15 minutes of your day – every day in the month of November.

Today, I ask you to make the 30 day commitment to honor 30 children who are alone, without families, and without an answer.   I ask you to spend every day this month spreading Mbali’s Message of hope – may children never again pass from this world parentless and alone.

So, where do we start?

Starting tomorrow, Monday, go to our blog at where you will hear more about Mbali through my eyes and from my heart.   We will also share with you a message of hope –the message of a child who has what Mbali never had – a family.   There you will find the first task of the “I am the Answer” 30 day challenge.  Complete the task.

Then, on Tuesday, do the same thing.  Check out our blog.  Hear the story of another child we all failed, the story of a lucky child who received a family, and what you can do to give more children an answer.

Then, for the rest of the days in November do the same thing. Read the stories, complete the tasks, and spread the message that You are and can be the answer.

Pius Bannis – Federal Employee of the Year

15 09 2010

When the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, the nation’s orphans were among the most vulnerable. Pius Bannis, a U.S. immigration officer, stepped into the breach to help hundreds of those Haitian orphans—babies, toddlers and teens—escape the tragedy and find safety in the United States.

In the days and weeks following the catastrophe, U.S. citizens in the process of adopting children in Haiti were desperate to gain custody of the youngsters and bring them to the United States, but were stymied because they had not yet completed all of the paperwork and requirements that can take as long as three years.

Aided by the Obama administration’s decision to authorize use of humanitarian parole to bring certain orphans to the United States, Bannis, a field office director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), logged 20-hour days, seven days a week to identify and screen eligible cases. He ensured the system was not being exploited by child traffickers or others with bad motives, coordinated with the State Department on evacuation arrangements, and dealt with Haitian authorities.

During the first two weeks after the earthquake, Bannis was the sole American immigration official in Haiti handling the adoption needs. He took it upon himself to set up a make-shift day care in the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, where more than 50 children could be found at any one time, often scared, crying and hungry. He supplied diapers, clean clothes, water and food, and personally drove some of the children to the airport for evacuation flights to the United States.

“What Pius did was the singular most devoted act of public service and humanitarianism that I have seen in all my 30 years in immigration,” said Steve Bucher, deputy associate director of Refugee, Asylum and International Operations at USCIS.

U.S. families adopted 330 Haitian children in all of 2009. Immigration officials said about 1,100 youngsters were allowed to come to the United States through April 2010 as part of the special accelerated program. This enabled their adoptive parents or prospective adoptive parents to remove their children from the devastating conditions of post-earthquake Haiti and bring them to safety. Bannis played a role in each one.

At the same time that Bannis was helping the orphans and their adoptive families, he was providing comfort and support to his Haitian staff who suffered devastating losses—assisting one colleague who lost her home and all seven members of her family, another who lost a brother, and a third who lost her parents and desperately needed medical treatment for family members with life-threatening injuries.

Bannis’ motivation to help the Haitian orphans ran deep, stemming from his humanitarian work in African refugee camps in the early 1990s. He was especially devastated to see the suffering of innocent, helpless children in those camps, and that feeling stayed with him. He said he always takes care of the kids first, and the terrible Haitian earthquake clearly was a time for him to act.

“It was a human reaction to a human tragedy. So many children were dead or dying, and so many were in the process of being adopted. We were all so concerned. My automatic reaction was to take care of them,” Bannis said.

Each family assisted by Bannis has their own story to tell. Thank you letters and e-mails to Bannis, along with photos of the children, have poured into the U.S. Embassy in Haiti and USCIS headquarters.

The family of an adopted girl wrote that “you have dedicated your heart and soul to this matter to ensure that the children have joined their adoptive parents in the United States. What you provided to the children, to Haiti, and to us parents, are immeasurable.”

Another parent wrote, “I want to say thank you for all that you did to help three amazing little boys come from Haiti to the United States to receive surgical care and to have a chance at life! We are so very grateful.”

The severe earthquake and its after-effects resulted in an estimated 220,000 deaths, with many hundreds of thousands left homeless and injured. Of the 117 official government-approved Haitian orphanages, many were left in poor condition or were destroyed in the earthquake.

Originally from the island of Dominica, Bannis is a naturalized American citizen and has worked for the federal government for about 15 years. He went to Haiti in 2008 because he wanted to give back to the children of the Caribbean.

Bannis said he is curious about the hundreds of children who left Haiti and wonders how they are healing and making out in their new lives in the United States. Yet he knows that it is important not to dwell on the situation of one particular child, but rather to focus on the next little one who may need help for a better life.

Joint Council’s Tom DiFilipo and Rebecca Harris will be Tweeting and updating Joint Council’s Facebook status live from Sammie awards while Mr. Bannis receives his award.  For a video about Mr. Bannis and the Federal Employee of the Year Award, go to

Please note: the above was taken from

Request for stories: National Adoption Month Advocacy

13 09 2010

This November Joint Council will be participating in National Adoption Month in an unprecedented and unique way.  Everyday in November, we will be highlighting the stories of those children throughout the world who have yet to be served by adoption, celebrate those children who have thrived in their adoptive family, and ask individuals to take small actions everyday to help children in need.

From today September 13, 2010 through October 15, 2010 Joint Council will be accepting stories from professionals, families and other concerned individuals who have seen the plight of children who live outside of family care and those who have gained permanency, safety and love through adoption.  To submit a story, follow the directions below.  The advocacy campaign will be one part of of Joint Council’s larger National Adoption Month Campaign, which hopes to encourage individuals to Be The Answer to the world orphan crisis.  The idea from the campaign was generated by Joint Council staff following this post in last month’s Mbali’s Message and the Be The Answer blog.

Directions for submitting a story:

  • Email the story of a child who has yet to be served through adoption and/or a story of a child who has thrived in his/her adoptive family to Jason Cohn at by October 15, 2010
    • Stories may be:
      • Three minute video
      • 750 words, please include photos of yourself and the child
    • If applicable, please include a release of information for each story submitted.
    • If the child highlighted is living outside of family care, individuals are encouraged to use a pseudonym for the child and send photos with discretion and with the child’s safety in mind.
  • Questions regarding the campaign and submitting stories should be directed to

Joint Council looks forward to the community participating in this advocacy effort.

Why must we fight for a child’s right to a family? by Rebecca Harris

31 08 2010

The following is an excerpt from Joint Council’s monthly newsletter, Mbali’s Message.  To sign up to receive it and other updates from Joint Council via email, click here.

The children who spend the last moments of their lives parentless, unloved and alone have always haunted me.  I can’t shake them, no matter how much I want to walk away out frustration with the system that blocks children from living, and dying, in families.  These children are sometimes the only reason I keep fighting.  From their graves they call to me, “please, just help one more, please just keep fighting.”  Perhaps it’s because of a little girl named Mbali who who passed in my arms – a new volunteer at an orphanage who barely knew her.  Perhaps it’s because I see her in every child.

Since that day over five years ago other children have been added to the stream of voices – some still fighting to live but are alone, and others who have passed alone.  From Gaby, a little girl who died soon after Mbali.  To a little girl with hydrocephalus in Kyrgyzstan.  To Rene in Haiti who I worry about every day – hoping his shunt hasn’t failed, hoping he hasn’t gotten kicked out of his orphanage, hoping that someone will give him the care he needs, hoping that the next time I travel to Haiti he will still be there.  And fearing that one day I will travel to see him and he won’t be.

Recently another child has been added.   A little boy name Evan.  Evan was a special needs child from Georgia.  Evan was adopted by a loving American family on June 28th, 2010.  On July 19th, 2010 he left this world.  Evan was lucky enough to feel the joy of a family for 22 days.  Evan was cheated by the system, wasn’t given the right to a family soon enough to save his life.  He grew up in an orphanage and then foster-care.  Evan spent two years waiting for the family to which he was referred to work through the bureaucracy and complete his adoption. Without the protection that only a family can provide he didn’t get the medical care and nurturing that he needed.  His condition worsened and despite attempts to save him, Evan passed away.

Why must we all fight for every child’s right to a family?  Because everyone deserves the chance to live and die in the loving embrace of a family.  And because millions of children suffer and pass every year alone.

Adoptions from Nepal Suspended

6 08 2010

Effective today, August 6, 2010, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced the suspension of new adoption cases for children identified as abandoned in Nepal. The primary cause of the suspension appears to be that documentation on the children is not reliable, the origin of child cannot be adequately determined and the child’s adoptability cannot be assured.

DOS will continue processing approximately 80 adoptions for those children referred to an American citizen prior to August 6, 2010. However, the review of these approximately 80 adoptions will be vigorous and it is expected that some might not be ultimately approved.

It was also announced by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that potential adoptive families may transfer their case to another country at no cost (one-time).

The full announcement on the suspension and Q&A can be found at:

USCIS Announcement – Suspension of Nepal Adoptions

USCIS Q&A – Suspension of Nepal Adoptions

Joint Council is preparing a statement on the suspension which will be published in the coming days. We will also work aggressively with the governments of Nepal and the U.S. along with adoption service providers to ensure that the children of Nepal will once again have the right ot a family through legal and ethical intercountry adoption.

Guest Post: Sherry Cluver – Life After the Earthquake

14 07 2010

Sherry Cluver is a Joint Council Guest Blogger.  Sherry, her husband Chad and their two children reside in Forsyth, IL.   For more information regarding the twelve children mentioned in her post, please see the Joint Council Summary Report entitled, The Haitian Twelve – A Report on Haitian Children Institutionalized in the United States.  The report is available on Joint Council’s website by clicking here.


Sherry Cluver: Guest Blog Post

She stood near enough to see and to be seen, yet at a distance sufficient to preserve her dignity.  Looking on and into my face as I attempted to blow and tie balloons fast enough for the eager hands of the smaller children, Beatha’s steady eyes held more than the mere eleven years of her biological age.

Dribbling speedily and confidently, her younger brother, Jameson, maneuvered around the concrete courtyard behind the spiked metal gate.  His nimble young hands kept remarkable control of the basketballs that my husband had doled out from our tattered suitcase.

That was Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in August 2008, and their beautiful, expressive eyes belied their years of longing from within the confines of BRESMA orphanage.  For three years already they’d been waiting and hoping for a mama and papa.

Miraculously surviving the Haitian earthquake January 12th, these sweet, lively children were faced with a grim future of dehydration, starvation, and riotous violence.  The same day as the Humanitarian Parole Program was launched by the United States government, Beatha and Jameson were airlifted to safety in Pennsylvania in efforts to save the lives of all of the BRESMA children.

So, it came to be that twelve little unprecedented cases arrived in Pittsburgh as part of a group of fifty-four Haitian children, forty-two of whom went to families through the Humanitarian Parole program.  Previously unmatched with adoptive families, this youthful dozen entered our country with permission from the U.S. government.

While in Pittsburgh, at the request of a federal government employee, our adoption service provider created careful referrals of known, prepared families for the children, and so, on Wednesday, January 20th at 3:05pm we were matched with Beatha and Jameson.  When we replied to the proposed match with an emphatic “yes,” our coordinator then relayed that when she last saw Beatha in person, the child had looked her in the eyes and pleaded, “Find me a mother.”

Booking the last two tickets on the final flight of the night, we drove the three hours through slush and snow to O’Hare and ran to the airport gate just in time for a 7 o’clock departure.  Thursday morning we were led to the kids’ comfort room at UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) to meet the children, kneeling down and introducing ourselves, “Mwen se mama ou” and “Mwen se papa ou” (“I am your mama” and “I am your papa.”)  Beatha did not keep any distance this day.  She leaned against us and grinned and grinned.  She showed us some of the baby dolls available in the play room, initiated an impromptu Creole lesson for Chad, and reveled in me helping to braid her hair.  And Jameson sprawled across the carpet with Chad to use crayons together in coloring books and readily began calling him “Dad.”

At  1:00 we were asked to move to the cafeteria for paperwork and meetings, and we departed after asking a young Haitian-American gentleman to translate to each of the kids that we were leaving the room only because we needed to do some papers and that we didn’t really want to quit our playtime together.  They nodded in understanding.

Over one hundred sixty-five days later, my heart sinks for the lie they think we must have told.

Two hours after we last saw them, Beatha and Jameson were moved to Holy Family Institute for what was termed temporary care until we had processed sponsorship paperwork.  Until approved, we have been prohibited from further visiting, calling, or otherwise contacting the children.  For six months they have laid their heads upon their pillows uncertain if they will ever deserve a mother to rub their backs, a papa to tickle their feet, or the eventual, real healing post-trauma that comes only from the unconditional love and comfort of family.

In family life children are soothed, accepted, taught, and thereby strengthened.  In family life adult children receive continuing reassurance, advice, and life-long roots.  Kept safe by nannies and befriended by their fellow orphans at BRESMA, Beatha and Jameson wanted a family, and they so deserved the physical, mental, social, and emotional advantages of healthy family care.  Sitting at UPMC they witnessed forty-two of their orphanage “sisters” and “brothers” leave with families.

Today, however, they live in yet another institution.  Hot showers, nutritious food, counseling, school lessons, and the attention of caring staff are a blessed far cry from the horror of post-quake Port-au-Prince, but their hearts cannot yet reach wholeness.  Their bodies and minds are not reaching potential.

Certainly my arms yearn to hold them, but devastation is what swells knowing the grief in the souls of clever Beatha and playful Jameson who ache to be held and to know the support of a permanent, safe, and loving family.

“We’re here, babies!  We’re here, praying for you, loving you, and writing and calling important people for help  –  to bring you home.  To give you your home. “

A home for now.

A home for always.

We pray that your hearts might somehow know that we have not left you behind.


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