Where were you 21 years ago?

9 02 2012

Register for the Child Welfare Symposium today!

Twenty one years ago…what were you doing?  Finishing up college?  Having your first child?  Not yet born?  Twenty one years ago, I attended my very first Joint Council Conference (now called the “Symposium“).  I walked in to a room at the 4-H Club in Chevy Chase, MD (what ever happened to Barb Holton?), with about 35 people in attendance.  I  heard people speak that were as passionate as I about children who needed families.  I was hooked (!) and I have only missed one conference since then. The following year, I heard Dana Johnson speak for the first time and the way I looked at children and how institutionalization affects them would never be the same.

In the beginning, I was a “lurker” and just tried to absorb the massive amounts of knowledge that was available at each conference, but soon I had to get involved! It didn’t take long  before the people I looked up to, became my friends.  I would call on them with problems or concerns.  They would reach out to me.  Together we were involved in committees, caucuses, and the medical day.  I remember bloopers from the podium, meeting new friends (Rebecca Harris, now Director of Programs & Services at Joint Council, I remember meeting you for the first time in San Antonio), and reconnecting with old ones.

Some things have changes a LOT in two decades.  Now, instead of lines at the pay phones in-between sessions, people are doing emails and talking on their smart phones!  But, the most important things have never changed.  Adoption still requires passionate, knowledgeable people who are willing to give their all, to each other and to the children, to create families. We need each other.  We need to learn.  We need honest advice.  We need new ideas.  We need accountability.  We need to find families for vulnerable children.  We need to support one another in the hardest times we, as agencies, have seen.

Twenty years from now, where will you be?  Some of us will be gone, some of us will be retired, some of us will still be carrying the torch.  We need the Joint Council Symposium now  more than ever.  Agencies, send your young employees, your experienced ones, your passionate, your willing to work long hours.

I, for one, could not continue to do my job without the relationships and knowledge that have come from Joint Council. I hope to see you in the Big Apple…..I will be the one with bells on!

Best regards,

Sue Orban

Avid Joint Council Symposium Go’er

Outreach & Education Coordinator at Children’s Home Society and Family Services





Adoption Nutrition

25 08 2011

What children eat in their earliest months impact them for the rest of their lives.

New research out of the University of Minnesota shows that under-nutrition in adopted kids is not always obvious and may actually worsen if gone untreated during the period of “catch-up growth” post-adoption.  Joint Council, in partnership with SPOON Foundation, is pleased to announce
AdoptionNutrition.org  – a new, comprehensive resource developed to educate parents about the unique nutritional and feeding needs of adopted and foster children.
AdoptionNutrition.orgwas created with expert input from SPOON Foundation’s medical team, led by Dr. Dana Johnson. It offers critical information in a user-friendly format, covering topics such as:

The site also serves as a venue for adoptive and foster families to share their nutrition-related experiences and ask questions of an expert team.
 




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!





Dr. Jane Aronson Open Letter to Pres Clinton

16 03 2011

Dr. Jane Aronson, Founder and CEO of Worldwide Orphans Foundation and Joint Council Board Member, has issued an “open letter” to former President Bill Clinton where she pressed for stronger diplomatic efforts to reverse the Ethiopian government’s recent decision to halt international adoption in the country.

Aronson urged President Clinton to step in as a U.S. statesman to help negotiate between the Ethiopian government and American adoption agencies and parents, as he helped to secure the release of young journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee from North Korea.

A strategic plan for the de-institutionalization of orphaned children and community building is required to ensure the care and well-being of millions of Ethiopian orphans, stressed Aronson. “The Ethiopian government’s concerns must be addressed, but so must the concerns of the waiting parents and most of all, of the children.”

She said WWO and other nongovernmental organizations were prepared to sit down with Ethiopian government officials and large international NGOs like Unicef to assist the government in providing concurrent planning to strengthen adoption and social welfare infrastructures and to fill in the gap to ensure transparency in the adoption process.

The full letter can be found by clicking here.





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





China Opens Adoption to Single Women

15 03 2011

The China Center of Adoption Affairs (CCAA) has announced that single women may once again adopt in China beginning today, March 15, 2011.

Single adoptions, which once comprised over a quarter of all intercountry adoptions in China, will now be used to find families for Chinese children with special needs.  The new singles program is specific to finding families for children designated as Special Focus.  This designation usually indicates the child has a special need, is pre-school  or school age and has been on the shared waiting list for more than 60-days.  It can also indicate a non-special needs child of school age who has been on the shared waiting list for more than 60-days.

If you or someone you know, are considering an adoption in China, please contact a Joint Council affiliated Adoption Service Provider to learn more about this new program.

Following is the full text of the CCAA announcement.

____________________________________________

Government departments and adoption agencies in receiving countries, In order to promote special needs child adoption and guarantee the basic interests of the orphaned and disabled children, CCAA decides to accept the adoption applications from female single applicants to adopt according to the requirements listed in this notice, starting from March 15, 2011:

  • Female single applicants are allowed to adopt special focus children listed on the special Needs System of CCAA.
  • One applicant can only adopt one special focus child at a time, with an interval of at least one year between two adoptions.
  • The applicant shall have reached the age of 30 years and are under 50. For applicants over 50, the age difference between the child to be adopted and the applicant shall be no more than 45 years.
  • The applicant shall provide her civil status certificate. Unmarried applicants shall provide certification for being single and non-homosexual; divorced applicants shall provide the divorce certificate of the last marriage; and widowed applicants shall provide the death certificate of their ex-spouse.
  • The reason of being single and attitude towards marriage. Applicants shall have clear indication of willingness to appoint male figures as role models for the adopted child, and welcome male friends to join family gatherings.
  • Applicants shall have received inter-country adoption training and training specifically for special needs child adoption so as to understand fully the physical and psychological needs of special needs children.
  • Detailed nurturing and rehabilitation plan. Applicants shall be qualified personally and socially for caring special needs children and have wide social and family supporting network which can provide assistance any time.
  • Guardians appointed by the applicants shall provide written statement as consent to act as the guardian of the adopted child. X. If the applicant has a stable relationship and lives with a male partner, t he requirements of couple applicants shall be applied.
  • Applicants shall be healthy both physically and mentally according to the requirements by CCAA for prospective adoptive couples.
  • Applicants shall be law abiding with no criminal records, and have good moral quality and conduct
  • The family annual income shall reach $10,000 per family member, including the prospective adoptee and the family net assets value should reach $100,000.
  • The applicant shall have good medical insurance which can cover the medical expense of the adopted child.
  • Applicants shall be experienced in child caring or be occupied in child-related fields, such as doctor, nurse, teacher, child psychological counselor, etc. It’s best that the applicants have already had successful experience in caring for special needs children.
  • The number of children in the applicant’s family under the age of 18 years shall be no more than two, and the youngest one should have reached the age of 6 years old.
  • Applicants shall be fully prepared for adopting a special focus child.
  • Social workers shall provide the following information fully and timely in the home study reports besides family visit interviews: Adoption motive. The decision to adopt a special focus child shall be well-considered. Applicants shall be capable of caring for a special need child and be responsible for the well-being of the child.




No to corruption. Yes to families.

14 03 2011

by Rebecca Harris, Director of Programs & Services

The following as an excerpt from our newsletter, Mbali’s Message.  Sign up to receive it by clicking here.

Already in 2011 we’ve seen Ethiopia move to reduce intercountry adoptions by 90% and Kazakhstan officially suspend adoptions in anticipation of their ratification of the Hague Convention.  Haiti and Ukraine are on what we’ve termed our “high alert” list – countries that show indications of closing in the next 12-months. This is a scene we’ve seen play out over and over again, in country after country.  And every time a country has chosen to suspend or close intercountry adoptions, children suffer.  It’s a scene that is quite frankly, confusing, unneccessary, and very disturbing.
In allowing this to occur, we’ve failed the biological families who need preservation services, we’ve failed the children who legitimately need intercountry adoption and we’ve failed our global community.  I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of failure.  I’m tired of seeing children, like Addison, become “collateral damage” in the battle against abuse.  Allowing children to die needlessly and alone is simply unacceptable.

Over the last ten years we’ve fought the good fight.  But we’ve lost too many times.  And every time we lose, children lose.  This month we’ll release a report about the systematic elimination of intercountry adoption and the decrease in services to children.  And we’ll ask you to join us in changing the tide.  We’ll ask you to rally your friends and family to stand up and say “No” to corruption and “Yes” to families.  It’s not enough to just stop bad things from happening – we have to make good things happen too!

So, be on the look out over the next month – in your inbox and our website – I hope you’ll join me in standing up and demanding the fulfillment of every child’s right to a safe, permanent and loving family.  Join me in speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves.





Ethiopia: Washington Times Article by Andrea Poe

13 03 2011

Author and journalist Andrea Poe published Ethiopia Adoptions May Be In Peril in the Washington Times on Friday, March 11, 2011.  See below or click here for the full text of the article.

_________________________________________________________

NEW YORK – Ethiopia is poised to overtake China as the number one country of origin for foreign adoptees in the United States.

Young residents from the Joshua Youth Academy in Debrezeit, Ethiopia, an orphanage for children whose parents died of A.I.D.S. (Photo: The Washington Times)

Matches between orphans and families have been on the increase in what’s widely been recognized a one of the most successful intercountry adoption programs in recent years.

However, many adoption experts are now pointing to signs that that may soon be changing.  There’s a danger that the window for adopting from Ethiopia may be closing as so many other intercountry adoption programs have done.  Although American agencies are still processing dossiers and the Ethiopian government remains open to these adoptions, there is a general unease about what may happen in the near future.

Winds of Change

Prospective parents should give great weight to a statement by Doug Webb, the chief of child protection at UNICEF in Addis Ababa, who in December said, “The next 12 months are going to be crucial.”

As with other countries whose programs have been shut down (i.e. Nepal, Vietnam, Guatemala) to Americans, there have been accusations of child trafficking and the presence of unscrupulous actors who trade on the misfortune of birth families for profit.  There have been allegations of coercion of birth mothers to relinquish babies.  On the orphanage side, there have been accusations of fraud, in particular, reports that some Americans have been misled about the age of the child they’re adopting.

Further, many American agencies that facilitate adoptions are under review by the Ethiopian government.  In December one agency, the Minnesota-based Better Future Adoption Services, had its license revoked by the Ethiopian government amid charges of “fraud.”  Families who were working through this agency have seen their adoptions halted and have been advised by the U.S. State Department to seek legal counsel.

Susan Jacobs, U.S. Ambassador and Special Advisor to the Office of Children’s Issues at the Department of State, has urged all agencies working on intercountry adoptions to be Hague-accredited, including those operating in Ethiopia.  And recently the Ethiopian government has reversed its course and announced that it plans only to work with Hague-accredited agencies going forward, although the government has given no timeline for this change.

Separately, the U.S. Department of State recently reported that it has concerns “about reports highlighting adoption related fraud, malfeasance and abuse in Ethiopia…”

The U.S. Embassy has issued notices to American adoption agencies telling them to expect delays up to several months or more as investigations are initiated into individual cases.  The  State Department warns parents not travel to Ethiopia unless their adoption agencies has confirmed that they have a visa appointment, which means their child has been cleared to be brought into the U.S.

A current State Department posting reads: “We understand that this may result in a longer period before parents are able to bring their adopted children to the U.S.  However, this additional scrutiny is required to ensure that the adoption is legal under both U.S. and Ethiopian law.”

To Hague or Not to Hague

Ethiopia has not signed the Hague Convention.  There is international pressure on the Ethiopian government to ratify the treaty.  Although it has not done so yet, it has begun to study the effects of the implementation of the safeguards that child protection advocates have lobbied for.

On the surface, additional safeguards for children and the crackdown on corruption sound like positive steps.  And they will be if indeed the current discussion results in actual implementation and a streamlined process.

However, experience in other countries has shown that all too often these steps do not result in improvements, but rather in the slowdown and ultimately shut down of intercountry adoptions.

If these signs on the horizon in Ethiopia do wind up indicated what many in the international adoption community fear — the beginning of the end of Americans ability to adopt from Ethiopia– this would be a tragedy.

The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that there are 5.5 million orphans, children who are the casualty of poverty and illness, especially since AIDS deaths are on the ascent in the country.

Although for the 2010 fiscal year, the U.S. State Department reports that there were only about 2,500 adoptions from Ethiopia, that number reflects a significant uptick over the 284 orphans adopted by Americans six years ago. These rising numbers mean that fewer children are destined to spend their lives in orphanages or living on the streets.

Conditions in Ethiopian orphanages tend to be poor—many go without running water– and, in some cases, dangerous with reports of beatings and sexual abuse.  Every child who is adopted is one more spared a childhood spent in these overcrowded conditions.

As the international community has intensified its scrutiny, Mahadir Bitow, the head of the Ethiopia’s Child Rights Protection Agency, has responded by announcing that she intends to close 25% of Ethiopia’s orphanages.  She does not say where these orphaned children would go.

All prospective parents looking to adopt from Ethiopia should pay close attention to the rapidly changing conditions.  And the entire world should keep watch.

A shrinking intercountry adoption program in Ethiopia, a country where there is an extremely limited domestic adoption program available, will be a dangerous sign that once again adults –even those with the best of intentions — will once again stand in the way of helping children.

Read more Red Thread: An Adoptive Family Forum in The Washington Times Communities.





Notes from Dept of State Ethiopia Call

11 03 2011

Following are our notes from the Department of State Office of Children’s Issues conference call regarding Ethiopian adoptions.  These notes do not represent nor are they  in any way attributable to the Department of State or US Citizenship and Immigration Services.  We are providing the notes with respect to those adoption service providers who could not participate in the conference.

We extend our thanks to the Department of State for conducting the conference call and to US Citizenship and Immigration Services for their participation and contributions.

The Department of State is Actively Involved
•    The Ethiopian Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs announced a reduction in the processing of intercountry adoption cases from 50 per day to 5 per day, effective March 10, 2011.
•    The Department of State is actively involved in discussions with the Government of Ethiopia, other governments and stakeholders.
•    A coalition of countries is preparing a proposal to assist the Ministry increase its capacity.
•    Embassy suggested that children with special need’s cases should not be delayed.
•    The US Embassy officials have a scheduled meeting with the Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs for Monday, March 14, 2011.
•    There are areas of concern related to intercountry adoption, however the reduction is disproportionate.

Adoption Cases
•    Currently there are no implementation guidelines for in-process cases.
•    For adoption cases registered with the Ethiopian court, the best estimate is a one-year delay.
•    The staff change at the Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs has been confirmed as taking effect the week of March 13, 2011.  The impact this will have on adoption cases is not known.
•    It is estimated that between 800-1,000 adoption cases are currently on the docket of Ethiopian courts.








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