International Exhibition: Life In Motion – “I Want To Walk”

30 11 2011

Life in Motion, a unique photo exhibition created to raise awareness about orphaned children who are unable to live a fulfilled life due to their physical limitations will premier on December 8th at the Rita K. Hillman Education Gallery in New York city.  Life in Motion, is an international collaboration between the International Center of Photography, the “Artist Foundation” and Happy Families, Inc. (a Joint Council Member-Partner).

In our supporting role and continued partnership with HFIC, Joint Council is participating in the premier of the exhibition and is working with HFIC to bring this very special exhibition to Washington DC in 2012.

Led by renowned photographer Ed Kashi, the exhibition showcases the work of 10 students from the International Center of Photography (ICP) and the Rodchenko Moscow School of Photography and Multimedia who photographed children at orphanages and rehabilitation centers in Russia.

This project is part of a greater program, I Want to Walk, created by HFIC to help orphaned children obtain their dream of walking. For some children this meant physically being able to walk, while for others “walking” also meant being able to leave the orphanage and achieve their goals. All of us at Joint Council are proud to join other partners in supporting I Want To Walk and Life In Motion. Those supporting the exhibition include Flotek, Transaero (Official Transportation Partner of the Life in Motion” project), the Renaissance Moscow Hotel, the Restaurant Mari Vanna-Ginza Project, Social Mavens, the Venta Group, Arts+Business Partners, the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, and the Dorothea Haus Ross Foundation.

For more information on Life In Motion and I Want To Walk, please call 212.857.0001.





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.

 





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.

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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.




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: 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.

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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.





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.

 

 





Emergency Campaign for Ethiopia

8 03 2011

Five Things You Can do to Help!

1)      Sign the petition to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi – and pass it on!

2)     Have you adopted from Ethiopia? Please send us up to 3 photos and 50 words or less with what you would like the Ministry to know about your child – we’ll compile the information and send a book to the Ministry of Woman’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs.  Send your photos and stories by Sunday, March 12, 2011 to be included.  Please note that sending photos and stories gives Joint Council unrestricted right to use the information you provide. UPDATE: we’ve received so many emails in support that our email server has crashed!  We’ve set up an alternative email account – please start emailing your photos/stories to emergency4ethiopia@gmail.com.  Thanks for your amazing support!

3)      Share…Please send this Call to Action to family members, other adoptive parents, and everyone you know!  Post, forward and share your adoption stories via Facebook, Twitter, and blogs.  Make sure you include us in your posts so we can all hear your stories!  Here’s links to our pages: Facebook, Twitter and our blog.

4)      Stay informed: Get up-to-date information regarding the situation in Ethiopia by signing up to receive information from us:  click here to do so, make sure you choose “country and issues specific information” and “Ethiopia.”  And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and our blog!

5)      Help ensure our advocacy can continue: Joint Council is a non-profit and receives no government funding.  Please join us in ensuring more children live in safe, permanent and loving families.  Donate today!





Adoption Alert: Ukraine

12 01 2011

Adoption Notice: Ukraine


January 12, 2011


U.S. Embassy Kyiv has learned the proposed bill to place a moratorium on intercountry adoptions in the Ukrainian parliament has once again been postponed. There has been no announcement of a rescheduled date.

In order to best prepare for all possibilities in Ukraine, Embassy Kyiv encourages any prospective adoptive parents with cases currently open in Ukraine to contact the U.S. Embassy Kyiv Adoption Unit with their case status and contact informa­tion.  The Embassy maintains a listserv to communicate with U.S. citizen prospective adoptive parents and will use this to send updates as information is available.

The U.S. Embassy Kyiv and the Department of State will continue to post updates on their websites as new information is available.





South Africa: Josh, Rene and Addison

21 12 2010

Today I literally saw the face of hope.  As I walked into TLC for the first time in four years I saw a little boy half crawling, half shuffling across the dining room floor.  Instantly I noticed that he had the signs of hydrocephalus – the enlarged, pointed head, the inward eyes.  Instantly I thought of Rene and Addison and my heart broke for them.

TLC, where I was a volunteer years ago, and will be helping out over the next ten days is the best child’s home I’ve been to.  Probably because it is a home, one in which a family (three generations, in fact)  lives along with 30 orphaned children and a host of volunteers from throughout the world to care for them.  If any child with hydrocephalus is going to thrive without the one-on-one attention parents can provide, it’s at TLC.  And that’s just what Josh is doing – thriving.  Skirting around the floor faster than volunteers can catch him.  Laughing at jokes.  And having a three-year-old attitude.

Later in the day I asked Thea about Josh.  She told me that for two years she begged a nearby hospital to let her take him.  For some reason the hospital never relented – they just let him lay there waiting for the shunt that had been placed in his head to stop working and for Josh to die.  But then he found his voice.  He learned a high-pitched, death curtailing scream.  And he didn’t stop.  Within 24-hours the hospital had called Thea to come pick him up – they couldn’t stand the sound of Josh’s scream.  And with that he was free.  For the rest of his life he’ll still need to deal with the effects of his hydrocephalus and he’s suffered from some brain damage due to a second surgery that didn’t go perfect, but, because he learned to scream, he has hope.

I think of Addison who never had hope.  The child care center she was in was ill-equipped to handle her needs.  They chose to ignore the signs of her condition.  And when help finally came, it was of poor quality and too late.  She suffered a slow death.  She had no hope.  Rene, who was lucky enough to receive surgery in time to limit the damage to his brain, is in a facility that doesn’t understand the special care and attention his condition needs.  They are unaware of how to properly care for the shunt that saved his life.  While he’s lived to 12, his hope is depleting and his time is running out.  All this to me just proves how much our lives are determined by the circumstances of the world around us – Addison could have been Rene, Rene could be Josh and Josh could have been Addison.  But somehow Josh is the lucky one – he gets to live and thrive in the closest thing to a family any of these three children have had.

Rest in peace, Addison.  Keep on fighting, Rene.  And keep on thriving, Josh.

Rebecca Harris





Ethiopia: Lessons Learned

13 12 2010

As I continue my time here in Ethiopia, I’d like to share with you the continuation of a story we shared with you last Holiday Season, as part of our Hope for the Holiday’s Program.

Last year on our trip to Ethiopia we had the joy of meeting one of the most inspiring women I’ve ever met – Zemzem.  A few years ago she was the enrolled in a family empowerment program with one of our member organizations.  The program gave her the skills she needed to start a small retail store in her area.  Although I will not have the opportunity to visit Zemzem on this trip, I did have the opportunity to meet with a friend who just visited Zemzem in her village a few days ago.  And I’m pleased to let you know that Zemzem and her family are doing fantastic!

Zemzem went from extreme poverty to a prospering business owner in less than 2 years.

A few years ago before the family empowerment program was available, Zemzem relinquished one of her children due to her extreme poverty.  But now her three children have been enrolled in school and she has expanded her business extensively.  She built an addition to the front of her store to give her more space to sell her goods.  She has started to wholesale corn and other grains from the back of the store.  She has even started to import/export goods from her village, which brings in 20 birr/day alone.  My friend informed me that she is now the richest person in the village!  We joked that she now owns and runs the local 7-11!  All of this with a small investment of funds and resources a few years ago by one of our member organizations!  Zemzem and her three children represents just one the 1.2 million families served by Joint Council and our member organizations in Ethiopia.

It is great to know that Zemzem and her children have been transformed from poverty and relinquishment to relative prosperity and a secure family.  She has taught us all a lesson on the importance of empowering women.  Another lesson on how to transform lives may sound a little odd, but it is one that this trip has reconfirmed – go with the flow and accept that things are going to change.

Despite my excitement to travel to Hosanna on Saturday to see the work of our member organizations and orphanages in Hosanna I was Read the rest of this entry »








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