We End Where We Began…

30 11 2010

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

Today, we are ending our 30-Day Challenge in the same place we began, in a childcare center in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Our story began with Mbali-Today it ends with Gabrielle, who passed away on June 26, 2004, the day after Mbali.  The story below was written by Thea Jarvis, who founded TLC, the day that Gabrielle passed away.  To read Thea’s story and the founding of TLC, click here.

Gabrielle passed away today.  Gabrielle’s story has been such a sad one from the beginning.   Her Mommy is a young girl who was found wandering around Baragwanath Hospital with the newborn baby in a duffel bag.   When a nurse from the psychiatry department noticed that the bag was moving she confronted the girl and called a security guard to check the bag, to confirm her suspicions.

They sent the baby and the Mom to TLC with the idea that Gabrielle should stay until the mother had received some counseling … Gabrielle was only a few hours old and the most beautiful baby.

Gabrielle’s Mommy’s story was one that is becoming more and more frequent.   The mother found out she was HIV+ and simply lost it!   She went crazy.   Gabrielle’s mother  tried to abort her baby, but when that didn’t work, she went  into labor, went to the hospital and delivered the baby.   She is still psychotic though, and has not shown any interest in the baby apart from the rare phone call.

Gabrielle has been a sickly baby from the beginning, even though she tested HIV-.  Gabrielle spent quite a few stints in hospital and always came home with the doctors scratching their heads and having no answers.   Her hospital file was full of question marks.

So, here we are today, our little girl has, like Mbali, taken her wings and gone home.  It was a shock for us .  It was so sudden, with Mbali we had due warning.   Even though Gabrielle was sickly we hoped that because she was HIV- we could put up a fight and win…because we usually do.   We did not expect this.   She drank her bottle.   Started screaming in agony and immediately died leaving us all in shock.  Good bye my little sweet girl!

Note: Rebecca, Joint Council’s Director of Programs and Services, will return to TLC  from December 15th – December 26th.  While there, Rebecca will be blogging and video-blogging at wwwbetheanswerforchildren.wordpress.com.

Today the task is simple- give yourself a big pat on the back and check out everything that Joint Council and you have accomplished this month through our I Am The Answer Campaign. You have successfully made it through the 30 day challenge! Congrats!

I Am A Mother…

30 11 2010

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

“I am a mother.”  It is with these simple yet profound words that Thea Jarvis, founder and president of TLC Ministries in South Africa explains her life’s work.  In 1993, Thea established TLC Ministries amid political turmoil, racial hatred, and a growing orphan crisis in South Africa.  Today in South Africa there are approximately 2,500,000 orphans.  Thea and her family have made it their life’s mission that they help as many of these children as possible.

In its first year TLC Ministries found two orphaned children a home – Thea’s.  Thea explains, “Our first two little boys were called Joshua and Reuel…We found them in Baragwanath Hospital amongst 40 other tiny, abandoned children.  A little Albino boy, Tommy, followed a year later.  He stole and melted our hearts.  Then at two years of age those stolen hearts were melted down even further and poured out into buckets of tears when he tested HIV positive.  That was our initiation, and first taste of the very bitter cross we were going to carry in this ministry.  After Tommy, came a little boy with cleft lip and palate and we called him Brendon.  He had been abandoned in the Johannesburg Hospital.  Soon after Brendon followed Crispin, who was born to a 13-year old street child.  She already had a one year old to cope with.  A second baby was too much for her.  Soon after Brendon and Crispin had joined our family, God put the ministry into full throttle and more and more babies started finding their way to TLC…Since that time we have been growing by leaps and bounds.  I have personally adopted 14 children in addition to my 5 biological children.  My eldest daughter, Joanna, has adopted four children and has one biological son.  My next daughter, Pippa has adopted seven little ones.  Then there are another 10 who have ended up with us for various reasons, have permanently joined our family, although they are not yet adopted.”

Thea and her family realized they alone cannot help the many children in need. So, after Brendon and Crispin joined the family Thea began to work to streamline the adoption process so that children who came into the ministry who could not be reunited with their biological family could be adopted both domestically and internationally.  Meanwhile, Thea and her family moved into a larger house on an expansive farm outside of Johannesburg.  The large house includes living quarters for Thea and all her children as well as a nursery which over 35 children call home until their family is found.  The nursery is staffed by dedicated and committed volunteers.   To date, Thea and the ministry she founded has managed to help place over 750 children into permanent, safe, and loving families.  Thea, her family, and her ministry are true heroes for the children of South Africa.

Please be aware Adoptions from South Africa and TLC Ministries to the U.S. are currently not open.

You can follow Thea on her blog at http://thea-jarvis.blogspot.com/ or to learn more about TLC Ministries go to their website at www.tlc.org.za.  TLC is celebrating the Christmas Season by sharing the story of one child everyday until Christmas, check these stories at http://seasongiving.blogspot.com/ or

Please Note: Rebecca, Joint Council’s Director of Programs and Services will spend from December 15th – December 26th with Thea at TLC.  While there Rebecca will be blogging and video-blogging at http://www.betheanswerforchildren.wordpress.com.

Today the task is simple- give yourself a big pat on the back and check out everything that Joint Council and you have accomplished this month through our I Am The Answer Campaign. You have successfully made it through the 30 day challenge! Congrats!

Give Yourself A Pat On The Back!

30 11 2010

When was the last time you really made a difference in the lives of others?  If you participated in our 30-Day Challenge, then you made a real difference every day in November! Whether you checked out our blog daily, caught up over the weekends, or looked back towards the end of the month, your involvement has changed the lives of thousands of children.  Our estimates indicate that you, as part of our community, helped over 6000 children this month!   Below are the highlights of what our community accomplished during our 30-Day Challenge. After you read today’s final stories about Gabrielle and TLC Ministries and complete your 30 day challenge- Celebrate and feel free to pat yourself on the back!

1) Remember Song?  Well, because of his story on our blog, he found a family!  After reading about Song, a family has come forward and has begun the process of adopting him.  In only a few short months he will be living with a loving family.

2) Together our efforts helped ensure that the International Adoption Simplification Act passed Congress.   Your emails and phone call to Congress helped eliminate two big barriers which were preventing children from becoming part of an adoptive family.  Passage of the International Adoption Simplification Act helps over 2,200 children next year alone!

3) Although we haven’t yet been able to ensure the Help Haiti Act passed Congress (please keep calling your Representatives!), together, we raised enough awareness.  CNN’s Anderson Cooper joined in by doing a story about the Help Haiti Act!

4) Well over 100 individuals wrote on the Facebook page of Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva, asking for her to advocate for the 65 Kyrgyz children who are still waiting to be with their forever families. We showed so much support that she responded! Check it out here.

5) Together we helped raise over $600 for Haitian Roots, $2 at a time.  How?  Simply by commenting on the SixSeeds blog!  Haven’t done this yet?  There’s still time.  Click here to raise $2 for Haitian Roots by reading the blog and commenting.

6) By suggesting to your friends that they should ‘Like’ Joint Council on Facebook, we expanded our community by 87 people!

7) Thanks to your social networking, our photo contest is off to a great start!  There’s been a record amount of submissions so far!  To learn how to submit photos, click here.

8.) With your help we’ve raised over $5,285 which will be used to  to continue our efforts to ensure more children live in permanency, safety and love!  Haven’t donated yet?  Click here to do so.


9) Be The Answer shirts are being worn by fathers, mothers, children, and child advocates in states all across the USA.  Purchasers of these shirts are showing their Be The Answer pride from the California coast all the way to New York City!  Want a t-shirt?  Check them out here.

10) Joint Council received over 95 stories for the 30-Day Challenge!  Sixty of these stories were viewed over 17,000 times on our blog.  Together, we raised awareness.  Together, we have shown the face of children who found a family through adoption.  Together, we gave voice to children who wait alone. Together, We Are The Answer!

Although the 30-Day Challenge will end, the needs of children will not.  So what’s next?  Here’s a quick highlight of what we already have planned for December…

1)      A $20,000 matching grant for every donation made in December.  Your end of year tax-deductable donation will go twice as far in December!  More details coming soon…

2)      A blog post from Joint Council’s President & CEO regarding his recent child advocacy trip to Russia.

3)      Joint Council advocacy trip to Ethiopia, with daily blog posts and updates from our travels!

4)      Rebecca will be working with orphans at TLC in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Stay tuned for her posts and video blogs!

And this is just the start…check out our blog throughout December to see what we as a community are doing and how you can join in!  Because as you know, Being the Answer for Children doesn’t end in November – it’s a year round commitment! Don’t forget to read the final 2 stories of November.

As always, thank you for your continued participation and support of Joint Council and the children we all serve!

The Answer for Martha

29 11 2010

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

Growing in a Heartbeat from Three to Four

by Martha

Submitted by Spence-Chapin

I was born in Moscow, Russia, on August 31, 1992. What I know about my first 13 months of life comes from a book my father created for me.  My “Memory Book” contains pictures and a description of the House of the Child where I lived when my parents Larry and Ellen and big sister Beth first met me. It also contains photos of the women who cared for me, some of my playmates and the rooms where I slept and played. Clearly, I was very well cared for and that is something that makes me happy and proud of my birth country, my first country.  In November 1993, through the cooperation of the Russian and United States governments and our agency Spence-Chapin Services, I was adopted by my new family.  They frequently recall the extraordinary moment when our family “grew in a heartbeat from three to four.”

When I first arrived, I’m told I was very curious … and very hungry.  One of my favorite stories is about the evening my grandfather introduced me to solid food.  I was 15 months old and he thought it was time for me to give up my bottle and eat real food.  So, at a family dinner, he popped a tortellini into my mouth and, as my family says, “the rest is history.”  No more bottle for me.  I went straight from kefir to tri-color salads and tiramisu!

Another story my parents tell is that, when I first arrived, I had trouble sitting up on my own. Yet within one month, I was standing and walking… and then ran across the playroom straight into the arms of my big sister.

As far back as I can remember, my family celebrated the fact that I was adopted from Russia. My family and I are proud of my heritage. When I was younger, I always attended the Eastern European Heritage Parties Spence-Chapin held to celebrate my culture. Later, I volunteered at Spence-Chapin and attended the heritage parties to assist the new little kids adopted from Eastern Europe with crafts and help serve treats as they enjoyed Russian entertainment and stories.

My life here in the U.S. has been great.  In nursery and grammar schools, I did well academically, and enjoyed ballet and Girl Scouts. I was admitted with a scholarship to a very competitive high school where I won the Spanish, Latin and Chemistry Awards and scored at the highest level in a nationwide European History course.  My friends and I studied hard but we also had fun together. I loved watching tennis and hockey, was captain of my varsity badminton team, and an editor of my school newspaper. My family is very supportive of my interests and sent me to summer programs at universities to study global health issues and government.

During my junior and senior years in school while I prepared for my college exams, I also worked on creating “Memory Books” for children in orphanages in Eastern Europe. These books will help the caregivers record the milestones of the children so they are not forgotten. My goal was to provide as many children as possible with a keepsake book that is truly personalized and a treasure to look back on for the rest of their lives…just like mine is to me.

A couple of years ago, my family and I were featured on National Public Radio talking about  adoption and our personal story. I was a little nervous at first but it turned out to be a great experience to reflect on my life and how much adoption has meant to me, my parents and my sister. Simply put, I needed a home, my sister needed a sibling, and my parents wanted to experience the joy of having another child in their life.  It’s a real life story with a happy ending!

This was The Answer For Martha. Be The Answer For Another Child by Watching Joint Council’s Be The Answer Video. Share your thoughts on the video by leaving a comment on YouTube.  

Be The Answer for Kyoo Bin

29 11 2010

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

Despite the efforts by public interest groups and government entities in Korea and abroad to support and encourage parenting by single-birth mothers, domestic adoption, and birth family preservation, close to 10,000 children continue to be lost, abandoned, left to be found, and relinquished by single and married birthparents every year in South Korea.  Last year, only 24% of these children were placed with permanent families (in Korea and internationally).   There is a loud outcry by those who oppose inter-country adoption of Korean children as they make the claim that because Korea is a modern, developed nation, Koreans should be taking care of “their own children”, but the reality is that Korean attitudes and emotions towards orphans, homeless children, and domestic adoption are not receptive to this argument.  When the birthfamily cannot be preserved as a permanent solution for the child, domestic families are not stepping up, to the degree that is needed, to provide permanent Korean homes for these children.  In these cases, international adoption is the path through the child’s basic right to a family can be realized.

Kyoo Bin* was born to a young single woman in August of last year.  Unlike the majority of single birthmothers who are ostracized from their schools, families, friends and communities with no financial, emotional or physical resources, Kyoo Bin’s birthmother sought out her own parents (with whom she had been estranged) and received their counsel and support while making a decision as to her child’s future.  Based on her own belief that she was emotionally incapable of being responsible for her child, but also due to the lack of financial support available and because of social barriers that exist for single mothers (lack of access to re-enter high school, lack of affordable and available regular daycare, difficulty in securing a safe, stable, single-parent conducive job, strong traditional beliefs against women with children marrying, etc.), the birthmother decided upon adoption for her son.  Also very important in the decision for adoption by the birthmother were the real issues that Kyoo Bin would have had to face as a child (and later as an adult) being raised by a single mother in Korea.  These challenges include discrimination and social stigma that result in significant (of a much higher degree than anything experienced by adoptees in the US or European countries) denial of access to jobs, education, marriage, and family acceptance/belonging.  (The lifelong prejudice and denial of access to basic social and economic rights is even greater for children who grow up in Korea with no permanent families and who have been identified as having “orphan” status.)

Born at nearly full-term and healthy, Kyoo Bin has been in the care of a loving foster family since shortly after he was relinquished on the day of his birth.  Kyoo Bin is an active, bright-eyed child who I have had the pleasure to meet with his case worker and foster mother.  After having recovered from transient tachypnea at birth, Kyoo Bin has been healthy, but continues to show delayed motor skill development.  Cerebral Palsy, Fragile X syndrome, and Prader-Will Syndrome have all been ruled out as any potential cause for Kyoo Bin’s delays.  Now, over a year old, Kyoo Bin is not yet walking, but crawls well and pulls himself up.  He is positive, easy-going, and quite social while his favorite place to be is on his foster father’s knee.  Kyoo Bin enjoys playing with his toys, but has started to exhibit head-banging behaviors one time per day if at all.  His aging foster parents are providing him with a loving, but temporary home.  The hope of Kyoo Bin’s birthmother and her plan for him was that he would thrive and be able to meet his maximum potential.  This will only truly be possible when he is in a permanent family.

*Name of child changed to protect identity and at the request of the Korean adoption agency.  If you are interested in adopting Kyoo Bin, please contact Jane Lee at jlee@chsfs.org

Be The Answer For Kyoo Bin and other children by Watching Joint Council’s Be The Answer Video. Share your thoughts on the video by leaving a comment on YouTube.

Be The Answer for Adoption

28 11 2010

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

The below piece is written by Katie Priegal Sharp from Heart of the Matter Seminars. Read about her experience working for children in need.  http://heartofthematterseminars.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/keep-international-adoption/

I just read an article titled Ethiopian Adoptions Rise, Bucking Global Trend.  The article discusses changes in international adoptions from a global perspective and highlights the fact that although many children are currently being adopted from Ethiopia, most other countries that used to allow international adoptions have either shut down or have dramatically slowed in international placements.

I worked at an international adoption agency during the time Romania shut down in 2003.   Our small agency had been active in placing children from Romania for many years and the founder, Deb Murphy Scheumann opened and operated a baby house (or orphanage) in Botosani, Romania.   The operation of the baby house was truly a labor of love and the agency spent a great deal of time and money helping not only children who did not have families to care for them, but also the larger community of Botosani through their role in bringing the Medical Missions Foundation to the area.

To be clear, the vast majority of folks working in international adoption (myself included) believe that ideally children should stay in their family of origin and/or country of origin whenever possible, but that when those two options are not possible, international adoption is preferable to growing up without a permanent family.

This was the case with the children served by the baby home founded by Deb.  There was no one to care for them in Romania, but there were families here in the US who were in the process to adopt them when Romania stopped international adoptions, leaving these families and children in limbo.

Fast forward…  The adoption agency closed and years later these same children remain in Romania and furthermore, still do not have permanent families.   Many folks here in the US who had attempted to adopt them, had adopted other children internationally or who had been involved in the Medical Mission work have not forgotten them and do the best they can for these children.  In spite of tremendous financial and other difficulties, the baby house remains open and is now known as Deb’s House.  It is now managed by United Aid Foundation and many individuals are committed to doing the best they can for these children through supporting them and keeping them together as a “family” until they reach the age of 18.

I am in awe of the love, commitment and tireless work these individuals and organizations put into Deb’s House and are investing in these children.  It is inspiring and amazing.  But, it is still not optimal for these children.  These kids are some of the “lucky ones” and yet they are not growing up in a loving, permanent family.  No matter how wonderful Deb’s House is, it is not the same as a permanent forever family.

Romania is not the only country.  There are children in Guatemala, Vietnam and most recently, Nepal who have loving families waiting for them across the world, but due to the closure of international adoptions will instead grow up with no family at all and most will not even have the love, concern and support of groups like Deb’s House or United Aid Foundation.

Are there problems with international adoption?  Sure.  Is it the best case scenario?  No.  We wish that no child would ever suffer abuse, neglect and that all parents would be able to provide loving, stable homes for their children.  But, that is not reality and when others in the child’s community or country cannot provide a family for a child, they should not be denied the chance to have family through international adoption.

It’s not just about policy.  It’s not just about principles or politics.  It’s about individual children like these little ones–the majority of which do not have anyone speaking for them or supporting them.

Be The Answer for Adoption by reading about Heart of the Matter Seminars on their Facebook Page or Visiting their website! Families and Professionals who visit the page will have a chance to win a $150 gift certificate for any combination of live webinars or recorded courses.  Current fans of the page can participate by entering a comment on our wall.

The Answer for The Dosser Family

28 11 2010

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

The Perfect Plan

By Tonnie Dosser, Director of Development, Dillon International, Inc.

We walked up the long walkway edged with flowers.  Yellow blossoms seemed a perfect way to welcome us to this new beginning.

“Was that him?”  We saw a little brown head peeking out from around the back of the house and heard some giggles as we walked into the very tall slim pink home of the caretakers.  Suddenly, in ran the cutest little boy I’d ever seen.  He had the biggest smile on his face  as he jumped straight into the outstretched arms of a man he’d never met, but knew was his Daddy.

So many stories led up to this moment…both my husband and I had wanted to adopt a child since before we were married.  We had it all planned – we’d have one child, then adopt a child, then have another child – 3 kids – perfect!  But of course, our plans were not God’s plans.

After two, almost grown, beautiful daughters and 20 years of marriage under our belts, an image of a little boy entered our life.  I work for Dillon International, specifically in the humanitarian aid area, so photos of children who need homes is not a rare sight for me.  One day a co-worker in Vietnam sent me a photo of a baby boy who had been placed in her care.  He was so precious!  I felt an overwhelming need to find this little boy a home.  Every child deserves a home. It’s my hope that every child will know the love of someone special, but for some reason this particular baby boy really got under my skin.  I began putting him in as many agency publications as I could.  Surely there was someone out there who could love this little boy and become the family he needed.

Then, after several photos of him had crossed my desk, my co-worker in Vietnam sent me another photo.  It was like a kick in the booty!  God said WAKE UP – YOU are his family!  In that photo, he stared right through me and straight into my heart and after that it was history…I was officially in LOVE with this precious little boy.  Who knew that the family I had been struggling to find for this little boy was mine.  It took a little longer for my husband to get the wake up call. Eventually he decided sometimes the best things in life can be a little scary at first and this was definitely one of those times.  Our entire family was very ready to love this child.

The country had just closed to adoptions when he was born, so I checked in on him every chance I had…watching him grow and change from a baby to a little boy, year after year.  It became very hard at times, but I kept faith that he would one day be ours – to love, snuggle, and teach to pray, along with all the other wonderful eventful and non-eventful moments shared by a family.  The day finally came when Vietnam re-opened to intercountry adoptions and our agency’s license to place children from Vietnam was approved. We could officially begin the process to adopt this little boy who had captivated our hearts.

Later that year my husband and I traveled to Vietnam to pick up our son.  We traveled around the country for three weeks, each of us learning more and more about each other.  When we arrived home on Christmas Eve, our family was whole.  We are now the very proud parents of three very smart, very good looking, very inquisitive, and very loving children.  Three kids – PERFECT!

Life is grand!  God is good!

Editor’s note: Vietnam re-closed to intercountry adoptions to the U.S. on September 1, 2008.  Thousands of children wait, like this little boy waited, for the improvement of an ethical child welfare system in Vietnam.

The Dosser family found Their Answer. Be The Answer for others by reading about Heart of the Matter Seminars on their Facebook Page or Visiting their website! Families and Professionals who visit the page will have a chance to win a $150 gift certificate for any combination of live webinars or recorded courses.  Current fans of the page can participate by entering a comment on our wall.

The Answer for Jaime and Be The Answer for Gabriel

27 11 2010

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

The Adoption Story of Our Son Gabriel Robert

I was adopted and my husband and I have always felt the calling to adopt.  We chose to adopt from Guatemala because I speak Spanish and have spent time living and traveling in Latin America.  Our son Fernando Gabriel (who we would name Gabriel Robert) was born in August of 2006 and we received his referral in October 2006.  We fell in love immediately and prayed daily for our beautiful son.  In January, we learned that Gabriel had been hospitalized over Christmas, that he had a heart defect and possible neurological issues.  Our agency asked us if we wanted to continue with the adoption – to which we answered, “of course – he is our son!”  This was a difficult time of great concern and uncertainty and reliance on our Faith in God as we were here in Iowa and our son was thousands of miles away in Guatemala.  We were in communications with local pediatricians, a pediatric cardiologist, an international adoption doctor, and our adoption agency – trying desperately to ensure that Gabriel was receiving the care he needed until we were able to bring him home.  In February of 2007 he legally became our son and we made plans to travel to Guatemala to bring him home.  We were over the moon!   But we soon learned that God had other plans.  On March 5th, just two short days before we were to board the airplane, our precious son passed away.  Our hearts were broken – and have never been the same since.  Below is the post we wrote in our blog about the loss of our son.

3/6/2007 – Our Angel Gabriel is in Heaven

We received the very sad news that our baby Gabe became very ill on Sunday and was hospitalized.  His little heart wasn’t able to sustain his life any longer and he went to be in Jesus’ arms in Heaven at 11:50pm on Monday, March 5th. Our son fought very hard to be with us and we would have moved heaven and earth to bring him home, but it was God’s plan for Gabriel to be with Him in Heaven.   Although he didn’t officially become our son in the eyes of the law until February 22nd, he became our son in our hearts the day we accepted his referral on October 10, 2006.  Our love grew for him immensely over the past 5 months and our arms ached to hold him.  Gabriel is now in the arms of Jesus, and although we all miss him and will miss knowing him, we take comfort in the knowledge that he is truly home.  He has been adopted into God’s home and is with his Forever Father in heaven – free from pain, free from suffering, and free from worry and care of any kind. We thank God for Gabe’s wonderful foster mother and entire foster family who we learned were with him at the hospital.  If this was God’s time for Gabriel to return home to heaven, we are glad that he was able to be with and comforted by the only family he has known.

Gabriel’s final earthly resting place will be in his homeland of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala – where he lived with his foster family.  We have heard that the cemetery in Quetzaltenango (or ‘Xela’ – pronounced Shay-la) is very beautiful and is located on a hill overlooking the city.

We thank everyone for their constant prayers for baby Gabriel and our family.  Our very special little guy was so blessed to have an army of people loving him and praying him home.   In Gabriel’s memory, we ask that you please continue to pray for all of the little children in Guatemala and around the world who are waiting to be united with a loving family.  May God watch over them and keep them in his care just as he did for our baby Gabriel.

We say to Gabriel ‘Te amo y nos vemos en el cielo’ which means ‘We love you and we’ll see you in heaven’.

The Adoption Story of Our Son Jaime Gabriel

After the loss of our son Gabriel, we still felt a very strong calling to grow our family through adoption.  It was very clear to us that this is what Gabe would have wanted us to do and what God was calling us to do.  Our hearts were in Guatemala and we knew that the country was thinking about closing their doors to adoption, so if we were to try to bring our child home from there, we had to act immediately, not wait.  So while working through our grief, we also worked to start another adoption.  We had to begin the entire adoption process over again – new dossier, new paperwork, new finances, new everything – but God gave us the strength and we were undeterred.  In April of 2007, we received the referral of our son Jaime Fernando (whom we named Jaime Gabriel).   The story of his name still gives us goosebumps – it’s definitely

a ‘God Thing’.  The name Jaime means “he who takes the place of” so his name literally means “he who takes the place of Fernando” (our son Gabriel’s birthname was Fernando Gabriel).  Jaime will never take the place of Gabriel.  Both of our children hold a unique and special place in our hearts.  But Jaime gave us hope for the future and we know that God has wonderful plans for this very loving little boy!  Jaime came home to us forever in October of 2007 and has blessed our lives in more ways than we can possibly count.   And three months later on January 19, 2008, our family was doubly-blessed by the birth of our biological son Carson Alexander.  (Please do not use our story to tell other families – “see, if you adopt, you’ll become pregnant!”  Yes, it can happen, but it is not common and infertility was not the reason we chose to adopt.)  All three of our sons are the most beautiful blessings to us and our family.  And Jaime and Carson bring unbelievable joy to our home each and every day.  They love each other dearly, along with the normal fighting that brothers do.  And they know that they have a brother Gabe who is in heaven.  When asked if they have a brother, they’ll proudly point to his picture among our family photos on our mantel and say, “that’s our baby Gabe!”   And one night when I was tucking our 3-year-old Jaime in to bed, he looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “Mommy, there are babies who do not have Mommies.  You are a Mommy – you can help them?”  So, God, are you planting another seed of adoption in our hearts?

Be The Answer For Children like Gabriel and Jaime all around the world by becoming a fan of the Families For Orphans Coalition Facebook Page. Once you’ve become a fan- Invite 5 of your friends to be a fan as well!

The Answer for Anara

26 11 2010

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

Anara was born in 2006 with a congenital defect called Bladder Exstrophy- In other words, her bladder was outside of her body at birth. A corrective procedure was attempted in Kyrgyzstan, but failed. She survived over 11 months with her bladder outside and her ureters not fully draining, which caused some permanent kidney damage. The baby house in Bishkek provided the best care they could. They kept Anara in isolation and treated her with antibiotics for frequent infections. When we picked up Anara from the baby hospital in April 2007, she had a fever and her bladder was extremely irritated. We had consulted with a pediatric urologist before traveling to bring Anara home, and were prepared to use plastic wrap coated in Vaseline to keep the bladder moist and protect it.

We took Anara to an international health clinic in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The physician told us that Anara most likely had Cerebral Palsy, and needed a “serious neurological examination.” The physician was concerned that we had not been given all the information about Anara’s condition. We knew that Cerebral Palsy was a possibility from Anara’s medical record and we were prepared to adopt her either way. We were willing to adopt a child with special medical needs because these children, too, need families and we have great resources here in the U.S. We knew from the moment we saw Anara’s picture, that regardless of her medical and developmental issues, she belonged in our family.

We were home only one day when Early Intervention Services came to evaluate Anara. They noted that she was severely delayed and malnourished, weighing less than 15 lbs at one year of age. Anara received occupational therapy, developmental therapy, physical therapy and a monthly nutritional consult. Anara started to gain weight, learned to sit up, started speaking, and even started walking within her first 6 months home. At that time, her care team felt she was strong enough to undergo the 15-hour procedure to correct her bladder exstrophy, followed by a month-long hospital stay. After the surgery, Anara was on her back for eight weeks before she was able to sit or stand again.

Anara has now had 11 surgical procedures. She is doing wonderfully and is not delayed in any area. She does not have Cerebral Palsy. She is social, loving, and healthy. We used to see her urologist weekly. Now we are able to go 12 weeks between exams. Anara is brilliant. She loves to play, pretend, laugh, listen to music, ride her bike, and go new places. We cannot imagine our family without her.

To watch a video Anara’s family created in celebration of the one year anniversary of her adoption, click here.  Anara was one of the last children to be adopted out of Kyrgyzstan before the Kyrgyz government stopped international adoptions.  For information on some of the children who have been impacted by this closure please read about Nikolas and Shelby, Addison, and Kenny and Emir.

Anara was lucky enough to find An Answer- Be The Answer for another child by reading about and signing the Families for Orphans Act Petition. Will you Be The Answer for the estimated 143 million orphans?

Be the Answer for Orphans

26 11 2010

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

Dr. Jane Aronson traveled to Haiti along with Joint Council just days after the tragic earthquake that left thousands hungry, homeless, and in poor health. What is more devastating is the number of children who suffered the aftermath of the horrific natural disaster. This post was written at the end of an emotionally exhausted day. Jane and  the Joint Council staff went to 5 orphanages. The below post is a small insight as to life in Haiti and for children in many of the orphanages through Jane’s eyes.

It’s the end of the day (Friday, 1-29) and I am emotionally exhausted. We went to five orphanages and we saw hundreds of kids. I am so grateful to have found so many kids who were alive and not even injured physically by the earthquake…. on the other hand, the vast majority of them are in poor health, dirty, likely had at least a few medical conditions, and are not being educated in an consistent manner.

I am frustrated as I write this because I wonder what we can do to change what I will describe for you. At the first orphanage we visited, the kids were in the basement of a big beautiful building that is used for religious retreats. The building is beautifully constructed and painted, and there’s even a swimming pool, but the babies are in the basement. The basement smells like kerosene and urine, and I’m sure that they had to cook cereal on kerosene stoves…so dangerous because of the fumes and the chance of a fire with these babies all around in one crowded room … it made me very anxious.    The kids were wet and their diapers filled…I held a few babies and my pants became wet. There was no way to get a smile out of any of these children.  Twins came into this orphanage last night. They looked about 3 pounds each. The one twin I held was having repeated seizures as I held her, with the classic lip smacking, eye rolling and staring associated with seizures. The babies had not been examined by a doctor yet; the mother had died in childbirth 26 days before. Other kids just were staring or moved around the room aimlessly. Caretakers were also without affect and overwhelmed by the numbers of children they were supposed to care for in this little room where the floor was covered with filthy mattresses. I took a photo of the toddler who captured my interest…he was so depressed that he just stood holding onto a chair and did nothing…no eye contact and not a muscle moved in his face. He had classic psycho-motor retardation and depression. It broke my heart to see him so sad, but we had to leave and visit the other orphanages.

One orphanage was sweet and clean and had great caretakers who were very engaged in loving the children. I had my stethoscope and listened to each child’s chest. They all had colds, but only one child was wheezing. We told the head Nanny and she indicated that she would take the child to the clinic. We also were able to help the Nannies with the many questions they had about the rashes all the kids had…ring worm, eczema, scabies, failure to thrive, growth stunting…all things that can be easily managed, but the problem of course is that this is just a way of life for kids in orphanages – they live in filth, have very poor nutrition, and are repeatedly exposed to infectious diseases. These physical diseases have an effect on children’s emotions: they are uncomfortable in their own skins and that state of discomfort often causes them to withdraw and become depressed.

In fact, the challenge for me today was that depression….no matter where we went, we saw bored and depressed kids. One orphanage was very upsetting because it was so overcrowded that the kids were running wild and the staff was tired, overworked and angry. They were physical with the children. I watched one Nanny grab a toddler by the shoulder, just pick her up and throw her on a mattress. These kids were especially dirty and most of them had shaved heads and fungal infections.

One boy,  Rene, was recently in New York for a shunt operation. He had pressure in his brain and had a special procedure that placed a tube in his brain ventricles so that fluid could drain into his stomach. He never had the stitches taken out of his scalp after his surgery, and they were imbedded and causing infections of the skin. So, in the middle of the orphanage play area, I snipped six stitches, removed them and cleaned the pus from under the skin. It hurt, but Jean tolerated the procedure with some comforting. I cleaned his skin with some wipes I had in my bag, but there was one stitch I couldn’t get out. We decided to take Rene to Baptist Hospital, which had visited earlier in the day. In every orphanage where there are older children, there’s an obvious awareness of how we the visitors could leave Haiti and go somewhere that they wanted to go…to America. And of course all of the orphans we saw today were not only traumatized by a life of lost opportunity, but newly frightened for their lives due to the earthquake. The older children spoke of the sound of the earthquake and the shaking. They no longer want to be inside.

One orphanage run by St. Joseph’s Charity (in the US) houses very handicapped children and young adults. This place is amazingly well-run and the staff is very kind and capable. The young woman who runs the place is KC and she has been there for 5 1/2 years. The children have their own wheelchairs and there is modern equipment appropriate for kids with limited physical capacity. These kids had to be moved after the earthquake and were likely traumatized as they had to be picked up and carried out of the orphanage for their survival. I have been judgmental about faith-based organizations (FBO), but I think that I will have to re-examine this attitude because I have seen the work of many FBOs on this trip and they have accomplished a lot and appear to be very kind and committed to kids no one else wants to take care of.

Finally, by the late afternoon, we had visited all five orphanages. All I wanted at that point was to get back to the guest house, pack my bags, and go home..to see my children and Diana. I felt empty and powerless. I couldn’t see another dirty, depressed infant or smell another filthy old house. And I couldn’t see another fake soccer ball (rolled up socks) or more children with lice, scabies, bald heads, rotted teeth, broken and poorly healed fractures, limps from bone infections, silent toddlers with empty expressions, and babies with wasted buttocks and sunken eyes.

I had come to the end of my tolerance – for that day, at least – for the inhumane treatment of orphans.

Thousands of Orphans in Haiti are waiting for An Answer.  Be their Answer by reading about and signing the Families for Orphans Act petition. Will you Be The Answer for the estimated 143 million orphans around the world?

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