Left or Right

28 06 2012

A few years ago Rebecca and I met Angelina, a young woman in a Haitian orphanage.  She was 23 years old.  As she shared stories of her life with us it became painfully obvious that this young woman had lived her entire life in that orphanage.  Sadder yet, in 23 years, she left the compound walls only a few times.  When I asked why she lived at the orphanage she said, “I don’t have any friends out there.  I don’t have any family.  When I walked out the door, I wouldn’t know if I should go left or right”.


The damage done to children who grow without a permanent, safe family has been clearly documented over the past few decades.  Most recently, the research of Harvard’s Dr. Jack Shonkroff dramatically demonstrates the crushing effect on a child’s brain development and the 10-year study by University of Maryland’s Dr. Nathan Fox shows the permanent damage to virtually every aspect of a child’s physical and emotional well-being. Despite this and other evidence, much of which was presented at last December’s Summit on Children Without Family Care, untold numbers of children continue to suffer permanent damage.  And for those children who escape the trap of the sex trade or child labor, they, like Angelina, grow into adulthood unable to join society, unable to care for themselves…unable to go left or right.

Tom and Rene

On this trip to Haiti, I visited Rene, a young man Rebecca and I first met two years ago.  Rene has spent 13 years in an orphanage. In only a few years he will be out on his own – that is if he as a 15-year-old teenager is able to behave well enough to be allowed to stay at the orphanage.  As our van left the orphanage grounds, I wondered to whom he would go as he walked through the heavy steel door of the compound for the last time.  I wondered if Rene would go left or right on the dusty mountain road.  And I wondered how he would get the frequent medical care his hydrocephalus required to keep him alive.

When I visit children, when I hear their voices tell their own stories, when I see children whose ears have been chewed by rats, I can’t help but think we are all doing something wrong.  Thousands of non-profits and churches and governments run thousands of programs for children.  The US government spends billions of dollars in international aid for children each year.  Tens of thousands of volunteers and professionals work every day to help children.  Yet Angelia and Rene are just two of the estimated 100,000 children living in over 700 orphanages in Haiti.  Simply put – family life for children is not one of the priorities for the vast majority of NGOs or governments – even the United States government.

There is no US government policy which instructs our foreign aid to ensure children live, grow and thrive in a family.  We have offices for hunger, trafficking, HIV Aids, but none that protects children from life without their family.

Maybe we are not doing something wrong.  Maybe we are not doing enough of what is right.

Strong Leadership in Haiti

27 06 2012

One of the primary reasons we came to Haiti was the recent vote by the Haitian government to ratify the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption.  Joint Council has been involved with the Convention since its beginnings in 1993, so when we were asked to provide some input into the Haitian process, it was an easy and eager yes.

The Haitian government, specifically the Institute of Social Welfare and Research (IBESR), has made great strides in serving and protecting children.  The new Director at IBESR, Mme. Arielle Jeanty Villedrouin, was appointed only seven months ago yet already she has moved the country towards implementation of the Convention, registered approximately 500 previously unregistered children’s homes, conducted assessments of 200 and closed three of the worst.  Most recently she closed an orphanage that although it was receiving funding from sources in three countries, the conditions were such that some children’s ears were being chewed by rats.  Having worked in Haiti for 12 years, it is extremely encouraging to see such an educated, impassioned and committed leader at IBESR.

As Mme. Villedrouin moves Haiti toward implementation of the Convention, we are confident that Haiti will not add itself to the list of countries where premature implementation resulted in a closure of adoption, rather than a strengthening of protections and services.  As we said to Mme. Villedrouin, we fully support Haiti’s implementation of the Convention and the protections it will bring to children and families and encourage IBESR to use the Hague Guide to Good Practice as the framework for implementation.  In short, the Hague’s Guide calls for creation of all necessary laws, regulations and processes prior to the Convention ‘entering into force’ in Haiti.

And we are also very encouraged by the Presidential Decree appointing IBESR as the Haitian Central Authority for the Convention.  With such astute and capable leadership, we are sure that Haiti will be one of the first developing countries to use the Convention to protect children and preserve their right to a permanent, safe family.

Valentine’s Day is Tomorrow!

13 02 2012


For more information, visit http://www.helpkg65.com/.

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

A Picture Perfect Moment Photo Contest- Help Us Choose the Winners!

6 12 2011

We received over a hundred beautiful pictures for our 2011 A Picture Perfect Moment Photo Contest. Help us choose the winners from our top 14! Select one of the picture below and cast your vote.  Please only vote once! Make sure to vote by 11:59 PM EST on December 18th, 2011! Winners will receive gift cards from national companies.

Winners will be announced the week of December 19th, 2011.

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Please note: If Joint Council suspects inappropriate behavior on the part of an individual regarding voting, Joint Council reserves the right to disqualify the individual’s votes and/or pictures.


20 09 2011

Alexandria, Va, September 20, 2011 – Recognizing that proper nutrition is critical to every child’s growth and development, The Joint Council on International Children’s Services and the Mead Johnson Nutrition Foundation today announced the launch of a program dedicated to improving nutritional care for vulnerable children living without parental care around the world.

Globally, millions of children live without parental care, with most living in orphanages, group homes and institutions.  While caregivers work diligently to attend to the needs of these children, science-based training and resources on nutrition and feeding practices to help identify nutrition deficiencies are often unavailable.

Through the new program, called A Child’s Best Start, Joint Council and Mead Johnson are leading an initiative to identify best practices for nutritional care among this vulnerable population of children. The program will provide critical nutrition information to individual caregivers through training on the ground in facilities located everywhere from major cities like Shanghaito small towns in rural Mexico.

A Child’s Best Start will support research, establish a free online library of information and resources, implement in-language training programs, and provide support to the individual organizations that care for vulnerable children. The program will launch the online library later this year and start the training pilot program in the first country, China, in the first half of 2012.

Mead Johnson’s nutrition scientists will lend their expertise to materials development, and its offices and employees in countries around the world will help individual orphanages and group homes through programs based on local needs.

“Children living in orphanages and group homes often do not receive the strong nutritional foundation they need in order to grow and flourish.” said Tom DiFilipo, president and chief executive officer of Joint Council. “Our goal through this partnership with the Mead Johnson Nutrition Foundation, is to change that.  We believe A Child’s Best Start is uniquely positioned to serve these vulnerable children by identifying their specific nutritional needs, introducing science based interventions, marshaling the resources of our partner-members and mobilizing local volunteer care givers.”

To get the program underway, Joint Council and Mead Johnson have formed a cooperative agreement with the the SPOON Foundation, a member of the Joint Council network which focuses its efforts on orphan nutrition. Together, the groups established the Global Nutrition Working Group of leading authorities on nutrition and medical care for vulnerable children and children living without parental care, to provide guidance on the development of program materials.

“One way we fulfill our corporate mission to nourish the world’s children for the best start in life is by giving back to and helping to improve the communities where we live, work and operate as a business,” said Stephen W. Golsby, Mead Johnson Nutrition’s president and chief executive officer. “A Child’s Best Start leverages Mead Johnson’s deep scientific expertise and understanding of pediatric nutrition and builds on our century-long heritage of philanthropy and community involvement.  This program will make a real impact on the lives of children, and we are proud to be a founding member of this ambitious effort.”

About Joint Council for International Children’s Services

Joint Council helps vulnerable children living without parental care by advocating on their behalf, marshaling the resources they need, educating those who serve them and mobilizing those who care. Joint Council and its partner organizations provided services to over 2.1 million children and families each year. For more information, go to www.jointcouncil.org/.

About Mead Johnson Nutrition Company

Mead Johnson, a global leader in pediatric nutrition, develops, manufactures, markets and distributes more than 70 products in over 50 countries worldwide. The company’s mission is to nourish the world’s children for the best start in life. The Mead Johnson name has been associated with science-based pediatric nutrition products for over 100 years. The company’s “Enfa” family of brands, including Enfamil® infant formula, is the world’s leading brand franchise in pediatric nutrition. For more information, go to www.meadjohnson.com.

The above map represents the countries for A Child’s Best Start. The countries highlighted in dark green are those that the program will target during year one, and the countries highlighted in light green are those that will roll out subsequently.

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.

Crossroads of America Adoption Conference 2011

23 08 2011

MLJ Adoptions is thrilled to be hosting the Crossroads of America Adoption Conference September 30 – October 1, 2011 in Indianapolis Indiana. This is a great opportunity for anyone interested in adoption.

WHO: There will be several well-known speakers in the adoption world. We will be blogging about many of our speakers leading up to the Conference. Please keep a look out for this information.

WHAT: This two-day event will offer over 35 sessions in the area of adoption for adoptive parents and adoption professionals.

  • Affording Adoption
  • Techniques to Strengthen Attachment
  • Home Study 101 for Adoptive Parents
  • Medical Issues in Adoption
  • Racism and My Child
  • Orphan Ministry
  • Legal Risks in International Adoption
  • Foreign Staff of MLJ Adoptions, Inc. will be available for questions. This is a great opportunity for MLJ clients to meet their in-country coordinators!

WHEN: September 30 – October 1, 2011, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm

WHERE: The Harrison Center 1505 N Delaware St. Indianapolis, IN 46202.

COST: $35 per person per day. Child care is also available for $15 per child per day.

TO LEARN MORE: Please contact Stacy Jacobs at Stacy@mljadoptions.com  for more information or for a registration packet.

We hope to see you there!

Read more: http://mljadoptions.com/Media.aspx?articleID=245#ixzz1VmCCkrEj

7 Reasons You Should Attend the Crossroads of America Adoption Conference

1. Low cost – high benefit. For a one day, one subject training I paid nearly five times what it will cost to attend one day of the CAAC, where you will have the opportunity to hear from seven different professionals on seven different subjects. Did we mention that breakfast and lunch are included?

2. Something for everyone. I have gone to adoption conferences in the past where everything was at an introductory level, even the courses that seemed directed towards professionals. We have made a conscious effort to include sessions that will benefit adoption professionals, those parenting an adopted child, those considering adoption, church leaders, and other adoption advocates. Each of our directors are looking forward to attending the breakout sessions. We are also planning activities for the kids. Whether your interest is international adoption, domestic adoption, or foster care adoption, we believe that you can find something of value from attending the conference.

3. Ongoing Support and Education Essential to Adoptive Families. The focus is on family success not just family formation.  The important question is are you willing to seek out any and all resources that may benefit your child?

4. Building your adoption community. Your kids need to see and know kids like them – kids that look like them and kids that have a similar life experience. Most of their peers at school cannot relate to how adoption affects them each and every day. You need to connect with and relate to other parents and professionals that truly understand how adoption affects your family. Group adoption events allow you to realize that you are not alone, even when it feels like it sometimes. It also allows you an opportunity to hold on to hope when you meet other families who have experienced and survived what you may be experiencing.

5. Experts and big names. A Biggest Loser winner, five book authors, three non-profit directors, foreign dignitaries, attorneys, pastors, social workers, doctors, a dentist, an occupational therapist, officers of the court, and more.

6. Meet MLJ foreign staff. There are not a lot of opportunities to meet the people representing your family overseas, but the main staff from each of our programs will be available at the Crossroads of America Adoption Conferences to meet you and answer some questions.

7. Meet MLJ staff. Pictures, emails, phone calls, and blogs can give you a good sense of who we are, but nothing can replace an introduction and a handshake.

Register now! You really should.
Read more: http://www.mljadoptions.com/Media.aspx#ixzz1VmBBp0QQ
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution No Derivatives

Hydrocephalus: why care needs to change

17 08 2011

Over the last two years Joint Council staff has met many children throughout the world affected by Hydrocephalus, a debilitating and sometimes fatal special need.  In our travels and work we’ve met Addison from Kyrgyzstan who has succumbed to the disease; Rene in Haiti; Josh in South Africa; and most recently Sun Cheng in China.  All of these children were orphaned because their biological family was unable to care for their disease. All of these children will most likely meet an early death due to their disease.  Many of them will pass slowly and alone.

On Tuesday, August 2nd Joint Council staff attended a Congressional Hearing at Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights focused on Hydrocephalus.  Hydrocephalus is the excessive accumulation of fluid on the brain and because of the pressure of the excess fluid, if it is left untreated it can cause brain damage and in many cases death.  The need for improved solutions to Hydrocephalus is imperative in our world today; with 1 out of every 2,000 children in the developing world being affected and more than 400,000 new cases of Hydrocephalus in Africa last year alone.

The most common strategy for treating the disease is placing a shunt, a tube implanted from the brain to abdomen, to drain fluid from the brain to the abdominal cavity. However, typically a shunt will need to be replaced up to five times in a child’s lifetime.  Oftentimes, due lack of resources, transportation difficulties, lack of accessible healthcare and various other factors, children often pass within the time it takes to get to a hospital to have the shunt fixed.  Clearly, another solution is needed.

The three Congressional Hearing panelists; Dr. Benjamin Warf, Dr. Steven Schiff, and Jim Cohick, have developed a groundbreaking surgery that has saved countless lives in Uganda. The new surgery uses an endoscopic treatment paired with an ETV/CPC procedure that reduces the tissue which creates the excess fluid. Although the research is limited thus far, the new treatment has a 75% success rate and the need for a shunt has been eliminated.

The panelists provided several recommendations to the international health community to reduce the number of cases of Hydrocephalus and promote sustainable strategies to treat the disease. They include strengthening health systems training, empowering local surgeons to treat children with Hydrocephalus, facilitating research to find the best practices to prevent post infection, and passionate care and concern. The panelists also spoke of the need for more neurosurgeons in developing countries, most specially Africa; in the United States there are 3500 neurosurgeons, in Uganda there are four, and in Congo there is only one. These staggering facts, and the children lost each day due to the disease, should motivate the international public health community to not only educate themselves about Hydrocephalus but also begin to provide resources so that more children can be saved and given a chance to live and thrive in a family.

For more information regarding the Congressional Hearing and the needs for better treatment options please to go:


We Don’t Do It Alone

14 07 2011

When you think of Joint Council, do you think of only intercountry adoption? Hmmm…if you take a closer look you might just think a little differently.

While we’ll never abandon our historical and rightful commitment to intercountry adoption, in 2006 we set a goal to lead our coalition in using intercountry adoption as one of a broad array of programs that serve children and uplift families. 5 years later, we’ve achieved that goal. What we and our partners are doing in China is just one example of the work being done in country after country, including the U.S.

When Christina and I were doing our assessments and evaluations of eight orphanages, the names of our partner organizations kept coming up in ways you might not expect. The director of a Provincial Civil Affairs shared with us some of the great work of our coalition members…

“Bethany Christian services established our foster care system. We now have 120 children living with families.” (learn more about Bethany)

“This pre-school program is sponsored by Half The Sky. They help us care for 22 children during the day.” (learn more about Half The Sky)

“WACAP funded the construction of this 3-story accessibility ramp. Before WACAP, disabled children could not leave their floor. Now they can go for treatment or play outside.” (learn more about WACAP)

“Love Without Boundaries trained our caregivers on how to properly feed children with cleft palates. Now the formula nourishes the babies instead of just leaking out of their mouths. And they fund cleft surgeries for many of our babies. After the surgery, they care for the baby until they are healthy.” (learn more about Love Without Boundaries)

These and other Joint Council partners were highlighted as key players in the lives of orphans in the five cities we’ve visited so far. Amazing work, by amazing organization and amazing people!

But Joint Council and our partners don’t just lead new and innovative programs, we do them too! Just one example is this trip to China. The primary reason is our new Orphan Nutrition Program. You’ll be hearing more about the program and some of our newest partners in caring for orphans and vulnerable children in the coming weeks.

So stay tuned, take a closer look and think a little differently about Joint Council.


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