Putting Family First – The USG’s Action Plan for Children in Adversity

19 12 2012

zemzemI first met Zemzem in a southern village in Ethiopia.  As we sat in her small store which proudly stood at the entrance path to her village she told me about her sister who had died four years prior and of her struggle to raise her four nieces and nephews.  With no income other than a monthly contribution from a U.S. based sponsorship program, she found caring for four children more than she could bear.   With no government help available and no aid other than the inadequate monthly stipend, Zemzem placed the youngest of the children in an orphanage and expressed her hope that another family would love and parent her niece.  After months of languishing in the orphanage, her niece ultimately found an appropriate, safe, permanent family in the U.S.

As we continued to sit in the cramped space that was both her store and the home for herself and her now three children, Zemzem spoke with sadness about her loss, her longing to know how her niece was doing with her new family, and her decision to place another of her children in the orphanage.  And yet despite the sadness in her story, Zemzem’s eyes lit up with a hope and pride I so often see in the families I meet in my journeys.

Why with so much loss and sadness did Zemzem’s eyes light up?  Because the NGO that facilitated the adoption of her niece began an innovative family strengthening program in her village.  After one-year of training and two small loans, Zemzem has a thriving business selling much needed grains, bread and nuts to her community (with plans to begin wholesaling!).   With great pride Zemzem spoke of how she no longer needs the monthly aid on which she had become dependent.  Her business produced more than 3 times the income of the stipend and she no longer felt the need to place any of her children in the orphanage.

Zemzem closed our time together with pride, hope, and also a bit of a sales pitch asking for investors in her business.  But what I really saw in her was not only a savvy business owner, but a proud mother who with some one-time support, moved from loss and sadness to hope and fulfillment.

Before there was a US Government Action Plan for Children in Adversity, Zemzem’s life and story embodied it.   Just like Zemzem and the programs that gave her the ability to put her family first, the Action Plan puts family first by enabling families to care for their children; prevent unnecessary family-child separation and promotes appropriate, protective and permanent family care.  As just as Zemzem spoke with pride and hope built on sadness, we too should be sad that it took us this long to state the importance of family care for all children and yet filled with hope that the Action Plan will support evidence based programs; from family preservation to intercountry adoption, that make safe permanent family care a reality for all children.





A Historic Day for Children – The USG Action Plan for Children in Adversity

19 12 2012

APCAClick here to read the U.S. Government Action Plan on Children in Adversity

Today at the White House, the U.S. Government will release its first-ever Action Plan on Children in Adversity. This historic Action Plan has been designed with input from scientific, faith-based and civil society communities. Preceding the White House launch, a briefing on the first whole-of-government action plan for international assistance to children in adversity will occur, hosted by the Children in Adversity Policy Partnership (CAPP), a coalition of US-based implementing and advocacy organizations, and the PL109-95 Secretariat for Children in Adversity. Panelists representing these communities will highlight the evidence behind the plan, review how the plan will guide the U.S. Government’s development and diplomatic efforts for vulnerable children, and provide concrete examples of programs that exemplify the Action Plan’s three core objectives:

  • Build Strong Beginnings: increase percentage of children reaching full developmental potential
  • Put Family Care First: reduce percentage of children living outside of family care
  • Protect Children: reduce percentage of girls and boys exposed to violence and exploitation.

The event will be moderated by Kent Hill, World Vision, speakers include Anne Goddard, ChildFund International, Kathleen Strottman, CCAI, Greg Ramm, Save the Children, Elizabeth Styffe, Saddleback Church and Neil Boothby, PL 109-95. The program is interactive and will demonstrate how new science is driving changes in international assistance for children.

WHEN

Wednesday, December 19,2012
9:30am – 11:00 am
Event: 9:30 – 10:15
Q & A: 10:15 – 11:00

WHO

Global Experts in Child Protection:
Anne Goddard, ChildFund International
Kathleen Strottman, CCAI
Greg Ramm, Save the Children
Elizabeth Styffe, Saddleback Church
Neil Boothby, PhD, U.S. Government Special Advisor for PL 109-95
Moderated by: Kent Hill, World Vision

Livestream

Event will be live streamed by the Huffington Post and is also available through the Press Club. Click here to watch the December 19th event

About the Partnership (CAPP)

The “Children in Adversity” Policy Partnership (CAPP) is a coalition of US-based implementing & advocacy organizations dedicated to accelerating bold and strategic U.S. policy action concerning children in adversity.

For more information, please contact Steering Committee members:

Arms Around The Child

Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute

Child Fund International

Kidsave

Joint Council on International Children’s Services

Save the Children

World Vision





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.





Announcing Joint Council’s 4th Annual National Adoption Month Photo Contest!

1 11 2011

Is there a special child or children in your life? Do you have a picture of them lying around the home that you just love? Share it with us in honor of National Adoption Month for the chance to win a gift card to a national company!

Our 4th annual National Adoption Month Photo Contest will be open for submissions November 1st- November 30, 2011. We are looking for beautiful, inspiring photos of all types of children- children in orphanages, foster homes, or adoptive families, engaged in all types of activities- children at play, in reflection, or just being loved. Click here to learn more about the contest.




Raising Awareness, Affecting Change

16 08 2011

Last week we distributed an Executive Report to Joint Council Members which forecasts the continued suffering of children in need of a safe and permanent family. If current policies are not changed, in the next ten years over 250,000 children will be denied their basic human right to a family.

On August 26th, the folks over at Both Ends Burning will bring much needed attention to this tragedy through their Step Forward for Orphans March. The march will highlight the needs and suffering of children living without parental care and the impact the crash of intercountry is having on them.

The march from the National Mall to the Capital is intended to raise awareness, motivate public action and most importantly, to enable more children to live in permanent, safe and loving families.

For more information on the March or to learn how to participate, see the Both Ends Burning Invitation Video or Events Page.





CCCWA requests photos & videos of children adopted from China

2 08 2011

We hope you will be able to participate in a commemorative book which will soon be published by the China Center for Child Welfare and Adoption. This is a unique opportunity to honor the CCCWA’s service to children and to celebrate your own adoption.

This year marks the 15th year of service by the China Center for Child Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA). Beginning in 1996, the CCCWA has enabled tens of thousands of Chinese children to find safe, permanent and loving families through intercountry adoption. The work of the CCCWA is a model for the world, utilized the principals of the Hague Convention long before most other countries and conducted all of their efforts in the best interest of children. Under the direction of Director General Zhang Shifeng, in 2006, the CCCWA expanded their vision and programs to serve children not only through intercountry adoption but also through foster-care, domestic adoption, family preservation, and orphan care. Their work has and continues to ensure that a child’s right to a family is not just a concept but a reality.

In honor of this milestone, the China Center for Child Welfare and Adoption’s (CCCWA) 15th Year Anniversary, the CCCWA will be publishing a book commemorating the CCCWA’s dedicated efforts to find families for the children of China. As part of the commemoration, Director General Zhang Shifeng is requesting that adoptive families send pictures and brief stories of their adoption to the CCCWA.

Please consider participating in this unique opportunity by submitting your pictures and stories to the CCCWA or your adoption service provider. The deadline for submissions is August 22, 2011. Pictures can be mailed or scanned and emailed to the CCCWA (see below) or your adoption service provider. If you are sending pictures and stories directly to the CCCWA, please include this release. If you are sending them to your adoption service provider, please contact them for their particular release form.

China Center for Child Welfare and Adoption
Sun Light International Plaza No.16,
Wang Jia Yuan Lane,
Dong Cheng District, Beijing 100027
ccaa@ccaa.cn

All of us at Joint Council thank you for providing a loving home to a child in need. We hope you will choose to celebrate your adoption by participating in the commemoration of the CCCWA’s 15th year of service.

Best wishes,

Tom

 

Letters from the CCCWA (.pdf):

CCCWA Letter to Parents and Adoptees

CCCWA Information and Photo Release





CCAI Foster Youth Congressional Briefing

2 08 2011

As a summer intern with Joint Council, I’ve had great opportunities to meet inspiring people, learn tons about international child welfare, and participate in the meaningful work Joint Council does. As my internship rapidly approaches its conclusion, I can say attending the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) Foster Youth Intern Briefing last week has been one of the highlights of my summer.

At the Briefing, CCAI’s Foster Youth Interns, fifteen young adults who have personally been in the US foster system, presented the policy recommendations they developed this summer for US foster care. Well-researched and well-formulated as they were, the personal experiences the interns interwove was what gave the recommendations the most weight.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget when one of the interns told the spellbound audience that he had just been adopted at the age of 25. Whether born in Baltimore or Beijing – whether 2, 12, or 22 years old – every child needs the opportunity to have a permanent home so they can experience the love only family can provide.

Sarah Neville
Community Outreach Intern





300 Lives

14 07 2011

Seven of us walked into an orphanage in rural China, a brightly lit, clean and active place which serves as home for 300 kids. It was, like so many buildings in China, only a few years old. We walked into a building with new cribs (17 to a room), a well-equipped tactile stimulation room and a clean cafeteria with seating for over 200. But what we really walked into was not simply a building. We walked into 300 lives. 300 little lives filled with activities and therapies but void of a mother’s love. Void of their father’s kiss good night. And void of the hope that someday someone would give them a new life, a new reality…a new family.

The orphanage director was rightly proud of the facility, but also clear about the needs that remain – and grow every day. With the birth defect rate jumping over 40% in the past three years, it’s a challenge just to keep up, let alone expand.

And that is why we are here. To help. To partner. To preserve families and create new ones. To connect and to learn. To give a child with a cleft pallet a specially designed bottle that provides life giving nourishment. To share our collective passion. And privately shed our tears To share what we know, give what we can and marshal the resources to fill in the gaps. To give a moment’s love to a child who won’t make it to age 5. To build a sustainable garden and advocate for more. To walk into 300 little lives…and never leave.

By the ninth day of our journey in China, Christina and I will have assessed dozens of children, evaluated eight orphanages housing over 1,200 children and strategized with 22 government officials at central, provincial and city levels. But much like entering the orphanage, what we really did was enter many lives and allowed them to enter ours.





Statement on Children and Family Services in Ethiopia

9 03 2011

March 9, 2011

Statement on Children and Family Services in Ethiopia

The work of Joint Council on International Children’s Services includes the development and implementation of the highest standards and ethical practices, the support of children living outside of family care and advocacy for permanency.  As a leader in the international child welfare community, we are deeply concerned about the well-being of Ethiopian children and the integrity of the intercountry Read the rest of this entry »





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








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