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.





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.

 





Ethiopia Meeting & Conference Call: Did You RSVP?

5 04 2011

Please note that if you are intending to participate in tomorrow’s (April 6th) USCIS meeting and conference call regarding Ethiopia, you must RSVP for each person calling in (see below info on registering). USCIS’s dial-in capacity is being limited to only those who have sent their RSVP.

Joint Council strongly urges everyone who is interested in Ethiopian adoptions, the protection of children and families and our collective roles in ensuring ethical adoption remains a viable option for children, to participate in the call tomorrow.

To RSVP, send an email to public.engagement@dhs.gov and include “Ethiopia – Phone/Webinar” in the subject line.

To read the full announcement and invitation, please click here.

We look forward to your participation during tomorrow’s call.

 





Amercian University to host “Stolen Children: Illegal Practices in Intercountry Adoption”

1 04 2011

The UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic at Washington College of Law, American University is presenting Stolen Children: Illegal Practices in Inter-country Adoption and the Need for Reform on April 4, 2011 from 6:30 – 9:00 pm.

Joint Council’s Tom DiFilipo will participate as a panelist and will address both the role of social services in the prevention of abuse and abuse related consequences of adoption closures.

The event is open to the public and includes the following speakers.  We encourage all who are interested in protecting the rights of children and families to attend and participate in this robust discussion.

Keynote Presentation
Norma Cruz
Guatemalan human rights activist
President of the Fundacion Sobrevivientes (Survivors Foundation)

Panel Discussion
Tom DiFilipo
President & CEO
Joint Council on International Children’s Services

Karen Rotabi
Professor of Social Work
Virginia Commonwealth University

David Smolin
Professor
Cumberland School of Law

Alison Dilworth
Office of Children’s Issues
U.S. Department of State





Ethiopia: USCIS to Conduct Briefing on Ethiopian Adoption

25 03 2011

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will facilitate a meeting on Ethiopian adoptions for all stakeholders including adoptive families.  The meeting will take place on April 6, 2011.  The USCIS announcement and invitation is available below or here.

It is our understanding that USCIS will have adequate access lines for all who RSVP (as requested in their invitation).  If you intend on participating, please be sure to RSVP so that USCIS can ensure they have sufficient capacity on the conference call.

___________________________________________________

USCIS Stakeholder Meeting on Ethiopian Adoptions

Wednesday, April 6, 2011 @ 1:00 – 4:00pm (EDT)
White Oak Conference Room
20 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20529

The USCIS International Operations Division and the Office of Public Engagement invite you to participate in a stakeholder meeting in which we will brief on some of the findings of the recent interagency site visit to Addis Ababa to review Ethiopian adoptions. Members of the USCIS and the Department of State team that visited Ethiopia will provide the briefing and answer questions about its content.

This engagement will be available to any interested parties by teleconference and webinar with a small number of in-person participants.  Due to space constraints, in-person participation will be by invitation only. We request that in-person invitees send a single representative to attend in-person unless requesting clearance for a second in advance.

To Participate in the Session

All individuals and organizations planning to participate in this engagement must respond to this invitation. Please contact the Office of Public Engagement at public.engagement@dhs.gov by April 3, 2011, and reference the following in the subject line of your email:

  • If you plan to attend in person, please reference “Ethiopia – In Person”
  • If you plan to attend by phone, please reference “Ethiopia – Phone/Webinar”

Please also include your full name and the organization you represent in the body of the email.

Once an RSVP email has been received, USCIS will provide you call-in and webinar details.
We look forward to engaging with you!





US Dept of State Announcement: Ethiopia

17 03 2011

The following announcement was issued by the U.S. Dept of State, Office of Children’s Issues on March 16, 2011.  It can also be found on their website.

U.S. Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues, Adoption Division hosted a conference call for Adoption Service Providers on March 11, 2011 at 10:45 am to discuss recent announcements made by the Ethiopian Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs (MOWCYA). Below is a summary of information presented on the call.

As was stated in the March 9, 2011 Adoption Alert, the Department of State received information on the announcement made by the MOWCYA regarding the planned reduction in workload processing.

  • MOWCYA planned to implement a reduction of case processing from approximately 50 cases reviewed per day to no more than 5 cases reviewed per day.
  • MOWCYA has stated that this reduction is to improve screening of adoption cases while also devoting existing resources to other priorities on vulnerable children.
  • MOWCYA reviews each adoption case at two points in the process: after the match with prospective adoptive parents and after the final court decree to approve issuance of new birth certificate and passport for child.
  • MOWCYA has not announced any implementation guidelines on how reduction in processing will affect each stage of the process
  • If only 5 cases are reviewed per day, delays could be significant. Calculations based on rough estimates of cases in process (around 1000) indicate delays of one year or more.
  • Department of State defines ‘cases in process’ as those whose dossier has been accepted up to those cases that have received the final letter approving issuance of passport and birth certificate.
  • We are working on getting more details on implementation guidelines.

Since announcement, the Department of State has heard many rumors, but none have been substantiated.  The U.S. Embassy can confirm that the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs has shuffled the portfolios of key adoption personnel.  The Embassy has not been able to confirm how this reorganization may affect the processing of cases through the ministry.

Additionally, the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa is discussing the possibility of developing a consolidated assistance proposal to MOWCYA to find out what the resource needs are and find what assistance can be given to allow MOWCYA to accomplish their goals.





Dr. Jane Aronson Open Letter to Pres Clinton

16 03 2011

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

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

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

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

The full letter can be found by clicking here.








%d bloggers like this: