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





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!





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!





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.





The Answer for Evyn

20 11 2010

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

Happy National Adoption Day from Joint Council. Watch the video below as Bryson and Emily share their journey to adopting their daughter Evyn from Ethiopia.

Find and Attend a National Adoption Month Event in your area. Email Joint Council at betheanswer@jointcouncil.org with what you did. Include pictures so we can share them with our followers!





The Answer for Manuel

9 11 2010

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

We set out for an older toddler boy. Boys often are forgotten, many people thinking girls are easier.  With two birth-daughters we knew that this wasn’t true.  The thought of a forgotten or neglected boy needing a stable, loving family drew us to our decision.

Manuel is a total teddy bear, charming, smart and loving.  He came home to us at age 5 with scars, parasites, and tuberculosis.  He had size 4 clothing even though he was 5 years old.  Despite this he still had a bright smile and a loving lasting hug that everyone enjoyed, this was the start on our adventure into older toddler adoption.

Our road trip into parenting Manuel began wit stabilizing his health.  Reports from Guatemala showed Manuel needing food, he was behind developmentally; he was clumsy, and his verbal skills needed some help.  Once home it was the quest to encourage eating when hungry and getting used to food at regular times.  Treating his ailments fell into the mix with pre-school to work on manners.  Manuel had an instinct to leave us when he pleased, in crowds or our front yard.  Sad to ween this independence, we taught him its best to be with Mommy and Daddy and that with us there’s always food and love and no need to ask for it from others.

Manuel suffered constantly with flu and colds that had me worried that he’d never actually attend a full month at school!  Our physician came to explain that Manuel needed time to build up his immunity.  That malnutrition is not overcome with just eating but our endeavor would take several years because malnutrition is at the cellular level and we had a long way to go to build up our sons system.

After being home for two years did we realize his vision was poor, another possible effect of malnutrition?  Manuelito had double vision and was legally blind but we hadn’t realized it.  It was hard not to feel guilty, our eye doctor reassured us that many families don’t realize their kids have a vision problem until there is a problem in learning at school.  Manuel is now in cool Spiderman spectacles with the double vision corrected he’s on his way to correctable vision.

None of these setback’s have been easy but somehow we find our way to brush ourselves off and continue on loving and caring for our son and try not to be bitter about these struggles.

With all that I have learned about malnutrition my thoughts wander back to Guatemala and all of the children who won’t receive the love and care that they deserve.  I think what if Manuel was still there, would he be begging on the street? Would he be alive? It hasn’t been easy with Manuel, I won’t sugar coat adoption or parenting.  Bringing Manuel home has taught me more about the human condition that I could ever know by any other fashion.  Whether he knows it or not he’s made my heart grow wider and stronger, he’s made me a more accepting person, and to Manuel I am forever grateful to have him be my son.

This was The Answer for Manuel, Be The Answer for another child by visiting the Guatemala900 website and signing up to receive updates on the children waiting in Guatemala and what you can do to help.





The Answer for Maya and Devi

7 11 2010

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

Were you inspired this week through these stories?  This was The Answer for Maya and Devi –  Be the Answer for another child by submitting your personal story about a child in your life. Visit here for more information on how to submit your story!





The Answer for George

4 11 2010

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

 

George had An Answer. Be The Answer for another child  by spreading the word about the challenge and Joint Councils work!  Find our facebook page by clicking here, “like” our page and refer our page to 5 of  your friends!





Be The Answer for Song

4 11 2010

Song’s story is one of many for Joint Council’s National Adoption Month Adovocay Campaign. The campaign entitled “I Am The Answer” highlights stories of  children who have been part of the adoption system in some way. Some stories highlight a child finding their forever family while others are not as lucky. We encourage you to take the time to learn more about Joint Council’s National Adoption Month Advocacy Campaign by Clicking Here and then support Being The Answer by completing each task every day in November.

 

The first time I met an orphaned child who was blind, my heart ached for her.  The orphanage was crowded and loud, and she sat all day on her little chair looking overwhelmed.   I was told that her future would be difficult, as she could not attend public school, and she would most likely never find work.   The orphanage staff told me there was a good chance she would be institutionalized her entire life, simply for being blind.

So when we first learned of baby Song, I knew we had a difficult decision to make.  He had been diagnosed with retinoblastoma, an eye cancer.  Treatment involves removal of the eye, which we quickly did, knowing he could still see with his left eye.  Here he is shortly after that surgery.

Unfortunately, at his next medical exam, we learned that cancer was in his left eye as well.   To save his life, we would have to remove both eyes, leaving Song permanently blind.   This was a very difficult decision, as I knew that without adoption, we could be committing him to life in an institution.  But it was the only option to save his life, and so surgery was done.   Subsequent CT scans have shown that he is cancer free, and for that we are so thankful.  His orphanage agreed to submit him for international adoption, and he is now on China’s shared list.  But sadly, no one has stepped forward to choose him.

In June, I had the honor to meet little Song in person.   Of course I knew from his photos what a beautiful little boy he was, but meeting him face to face took my breath away.   Song is only 2 years old, but he talks like a little adult.  He happily chatted all through lunch, commenting on every dish and asking who everyone was.   Since losing his sight, his other senses have become increasingly sharp, and he could tell immediately when I was near.    His caregivers told us again and again how very smart he is, and they are all hoping that a family will want him as their son.   Without adoption, the reality is that Song’s life has little hope.   But with a family to support and love him, and provide this remarkable and intelligent little boy with an opportunity to go to school,  I know his future can be unlimited!

Amy Eldridge

Executive Director, Love Without Boundaries

(Song currently has an adoption grant towards his adoption expenses through LWB)

Be The Answer for Song  by spreading the word about the challenge and Joint Councils work!  Find our facebook page by clicking here and “like” our page and refer our page to 5 of  your friends!





Be The Answer for Jason

3 11 2010

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

Editor’s note: Today’s story comes from Steven Walker, former foster child, adoptee, and adoption advocate.  For more on Steven Walker, please visit his Official Page on Facebook.

November is National Adoption Month. It’s easy for me to celebrate National Adoption Month, because I made it. I survived the system and have become an advocate for children. However, there are many children that aren’t celebrating. It’s just another depressing month in their lives. This is a story of a friend of mine, whom I grew up with in the foster care system…

Already filled with anger and hurt, tears stream down his face as the social worker tells him they will try to find him a family for National Adoption Month.  As hope begins to fade, he sees his stuff get packed into black trash bags and his siblings move to a different home. Every night, he cries himself to sleep. What will happen to him? What will happen to his siblings? He lays there thinking.

The little boy struggled all his life, entering Foster Care at age three. He tried to be a good boy, but kept learning new details of his life. When he was five he found out he had a little sister born in Guatemala, who was adopted by a family. The agency told the family that she had no siblings. He also had seven brothers and sisters in several states across America. Most of them have been adopted or have landed in group homes. The little boy had little time to focus on his siblings as he and his sister that he was currently living with were being abused by their foster family. The dad beat them. The mother forced them to watch porn and put on their own show. At night, the boy started gaining weird feelings for his sister. He was removed from that home and his sister stayed.

The next day, he was shoved into the back of a county car and moved to a suburban family, who let him know they wanted a little girl and are only keeping him into another family can be found and to help pay for the father’s back surgery. The little boy kept crying again. He was only there five months, but it felt like an eternity of pain and anguish.

He then moved in with a couple who were in their 70’s. Things were going pretty good. They treated their grandchildren better than him, because the grandchildren were blood, but at least he wasn’t getting beaten. He lived with this couple for a year and a half, when the foster mother died and the father became ill. Their children tried taking them in but gave up after two weeks, in fear for their children.

He moved into a group home, where he was labeled as violent and likely to molest. He stayed there until just shy of his 16th birthday, when another family was willing to give him a shot. He stayed with this family for over a year. Two months short of his 18th birthday, he saw the parents get into a physical fight over whether they should keep him or not. They went on vacation in another state to decide. They came back with the answer, No. They felt he was a good kid, but said his past was too hard to overlook.

The boy felt out that all of his siblings were adopted. None of those families wanted him because of the labels put on him: ADHD, Violent, Anger Issues, Attachment Issues, Lies, Steals, Self-Injures, and risk of hurting others. They didn’t understand that he just wanted love.

The boy aged out. He became homeless. He ended up getting arrested for beating up a man who stole his coat. Sentenced to a year in jail. He walked in saying, this shouldn’t be too hard I’ve lived in prison my entire life. As he received free time in the prison yard, he began to talk to other people, and found out, a lot of them have aged out too. He wished something could be done….

This is a common thing in America. Children keep getting abused, entering foster care, getting abused there, receiving labels, aging out, repeating the trend. We need change…

Please help!!! BE THE ANSWER for children…

Be The Answer for Jason by  checking out the “I am One” Video here and visiting the campaign site www.beonetoo.org








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