Daniel and Chantelle are The Answer

1 11 2010

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

I’m an “over-protective” mom. (If you look up ‘over protective’ in the dictionary, you’ll see me.) I’m the mom who considers bike helmets non-negotiable and doesn’t allow the kids to lick the cake batter bowl because they could get salmonella poisoning from the eggs. Our house rule is no driver’s licenses until the kids are 18, I spray door knobs with Lysol, and (no joke) I cut grapes in quarters until my kids are in kindergarten. (Hey! Don’t laugh! Studies show that grapes are the perfect size and shape to get lodged in little throats, and they are 1 of the top 5 most frequently choked on foods!) Yes, I’m over protective and, to be honest, I’m PROUD of it. My children were entrusted to my care and they are my treasures. I would die for them. I don’t believe in wishy washy, mamby pamby, half-hearted parenting. My kids are my life and I would do anything to protect them. Anything.

Fast forward to our story. I was surfing the net one day for other blogs of adoptive moms. I ran into a couple of blogs by some ladies named Carolyn and Erin. As I read about their families, I realized that they had not just ‘adopted’, like our family… they had adopted kids with HIV. *Full stop.* All I could think was

“WOW. Isn’t it great that these families have the courage to do that. But I never could.”

I was intrigued, though, so I poked around and was truly surprised and amazed to find a bunch of other families that had also done this “unthinkable” thing. Why weren’t they TERRIFIED for the safety of their other children? Were they careless parents? Why were they okay with something so RADICAL and RISKY!? We had 4 kids in our home already and the thought of putting them in danger was 100% unacceptable. No way. No how.

But… I’m curious by nature and I’m a researcher at heart…so I started researching. I read everything I could get my hands on about HIV/AIDS and the adoption of children with the disease. And a funny thing happened… the MORE I read, the LESS I feared.

My husband started researching with me. Expert after expert, scientific study after scientific study… they all confirmed over and over again that HIV is spread through SEX and DRUG NEEDLES, not bizarre accidents or causal contact Period. (And if we can’t believe experts like Dr. Joel Gallant of John Hopkins Center for Global Health, then who the heck CAN we believe!?)

Is there a teeny tiny, itty bitty, almost imperceivably small risk that an accident could happen and someone in our family could get infected from a blood spill? Well, yes. But there is NOTHING that we do every day that does NOT involve a risk THAT TINY. Eating could involve choking. Going outside could involve lightening strikes or West Nile virus or Swine Flu or terrorist attack. Swimming could involve drowning. Riding in the car or on an airplane could involve a crash. The list in endless.

Every day I put my kids in the car KNOWING that the risk of death from riding in a vehicle is 1 in 84. (According to the National Safety Council.) Even for HEALTHCARE WORKERS (who deal daily with blood spills and needles!) the risk of contracting HIV from one of their patients in a NON-sexual, NON-drug use way is 1 in 1000. Among NON-healthcare workers, causal household transmission JUST DOESN’T HAPPEN! (click for proof)

This was starting to sound much less “bizarre” and a whole lot more DOABLE!

Next stop – our 3 local doctors (our pediatrician and the 2 doctors of mine and my husband’s).

Our pediatrician said it was “Great that you are doing this! How exciting!” and wanted to make sure we were aware of the financial aspect and that we could find a good pediatric infectious disease specialist. She discussed how she worked with other HIV+ kids and, thus, had experience in this area. As she talked for several minutes about these things she ever-so-casually slipped in

“…and of course the child would present no danger to your family…”

and then continued on to other matters. I was so pleased with yet another resounding confirmation that HIV is nothing to be scared of.

Then I met with my main doctor and asked, “Do you have any thoughts about the safety of my other kids living with an HIV+ child?” to which she leaned back in her chair and quickly answered,

Oh no, I wouldn’t BAT AN EYE at that!!

(Those were her exact words. When she left the room for a minute to get some paperwork, I grabbed the pen in my purse and WROTE IT DOWN!) She then shared that a relative of hers is HIV positive and has done wonderfully on the ARVs for over 16 years now. She did warn us, however, that the STIGMA might be the only real challenge in regards to raising an HIV positive child. (making that about the zillionth time I had heard that warning)

My husband’s doctor was also very positive and encouraging and had no pressing worries for our other children whatsoever.

SO…Of course initially we had all those thoughts, What about our other kids? Would they be safe? What about accidents?” But, for us, it came down to a CHOICE between LOGIC or FEAR.

If we’re going to go with FEAR than we had to at least be consistent. If being around an HIV+ child was too much of a risk, then we should stop using cars, going outside when it’s raining, visiting amusement parks, going swimming, jumping on trampolines, horseback riding, and every other widely accepted but FAR more statistically ‘dangerous’ activity.

Just because the letters ‘H’ ‘I’ ‘V’ strike fear in our hearts doesn’t mean that this fear is LOGICAL or that we have to RESPOND irrationally to it. My 4 year old is afraid of ANTS, but that doesn’t mean his fear is LOGICAL. In the end, we decided to choose Logic and tell Fear to take a hike.(because, contrary to hanging out with HIV+ people, hiking IS dangerous!)

So, after all the research and consultations with medical professionals, the fear faded away and in its place came hope and potential for the future. Now we are the proud parents of a beautiful little 6 year old HIV+ girl from Ethiopia who has richly blessed our lives.

Thus, now I am an overprotective mom to 5 kids instead of 4. And still proud of it. 🙂

-Daniel & Chantelle

Daniel & Chantelle were The Answer for this child, Be The Answer by reading and learning about HIV. Click here for more information.

Be Their Voice – by Rebecca Harris

8 10 2010

When I speak to a group of adoptive families one of the first questions I ask is, “How many of you traveled to the country your child was adopted from?”  The next question I ask, “How many of you think of another child you met in the orphanage and wonder what they are doing now?  And how they are?”  And then I ask, “How many of you have followed up on that kid?”  “And how many of you learned that the child isn’t thriving?  That they are barely surviving?  Or worst, they have died alone in an orphanage?”  Next month, as part of our National Adoption Month advocacy, we’ll be sharing with you some of the stories of children who are lost and alone in this world…or who lost their lives, alone.  We’ll be sharing with you how we, as a global society, failed these children.  If you know the story of child who missed out on one of the most basic rights a child has, a right to be in a safe and permanent family, then send us their story.  Click here to learn how.

Sonje Lan Timoun – A Remembrance of Haiti’s Most Vulnerable

11 07 2010

Beginning on Monday, Joint Council will conduct a remembrance of the January 12th earthquake.  For five days we will honor those who perished in the January 12 earthquake, those who continue to struggle and all who work hand-in-hand with Haitians to create a better tomorrow for Haitian children.

Port au Prince - January 24, 2010

Here are some of our ‘must see’ for this week.  We hope that you will join us by sharing your thoughts and comments on our blog, Facebook and Twitter…and that we all remember the children of Haiti.

Monday on NPR – Did you know that we have a Global Awareness Campaign?  We do and part of the campaign is working with the media.  Tomorrow, Monday, July 12th, Joint Council’s Tom DiFilipo will do just that when he is a guest on FORUM, a radio broadcast by KQED (an affilate of National Public Radio) on Monday, July 12th at 1:00 pm EST.  Tom and three other guests will discuss the state of intercountry adoption and the crisis in Haiti. The show can be heard live, online at http://www.kqed.org/radio/listen/ at 1:00 pm EST.

Haitian Guest Blogger: Darlene Williams – Darlene is a Haitian teenager who went from the danger of the streets of Haiti to a loving family in the U.S.

Lan Timoun: A Six-Month Report on the Triumphs, Challenges and Failures of Providing Services to Children in Haiti

Humanitarian Parole & The Haitian Twelve:  Two seperate reports updating the status of Haitian children who entered the U.S. under Humanitarian Parole and the twelve Haitian children who, after six-months, remain in an institution in Pennsylvania.

Joint Council Haiti- This week we will formally announce the creation of the Joint Council of Haiti.  What is the Joint Council of Haiti?   It is our effort to help those who help children.  In Haiti, many NGOs, non-profits, churches and faith-based organizations work diligently for children, but they do it alone.  Joint Council Haiti will bring them together to share resources, knowledge and programs.  In short, we will do what we do best – help them help children.

Moving Past Humanitarian Parole: A Webinar on Finalizing Haitian Adoption and Gaining U.S. Citizenship for Adopted Children

Tom DiFilipo          Tom                    Tom Support The Children of Haiti
Joint Council        Tom                            Tom Please  Donate Today!

Honoring Birth Mothers

27 04 2010

If you don’t follow us on Facebook, perhaps you should do so today.   Here’s why…

Just nine hours ago we posted a question: “How do you honor the birth mother of your adopted chidl(ren)?  Do you?”   The response to this question has generated the largest number of comments since the inception of our Facebook page! 29 adoptive families have responded with a variety of ways that they and their adopted children remember and honor the child(ren)’s birth mom.   The responses include buying flowers and displaying them around the house to planting a tree each year to serve as a daily reminder.

As Mother’s Day nears, it is so very wonderful to know that so many adoptive families remember and honor their adopted children’s mother of birth.  If you are an adoptive parent and haven’t created your own way yet, perhaps reading the comments of adoptive families may give you a few ideas to share with your children.

Thanks to everyone who shared their family tradition with the Joint Council community.

A Perfect Example

14 09 2009

Families run into all types of barriers as they try to remain together.  As they try to do everything possible before they have to relinquish or abandon their child.    Poverty, famine, social norms and lack of medical care are all causes of children being abandoned, relinquished or placed into an institution.  Each one of them is a barrier to permanent family life.

And children living outside of a permanent family; they too run into barriers as we try to find them a permanent family.  Lack of government prioritization, indifference, overly restrictive public policy and cultural barriers to adoption all play a part in denying children one of their most basic human rights – a loving family.

But barriers can sometimes come from a most unlikely source.  The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) as part of its mandate to protect the public health, recently implemented Tuberculosis testing protocols for immigrants into the U.S.   The CDC, while well intentioned, put into place a system which was overly aggressive and resulted in children remaining in orphanages, foster care and other inappropriate settings, long past the time necessary.

One child caught in this problem and forced to remain in foster care while her adoptive parents waited to bring her to their family in the U.S. is Harper.  While even an extra day outside of a family is too long for any child, Haprer’s problems were resolved relatively quickly – thankfully she is now at home with her new family.   Harper’s unnecessary  stay in foster-care became very high profile which brought much needed public attention.

Another lesser known tragedy is that of Jaylee.  Due to the CDC’s testing requirments, Jaylee flipped between an orphanage and foster care for over 9 months. An unnecessary 9 months.  After almost a year of testing and re-testing, it was finally determined that Jaylee could enter the U.S.   If all goes well over the next week, Jaylee will soon be united with her adoptive parents.

The barrier that kept Harpe and Jaylee from joining their adoptive families is coming down.  It is expected that the CDC will soon publish revisions to the testing requirements and eliminate this barrier for hundreds and hundreds of children.

So how did this barrier come down?  The answer to that question is an almost perfect example of what Be The Answer is trying to do.   It took a lot to remove this barrier, but sometimes it takes a lot…and more.  Here is how the community banded together and became The Answer for Harper, Jaylee and hundreds of other children.

After learning of the new testing requirements, we along with other child advocates like the National Council for Adoption and the Center for Adoption Policy, talked to the CDC and with each other.  We educated ourselves on the medical issues.  And we began to raise awareness of the impact these new rules would have on children.

Joint Council launched a petition: Build Families, Not Barriers, which elevated public awareness and saw over 8,000 individuals lend their signature to the cause.  Many of us met with the CDC, Members of Congress, the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security (both play a significant role in the implementation of the testing requirements).  Other advocates like the Grace Children’s Foundation, began working with the families and children.  They raised awareness through social media like Facebook and blogs.  They raised funds to assist the parents with their unexpected costs.

The Joint Council Medical Institute was brought into the discussion and was supported by pediatric tuberculosis experts from around the country including Dr. Jeffrey Starke.   Other advocates like EACH, brought in even more medical experts, some of whom had experienced the problems of the testing requirements first hand.  The Worldwide Orphans Foundation led by Dr. Jane Aronson and the University of Minnesota International Adoption Clinic lent their expertise on orphan care and the impact the new testing requirements were having on institutionalize children.

The press jumped on the stories of children forced to remain outside of their new family.  The Washington Post, National Public Radio and the Associated Press all published articles detailing the impact of the CDC’s testing requirements.  And Examiner.com’s Cathy Doheny ran a series of articles covering virtually every aspect of the new rules.

The CDC reached out and engaged the community of medical experts, advocates, families and children.  The Department of State began working to minimize the impact of the testing requirements.   The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute facilitated briefing for Congress.   And Senators and Representatives got involved with families, with advocates and with the CDC.

Bringing down this one barrier required raising awareness amongst families and government officials.  It required mobilizing medical experts, child welfare professionals, advocates, parents, children and the public.  And it required raising funds to help children actually get to where they belong – out of an orphanage and into a permanent family.   Bringing down this barrier involved over 10,000 individuals all united with a singular goal.

This is what Be The Answer is all about.  Raising awareness, raising funds and mobilizing for change.  Maybe it is corny, but imagine what barriers we can bring down.   Economic barriers that cause parents to abandon their child or force them to be placed into an orphanage.  Social barriers that keep families of one ethnic group from being a family for a child from a different ethnic group.  Government barriers that provide no funding for children to be adopted by families of their own country.  And barriers that keep children from being adopted internationally – even when it is their only option for a loving, safe and permanent family.

Imagine what we can do.

Corny? Maybe.

Impossible?  Not if you and me decide to… raise awareness, raise funds and mobilize tens of thousands.

P.S. If there is one hero in raising awareness and mobilizing thousands, it is Dr. Jeffrey Starke.  Thanks Dr. Starke for choosing to Be The Answer for Harper, Jaylee and hundreds of other children.

The Reality

14 09 2009

A few days after the launch of Be The Answer, DSF posted a comment to our initial post.  With a healthy dose of skepticism DSF did not yet commit to  ‘be the answer’.   DSF is interested but wanted more time and information to see if this was for real – or just another fancy campaign.

We hope that the campaign is fancy.  Fancy enough to bring attention to the needs of children.  Fancy enough to motivate all of us to learn more and do more.   So, is Be The Answer real?  Yes it is.  And so is our work trying to ensure that all children live, grow and flourish in a family.  And the reasons we launched this new initiative – those reasons are real too.

Maybe the best way to describe the reality is to read a recent article published by EurasiaNet.   A little Kyrgyz orphan with hydrocephalus is about as real as it gets.  Here is a very small part of her story… read more.

Know The Question. Be The Answer

2 09 2009

Be The Answer… HomePage

It isn’t a slogan.  It’s not a company.  It’s not a place.

It’s 62,000 friends, colleagues, families.  It’s growing everyday.

It’s a MOVEMENT.  It’s you.

What Be The Answer does depends on you.  It’s only a Movement if you move.  If you do nothing, Be The Answer does nothing.  If you do anything, something, everything, Be The Answer can keep a child from being orphaned and bring a family to every child.

Empower yourself and others to use your talents and resources to make positive change for the forgotten, the uncounted, the  children who are living outside of permanent parental care, or are at risk of becoming an orphan.

Watch the video.  Find resources.  Get the word out.  Lead.  VolunteerDonate.

Join The Movement.

Be The Answer

We hope this blog will become a community forum, so let us know what you think so far.

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