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.

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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





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





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.

 





Christian Alliance Adoption Summit on May 12-13

2 04 2011

The Christian Alliance for Orphans will hold their seventh orphan summit, SUMMIT VII, on May 12-13, 2011 in Louisville, KY.

Tom DiFilipo along with Kathleen Strottman, Executive Director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and Chuck Johnson of the National Council For Adoption, are the scheduled luncheon presenters on the state of intercountry adoption. While we have attended six of the seven Summits, this is the first year that we will support the SUMMIT by presenting. We greatly appreciate the work of the Christian Alliance for Orphans and value our growing collaborations.

Details on SUMMIT VII including registration, can be found at any of the following links: Summit Events, Special Features, and Sessions.

We look forward to seeing you at the Joint Council Conference and Medical Institute on April 11-13 (click here for details or to register) and at SUMMIT VII.








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