No to corruption. Yes to families.

14 03 2011

by Rebecca Harris, Director of Programs & Services

The following as an excerpt from our newsletter, Mbali’s Message.  Sign up to receive it by clicking here.

Already in 2011 we’ve seen Ethiopia move to reduce intercountry adoptions by 90% and Kazakhstan officially suspend adoptions in anticipation of their ratification of the Hague Convention.  Haiti and Ukraine are on what we’ve termed our “high alert” list – countries that show indications of closing in the next 12-months. This is a scene we’ve seen play out over and over again, in country after country.  And every time a country has chosen to suspend or close intercountry adoptions, children suffer.  It’s a scene that is quite frankly, confusing, unneccessary, and very disturbing.
In allowing this to occur, we’ve failed the biological families who need preservation services, we’ve failed the children who legitimately need intercountry adoption and we’ve failed our global community.  I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of failure.  I’m tired of seeing children, like Addison, become “collateral damage” in the battle against abuse.  Allowing children to die needlessly and alone is simply unacceptable.

Over the last ten years we’ve fought the good fight.  But we’ve lost too many times.  And every time we lose, children lose.  This month we’ll release a report about the systematic elimination of intercountry adoption and the decrease in services to children.  And we’ll ask you to join us in changing the tide.  We’ll ask you to rally your friends and family to stand up and say “No” to corruption and “Yes” to families.  It’s not enough to just stop bad things from happening – we have to make good things happen too!

So, be on the look out over the next month – in your inbox and our website – I hope you’ll join me in standing up and demanding the fulfillment of every child’s right to a safe, permanent and loving family.  Join me in speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves.

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 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.

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.

Mobilizing for Haitian Children

25 09 2009

Joint Council launched a Call To Action in support of a new child protection and adoption law in Haiti.  To learn more and participate (making a few phone calls) – please visit the Haiti Call To Action.  Thanks!

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