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





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.





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.





Notes from Dept of State Ethiopia Call

11 03 2011

Following are our notes from the Department of State Office of Children’s Issues conference call regarding Ethiopian adoptions.  These notes do not represent nor are they  in any way attributable to the Department of State or US Citizenship and Immigration Services.  We are providing the notes with respect to those adoption service providers who could not participate in the conference.

We extend our thanks to the Department of State for conducting the conference call and to US Citizenship and Immigration Services for their participation and contributions.

The Department of State is Actively Involved
•    The Ethiopian Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs announced a reduction in the processing of intercountry adoption cases from 50 per day to 5 per day, effective March 10, 2011.
•    The Department of State is actively involved in discussions with the Government of Ethiopia, other governments and stakeholders.
•    A coalition of countries is preparing a proposal to assist the Ministry increase its capacity.
•    Embassy suggested that children with special need’s cases should not be delayed.
•    The US Embassy officials have a scheduled meeting with the Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs for Monday, March 14, 2011.
•    There are areas of concern related to intercountry adoption, however the reduction is disproportionate.

Adoption Cases
•    Currently there are no implementation guidelines for in-process cases.
•    For adoption cases registered with the Ethiopian court, the best estimate is a one-year delay.
•    The staff change at the Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs has been confirmed as taking effect the week of March 13, 2011.  The impact this will have on adoption cases is not known.
•    It is estimated that between 800-1,000 adoption cases are currently on the docket of Ethiopian courts.





Emergency Campaign for Ethiopia

8 03 2011

Five Things You Can do to Help!

1)      Sign the petition to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi – and pass it on!

2)     Have you adopted from Ethiopia? Please send us up to 3 photos and 50 words or less with what you would like the Ministry to know about your child – we’ll compile the information and send a book to the Ministry of Woman’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs.  Send your photos and stories by Sunday, March 12, 2011 to be included.  Please note that sending photos and stories gives Joint Council unrestricted right to use the information you provide. UPDATE: we’ve received so many emails in support that our email server has crashed!  We’ve set up an alternative email account – please start emailing your photos/stories to emergency4ethiopia@gmail.com.  Thanks for your amazing support!

3)      Share…Please send this Call to Action to family members, other adoptive parents, and everyone you know!  Post, forward and share your adoption stories via Facebook, Twitter, and blogs.  Make sure you include us in your posts so we can all hear your stories!  Here’s links to our pages: Facebook, Twitter and our blog.

4)      Stay informed: Get up-to-date information regarding the situation in Ethiopia by signing up to receive information from us:  click here to do so, make sure you choose “country and issues specific information” and “Ethiopia.”  And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and our blog!

5)      Help ensure our advocacy can continue: Joint Council is a non-profit and receives no government funding.  Please join us in ensuring more children live in safe, permanent and loving families.  Donate today!





Ethiopia Update

9 02 2011

It is Joint Council’s understanding that the Ethiopian Government has revoked Better Futures Adoption Services’ registration to operate in Ethiopia, including its ability to perform intercountry adoptions.  A notice from the U.S. Dept of State, Office of Children’s Issues regarding the revocation of Better Futures Adoption Services registration can be found by clicking here.  Please note that Better Futures Adoption Services is not a Joint Council member.

Joint Council applauds the Ethiopian government in its efforts to increase child protection through its laws and regulations.

Finally, a reminder that Joint Council has released a report regarding the range of services provided to children and families in Ethiopia.  The full report can be viewed by clicking here.





Off to Ethiopia and annoucing our $20,000 matching grant! – by Rebecca Harris

8 12 2010

We have two pieces of exciting news for you!

Tonight I leave for a Joint Council advocacy trip to Ethiopia.  While in Ethiopia our team will  work with the Ethiopian government, U.S. Dept of State, UNICEF, other governments, NGO’s, our member organizations and other child welfare professionals.  The basis of our meetings will be simple – ethical intercountry adoption needs to remain an option for Ethiopian children in need! Joint Council and our member organizations served 1.2 million children and families in Ethiopia in 2010.  In a country with 5 million orphans and where nearly 400,000 children under the age of five die every year this work needs to continue.  As a friend of intercountry adoption you know how true that statement is.  Through our I Am The Answer Campaign, you have witnessed what happens when a child’s right to a family is refused – you know what their fate is. It is our hope that you will support us in this mission by donating to our cause today.

The second piece of exciting news is that some of Joint Council’s largest supporters have pulled together to match every donation in December up to $20,000! This means that every dollar you donate – whether it’s $1 or $1000 – will go twice as far in December.  Today, please take a moment to donate to Joint Council.  We need you to join us in ensuring intercountry adoption remains an option for Ethiopian children and children throughout the world!

As always, thank you for your support of Joint Council during this Holiday Season!

Donate Today!

Rebecca Harris

Director of Programs & Services

P.S. Make sure you don’t miss a thing!  Enter your email address in the box to the right and click “sign me up” to receive emails when we update the blog during our travels.





I Am A Mother…

30 11 2010

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

“I am a mother.”  It is with these simple yet profound words that Thea Jarvis, founder and president of TLC Ministries in South Africa explains her life’s work.  In 1993, Thea established TLC Ministries amid political turmoil, racial hatred, and a growing orphan crisis in South Africa.  Today in South Africa there are approximately 2,500,000 orphans.  Thea and her family have made it their life’s mission that they help as many of these children as possible.

In its first year TLC Ministries found two orphaned children a home – Thea’s.  Thea explains, “Our first two little boys were called Joshua and Reuel…We found them in Baragwanath Hospital amongst 40 other tiny, abandoned children.  A little Albino boy, Tommy, followed a year later.  He stole and melted our hearts.  Then at two years of age those stolen hearts were melted down even further and poured out into buckets of tears when he tested HIV positive.  That was our initiation, and first taste of the very bitter cross we were going to carry in this ministry.  After Tommy, came a little boy with cleft lip and palate and we called him Brendon.  He had been abandoned in the Johannesburg Hospital.  Soon after Brendon followed Crispin, who was born to a 13-year old street child.  She already had a one year old to cope with.  A second baby was too much for her.  Soon after Brendon and Crispin had joined our family, God put the ministry into full throttle and more and more babies started finding their way to TLC…Since that time we have been growing by leaps and bounds.  I have personally adopted 14 children in addition to my 5 biological children.  My eldest daughter, Joanna, has adopted four children and has one biological son.  My next daughter, Pippa has adopted seven little ones.  Then there are another 10 who have ended up with us for various reasons, have permanently joined our family, although they are not yet adopted.”

Thea and her family realized they alone cannot help the many children in need. So, after Brendon and Crispin joined the family Thea began to work to streamline the adoption process so that children who came into the ministry who could not be reunited with their biological family could be adopted both domestically and internationally.  Meanwhile, Thea and her family moved into a larger house on an expansive farm outside of Johannesburg.  The large house includes living quarters for Thea and all her children as well as a nursery which over 35 children call home until their family is found.  The nursery is staffed by dedicated and committed volunteers.   To date, Thea and the ministry she founded has managed to help place over 750 children into permanent, safe, and loving families.  Thea, her family, and her ministry are true heroes for the children of South Africa.

Please be aware Adoptions from South Africa and TLC Ministries to the U.S. are currently not open.

You can follow Thea on her blog at http://thea-jarvis.blogspot.com/ or to learn more about TLC Ministries go to their website at www.tlc.org.za.  TLC is celebrating the Christmas Season by sharing the story of one child everyday until Christmas, check these stories at http://seasongiving.blogspot.com/ or

Please Note: Rebecca, Joint Council’s Director of Programs and Services will spend from December 15th – December 26th with Thea at TLC.  While there Rebecca will be blogging and video-blogging at http://www.betheanswerforchildren.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!





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!








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