Ambassador Jacobs Travels to Cambodia and Vietnam

15 03 2011

The US Department of State has issued the following statement regarding Special Advisor for Children’s Issues Ambassador Susan Jacobs visit to Cambodia and Vietnam.

Since joining the Office of Children’s Issues, Ambassador Jacobs has been a tireless advocate traveling to Kyrgyzstan, Guatemala, South Korea and Ethiopia.  Joint Council both appreciates and supports Ambassador Jacobs continuing efforts to work with governments around the world.

The full text of the Department of State’s statement can be found below and here.


Special Advisor for Children’s Issues Ambassador Susan Jacobs will visit Cambodia and Vietnam March 16 – 23 for meetings on intercountry adoptions.

In Cambodia, she will meet with government officials and non-governmental adoption stakeholders to discuss how the United States can work together with the Cambodian government to further support Cambodia’s efforts to fully implement a new law on intercountry adoption. Adoption from Cambodia was suspended in 2001.

In Vietnam, Ambassador Jacobs will meet with government officials to discuss Vietnam’s stated goal of acceding to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The United States welcomes Vietnam’s strong efforts to create a child welfare system and an intercountry adoption process that will meet its obligations under the Convention. The processing of adoptions for Vietnam was suspended in 2008.

For more information about intercountry adoption in Cambodia and Vietnam, visit:

For updates on Special Advisor Susan Jacobs’ trip, follow her on twitter:

Ethiopia – Update 3/14/11

14 03 2011

Various blogs and listservs are reporting that the Ethiopian Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs has announced a revised plan which includes the processing of 20 adoption cases per day.  While Joint Council has also been provided with this information, it is our understanding that no decision has been made or announcement published by the Government of Ethiopia.

We believe that it is premature to speculate on the intentions of the Ministry but rather seek to continue to partner with the Government of Ethiopia and use this opportunity to increase child and family protections while continuing intercountry adoption.  Joint Council fully supports the government’s efforts to increase the capacity for regulatory oversight of service providers, strengthen the review of each adoption case and expand social services to Ethiopian children and families.



Ethiopia Update 3/10/11

10 03 2011

Processing Limit
It has been confirmed that the new policy of limiting the number of adoption cases processed by the Ethiopian Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs went into effect today, March 10, 2011 with 5 cases being completed.   While a staffing change at the Ministry was confirmed as having occurred earlier in the week, this did not affect the implementation of the new processing limit.

Emergency Campaign for Ethiopian Children
To date, over 29,000 concerned individuals have signed the petition requesting a reconsideration of the new policy.   We continue our daily dialogue and will respectfully present the signatures, petition and letter to the Government of Ethiopia early next week.

Briefing by the Department of State Office of Children’s Issues
We, along with other key stakeholders and adoption service providers licensed by the Ethiopian government to provide intercountry adoption services, will participate in a briefing by the Department of State Office of Children’s Issues, on Friday, March 11, 2011.  An update will be published sometime after the meeting.

Ongoing Discussion
It is our understanding that discussions regarding the new policy and its impact on children living without permanent parental care continues within the Ethiopian government and amongst all stakeholders.

We remain hopeful and continue to support the Ethiopian government’s efforts to increase the capacity for oversight of adoption cases, regulation of service providers and provision of social services to vulnerable families and children.

Ethiopia: Campaign Update

9 03 2011

In only 24-hours, over 11,000 concerned individuals have joined our Emergency Campaign for Ethiopian Children by signing our petition. We extend our thanks to all who have supported this initiative by signing the petition, distributing the campaign information and expressing your support of child protections and ethical adoption.

Today, we have continued our communication with the Ethiopian government and respectfully brought the outpouring of concern to them. We believe that there may have been positive developments and will provide further updates as information is confirmed.



Statement on Children and Family Services in Ethiopia

9 03 2011

March 9, 2011

Statement on Children and Family Services in Ethiopia

The work of Joint Council on International Children’s Services includes the development and implementation of the highest standards and ethical practices, the support of children living outside of family care and advocacy for permanency.  As a leader in the international child welfare community, we are deeply concerned about the well-being of Ethiopian children and the integrity of the intercountry Read the rest of this entry »

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  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!

Statement on the Pending Reduction of Intercountry Adoption in Ethiopia

7 03 2011

Statement on the Pending Reduction of Intercountry Adoption in Ethiopia

Last week the Ethiopian Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs announced their intention to reduce intercountry adoptions by 90% beginning March 10, 2011.  The Ministry’s plan for a dramatic reduction is apparently based on two primary issues; 1) the assumption that corruption in intercountry adoption is systemic and rampant and 2) the Ministry’s resources should be focused on the children for whom intercountry adoption is not an option.  Without further announcements by the Government of Ethiopia, it is our understanding that the Ministry’s plan will be initiated this week.

The Ministry’s plan is a tragic, unnecessary and disproportionate reaction to concerns of isolated abuses in the adoption process and fails to reflect the overwhelmingly positive, ethical and legal services provided to children and families through intercountry adoption.  Rather than eliminate the right of Ethiopian children to a permanent family, we encourage the Ministry to accept the partnerships offered by governments, NGOs, and foundations.  Such partnerships could increase the Ministry’s capacity to regulate service providers and further ensure ethical adoptions.

The Ministry’s plan which calls for the processing of only five adoption cases per work day, will result not only in systemic and lasting damage to a large sector of social services, but will have an immediate impact on the lives and futures of children.  Moving from over 4,000 adoptions per year to less than 500 will result in thousands of children languishing in under-regulated and poorly resourced institutions for years.  For those children who are currently institutionalized and legally available for adoption, the Ministry’s plan will increase their time languishing in institutions for up to 7-years.

Joint Council respectfully urges the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs to reconsider their plan and to partner with governments, NGOs and foundations to achieve their goals and avoid the coming tragedy for children and families.


In addition to this formal statement,we are also preparing a large scale advocacy, education and awareness campaign, which will launch later this week.  We will post details here, so please check back for the launch of this urgent and important campaign.

We hope you will join us in advocating for the continuation of intercountry adoption in Ethiopia.

South Africa: City of Gold

27 12 2010

The City of Gold at sunset

In one of the African dialects (which I can’t remember, please forgive me!), the city of Johannesburg is literally translated into “city of gold.” This comes from the gold rush which launched the city into the most industrialized city in Africa. The name has stuck and thousands of people from all over Africa – Zimbabwe, Mozambique and others – travel great distances to come to this “city of gold.” However, what they find here isn’t often a city of gold. South Africa has an unemployment rate of over 30% – three times the US rate. Instead of finding the gold they had expected many find the same tin shacks and lack of jobs they had left in their motherland.

Across the street from the guest house we are staying at 12,000 people, who came to Johannesburg to find their city of gold, live in tin shacks. This squatter camp is the basis of Zoe’s work. Today as we drive through the camp everyone – from the town alcoholics to the lively children wave with a welcoming smile saying, “Hello sister Zoe!” It seems that the whole camp knows her name.

Today we visited with three women. The first, who in some ways reminds me of Zemzem, seems to have her hands in just about every money making venture possible – she sells the clothes she buys from Zoe, runs a small crèche for the children in the camp whose parents are sick, sells wigs, and has about five other schemes. The second has come across marital trouble (her husband is abusive and appeared on her doorstep with a second wife) and Zoe has recently helped her build a new shack as she was kicked out of her abusive husband’s. And the third runs a day care for 28 children.

Family and friends at TLC

The last stop was probably my favorite of the day. While Zoe chatted with the woman my mom and I played tag and tickle with the seven children who were at her place at the time. It always amazes me the universality of a good tickle – every child understands it no matter what country they are from! The other universal, “naaa-na-na-naa-na!” always means, “please try to catch me, I am teasing you saying that you can’t catch me but I really want you to please catch me!” It’s so lovely to know that in every country, every child will love this affection! Our game became so ruckus that the children from the neighboring homes came to see what all the commotion was about! Sorry, no pictures of this, for safety reasons we traveled into the camp without any valuables (no money, cell phone, camera, nothing).

The last stop in the camp was to bring a totally blind man to his home. He is cared for by the community of the camp. He was having lunch at one woman’s place and his next door neighbor will cook him dinner. Zoe brought her some food to help care for him – with the money Zoe makes from selling the clothes to the local woman (which they then sell as a means of income) she buys food for the individuals in the camp who aren’t able to care for themselves, it’s really an impressive system she’s developed!

Upon our arrival back at TLC we discovered a large food donation being delivered, all of the older kids were carrying in loads of sugar, salt, juice, etc. This donation will help ensure that the children and the family have a wonderful Christmas. Our afternoon was spent sorting this donation and doing one of my favorite things, taking a small group of kids out for a special treat, ice cream. The five kids we took out we’re just little babies when I was here last. It was so amazing to sit down and have a proper chat with them! Again, sorry no pictures – two white women with five black children outside of Soweto brings enough attention without out a camera but I’ll try to get pictures of the kids tomorrow.

All in all, today was a wonderful day – exactly what I wanted to do with my Holiday Season – help others and make life a little more enjoyable for a few very special people.


P.S. We’ve finished – sorting clothes that is! My mother and I spent the better part of 14 hours over the last three days sorting clothing for the local woman to sell (see previous post with more details by clicking here). It was a tiring feat but well worth it. While we sorted the clothes Zoe was able to help many in the community, including the starving women who come to the gate at TLC begging for food for themselves and their children. She remarked to me that it felt like she was accomplishing two tasks at once – she was able to help others throughout the day knowing that one of her major tasks was still being accomplished. I’m so grateful to help her be able to help more families in the community.

Ethiopia: The Last Day

20 12 2010

Very early this morning, as the sun was rising above the streets of Addis Ababa, I watched the city welcome a new day.  As I watched the city awaken – the women walking to start their day’s work, the soon-to-be world class runners going for their morning jog and the donkeys slowly march the grains to the market – I reflected on the lesson this and every advocacy trip reinforces: the best way to serve children is to collaborate-to work together everyday.

Earlier this year while in Port-au-Prince, Joint Council hosted a meeting of our colleagues working to serve the children and families of Haiti.  As Tom and I conducted the meeting it became evident that some of the organizations working in the same city, in the same district, in the same camps were not communicating and in fact  didn’t even know the other organizations existed.  One organization talked about their struggles to create a new foster family program in Port-au-Prince while in the meeting room was another organization who had already developed a foster care program years ago. They had trained foster families, and placed children in foster homes.  All of this in the same city, the same district, the same camp. Yet this was the first time they met.  A few months later, the two organizations are now working together and instead of ‘recreating the wheel’, they are sharing resources and getting more kids off the streets and into families.  This is why the work of Joint Council is so important – we bring people together, we find common ground, common needs and shared resources.  And through what is often a simple introduction, more children get the help they need.

More than once this past week in Addis Ababa a similar scene was repeated.  Over the last year three different, well-respect organizations, governmental bodies and inter-governmental bodies created standards for orphanage care and for de-institutionalization in Ethiopia.  Imagine if their energies had been focused on a collaborative effort to produce one set of standards.  Imagine how less confusing it would be for the very caregivers who are supposed to follow the standards.  And imagine how many more children could receive better care in the orphanages if they had worked together.

The same is true for rooting out corruption in the child welfare system , or to put it as Ambassador Jacobs said, “to do it right.”  There is so much going right in Ethiopia.  From a ground breaking foster care program put in place by Buckner International to the  Family Empowerment Program established by Wide Horizons For Children.  From the HIV/AIDS programs of World Wide Orphans to the long-term care facility run by Adoption Advocates International.  Yes, much is being done right.

But there are concerns about unethical practices and abuse.  If we are going to eliminate overt corruption then it will take all of us working together.  We are all responsible for helping children and we all play a vital role in making sure it happens ethically.  And if we are not fighting to end the corruption, are we not complacent in it?  No one government, no one NGO and no one individual can do it alone.  It must be done together.

This week, I met with government officials from Ethiopia, the US, Italy and Spain.  I worked with UNICEF, Ethiopian NGOs and US Adoption Service Providers.  I even met with local child welfare leaders.  From these meetings I could see that collaborative efforts were in fact underway.  This being said, I also saw many barriers that keep people from working together.  Some in the child protection community refuse to share information with Adoption Service Providers.  Too many leaders of NGOs will not meet with the leaders of other NGOs.  And perhaps most sadly, while some shared with me their concerns about specific incidents of abuse, it was not reported to any government authority.  Failures to share information, declining invitations to work with one another and refusing to report abuse all contribute in some way to the violation of the rights of children and families.  If we are in fact going to make it right, I hope we can expand on the collaboration that does exist and truly work for the best interest of the children.


P.S. I’m heading to Johannesburg, South Africa today but my blog posts won’t stop.  You’ll be able to follow my very different journey in Johannesburg while I help care for children without families.

Ethiopia: Day 1 from Rebecca

10 12 2010

I arrived late last night to the darkness of Addis Ababa.  The first thing that struck me on my return to this wonderful country was the relative calm of the city.   “I don’t remember ever thinking that Addis was calm” I thought to myself.  And as I looked around I saw the same sights I’d seen before – the taxis crowded around the Elephant Café, the legless child begging on the street corner, and the men and woman walking home late at night.  Everything was the same as before, so why did it seem so different?

Then I remembered.  I’d spent much of my time aboard this year in post-earthquake Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  I had a new definition of chaos.  As my good friend was picking me up at the airport I commented to him on how calm the city felt.  “Why?” he asked, “Addis isn’t calm.”  I explained my trips to Haiti.  “Why?” he asked again, “why did Haiti feel so much more chaotic?”  As we drove down a silent street in Addis I painted him a picture of Haiti.  Imagine…the road is bumper to bumper cars, even like now, when it is late at night, and every fifteen feet or so there is a big pile of dirt, dust and broken concrete that all the cars have to gently maneuver around.  All along the road destroyed homes, hundreds of tents and thousands of people all seeming to move at one time.  Everywhere you turn.

Even tonight, after a long day, as I rest at my hotel I think of Haiti and how much my life, my views has changed since the earthquake in Haiti.  Just over a month ago, I was speaking with another friend, who runs one of the most well respected orphan care organizations I know.  We were discussing Joint Council’s, I am the Answer Campaign and the children we have cared for who have passed away.  She made a simple remark, “It is experiences like those that say with us, you never forget a child who died in your arms.”  It’s been almost a year since the earthquake and still the emotions, visions and heart-ache sit with me, raw, waiting to surface.  Just like Mbali, the little girl who died in my arms stays with me, Haiti will never leave – it will always surface.  But I’m not here to talk about Haiti, I’m in Ethiopia.

After a less than restful night’s sleep I headed to the U.S. Embassy to discuss their perspectives on the current intercountry adoption Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: