Why You Should Love “Just Love Coffee Roasters”

imgresI love a business with a heart. So I was thrilled to learn about Just Love Coffee Roasters, a company committed to great coffee beans and social justice. In its first two years of business, Just Love Coffee Roasters gave over $200,000 to adopting families, non-profit organizations, and the arts. Just Love Coffee Roasters sources only the finest Fair Trade, Direct Trade, organic, and shade-grown coffee beans from the best growing regions around the world. The company researches the co-ops it works with and is diligent about sustainability.

And I was especially moved that the founder of Just Love Coffee Roasters is now advocating for stuck DRC families by urging its buyers to sign a petition which urges President Obama to actively engage to bring home hundreds of children who have been abducted from their legal, loving families and are being held hostage.

Do you drink coffee? Please consider buying from Just Love Coffee Roasters. And while you are at it, please sign the petition!

Distorting the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

The boys with a picture of Chief White Cloud, their ancestor
The boys with two of their Native American ancestors.

This is a guest blog post from Johnston Moore. Johnston Moore and his wife Terri have been married 26 years and have adopted seven children from the Los Angeles County foster care system. After a career in Hollywood, John co-founded and now serves as Executive Director of Home Forever. John writes extensively and speaks at numerous churches and conferences about foster care and adoption, and he strongly believes that children, traumatized or not, need stability and permanence far more than some manufactured phantom connection to a culture that was never theirs.

Last December, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a new DOJ initiative aimed at promoting compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a 1978 federal law passed in response to the “wholesale removal” of Native American children from their families. Tribes were rightly concerned at the time that many Indian children were removed from their families by non-Indian social workers unfamiliar with tribal child-rearing practices and placed in non-Indian foster and adoptive homes away from Indian Country, where many were forced to assimilate into the majority culture, losing connection to the tribal life and customs in which they had been raised. Tribes and Indian families suffered greatly too, as they saw many of their younger members taken away.

In his announcement, Holder pledged to “ensure that the next generation of great tribal leaders can grow up in homes that are not only safe and loving, but also suffused with the proud traditions of Indian cultures.” In that statement, Holder demonstrates an alarming level of naiveté regarding ICWA, and the ways it is impacting children today.

I’ve often held, rather simply, that two of the measures of a good law are that, 1) it does what it was intended to do, and 2) it doesn’t do what it wasn’t intended to do. By this second measure, ICWA, though well-intentioned, fails monumentally, and does so in ways that increased compliance will mean only more disruption and trauma for many children.

Continue reading Distorting the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

Does Illinois Hate Adoption?

200px-Seal_of_Illinois.svgAn adoptive family wrote this post about what they say is Illinois’ hostile attitude toward adoption. The writer makes a detailed, insightful critique of Illinois’ interference in international adoptions, as well as specific recommendations for improving the system. I highly recommend my readers visit this blogger’s site and consider helping this blogger with her advocacy and struggle to bring home a little girl who needs permanency now.

Have any readers had specific experiences with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services? Does Illinois have a bias against adoption?

Reevaluating Child Welfare Priorities

2014-01-04 14.20.06Children enter foster care because they are in danger.

A child’s safety should be the first priority in any child welfare system, shouldn’t it? As a lawyer, I’ve been examining the role the judicial system plays in making sure children remain safe once they have been removed from danger.

But when I look around at what our judicial system is actually doing, it becomes clear that our courts too often favor a parent’s right to autonomy over a child’s right to safety.

Continue reading Reevaluating Child Welfare Priorities

NGO Campaigns to De-Institutionalize Children: Heroic or Misguided?

1Disability Rights International (DRI) is an NGO that promotes human rights for people with disabilities. Children in institutional care, such as orphanages, quickly become disabled, so it is no surprise that DRI has announced that its newest project is the Worldwide Campaign to End the Deinstitutionalization of Children.

Lumos, a charity funded and headed by J.K. Rowling, has also dedicated itself to closing orphanages.

DRI and Lumos are correct that children don’t belong in orphanages. But they also don’t belong on the streets or in dangerous homes. And I worry that these organizations, in partnering with UNICEF, will follow UNICEF’s bad example in trying to care for unparented children.

Continue reading NGO Campaigns to De-Institutionalize Children: Heroic or Misguided?

True Equality in Child Welfare

imagesHere is a video of Chris Rock discussing racial equality in America. He says:

“Just because you let Jackie Robinson in baseball doesn’t mean it’s equal. Baseball, statistically, almost isn’t equal until the seventies. And why do I say the seventies? Because that’s when you started to see bad black baseball players. The true, true equality is to suck like the white man.”

In other words, the appearance of equality is not necessarily true equality. True equality is truly equal.

Continue reading True Equality in Child Welfare

Leadership: China Expands International Adoption Program

feat_smAt a time when many poor countries, like Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are regressing in child welfare by instituting adoption moratoriums, China has just expanded its international adoption program. To better help children in China living outside of family care in orphanages and foster-homes find suitable families, China has improved eligibility requirements for adoptive parents.

As of January 1st, singles, couples older than 50, and families with more than 5 children living at home, will now be allowed to adopt children with only minor, correctible special needs (a “nonspecial focus child”).

Prior to this new policy being announced, the adoptive families listed above were restricted to adopting children with significant special needs or who were much older (“special focus children”).

Continue reading Leadership: China Expands International Adoption Program

Our Children: The Clock Is Ticking

rp_Elly-686x1024.jpgIt has been close to a year-and-a-half since the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) began detaining children legally adopted by foreigners.

The science is clear that for a child aged between 4 months and 2 years, 1-2 IQ points are lost for every single month spent in institutional care. For every 3 months in an orphanage, a child will lose 1 month of physical growth, 1 month of motor development, and 1 month of speech development. And for children older than toddlers, sexual assault at orphanages is common.

Our children have been detained for fifteen months now, to be exact. This translates to a permanent loss of 15-30 IQ points. That means that some of our children, who have been kept in institutional care, are now mentally retarded. Some of our children have almost certainly been sexually assaulted within the past fifteen months.

Our children, who we yearn for, are deteriorating every day.  They have a human right to develop normally, which, aside from survival, is the most fundamental human right there is. And they can only develop normally only in a nurturing permanent family.

The children in private foster care are faring better, but you need only look at our own country’s experience with foster care to know how lacking it is.

Disgusted and outraged at what we are going through? You can help by calling your representative or senators in Congress to let them know you care.

Kenya’s Child Welfare Regression and Lessons in Deflection

kenya_flagKenya has announced that they are closing international adoption because they are concerned about profiteering and child trafficking.

Wow. That sounds like big business. So let’s look at what would prompt Kenya to do away with one of its child welfare options, despite the hundreds of thousands of children living outside of parental care in Kenya.

The U.S. is the biggest receiver of international adoptees, so a look at U.S. numbers is usually a good indictor of how many children are being internationally adopted out of a country.

Do you know how many children were adopted from Kenya into the United States in 2013?

4 Kenyan orphans.

In 2012?

5 Kenyan orphans.

In 2011?

6 Kenyan orphans.

You get the idea. The “concern” over profiteering and child trafficking in adoptions from Kenya is a fabrication.

Kenya is deflecting. Kenya DOES have a problem with child trafficking. But not for adoption. They have tens of thousands of little girls working in the sex trade in Kenya. Child prostitution is such a problem that last year there was a scandal when it was discovered that Kenya had turned a number of orphanages into child brothels.

So actually, we see again that international adoption would actually SAVE children from child trafficking and profiteering. But I’m willing to bet that there are more than a few Kenyan government officials that profit off the status quo, and probably even frequent the child brothels themselves.

Does this make you mad? Are you, or anyone you know, willing to stand against these regressive policies? To create child-centered welfare policies and human rights for children? If so, please contact me. There are things we can do.

Kenya: Another Big Step Backwards for Child Human Rights

kenya_flagThe Department of State has posted the following adoption alert about Kenya:

“The U.S. Department of State is aware of reports in the Kenyan press on November 27 of a Kenyan government decision to ban adoptions of Kenyan children by foreigners. The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi is working through diplomatic channels to confirm these reports and gather information critical to U.S. adoption service providers and prospective adoptive families. Additional information will be posted to adoption.state.gov as it becomes available.”

Kenya has already turned its orphanages into brothels (it was in the news a year ago but the links have disappeared–that’s authoritarian government for ya). Kenya also has a well-documented problem with extreme violence against children. Almost 1 million Kenyan children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS and the number continues to grow.

So I guess Kenya’s government figures, why even pretend to care about the well-being of orphans? They think international adoption only draws attention to its problems and that they can make these children disappear from the world’s gaze if they institutionalize them and let them die on the streets.

A lot of countries have made that political calculation.

And this is my vow: those days are numbered. Countries that shut down international adoption when there are insufficient placement opportunities in-country will be held accountable for violating children’s human rights.