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.

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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.

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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”).

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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 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.

UK Foster Care Reform Mirrors U.S. Reform, 20 Years Later

300px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svgIt has taken a couple decades, but UK foster care reform has finally followed the U.S. in deciding that it is much more important for a child to grow up in a permanent, transracial family than it is for that child to languish in foster care while waiting for a racial match that may never come.

In 1994, the United States enacted the Multiethnic Placement Act, which prohibits agencies from refusing or delaying foster or adoptive placements because of a child’s or foster/adoptive parent’s race, color, or national origin.

The United Kingdom’s Children and Families Act 2014 removes the duty placed on social workers to match the ethnicity of a child with their adoptive parents. It also strengthens the concept of “concurrent planning,” another important child welfare concept developed by the U.S., which allows a foster child to be placed in a prospective adoptive family’s home before the parental rights have been terminated.

The economic benefits of adoption in the UK are reported in research which used a cost calculator for children’s services developed by Loughborough University. Research suggests it costs a local authority £25,782 to have a child adopted, compared to up to £400,000 for each child remaining in long-term care.

Marathon To Bring My Daughter Home

rp_2014-07-20-17.40.40-1024x7681-300x225.jpgOn January 25th, I will run 26.2 miles in the Miami Marathon with a stroller that holds only a picture of my daughter, Ellie. This race will be tough not only physically, but emotionally, as the empty stroller will be a tangible reminder of Ellie’s absence every step of the way. Every step will remind me of how empty my arms have felt for a year and a half now as I have fought to bring home my legally adopted daughter.

Many adoptive families fundraise for their adoption costs. My husband and I are now fundraising, not for ourselves, but for the Both Ends Burning Campaign. Our family believes that the efforts of the Both Ends Burning Campaign are key to bringing home our daughter, but they can’t win without support. If you like my blog, if you support advocacy for children, if you want my daughter to come home, please consider donating to this incredible organization that fights for every child’s right to a loving and permanent family. My fundraising goal is $10,000 and I am a quarter of the way there. My friends and family have already donated, so I really need the help of my readers and the child welfare community to meet my goal.

For those unfamiliar with our family’s story, my husband and I adopted a young girl 16 months ago from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


We have yet to bring her home.

Ellie has her passport and U.S. visa and a loving family waiting for her. Yet she lives the dangerous life of an orphan: just a few months ago, Ellie was hospitalized in Congo with malaria and severe malnutrition. I spent the summer with Ellie to help nurse her back to health, and it ripped me apart to have to leave behind my beautiful, bright and loving daughter.

She’s not the only one. 1,300 Congolese orphans with American adoptive families remain stuck due to a geopolitical standoff. Shamefully, at least 11 children have died in the past year from treatable, preventable illness while waiting to be united with their adoptive families.

The Both Ends Burning Campaign helps families stuck in this heartbreaking scenario with extensive advocacy and lobbying, producing resolutions from Congress and direct communication with the highest levels of the U.S. and Congolese governments.

Please help fundraise for this important non-profit that has done so much to support our family and so many others. All donations go directly to Both Ends Burning.

Facebook and Apple: Cutting Edge on Freezing Eggs, But Not Adoption

11949891621975732799aiga_toilet_women_.svg.hiTo incentivize more women into high-powered careers, Facebook and Apple are now paying the costs for employees to freeze their eggs.

Many companies have offered alternative family formation benefits to their employees for years now, but they have done it by paying some of the adoption costs for their employees. In fact, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption tracks these benefits. Here is a list of the top 100 Adoption Friendly Workplaces.

Interestingly, Facebook and Apple are not on it. According to news reports, Facebook and Apple do offer some sort of adoption benefit, but I find it interesting that while they are leaders in supporting reproductive technology, but aren’t leaders in supporting adoption.

This is striking to me, since adoption has long been an avenue that older women have pursued to become mothers. Is adoption uncommon in Silicon Valley?



Regressive Adoption Moratoriums Kill Children

1546409_10104483866901649_397574767207325886_nAs the Ebola virus sweeps the continent where my adopted daughter is stuck, I am constantly preoccupied with how far international child welfare policy has strayed from progressive values.

This summer I visited my daughter in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where children legally adopted by foreigners have been detained for over a year now. I have been her legal mother since she was 6 months old. I watched in crazy-in-love awe as she became a toddler, no longer a baby. But I am forced to watch her grow up from afar because she is a pawn in a geopolitical game.

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