Capitol Hill Needs STUCK Families

rp_2014-05-11-09.46.091-300x240.jpgLast week I had the privilege of speaking at the National Council For Adoption’s annual conference. Below is my speech, which I think is a fitting post as many STUCK families advocate for their STUCK children this week.

For one year now, our little girl, Elly, has been stuck on the other side of the world, despite having a finalized adoption decree. During this past year I have done what most STUCK parents do: become deeply involved in political advocacy. And I’ve been joined by families who were once stuck but remember what it’s like: fear and desperation, of course, but just as important: how well democracy works when we make our voices heard.

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A note about the importance of advocacy

We hear a lot of hype about ” fake orphans” who live in orphanages after being abandoned by one or even two living parents. But there is nothing fake about these children–they need families just like any child.

Unfortunately, many countries don’t terminate the rights of parents who leave their kids at orphanages and never come back. This means that these children can never be adopted.  In the U.S., we understand that children can’t develop normally without a permanent family, and for this reason, we terminate the parental rights of parents who do not parent their children. And yet, we continue to stand by and do nothing while many countries in the world leave these children locked up in institutions. Then we feel the full force of the problem when children fleeing domestic violence and crime—the byproducts of dysfunctional child welfare systems—end up on our doorstep by the tens of thousands.

I had a  guest post here, written by a brave mom who has been fighting to adopt kids who were abandoned by their parents at an orphanage many, many years ago. And I have had to pull that guest post now. Which annoys me, because it is an awesome post that is truly representative of the sorry state of international child welfare.

So why did I have to pull it? There is such a climate of fear, and adoption is so politicized, that some adoption agencies will not allow their clients to engage in advocacy by telling their stories. Today I am thankful for the many agencies who not only allow, but encourage, their clients to speak out about the need for international reform of child welfare.

Call For Guest Posts

2014-05-11 09.46.09Like many of my readers, I advocate for positive reform to child welfare policy so that all children can grow up in safe and secure families. To do so, I have shared the story of our own fight to bring our daughter home.

But I can’t effectively tell the story by myself because it is the story of thousands of families, millions of unparented children. I need your stories to be effective. I’ve already had guest posts from families stuck in the Russia ban, as well as the story of a mother who was stuck abroad for a year trying to bring her son home.

I have had a number of orphanage workers from around the world reach out with their stories, and I welcome guest posts from agencies and social workers too.

The most powerful posts are always the personal stories. I would love to publish yours. Please contact me to tell your story.

The Real Reason Why Some Charities Oppose International Adoption

rp_ChildrenDeservedfinal_B2-1024x362.jpgAn activist who opposes international adoption just wrote a post that is breathtaking in its honesty. She openly confesses her anger toward international adoption because it hinders her organization’s attempts at fundraising.

It is a striking admission because child welfare advocates have long argued that the real reason NGOs like UNICEF and Save The Children oppose international adoption is because of their focus on fundraising. But NGOs never admit that because fighting adoptions means condemning children to early death (or a life in the sex or drug trades at best) and that’s bad for their reputation as child savers, clearly. They usually fight adoption by grossly exaggerating concerns about adoption ethics, so it is refreshing to see anyone admit the real, underlying self-interest so openly.

So the NGOs actively work to keep all the kids in orphanages because they think the money families spend on adoption fees should go to the NGOs instead.

But without international adoption, would communities give more money to NGOs? I doubt it. Here’s why: families that have adopted internationally never forget about the children left behind. Adoptive families are far more active in fundraising for orphans because they feel those children left behind are part of their extended family.

By restricting international adoption, these NGOs are actually discouraging some of the most active fundraisers from donating to them. They should promote adoptions and actively educate adopted children and their families to be ambassadors for those countries in their communities back home.

But they’re not that smart. In fact, this is how small-minded they are: the blogger in question writes about how the babies in the orphanage she runs are dying left and right. But instead of drawing the logical conclusion—maybe they shouldn’t be in orphanages—she scapegoats international adoption.

Her acrobatic, dishonest argument is that supporting international adoptions requires too much time and paperwork from the orphanage staff, and such time and energy could have been used to provide more care to children, and with that care the children wouldn’t have died.

But this particular orphanage’s country isn’t even allowing international adoptions right now. Moreover, her orphanage is in a remote part of the country, which makes it unlikely that adoptions were ever processed there in any significant numbers, as does the fact that the orphanage’s funder is vehemently opposed to adoption.  And frankly, let’s be real: adoption paperwork is not so intensive that it results in such gross neglect that it kills children.

So her argument against allowing orphanages to spend time on international adoptions is complete hyperbole. Bullshit, in other words. I agree with her that bureaucracy is killing kids; but it’s killing them by NOT processing adoptions.

If you’ve had  experience with UNICEF or another NGO’s hostile stance toward adoption, add your voice to this blog.

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Report: Russian Separatists Seize Ukraine Orphanage, Use Babies As Human Shields

antoshkaNews sources are reporting that Russian separatists have set their headquarter in the Antoshka Baby House in Kramatorsk. The terrorists have moved the babies and toddlers to the top floor to use them as shields from any air attacks, because anti-terror operation leadership will not fire at residential districts, kindergartens, hospitals or schools.

The Antoshka Orphanage was founded by Life2orphans, Inc. Hundreds of children have been adopted from this orphanage and are in the homes of many loving families.

The Antoshka Baby House was at the forefront of providing support for orphans in Ukraine and providing the aid for special needs orphans to be adopted, before any other aid agency in Ukraine. “Project Empty Orphanage” was initiated at the “Antoshka” orphanage and this project was the reason why hundreds of children throughout Ukraine have been adopted.Thousands have been provided aid through Life2orphans’s many programs because of this one orphanage and the loving caregivers at this orphanage.

Photo credit: http://www.life2orphans.org/cms/

Let’s Help Canadian Families Bring Their Children Home

DuVDSBHLlrmfHmi-556x313-noPadOur daughter’s “sister” in foster care has a Canadian family. They are the same age and have been together since they were infants. We are close and have talked about how we will visit each other when we bring our girls home so that they can continue to grow up together.

But that won’t happen unless the Canadian government resumes processing Canadian visas for these families. The Canadian government has been even less responsive to adoptive families than the U.S. government, which is quite a feat.

So the Canadian families have started a petition to their Minister of Immigration and their Prime Minister, requesting that Canada process their children’s visas. Please support our Canadian families by signing on to the petition and showing that Americans understand that when it comes to adoption, we are all one big family.

Nepalgate: Investigative Report Reveals State Department Mistakenly Closed Adoption Program and then Engaged in Cover Up

PhotoCreditVickiTaufer01In August 2010, the U.S. State Department suspended adoptions from Nepal. The decision was made on hysterical, unfounded allegations of fraud. As it became apparent that the State Department had made a mistake that cost Nepali orphans and American families untold trauma and over one million dollars, the State Department engaged in a cover-up.

In the end, every family caught in the State Department’s politics was able to bring their child home. But the mistakes resulted in each orphan spending an average of 201 extra days in institutions, and an average of $25,000 for each family to fight the State Department.

To this day, the U.S. suspension of adoptions from Nepal remains in effect, eliminating any chance for Nepali orphans to find families. The Both Ends Burning Campaign has released an investigative report, “Paper Chains,” that details the State Department’s mistakes and efforts to cover up those mistakes.

The families ask that the suspension be lifted, the Department of State be held accountable for its actions, and reform be enacted by Congress so that this does not happen again. Please help by taking just a few minutes to ask members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee to hold hearings on Nepalgate. Or at least take one minute to send an electronic letter to Congress to ask for reform.

I ask you to do this not just to get justice for the families stuck in the Nepal shutdown. I ask for our own family. Our little girl, Elly, is sick with malaria. Her adoption was finalized one year ago, yet the State Department STILL has not processed her U.S. visa. If State Department had timely processed her U.S. visa last summer, taking into account that 1 in 5 children in DR Congo die before their fifth birthday, she would have been safely at home with us long ago and never would have become ill with a life-threatening disease. The State Department’s bias against adoptions is costing lives and this must change.

Play.PaperChains

Photo credit: Vicki Taufer

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Struggling with Adoption and God

keiluAdoption is a lengthy, treacherous journey. Some of my Christian friends struggle with their faith during this time: how could God keep families apart? How can God allow these children to suffer so?

I was not born into Judaism. But as a Jew, I am always struggling with God.
I’m a non-Orthodox Jew, so I pick and choose which of the many halakhah (Jewish laws) I will follow. When I decide that on Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) our family will have dinner at home and perform the blessings over the meal, but that we will still drive cars and use electricity, those choices reflect my struggle with the meaning of halakhah and God. When I selectively follow the Jewish dietary laws of kashrut, I remind myself of the values I have chosen to live by every time I eat, yet at the same time I define for myself what rituals should represent those values.

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Hundreds of Congolese Orphans Held in Limbo

This is our daughter, Elly. She was hospitalized for malaria this week. Malaria, typhoid, dysentery and parasites are frequent killers of young children in the DRC.
Malaria, typhoid, dysentery and parasites are frequent killers of young children in the DRC.

The past couple days, hundreds of American families, including ours, were hopeful they would finally be united with the children they had adopted from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Italy reportedly sent a state plane to pick up ALL of its adopted children and had them on Italian soil, united with their families, before the U.S. Embassy even notified American families that some children were being released. At the end of a long day of awaiting official news, the U.S. State Department finally announced to parents that the DRC will allow only 15 out of approximately 800 children to unite with their American adoptive families this summer.

The rest of the children’s fates will be decided by a rumored new law “reforming” (i.e., further restricting) international adoption, which DRC indicates may be applied retroactively to previously finalized adoptions.

The State Department indicates that the DRC has no timeframe in mind for passing or implementing changes to its adoption laws.

UNICEF has reported that as many as 4 million orphans live in the DRC and 1 in 5 children die before the age of five.

Adopted Congolese Children Finally Joining Their Families

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ALERT: Click HERE for Bad News Update.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is finally starting to issue exit visas for adopted children, after investigating allegations of irregularities and “rehoming,” and finding instead that legitimate orphans have been adopted into loving and secure families. I am thrilled for my friends who are packing their suitcases right now, to be united with their children at long last!

The DRC is just the latest in a long string of country adoption programs where investigations proved that allegations of fraud and/or abuse were grossly exaggerated.

Incidentally, how is it that the government of Italy sends a state plane to DRC to bring their children home, loads them up, and unites them with their families on Italian soil, before our Department of State even bothered to notify affected American families?