U.S. State Department Covers Up Smear Campaign Against Families Adopting From Ethiopia

A friend's little boy, finally home.
A friend’s little boy, finally home.

Look at four thousand of anything and you’re bound to turn up a bad apple. Or egg. Or fraudulent adoption.

Except looking didn’t find one–not one out of 4000, even though the U.S. State Department wanted and needed to find one.

In January of 2011, a joint team from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of State reviewed 4,000 consecutive adoptions from Ethiopia, looking for evidence that fraud was prevalent in Ethiopian adoptions. The State Department needed evidence to back up a smear campaign they had begun to wage against Ethiopian adoptions. But after a field investigation and an extensive, careful analysis, the team found that not one single case among those 4,000 was fraudulent.

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International Adoption Restrictions and Modernization Backlash

2014-07-30 18.04.19Adoption is a modern phenomenon.

True adoption–assuming legal responsibility for a child as if that child had been born of you–bestows rights to the child, and rights but also responsibilities upon the parent. True adoption makes an adopted child equal to all the other children in the house. True adoption protects children with the right of inheritance, government benefits, and a great number of safeguards.

Some countries don’t understand how true adoption works. It is a foreign concept. Instead, their cultures, and certain NGOs like UNICEF and Save the Children, promote “kinship care,” the closest approximation of adoption in countries without the security of adoption.

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Action Alert for STUCK Canadian Families: Call-In Day is TODAY!

DuVDSBHLlrmfHmi-556x313-noPadOur daughter’s  foster care sister has a Canadian family. They are the same age and have been together since they were infants. Our families look forward to visiting each other when we bring our girls home so that they can continue to grow up together.

But that won’t happen unless Canada’s Citizen and Immigration Department issues visas to these legally adopted children. Moreover, the Canadian government and its Department of Foreign Affairs have failed to meaningfully engage with the Congolese government to bring these children home to their families.

So the Canadian families have organized Call-In Days the week of August 25th to demand that Canada’s leaders advocate for their families. Let’s show Canada that when it comes to adoption, the world understands that we are all one big family. Cellular phone calls from the U.S. to Canada are free.

Here is the call-in script and contacts:

I am contacting your office regarding the Canadians adopting from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I am asking the Canadian government to please issue visas to these legally adopted children without delay and to proactively engage with the Congolese government to bring these children home to their waiting families.”

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister
403-253-7990 or stephen.harper@parl.gc.ca
Chris Alexander, Minister of Immigration
613-995-8042 or chris.alexander@parl.gc.ca
John Walsh, President of the Conservative Part of Canada
866-808-8407 or johnwalsh@conservative.ca
John Baird, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs
613-995-1851 or bairdj@parl.gc.ca
Employees in the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Africa desk:
Daniel Vezina 343-203-3426

Vincent Charron  343-203-3322 

The Importance of Stability, Parental Love and Beautiful Hair

2014-07-13 14.32.31For the first two weeks, I was scared of combing my Congolese daughter’s hair. Fortunately it was very short, so the need to detangle was not pressing. I was still scared of pulling it. Of breakage. Of not applying enough product. Or too much. Or at the wrong time. I really overthought this and had a fair amount of anxiety. I stuck solely to conditioning washes and coconut oil.

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Spending Money on Even One Adoption is Great for the World

2014-07-20 17.42.10There is a type of comment I regularly get on this blog from the anti-adoption nuts:

“The money you are spending to bring just one child out of her country could be used to build a clinic or school, fund a doctor, public health nurse, or teacher for a year, to improve the lives of everyone in the village. How is taking one child benefitting the thousands left behind?”

The question is whether adoptive families—who are a tiny, insignificant percentage of players in the global orphan crisis—who spend $30K for our adoption costs, should contribute to charities instead. Which begs the question: Would the world be a better place overall with that approach, even though the children who would have been adopted would die?

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DRC Adoption “Suspension” Re-Victimizes Orphans

My heart breaks every day since I had to leave my daughter behind
My heart keeps breaking every day since having to leave my daughter behind

What do you do when your youngest daughter wakes from her nap with terrified shrieks and sobbing?

What I did was run from the next room to pick her up and rock her, and tell her how much I love her.

What I did not do is tell her how I would always be there for her, and that I would never leave her. I couldn’t tell her these things because they’re not true.

Even after a few minutes of closeness, she clung to me so fiercely it felt like she was trying to crawl inside of me. She is terrified of being abandoned. Again.

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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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