February 9-11, 2011 was the beginning of a five month initiative of CCAI that focuses on six countries in Africa – Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda – and how U.S. policymakers and international players can best support efforts toward placing children in family-based care through the full continuum of care as expressed in the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.
The magnitude of the orphan crisis in Africa is understandably overwhelming for nations already challenged by poverty, war, and disease. The initial global response to this crisis resulted in the development of child welfare frameworks that are heavily reliant on institutional care and focused on providing for orphans’ and vulnerable children’s basic needs (housing, health care, food) – needs that a family might otherwise provide. Over the past several years, efforts have been made to transition away from these orphanage-based systems to move toward providing family-based care for children without parents.
With this in mind, The Way Forward Project seeks to bring together a group of international experts to discuss opportunities and challenges facing governmental, non-government organizational leaders in these African nations. Four working groups comprised of leaders from the legal, medical, social work, and development communities will present their findings and recommendations at an international policy summit this summer.
For more information on the countries the project is focusing on, the scope of the project, and a list of expert participants, visit The Way Forward Project’s website at www.thewayforwardproject.org.
One long-standing topic of debate in child welfare has been the cause of the racial disparity that exists among children in foster care. Black children, while only making up 15% of the total child population in the U.S., make up one-third of the children in foster care.
Early government mandated studies from 1986 and 1993 showed that there was not difference in child abuse rates when comparing black and white children. These findings spurred conversations that child welfare workers were exercising a racial bias which was leading to more black children being brought into care and thus the racial disparity in the system. In 1994, Congress responded by passing the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) meant to prohibit states from delaying or denying foster care or adoption placement solely on the basis of race, color or national origin. This law, in part, was meant to allow for and encourage the adoptions of black children out of foster care even when black adoptive families were not available.
Harvard Law School addressed this issue at a conference held last month named, Race & Child Welfare: Disproportionality, Disparity, Discrimination. Elizabeth Bartholet, an expert on this topic, argued against earlier claims that a racial bias exists among child welfare workers which results in minority children being removed from homes at a higher rate. Bartholet said that minority children do in fact experience higher rates of maltreatment, and therefore would make up a disproportionate rate of children in foster care. For more information about the conference, see Daniel Heimpel’s account on the Huffington Post.
Last week, Reuters Health published an article quoting Brett Drake, who recently released a study with data that affirms Bartholet’s statement, saying, “The problem is not that (Child Protective Services) workers are racists, the problem is that huge numbers of black people are living under devastating circumstances. Mitigating poverty, and the effects of poverty, would be the most powerful way to reduce child maltreatment.”
Drawing advocates back to the main issue, a fellow speaker at the conference Richard Barth argued, “Should we be so worried that the child welfare system is unfair or racist that we allow minority children to be underserved and unprotected?” According to the Harvard Law School article, “Barth noted that reducing disproportionality should not be the primary goal—it should be to improve the quality of services for all children”.
Interestingly, this long-standing debate on race and its impact on waiting children in foster care is one being discussed across the ocean as well. BBC News reported remarks recently from Mr. Martin Narey who just retired after five years as the chief executive at the United Kingdom’s leading children’s charity, Barnardo’s. The BBC article quotes Mr. Narey as stating that in the United Kingdom, “”The law is very clear. A child should not stay in care for an undue length of time while waiting for adoptive parents of the same ethnicity. But the reality is that black, Asian and mixed race children wait three times longer than white children.” He expressed the opinion that adoption agencies working to place children in the UK’s foster care system with adoptive families allow delays in placement because they are reluctant to let white families adopt minority children. In November, UK Children’s Minister Tim Loughton sent a letter to local officials expressing that the finding that sometimes “there may be over sensitivity on the grounds of ethnicity when it comes to the matching of children with prospective adopters” “troubled” him.
While debates may continue long into the future, child welfare experts in both the U.S. and U.K. can agree that a great need remains for adoptive families of all ethnic backgrounds to step forward and realize each waiting child’s right to a family.
On this Valentine’s Day, I wanted to share words from one of our Angels in Adoption, Alicia Quigley, as she talks about love:
I had only been dating Jim for a couple of weeks when he made a comment at dinner that probably wouldn’t mean much to anyone else, but put him on an entirely different level than any other guy I had ever known. After listening to other people discuss their great retirement plans, and their excitement about “finally being retired and able to start living,” he quietly confessed to me that when he retired he wanted to run a ranch for children with Down Syndrome.
What’s a girl to do when she finds a guy like that?! We were married a few months later and wasted no time starting a family.
It was 1990 when I saw the first 20/20 television show about the orphans in Romania, and I knew in an instant that our lives were about to change dramatically. After prayerfully considering the decision to adopt a child from a Romanian orphanage, we felt compelled to do whatever it took to pursue this unexpected challenge in our lives.
My husband Jim was the one who journeyed to Romania to find our child. After two months of starvation, emotional torture, evil, corruption and trauma, he was able to remove our beautiful son from the orphanage. The nurse at the orphanage told Jim that our new 11-month-old son, whom we had not yet seen, had muscular dystrophy and would never walk, talk or progress beyond the infant stage. And she was right…up until the moment Jim walked out of the orphanage with him.
Romanian nurses should never confuse a medical diagnosis with sheer neglect. By the time Jordan was seven he was a world-class gymnast. Jordan recently began coaching boys gymnastics full-time in Idaho Falls, at age 20. Several of his previous students have qualified for nationals.
I have never performed at a sporting event, ‘wow-ed’ a crowd with my singing abilities or run a Fortune 500 company. I feel confident, however, in saying that the feeling of exhilaration you receive from any of those accomplishments could possibly outshine the joy of taking a child from darkness and despair and watching the miracle as they blossom and grow in the light of a family’s love.
NPR interviewed Michael Oher to discuss the motivation behind his new book, ‘I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness to The Blind Side and Beyond‘. Through the 2009 blockbuster The Blind Side, the nation learned Michael’s story of growing up with his 11 siblings in Memphis, having been born into a bad situation with a crack-addicted mother who lived in a neighborhood caught in the cycle of youth dropping out of school, joining gangs, and living a life of violence.
Michael is now an offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. During the interview he shared that football was always his number one and that he felt people already knew his life story, so why did he need to write a book? But after receiving thousands of letters from youth who were growing up in similar situations he realized the significant impact he can have on others by continuing to share his story.
As Michael began researching the foster care system to write his book–even after growing up in the foster care himself–Michael couldn’t believe the poor outcomes of these youth. He shared that this he wanted his book to be more than his life story, but rather a guide for youth and adults who impact the lives of youth in foster care.
Last week, CCAI hosted a reception to highlight the need for the world’s orphans to find forever families and to encourage leaders and advocates to continue their work on these issues. This reception took place the evening before the National Prayer Breakfast and was attended by federal policymakers, business executives, and world leaders. Sen. Mary Landrieu and Sen. James Inhofe, the Co-chairs of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, spoke on behalf of Congress’ adoption caucus highlighting the need for legislation to be created that will promote the well-being of children in need of families.
Sen. Landrieu reminded us all that these orphans do not have people to speak on their behalf, rather, it is our duty to speak out for these children in need:
Sen. Inhofe shared how his adoptive granddaughter from Ethiopia has enlightened his work on adoption policy:
The report shows that the total number for FY 2010 is 11,059 adoptions. For the 6th year in a row, intercountry adoption has been on a steady decline. Over the past decade, intercountry adoption saw a peak at 22,990 in FY 2004, however, the past two years we have seen numbers lower than they were in FY 1999.
Again this past year, China has been the top sending country at 3,401 total adoptions. The second and third sending countries also remained unchanged from FY 2009 with Ethiopia at 2,513 total adoptions, and Russia at 1,082.