CCAI Featured in Award-winning Documentary Film about International Adoption


We are proud to announce that STUCK—an award winning documentary about international adoption—features CCAI’s Executive Director, Kathleen Strottman. As Kathleen explains in the documentary, which uncovers the personal, real life stories of adopted children and their parents, “the right to a family is a basic human right and our policies have to start recognizing that.”   The film also features CCA Co-Chair Senator Mary Landrieu, Senator Richard Lugar and Charles Nelson, Co-Principal Investigator of the Bucharest Early Intervention Project.

On March 1st, Both Ends Burning Founder Craig Juntenen will be launching a 60 city bus tour to promote the film and issue a call to action for the United States Government to promote international adoption as a worthy and effective way to find homes for children without families.

To view the trailer for STUCK, follow this link:

To learn about how you can help spread the word about STUCK, click here:

Haiti: One Year Later

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary since the earthquake that devastated Haiti.  As we move into year two, CCAI’s report Renewed Promise: The Welfare of Children in Haiti highlights lessons learned from the emergency relief and recovery efforts that have taken place this past year, and focuses federal policymakers on the needs that continue to exist related to orphaned and vulnerable children in Haiti.

Be sure to also check out reports from other organizations:

Photo Credit: The Haiti Orphans Project


What’s new in international adoption?

The months leading up to the annual August recess are always very busy ones, most especially in the second session of Congress.  This year is no exception.  Congress’ hefty agenda the past few months involving health care, the financial sector, and oil spill response has not stopped Congressional leaders in adoption from pursuing introduction and passage of key international adoption measures nor deterred them from fulfilling promises to serve as advocates for adoptive parents hoping to adopt from Guatemala, Russia, Uganda, and Nepal.

Check back over the next 2 weeks for a series of posts focused on individual countries and international adoption in general.  Read below for our first post on one of the many initiatives that have been underway on Capitol Hill in recent months.


According to the most recent figures from USCIS, approximately 1300 Haitian children were approved to enter the U.S. as part of the Agency’s post-earthquake humanitarian parole policy. The immigration of these children into the United States has thus far required that USCIS employ a series of policies and procedures most often used when addressing the needs unaccompanied alien children.

The Administration has done everything they can within the existing letter of the law to put these children into the position they would have been had the earthquake never occurred.  Motivated by this same goal, Congressman Fortenberry (R-NE) and Senators Gillibrand (D-NY) and Inhofe (R-OK) introduced legislation entitled “Helping Haitian Immigrants to Immigrate Immediately Act” or the HELP Haiti Act (HR 5283/S. 3411). This bill allows the nearly 1300 children who after the earthquake entered the United States for the purpose of adoption to become legal permanent residents. Without this legislation these children and their families would be subject to a two to four year immigration process and in the interim would be deprived of the benefits of having a permanent status in the United States.

Families who are in the process of adopting these children have already faced issues with adding these children to their health insurance, enrolling in school, and obtaining other benefits which are based on immigration status.  This bill passed the House of Representatives on July 20, 2010 and was agreed to by unanimous consent in the Senate on August 4, 2010.

CCAI’s Commitment to Rebuilding Haiti

On May 9th, 2010, almost five months after the earthquake, the AP published an article entitled “Desperate Parents Abandon Children in Haiti.”  In it, they described how poor parents, who had been struggling to provide for their children before the disaster, have been all but pushed over the edge by its effects.  It also describes how many of these parents have come to look to orphanages and IDP camps as places where they might receive the help they are most desperately in need of.  I was struck by one part in particular which read,

The United Nation’s Children’s Fund set up a toll-free hotline in February for abandoned or lost children who had been separated from their families during the quake. The call center has registered 960 children so far. ”We don’t call them orphans because they could have family,” explained Edward Carwardine, UNICEF’s spokesman in Haiti.

UNICEF gave the hot line number only to agencies and aid workers — not the public — for fear of an avalanche of calls from desperate families trying to unload their children.

To me, these four sentences say a lot about what is wrong with our current approach to serving  not only Haiti’s, but also the world’s orphans.  First, as always, we seem to spend more time talking about whether the children of desperately poor parents are orphans than we do in trying to prevent these parents from being in circumstances that at some point down the road will make them orphans.  Secondly, we incorrectly view the work that is going on in Haiti today as “disaster relief and response” when in truth the problems facing children in Haiti existed long before the earthquake and unless something is changed, will exist long after disaster relief has moved elsewhere.  Finally, we have yet to realize that instead of establishing a hotline number for the relatively small number of families who have been unwittingly separated from their children because of the quake, the U.S. government, the Haitian government, and its Donor and Non-Governmental partners, should be working to set up safety nets to support “the avalanche of calls from desperate families trying to unload their children.”

At CCAI, we believe that the international paradigm around serving orphan and vulnerable children must change.  Instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on caring for children because have been orphaned we need to invest millions of dollars in practice proven strategies to prevent them from being orphans.  How to do this is simple.  We must invest more in a keeping families intact and when that proves impossible, we must invest in systems to place children into other permanent family settings through kinship care, guardianship, domestic and international adoption.

To that end, CCAI recently hosted over 50 U.S. and international experts in providing permanency to children.  We asked them to collectively consider what could be done to change the system of child welfare in Haiti from one that relied heavily on institutions and international adoption to one in which depends of the fuller continuum of child welfare services described above.  I personally took away three things from this meeting.  First, the majority of the children who are abandoned to institutions in Haiti are abandoned because of poverty.  Parents (which in many cases are single mothers) place children in orphanages or worse allow them to be used as restaveks in the hope that these new homes will give them what they cannot: food, shelter, health care and an education.   It is not enough to put in place employment, housing, health care and education programs and hope that the presence of these things will assist these families.  As we do here in the United States (  i.e. TANF, SCHIP, public education, section 8   ) we must take special effort to ensure that dedicated programs exist to provide these four things specifically to children and families.

I also learned that in our desire to help, we can be part of the problem.  Haiti already had the highest rate of NGOs per capita before the storm and some reports say that the number has doubled since the disaster.  Oftentimes, well meaning organizations are providing services without the knowledge or consent of the Haitian government or which are duplicative, counterproductive or non-coordinated with other similar N.G.Os.    This situation not only makes the Haitian government appear powerless, but most likely results in a great deal of time and money being wasted.  At least in the area of child welfare, we need to shift this paradigm away from the status quo toward one in which the Haitian government is the lead and NGOs are called upon to fill needs the government wants, but cannot provide.

Finally,  this meeting emboldened me in the belief that one of the most precious forms of assistance we can provide the Haitian people moving forward is the value of our experience.  I know that several of our Nation’s top experts in education reform have already been called upon to help in establishing Haiti’s first ever publicly funded education system.  Lessons from the transformation of urban school systems, such a New Orleans, are being used as prototypes to base this type of reform in Haiti.  For the past 50 years, some of the best minds have been dedicated to ensuring the children in America have access to safe and stable families who can provide them with all they require to grow into healthy, productive future citizens.  We should use this to help the Haitian officials learn from our success and avoid our failures.

The convening was just a first step.  And CCAI remains committed to helping the Government of Haiti in establishing a child welfare system that serves children in and through families.  Looking forward realizing that day with all of you.

CCAI hosts Haiti Convening to assist in rebuilding Haiti’s child welfare system

CCAI’s “Building a Foundation for Haiti’s Children and Families” convening on May 21, 2010 successfully brought together Haitian officials, United States’ and international experts from various child welfare and protection organizations to discuss the short- and long-term needs of Haiti’s vulnerable children and to determine how they might individually and collectively support the Haitian government in the development of a child welfare system that preserves and protects a child’s right to a permanent and loving family.  This convening provided a critically important  opportunity to share, listen and learn about the most effective ways to serve Haiti’s children and families in the wake of the disaster as well as how to build a strong, sustainable child welfare system long term.

Minister Yves Cristalin during his speech

CCAI was especially honored by the participation of His Excellency Raymond Joseph, Minister Yves Cristalin, Madame Bernard Pierre, and Senator Mary Landrieu.

Visit CCAI’s Haiti Convening page for more information and footage from the convening.

Rebuilding Haiti

Now that many of the cameras have left Haiti and we’ve viewed the last footage as the heroic volunteers pull from the rubble, we must now refocus our attention on the good people who remained to set about the daunting and important work of “rebuilding” a nation.  Our work initially after the earthquake was to work with Members of Congress, the State Department, and USCIS to finalize adoptions and process visas of children who were just weeks and a final signature away from coming home permanently to their forever families.

Haitian boy in orphanage after earthquake

In an earlier post, our Executive Director, Kathleen Strottman, shared her views on the need to not merely rebuild the child welfare system that existed in Haiti prior to the earthquake, but to take this opportunity to build a better child welfare system, taking lessons learned from other disasters, such as the 2004 tsunami.  Just last week we released our CCAI Position Statement on the Orphan Needs in Haiti.  In this statement, we call on U.S. and international officials to observe the principle that the optimal setting for a child to be raised is in a family, among other principles.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper reported last month a story entitled, “Haitians Want Orphans to Stay”.  What is so disappointing about this video

is that it shows how people continue to fail to see that it is not only food and walls that are required for children to survive and thrive, it is the love and support from a family.  While orphanages are meant to meet the basic needs of children, there are some needs that only families can provide–that sense of security and constant love that every child will continue to need well beyond childhood and into adulthood.  This is why we are continuing to fight for the children of Haiti, as well as children in the U.S. and around the world, to have their basic right to a family finally met.