Recap of CCAI’s Delegation of Guatemalan Officials

CCAI was honored to host a delegation of Guatemalan judges, child welfare administrators and social work professionals for a judicial and administrative child welfare training tour in the United States in April 2013. We invited these individuals to participate in our Pathways to Permanency project because of their direct involvement in the welfare of children in Guatemala.  Our hope is that this exchange will inspire these individuals to become agents of change in their own communities. 

Washington, D.C. • New Orleans• Dallas

 Washington, D.C.

In Washington, D.C., the delegates visited the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and received overviews on the U.S. dependency system from Presiding Judge of the D.C. Family Court Zoe Bush and the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency. Judge Bush gave the delegates an insider’s view of how moving to a “One Family, One Judge” court model has transformed the way they serve children and families.  The group  then observed a kinship guardianship hearing in which a grandmother sought guardianship of her three granddaughters under the protest of one of the children’s biological fathers.  Through this hearing, the delegates were able to get a better sense of how important it is to have all parties interest, but most especially the child’s, represented in court.

Presiding Judge of the D.C. Family Court Zoe Bush speaking to the Delegation at the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

While at the court they also met with D.C. judicial child welfare resource organizations including the Children’s Law Center of D.C., the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, and the Child Protection Division of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the U.S. Department of Justice. Discussions centered on the role of the attorney in child welfare, and the importance of giving voice to children, youth and parents in legal proceedings.  A presentation on social workforce capacity strengthening followed, with International Social Services – United States of America, the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance and CapacityPlus. The delegation discussed the vital role of the social workforce, and how judges and lawyers can play an important role in elevating and valuing this profession in Guatemala. 

Presentations from Children’s Law Center of D.C., the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, and the Child Protection Division of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the U.S. Department of Justice.

On day two in Washington,   he delegates  met with Assistant Secretary George Sheldon and Commissioner Bryan Samuels at the Administration for Children, Youth and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services and were briefed on the role of the U.S. federal government in child welfare, as well as some of the major shifts in U.S. child welfare law and policy and lessons the U.S. has learned over the past several years.  This meeting was followed by a briefing by officials at the Office of Children’s Issues in the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Center for Excellence on Children in Adversity at USAID onthe role each of these U.S. agencies in intercountry adoptions and international child welfare.

While in Washington, the delegates also met with United States Congressional leaders including Senators Landrieu, Klobuchar, Menendez and Sessions, and then attended a welcome reception at the U.S. Capitol Building with local child welfare and business leaders and comments from Ambassador Francisco Villagran of the Embassy of Guatemala and Carlos Duran, Founder of Hombres de Palabra (Men of Their Word).

Meeting with United States Senators Landrieu and Klobuchar at the U.S. Capitol.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Judicial and Systems Training

Graciously hosted by the Supreme Court of Louisiana in New Orleans, the delegation met with world renowned Doctor Dr. Charles Zeanah of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Tulane University School of Medicine.  Dr. Zeanah presented the latest brain science related to the development of children in institutional care with a focus on how interventions of family care (parenting skills training, foster care and adoption) have the ability to transform a child’s development  in the window before they are 24 months old.  He drew upon examples from his research from the Bucharest Early Intervention Study as well as his work in the United States. 

Dr. Zeanah presenting the brain science related to the development of children in institutional care.

The delegation also participated in discussions with state child welfare administrators from Louisiana and Colorado, child welfare policy and subject matter experts focusing on the importance of data, technology and public-private partnerships.  Speakers included: Brent Villemarette, Deputy Secretary of Programs, Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services, Sharen Ford, Ph.D., Manager, Permanency Unit, Division of Child Welfare Services, Colorado Department of Human Services, Sue Badeau, Child Welfare Policy Expert, Dr. Mark Testa, Ph.D., Spears-Turner Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Dr. Jean Geran, Ph.D., EACH, Inc.

Several judges also lent their expertise to the trainings: Judges Guy Bradberry, Thomas Duplantier, Ernestine Gray, Patricia Koch, Madeleine Landrieu, Sharon Marchman all left their dockets to spend time sharing and learning with their Guatemalan counterparts.  The group discussed the similarities and differences between U.S. and Guatemalan laws, the importance of making timely decisions in court, systems improvement and national and local judicial leadership.

The delegation discussing the similarities and differences between U.S. and Guatemalan laws, the importance of making timely decisions in court, systems improvement and national and local judicial leadership with Louisiana Judges and CCAI.

Dallas, Texas

Engaging in Regional Best-Practices and Implementation

In Dallas, the Guatemalan delegation first met with Texas State child welfare leaders Audrey Deckinga, Assistant Commissioner for Child Protective Services at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services; Tina Amberboy, Executive Director at the Texas Supreme Court Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families; and Pamela K. Parker, Special Projects Attorney at the Texas Department of Family & Protective Services.  They shared with the group about Texas’ past five years of reform efforts and how they as a state have made significant progress through collaborations, partnerships and policy changes.

State of Texas Child Welfare Leaders Audrey Deckinga, Pamela Parker, and Tina Amberboy.

A highlight of the visit to Dallas for the delegates was the opportunity to hear about models of best practices in care from their colleagues in other countries in Latin America.  Esli Moreno, Coordinator of the Honduran Family Strengthening Project at the Orphan Institute Permanency Center in Honduras, Claudia Leon, Executive Director of Buckner Peru, and Dr. Cecilia Casanueva, Ph.D., Research Psychologist at Research Triangle International with a project in Chile each shared the challenges their programs operate within in each nation and the importance of best practice models and data tracking to make the case for family care of children in these nations. 

Supreme Court Magistrate, Gustavo Mendizabal, asks a question.

Finally, the group had the unique opportunity to learn from Buckner International’s country and program directors about lessons Buckner has learned in its over 100 years of caring for children and families.  Dr. Albert Reyes, President and CEO stressed how important it was for Buckner to move from its original orphanage based model to its current community based approach which is now caring for children in 14 countries. They highlighted their Community Transformation Center and Family Pathways models, as well as shared from the non-governmental organization’s perspective on public-private partnerships. Discussions focused on how to adapt and apply best-practice models the delegation had learned about to succeed in Guatemala’s judicial and child welfare systems. 

Group shot of the Delegation, CCAI and Buckner in front of the Maris Alumni Center.

CCAI would like to acknowledge the generous support of the GHR Foundation for the Pathways to Permanency Project.


CCAI Holiday Newsletter Available Now!

December 2012_Page_01

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s Holiday Newsletter is available here.

Highlights include:

  • National Adoption Day 2012
  • CCAI/CASA Holiday Wish List Program
  • Kathleen Strottman: All I want for Christmas is a Family for Every Child 
  • CCAI Field Visit to Columbus, Ohio

Please note the pending adoption and foster care legislation is included on pages 8-18 and upcoming events are listed on page one.

During this holiday season, we are once again reminded of the important role family plays in our lives. On behalf of all of us at CCAI, thank you for supporting us as we work to ensure that every child has their right to a family realized.

Happy Holidays!

Kathleen’s Thanksgiving Message

On this the eve of the day that our Nation stops to give thanks for all that is good in our lives, I have been thinking of the many people that CCAI has met and partnered with over the last year.  Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world, for indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

Today of all days, I am grateful for having had the opportunity to work with all of you–you are truly some of our world’s most amazing people and I am continually inspired by your passion and commitment to find a family for every child.  Since this is a blog, not a book, I cannot outline for you all the people who have made a difference in my life this year.  And so in the spirit of Letterman, I will just close with the “Top Ten Things I am Grateful for This Thanksgiving.”

10) For my incredible staff, who never say never.

9) For my mom and dad, who instilled in me a life long appreciation of family.

8) For my friends and family, who put up with my being an always late and often absent minded work-a-holic.

7) For Rita Soronen and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, who proved to the world there is no such thing as an unwanted child.

6) For Joshua DuBois and Michael Wear of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships who are putting new meaning behind the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child.”

5) For Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, my hero, who has always been willing to use her position and power for the benefit of the least among us.

4) For the Foster Youth Interns, all 120 of you, not a day goes by that I am not inspired by you and your passion for changing the world.

3) For the staff of the over 160 Members of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, for your willingness to work long hours for little reward and your choosing to use your voice for children without one.

2) For our funding partners, without whom, there would be no CCAI.  We strive every day to be worthy of your continued investment.

1) For Amy Corlew, 2011 Angel in Adoption, for reminding me what our work is all about!

 Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy 10th Anniversary CCAI!

Today, CCAI celebrates its ten year anniversary!  Kerry Hasenbalg, CCAI’s Founding Executive Director and current CCAI Advisory Board Member, shares her reflections on the impact CCAI has made this past decade.

From Louisiana to Myanmar, Haiti to Japan, it seems that this last decade has been riddled with natural disasters of epic proportions.  Yet, in the aftermath of each tragedy, we have also witnessed rescue efforts of rivaling proportions.

When news of such mass human suffering is heard, countless people are compelled to act.  But the truth is that in every corner of our society every single day children are living out their own personal disasters as they are becoming fatherless and motherless.  The number of children who are considered orphans today is 50 times greater than the highest death toll on record resulting from any single natural disaster.

Ten years ago, CCAI became a voice in our nation’s capital on behalf these millions of children in crisis.  And looking back, I realize that as an organization it has been incredibly successful at making the issues facing orphans and foster children very real to the lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Its ability to facilitate education interactions between those working in the trenches of child welfare and those at the highest level of government is unsurpassed.

One of my first events with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption was putting up a physical maze in the Rayburn House Office building for Members of Congress to walk through and get a “feel” for what it would be like to be “stuck” in foster care.  At the end of the maze there were a group of young adults who had “aged out” waiting to meet the Members as they exited the maze.   As a result of a conversation which took place between Senator Mary Landrieu and one of these youths, the Coalition got its first intern to help with the work.   The power of this one intern’s testimony brought about a two-fold increase in congressional involvement in our child welfare events on “the Hill”.  As CCAI recognized the power of a story to affect change for these millions of children and the need to bring like voices to the Hill, CCAI’s foster youth internship program was born.

Since that time there have been more than one hundred interns who have taken part in this program.  Not only have more informed laws affecting kids been written as a result of these internships but these young people have also received a much deserved “leg up” in their own future endeavors.  It has been amazingly satisfying to watch how the graduates have gone on to affect change all over the world for vulnerable children.

From CCAI’s foster youth internship program to its domestic roundtables, Capitol Hill briefings and international fact-finding trips, CCAI is affecting real and lasting change. Today, CCAI’s clarion call to organize and mobilize is being heard around the globe; and its results are being felt in the places which matter most – the hearts of countless children. I am proud to have been a part of the early workings of CCAI; and I am exceedingly blessed to now be witnessing how it continues to carrying out its mission in such creative and effectual ways.

Just as I had the opportunity to plow the fields at CCAI in its early days working on these issues at the macro level, I am now personally witnessing their importance at the micro level in entirely new ways. My husband and I finished our home study this last year and although we have not yet adopted, the completion of our home study has allowed us to provide respite care for foster families.  We are currently providing care for our friend’s foster son while they are in Haiti helping to rebuild.

And as we oversee this precious nine-year-old boy’s daily activities, we are reminded how impressionable is his young mind and how fragile are his emotions.  In order that he and other children in similar situations can continue to be protected, encouraged and advocated for, it is critical that lawmakers are also kept “in touch” with the fragility of these young souls.  CCAI is doing a tremendous job keeping these truths top of mind for our federal legislators.  Governments don’t do a good job raising children; children are meant to be raised in families, not under the care of the state.  So, while we still have children under the care of Uncle Sam, it is comforting to know that CCAI is active in ensuring that Uncle Sam protects these little ones and acts properly on their behalf.

CCAI recognizes that the best emergency response teams are the ones who listen to those in the middle of the crisis because the ones on the ground likely possess the information most critical to rectifying the problems and mending the fractures. I applaud CCAI for bringing the testimonies of those “on the ground,” such as: orphans, foster children, adoptive families, and orphan care workers who are caught in the middle of the child welfare crisis to the ears of government representatives who have the power to respond to the pain and affect positive change on a grand scale. So, to those at CCAI, I encourage you to keep on keeping on even when it’s difficult because your labor is not in vain. Happy 10 year Anniversary!


Kerry Hasenbalg

Founding Executive Director, CCAI

More than an internship

Interning with CCAI means more to me than just a way to expand my skill set and enhance my resume. As a member of an adoptive family, this internship is yet another opportunity to be a part of the cause of finding families for every child. I’ve been a part of the adoption cause since I was four years old when I first overheard my parents discussing the prospect of bringing a sibling into the family—a moment I still vividly remember. Before I knew it, Thanksgiving Day 1996 had arrived, and I was waiting at the airport for what seemed like hours to finally see my brand new sister come off the airplane and into our lives.

Other adopted kids, adoption agencies, National Adoption Day…I’ve been exposed to it all for fourteen years now. Our summers were filled with picnics and pool parties with other adopted children from Russia, Vietnam, South Korea, and dozens of other countries. The highlight of my experience with adoption came last summer when I travelled with my sister and mom to my sister’s orphanage in Rostov-on-Don. I was familiar with the look of the building after years of watching the home videos my dad had taken, but nothing quite prepared me for the dozens and dozens of little children who were all so excited to see the visitors from America. I was moved to meet “mamas” and nurses who could still remember my sister from more than a decade before. The most overwhelming emotion for me was that, for once, I felt as though I had been adopted. I was greeted with as much enthusiasm as my sister by our hosts even though I am not an adopted child and had never met them before.

Last week at the events for Angels in Adoption, I was faced with the same heartwarming feeling of the adoption community. Angels that I had communicated with over the phone and by email were even more gracious in person, and their excitement was infectious. I was repeatedly impressed with their efforts to find permanent homes and families for children the world over, and I constantly wished that I had more time to talk with them about their personal stories. It was so fulfilling to finally meet someone who had formerly been just a biography or a slideshow photo. Every smile and hug made my hours at the office seem like nothing.

In particular, I came away with an even greater appreciation of what my parents did for our family in adopting my sister. I feel so grateful to not only CCAI but the Angels for giving me the opportunity to make a contribution back to the adoption community. I’ve learned so much already, and I can’t wait to see what this internship has in store for me for my next two months.

-Charlotte McCoy, 2010 Fall Intern

Charlotte: bottom row, 2nd from right

Watch FMC’s Short Video ’24 Hours in DC’

Fostering Media Connections (FMC) organized a press conference with CCAI held at the end of last month to draw media attention to the lack of educational stability for foster youth.  Our goal was to highlight the need for the department of education to work along with the department of child welfare to coordinate a plan for educational stability for youth in care.  Watch FMC’s short video about the days leading up to our press conference:

For a full video of the press conference, click here.