I had a unique opportunity to attend an orphan delegation (there I am above... I cropped others out b/c they probably don't want to be posted on my blog - hah!) between the US, UK and Ethiopia involving government, nonprofit and business leaders in all countries. We started out in London meeting at Legatum Institute, a global think tank, and then traveled to Addis Ababa for more panels, meetings and opportunities to meet with those that are being impacted by the poverty and orphan crisis in Ethiopia. Various news outlets ran the story from AP - here's a quick quote: " a high-level U.S. delegation — led by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Susan Jacobs, the State Department's special adviser on children's issues — came back impressed from a visit to Ethiopia last month in which they met President Girma Wolde-Giorgis.
"What's encouraging is they want to work with us, they want to do it right," Jacobs said in a telephone interview. "Other countries should look at what Ethiopia is trying to do." (David Crary)
It was very interesting and enlightening to be there and experience what's going on with the orphan crisis - from a government and NGO perspective. Here's a link from the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia that discusses the delegation:
Here are some links to others that were involved in the orphan delegation - these links discuss some of the activities and discussions and discoveries.
Being an adoptive mom, it was a very emotional trip for me - going back to Ethiopia after I had connected so strongly with the country and had adopted my son. I could write for hours about the trip - but I'll keep it short - just some info towards the adoptive community. From my perspective, the most important lessons from this delegation for adoptive families were these:
1. As adoptive families, we must be very careful and discerning about choosing an adoption agency when pursuing international adoption. The agency should always be nonprofit - in other words, the organization should not be depending on any income coming from "adoption fees" in order for their organization to survive. Make sure the organization is charitable and focused on raising money for orphan care (specifically for non-adoptable orphans), alternative care and increasing domestic adoption and foster families in their country.
2. If we have adopted or are considering adoption from another country, we must be willing and committed to adopting that country as well. Meaning, we must stay connected to the country for our children and our family. As a family, and as a group of adoptive families in the world - we need to communicate this to the population of our adopted countries. I'm not so sure countries realize that many adoptive families (at least the ones that I know) are very committed to their adopted countries (through service, visiting, and establishing lifelong connections as well as bringing in the culture into their own families).
3. The definition of adoption in Ethiopia (and in many countries, including the US) can be misconstrued, misunderstood and even perverted. For example, some cultures don't view adopted children as "equal" - but instead as a family "helper". We as adoptive families need to change this. The definition of adoption needs to be re-defined culturally on an international basis. A very simple legal definition (love it when the law brings it on our side) is this: "To bring a person into a specific relationship - to take another child as one's OWN child."
4. We as adoptive families can look at opportunities in participating in cultural exchange student programs from our adoptive countries. Hosting students in our homes will help us learn more about our adoptive country and also build relationships- and may offer future opportunities of our own families being hosted in our adoptive countries. Anyone interested? Let me know!
Overall, I believe that adoptive families need to come together as a strong force - a group that represents all of the adoptive families - to communicate to countries, to governments and to general people. One that is not affiliated with an agency, an NGO....just families - healthy adoptive families. What exactly would be communicating? . . . who we are.
Sometimes there are some dramatically false (and good for a story) opinions about the character and motives of families - I've heard many. Maybe people will realize that a majority of adoptive families aren't exactly
*farmers in Idaho who are looking for child laborers
*trendsetters who are desperate to improve our "open-mindedness" image for Hollywood and whomever else
*shady basement dwellers looking for bait in our trafficking business
*do-gooders who want to call themselves a heros or rescue teams.
*world dominators who want to create more purebred Americans out of foreign babies.
We are simply people who love and care for our families with all of our hearts...and have chosen to build our families in a different way - through adoption.
I took a break from the delegation to visit the slums. Here's one clip of an 80 yr old grandmother whose children had all died from AIDS. She was left with 10 grandchildren to care for - and they were all living with her in this "house". There were cots lined up against the walls up to the ceiling...and the ceiling had holes in it with water dripping through down to the dirt floor. Yes, it was heartbreaking.... along with many other experiences.
I also was able to visit Liam's original nanny from the orphanage. It was priceless - I am so grateful for our meeting. She is an amazing soul and I am very thankful for her time in Liam's life. I was able to show her recent photos of Liam!