Saturday, April 27, 2013

Build Hope

(*Update April 27, 2013- $250 out of $1500 needed to go to DRC.  Here is where you can read why I want to go.*)


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Little Chikurru, shortly after coming to the orphanage (mom died giving birth to her and her twin sister).

I thought I would share this incredible work of a friend of mine in eastern DRC.  This is so close to my heart because the orphanage we support is full of little ones who have all lost their mothers, most in childbirth.  I want to support projects that support women and give them the care they need to have a safe birth.  Dominique V-Plaza shared on my blog here.  And here is her website.  Please check out the video and the beautiful congolese women singing in the video.  Taken from her website:

Who are we?
Channel Initiative is a startup organization, committed to responding to the urgent needs of the poorest, unserved, most vulnerable communities worldwide. We do this through creating a forum for nonprofit organizations, mission-minded businesses, churches, individuals, and activists around the world to collaborate and channel resources into effective, locally-owned solutions. Channel Initiative's pilot project is called Build Hope.  Build Hope is a campaign to improve access to health care and save women's lives in a rural community in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Together with our local partner: Panzi Hospital, we will:
1. Build a one-stop health center in Kilungutwe, where women can receive emergency obstetric care and a comprehensive range of services after being raped.
2. Empower women and families in the community through providing health education and resources on reproductive health, child-care and, basic family health.
3. Resource and train the community's traditional birthing attendants and support already existing health infrastructure
4. Protect survivors of rape by ensuring access to all the care they need in one location, free of cost.
5. Strengthen the community by conducting public health campaigns targeting: malaria, diarrhea and water-borne diseases.

What do we want?
There is a desperate need for women in rural communities to be able to access life-saving medical care without putting themselves at risk of rape and death by traveling to urban clinics.
In February 2013, we began our project to address women’s health in the Kilungutwe village in the Mwenga territory, under the umbrella of projects operated by the prolific Panzi Hospital and its founder: Dr. Denis Mukwege.
Dr. Denis Mukwege is a highly skilled gynecologist, the recipient of several international awards, and a three time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. He founded Panzi Hospital with the assistance of UNICEF as a response to the health-challenges facing Congolese women.
Today, the Panzi Hospital is an internationally renowned health-care facility that has revolutionized gynecological care for rape-survivors and other women in Eastern Congo. It is one of the few health-facilities in the entire country with the capacity to perform fistula-repair surgery, and is responsible for several large-scale women’s rights and public health campaigns in the region.
Panzi Hospital has committed to taking the lead in improving access to health-care throughout the DR Congo for survivors of sexual violence and women in general. It is this vision to ensure that women in the farthest flung reaches are able to access care, that Channel Initiative is determined to champion.

Why should you help us?
Women are being targeted in the Congolese conflict that has lasted for over fifteen years. Rape is used as a systematic weapon of war, and each day approximately 45 women are raped. In addition to this, women remain at extreme risk, especially in villages where there are no hospitals or health facilities. With your support, we can help change the reality for women in the rural community of Kilungutwe, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, by ensuring access to emergency obstetric care, and care for survivors of sexual violence. Together we can start making strides toward a hopeful and promising future for Congolese women. 

And what will this do?
Your support will help us cover the costs of dong a training seminar in the village for 100 women. This seminar will teach women about their menstrual cycle, and how to space their births naturally. Thanks to some kind supporters, we are prepared to distribute over 100 packages with Cycle Beads and reusable sanitary pads, but resources are nothing if women are not empowered with knowledge on how to use them. You can help us accomplish this!

10 Days for life.
There is still so much light and life in the DRC. We have so many reasons to hope and to continue on! That’s what we want this to be: 10 days, for life, love, peace, triumph and hope. We want to celebrate life and encourage everyone who supports us that there are still countless reasons to continue on building hope with us!

Not just about a dollar
We can be honest and say that your financial support will help us a great deal! But this campaign is about so much more than just a dollar! Here are three great ways you can join in, even if you're not able to give:

1. Just celebrate with us! Encourage everyone that the DRC is not just a "heart of darkness" but a place we can be hopeful for! Share the link to our campaign page!
2. We are always in need of volunteer help. Contact us if you're interested in donating your time!
3. Coordinate your own campaign! You might not be able to give, but maybe you know people who might be. Get creative! Contact us for help with creating your own campaign to support Build Hope!  Please visit their website here.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

"What is so important?" (what happens when you get embassy alerts in your inbox)

(*Update May 5, 2013- $1700 out of $1500 needed to go to DRC.  I'm going to DRC, thank you! *)



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Today while I was at work, I received an embassy travel alert about travel to DRC.  I've seen many of those over the years, and while we were living in DRC I tended to ignore them.  I mean, we were living  in the place where the embassy warned people against traveling.  Given that I am about to fly to eastern DRC (assuming I raise the funds I need to raise first) in the coming months, the warning felt different than it did before.  Now I live in an area of relative safety and peace.  I no longer live in an area that makes the news or where I daily see guns and soldiers on walks with my kids.   It feels different to read the following statements and buy a plane ticket to the same area they are describing.

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) (DRC). The Department strongly recommends you avoid all travel to the city of Goma and the province of North Kivu, and all but essential travel to the province of South Kivu and the Ituri region in the province of Oriental. 
Armed groups, bandits, and elements of the Congolese military remain security concerns in eastern and northeastern DRC. These armed groups, primarily located in the North Kivu, South Kivu, and Orientale provinces, as well as the northern part of Katanga province, and the eastern part of Maniema province, are known to pillage, steal vehicles, kidnap, rape, kill, and carry out military or paramilitary operations in which civilians are indiscriminately targeted. 

I commented on this at work and one of my co-workers was shocked I would consider going to eastern DRC.  She read the email over my shoulder.  She said she didn't think I should go given the dangers.

And then she asked, "What is it that is so important that you need to go there?"   That question really hit me hard.  I thought for a minute and replied, it's not "what", it's "who".   Immediately, a little girl came to mind in answer to her question.

This little girl.

July 2011

This is Chito Wambili.  I have known her for 3 years and two months.  Saying goodbye to her was very, very hard.  She is why I must go back to DRC.  She is that important.   I first met her when she was 14 months old.  She was in a crib in the corner of the orphanage we were visiting for the first time. She was very quiet.  Disturbingly quiet.  I went over to her and could only cry.  Her eyes, just a blank stare.  Hands clenched up by her face.  She lay in her crib, rocking her body back and forth and back and forth.  I reached out to stroke her arm and she shuddered.  She glanced my way and then stared back up at the ceiling again.  She couldn't even hold her head up and she weighed very little.  She wasn't touched by any of the staff that day, except once to be changed and fed and it became apparent on subsequent visits that she was rarely touched.  I didn't blame the staff.  There were two women most days with 40 or more small children.  The orphanage didn't have older children that helped hold the younger ones.  The women were doing the very best they could.  But if you didn't cry and fight to get your needs met, you were overlooked.  And Chito was very overlooked.

Over the next year and a half or so, we visited often and improved the conditions at the orphanage.  The mamas were happy to finally have enough formula to feed the babies and more women to help them.  Chito still looked lost, even though physically she was slowly improving, she learned to hold her head up, to sit, to stand, to walk.  Once a friend visited with me and she caught a brief fleeting smile.  She was still hiding her heart deep inside, but she was beginning to let us see glimpses.

When I knew I we were leaving Congo, I wasn't sure how I would say goodbye to any of the children, especially this little one.  Because she was the one that I fought for most of all.  She was the one who was hurting the most.  The one who encouraged me to keep raising funds, to make the orphanage a different place for the children living there.

When I arrived at the orphanage that last day in July, I was completely shocked to see that she was the first child to come toddling to our vehicle to greet us!  I was even more shocked when she raised up her hands to be held.  And then astounded when she looked in my eyes and smiled, and even laughed!  I don't know if I can put words to that moment.  I felt like I was seeing her for the first time, that her light was shining brightly and there was nothing holding her back.   It was one of the best moments I have ever experienced.

What I wish I could say was that she went home to her family shortly thereafter.  I wish I could tell you that she was reunified with them and she no longer lived in an orphanage.  I wish I could say her trusting little heart had a happy ending.  But I can't.

Her family is from another territory, a territory where there is constant insecurity and fighting.  A place that isn't safe and hard to get in and out of right now.  It will take time to find her family, assess their needs and their ability to care for Chito.  Why do I need to go to DRC?  For her, for little Chito Wambili.  Because she and children like her shouldn't linger for years in the orphanage.

Instead of lingering in the orphanage, babies that enter in the orphanage need a rapid assessment done on their family.  There needs to be a plan in place that ensures their time in the orphanage is short, or not at all.  The assessment needs to capture the critical time when the family is known and accessible.  And then thorough follow up needs to take place so that the family is not lost to the staff and the child.  Then if the family situation is not one that is safe for the child, alternative care can be implemented.  This is what we want to be a part of doing.  

Chito's family hasn't visited in years.  Much is unknown about their situation.  She arrived when her mother died giving birth to her and her twin sister.  Her twin sister died when she was around 7 months old.  It was a time when resources for the orphanage were dwindling and there were too many babies to care for and too few staff.

Why is it important that I visit DRC?  Because when I look at the photos I receive of her every few months from our director, I see the deep sadness and hopelessness in her eyes.  This cannot and should not be the end of her story.  That trust with which she reached up her arms to me two years ago must be honored.    She is loved, by us and most of all by God.  She is not forgotten.

January 2013
Please consider supporting our work in eastern DRC.  There are so many children and families that are in very vulnerable situations that need our support to bring hope back into their lives.  Let's do everything we can to come alongside those that are already on the ground fighting to bring light, hope, and healing back into the brokenness of children and their families who are caught up in the insecurity, darkness, and instability of eastern DRC.   

Our website is www.reedsofhope.org.

 




Wednesday, April 24, 2013

missing some kids

Holding Ziruka who was reunited with her family.  

I am hoping to go to DRC for a trip to visit our work within the next 6 months (hopefully sooner rather than later).  It has been one year and nine months since I have been to see the children I love.  Not only do I miss them but I really need to visit our programs.  I have, up until now, raised funds for specific on ground work like formula for the babies, hiring new staff, and school fees.  Thanks to a very generous donation we received yesterday, we will be able to pay the third trimester of school fees completely.  Today, I would like to ask if anyone would be interested in contributing to a "general fund" that would go to support the trip to DRC.  Specifically, the funds would be used to cover on ground transportation in DRC, the cost of registering Reeds of Hope as a DRC humanitarian organization, a translator for the more technical meetings with the leadership (when we present our new contracts as Reeds of Hope and changes we want to implement in the years ahead), and the flight from Kigali, Rwanda to the border.  I need to raise $1500 for this general fund to support this trip.  If you feel like this is something you would like to support, here is our paypal button.  And our website is www.reedsofhope.org if you would like to learn more about our work in eastern DRC.  Thank you in advance.  


  




  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Things I have been reading.

The Livesay Haiti Weblog has had some really great posts recently about care for families, adoption, open adoption, justice, love.  Such honest compelling writing.  First do no Harm. and Working for Justice in Adoption.  and  linking A Map of Adoption Ethics.    Reading their blog and following the stories of the women they serve is quite inspiring; the women are inspiring.    In the first post linked here she comments that through their work they have seen 250 women keep their newborns and not relinquish them for adoption.  So inspiring.


Two posts talking about the book that has been released called The Child Catchers.  The first post is an interview with the author which was really interesting.  The second is one of many refections to the book and articles about the book which I found thoughtful and sincere.  "Actually, this is something that all Christians need to be aware of so that we can be sure to fight for ethical adoptions so that we can be above reproach."

This article was close to my heart as it is eastern DRC where we lived for so long.  After reading it, I remembered my experience running with women who had been raped.  That was an incredible memorable day.  I remember running while holding hands with a woman who was about 5 feet tall (I'm quite tall) who held my hand for the entire run, smiling the whole time.  It was humbling and inspiring.  I was left speechless at the resiliency and bravery of the women in eastern DRC.  The part that made me connect that day to the article I read was that I remember trucks of men driving past yelling at the women and making rude gestures.  So, as I read this article, I really resonated with the writer as she said:  


But in the DRC I discovered something worse than rape as a weapon of war. I discovered an underlying culture of rape in which violating women sexually has become normalized, accepted. In this extremely patriarchal society, boys are taught that being a man means dominating women. Rapists are congratulated on being "man enough" to "take a woman."
Congolese surgeon Monique Kapamba Yangoy explained that the DRC has laws prohibiting men from having sex with girls under 18, but they're not enforced. It is not uncommon for girls as young as fifth grade to ensure "success" in school by having sex with their teachers. University students who demand that their professors wear condoms when they have sex with them tend to get lower grades than girls who don't demand condoms. Women are often asked to have sex with potential employers before they can get a job.
Perhaps the deepest problem, suggests Dr. Yangoy, is that women in such cultures are conditioned to believe they truly are of little value. So they lose the will to fight back, to stand up for themselves, to expect just and loving treatment.
In the DRC, as in many countries, churches have often reinforced this perspective by preaching a perverted message of female submission. Women are to submit, period. No one mentions that men are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church—even to the point of giving his life for his beloved. No one mentions the concept of mutual submission.
But in the DRC that is beginning to change. One reason I work with World Relief Congo is that it actively works toward the slow but sustainable transformation of cultural attitudes toward gender and sex. I sat with Congolese church leaders as Dr. Yangoy challenged them as a woman, a doctor, and a Christian to use their positions of power to protect and empower women and girls.
Recently, at a gathering of women leaders from around the world, I joined women from many faiths in denouncing the actions of those who wrongly use our sacred texts and belief systems to degrade women. Together we agreed to give our voices, our money, and our time to the people, organizations, and cultural movements that honor rather than degrade women. Please join me—for the sake of every woman in India, in the DRC, and in your community and mine.

Monday, April 22, 2013

DRC Family Code (part 3)

This is part three in a series of posts about the Family Code Law in DRC.  It addresses many topics but also states adoption law in DRC.  My comments are in italics.  Bolded items are ones that really struck me as noteworthy today.  

Article 662

The mother and father of the minor adoptee must both consent to the adoption.  If either the father or mother are deceased, are unable to express his or her will, have no known residence, or have been deprived of parental authority, consent will be given jointly by the husband or wife and a member of his/her spouse's family designated by the peace court upon proposition of the family counsel.  When lineage of a minor established only with regards to one of its originators, that parent may consent alone to the adoption.

Article 669

Adoption of one person by another who is single, widowed or divorced and of the opposite sex may not be admitted unless there are circumstances justify it.

Article 671

The consent of the adopter and the adoptee shall be given in person, before the court.   When it is not given in person before the court, the consent of the father and mother of the adoptee, of the person charged to give his consent jointly with one of the parents according to articles 662 and 663, of the guardian or of the adoptee's family counsel, of the spouse of the adopter and of the adoptee, this must result in an authentic certificate established by a civil affairs officer, a notary or a diplomatic or Zairian consulate.  Consent given by an authentic certificate can be retracted in the same manner, until the petition to adopt is filed.

Article 672

The examination of the petition and, where appropriate, discussions shall take place in counsel chamber.  The court, after having, if appropriate, proceeded with an investigation by every qualified person, and after having verified if all legal conditions are met, shall grant the adoption...

Article 674

The adoption ruling is susceptible to appeal and to recourse of annulment by the adopters, the adoptee, by those from whom consent is required, as well as the public prosecutor.  The waiting period shall commence from the ruling.  The adoption granted by a decision made in force of res judicata cannot be attacked by way of invalidity...

Article 676

Adoption produces its effects from the day of the application filing.  The adoption is binding only when the ruling has been transcribed.

Article 677

The adoptee is considered in all respects as the child of the adopter.  He/she enters into the adopter's family.

Article 678

The adoptee retains his/her ties with his/her birth family.  His/her descendants have ties with the adoptive family of origin.

Almost sounds like this is mandating open adoption.

Article 679

In all cases where a choice must be made between the adoptive family and the birth family, the adoptive family is preferred, unless the law provides otherwise.

Article 680

Adoption does not cause any civil relation between the adoptive family and the adoptee's family.

Article 689

The adoptee, his/her spouse and their descendants may not request food/subsistence from the adoptee's birth family unless the adoptive family is unable to provide.  They must feed the ancestors of the adoptee's birth family in the case where the birth family cannot turn to another family member in order to obtain support.  

Does this say what it looks like it says?  The adoptee must feed the ancestors of their birth family if the birth family cannot turn to another family member for support.  Honestly, my first thought on reading this?  Zaire (now DRC) has it spot on!  (Go ahead, send all the criticism my way.)  I think we are tied irrevocably with our children's first families.  I think, because of this tie, if my children's birth family is starving and cannot turn to another family member for support, we should feed them.  Do you think I am reading this wrong?  What is your interpretation?  What do you think?  Should we feed our children's ancestors if they are starving and cannot turn to family members for help?  

I think DRC is an incredible country and legalized the care and obligation to support each others families.  Wow.  

I think I will stop there for today and finish in a fourth post.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

And the orange juice wins again (culture shock and life in the U.S.)

When we first came back to the states, I struggled with a lot of culture shock (or reverse culture shock I guess it is technically called).  Our experience in eastern DRC was such that I even had culture shock in Kigali or Nairobi when we went on vacation.  The time that I really struggled when we moved back to the states was in the grocery store.  I think that is pretty common, it is just so very overwhelming due to the number of choices in every single food category.   I remember the first time I shopped for our family.  I was in Wegmans.  I was surrounded by rows and rows and rows of food.  So much food.  I found myself hyperventilating and on the verge of a complete panic attack.  Somehow I found myself in the international food aisle and then started crying when I saw cans of NIDO and bottles of Coke.

The city we lived in eastern DRC didn't have the big grocery stores we would find on our vacation trips to Kigali or Nairobi.  Most of the stores are one room affairs with a wide collection of articles ranging from food to cheap chinese toys to clothes to mosquito rackets to pirated DVDs to Fisher Price baby toys that cost $50.  The one "grocery store" in town was where we did a lot of our shopping (non-perishable).  It had about 10 rows I think, that I could see over.  We would take our time in that store, trying to find something new and different that had come, or buying the last coveted tin of "real" oatmeal.  The best was finding a brand we recognized from the states or a treat from Europe.  News usually spread fast when there was something special on those shelves.  The back held the electronics.  There I bought my washing machine.  That is another story for another day, but I have never loved any machine more that that laundry machine.

The UN opened a PX the last year we were there (year a half?) and because of Mike's job we were able to get in and shop.  Wow.  We were like little kids in a candy store!  Things we would buy there--frozen chicken breasts, canned vegetables we couldn't get locally, dark chocolate (!), juice (at a cheaper price).  Compared to the U.S. the selection was small, but it didn't matter at all to us, because to us it was amazing.

Now, it's been a year and a half plus some.  It's getting better.  I no longer have panic attacks in the grocery store, but I still always find myself in the international food aisle.  Especially after an encounter with the refrigerated goods aisle.  I don't know what it is, but there is something about the orange juice section which throws me every time.  It's like I have have some weird trigger and as soon as I stand there I start breathing fast and breaking out in a sweat!!  Today I stood there and there were about 20 different kinds of orange juice made by the same people.  "Some pulp" "no pulp" "lots of pulp" "grove stand" "calcium added" "homestyle some pulp calcium added" "homestyle some pulp no calcium" "homestyle lots of pulp" and on and on.  Really??!!  Does anyone know what the difference is between all the orange juice?  Does anyone care?  Does anyone come in with a list that says, "bread, eggs, Orange Juice Homestyle no pulp calcium" on it?  I feel like I am being sold happiness in a bottle (depending on my personality type) and I better get it right or who knows what will happen to the rest of my day and week.  Seriously.

I think I go into Wegmans geared for battle as I think about that aisle.  Today, I said to myself, "I will not let the orange juice work me into a frenzy.  Today I will calmly peruse the selections and within two minutes I will make a reasonable decision and put the orange juice in my cart and walk away with a slightly triumphant smile on my face that says "you did not beat me today".  But no, that is not what not what happened today.  I stood there with a total befuddled and slightly panicked look on my face as I stood and read the labels.  I started to sweat.  I started to feel anxious.  And finally about 10 minutes later I grabbed one in desperation, threw it in the cart and raced away.  I found the international food aisle and did deep breathing.  In and out, In and out.  When I got home I found out what I had grabbed, "homestyle some pulp".    Hoping for happiness all week long.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Finding the courage to keep speaking the truth.

I read this post today.  Here is a small excerpt of an amazing post.  Please take the time to read the whole article.

I think most adoptive families (choosing to adopt internationally especially) enter into the process thinking they will be helping a child that desperately needs a family. Over and over adoption is marketed as- "Giving a child what they deserve:  A family."  My struggle is, most of these kids have that family before we arrive. We've not done enough to help their families have other options. We've not invested enough time in educating the birth families; first families frequently don't fully understand what they signed up for, nor do they understand what they can expect in the future. 

After reading it,  I felt incredibly convicted and also inspired to keep on speaking out about my role in adoptions.  Since I started talking about my role in adoptions I have received a lot of opposition.  I started sharing my story regarding my involvement in adoptions here and here.   As a brief recap (but please read my posts first), I helped facilitate adoptions for Our Family in Africa about 3 1/2 years ago, which I did until about 3 years ago.  After that point, I gave guidance to families who were independently adopting children from the orphanage we work with, as well (though I didn't facilitate the adoptions).  Most of these families have brought their children home.   Starting about a year to nine months ago I also started questioning my role in any future adoptions from the orphanage because I began to feel very convicted about whether it was "right" to offer international adoption as the only solution to the extreme poverty that prevented the family from caring for their children.  I began to feel more and more conflicted about the reasons why the children were being adopted in the first place.  I began to worry that I had been a part of children being adopted that had families that wanted them but couldn't care for them.

And my heart broke and still feels very broken.

Finally, I came to the conclusion that it is wrong to offer international adoption to extremely poor families without first working to reunify those children with their families through family support and then alternative care (see an example of an alternative care model here)*.  That offering only international adoption as an answer to the extreme poverty of the family (which prevents them from caring for a child they want), without also offering family support, leaves the family with no choices, and is therefore no choice at all.  


I started facilitating adoptions with the best of intentions and a lot of trust in God.  Children were lingering in an orphanage and their families were not coming to get them.  I was assured that the children I was helping adopt to the U.S. were from families that could not care for them.  I did my own research and was reassured when I learned all the adoptions I helped with were legal as well.  I loved working with adoptive families (and many are now good friends) and found so much joy in seeing children taken from orphanages and put into families where they flourished with the love and care they were given.  All the families and I (since I was adopting at the time) trusted everyone involved in our process that the children we were adopting needed another family.  We all knew they had families (all mothers had died as this is the only way children are cared for in this orphanage) and trusted that our involvement was necessary and essential if they were ever to live in a family again.  And given we had nothing else to offer at the time, IA did provide a loving committed family to children lingering in an orphanage.  

Now, however, I am more and more convicted that the role I played then is not the role I should have today. And what's so amazing, is that so many of the adoptive parents that adopted from the orphanage also believe in working towards a different model.   Many of them are encouraging our work, working alongside of us, helping to make change happen and being a part of doing everything we can to keep families together.  So that the small percentage of children that are adopted are the ones that couldn't be reunited with their families and were the ones that truly needed a family through adoption.  This is grace to me.  Moving forward in a redemptive and transforming way that supports families, that works to keep families together.  And thank God for this gift!  Because trying to change how things have been done is hard, requires tenacity, bravery, and a commitment that doesn't waver.  


Do you want to join our work?


One of the new little ones at the orphanage we support.  What will we do for her?  How will we help her family?

I will say again, I believe international adoption has a role to play in providing families and homes for children that desperately need them.  I believe it is a smaller role than what most of us are told.  And I believe we must offer reunification and alternative care models before we offer international adoption.  

And I'll end with words for the Livesay's post that are very powerful and compelling (and there are links to learn more over at the blog)--

imagine a world where a prospective adoptive parent would be every bit as willingto advocate (financially, spiritually, emotionally, and otherwise)  for the rights and justice of the poor first/birth-mother to keep and parent her child, as they are willing to push for their own completed adoption. I don't think anyone starts out wanting to trample on the marginalized but sadly it seems to be happening by default in many countries around the world.



Justice is not only about seeking fairness and equality for those without a voice; at times it is also risking our own personal happiness or gain in order to bring it.  

Those of us in the position to consider an international adoption are the ones with the most power.  Let us use our voice for good. Let us stand with the poor in support of their ability to raise children. Let us demand real and measured transparency.Let us not blindly trust what we're being fed by agencies and those that stand to gain most from the entire process. Let us be about exposing the dark parts of this system (truth telling) and educating ourselves and new adoptive families so we can all avoid hurting and oppressing the poor.    

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*I spent a long time reading this very important paper (written my David Smolin) on whether or not there are human rights violations that occur when we offer international adoption to extremely poor families without first offering family support and reunification.  It is an excellent paper and I will review in more detail on my blog in the future.  Part of the abstract is quoted below:  

This Article explores the question of whether intercountry adoption is an effective, appropriate, or ethical response to poverty in developing nations. As a matter of methodology, this fundamental question of adoption ethics is explored through the lens of international human rights law. This Article specifically argues that, where the birth parents live under or near the international poverty standard of $1 per day, family preservation assistance must be provided or offered as a condition precedent for accepting a relinquishment that would make the child eligible for intercountry adoption. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

DRC Adoption Posts

Interested in adopting from Congo?

Pray hard and reconsider. Check out this series of posts-- 

Post #1 (the basics--adoption in DRC) 
Post #2 (what about reunification) 
Post #3 (open international adoption) 
Post #4 (corruption in DRC adoptions & donations to orphanages) 
Post #5 (First, do no harm) 
Post #6 (Questions to ask your agency/organization) 
Post #7 (My take on the current state of DRC adoptions) 
Post #8 (Two essential ways to increase your chance of an ethical adoption in DRC) 
Post #9 (The "exit letter"/DGM/bribes-- where I argue that paying ANY money to DGM is a bribe) 
Post #10 (Again/embassy updates--investigate, investigate, investigate) 
Post #11 (Breaking down agency costs in DRC--yes, the details!) 
Post #12 (Interview w/ DRCAS and OFA) 
Post #13 (Another big reason why searching for your child's first ("birth") family is essential, "Why nothing may mean everything").  
Post #14  (Nothing occurs in isolation: thoughts on the most recent DGM 12 month exit visa suspension, October 2013)
Post #15  (More on the 12 month DGM suspension; foster care fees, investigations and my opinion on starting an adoption in DRC right now) 
Post #16  (The three most important documents in your DRC adoption.  Do you have your DGM exit letter?)
Post #17 (Orphanage donations, child finder fees, social services fees, and referral fees in IA/DRC)


*My story about what I learned in facilitating adoptions and why I was convicted to stop and instead work on family reunification, family support, and alternative care. And part two.  Summing it up: What I believe about international adoption (finding the courage to keep speaking out).



DRC Family Code posts (Congo Adoption Law)-- #1, #2, #3, #4.  May 2009 Supplement is found hereThis is adoption law in DRC; very interesting stuff that I bet your agency never told you, certainly mine never told me!  And it explains why the birth family may understand "adoption" in a completely different way than we do in the U.S.    Why I took the time to do it in the first place and why you must have a DGM exit letter in your possession (and the three most important documents to your adoption in DRC).  


Advocacy--My opinion on writing letters to our senators, especially on behalf of campaigns like Both Ends Burning.  Do your research and consider writing your own letter.   Certainly don't sign letters that don't contain facts and that use manipulation tactics. Why I won't support CHIFF.  I agree with the PEAR statement on the proposed CHIFF act.  It can be found here.   I agree with the PEAR statement on the documentary STUCK.  It can be found here.    An open letter to BEB regarding their DRC campaign.


Hague Accreditation--Does it mean your agency must act more ethically in a country like DRC who is not a signatory on the Hague?  And what does it mean when you have a problem with your agency?   A series of three guest posts starting here.  



A link up with other internationally adopting parents who are talking about ethics, justice, and truth in their adoptions.  


Guest posts from DRC adoptive parents-- 

#1 "Adoption ethics and orphanage care" 
#2 "Filling in the blanks" 
#3 "Should we even be adopting children" (Maison L'Espoir) 
#4 "Not my problem" 
#5 "What happened" (OWAS)  (A follow up one year later and further analysis on OWAS) 
#6 "An option you didn't know existed: Open International Adoption" 
#7 "Parent voice in addressing ethical concerns in International adoption: Haiti and DRC" (DRC:MLJ)
#8  "Why culture and context cannot be the scapegoat for corruption in IA" 
#9 "Sharing our experiences with AAS"

(Do you want to share a guest post about your experience adopting from DRC? Please feel free to contact me.)


Interested in reading more about ethics in international adoption?  Please check out the following blog posts from writers around the world.

Livesay {Haiti} Weblog (Haiti):  http://livesayhaiti.blogspot.com/p/adoption.html

Scooping it up (Ethiopia):  http://scoopingitup.blogspot.com/p/considering-ethiopian-international-or.html 

Family Hope Love (Uganda):  http://www.familyhopelove.com/adoptingfromuganda/

Africa's Melodie (Liberia):  http://africazmelodie.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-international-adoption-enigma-how.html

Gracelings (Ethiopia):  http://www.gracelings.org/2013/10/a-practical-guide-to-improving-ethics.html  

My Fascinating Life (a series of three wonderful posts "map of adoption ethics"):  http://my--fascinating--life.blogspot.com/2011/10/wall-map-of-adoption-ethics-according.html


Interested in the alternative options for in-country care?  Please check out the following articles and posts:

This information has been put into a separate post.  Please find it here

And......our website is up!

Our new website it officially up and running!  Please take a minute to check it out, www.reedsofhope.org

We are so very excited to finally have a more streamlined sponsorship process encorporated all into one place.  We also are now able to do more targeted fundraising for foundational initiatives and projects that are essential to our future success in doing family reunification, family support and alternative care.  It's a bit daunting but I feel more excited than anything else because you have all come alongside our work in eastern DRC with vulnerable children and their families. 

I wanted to highlight a very big need we have right now, and that is for the school kids.  We are looking for 77 sponsors for the school children.  We pay for their school fees as well as uniforms and notebooks.  Tied directly to this is raising the funds for a motorcycle (to check on the children, their progress, and overall well being) because most of the children live in different villages and ares than the orphanage we support. 

I will be sharing more in the days ahead about the projects we will be working on and the goals we have as we work with the congolese families and their children in the area we serve. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

what I didn't want to say

Tonight my girls were silly, laughing at each other around the dinner table.  The door was open and frogs were singing in the distance as a gentle breeze stole in.  It felt like a bit of heaven.  I watched Natalie giggle and sing.  I found I just couldn't tell her about Boston, about our hurting and scared brothers and sisters far away.  I didn't want to be the one who made her afraid.  I didn't want to be the one to remind her that for many here and around the world, there is no heaven on earth.  I didn't want to tell her how we hurt each other, how we kill one another.  I didn't want to take away her innocence and joy.

I wanted to freeze the moment and let her be a little girl, naive to the darkness in the world and ways of evil and suffering.  Protect her from hurt.

When we lived in eastern DRC, we somehow talked about the hurt and pain in the world more because she wasn't so sheltered from the realities most of the world faces; we were forced to talk about it because we couldn't hide from it.   Our life was still, quiet, and at times quite idyllic.  Yet, there were constant reminders of the pain and suffering that exists every day, because we knew those who suffered or we witnessed suffering of those we cared about in our lives.  Our friends all had stories of pain, of loved ones who had died suddenly, children with chronic untreated illnesses, wives dying in childbirth.  Some had stories of violent robberies, of murder, and of stark fear.  Some things were too hard to share.

And because we lived down the street from a UN base, we would regularly see soldiers and guns.  I remember one day that I pushed her to preschool and we walked past a contingent of congolese men in uniforms all holding machine guns as they guarded a compound near us.  They stood next to a pick up truck that held a huge gun that I've only seen movies ( the kind that has what seems like 1000s of bullets that fire in rapid succession as someone stands behind it).  It didn't faze me much.  Because I had already seen so many guns held by so many different people with different uniforms on (and half the time I didn't know what the uniforms meant).   I was pushing my then 4 year old in by blue BOB stroller past them.  As if it were any other day.  She would ask me about the guns.  And sometimes we talked about the "sin and naughtiness" in the world.  We talked about how people sometimes hurt each other, how they sometimes killed each other.  Struggling to explain it to a 4 year old.

Somehow, God gave me the words to explain evil to a little girl, because I don't know how you ever explain evil to a child.  Another time we walked passed a man with his nose, lips, and ears that had been cut off and the scars had healed.  I didn't have words that day and she didn't know what she saw to even ask.   Sometimes, there is such evil that I have no words and God is silent.  Silent but very present.  This is what I learn from Natalie every night when she prays.  "Thank you God for always being with me."  That God never leaves us.  I look at my little girl and in her innocent joy, I see hope.  Hope and the presence of God with those that suffer.  Because surely the God that made my little girl would never leave those who suffer.  That in His silence is deep pain and mourning for all those full of pain and loss, for those who suffer, and for all the ways we harm each other.  In His silence is rage against evil.   There will be redemption.  Surely God did not leave us alone.  Not only do we have each other, we have Emmanuel.  God is with us.  We are not alone; God is with us and He gave us each other.  These are the words I tell my daughter.



Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Family Code (part 2)

I want to continue to review the DRC Family Code Law (especially as it relates to adoption and family care).  My comments are in italics.

Article 649:

When the paternal line of descent of a child born outside of marriage could not be determined, the court, at the request of the child, his mother or the public prosecutor, designate a legal father from among the members of the mother's family, or for the lack of these, a person proposed by the child's mother.  In this case, the legal father exercises all resulting paternal prerogatives vis-a-vis the child and assumes the resulting duties.  The legal relationship does not create other effects.

This is interesting to me given that all the mothers of the children in the orphanage we support have died.  If the mother was unmarried, then the legal father is designated from the mother's family.  When consenting for adoptions or making legal decisions for a child, the mother's family would have that role or legal right.  

Article 654:

Adoption may only be requested after five years of marriage, unless the child in question is his/her spouse's child.

Article 656:

Existence of children in the home of the adopters is not an obstacle to adoption.  However, adoption is only permitted for those who, on the day of the adoption have fewer than three live children, unless waived by the President of the Republic.  No one can adopt more than three children, unless they are the child of his/her spouse.

Honestly, I never quite understood these two articles.  I always thought, what does number of years have to do with ability to parent an adopted child?  I did feel like the laws of DRC needed to be abided by, given they are a sovereign country, but I didn't understand it.  Until I read this post.  Take a minute to read it.  It's really really good.  And I think most of what is written there can be similarly described in DRC.  When you read the DRC Code (which is actually the Zairian code given it was in the 80s), it is clear it was written for congolese adopting congolese children.  There were few adoptions at the time internationally.  So, if you read it from a Congolese perspective, it makes a lot more sense, and who would make a stable adoptive family it makes even more sense.  If you have a large family in DRC and then you adopt more children, most likely the biological children will get the preference for schooling and care, and it is more likely that the adopted children may have a serving role in the home.  Five years of marriage signifies commitment and stability in a culture that has so much instability, where couples are married young, and longevity of a marriage usually also comes with some economic stability.  

Article 658

No one may adopt who has made or caused, promised or was made to promise a payment or any other advantage in kind to a person to give consent to the adoption, in order to obtain this consent.

I could write and write on this one little sentence and what it could mean.  This is a very loaded string of words in my mind.  Made, caused, promised, make to promise--a payment or any other advantage in kind to a person to give consent to the adoption, in order to obtain this consent.  So, you cannot give the consenting parent anything to obtain consent.  You can't promise anything to get that consent.  And the person obtaining the consent from the birth parent cannot promise or cause an advantage to get that consent.  So, if you aren't a part of the consenting process, how do you know?  How do you know that nothing was promised or given?  And, what if there is only one person involved with consenting birth parent?  How do you know what goes on behind closed doors?  What does promise a payment or advantage mean exactly?  Does it mean a relationship (and where does the "tie" come in to play, see my previous post)?  What does that mean for the birth parent?  For the adoptive parent?  What does is mean in the cultural context of DRC?  What does it mean when one family is extremely poor and the other is rich in comparison?  What if the person obtaining consent from the birth parents also is paid money as a part of the adoption process?  What does this one little sentence mean?  





More Family Code to come and there are some interesting articles about the court process and family care and obligation.  

Monday, April 8, 2013

DRC Family Code (DRC adoption law)

I had the Family Code for DRC translated into english so I could read it myself (the original is in French and was much too complicated for my simple french skills).  I am going to share parts of it over the next couple weeks.  The Family Code addresses some different topics, but it is mostly the laws of adoption in DRC.

Today, I want to share Article 678 from the Code:

"The adoptee retains his/her ties with his/her birth family.  His/her descendants have ties with the adoptive family and with the family of origen."

I was extremely surprised to read this in the Code.  I had NO idea that anything about maintaining connections with family of origins would be there.  I had already believed this was extremely important, but now I know it is also DRC law.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

This and that

Well, what I would love to do is share some good news, but that will have to wait a day or two more.  So, in the meantime, here is some this and that.  

There is a fundraiser/giveaway going over on Millions of Miles to raise money for Heartline and JabuAfrica.  I have talked about Heartline on here before because it is something close to my heart.  ALL the children at the orphanage we support have lost their mothers, most due to complications in childbirth or shortly after.  Heartline is in Haiti and they have a birthing center, childbirth classes, parenting classes for vulnerable women.  What a wonderful project!

Natalie has wanted to be a construction worker when she grows up until recently.  The other day she said, "mom, I want to be a police officer when I grow up!" I asked her why.  She said, "so, when people are naughty, I can give them tickets and get their money and keep it!"  (Um, yes, she was raised in congo).

Isla, on the other hand, wants to be a fairy when she grows up and can I "please, please find her real wings so she can fly?"  (I think that is my secret wish too).

Mia, is obsessed with women's clothes magazines.  When the mail comes she waits until I put them in the recycling and then steals them out and hides somewhere with them and examines every photo in detail.

Ellie runs as fast as me.  She is three.  How is that possible?  (And yes, I suppose the obvious answer I am avoiding is that why do I run as slow as a three year old.)

It's still snowing here.  But I keep hearing it will be sunny and warm soon.

I didn't win the summit 9 blogging contest.  Which is fine, as I said in my post, there are many people that really deserve to go more than I do and I'm glad they have that chance.  I admit, I'm sad about it, because I secretly really wanted to go. I really wanted to go because I wanted to meet other people that are doing family reunification at orphanages.  Why?  Because it's really hard and there isn't a lot of support for the model (especially when international adoption is also an alternative); sometimes I feel really isolated in the push for this passion God has laid on my heart.  But the reality is that even if I had the conference paid for I wouldn't have been able to pay for the transport to get there or other stuff (like eating :).  So, it is what it is.  Maybe another year.  (I'm drowning my disappointment in jelly beans.  Not such a great idea.)

Never underestimate the pure bliss of an afternoon alone anywhere when you are a parent of so many littles.  What a gift!  Thank you Mike!