Thoughts Following the JCICS Annual Meeting
Last week, I attended the annual Joint Council on International Children’s Services annual meeting in New York City, both to hear the conference presentations as well as to present a workshop on the benefits of foster care to orphaned children. Some of the most well known people in orphan care were in attendance, along with government officials and many wonderful adoption agencies.
One of the keynote speakers was Jean-Robert Cadet who grew up as a child slave in Haiti and has talked before the UN and Congress about his experiences. His presentation was very emotional and powerful. He openly shared the realities of what he experienced as a child, including growing up without a family and how that deeply impacted him into adulthood. Dr. Dana Johnson gave a great presentation on adoption disruption/dissolution, which was followed by two other talks on the same issue. Dr. Julie Keck and Dr. Heike Minnich co-led a very informative session on post-institutional issues and the neurodisabilities that internationally adopted children can face. Those of us at this session all commented that there simply aren’t enough doctors and experts in the field of international adoption issues and how much we wished those they could be cloned.
Representatives from the U.S. State Department in attendance gave the following sobering statistics on children around the world:
413,000,000 – children living in poverty
18,300,000 – children who have lost both parents
2,000,000 – children growing up in institutions
I came back from the conference with a multitude of emotions. Speaking with people working in Ethiopia, Liberia, Guatemala, Haiti, Romania, etc. can honestly become quite overwhelming as one thinks about all of the children around the world living without families. The need is so enormous. There also seems to be a wide chasm at times between groups working on issues at the government level and groups who are working to help one child at a time. Of course both are needed. We need groups working to impact ethical adoption policies and long term change on child’s rights, but we also need groups who look at each individual child and know them by name and who work to meet that child’s urgent needs right at this very moment.
Without a doubt, when it comes to issues surrounding orphaned children – there is still so much work to be done.