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Forging Ahead with International Adoption

Jonathan Amgott, Intern in the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, describes insights from the international adoption panel at this week's White House event to celebrate National Adoption Month.

On Monday, November 28, The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships held an event to observe and celebrate National Adoption Month. This event featured senior Administration officials, Members of Congress and outside experts. You can read more about the event here. Also, you can view the President’s National Adoption Month proclamation here.

Supporting international adoption was the theme of our first panel during Monday’s National Adoption Month event at the White House. International adoption has touched the lives of thousands of American families. In 2010 alone, the adoptions of over 9,300 children from more than 100 countries were finalized. Appropriately, this panel was rooted in the understanding that while there were big issues to discuss, at the end of the day international adoption is deeply personal and profound for many Americans, including those who served as panelists.

Kathleen Strottman, Executive Director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, was the first expert to speak. Kathleen discussed an exciting initiative called The Way Forward Project, a yearlong convening of government officials and civil society experts to study adoption in six African countries.  Supported by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the CCAI initiative produced several adoption lessons applicable to other countries as well.  Among these, child welfare systems should evaluate the full range of adoptive family options, including kinship and international adoption.  Kathleen also suggested that efforts should be made to cultivate societal responsibility for all children, gather data on the number of children in foster care, and broaden children’s legal eligibility for adoption. 

The Obama Administration is making its own concerted effort to address children’s needs abroad. Under PL 109-95, Robert Clay, Deputy Assistant Administrator at the USAID Bureau for Global Health, coordinates the work of seven agencies—State, Labor, Agriculture, Defense, Health and Human Services, USAID, and Peace Corps—which each play a role in protecting orphans and vulnerable children around the world. During our panel, Robert spoke about the evidence-based summit on December 12-13 which will better inform U.S. Government efforts to protect children outside family care.  Among summit organizers is the State Department Office of Children’s Issues, under the leadership of Ambassador Susan Jacobs. As Special Advisor for Children’s Issues, Ambassador Jacobs discussed her efforts to promote common standards for intercountry adoption by implementing the Hague Adoption Convention.

Of all the children in need of adoption, kids with HIV/AIDS can have an especially tough time finding families.  Carolyn Twietmeyer is a Chicago-area mother of fourteen, including seven adopted children, two of whom have HIV/AIDS.  As she discussed on our panel, Carolyn founded Project HOPEFUL to encourage others to adopt children with the disease and to correct misconceptions which may deter potential adoptive parents. 

When it comes to providing families for children, many faith-based organizations are leading the way.  At Patch Our Planet, Steve Gillis connects faith leaders with the resources they need to get involved in international adoption.  Steve spoke about the ways his organization works with busy church staff to design a strategic adoption/foster care plan unique to their congregation.

We were proud to host such an exciting sample of those working hard on an issue that is so personal for so many Americans.  Stay tuned for more details from our National Adoption Month event later this week.

Jonathan Amgott is an Intern at the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.