Christianity Today Reports on Tragic Guatemalan Orphanage Fire

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Christianity Today – March 2017 reported the following:

Earlier this month, a fire at an orphanage outside of Guatemala’s capital caught international attention. Forty children died of carbon monoxide poisoning and burns; the tragic event drew worldwide condemnation.

But the aftermath of the fire has given hope to those who work with the Central American country’s orphans. As the government turns to evangelicals for help, it seems the tragedy may spark the breakthrough many have been praying for.

In some ways, the tragic blaze—set intentionally by children locked in the overcrowded facility—was not unexpected by evangelical experts. In 2006, Orphan Outreach founder Mike Douris told the Guatemalan government that the orphanage’s design wasn’t a good idea.

The government went ahead and built it anyway—another link in a chain of wrong moves. For decades, Guatemala has had some of the worst child welfare practices on the planet.

In 2015, the country had the second-highest rate of child murders in the world. Of the crimes against children that get reported—including murder, rape, kidnapping—most go unpunished (88%). An estimated 2 in 5 children are malnourished. Among indigenous children, that rises to 4 in 5. Tales of overcrowding, abuse, and malnutrition leak out of orphanages like the one near the nation’s capital, Guatemala City, where dozens died in the recent fire.

The infamous orphanage, the Virgen de la Asunción, was built for 400 children but housed about 750. Inside, orphans were physically and sexually abused by staff and by other children. There were complaints about water leaks and poor food quality. Only 3 of the 64 security cameras in the building were working.

The conditions resemble fellow public orphanages, which house about 1,200 children in Guatemala. At least three times as many live in private orphanages (about 4,000), but that’s still a small fraction of the 370,000 orphans that UNICEF estimates live in the country. Since Guatemala has no foster care system and very few domestic adoptions, virtually every child removed from a neglectful or abusive situation is sent to an orphanage. Many more live on the streets.

Article from The Economist: Hundreds of thousands of children languish in orphanages. Adopting them should be made easier.

Source: http://www.economist.com/

Babies without borders

20160806_LDP001_0 OF THE 2 billion children in the world, about 15m are parentless. Millions more have been abandoned. Most of these unlucky kids are cared for by other relatives. Others live temporarily with foster parents. But hundreds of thousands languish in state institutions of varying degrees of grimness. The youngest and healthiest will probably find local adoptive parents. For older or disabled children, however, willing adopters from abroad are often the best and only option. Yet the total number of overseas adoptions is dwindling (see article).

There is a reason for this. For decades cross-border adoptions were often a racket. In Romania after the fall of the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, thousands of orphans were adopted illegally. In post-civil-war Guatemala middlemen paid poor women a pittance to get pregnant repeatedly—or simply stole babies and sold them. When one country tightened the rules, the trade in babies moved somewhere laxer.

That trend has stopped. As countries have implemented the Hague Adoption Convention, passed in the wake of the Romanian exodus, they have stamped out the worst cases. Last year 12,500 children were adopted by overseas parents, about a third of the total just over a decade ago. The crackdown was necessary: babies are not goods to be trafficked. But many governments have gone too far. It is now too hard for willing, suitable parents to adopt needy children—and this hurts both the would-be adopters and, more importantly, the children.

Cambodia and Guatemala have stopped foreign adoptions completely; Russia has banned those by Americans. In many other countries the paperwork can take years. This is cruel. The early months and years of life are the most crucial. Depriving a child of parental love—inevitable in even the least dire orphanage—can cause lifelong scarring. The priority for any system should be to perform the necessary checks as quickly as possible and to place every child with foster or adoptive parents.

The Hague convention is a good starting-point. It says: first try to place an abandoned child with a relative; if that fails, try for a local adoption; and if a local family cannot be found, look overseas. Critics of international adoption point out that children who grow up in a different culture sometimes feel alienated and unhappy. This is true, but for many the alternative—growing up in an institution—is far worse.

When overseas adoption is a last resort, the children who end up with foreign families are the ones whom no one else wants: the older ones, the severely handicapped, members of unpopular ethnic minorities. In Guatemala only 10% of the children awaiting adoption are babies or toddlers without special needs. Few Guatemalans will consider taking the other 90%. Plenty of evangelical Christians in America would be happy to. It makes no sense to stop them.

No one cares for you a smidge

Creating a fast, safe adoption system should not be costly. Indeed, it should be cheaper than keeping children in institutions. All it takes is political will, as can be seen from the success of schemes in Peru and Colombia. Public databases that match children with good, willing parents work well locally in some rich countries. (Pennsylvania’s is praised, for example.) There is no reason why such systems should not be made international. Children need parents now, not next year.

Comment by Robin E. Sizemore

“All too often foreign governments come to rely on UNICEF’s child welfare policy of de-institutionalization programs, which on the surface appear to be in the best interest of any child. However, what has resulted is a permanency plan of foster care, as the end goal for these children. Governments are all too happy to rely on subsidized programs and justify it to the beat of ‘keeping children’s heritage and culture’ over a child’s TRUE best interest, which is a loving, suitable, permanent family – wherever that may be. The preamble of the Hague offers that ‘a family environment’ is every child’s right – until that phrase is removed, and permanent family is made the single goal for every child, we can continue to expect governments to fail children through policy and practices counter to any child’s best interest.”

Robin E. Sizemore
Executive Director of Hopscotch Adoptions, Inc and Adoptive parent

Article from The Economist: Hundreds of thousands of children languish in orphanages. Adopting them should be made easier.

Source: http://www.economist.com/

Babies without borders

20160806_LDP001_0 OF THE 2 billion children in the world, about 15m are parentless. Millions more have been abandoned. Most of these unlucky kids are cared for by other relatives. Others live temporarily with foster parents. But hundreds of thousands languish in state institutions of varying degrees of grimness. The youngest and healthiest will probably find local adoptive parents. For older or disabled children, however, willing adopters from abroad are often the best and only option. Yet the total number of overseas adoptions is dwindling (see article).

There is a reason for this. For decades cross-border adoptions were often a racket. In Romania after the fall of the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, thousands of orphans were adopted illegally. In post-civil-war Guatemala middlemen paid poor women a pittance to get pregnant repeatedly—or simply stole babies and sold them. When one country tightened the rules, the trade in babies moved somewhere laxer.

That trend has stopped. As countries have implemented the Hague Adoption Convention, passed in the wake of the Romanian exodus, they have stamped out the worst cases. Last year 12,500 children were adopted by overseas parents, about a third of the total just over a decade ago. The crackdown was necessary: babies are not goods to be trafficked. But many governments have gone too far. It is now too hard for willing, suitable parents to adopt needy children—and this hurts both the would-be adopters and, more importantly, the children.

Cambodia and Guatemala have stopped foreign adoptions completely; Russia has banned those by Americans. In many other countries the paperwork can take years. This is cruel. The early months and years of life are the most crucial. Depriving a child of parental love—inevitable in even the least dire orphanage—can cause lifelong scarring. The priority for any system should be to perform the necessary checks as quickly as possible and to place every child with foster or adoptive parents.

The Hague convention is a good starting-point. It says: first try to place an abandoned child with a relative; if that fails, try for a local adoption; and if a local family cannot be found, look overseas. Critics of international adoption point out that children who grow up in a different culture sometimes feel alienated and unhappy. This is true, but for many the alternative—growing up in an institution—is far worse.

When overseas adoption is a last resort, the children who end up with foreign families are the ones whom no one else wants: the older ones, the severely handicapped, members of unpopular ethnic minorities. In Guatemala only 10% of the children awaiting adoption are babies or toddlers without special needs. Few Guatemalans will consider taking the other 90%. Plenty of evangelical Christians in America would be happy to. It makes no sense to stop them.

No one cares for you a smidge

Creating a fast, safe adoption system should not be costly. Indeed, it should be cheaper than keeping children in institutions. All it takes is political will, as can be seen from the success of schemes in Peru and Colombia. Public databases that match children with good, willing parents work well locally in some rich countries. (Pennsylvania’s is praised, for example.) There is no reason why such systems should not be made international. Children need parents now, not next year.

Comment by Robin E. Sizemore

“All too often foreign governments come to rely on UNICEF’s child welfare policy of de-institutionalization programs, which on the surface appear to be in the best interest of any child. However, what has resulted is a permanency plan of foster care, as the end goal for these children. Governments are all too happy to rely on subsidized programs and justify it to the beat of ‘keeping children’s heritage and culture’ over a child’s TRUE best interest, which is a loving, suitable, permanent family – wherever that may be. The preamble of the Hague offers that ‘a family environment’ is every child’s right – until that phrase is removed, and permanent family is made the single goal for every child, we can continue to expect governments to fail children through policy and practices counter to any child’s best interest.”

Robin E. Sizemore
Executive Director of Hopscotch Adoptions, Inc and Adoptive parent

Adoption Means Love: Triumph of the Heart by Michelle Madrid Branch

Source:  www.amazon.com

41AYF6KM75L Adoption Means Love: Triumph of the Heart is a powerful compilation of stories from people across the country and around the world, who have been personally touched by the miracle of adoption. The timely importance of this book cannot be overstated. Roughly 500,000 children are in U.S. are in foster care today. Millions more wait in orphanages around the world for their forever families. Each story, found within the pages of Adoption Means Love: Triumph of the Heart, reaches deep into the soul and compassionately uncovers the ribbons of truth that connect us all, Honestly and poignantly, the book celebrates the transformation and triumph that is adoption.

Learn more.

Armenia: The Road Less Traveled: Best Friends’ Reunion

Best Friends’ Reunion

IMG_7152 The day we met Ella in May 2014, she told us, "I have a best friend named Lilit and I want you to meet her."  The next morning, we had the opportunity to do so and it was immediately obvious to us that these two girls were very close.  We knew that their friendship would likely be Ella’s biggest emotional loss caused by our adoption.  By the time we picked up Ella in October 2014, Lilit had been transferred to an older child orphanage where they would probably have gone together had we not found Ella in time.

Over the next year and a half, as Ella learned English and was able to share more about her life in Armenia, she continually spoke to us of Lilit, of her love for her, her worry about her health, the day they were separated, and the experiences they had together.  Ella requested we place Lilit’s picture on the wall beside her bed and even wondered if Lilit could become her sister via adoption.

Continue Reading.

Why is Orphan Hosting So Important?

a253cc255901a35a9843a7ae8ca75007The photo on the left was taken in the Children’s Home where he lives. The photo on the right was taken by his host family during his stay in America. Pictures speak so clearly of what a change this program makes.

Orphans usually feel left out, left behind and unworthy. Their self-esteem is many times so low because they have been labeled in their home city by peers as “orphans”. After coming on our program for 4-5 weeks over Christmas holidays or during the summer months, most children learn as much English as they would typically learn in 4-5 semesters if taught at home in their school. This gives the children pride in themselves and helps boost their self-esteem tremendously!

Receiving unconditional love and nurturing and being treated as a member of their host family who will usually maintain contact even after the child returns home to their orphanage. This gives them hope. Learning that they do have a Father, the same Father in Heaven that we all have…who loves us dearly and is always with us and lets them know they are never alone.

Questions About Hosting?

Are you Considering Hosting? Click here to complete the pre-application!

Nappies For Nork Delivery #1

89be6344951dc3e96d1822336077c1cf As you may remember, the Nappies for Nork Fundraiser kicked off by Viviane Martini earlier this year collected $11,000 to purchase diapers for her son’s former orphanage.  After the fundraiser closed, another $1000 donation arrived, making the total $12,000.  Together, Viviane and George Yacoubian, Founder and CEO of SOAR, decided to deliver $1000 worth of diapers for the next 12 months to the Children’s Home of Yerevan in Nork Marash district.

A few days ago, the first monthly delivery was dropped off: 2740 Pampers. Viviane states "I am so happy for the children and want to thank again all who contributed to the fundraiser."

Nappies Collection a Huge Success!

Society for Orphaned Armenian Relief (SOAR)

SOCIETY FOR ORPHANED ARMENIAN RELIEF (SOAR)
1060 First Avenue, Suite 400, King of Prussia, PA 19406
Office: 610.213.3452   Fax: 610.229.5168 
Email: gyacoubian@soar-us.org   Web: www.soar-us.org

Nappies Collection a Resounding Success!

The Nappies for Nork fundraiser, organized and coordinated by Viviane Martini, was a giant success.  In just two weeks, $11,000 was raised to provide diapers for the children at Nork Orphanage.  From giving three dollars to keep a child dry for a single day to four figure donations, so many opened their hearts to make a difference, one clean bottom at a time.

To everyone who contributed (whether cash toward diapers or items for the raffle) and who spread the word, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  When Viviane sat at her desk three weeks ago looking for a way to help, she hoped to raise $1,000.  Now, around 38,000 diapers will be available for these precious children.

What do 38,000 diapers look like?  Well, a folded Pampers is about 1/2 inch thick, so 38,000 of them stack to approximately 1,500 feet, which is how far you’d walk to get from Yerevan’s Cascade Complex to the Opera House.

Details and pictures of the diaper delivery we will available beginning early May.  Given the level of generosity, the diaper distribution will be expanded to Mari Izmirlyan Orphanage.  Viviane’s son Rex was adopted from Nork, but some of the children who lived at Nork with Rex have since moved to Mari Izmirlyan, so her love stretches to this orphanage.  Mari Izmirlyan serves many children with medical and developmental special needs, some of whom continue to require diapers well past their sixth birthdays.

Again, thank you to everyone who was inspired by Viviane to help in this special endeavor.  Your generosity and support exceeded our wildest dreams!

Fact: Parents Shape A Child’s Brain

Source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health

szalay_ro_1992_izadoroceanbeach.3-xl_wide-717d3b8e62be61749fcff2086ef0f710431a1b69-s800-c85 Parents do a lot more than make sure a child has food and shelter, researchers say. They play a critical role in brain development.

More than a decade of research on children raised in institutions shows that "neglect is awful for the brain," says Charles Nelson, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital. Without someone who is a reliable source of attention, affection and stimulation, he says, "the wiring of the brain goes awry." The result can be long-term mental and emotional problems.

A lot of what scientists know about parental bonding and the brain comes from studies of children who spent time in Romanian orphanages during the 1980s and 1990s. Children like Izidor Ruckel, who wrote a book about his experiences.

Read more.

Maybe Orphanages Aren’t So Bad After All, Study Says

Source: http://time.com/3194832/orphanage-study/

By Belinda Luscombe

“In the U.S. there is a movement to see long-term residential care as detrimental to all children…"

Author of biggest study to date says the institutions have been unfairly stigmatized

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Orphanages, as we all know from Charles Dickens, studies of kids from former Eastern Bloc countries and the musical Annie, are bad for children. Except, as a few studies are now beginning to find, when they’re not. The latest study looked at children from five not-so-wealthy countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa over the course of three years and found that being in an institution did not necessarily make them much worse off.

Read more.

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