Tag Archives: orphans

two great stories

Here are two stories from one of the projects I work with :

Mario José

*Mario Jose* is a four and half year old boy who has spent half of his young life institutionalized in a center because his mother disappeared in 2006 and his father is unknown.  His great grandmother, who is 85 years old, had to look for outside help when her great granddaughter disappeared unexplainably.  Being of advanced age and living in dire poverty, the grandmother placed Mario Jose in the center where he currently lives because she was unable to care for him.  The center took Mario Jose as an act of charity, considering that they don’t usually work with orphans, but rather function as a feeding center.

The family history of Mario Jose is a tragic and violent one.  His grandmother was killed at a young age, orphaning her daughter (Jose Mario’s mother).  The great grandmother of the family believes that Jose Mario’s mother is also dead.  While there are other extended family members, none of them have shown an interest in Jose Mario.

The priest who has been helping the family contacted the government in 2008 looking for help for Mario Jose, but he found no answer.  Through word of mouth, he heard about our Permanency Center and came to visit us in February of 2009.  Our team decided to investigate the case, making a visit to the center where Mario Jose lives and doing a psychological evaluation of him the same day.  The lawyers and social workers took on his case, placing it before the judge for him to be declared abandoned, opening up the road to a permanent family.

Unfortunately, under Honduran law, Mario Jose can not be declared abandoned because he has several living relatives that could care for him.  Our team worked with the social workers of the government to show that this was a special case that deserved a second chance.  The judge has agreed to move forward, soliciting statements from the relatives that are not able or not willing to take care of Mario Jose.  Through much detailed work and diligence, we have been able to have each one of the necessary family members come in and make their statement.

We now hope that with these statements given, the judge will declare Mario Jose abandoned and send his case to adoptions before he lives out another year of his life in a center.

George

*George* had been living in a center in Honduras since 2005 when he was 2 years old.  He was abandoned at that age by his mother. His father, who is understood to be an alcoholic who lives on the street, has never been in the picture.  This January, our staff visited the center where he lived with the intention of finding children like George: children who are in real need of an adoptive family but have become lost in the system.  When we reviewed his case, we realized his situation and also saw that he had not had any kind of a family visit since early 2006.  His case was also inactive in the court system.

Our team took the case on and has poured in time and resources over the last 10 months.  Our staff have collaborated with IHNFA to do the psychological evaluations, social work investigations and legal steps.  We have subsidized the medical tests and media publications necessary for moving the case forward.  Our lawyer assigned to George’s case was diligent to not let details fall through the cracks and to always keep the case moving forward.  Much like putting together a puzzle, we had to resolve many things in George’s file in order to see if he was legally adoptable.  We needed to contact the mother, who was rumored to be dead.  A lead opened when the director of another center contacted us after hearing and reading the media publications regarding George.  George’s older sister (now 18) had been at this center and by locating her file at the court, we were able to follow a trail that led to information on the death of the mother so that we could get her certificate of death.  She had died of AIDS in 2005.

In early October, the court declared George legally abandoned, opening up the path to adoption.  This week or next his case will be officially assigned to the adoptions committee and there is already the possibility of one adoptive family who is looking for a boy in his age range.  We hope that George is with his new family by the end of this year.

While we celebrate this beautiful gift for George and our successful intervention, we must also take a moment for a sober analysis of the situation.  If our project had not been able to visit George’s center, how many more years would have passed before his case would have been noticed?  Was it necessary that George live for 5 years in a center when he could have been adopted much earlier?  How many other children are out their like George, waiting for someone to take notice of their case?  How many more children will grow up in centers because it takes so long for cases to be processed?  With out our financial intervention to pay for transportation for home visits, medical tests and publications, George would still be in the system, months or even years from being adopted.

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take a second look and join me…

I recently found out about this movie and the movement that has followed.  Here is a compilation of what is circulating on the internet:

Warner Brothers Pictures will be releasing a horror movie on July 24th call “Orphan.”  The film is about a couple who decides to adopt a 9-year-old girl from a local orphanage who “is not what she appears to be.”  The message portrayed about adoption and orphans, particularly older children, is extremely negative.  One of the quotes in the movie is, “It must be hard to love an adopted child as much as your own.”

We encourage you, your friends and your family to protest this release by signing an online petition (http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/OrphanMovie) and by contacting your local theaters, as well as Warner Brothers Pictures, to voice your concerns about this movie.

Warner Bros.
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522
818-954-6000

Without having seen the movie or read the script, it is hard to know if the
entire movie is sending a ghastly adoption message, but the trailer
certainly leads us to believe it is. This feeds the notion that older
adoptees are very troubled and you should beware…. that’s not an image any
of us want the general public to have of our kids. It plays into people’s
deepest fears.

For me, it is extremely offensive and inappropriate to make a movie like this.  Offensive and hurtful for adoptive families, offensive and hurtful for abandoned children.  Please join me in signing the petition and boycotting the movie.

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photo essay

This is a great photo essay about Congo War Orphans

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red tape

Every so often “me toca” as they say in Spanish- its my turn- to spend days and days, along with a small fortune to get a few necesary pieces of paper.  AKA, red tape for my residency card.  This has been one such lucky week.  Not only have I been dealing with my Honduran residency card, I have warmed up by renewing my passport through the Embassy.

Really, you don’t understand.  Trips to parts of town that are: 1.  dangerous 2.  have absolutely no parking 3.  unknown to me.  Waiting in line to get a piece of paper, leaving to go pay at a bank to finalize what is on the piece of paper, returning to wait in line to turn in the receipt from the bank.  It seems that the rules change all the time, the process is very confusing and arduous.

For me, this red tape is a small inconvenience once or so a year.  For hundreds of children in Honduras this is the difference between living in a center, being reunited with their family or being given the chance to be adopted into a permanent family.  While I can pay a talented lawyer to take care of my case, these children’s lives and voices are underrepresented by a system that is overburdened.  While I can find it in my budget to pay for all of the costs that come up along the way, many children’s legal cases stretch on for years because of lack of efficiency or lack of funds.  Routine medical exams, a simple step in the process to declare the best interests of an abandoned child, can last for 6 months because the goverment doesn’t have the ability to liquidate these funds quickly.  Every moment of ineficiency is a moment of institutionalization for a child who desparately wants to be in a family.

Through our project with Institute for Orphan Advocacy, Puerta al Mundo and IHNFA, we are making a difference.  We are a team of dedicated professionals who work with the Honduran government to follow the cases of children who’s legal status is unknown.  Through the efficiency of working in a non-goverment organization, financed by groups and individuals passionate about finding families for orphans, we are able to inject resources, accountability, passion and expertise into these processes.  One small example: by allocating just $1200 for 2009, we are subsidizing the costs of medical exams, media publications and photos necessary for the process of determining the best rights of the child.  If you want to get involved or donate, follow this link.

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the institutionalization of children

The organization I work with is called Orphan Advocacy. We do just that, advocate for orphans, that they may have a family.

My office is inside of a state-run orphanage. Today on my way to a co-worker’s office across the way, I decided to stop in to the baby house. 18 children live there, most between the ages of 0-2. I fed a bottle, burped and held a little, under-nourished baby. Sometimes it is good to remember why I am doing what I am doing and not just be in paperwork all day.

It wasn’t the baby that grabbed my attention today. It was a 13 year old girl named A who was helping out, but also lives in the center. From the moment I saw her, she caught my eye. Many of the teenage girls here have a rebellious attitude, but not A. She was sad.

I left the baby house and she followed me, asking if we could talk. We sat down and she told me she had been here a month and could I please help her. She said she got picked up by the police when she was on the street doing errands. Her family doesn’t know she is here. Nobody visits and she isn’t allowed phone calls. She has a mom and some siblings at home. She cried. I cried. I didn’t want to cry in front of her, but I didn’t really have a choice. I told her I was very sad for what she was telling me and that our office would investigate to see what we could find out about her case.

In our work, we talk a lot about preventing the institutionalization of children. Today I was deeply impacted by the meaning of this. We talk about shortening the time children are in centers, so that they don’t become institutionalized. What I realized today that there is a great evil in the fact that a child finds themselves in a center and away from family. The length of time doesn’t really matter.

*Note: In the time I’ve been writing this blog, we have already found out what is going on with her case. She was taken off the street by police, but it was later discovered that she had been raped and was being prostituted by her mom. Thus, no visits and no phone calls. At this time, she will be sent to a special home for adolescent girls who have been sexually abused. The state is investigating her mother and looking to remove her siblings from the home. My heart breaks even further.

Pray for A and her family. Pray for these little kids running around outside my window.

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sensitive

Tonight I’m thinking about the effects of seeing poverty on a day to day basis and the levels of sensitivity we have to these kinds of things.  I read a lot of blogs and once in a while I stumble upon travel journals written by North Americans as they take trips or short term mission trips to places like Honduras or other countries where there is extreme poverty.

Tonight I was thinking twice at the level of reaction some North Americans have when they see poverty, when they meet a poor family, when they see these issues up close and in person.  Tears.  Uncontrollable emotion.  Anger.  Pity.  Guilt.  Motivation.  Unforeseen periods of doubting their faith as they wrestle with what this means.  Life changing.

I’m thinking twice because I’m questioning myself and I’m questioning my culture.  I know it wouldn’t be possible or healthy for me to have a deep, emotional, life changing experience everyday when I go to work.  It would be counter-productive for me to spend everyday in deep sorrow for the state of the world and the amount of poverty that exists here.  The human being has certain built in self-defense mechanisms that keep this from happening.  I’m questioning the positive and negative roles that de-sensitization can play.  I’m also questioning the hyper-sensitivity that my culture is producing.  What does it say about us that we can be so easily shocked by the normal life situation that describes a majority of the world? I’m not saying I’m better or worse than my fellow Americans,  rather I’m making some observations and raising some questions.

I want to be effective in my work in Honduras.  I want to live and work out of  a place of love and joy, not guilt and depression.  But at the same time, I don’t want to lose sensitivity to things that God himself would look at and have compassion.  When I go to my office everyday, which is inside of a state-run orphanage, I don’t want to see the kids running around as ‘just kids’.  I want to remember who they are and what they need and how God sees them.

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this is right where I said I would be

Two things.  Two things after spending an afternoon at the state-run center for orhpans that is home to the office of the project I work with (read the post before this one).  Two things after going into the house that is home to 10 or so babies who have been abandoned in hospitals and dumpsters. Two things after hearing the sad, horrible and unbelievable stories about kids that our social workers have worked with.

1.  Almost all of them were crying when we walked in.  There was one person feeding a boy who was severely disabled, one foreign volunteer running around trying to change diapers and one house mom cleaning up something that had spilled all over the kitchen.  Of course, we (myself and a few friends visiting the project) each picked up a crying baby.  The hardest part was to put the babies back down when we had to leave.  The little tiny one I was holding was happy when I picked him up, but as soon as I put him back down he let out the saddest, most heartbreaking cry.  All he wanted was to be held, and we had to go! Babies need people to love them and care about them and hold them!

2.  After hearing so many sad stories and having to put down babies that just want to be held, my heart was heavy.  It is hard to make sense of God’s goodness, God’s sovereign plan and the cruelty that can be this world after these kinds of experiences.  Last night, during pillow talk, I was telling Guillermo about the day and how sad it was.  I told him that the only thing I felt I could do was pray.  It seems silly or cliche, but it becomes powerful when I realize that I might be one of the only ones who knows about the suffering of these little ones.  I might be the only one who has the opportunity to intercede for them by name and to ask God to intervene in their specific situations.  It is a privileged position to know the suffering of the world, to know what prayer is and to know that God’s heart is good and just and that he is powerful and willing.  Never underestimate the place God has put you!

Ok, three things.  This song is great:

excerpt from “What Now” by Steven Curtis Chapman

I saw the face of Jesus in a little orphan girl
She was standing in the corner on the other side of the world
And I heard the voice of Jesus gently whisper to my heart
Didn’t you say you wanted to find me?
Well here I am, here you are

barrioSo, What now?
What will you do now that you found Me?
What now?
What will you do with this treasure you’ve found?
I know I may not look like what you expected
But if you remember this is right where I said I would be
You’ve found me
What now?

So, come and know
Come and know, know me now
Come, come and know, know me now
Come and know
Come and know, know me now
Come, come and know, know me now

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