Travel Journal

Guatemala, April 2011

 


dsc_0766On April 23-26, 2011 a delegation of U.S. government officials and private business leaders participated in a fact-finding trip to Guatemala, visiting Guatemala City, Antigua, and the village of Sumpango. The delegation, led by Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, had two principle purposes: to represent the U.S. families who have been awaiting the completion of their transition adoption for nearly four years and to encourage the Guatemalan government to establish a child welfare system that is family-based. The Guatemalan government passed a new adoption law in 2007, and since that time has been working to implement it. International adoption from Guatemala is suspended but according to their central adoption authority (CNA) there have been approximately 400 domestic adoptions since 2007. As with all delegations, the trip included site visits, official meetings with key government officials, and opportunities to meet and interact with leaders from the private sector in Guatemala.  Click here to read the full report.


 

United Kingdom and Ethiopia, September 2010

On August 31 – September 4, 2010 a delegation of U.S. government officials and private business leaders participated in a fact-finding trip to London, United Kingdom and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

 

As with all 20/20 Vision efforts, this trip was the direct result of partnership between CCAI and public and private organizations who share our mission.  The delegation, led by U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), included recently appointed Special Advisor on Children’s Issues, Ambassador Susan Jacobs and Gary Newton, U.S. Government Special Advisor for Orphans and Children (U.S. Agency for International Development), as well as representatives from CCAI’s Executive and Advisory Boards, the Legatum Institute, Buckner International, and several private corporations.

 

In London, Senator Landrieu met with Members of Parliament, Mr. Jim Fitzpatrick and Mr. Nick Smith and presented along with the UK’s Secretary for International Development, Andrew Mitchell.  Discussions that day included the need for transatlantic partnerships between the two governments’ legislative bodies to focus on orphan policy throughout the world, and the importance of uniting to reach common goals on behalf of children in need of permanent families.

 

In Ethiopia, the delegation me with staff from the U.S. Mission to Ethiopia, Ethiopian Ministry leaders, and President Giorgis to discuss the importance of collaboration on issues related to the care of orphans and vulnerable children.  The delegation came away from their visit to Ethiopia with the confidence that the foundation for a relationship with the Ethiopian child welfare officials has been laid.  They were encouraged by the obvious enthusiasm and skill demonstrated by those in charge of reforming the laws and programs affecting orphaned children.  Click here to read the full report.

 

Los Angeles, August 2009

In August 2009, CCAI led a delegation to Los Angeles County to analyze the California state and LA County’s foster care systems as well as public and private collaborations initiated as a response to the needs of children in care.  Led by Senator Mary Landrieu (LA), the delegation was comprised of staff from congressional offices with reputations for serving the nation’s foster youth: Laura Berntsen, Legislative Assistant to Congressman Jim McDermott (WA); Jetaine Hart, Legislative Correspondent to Senator Mary Landrieu (LA); Rebecca McElroy, Legislative Assistant to Congressman Jim Cooper (TN); Sonja Nesbit, House Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, Majority Staff; and Brian Sutter, Legislative Assistant to Congressman Dave Camp (MI).  Upon arrival, Trish Ploehn, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (LACDCFS) and Jenny Wood, District Director for California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass briefed the Delegation on California and Los Angeles County foster care.  Senator Landrieu and the congressional staff were informed by multiple first hand interviews of children and families served by the LACDCFS about the actual support and services they receive as well as their need for continued support from federal legislators.

Click here to read the full report.

 

Florida, January 2007

Eight hundred 18 year olds age out of Florida’s foster care system every year.  With this in mind, the delegation visited Connected by 25, an independent living services organization in Tampa that receives funding from several local, state and national partners including Eckerd Family Foundation and Casey Family Programs.  The organization’s board is made up of members from the community who are business leaders that volunteer as mentors for at-risk youth.  The delegation heard from the youth about their experiences and about the instrumental role Connected by 25 has played in their lives.   Outcomes for youth who age out of foster care system are dismal at best, especially those in the educational environment.  These at-risk youth struggle in school and are often ostracized. The organization has a national pilot program that started a high school strictly for foster youth.  The graduation rate is 85 percent with a large portion going on to post-secondary educations.  Click here to read the full report.

Honduras, September 2005
While our trip to Honduras was brief, it comes at a critical juncture for international adoption in Honduras.  In the early nineties, international adoption had become so plagued by scandal that the government of Honduras made the decision to shut it down long enough to implement a new series of protections against kidnapping, child trafficking and corruption.   New procedures enacted included a ban on private adoptions, the requirement that all adoption agencies be licensed by IHNFA, the government authority in charge of adoption, and a requirement that all children given up for adoption must be unconditionally abandoned to a court of law as opposed to private attorneys (which was the prior system).  Click here to read the full report.

India, March 2005

The large numbers of orphans is a symptom of greater and deeper issues that any group looking to help orphans long-term must address – such as poverty, poor infrastructure, affects of natural disasters such as the tsunami in South Asia, overpopulation, access to health care, education, and HIV/AIDS.  The congressional delegation spent the time in both New Delhi and then traveled south to Bangalore, meeting with government officials and visiting child welfare centers, private and government run orphanages and non-government run organization in each place.  The delegation had a very productive meeting with the new Secretary of the Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA), Renuka Chidambaram.  In this meeting, the delegation and CARA shared their mutual desire to make the international adoption process more transparent.  Click here to read the full report

Uganda, May 2004
In Jinja and Kampala, the delegation visited several orphanages and babies homes where children who had been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS were living.  Delegation members visited with directors of these homes and held children ranging in ages of a few days to three years.  Trip members were moved by the realization that the dozens of babies they saw at these homes represented hundreds of similar homes throughout Uganda.  In addition, the delegation was able to get a glimpse outside of institutional approaches to the problem by visiting an average rural family dealing with orphaned children as a result of the AIDS crisis.  Members visited the village of Kyabirwa ten miles north of Jinja, where they were graciously welcomed to the home of Christine Nampandu, a rural mother struggling to care for her eight children after loosing her husband to HIV/AIDS.  Click here to read the full report

El Salvador, February 2004
The main goal of this brief visit to El Salvador was to encourage the efforts led by the First Lady, Ana Ligia de Saca, on behalf of children.  The welfare of children, particularly those that are orphans, has been a personal priority for her and the current administration.  During our discussions with her and her staff, Senator Landrieu stressed her support for their efforts to strengthen domestic programs aimed at reducing the risk of abandonment as well as the development of domestic adoption and foster care.  Under the leadership of the first lady, the Government of El Salvador has been pursuing an opportunity to enter into a bilateral agreement related to international adoption.  Click here to read the full report.

Guatemala, February 2004
The delegation met with high-ranking members of the Guatemalan government including Oscar Berger, the recently elected President of Guatemala, Members of the Guatemalan Congress and senior officials at the Foreign Ministry and central authority for Guatemalan adoptions, la Procuraduría General de la Nación (PGN).  In addition, the delegation met extensively with John Hamilton, the U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala, senior officials from the State Department and the Citizenship & Immigration Services and other US embassy officials to discuss efforts to improve processing requirements and, therefore, reduce delays faced by prospective adoptive parents from the US.  Click here to read the full report.  

Romania, April 2003
The delegation’s trip to Romania came at a pivotal time as the Romanian government was in the final stages of passing important child welfare legislation and considering making the two year ban on international adoption permanent.  To that end, the delegation met with Gabriela Coman, the Director of the National Authority of Child Protection and Adoption, and the Secreteriat General, Serban Mihailescu, to discuss the new laws and obtain firsthand knowledge and understanding of the proposed system to govern adoptions.  In addition, the delegation met with the President of the Senate, several members of the Romanian Parliament, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mircea Geona.  The delegation also had the honor of a private meeting with the President, Ion Iliescu, and attend a dinner hosted by the Prime Minister, Adrian Nastase.   Click here to read the full report.

Russia, April 2003
The delegation met with officials from the Soviet Federation, who were our official hosts, members of the Duma and several government organizations that oversee adoption and child welfare issues; including the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.  World events, such as the war in Iraq and the differing views of our respective nations, did not hinder these meetings; the importance of child welfare issues took precedence.  The delegation commended the Russian government for the advances and work they have done already on child welfare and adoption issues, and encouraged the ratification of The Hague Inter-country Adoption Treaty to further the safeguards for children and families and to ensure best practices by governments, agencies and organizations alike.  Click here to read the full report

People's Republic of China, January 2002
The delegation began this trip with a visit to the China Center on Adoption Affairs (CCAA).  During our meeting with Director General Lu-Ying and his staff, several topics were discussed.  The main message conveyed to us by the CCAA was that they were anxious to broaden relations between the US and China because they see both countries as playing a vital role in the shared goal of protecting the interests of children and families. In giving an update on China’s Hague status, Director Lu stated that China is guided by two principles.  First, they think that there should be increased government involvement and oversight in the international adoption process, mostly to avoid corruption and exploitation.  Secondly, they are excited by the notion that the ultimate outcome of The Hague could be a universal framework for adoption, thereby making the international process more standardized and transparent.  Click here to read the full report.