JCICS Conference call: Adoptions gone TOXIC (UPDATED)

8 March 2014

ACT received through the grapevine the audio file of the Conference Call of the Ethiopian Caucus of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services held on 6 March 2014.

Presenting themselves as an advocacy group for children, for real the JCICS is nothing less than the voice of the adoption industry.

In view of transparency, we hereby make this audio, as well as the transcript, public:

FULL TRANSCRIPT (updated version 11/03/2014)  HERE


The transcript is in need of improvement, so if anyone can help in putting names, clarifying text, please contact us at info@againstchildtrafficking.org

Here some interesting bits of their business meeting:

“It becomes a toxic situation”

Tom DeFilipo (JCICS): I couldn’t agree with you more and I also think we need to have a holistic approach to this and it needs to be coordinated and kind of strategic. So I know, the Network, someone said this, the they’re doing something, that they’re doing something, that they have been very effective with their advocacy over the last couple of years. So I like to try and engage that a little bit more. Same thing with whoever’s doing a positive network piece. Find out what they are doing. Kind of build a loose coalition, nothing formal, something loose that we all know what we are all doing, so it is not something as a strategic fashion. Because the concern that I have is that if you notice the stuff that is in the press, whether it is here or in Ethiopia, is not coming from the traditional sources that we have seen in the past. The Save the Children and UNICEF are not out there publicly decrying adoption. That is very strategically, purposeful move on their part. They recognized that one of their problems is based on their PR piece and that they were kind of creating an adversarial position, needlessly, into the public.
So, I wouldn’t assume that they are still not advocating for either a complete slow-down or stoppage of international adoption, but they are not doing that publicly. Right?

With that said, if you look at other countries, whether it is Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Guatemala, to a certain extent Russia, when the environment turns toxic in the public setting and international adoption becomes criminal, it becomes demonized, it is painted as trafficking, whether it’s judges, people from the Regional MOWAs, the national MOWA’s. My fear is that the same thing is going to happen in Ethiopia as in all the other 4 countries, which is people will not make a move, will be afraid to be painted in the presence, with their colleagues, within the Government, as traffickers. We know you are a trafficker, we just cannot proof it – that kind of an idea. I have seen that in country after country. It becomes a toxic situation, and then no matter what you do, you don’t get any advancement. In Guatemala that’s true all the way up to a point where we set down with delegations of USCIS, Homeland Security, the US Department of State, Members of Congress, advocacy groups going down continually, and you still have a complete fear of processing any adoptions. And that is true for Kyrgyzstan as well as other countries a little. So that’s my concern. That’s my biggest concern actually. And I think that we need to advocate with the Government for sure, but at the same time if we don’t do something in the public forum, to counter the demonization, I think we are going to be seeing almost the complete, as Dan said, the complete stoppage now, and no real future.

“Countering through the media”

Duni Zenaye (Children’s House International): As far as advocating directly with the Government and assisting government, I think we have been doing that for years now. I personally was involved in trying to start to get them to start, to get a centralized authority, and even took them all the way to China and the US to show them a centralized system in other countries. I think they would say, great, we would love for you to be involved. Do this, more often. But then, it is not backed by action and so, I think, whenever we directly approach them, they always said the nicest things but then they go back out there and still demonize adoption. And I really think that we really need to be going more to the public than directly to Government, because they’ll gonna tell us what we like to hear anyway. For instance, the Minister – after she said what she said on media, when she was confronted by the Adoption Network, she denied having said that. And actually accused the reporter of having been paid-off and she was not the one who said that. I mean, imagine that. She said it, and still denied it in front of adoption agencies. Because in that meeting room she tells them they are partners and she does not want to shut them down, that she is supportive. But then she is turning the environment toxic and she is making sure that no children enter an orphanage, or once they enter an orphanage cannot leave an orphanage, and yet to their face says that is not something she is doing. It really is very strategic and I think we need to start being really strategic and as far as the media goes, we ought

Right when this thing came out, we did go directly to adoptive families and they were very interested. They sent us a lot of videos, home videos of what they are doing with their children. Some of them are really well done. And we have started some production of those families, pick up their children or when they meet the birth family and years later we are starting to capture that on video in Ethiopia. But if we could once again, maybe organize it, actually come up with airtime, it is not going to cost too much. Families really want to participate. And really show that adoption is a good option for children and to counter that through media would really be urgent that we all are on the same page and come up with a plan and not so much rely on the Adoption Network. Because they have been doing that for years and it really hasn’t gotten us anywhere.

Tom DiFilipo: Tom DiFilipo: If I could just tag on to that one more time, the concern I would have about promoting or showing videos of kids here in the US is twofold. Well, threefold:
1. It has not worked in other countries.
2. The accusations aren’t, the primary accusation is not the kids aren’t doing well here in the United States. But the WAY they get to the United States, by being bought, stolen, or trafficked. So, by just showing that – not that that is what you are proposing, but an overreliance on kids are doing great, and adoption is a good thing, it really hasn’t worked and I am not sure that’s what would create a less toxic environment. We have to demonstrate that we are doing other work. That we are not there to just grab kids and the way we get kids for the adoption system has a purpose and a really clean process.

Duni Zenaye: The whole thing. I think we should show everything. I think we should show how the way that these kids are coming into the process, showing maybe how a child enters the orphanage, but in Ethiopia, from what I am seeing, and I am there a lot, and from what a lot of people tell me, they do talk about how a child enters, but the general public is more concerned about, OMG, how are these children doing. We heard about, that you know, that media about Hana Williams, you know who was killed here and abused, they seem to think and really focus on these things and think a lot of children are not doing well. And I think we should touch upon that as well and really try to make that whole thing…

“Buying airtime”

Duni Zenaye: Yeah, we were not doing it for a lot of money, we are using staff in Ethiopia. I have been doing it before, when I worked for Adoption America World. We did domestic adoption campaigns. It is not a lot of money. I mean you can really do it for, especially if you’re offputting it. We can maybe put that together and send it to everyone and whoever wants to jump in can and I think as an encouragement we can maybe mention that agency as a sponsor or whatever. And then it is a matter of just buying airtime nationally. I think that is worth the while.

Cheryl?: Are you talking about public service announcements, or are you talking about literally purchasing airtime?

Duni Zenaye: Literally purchasing airtime.

Cheryl?: Oh that’s heavy money.

Duni Zenaye: It is not: you are thinking US heavy money. In Ethiopia purchasing airtime is not the same amount of money as it is here.