Honduras - A Memory Etched in My Heart

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Tonight I'm wearing 3 bracelets given to me by birthmothers at Casitas. Earlier today, these 14 year old girls were asking us what Gladney does. We kept it simple: "We do adoptions". Their response was: "We don't have families. Can you find families for us?" So heartbreaking to hear these words. We promised to try.

When they learned I was el jefe, they gave me the bracelets as a reminder of my promise. If government bureaucracy and lack of political will in the U.S. and just about every country around the world wasn't hindering our efforts, I bet we could find families for these girls and give them the hope, the love and the life they long for.

How long will governments continue to be THE barrier to the basic human right of every child to have a family?   


Thursday, December 19, 2013

There are just some things we know intuitively, things I believe that God has put on our hearts. The writer of Ecclesiastes says: “God has set eternity in the human heart.”

I believe He has also set the desire for a family in our hearts. I saw a vivid example of this last week when a mother and her 6-year old adopted daughter from Ethiopia visited Gladney’s campus.

While a couple of us were talking to the mom, her daughter wrote a note for a section of our Visitors’ Center that includes notes from kids. The note read: “I love my mom ever since I was born.” Bear in mind that this girl lived in an orphanage and was adopted at 18 months.

It sometimes takes the simple wisdom of a child to remind us of what we know intuitively and to reveal God’s heart to us. As an infant, she had the capacity to love and a longing to be a part of a permanent, loving family. Unrestrained by finite boundaries which we adults too often adhere to, she instead hoped in the invisible world and therefore believed her mom was out there waiting to be found.

Words Matter (cont.)

Monday, July 1, 2013

I have heard that there can be an objection to the phrase “adoption triad”. For me “adoption triad” captures the love inherent in the adoption triangle. I realize adoption comes with grief and loss, but I don’t understand an issue with the term “adoption triad”. If you are part of the adoption triad and you don’t care for that phrase, please help me understand why.

"Pounding the Rock" - How It Applies to International Adoption

Monday, June 24, 2013

“Pounding the rock”…. As a fairly intense basketball fan, I thought I understood this phrase. The basketball is often referred to as the “rock” and “pounding it” means focus on scoring in the paint (i.e., close to the basket).

Yesterday in the Sunday NY Times, I read an article about the Spurs and their coach, Gregg Popovich, which provided a different slant on this phrase.

As stated in the article, Popovich “tells his men to pound the rock, because even when the stone shows no sign of cracking, you never know under which blow it will finally break.”

All too often we in the international adoption arena feel like we are beating our heads against the wall. Let’s keep “pounding the rock”!

In the early 19th century, William Wilberforce “pounded the rock” for decades. Just before his death, the slave trade in England was abolished – it “finally broke”. It may take years, but I’m convinced that we’re going to see the same result in international adoption.

Words Matter (continued)

Friday, June 21, 2013

In my previous post, I asked about the use of the word “orphan” for children in foster care in the U.S. and received several thought-provoking responses.

So now let’s move outside the U.S. to developing countries, where there are roughly 20,000,000 “double orphans”, children where both parents have died. Here the debate is not the use of the word “orphan”.

The question I have is this….. Is it appropriate to use the phrase “rescue an orphan” when talking about adopting internationally?

Words Matter

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

In my next few posts, I’m going to pose questions on the appropriateness of certain words or phrases. I’m not settled in my own views on these and I would like your responses to help inform my views.

In some conversations, I hear children in foster care in the U.S. referred to as America’s orphans.

Do you think the word “orphan” is appropriate in this context?

Are You A Liar ?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Heidi Cox, Gladney’s General Counsel, led an Ethics discussion at the NCFA conference last week. She has taught and researched Ethics extensively. Her comments are provocative and usually cause uncomfortable introspection.

In last Friday’s session, she basically said “We all lie”. My immediate reaction was “Not me!” Another colleague posed this situation: If I knew a birthmother was in the dorm at Gladney, and the birthfather came to Gladney, had a gun, and asked me if she was there, what would I do? I’m fairly certain I would lie to protect her.

Some principles we consider absolutes (“I don’t lie”) can be trumped by even bigger issues (the life of a birthmother).

My concern is that once any of us acknowledge that we could lie under an extreme circumstance, it can become a slippery slope.

Let me offer an example. A birth date on the document of a little girl in Ethiopia is entered incorrectly. It’s a “3”, but should be an “8”. If a caseworker makes the edit by simply rounding out the “3” to an “8”, the girl avoids a further 30 - 60 day delay in coming home to a permanent loving family.

As painful as it is to say this, I would not want our caseworker to make that simple edit. That is the start of the slippery slope.

Your thoughts ?

Thoughts on International and Foster Care Adoption

Monday, June 10, 2013

Some critics of international adoption use the argument that there are plenty of children here in the U.S. who need permanent families and these children should be our priority.

Gladney finds families for children in the Texas state foster care system and we find families for orphans in 7 countries.

With that as background, here is my perspective…..

Children whose parents aren’t living or who are unable to care for them should be our priority, period. The life of a child in Ethiopia or Colombia or China or Russia is as important as the life of a child in the U.S.

Some of our families sense a call, faith-based or otherwise, to adopt from a certain country and some sense a call to adopt from the foster care system. One is not more right or more noble than the other. Rather, we should simply applaud them all for responding to the stirring in their hearts.

There are, however, distinctions worth noting between the foster care system challenges and the global orphan crisis. Among them:

·         Magnitude of the problem – There are just over 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S. About 25% are “adoptable”, meaning parental rights have been relinquished. Using the more narrow definition of orphan (both parents deceased), there are roughly 20,000,000. Using the broader definition (one parent alive, but can’t provide care), there are over 150,000,000.

·         Safety Net – While poverty and hunger certainly exist in the U.S., children living in poor communities here still have access to education, medical care, food and shelter. There is no equivalent safety net in the poorest countries. Most children without parents are on the streets struggling to survive each day.

·         Trends – The number of children in foster care in the U.S. has been declining, while the number of orphans continues to rise due to poverty, war and disease.

We need to be cognizant of the needs of all vulnerable children – in the U.S. and beyond our shores.  

"Step Forward for Orphans" March: Laura Ingraham

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

At Friday's march, Craig offered a reminder that our work is ahead of us. We need to support the Children in Families First legislation to be proposed soon by Senators Landrieu and Blunt. We need to keep the pressure on our elected officials and elevate our issues.

Laura Ingraham spoke at the close of the march and echoed these thoughts. Her passion is fueled by her children from Guatemala and Russia, two countries which today are closed to international adoption. Laura noted that as Americans, we may disagree on many issues, but all of us should be able to get behind the notion that “Every child deserves a family.”

Laura stayed very long after the march ended, speaking with and listening to every single family who wanted to share with her their story and their struggle. I was fortunate to witness firsthand her compassion for the children and families who are “stuck”.

"Step Forward for Orphans" March: May 17 - A Watershed Day

Sunday, May 19, 2013

On Friday, over 500 adults and children gathered at the Washington Monument and marched to the Capitol. Those that marched came from 37 states, and included and represented children from over 20 countries. In a broader sense, we represented children from every country in the world.

We marched, chanted, carried signs, captured media attention, and tried to be a very loud voice for those without a voice – the world’s orphans.

The march was a culmination of 2 days of meetings with Congressional leaders (over 75 meetings). And it was the culmination of the 62-city “Stuck” film tour.

But “culmination” is the wrong word. Craig Juntunen, founder of Both Ends Burning and executive producer of “Stuck” told everyone there: “Today marks the beginning of the UNSTUCK movement!”

We’re just getting started and we’re not going away.

Gladney Support of Both Ends Burning "Stuck" Documentary Film

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I’m excited that we have begun spreading the word about “Stuck” – the documentary film and bus tour that are coming to most of our Gladney Family Association cities over the next 78 days. “Stuck” will be traveling through Texas from March 13 – 17. That’s next week!

I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is that our adoptive friends individually and collectively show our support for the film-viewing and related activities in your cities. As I write this, I just heard from Craig Juntunen, the founder of Both Ends Burning and the executive producer of “Stuck”, that Raleigh, the second city on the tour, was a big success last night in part because of the efforts of Gladney families there not only to show up and participate but also to bring others along. “Stuck” is an 80-minute gripping, award-winning film. Trust me; anyone you invite will be pleased they spent an evening watching this film.

But here’s key point #1….. The film and the tour are not an end unto themselves! They will be a springboard to a well-planned social movement that will raise the public’s awareness about international adoption as a wonderful option for building families and a critical part of the solution to the orphan crisis.

Both Ends Burning, the foundation which gave rise to “Stuck”, aims to lead the turnaround in the decline of international adoption.

Here’s my 2nd key point….. This is not just a dream; it’s going to happen! Against all odds, Both Ends Burning has pulled the adoption community together. BEB has the support of Senator Landrieu and her staff who are working on policy changes in tandem with this effort. It has the support of Jedd Medefind, President of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, as well as the leaders of the Jewish community in several cities. The leaders of NCFA, Joint Council, CCAI and many large international adoption agencies have thrown their support behind Both Ends Burning.

Key point #3….. Most people in the adoption field recognize that the efforts of Both Ends Burning may be the best shot to save international adoption.

Therefore, I want to appeal to you, our Gladney friends, to have a huge Gladney turnout in every city. See the movie in person. Bring friends. Go on the BEB website.  Sign the petition. Buy the DVD. Spread the word via social media.

As Craig says, “We can no longer accept the unacceptable. Every child deserves the right to a family.” We need to be the voice of those who don’t have one.

Click HERE to purchase Celebration of Life & “Stuck” Documentary tickets online.

View the ‘Stuck” Tour Itinerary. If you have any questions, please feel free to email Julie Landman at julie@bothendsburning.org

Thank you for supporting this effort,
Frank Garrott

GFA Lifetime Members - We Hit 100 !

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Gladney’s year of milestones continues….. 125 years; 30,000 placements; 1,000 children adopted from China; and now, 100 Lifetime Members of our Gladney Family Associations, which are located in 19 cities around the country.

In 2009, we kicked off this idea of Lifetime Memberships. The thought behind it was analogous to loyalty to a university. Using myself as an example, I am going to be loyal to the Texas Longhorns and the Duke Blue Devils until I die. So why wouldn’t I be even more loyal to an organization that helped me and my wife have a family and want to demonstrate that my loyalty was for life by becoming a GFA Lifetime Member, which of course I did.

So let me congratulate Nicholas and Peggy Duncan from Oklahoma City on becoming Gladney’s 100th GFA Lifetime Member.

Here’s a question: What GFA has the most Lifetime Members – in absolute numbers and per capita?

Both Ends Burning

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I believe that Both Ends Burning represents the best hope for the adoption field to reverse the disconcerting downward trend in international adoption. That’s why I’ve accepted Craig Juntunen’s invitation to join the board of Both Ends Burning. http://bothendsburning.org/

After Craig and his wife Kathi adopted 3 children from Haiti several years ago, he concluded that the international adoption process was deeply flawed and that a good part of the blame could be placed at the feet of governments who act as barriers rather than advocates for children to find permanent, loving families.

As one of my colleagues in our field put it, “Craig is playing offense.” He is and it’s refreshing and I’m privileged to be a part of it.

Craig and his team have completed an award-winning documentary film called “Stuck” and it’s coming to your city this Spring via a 78-day bus tour that starts and ends in D.C. The film and the tour are just the beginning, the launching pad for a social movement around this issue. You’ll be hearing a lot more about Both Ends Burning. And I hope YOU will be a part of it.  

TIME Gets It Right.....

Friday, January 11, 2013

Mostly. The new issue of TIME (dated January 21) came out today and it includes a fairly lengthy article on international adoption centered around the heartbreak of a couple trying to adopt from Kyrgyzstan. Kayla Webley, the author, wrote what I believe to be a reasonably balanced look at international adoption. Given the typical media approach to IA, “reasonably balanced” is high praise.

She interviewed me a few months ago and we stayed in contact. She used one of my quotes in the article, which I must admit for a 25-year TIME subscriber, was fun to read. It was gratifying to see the words “Gladney Center for Adoption” in the article.

What’s especially important is that given TIME’s global reach and Kayla’s generally favorable treatment of international adoption, this article combined with other initiatives underway has a chance to really boost efforts to reverse the tragic, declining IA trend of the last 8 years.

I’m encouraged. We in the international adoption community need some good news.

(Here's a link to the beginning of the article - Caught in the international adoption slowdown.)