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Worldwide, since 2003, intercountry adoptions by all receiving countries has declined by almost half, while the number of children desperately in need of family has continued to climb around the world. As the following CNN article illustrates, interncountry adoptions to the United States have declined at a rate 24% faster than the rest of the world.

This is one of the reasons why the Children in Families First (CHIFF) legislation that is being considered in the House and the Senate is so important. CHIFF would streamline, simplify and consolidate responsibility for all processing of intercountry adoption cases by placing these functions under the direction of the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Visit the Children in Familes First page to learn more about CHIFF and how to contact your representatives to tell them to support the bill.

 

International adoptions in decline as number of orphans grows

By Kevin Voigt and Sophie Brown, CNN

Hong Kong (CNN) -- In April 1999, Laura Blitzer -- a 41-year-old single university professor -- decided to adopt a child. Fifteen months later the native of Brooklyn, New York, was in Hunan Province, China, holding her 9-month-old adoptive daughter, Cydney, for the first time.

"It was amazing to have her in my arms ... I still cry when I see the tape of her being given to me," recalled Blitzer. "I couldn't believe she was mine."

In 2007, Blitzer applied to adopt another child from China. Six years later, she is still waiting. "The estimate right now for me to receive a healthy infant is 2017," she said.

After decades of steady growth, the number of international adoptions has dropped nearly 50% since 2004, despite the well-publicized explosion of adoptions from China in the 1990s, and high-profile adoptions by celebrities such as Angelina Jolie from Cambodia and Madonna from Malawi.

The decline isn't due to fewer orphans worldwide nor waning demand from prospective parents, experts say. It is due to rising regulations and growing sentiment in countries such as Russia and China against sending orphans abroad.

The number of children finding new homes in the United States -- the number one location for adopting children -- fell to 8,668 in 2012 after peaking at 22,884 in 2004, according to U.S. State Department statistics. A survey by Britain's Newcastle University of the top 23 nations that adopt children from abroad recorded 23,626 international adoptions in 2011 -- down from 45,299 in 2004.

"I think it's both a surprise that it's been dropping, and it's a surprise that significant forces are opposed to international adoption," said Elizabeth Bartholet, professor of law and director of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School. With the growing forces of globalization, "why wouldn't this be expanding?" added Bartholet, a proponent of international adoption who adopted two boy from Peru in the 1980s.

As international adoption rates fall, there is one country that is sending more children abroad: The United States.

 

(Click here to read the rest of the article on CNN.com)

 

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We asked Deana, a member of one of this summer’s Orphan Care PEACE trips, to share her experience visiting a mother recently enrolled in the Rwanda Orphan Sponsorship program:
 

“It was such an honor to meet Josephine. She was the first home we saw when we went with the local church to visit families living on less than 68 cents a day. When we set out through fields and dirt roads to meet her, our contact had a difficult time finding her as she often struggled to pay her rent and was forced to move around a lot.

Josephine lost her husband in the genocide and has one biological child. Her circumstances have not stopped her from taking in four orphans from different families. I was so touched by her grateful heart despite the fact that her family often has days where no one gets to eat.

When we got to her home she was crying tears of joy that we were there to visit her. The living conditions in her mud brick home were SO tight we all had to shimmy past the corrugated tin door to crouch together on the dirt floor. It struck me that this family has no running water or electricity. Regardless of these conditions, Josephine was thankful to God and only focused on the good in her life. She never complained, but only expressed to us how blessed she is by her children. She was a proud mama bragging about how smart and polite her five children are. It was so touching to see her focus on the gifts God has given her rather than focus on what she doesn't have.

Now, thanks to the gifts of people like you, Josephine is a part of the orphan sponsorship program. She can feed her children, send them to school, and enroll them in medical insurance with fewer financial hardships."

If you would like to become a sponsor and help families like Josephine's, please visit saddleback.com/sponsorship.

You can go on an Orphan Care PEACE trip and make an impact firsthand! Email orphans@saddleback.com for more information.

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Have you ever wondered what ordinary believers can do to care for orphans?

We believe that with the largest participation, the widest distribution, the fastest expansion, and the longest continuation, the local church is God's hope for the orphan.

Below, Kay Warren and Elizabeth Styffe discuss the role of the church in orphan care. Learn simple things everyone can do to care for orphans locally and globally!

 

 

If you are interested in getting involved with Saddleback's Orphan Care Intiative locally or globally, please email orphans@saddleback.com or call us at 949-609-8555. We have many ways for you to get involved!

 

While teaching parenting skills to volunteer trainers and mothers in Rwanda, our July Orphan Care PEACE team was humbled and honored to hear the real life stories of mothers in Rwanda who have taken in orphans. Many of the mothers were recipents of Saddleback Orphan Sponsorship and recounted the difference that sponsorship has made in their families. We asked one team member, Paige, to share her impressions from that emotional day:

“One morning, our team was teaching parenting skills to a group of about 50 ladies from various churches in the Kibuye area. Before we began, we asked each woman to stand up and tell her story.  One mom, Nadine, with a sleeping baby tied to her back, was weeping as she told us she was a single mom with 5 biological children of her own - living on $2 a day.  She had also taken in 3 orphans. The next mom to stand up, Esther, was a widow living in a mud hut with no running water or electricity. She had 8 biological children and had taken in 4 orphans. Each woman's story was more gut wrenching than the previous one. Team tears were flowing as we considered the conditions these women face each day. I can’t even imagine what it feels like as a mother to worry about whether I will be able to feed all my children on a given day.

In the midst of such heartbreak, our team got to witness hope in action. All of these women are part of Saddleback's Orphan Sponsorship Program and are receiving support for caring for the orphans they have taken into their families. Suddenly the mood lifted as they spoke of sponsorship. Their tears turned to smiles and shouts of "Hallelujah! Amen!" when they told of how this money was helping them buy food for their children. They are able to pay school fees with the sponsorship money. The mothers were so grateful to God, and their brothers and sisters in Christ halfway around the world who have such generous hearts. I had no idea sponsorship was having this huge of an impact! When I returned home and learned that 100% of my donation went straight to those Rwandan families caring for orphans, my husband and I decided to become sponsors. The faces of these moms and orphans will be forever engrained on my mind. I will never be the same.”

For $38 a month or a one time donation, you can make a difference in the life of families in Rwanda who are helping empty orphanages by taking in orphaned children. Visit the Orphan Sponsorship page for more information.

If you would like to go on a PEACE trip like Paige and help teach parenting skills to newly adoptive families, email orphans@saddleback for more information.

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What happens to a person in early childhood can have an impact for a lifetime. The implications of this truth are being highlights in research coming out of Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child. According to their findings, early childhood experiences and environments have a profound effect on a child’s developing brain. In the first years of life - also called the early sensitive period – a child’s brain develops rapidly. During this time, the child’s healthy emotional and cognitive development is shaped by dependable and responsive interaction with adults. These interactions can be small, but they are necessary for healthy growth. For example, when an adult responds to a baby’s cry or a parent responds to a toddler’s needs with care and attention. It has been proven that children who lack this type interaction experience a decrease in brain activity. Children who are placed in orphanages shortly after birth show dramatically lower brain activity when compared to their non-institutionalized peers.

The presence of a responsive and protective parental relationship is also important in helping the developing child’s brain cope with stress. Under typical conditions in the care of a family, a child learns to cope with everyday stresses, and physiological stress responses (including increased heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormones like cortisol) quickly return to a baseline. When stress situations are frequent or prolonged – as in the case of extreme poverty or abuse –stress becomes toxic when the care of an adult is absent. Stress responses remain heightened and excessive cortisol disrupts developing brain circuitry.

As would be expected, the more adverse experiences in childhood, the greater the likelihood of developmental delays and other problems. Adults who faced greater adverse experience in early childhood - like poverty, abuse, neglect, parental substance abuse, and exposure to violence – are more likely to face problems like depression, alcoholism, heart disease, and diabetes as adults. While these findings are troubling, there is hope. Research also indicates that early intervention can prevent these consequences. Children taken out of institutional neglect and placed into family situations showed increased IQ and were more likely to experience normal attachment behavior.

All of this research reaffirms the importance of family. Studies have shown that toddlers who have secure, trusting relationships with parents or non-parental caregivers experience minimal stress hormone activation when frightened, while those who have insecure relationships experience a significant stress reaction. Providing responsive, supportive relationships as early as possible can prevent or reverse the damaging effects of toxic stress on children.

The country of Rwanda has responded to research such as this by deciding to close all their orphanages and place those children into permanent families. The Orphan Care Initiative is coming alongside local churches to help reach this goal. You can help children leave the isolation of the orphanage by going on an Orphan Care PEACE trip or sponsoring a family in Rwanda to adopt a child from the orphanage.

Click below to learn more about early childhood adversity from the Harvard Center on the Developing Child, or read more in this working paper from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child:

 

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