Joint learning project identifies both challenges and opportunities that lie ahead

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute hosted a policy summit to present findings from its year-long “The Way Forward Project.”.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered remarks along with Senator Mary Landrieu, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Representative Karen Bass and Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and author of the best selling book The Purpose Driven Life.

The Summit was attended by the Ambassadors to the United States from Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and Ghana and by 200 other experts from development, policy, and faith-based organizations working on issues affecting orphans and vulnerable children. Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice L. Jacobs along with Special Advisor for International Children’s Issues Ambassador Susan Jacobs also attended. It served as a capstone to the year-long project and aimed to bring the?working groups’ findings to the attention of U.S. funders and policymakers with a vested interest in Africa.

Launched in November 2010, it is?a unique effort to bring together 45 African, U.S. and international child welfare policy experts, practitioners, and researchers to discuss opportunities and challenges facing governmental and non-governmental organization leaders in six African nations (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and Uganda) as they work to develop systems of care that serve children in and through families. Over the past year, these experts have been engaged in a joint learning process and will release a final report on their experiences, thoughts and collective findings.

We were motivated to do this project by one factor alone.” -?Kathleen Strottman executive director CCAI.

Despite decades full of scientific evidence that to thrive, children need love, attention and a secure attachment with an adult, the number of children living without these things continues to rise.”

The 200 page report to be released as part of the summit identifies a series of initiatives that are already underway in the six focus countries. Members of The Way Forward Project’s four Working Groups were asked to study these efforts, as well as bring to bear research and best practices from other countries that might be of use in moving ahead.

At the core of the project was the finding that family-based care is the optimal environment for children and should therefore be the underlying goal for children who, because of things such as disease, war, violence and poverty find themselves living alone, on the streets or in institutions.

These sentiments were echoed by Senator Mary Landrieu, co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption and Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, “To achieve the goal of a family for every child will require the investment of us all.

It is not something that any one person, organization or sector can do alone. And that is what is so exciting about efforts like The Way Forward Project, where doctors, lawyers, pastors, social workers, mothers, fathers and government leaders join hands and say, we are ready and willing to do our part to provide loving homes for children in need.”

As we recognize November as National Adoption Month, I am pleased by the work that has already taken place to protect children on the ground in these six countries.” ?- U.S. Representative Karen Bass.

If further progress is to be achieved, global governments, community and church leaders must collectively pool our resources and develop a global strategy to support improving the policies that ensure welfare systems of nations around the world put children and their rights to a family first.”

All I ever wanted was to love others, to be loved and feel a sense of belonging within a family.” – Nyanja Nzabamwita Brodin Rwandan orphan

It was not until I found those things with my own foster family that I could go on, develop and become a productive member of society. I am excited to see such a diverse group of experts come together to try and give that permanency to other children.”