Looking Into Foster Care through the Foster Parent Diary

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Illustration by Abigail Gray Swartz

 

Meghan Moravcik Walbert writes for The New York Times series “Foster Parent Diary,” which chronicles her experience being a foster parent to a 4 year old boy. Walbert calls her foster child “BlueJay,” to protect his privacy, as she writes about the joy and heartbreak that accompanies her family’s journey. BlueJay is just one of the approximately 800,000 children that encounter the foster care system every year in America. Walbert lets us see into her life and BlueJay’s, which is currently up in the air, as the family is unsure if he will continue to live with them. Read the latest installment: http://goo.gl/DU8zlv

Rebuilding and Resilience: The Women of the DRC

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Photo: Pete Muller/AP

The women of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been subjected to brutal rapes, as a result of the ongoing conflict. This has left these women at risk for unwanted pregnancies, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as obstetric fistulas. There are groups working to help these women rebuild their lives, who are getting them the medical resources and emotional support they need. Read more from The Guardian: goo.gl/1ZSjGy 

Helping Children Accused of Witchcraft

Photo Credit: Anja Ringgren Lovén

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Anja Ringgren Lovén went to Nigeria three years ago as a humanitarian volunteer, but nothing could have prepared her for what was in store for her. Lovén is the founder of the African Children’s Aid Education and Development Foundation and is dedicating to bettering the lives of vulnerable children. While being in Nigeria, she has seen firsthand some of the thousands of children who are accused of witchcraft and the terrible consequences that children endure on account of these strong superstitions. One of those children that Lovén is helping has been starved and shunned from the community. The child is now going by the name “Hope,” which he has given to people all over the world through his story of resilience. Read more @HuffPost: goo.gl/yHWsKm

The Heart of the Matter: The Plight of Child Marriages

Valentine’s Day just passed, but few of us ever take the time to be grateful that we’re in a relationship of our choosing, or are single- even if we wish that was different. Why? Because in many parts of the world, your spouse and life is determined for you.

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Photo Credit: Stephanie Sinclair for National Geographic. A 14 year old mother in Yemen bathes her infant child alongside her two-year old daughter. The mother was still experiencing physical complications for giving birth, but is without access to education or health services.

Being married before the age of 18 is the fate for 1 in 3 girls in low- and middle-income countries. Every day, around 39,000 girls are forced into child marriages. If the state of these affairs continue, by 2050 another 1.2 billion girls will be the victims of these forced marriages. There are serious economic, emotional and health consequences from this normalized cultural institution. These young girl’s  lives and the lives of their children are at risk due to the pregnancies that occur far too early in life. These early marriages are a violation of human rights, which undermines the development of the countries in which they occur. Education is the key to advancement, on the individual level, as well as on the global stage. Girls lacking education are 3 times more likely to be married than their peers with a secondary or higher education, according to the NGO Girls, Not Brides.

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Photo Credit: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images. Schoolgirls in Kilifi, Kenya.

There are major  health risks involved for these children, given the sexual nature of these marriages and their underdeveloped bodies. Among the perils facing these girls are obstetric fistulas, which can leave them incontinent and thus often they become social pariahs, as well as the hazards involved with teen pregnancy and sexual abuse, which are especially threatening in countries with little health and psychological resources available. In fact, globally, the second leading cause of death for girls aged 15-19 is attributed to the complications associated with childbirth and pregnancy, according to the World Health Organization. And it’s important to note that 9 out of these 10 births occur within the confines of marriage.

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Photo Credit: Graham Crouch | Girls Not Brides

Compounding the emotional and health issues of early motherhood is the very serious problem of financial inequality. Girls born into poverty are twice as likely to be married before 18 than their wealthier counterparts. One driving force behind this epidemic is that poor families can alleviate the financial burden of caring for a daughter by having her married off. In addition, the dowry of marriages can help these families with immediate financial needs. Besides being more likely to be married as a child, these girls are more likely to stay in poverty due to their early marital vows. Since these girls are not allowed to continue their education, the cycle of poverty continues for them and their families.

The organization KAFA Violence and Exploitation released a video over Valentine’s Day, which has subsequently gone viral. It depicts a disturbing, and yet all too common image, of a 12 year old child being married off to a much older man. Fortunately, the video is staged for the purpose of drawing attention to this frequent scenario. The organization is trying to draw attention to this issue, especially in the country of Lebanon, as part of its UN supported initiative to stop child marriages. The video has already been viewed close to 2 million times and exposure like this helps bring this issue into the mainstream conversation.

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Photo Credit: Jessica Lea/U.K. Department for International Development/Flickr.

So take heart, because hope is not lost. As more people stand up for themselves and as the world gets more educated on this issue, things are changing for the better. Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi, two teenagers from Zimbabwe just recently won a landmark court case against their own country on account of their own child marriages. On January 20, 2016, the courts ruled in favor of the girls and made it illegal for anyone in Zimbabwe to enter into marriage before the age of 18. As inspiring people like Murzuru and Tsopodzi take a stand for themselves, their children and their future, they lift up the world and remind us that things can, and should be, different.

 

Resources

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/feb/14/love-conquers-all-child-brides-sweetheart-spouse-ashley-judd

http://news.yahoo.com/disturbing-viral-video-shedding-light-212400779.html

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/644675/Man-Lebanon-child-bride

http://www.upworthy.com/2-former-child-brides-just-took-their-country-to-court-and-won

http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/ending-child-marriage-will-help-us-achieve-the-global-goals-heres-how/

http://proof.nationalgeographic.com/2015/09/14/documenting-child-marriage-for-over-a-decade-and-still-going/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/photo-series-reveals-how-child-marriage-devastates-girls-health-education-and-economic-opportunities_us_56005e5ce4b0fde8b0cf4c90

http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/themes/poverty/

Birth Defects from the Zika Virus

Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images. 3 month old with microcephaly in Brazil.
The mosquito-borne Zika virus has rapidly spread to 25 countries since April, when it was first discovered in Brazil. The virus can cause serious birth defects such as microcephaly, which often leads to brain damage. Since Ebola, the virus has been the first to be called an international public-health emergency by the World Health Organization. These women and children are especially vulnerable because in places like Brazil, the public health system is underfunded. Read more at Time Magazine: http://goo.gl/4ubLIx

Migrant Children Should Get Their Fair Day in Court

by Jacqueline Monet, Kitechild Social Media Manager

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Photo Credit: John Moore/Getty Images. A Honduran child at a United States Border Patrol detention center in McAllen, Texas. 

Yesterday a bill was introduced that would ensure that unaccompanied and vulnerable immigrant children would be given lawyers. These children are often fleeing violence, poverty and trafficking, after risking their lives on arduous journeys to arrive in America, alone. Once they finally arrive in the United States, they are all too often met with continued uncertainty of their futures. They are not granted the same basic rights as other Americans and even when facing deportation, they are not guaranteed a lawyer. Thousands of vulnerable children are being forced to go through immigrant proceedings without representation, which means they don’t have a chance at a fair deportation hearing.

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Photo Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan. Three of the sponsors of the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act 2016: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV), and Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Durbin (D-IL).

This new legislation, called the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2016, was brought before Congress by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and other Democratic politicians, along with the group Human Rights First. This is a very important piece of legislation to pass, as currently less than half of unaccompanied immigrant children have legal representation. This situation has serious ramifications for these vulnerable children: 90% of unaccompanied children without a lawyer are deported and those with representation are 5 times more likely to be granted relief. “We know firsthand that having a lawyer is one of the single most important indicators of whether a vulnerable asylum seeker receives protection,” said Eleanor Acer of Human Rights First. Providing legal representation to these children may not cost as much as you may think, when you consider that it will increase the efficiency of the current court proceedings and by reducing dentition costs. This is especially true considering how thousands of unaccompanied children have been flooding the border, and will continue to risk their lives for the promise of a better future in America.

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Photo Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times. Honduran child in Tapachula on his way into the United States.

All of these issues are coming to a head in the midst of the recent Obama Administration’s policy to deport arriving migrant children. That means that the 52,000 children that have been detained at the border this past year will be facing deportation… but, if the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act passes, there is hope for these children to standing a fighting chance to not be forced back to their conflict-ridden countries.

 

Resources

http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/new-legislation-would-provide-lawyers-children-vulnerable-individuals

http://www.northjersey.com/news/lawmakers-introduce-bill-calling-for-children-who-immigrated-to-u-s-alone-to-be-provided-lawyers-1.1510623

http://takeaction.takepart.com/actions/young-scared-alone-and-in-court?cmpid=action-share-influence

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/failures-in-handling-unaccompanied-migrant-minors-have-led-to-trafficking/2016/01/26/c47de164-c138-11e5-9443-7074c3645405_story.html

http://time.com/4218850/democratic-debate-bernie-sanders-hillary-clinton-central-america-unaccompanied-minors/

http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-mexico-crackdown-migrant-children-20150428-story.html

10,000 Refugee Children are Missing

Photo: Darko Vojinovic/AP. A migrant child at the Macedonian border.

10,000 refugee children are missing as a result of gang activity across Europe, according to Europol. This story from The Guardian brings to our attention how these children are being targeted by pan-European criminals to be sold into slavery and sex trafficking. Italy may have the worst of the problem, with 5,000 children unaccounted for, but other European countries are also facing this appalling epidemic, such as 1,000 children having gone missing in Sweden. There have been an estimated 26,000 unaccompanied children who have entered into Europe during this refugee crisis. The children who are traveling alone are especially vulnerable and in need of protection. Read more: goo.gl/pJH7nF

Unsafe Drinking Water in Our Own Backyard: Helping the Children of Flint During This Health Crisis

“If you were going to put something in a population to keep them down for generations to come, it would be lead,” said Dr. Hanna-Attisha of the Pediatric Public Health Initiative. That is really bad news for the children of Flint, Michigan.

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ACLU Michigan/ The Daily Beast

 
It’s estimated that 8,000 children under six years old may have been exposed to the contaminated water in Flint. These children are especially susceptible to brain and nervous system damage because their bodies are still growing. Even small amounts of lead can impair the health and growth of children. Lead exposure is associated with learning disabilities, poor motor abilities and even violent personalities. Potential health consequences are compounded in Flint because of the lack of access to adequate health services and poor living conditions.

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Dr. Hanna-Attisha testing a 2-month old patient for lead poisoning. Brittany Greeson for The New York Times

 
The lead water crisis in Flint began around two years ago when the city switched its water supply to contaminated river water. However, the state and federal government did not begin to acknowledge the problem until recently. The neglect of the government is especially devastating because these health effects are often irreversible and untreatable in children.

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Volunteers distribute bottled water at a Flint, Michigan community center. Bryan Mitchell for the Guardian

 
Bottled water has been donated and shipped to help the people of Flint. While bottled water helps with the immediate needs of the citizens, it won’t solve the larger problems facing children who have already drank the contaminated water. The governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, has designated $28 million to Flint, which will allow for health services to be made available to lead-exposed children. Governor Snyder also has called upon the federal government to provide aid in getting Medicaid to every resident under 21. However, while this may be a good start, others in the field are saying that the problem is bigger and will need more aid and resources to resolve.

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“We have to throw every single evidence-based resource at these kids, starting now.” -Dr. Hanna-Attisha (Photo: Brittany Greeson for The New York Times)

 
Doctors, like Hanna-Attisha, are working to help in the midst of the crisis by addressing the diets of the children of Flint, as well as broadening the Head Start program and others like it, which currently have wait lists in Flint. To give to the Pediatric Public Health Initiative and help its mission in providing critical interventions to the children of Flint, visit their site: https://www.cfgf.org/cfgf/GoodWork/FlintArea/WaterCrisis/tabid/855/Default.aspx

 

Resources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/30/us/flint-weighs-scope-of-harm-to-children-caused-by-lead-in-water.html?_r=0

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/24/flint-michigan-water-crisis-lead-poisoning-families-children

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/01/21/state-sponsored-child-abuse-and-neglect-in-flint.html?via=desktop&source=twitter

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/01/14/what-will-happen-to-flint-s-lead-poisoned-children.html

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/01/13/us/iyw-flint-michigan-water-crisis-how-to-help/

 

Seeking Refuge: Children of the Crisis

by Jacqueline Monet, Social Media Marketing Manager

 

It’s difficult to imagine circumstances being so atrocious in your own country that you would risk everything to flee into the unknown. Harder still is to imagine doing that on your own as a child. The numbers are difficult to come by, but at least 24,000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in the EU last year. These children are among the most vulnerable to trafficking, slavery and other horrific fates. The UK just announced that it will do more to help these children, but it will not be opening its doors to 3,000 unaccompanied children, as Save the Children proposed. Instead, the UK will be giving £10m to help these vulnerable children who have already traversed into Europe.

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Photo: BBC News

Unaccompanied children who have family members in the UK will be allowed in and reunited with their family, while the future for the other thousands of vulnerable children remains uncertain. There has been a push to make fostering children easier in countries like Britain, but so far it remains a complicated and difficult situation. Children’s homes have been filling up faster than accommodations can be made for the incoming children, who arrive from as far as Turkey to Germany. The resources, help and organization to facilitate proper care and possibly adoptions is simply not in place.

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Photo: Nish Nalbandian, NPR: “Two Syrian girls color at Bayti orphanage in Reyhanli, Turkey, just across the border from Syria. Many young Syrian refugees have lost one or both parents, but space is limited at orphanages in the city.”

Despite the hardships of the world, life carries on. Babies are being born in the midst of the crisis to Syrian refugee parents in Europe. These children are at great peril of being stateless, as many EU countries do not implement the UN convention of automatically granting nationality to children born in their country. These children are often not eligible for Syrian citizenship, either, as only fathers can pass on citizenship to children, according to Syrian law. Being stateless can have disastrous consequences for these children as they grow up. Without citizenship, people can often not legally work, get married, own property, vote and participate in other facets of adult life.

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Photo: Bilal Hussein, The Associated Press: “A Syrian family sit outside their tent, at a Syrian refugee camp, in the eastern town of Kab Elias, Lebanon.”

We are now witnessing the largest number of refugee children since World War II. Over 4 million people have left Syria to seek refuge in nearby countries and over half of those people are children, alone or with families. It’s a confusing and scary time to be witness to this crisis and far worse to be experiencing it. News is just breaking that Sweden will be expelling as many as 80,000 refugees from its country. To protect these children caught up in the chaos, we need to work together to support refugee families with proper housing and education, find a way to keep records of all refugee children and supporting the children’s homes that are currently providing assistance. We can also petition our governments to grant exemptions in order to speed up the foster care and adoption process, in order to provide immediate care for these children. Supporting organizations like Save the Children, who are on the ground and working towards these goals is a great first step: http://goo.gl/tKNHmQ.

 

Resources

Juvenile Justice Act Now In Effect

Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson. Kailash Satyarthi, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

Indian Parliament recently passed changes to the Juvenile Justice Act in India, to include legislation that will help better protect children. Now there are specific criminal offenses for child trafficking and the usage of children in begging, drug trade or violent crimes. Also, the new law cracks down on the regulation of children’s homes, working to end the abuse and exploitation of vulnerable children living in these institutions. Nobel Peace Prize winner and child activist Kailash Satyarthi spoke out in favor of the law, but said it would require political and financial support to be effective. Although much good could come of this, the new laws are not without criticisms, including that the act will have harsher sentencing for minors. Read more: goo.gl/aSblC6 

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