Friday, June 24, 2016

2 years and many thousand dollars later, Michigan family adopts special needs child from Armenia

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Smiling and laughing through tears, Sam Bode's new extended family erupted into cheers as they spotted the 4-year-old and his adoptive parents at Gerald R. Ford International Airport.
Moments before, the huddle of grandparents, aunts, an uncle and cousins had grown quiet from nervousness and excitement. Over the past two years, they've only been able to communicate with the cheerful boy via Facetime while his parents, Erica and Jeff Bode, went through the lengthy process to adopt him from Armenia. On Wednesday night, he was officially welcomed into the tight-knit West Michigan family.
Sam, who has Down syndrome, arrived at the airport with the Bodes and their son Jack, 8, after the last leg of their trip home from Armenia. He has spent his entire life in an orphanage.
They were weary from traveling, but their hearts were full. For the Ada couple, bringing Sam home was a joyful end to a chapter marked by heart-wrenching disappointments. They experienced miscarriages and unsuccessful fertility procedures as they tried to conceive a second child. The Bodes eventually decided to adopt and were set on bringing home a special needs child.
"There's just been a hole in my heart for a very, very long time. Of course my husband and my son fulfill me, but I really, truly feel complete now," Erica Bode said.
A visibly tired Sam clutched onto his dad at first, offering a few high fives to his cousins as they approached to say hello at the airport. It wasn't long before a smile broke out across his face and he was tossing a small soccer ball to his new playmates.
 (hand clapping - a little free advertising from our favorite baby snatcher) 
Erica and Jeff Bode first laid eyes on a picture of Sam at 9 months old. He was a sweet-looking baby with a full head of black hair and big, brown eyes. A description and photos of him were posted on Reece's Rainbow, a grant foundation that promotes the international adoption of children with Down syndrome. They adopted him through Hopscotch Adoptions, an agency based in North Carolina.
"The one [photo] that kind of sold it was he was playing with a ball and that's exactly what our son was like when he was little," Jeff Bode said.
Read rest of the story here.     

Ambassador Mills visits Armenian orphanages

U.S. Ambassador Mills visits orphanage in Vanadzor, Armenia to examine Child Welfare Reform (Photo: U.S. Embassy in Armenia)
U.S. Ambassador Mills visits orphanage in Vanadzor, Armenia to examine Child Welfare Reform (Photo: U.S. Embassy in Armenia)
VANADZOR (U.S. Embassy in Armenia)—As part of a month-long focus on human rights, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills, Jr., visited a residential care facility for children in Vanadzor. His trip was part of a larger tour of the Lori province, where he traveled to a number of organizations touching upon human rights.
In Vanadzor, Mills toured the orphanage and talked with representatives from Armenia’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MLSA) and UNICEF. He also met with the orphanage staff and the young residents to get their views on the government of Armenia’s child welfare reform. They discussed prospects for transformation of the institution of orphanages in Armenia, and the challenges in reuniting children with their extended families.
“Children have human rights too, the right to proper care and support and love,” Mills said. “Institutional care is not necessarily the best environment to provide such care. Plus it is costly for the state and breeds corruption, especially when financing of residential institutions is based on the number of children and not linked to the service provision or outcome.”
In October 2015, Armenia was designated as a priority country under the U.S. Government Action Plan on Children in Adversity (APCA).  Such a designation allows in-depth support of child welfare reform efforts in Armenia. The Armenian government – supported by USAID, UNICEF, World Vision, Save the Children and Bridge of Hope – is working to improve care for at-risk youth in Armenia.
One goal they are working on is de-institutionalizing children. According to UNICEF, nearly 4,500 children live in 41 residential institutions —  orphanages, night care institutions, and special educational facilities. Ninety-seven percent of the children living in institutions are children from socially vulnerable families, who have at least one living parent. At least two-thirds of children at special educational facilities do not have a certified disability, but are simply victims of poverty and social neglect.
“Due to the lack of alternative services, the existing child care system of Armenia encourages parents of disabled children, children with special educational needs, and economically disadvantaged families to send their children to institutions for temporary or often permanent care,” the Ambassador said. “And these children have the same human rights as children living with their families, or with extended family. Where we can, we must work together to protect the human rights of these children, the most vulnerable in society.”
Along with touring the Vanadzor Orphanage, the Ambassador’s trip to Lori included a meeting with representatives from Peace Dialogue NGO, which deals with human rights concerns coming from the Armenian military. He also met with U.S. Peace Corps volunteers working at the Orran Center, an organization helping at-risk youth and seniors through social services and educational programs. While there, he was interviewed by some of the student journalists learning their craft through the Orran Center’s programs.
“Many of our Peace Corps volunteers work in centers such as Orran, helping develop programs that aim to improve communities and lift people up,” Mills said. “These Peace Corps volunteers embody the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by ensuring that all members of society get the education and support needed to become contributing, active members of society.”