Father and film producer: Need for international adoption reform now

Fight for every child's right to a family Photo: Craig Juntunen and kids

WASHINGTON, June 6, 2013 — The Red Thread welcomes guest columnist Craig Juntunen, the executive producer of STUCK, a documentary on international adoption.

Do you know the universal language of  an orphan?

Enter any orphanage around the world and you will quickly learn. They will come to you   with upraised hands – pleading – “Please hold me. Just for a moment. Make me feel loved and secure.”

I’ve seen this in orphanages around the world, and now I have wrapped a 18,000-mile barnstorming tour around the country to try and help the American people hear those kids’ pleas. 

My vehicle for change – literally – was a 45-foot bus, traveling to 61 cities in 80 days to screen the award-winning documentary STUCK produced by the Both Ends Burning Foundation.  

The STUCK tour shares information and creates a conversation about the importance of a family to a child. What I’m finding is that people care deeply about children, but simply don’t know the extent of the problems faced by children around the world or how their involvement can help.

Our foundation, Both Ends Burning, is reaching out through a global initiative to ensure children grow up in families. It may be their birth family or a foster family. It may be a fractured family that can be reunited. It may be domestic adoption or it may be international adoption.

While common sense dictates that a child is better off in a family than in these institutions, we also have the science that proves it in terms of childhood development, health and even IQ. The problem is that we are not paying attention to the science.

Despite public perception otherwise, international adoption activity in the U.S. is in a freefall decline – dropping every year for eight straight years, which has impacted and compromised the lives of tens of thousands of children.

The primary driver of this decline is not the supply of children needing homes or a lack of families who want to adopt. It’s the process. Today an adoption costs too much and takes too long. In other words, we have set in place a process that discourages adoption, instead of encouraging it. A broken process is a pitiful reason to deny a child a family.

Every day matters in the formative years of a child’s development. Every day a child spends in an institution is another day that real permanent damage is being inflicted.

Why are we willing to accept an adoption process that takes an extraordinary amount of time, penalizing and damaging the very children it’s designed to help?

The bureaucratic obstacle course that families must endure is responsible for turning good families away. An easy conclusion to make – not from opinion, but from research – is a more efficient system benefits children. However, we cannot sacrifice standards and safeguards in order to save time. How do we create a time-efficient system while at the same time increasing safeguards for children?

We are proponents of social entrepreneurship, using the creative thinking and business practices of an entrepreneur to organize, create and manage a venture to create social change. To that end, we have delved into the business world and worked with consultants to begin envisioning what this more efficient and effective international adoption system might look like.

The tour was designed to create an UNSTUCK movement to form the social and political will to make children living outside of parental care a relevant social issue. Our road show fueled a loud and provocative voice for millions of children who languish in orphanages while bureaucracies and political agendas condemn them to a highly compromised future.


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Andrea Poe

Andrea Poe is a veteran journalist, whose work has appeared in thousands of publications, including Town & Country, Marie Claire and Entrepreneur.  She is the author of several books and her work has appeared in many others, including anthologies and college textbooks. 

Andrea serves as editor of the Travel & Food section at The Washington Times Communities.  Her love of travel has led her to cover everything from remote villages in the Andes to her hometown of New York, from Paris to Pittsburgh, from Beijing to the Bahamas.  No matter where she travels, she likes to uncover the unusual and share with readers those often-overlooked aspects of a place and its people.  She dubs her column Raven’s Eye as a nod to her illustrious (and, yes, infamous) relative, Edgar Allan Poe, a writer who knew more than a little something about the quirky and unique.  

Andrea is also mother to Maxine, who was adopted from Vietnam in 2006, and is the inspiration for The Red Thread column on adoption at The Washington Times Communities.   Andrea is currently at work on a book on international adoption.

In addition to her work as mother, writer and traveler, she is the founder and president of Media Branding International, a consulting firm that helps individuals and organizations craft and promote their image in media outlets around the globe.

Find Andrea at andpoe@Twitter, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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