This week we received a very detailed letter from the Executive Director of Programs, Susan Maines. It is long and quite involved, but I will post it for those who are more interested in how the program works. It also talks about upcoming changes, including the resignation of our Family Coordinator and the transition of our new African Program Director. Enjoy!
Dear Ethiopia Families,
I was planning on sending this email but have been waiting on the resolution of some of the details so that it could give you a full update on our Ethiopia program. This is a multi-faceted program, which we feel thankful and blessed has grown quickly but not always smoothly since it opened in September 2006. Let me just stop and say thank you to you all for your commitment to America World and your willingness to sign up to adopt from a new program. As you have probably seen there have been some pluses (our early families got referrals quickly and completed their adoptions) and many growing pains. We have needed to grow the program on many levels all at once and also reach a critical point where the program could support itself and the needed growth.
This summer we believed that we reached that point and therefore, began to take the necessary steps to see this growth happen. The most critical and timely piece was the opening of our own transitional home in Addis Ababa. America World Corporate staff with the assistance of our in country liaison laid the ground work in August and with the assistance of one of AW’s parents we were able to get the home up and running in November 2007. While there is still work that needs to be accomplished with the transition home we are happy to report the children who are currently in the home are happy and being well cared for as they wait for their parents to arrive. Some of you have asked about capacity in the home? We expect to be able to serve between 10-20 children dependent upon the ages and needs at any one time. There are three rooms, two of which are set up for infants or younger toddlers and one for older children. The number of children in the home will never be a given number but will depend upon the needs of the children currently in the home, the space, etc.
Now I anticipate that you’re wondering how the process will work with our new transition home. When a family accepts a referral from AW then that child will “transition” into the America World home and will remain there until the parents arrive and the placement is made. We anticipate this time frame to be somewhere between 2-3 months. We expect that there will be an ebb and flow to the transition home and that it will serve the needs of the program as they are right now. Certainly, this will be one area we will monitor closely over the next six months or so to be sure that we have adequate space to continue to serve the needs of the program.
Another area we have been working on developing for the program is the travel piece of the adoption process. For those of you who this is your first experience with America World let me say that we have years of experience arranging travel groups for our China adoptions and in fact this is one aspect of the process that we consistently get rave reviews on. Laurel and I have been working with our travel department on this aspect of the Ethiopia program and they are taking over responsibility for travel with the New Year. While all the specific details of this are still being developed how this will work in general is twofold: one, we will be sending travel groups to Ethiopia and two, when you get to the travel portion of the process, you will work with the AW travel coordinator rather than your family coordinator for the arrangements of travel.
Well, I think we have reached the part of the program you probably have the most questions about. As I believe many of you now know Laurel Ludwick is getting married in mid December. She will be out of the office December 13-21st. During that time Christi Hicks, Latin America Program Director and I will be covering the Ethiopia Program. You can contact Christi with dossier/paperwork questions and she will review and process any dossiers we receive. On that note we will authenticate dossiers received in the office through December 14th. They will get authenticated the following week and sent to Ethiopia on December 21st. Any dossiers received the week of December 17th will be held until the New Year for authentication as our offices will be closed the week of Christmas. Please don’t send us your dossier unless you can guarantee arrival before December 21st. I will be available for questions on referrals, court dates, and to convey any pertinent information for specific families. As mentioned above, the America World offices will be closed December 24-January 1, 2008. Staff will be returning on January 2nd.
Now that covers the program through 2007. Normally, Laurel would share this additional information with you herself but because I am writing and this is a key piece of what is happening with the Ethiopia program I asked her permission to share her information with you. For personal and professional reasons (Laurel is pursuing a master’s degree in social work) Laurel has resigned from her position as Assistant Director of the Ethiopia Program. We have recognized for awhile that the program needed a full-time director but because of other priorities, especially in-country, we had held off on that. I am pleased to announce that Duni Zenaye will assume the position as Africa Program Director on January 2, 2008. Part of the duties of this director position will be the family coordination piece that Laurel did as well as developing and growing the program in Ethiopia and possibly in the future other Africa countries.
As most of you know and have met Duni through our intake process, I would request that you not contact her on matters dealing with your Ethiopia adoption until after January 2nd. In order to facilitate a smooth transition for the intake department and our potential and actual applicants it’s important that she focus on training her replacement. I’m happy to take and address any of your questions or concerns. I’m confident with the new Program Director that any concerns families have expressed to America World about communication issues will be addressed. I will say one thing about communication now though. Whenever you have a large program with many applicants (and right now there are about 130+ families enrolled in the Ethiopia program) it is easiest to address general topics of concern to many in a general and mass format. AW has developed our weekly and monthly updates for this purpose. We try to use that vehicle to address any general program information that we have in any week that would be of interest to all families in the program. We will continue to use that format and will do our best to see that information is pertinent. Another area that AW has given to families as a vehicle for information and support is the Ethiopia chat group. I feel that one way we can support you, our families with this vehicle is to moderate it so we are going to have AW staff person moderating the group.
Another area that I would like to address is referrals and the court process. As many of you know during the past year we have worked exclusively with one orphanage, Kid’s Care, and have received all our referrals from there. While we cherish this relationship, we are working to expand the orphanages from which we receive referrals. We have made a commitment to the Addis city government to support their sponsorship program (required to conduct adoptions in Ethiopia) and hope to develop those relationships more. We also are open to and desire to develop relationships with other orphanages as well. For those of you who don’t know, when we consider working with an orphanage part of the negotiations would involve a monetary commitment to development projects in or for that orphanage. We take any potential commitments seriously, and therefore might choose to move slowly in any negotiations.
Families have asked us whether or not the delays in court will affect the referrals we receive. While court delays do not directly affect referrals, referrals are affected by the space we have available in the transition home at any one time and therefore court delays do indirectly affect referrals in that children might not move out of the transition home as quickly as we might anticipate and space might not be available for other children.
One final piece to the program that I would like to update you on is to let you know about another change in staffing. Rachel Ward, who has been our TN Director of Social Services for the past few years, is moving with her husband in late January to Addis. Rachel will be adding her support and expertise to the transition home and the program pieces of the in-country work.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about anything outlined in this letter. It has been a joy and a pleasure for me this past year to directly oversee the Ethiopia program. In this time of preparation for the birth of the Christ child, we pray that our Lord is preparing each of your families for the advent of the newest member(s) to your family. We pray continuously for you and the program and wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Susan B. Maines, LSW, LCSW
Executive Director of Programs
America World Adoption Association
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