This past week (November 8-11, 2005) I was invited to once again address their world conference in the Boston area (Worcester, MA). Attendees doubled in size from last year.
Over 30 countries sent delegations to the conference including the USA. ( Republic of Georgia, Russia, Mexico, Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, Guatamala, El Salvador, Germany, Viet Nam, Armenia, Nicarauga, Pakistan, Denmark, Morocco, Thailand, Philipines, Latvia, Poland, Maldova, Romania, Ukraine, Kurtistan, New Zealand, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Mongolia, South Africa, Argentina, Honduros, Lesotho Africa...and I missed a few )
There were also a number of private agencies and individuals that deal with adoption from other countries to the USA as well as child welfare in general.
The conference began with me giving one of the two opening addresses. This was to let the delegates know the purpose for the conference was to make "best interest of the child" a reality for children rather than the myth it is today. I shared a part of my story then presented why I was sharing...on behalf of the millions around the world who find themselves as I did years ago...without parents or a home to call their own! I closed with a poem I wrote years ago describing the feelings of a child going through years of foster care and a number of moves entitled, "WHO ARE WE?" It was well received. Later that day I participated in a panel of those of us who spoke during the day to allow the delegates to ask questions of us. The evening was devoted to a dinner and then time for all of us to just meet and talk with each other.
The second day was primarily devoted to workshops addressing many areas where a difference could be made in the lives of children.
However, one of the main highlights of the conference was that evening, a trip to Harvard University Law School to attend a panel. We did not know until arriving that besides the attendees to the conference there would be a number of others attending. The program was set up as part of a class being taught this fall at Harvard entitled, "Child Advocacy." Students attending actually received credit for class by attending. The main law school hall was full to capacity! The panel consisted of Mr. Jacob Doek...Chairman of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. I had met him at last year's conference. Also included was Dr. Jane Aronson...Founder and Medical Director of Worldwide Orphans Foundation. The program included presentations by the them and then it was opened to the audience for questions. I can now fairly say...I attended a class at Harvard University....LOL! The night wrapped up with a group of us going out for dinner and talk until the wee hours of the morning.
The final day included a good presentation by a professor from the Netherlands (Dr. Rene Hoksbergan). Dr. Hoksbergan had written hundreds of articles and givren numerous lectures around the world on the affects of long term foster care as well as the need for follow up after children are adopteddue to dmage caused while in foster care or orphanages. Dr. Hoksbergan also wishes to receive a copy of my second book so he may do a review of it for the press in the Netherlands.
I was asked to give comments for the final wrap up of the conference....they wanted to close it as they began...through the eyes of a child who went through the system! I was to give an evaluation and tell what I felt about the conference and what was still needed to be done.
One of the things to come out of the conference was to be the establishment of a World Council to better coordinate the needs of countries dealing with large numbers of children without parents, whatever the reason. I hope to be a part of this council representing the children. All programs established will be reviewed by chidlren graduating from the system from the child's perspective. Far too often the child's perspective is ignored, they are voiceless and forgotten...now they will have a voice!
During the three days in Boston I was able to meet and discuss child welfare issues with some of the leading authorities on the subject from around the world. I also met the Attorney General of El Salvador and six senators from Gautamala who came for the last day of the conference. The representatives from the various countries were the decision makers concerning child welfare from their respective countries.
I was also able to do some networking which may lead to other speaking opportunities.
Though I did not go to sell my books I did take 42 with me and just due to my presentations and no sales pitch by me, I sold 36 of them which will recover part of the funds I lost by taking a week off of work to attend the conference. The IAC covered all my expences fr the trip itself. My book is now in over 30 countries as well as at the United Nations through Mr. Doek. Also the delegation from Ukraine said they saw my presentation from last year while they visited Russia earlier this summer. A documentary has been made from last year's conference which is now being shown to countries around the world.
Plans are already being made for the next world conference to be hled next November. It will be held at The Hague, Netherlands. The new World Council will be announced then will be assuming our roles at the Peace Palace in the Hague on the first day.
Below are a few of the photographs I took, or had others take, during the conference. I will also be getting from IAC photos taken during my presentations at a later date.
It was a very good trip.
Twenty-two countries sent delegations to the symposium including the USA. A few of the countries were Georgia, Russia, Mexico, Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, Bulgaria and Columbia. However, the largest delegation came from Viet Nam. There were also a number of private agencies that deal with adoption from other countries to the USA.
There were a number of highlights to the trip. I had the chance to meet and discuss issues with the First Lady of the Republic of Georgia. She appeared to be a very open and caring woman. I also met and was able to have a lengthy discussion with E. Bartholet..a professor at Harvard University who is considered one of the top experts in the field. We found that we disagreed in a number of areas while agreeing also on some. This was an arranged dinner as the director of IAC knew of our disagreements and felt we should have the opportunity to talk. It was worth the time.
I also met Jakob Doek from the Netherlands who is Chairman of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.
I also spoke for a period with the head of the delegation from Viet Nam but needed a translator to work with us as he did not speak English.
Some of those from USA agencies spoke afterwords of my possibly speaking to conferences they have...told them they will need to E-mail me to see what we could arrange. One group also is considering me for their Advisory Board.
The symposium ended with the establishment of a International Council for Reform. I hope to be asked to serve as a member to represent those who have had to endure the foster care system without ever being adopted and the pitfalls one faces in life due to that experience.
Though I know change will not come overnight...I believe this made for a strong beginning step!
Adamsí describes how the Michigan state foster care system failed him numerous times from missed opportunities for adoption with a loving family to placement in an abusive household. Through Adamsí story, we learn how broken and fractured the foster care system is in the United States, and how miraculously, Adams survived this unsettling childhood managing to find salvation at Boys Town at age 11. During his seven years in this new home, he learned he could amount to something in this world and make a difference. We watch as his feelings of worthlessness dissipate as he finds redemption in participating in such group activities as choir and the debate team.
During the second half of his presentation Adamsí adult life as he struggles with relationships, his health, and his career. His search for his birth mother and family leads him down a long, heartbreaking but necessary path as he grapples with finding his identity and heritage.
In the end, Adamsí reveals that what is important in life is not so much how we started out in life or what it even looked like in the middle, but what we have become and what we have done with what we have been given. Adams is a testament to this basic tenet and shows that true compassion and integrity is born from within.
I have heard him speak twice, including our International Conference last October. His presentations are heart wrenching, moving and inspirational to anyone who listens with an open mind and open heart.
MARISA SALCINES, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, IAC (International Advocates for Children)
As an adoption professional who heard him speak at the International Advocates for Children's International Conference in Atlanta this past fall, I witnessed a presentation that moves mountains.
Mr. Doek, from the Netherlands who is Chairman of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, was profoundly moved by his words, and I believe that it will have an enormous impact on UN policy and UNICEF over the coming years.
My colleagues and myself all viewed his wonderful story of success and inspiration. I refer to their impact time and again when reflecting on life-changing moments in my recent history and career. His real world perspective is invaluable to policy change. His contributions are enormously valuable in changing the world for the better. He is the very right messenger with the very right message. His story is very important and worthwhile to share with policy makers and potential adoptive families everywhere.
Debbie Spivack, Reaching Out thru International Adoption.
Mr. Adams has ALL of the credentials to do this work, including a testimony, experiential and clinical competency, a burning passion, tenacity and guts! Remember, social homeostasis, en trophy, gravity and momentum, are all working against him. People do not want to be told the truth. People resist change. People always avoid pain and do not wanted to be confronted. The work is tough...he is attempting to change city hall, right a history wrong and unbury children the system has left to decompose under mounds of bureaucracy and paperwork. Society does not want him to expose them or face the terrible odor of the decay they have caused! We all desperately need his voice.
Dr. Kenneth Brown, LMFT, Hope for Families
Adams'is blessed with the skill of being able to take life challenges to speak and also gracefully put them on paper for future generations to read. Someday another child, in the same situations he lived through, will read his book or hear him speak; it will inspire another great leader to keep trying and to not give up. It could be today, tomorrow, or ten years after you have gone. Regardless of when, it will be there when it is needed.
In Mr. Adams, I see a man that is so dedicated to his beliefs that he has given up all monetary values to try to save the children the world has forgotten.
I see him as a man that has already triumphed over horrible life circumstances, who has found a way to share his experiences in a positive manner. I see a man that needs to be listened to.
Pamela Wooldridge, private citizen working to create a non profit to assist families in preventing the need for foster care
I am also a survivor of child abuse. I read "Lost Son" by Lawrence Adams and have also heard him speak.
Although we grew up in different parts of the country and under different circumstances it amazes me that we went through the same things. Many of our feelings and thoughts were the same. We moved the same way in "Paper Bags" and lived day to day never knowing when we would wake to and be going somewhere else to live. Life for a child in the foster care system is the same for all of us no matter where we live. The saddest thing of all even after over 50 years the children of today in the "system" sound the same as Larry and I did over 50 years ago. After 50 years nothing has changed .........how sad is that?????
Here is a man who has found his voice while so many remain voiceless. Read his work, hear him speak; you will be moved and inspired to create conditions for children within the system who only dream about it today.
Jeanne Fowler, Executive Director, Big Families of Michigan
As you hear his story you realize that it's not just a story about his life as a youngster, it's about how people treat other people and how there should be some kind of check to make sure everyone is alright. He reminds you that every state's foster care system needs an overhaul, and it makes you remember about stories in the newspaper and on television about children who have been literally LOST in the system. Here is a person who is standing on the wall, willing, able, and wanting to protect all our children.
I was telling everyone about this man and his work. Who should read his book or hear him speak? Every parent, anyone who works with the public, teachers, social workers, police, you can't help but remember how you felt when you were the ages he talks, you remember how innocent you were, it will make you want to join his fight to make "in the best interest of the child" a reality.
This is serious work, by a serious person who has made it out, he is a success. Who knows, maybe some little boy or girl who isn't sure about his own future could learn about the trials and how Larry came out triumphant, it could give someone hope. I continue to hope and pray that Larry is on the news and in more newspapers, and is invited to speak so much that he becomes a household name, so that kids will hear about this man who is working on their behalf.
Chris Bartholomew, Evangelist
I would like to take this time to thank, on behalf of the entire group here at the Foundation, Mr. Larry Adams, one of our newest members and published author of a wonderful book of his life in the foster system here in Michigan. "Lost Son? A Bastard Child's Journey of Hope, Search, discovery, and Healing."
Larry recently attended the rally and gave a talk of his life at the luncheon afterwards. Throughout the presentation there were visible gasps and groans as he explained his plight as a child of the system. It was a bittersweet story with his success story which shows how you can survive and make a life in spite of horrible experiences as a child.
I hope all who truly care about children will have the opportunity to meet and hear this man. He has dedicated himself to help the cause of reform as his life's work and passion. We need to get behind this man and do what we can to help him bring this fight to the attention of the general public.
Nancy Lockhurst, President, Foundation for Children's Rights