World Symposium on Families for Orphans

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Both Ends Burning, an organization dedicated to ensuring that all children around the world are have an opportunity to be given a permanent home, is hosting its second global symposium at the Marina del Rey Marriott, Los Angeles from April 3-6. The organization's goal is ensure that global child welfare includes family-based solutions as a core value. This year's symposium, Achieving Child Permanency Through Innovation, is focused on solution-based strategies.

Representatives from dozens of organizations, including UNICEF, and countries such as Ethiopia, the Philippines and Guatemala will share child welfare experiences, challenges they have faced, successes they have had, and hopes for the future.

"Our goal is to spend a few days encouraging the world to look at child welfare in a different light, consider how we can produce better programs to serve the welfare of children and use this experience as a catalyst to becoming innovators in our field," explains Craig Juntunen, founder of Both Ends Burning and author of Both Ends Burning, a memoir about his experience adopting three children from Haiti. "Communication can change and influence everything and we have created a very dynamic and interactive agenda to provoke new thoughts and ideas."

At the first symposium last year at Harvard University participants developed a list of priorities, which included:

  • Increase the knowledge of the damaging consequences of institutional care (orphanages)
  • Create information system tools allowing countries to track, assess, and monitor plans to improve the lives of children under their care
  • Build strategies and methods to expand social worker capacity
  • Support the process of legal reform

This year's symposium aims to outline the next steps forward. The Leadership Committee has identified the following objectives for this symposium:

  • Learn about the process of innovation
  • Share inspirational success stories
  • Present new ideas for future best practices
  • Identify opportunities to transform current practices
  • Form relationships needed for future collaborations
  • Expand global opportunities to promote awareness and advocate for change

The symposium is the only convening like it in the world, bringing together those on the front line of the issue of orphaned children. It's a rare chance to share ideas and even more importantly impact change. "Our symposiums are a reaction to the fact that current child welfare programs are underachieving relative to serving the real needs of kids," says Juntunen. "I am so optimistic this gathering can be a catalyst for change."