About adopting children with HIV

Know Thy Enemy

We have been a foster and adoptive family for a little over 10 years now.  We have six beautiful children.  With this decade of experience, I have come to know that I know a little about a little and I’m an expert at nothing.  This has become invaluable to me as a parent of children who are HIV positive.

When we adopted our first child who is HIV positive, we made the decision to live a very open lifestyle about HIV and our family.  We are what you might call a “disclosure family.”  That is, we have chosen to disclose the status of our HIV positive children.  Since making that decision, we have received nothing but love and acceptance from our family and close friends.

On a few occasions, however, we have been met with some rejection due to those three little letters.  Project Hopeful asked me to write about the instances where we felt some discrimination based on HIV in hopes of providing further education on the disease. 

A couple of years ago, I enrolled our children in a private swim school for swimming lessons.  Because the owner of the school did not have current information about how HIV is transmitted, she would not allow my children to enroll.  Before you get too angry at the owner, she is a very kind woman who was willing to sit with us and discuss HIV.  After our discussion, she even held a meeting with all of her instructors at the school in order to provide education to them about HIV.  We were asked to and did lead this meeting.  We distributed current information about HIV from the Centers for Disease Control website.  Some of the swim instructors’ parents […]

My child has HIV and we choose not to disclose

Like many families parenting an HIV positive child, we echo commonly-heard statements that it’s very easy as far as special needs go.  Our son from East Africa contracted HIV at birth, came home to us as an older toddler and now is 7 years old.  He’s doing great, and we are so thankful.  He’s our healthiest child out of a few bio and a few adopted!   The issue that has taken the most energy from us so far, is disclosure–weighing a zillion factors, thinking a zillion thoughts, thinking about our son’s growing-up years, considering the amount of ignorance/stigma in our nation, city and smaller circles (our kids’ school, etc.).  There are endless factors that a family must weigh, and no two situations will ever be identical. Where any one family falls on the disclosure spectrum is highly personal and highly unique to that family’s situation.  My own disclaimer is that I completely understand the pros and cons of the various levels of disclosure.  I am friends with people on all ends and all over the middle of the spectrum and recognize the unique factors that have led each family to the decision they have made.

All that said–our disclosure decision that I’m writing about is simply an account of why we chose what we did, because I was asked to do so by Project Hopeful.  We are what some people call a “non-disclosure” family.  I do not believe that being private is the best option for others–the best option is simply what is best for that particular family!

I consider our family private on HIV status, for now.  We have disclosed our child’s HIV status to close family and a few select friends, and we’ll keep […]

The Faces of HIV in 2013

I was driving to work this morning and passed by a billboard that reads, “I am living with HIV and my brother is standing with me.” As I read it, there was this moment inside of me where I *forgot* that I too am living with people who have HIV. And just as fast, the flash was gone and I remembered my babies.The truth is, I never thought this would be my life. I mean, come on. MY life? Single and raising not one, but TWO children who have HIV?  Sheez. I must be crazy!  Here’s some more truth:  I never {okay, very rarely} think about it!  My boys, wrestling in full-nelson style on the floor?  Nope. Doesn’t occur to me. Wet beds, runny noses, coughs, vomit?  Never think of HIV.  Leah and Seth sharing drinks, food, baths, and germs?  Not a second thought. My children engaged in straight-up-mania in the jumping pool?  Zilch. Is there a chance one of them could get hurt and bleed? Um, yea. There’s always that chance! But if they bleed — hear this now — they are not going to “catch” HIV from each other.  Period, full stop.More truth? Listen up. I don’t think our friends think about it either. {gasp} That’s the thing about the truth. Once you know it, you’re not afraid!!!I pray that those of you who are considering adoption would consider that HIV is, as our founder Kiel Twietmeyer has said, a “cheater” special need.  It is medically manageable and not scary.  For those children who are in need of a loving home, could God be leading YOU to parent a child with HIV?  Are you willing to step out in faith for this? Or […]

I slept with a girl…..and I didn’t catch HIV.

A guest post, by Jenny Clark

She is four years old. Her name is Leah Grace and she is the daughter of my friend Deb (the one I just went to Africa with). She contracted HIV through no fault of her own. She takes her meds every day like a good girl. Because of those meds, and the love of her family, she is a perfectly healthy normal little girl.

While in Uganda, I wiped her snot, drank after her, shared food with her, helped her in the bathroom….all of the things I would do with my own daughter. About halfway through the week we had some friends come and stay with us for a few nights, which caused us to have to do a little shuffle of the sleeping arrangements. I am no stranger to having children in my bed and all up in my business while I sleep, so I didn’t think twice when Leah Grace wanted to bunk with me.

But then right before I fell asleep, 1987 came back to haunt me ……for a split second.

What if she has a stomach virus and throws up on me during the night?
Is HIV present in urine? What if she wets the bed?
She got a cut on her nose today…what if it opens up while she is asleep?
  

The truth is sometimes ugly, and I really don’t want to admit it…..especially since I am on staff with Project Hopeful, and our whole objective is to shine light on the facts about HIV and to advocate for children who live with it.

But then I realized, that if I KNOW the facts, and 1987 still crept in to my mind for a split second, how would my friends react in the same […]

HIV/AIDS Adoption: Teen Selah Twietmeyer Gives Her HIV Adoption Testimony

In this powerful new interview, HIV/AIDS Infected teen Selah Twietmeyer, daughter of Kiel and Carolyn Twietmeyer tells how she was adopted from Ethiopia into her family and talks about disclosure.

“I am not ashamed and not afraid to tell the Truth”, says Selah. She also tells how stigma and misinformation about HIV/AIDS effected her while she was still in Ethiopia, before she knew she had a family who loved her. An incredible testimony!  Please share this message by reposting this link http://youtu.be/sRxDRzZxDbI .

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    Encouragement for the Single Adoptive Mother: It doesn’t mean parenting alone.

Encouragement for the Single Adoptive Mother: It doesn’t mean parenting alone.

Hi. My name is Deb Steiner and I’m a single mother.

These are the words I never expected to say, but sometimes God’s plans aren’t ours. Most of the time, actually.

I always knew I would adopt. Both of my brothers are adopted and biracial. So from an early age, I dreamed of having a big and multi-cultural family of biological and adopted children, even requesting the black Sunshine family dolls when I was a kiddo.  But that wasn’t God’s plan for me, at least not yet.

Instead, I went to law school, zipped off into a career as a Federal Prosecutor and then became a lawyer with Big Law. While I’ve dated, some might say “a lot”, God hasn’t brought my husband. Yet. In my early thirties, my mentor and friend encouraged me to adopt; I called her crazy. The thought couldn’t have been further from my mind. I wanted children – sometimes desperately – but I didn’t think it made sense for me to adopt since I was single. Until I turned, well, about 36. Then God started speaking to me. Loudly. It was a bit of a scary time for me and rather than breathe a word to anyone (family included) I bought books and started reading. I read everything I could find about single adoption. There are some good, pragmatic, books, but nothing in the Christian literature section. (Hmm. I wonder who will resolve that ;) )

I struggled with questions about whether God would want me to proceed in such a radical way. I wondered if my friends would think I was nuts. I asked myself how I would manage “alone.” I wondered if any man would pick me after doing something so […]

Truth Pandemic Video Now with Spanish Subtitles

Project HOPEFUL is thrilled to announce the addition of the Truth Pandemic video with Spanish subtitles, just one of several languages that we will be making our video available in. Please share this! It has the potential to reach so many more who need to hear the TRUTH!

Truth Pandemic {Spanish Subtitles}

Orphan Advocacy takes Project HOPEFUL to the White House

We have so much to share with you about our recent trip to Australia to take part in Together for Adoption Australia 2011, and that post will be coming very soon.

But first we want to share with you one very exciting thing that happened while Carolyn was in Australia: she received an invitation to participate in The White House National Adoption Event, Nov 28. And not only to attend, but to PARTICIPATE and present on “the unique challenges facing orphans with HIV/AIDS, and her experience as an adoptive mother” on their International Adoption panel.

It is such an honor  to have this opportunity to advocate for children on a national level. Please be in prayer for Carolyn this Monday and for her preparation and travel this weekend for this very important event.

Disclosure

Here is a very thoughtful post about how one family made a very personal choice about the issue of disclosure. Lyndsay Boulton is our State Associate for California and the mother of five children, one of whom is HIV+.  You can also find this post at the Boulton Family Blog.
DIS·CLOSE

    [dih-sklohz] verb, -closed, -clos·ing, noun

verb (used with object)

1.to make known; reveal or uncover: to disclose a secret.

2.to cause to appear; allow to be seen; lay open to view: Inspring the violets disclose their fragrant petals.

Disclosure is a very personal decision. We prayed and sought God, and other wise counsel before making our decision. We do not believe that disclosure is the right answer for every family.

Unfortunately there are people, specifically in the Church, that believe that disclosing HIV status is an act of selfishness, as if those who choose this path are trying to make themselves out to be martyrs. Would people say that about someone who disclosed Cancer, or Diabetes, or ADD or Autism? What special needs are OK to talk about, and which ones are unacceptable? And why? Why is HIV in a different category?

It is in a different category because of ignorance and shame.

This is very disheartening.  I believe it is our job, as the Church, to be the LIGHT to the world, to allow ourselves to be seen, to reveal or uncover darkness and discrimination. I can’t imagine Jesus telling me to cover up or lie about my child’s condition because of other peoples ignorance or cruelty. I don’t remember Jesus or the Apostles telling His followers to cover up or lie so that they wouldn’t have to deal with peoples cruelty or trials. In fact when I read the Bible I read just the opposite. (James 1:2)

Is this the easiest road to take? Definitely not! Am I putting my child at risk of being ridiculed or ostracized- probably. But all of my children are at risk of that because their […]

Project HOPEFUL materials now available in French

Project HOPEFUL is pleased to announce that one of our brochures is now available in French. We are really excited about the doors that will open for spreading the truth about adopting children with HIV/AIDS with the use of this pamphlet.

We would like to give public thanks to Rachele DeMeo for her labors on behalf of Project HOPEFUL of this translation work. Rachele DeMeo was born in Nîmes, France (as P.K. (Pastor’s Kid) and M.K (Missionary’s Kid)), where she spent the first nineteen years of her life, and graduated with a French Baccalaureate. After a year of College, she moved to Maryland to complete a B.A. in Education, intern for a Congressman and teach. She moved to California for a teaching job and furthered her education graduating with a M.A. Additionally she pursued a Masters in Education specializing in Teaching and Learning. She’s been translating since 1998. She’s also had experience teaching K-2, 6-12 and College-level/Adults. She specializes in teaching French, English and Italian.

She currently teaches French at MiraCosta College and is a freelance translator. She lives with her husband, 9-month old baby, 2 dogs and 3 cats in Oceanside, CA.

Thank you, Rachele!

If you would like to download this brochure, you may do so HERE .