Talking with family and friends

It isn’t all Rainbows and Unicorns

We at Project Hopeful believe children should live in families, not institutions or temporary families.  Ideally, children would be able to stay with their first (biological) families, even if external interventions and support are needed to make the first family a safe, healthy, and feasible option.  That said, we recognize that the first family may not always be a real option, and if all means of keeping a child in their first family are exhausted, we support adoption.  In fact, most of our volunteer staff and Board members are parenting children who were adopted.  A big part of our lives is raising adopted children and educating other families who have adopted or are considering adoption – we believe in it that much.

Since we have walked through many adoptions – our own and ones we helped other families through – we have come to realize that many of the public messages about adoption are dangerously one-sided.

Celebrity adoption photos, dreamy Facebook posts, and “Merry Christmas-from-our -‘happy’-growing-family!” cards may have minimized the commitment that comes with parenting children from hard places.  We absolutely believe in celebrating adoptions but it is imperative that we begin to communicate more clearly:  adoption is hard.  While the anticipation during the paper stage, the process of being matched with a child, staring longingly at beautiful pictures of a child from another country, and even the first meeting can feel very fairy-tale like, this is not the reality of adoption.  There are rarely unicorns and rainbows.  Adoption is hard.

Children who were adopted come from broken places.  Even those who are adopted at a very young age have experienced trauma (or at minimum, great stress) in utero, which will impact their behavior and development […]

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 […]

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 […]

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    1 in 4 Americans believe HIV Can Be Transmitted By Sharing A Drinking Glass

1 in 4 Americans believe HIV Can Be Transmitted By Sharing A Drinking Glass

You might recall the inspiration for our Truth Pandemic campaign video was the statistic by the Kaiser Family Foundation that levels of knowledge of HIV/AIDS had not increased in the US since 1987.

The newest report doesn’t offer much hope that a lot has changed. Still, 25% of Americans don’t know the three main ways HIV can be transmitted and HOW IT IS NOT. This kind of ignorance is unacceptable. Project HOPEFUL will continue our work as ever to ensure that anyone who is willing to listen knows the TRUTH about HIV/AIDS and orphans with the virus.

Have you shared our video with your friends lately? If not, maybe today’s statistic will inspire you to decrease the number of people still afraid to share a drink with a friend who is HIV+ by giving them a healthy dose of reality. Truth is contagious. Spread it

The Stigma Double Standard

Every so often people with a bone to pick take aim at Project HOPEFUL, critics vocal about all we do wrong and how they can do it better.

We get it. We’re not for everyone. Our brand of advocacy is a little too in your face for some people. We’ve been rocking some boats with the Truth Pandemic, apparently. Some might prefer we sit down and shut up.

We’d like to sit down, shut up, and maybe take a load off while we’re at it. Project HOPEFUL has been working since 2006 to help find homes for orphans, educate about children living with HIV/AIDS, and support families who would seek to adopt these children. It’s tiring work. You see, we all might like a little break.

It is not likely to happen any time soon, though. Not while the Stigma Double Standard exists. Believe us. THIS is personal.

Have you heard of the Stigma Double Standard (SDS)? It is an insidious “little” double standard that isn’t really small at all. We believe its implications are profound. SDS starts out like this: Parents of children with HIV/AIDS shouldn’t disclose their child’s status if they want to combat social stigma. This only turns their child into a cause. The best way to handle this is to lobby in other ways.

Then, SDS takes another turn and assumes that every parent on the front lines of advocacy for orphans/adoption of children with HIV/AIDS must be in it for all the lovely attention they get.

The Stigma Double Standard truly baffles us as a staff. Do parents running races to raise funds for a cure for Leukemia face this? What about those with public care pages outlining their child’s congenital condition or an upcoming […]

Your Questions Answered: Dealing With Family

By: Jen Sloniger
Your Questions Answered is a blog series which addresses Project HOPEFUL blog readers’ most burning questions. Please submit your questions to: media@projecthopeful.org
QUESTION: How do you suggest I go about sharing news with family and friends that we plan to adopt a child with HIV? I shared with my sister (she has two children) and she seemed very anxious about the idea.
-Anonymous
ANSWER:
People commonly wonder which approach is best for sharing the news that they plan to adopt a child with HIV/AIDS or other special needs. There is no formula to follow for guaranteed success. But there are some helpful things to consider.

In Person Is Best
This may seem like a given, but, believe me, some people have chosen to share their big news via email, or even had family members
stumble upon their announcement by visiting their blog. This definitely is not the way to go if you want to ensure feelings do not get hurt. If you
plan on disclosing your child’s status you’ll want to make sure the people closest to you know first. Just like you might for any big occasion in
your life, plan to share with your inner circle first, and in person. Sitting down for a talk will give you a sense of people’s initial reaction to your
news and help guide you in determining who might require a little more reassurance about your decision.

Adjust Your Expectations
Though it can be a real bummer, my best advice for parents adopting a child who is HIV+ is not to expect anyone to cheer them on in a big
celebration when they first reveal their plans. Experience tells me that most extended family and friends experience an initial bit of shock upon
hearing the news. Remember, […]

Your Questions Answered: Building Support Through Education

By: Jen Sloniger
Your Questions Answered is a blog series which addresses Project HOPEFUL blog readers’ most burning questions. Please submit your questions to: media@projecthopeful.org
QUESTION: How can local church families prepare to welcome HIV+ children? How should they be preparing their congregations?
~Jennifer

ANSWER:
Hi Jennifer. Thanks for sharing your questions.

These days it is fairly common for churches to have the proper safeguards in place when operating programs for children, though some smaller congregations may not. As I’ve written about before any school, day-care, or church operating programs with children should be practicing Universal Precautions. PERIOD. If your church or group isn’t following Universal Precautions protocols then you should request that they implement them immediately for the safety of everyone involved.

As far as educating a church fellowship (or any other group for that matter) goes, it all depends on the willingness of the leadership to join you in this endeavor. Some leaders are resistant to the idea. Some haven’t confronted their own fears and stigma related to HIV and therefore are unable to lead their flock in doing the same.

However, there are many, many church leaders who are supportive and willing to promote education within their church… they simply may lack the time. My suggestion is always be willing to dig in and do any work you want to see happen. Don’t bring ideas before your leadership if you aren’t willing to invest the time and effort to bring them to fruition. Sit down and come up with a written proposal for what you hope to see accomplished. Keep it brief but make sure there is enough specific detail in there to prove you have a method to your madness. Ask your pastor […]

Your Questions Answered: The Disclosure Decision

Written by: Jen Sloniger
Your Questions Answered is a blog series which addresses Project HOPEFUL blog readers’ most burning questions. Please submit your questions to: media@projecthopeful.org

Today’s question is always a hot one. Several people wrote to ask us:
QUESTION: How do you decide whether or not to disclose your child’s HIV+ status. Who should I tell; who shouldn’t I tell? What is it like to be a disclosing family?

ANSWER:
Disclosure is a very personal thing. Many families choose to disclose or not to disclose based on factors like the type of community they live in, the strength of the support system of friends and family around them, their personality type, and many other things.

Of course, Project HOPEFUL is an organization which is filled with advocates, the overwhelming majority having made the decision to disclose our children’s status. If you asked our disclosing staff members I think they’d tell you that a main impetus for disclosing is the desire to flush out stigma. HIV/AIDS is no one’s dirty little secret. The issue of whether or not a family should hide their child’s leukemia, or diabetes, or down syndrome is a NON issue. I’ve never heard anyone talk about it being that child’s story which only they should share. Kids are born with many diseases yet it seems that HIV/AIDS is the singular chronic disease everyone wants to shame children for having or at least quiet everyone from talking about. No one bats an eye when a mother blogs about her child’s congenital heart defect. No one condemns her for sharing such personal information about her child without her child’s consent…. See my point?

Those of us who have disclosed did so knowing there were risks. We realized it might […]

Parent Forum February 12th

Are you interested in learning more about adoptive parenting of children with HIV/AIDS? Project HOPEFUL and University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital Adoption Clinic have created an informative Parent Forum you won’t want to miss! Come learn from medical professionals and Project HOPEFUL staff. Extended family members are invited too.

Visit our WEBSITE to learn more and to register.

 

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