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Reuniting with Birth Family: How to Search for your Biological Relatives

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Adoption in the United States is much more common than people think. According to the US Census Bureau, one in every twenty-five families with children have adopted. Around 2% of the people have adopted, but more than a third have considered adopting a child. 100 million people in the United States have direct contact with adoption in their immediate family (either adopting themselves, being adopted, or placing children). In recent years, there is a tendency of more openness to the topic and somewhat between 60 and 70 percent of adoptions being “open” which means that there is some sort of disclosure between parents and children about their adoption.

A lot of people that figure out that they were adopted develop, at some point in their lives, the interest or need to know who their biological relatives are. For some, it is about knowing where their roots are or understanding why they could not be taken care of, for others is about the information on medical predispositions or conditions. Others might want a fresh start or build new connections for their children. For many, this can be a stressful and very emotional process. Here you can find a very helpful guide to help you by delineating some of the most effective ways to search for your biological relatives.

1. Prepare yourself emotionally and be aware of the reasons why you start the search

This first step should not be overlooked since reuniting with biological relatives can be very intense. It is recommended that you hear experiences from other people that have gone through the same process. The Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.) offered a very interesting webinar that goes in-depth into the preparation process. It might be also useful to reach support groups. The Child Welfare Information Gateway offers a directory of state-specific groups. Of course, relying on emotional support from friends and family will also be essential in this process. 

2. Gather existing information and existing documents

After making sure that you have devised ways for protecting yourself emotionally, it is time to get to the practical matters. Where to start? The very first step in the process is gathering all the information that you have about your biological relatives. The specific means you will need to use will depend upon the information that you already have.

You should start by reaching to your adoptive parents and ask them about information about the adoption agency. Documents that might be useful will be any hospital records and your amended birth certificate.  An amended birth certificate is issued after an adoption is finalized and puts the names of the adoptive parents instead of the biological ones. Several States in the USA provide access to original birth certificates which could provide you the valuable information about the name of your biological parents. In case that your state is not one of those that directly gives access to your original birth certificate, you can appeal to a court petition. In general, it is very advisable to get acquainted with the most important State Laws concerning adoption and access to records.

3. Develop a Search Strategy

Depending on the amount of information that you have at each point of your search, you will want to make use of one of the following search means. Some of them only work if you have the names of any of your relatives or at least someone that you know had contact with them.

–             Register at reunion registries

There are several organizations that offer “reunion registries”. Passive registries (or also known as mutual consent registries) will help connect both parties only when both sides registered. Although it is a long shot, it is usually worth trying this means since this service is usually free of charge. Active registries are organized by private groups that will help you look for your biological relatives for a fee. The Child Welfare Information Gateway offers a useful search tool.

–             Search through social media

The internet offers entirely new ways of communication and interaction. Now almost every person in the United States uses the internet on a daily basis. We all have different accounts and profiles that will be useful if you want to find someone. Try all possible combinations of the information that you have both for your relatives and for the people you think might have some information on them. For example: name, name + birth city, name + school, name + workplace, name + degree of education.

–             Do a background search

Whenever you have the name of any of your biological relatives or of anyone that knows the, doing a background search is a very efficient way of finding a lot of information at once. For example, Nuwber offers the possibility of getting a full report with all publicly available data on a person which will include marital status, history of addresses, criminal records, business records, information about their workplace, evictions, and records on bankruptcy. This extra information might be very useful in the next step, where you will want to develop the right strategy to approach your biological family.

–             Hire a professional

Whenever you cannot find any information that will help you start your search, the only thing left is to hire a professional person or group. Although they will ask for a fee, they usually rely on their experience to find relative in situations where information is scarce. For example, Search Angels is an organization that seeks to help you find your family using methods like DNA testing.

4. Design an appropriate way for first contact and reunion with your biological relatives

After going through the process of searching and once you have concrete ways of contacting biological relatives, it is very important that you take some time to decide on the most appropriate ways of contacting them and reuniting with them. In general, before meeting in person, it is generally advisable to contact them either online or through telephone. A meeting in person carries a bigger emotional load.

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Development

An Education Reform Path for Lebanon

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Lebanon needs to urgently embark on a comprehensive reform agenda that puts students at the center of the education sector and prioritizes quality of education for all, according to a new World Bank report released today. Low levels of learning and skills mismatch in the job market have put the future of generations of Lebanese children at risk and imply a critical need for more and better targeted investments in the sector.

The report, titled “Foundations for Building Forward Better: An Education Reform Path for Lebanon”, presents an overview of key challenges facing the education sector. It provides evidence-based solutions founded on a diagnostic of the factors contributing to the learning crisis and proposes policy reform recommendations over the short- and medium- to long-terms. The proposed reform plan is in line with the objectives of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s 5-year draft sector plan, which aims to improve equity, learning outcomes, and governance in education. The report also draws from the latest available education sector research, including studies conducted under the Research for Results Program launched back in 2016. 

The compounded crises that have assailed Lebanon over the past several years –Syrian refugee influx, economic and financial crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Port of Beirut blast– have all put severe strains on an already struggling education system. Pre-COVID-19 learning levels were already comparatively low, with only 6.3 years of learning taking place, after schooling is adjusted for actual learning. The global pandemic has led to extended school closures since March 2020, which will likely result in a further and significant decrease in learning. Effectively, students in Lebanon are facing a “lost year” of learning. Despite efforts to reopen schools, a more systematic approach for planning at the district level, in close collaboration with regional education office directors, is needed as the response requires local solutions. 

Lebanon needs to urgently reform the education sector and build forward better,” said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director. “Now more than ever, Lebanon needs to invest more and better in improving learning outcomes for children and making sure Lebanese youth are well equipped with the right skills required by the job market to enable them to contribute to Lebanon’s economic recovery”.

The multiple crises and the resulting increase in poverty rates, with more than half the population likely below the national poverty line, have also directly impacted demand for education and student retention. The contraction in the economy, plummeting purchasing power and the steep deterioration in living conditions will likely lead more parents to shift their children to public schools in the coming years, as well as higher student drop-outs, especially among marginalized households. The report presents key aspects for restructuring the education sector financing in support of a more efficient and equitable system and to prevent further learning loss. 

The report puts forward for discussion sector-wide mid-term reform recommendations across seven key strategic areas: I) Restructuring Sector Financing; II) Diagnostics to Support Overcoming the Learning Crisis; III) Improvements of Teacher Utilization and Quality of Teaching; IV) School Environment and School Accountability Measures; V) Education Strategy and Curriculum Reform; VI) Early Childhood Education; and VII) School to Work Transitions and Youth. These recommendations for action tackle key challenges within the sector and approaches towards addressing the growing learning crisis and meeting the increased demand for public education in the country while regaining equity and efficiency.

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Human Rights

First international treaty to address violence and harassment comes into force

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The first international treaty on violence and harassment in the world of work comes into force on June 25th 2021 – two years after it was adopted by the ILO’s International Labour Conference (ILC).

To date, six countries have ratified the Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190)  – Argentina, Ecuador, Fiji, Namibia, Somalia and Uruguay. Ratifying countries are legally bound by the provisions of the Convention a year after ratification.

Together with Recommendation No. 206 , Convention No. 190 recognizes the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment and provides a common framework for action.

It provides the first international definition of violence and harassment in the world of work, including gender-based violence and harassment.

Violence and harassment at work takes a range of forms and leads to physical, psychological, sexual and economic harm. Since the adoption of the Convention, the COVID-19 pandemic  has further highlighted the issue, with many forms of work-related violence and harassment being reported across countries since the outbreak began, particularly against women and vulnerable groups.

To mark its entering into force the ILO will launch a global campaign to promote its ratification and implementation. The campaign aims to explain in simple terms what the Convention is, the issues it covers and how it seeks to address violence and harassment in the world of work.

“A better future of work is free of violence and harassment,” said Guy Ryder, the ILO Director-General in his message to launch the global campaign.

“Convention 190 calls on all ILO Member States to eradicate violence and harassment in all its forms from the world of work. I urge countries to ratify the Convention and help build, together with employers and workers and their organizations, a dignified, safe and healthy working life for all.”

The global campaign will be launched during the ILO Action Week on Convention No. 190 , which takes place 21-25 June 2021.

The Action Week calls for renewed commitment from countries to ratify and implement the Convention.

The Action Week begins on 21 June with a virtual high-level dialogue . The speakers will include the ILO Director-General, Ministers of Labour from Argentina and Madagascar, and representatives of the International Organisation of Employers (IOE), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

Following the Action Week, the ILO will launch a guide aimed at helping constituents and other stakeholders promote and implement the Convention and Recommendation. The guide covers core principles and measures that countries can take to prevent, address and eliminate violence and harassment in the world of work, including examples of national laws, regulations and policies.

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Environment

A beginner’s guide to sustainable farming

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Industrialized farming has been a reliable way to produce lots of food at a relatively low cost. But it’s not the bargain it was once believed to be. Unsustainable agriculture can pollute water, air and soil; is a source of greenhouse gases, and destroys wildlife. All told that costs economies about $3 trillion every year. And to top it all off, some farming practices have been linked to the emergence of zoonotic diseases, such as COVID-19.

18 June is Sustainable Gastronomy Day, which celebrates local cuisine that is produced in ways that are both environmentally friendly and minimize waste. To mark the occasion, we take a closer look at how to make agriculture more sustainable and what that would mean for the economy, the environment and human health.

What exactly is sustainable agriculture?

It is farming that meets the needs of existing and future generations, while also ensuring profitability, environmental health and social and economic equity. It favours techniques that emulate nature–to preserve soil fertility, prevent water pollution and protect biodiversity. It is also a way to support the achievement of global objectives, like the Sustainable Development Goals and Zero Hunger.

Does sustainable agriculture really make a difference to the environment?

Yes. It uses up to 56 per cent less energy per unit of crops produced, creates 64 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions per hectare and supports greater levels of biodiversity than conventional farming.

Why does sustainably produced food seem more expensive?

It may be more costly because it is more labour-intensive. It is often certified in a way that requires it to be separated from conventional foods during processing and transport. The costs associated with marketing and distribution of relatively small volumes of product are often comparatively high. And, sometimes, the supply of certain sustainably produced foods is limited.

Why are some foods so much more affordable–even when they require processing and packaging?

The heavy use of chemicals, medicines and genetic modification allows some foods to be produced cheaply and in reliably high volumes, so the retail price tag may be lower. But this is deceiving because it does not reflect the costs of environmental damage or the price of healthcare that is required to treat diet-related diseases. Ultra-processed foods are often high in energy and low in nutrients and may contribute to the development of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some forms of cancer. This is particularly concerning amid the COVID-19 pandemic; the disease is especially risky for those with pre-existing health problems.

Do we all have to be vegan?

No. But most of us should eat less animal protein. Livestock production is a major cause of climate change and in most parts of the world, people already consume more animal-sourced food than is healthy. But even small dietary shifts can have a positive impact. The average person consumes 100 grams of meat daily. Reducing that by 10 grams could improve human health while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Is sustainable agriculture possible in developing countries?

Yes. Because sustainably produced food is typically more labour-intensive than conventionally made food, it has the potential to create 30 per cent more jobs. And because it can command higher prices, it can also generate more money for farmers.

Is it possible to make sustainably produced food that is affordable for everyone?

Yes. As demand for certain foods increases, the costs associated with production, processing, distribution and marketing will drop, which should make them less expensive for consumers.  Policymakers can also play a role, facilitating market access and leveling the financial and regulatory playing field.

If it is so important, why hasn’t sustainable farming been adopted as a global standard?

There is a lack of understanding of the way that agriculture, the environment and human health intersect. Policymakers do not typically consider nature as a form of capital, so legislation is not designed to prevent pollution and other kinds of environmental degradation. And consumers may not realize how their dietary choices affect the environment or even their own health. In the absence of either legal obligations or consumer demand, there is little incentive for producers to change their approach.

What are some ways to consume food more sustainably?

Diversify your diet and cook more meals at home. Eat more plant-based foods; enjoy pulses, peas, beans and chickpeas as sources of protein. Eat local, seasonal foods. Purchase sustainably produced foods and learn more about farming practices and labeling. Avoid excessive packaging, which is likely to end up as landfill. Don’t waste food: eliminating food waste could reduce global carbon emissions by 8-10 per cent. Cultivate your own garden, even if it is a small one in your kitchen. Support organizations, policies and projects that promote sustainable food systems. And discuss the importance of healthy and sustainable foods with producers, vendors, policymakers, friends and family.

UN Environment

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