Every orphaned child hopes for a family and a home. The reality for many children with HIV/AIDS and other special needs is that the chances of having that dream materialize are slim. Time and again, Project HOPEFUL has witnessed that with education, encouragement, and assistance families and individuals can be enabled to advocate for and adopt overlooked children.
What began as a group of mothers on a mission to advocate for their children living abroad with HIV has been developed by God into Project HOPEFUL. Today Project HOPEFUL exists to Help Orphans and Parents Eliminate Further Unnecessary Loss… of time, dignity, and life.
Until January of 2010, internationally adopted children with HIV had to immigrate into the US through a different protocol than children without the virus. Carolyn Twietmeyer founded Project HOPEFUL after her eyes were opened to the serious and outdated immigration procedures facing internationally adopted children (especially those with HIV/AIDS). With a strong desire to adopt children most in need of a family, she and her husband, Kiel, adopted a sibling group of three from Ethiopia, one of whom was HIV+. When the Twietmeyers came up against unyielding immigration delays, Project HOPEFUL was created.
In 2007, working closely with EACH – Equality for Adopted Children, and EACH’s Founder, McLane Layton, Carolyn went to Washington, D.C. to advocate for critically needed changes to the immigration process for HIV/AIDS adoptions. Together, Project HOPEFUL and EACH met with Congressional staff and government officials to advocate for removal of unnecessary barriers and delays that were keeping children with HIV/AIDS from their adoptive families. Through these efforts, Project HOPEFUL and EACH were able to help reduce the time involved in obtaining an HIV immigration waiver from the 3-9 months it was taking down to 10 days or less. Between 2007 and 2010, when the HIV immigration waiver requirement was finally lifted, Project HOPEFUL helped almost 200 families seeking to adopt children with HIV/AIDS. Streamlining the process for these highly vulnerable children has been life-saving for many who would not have survived if the changes had not been made.
After a new U.S. immigration tuberculosis screening protocol was imposed that negatively impacted children being adopted with HIV, Carolyn again teamed up with EACH and traveled to Capitol Hill in an effort to make changes. Eventually the tuberculosis screening process for children under 11 was changed to make things more clear and streamlined for adopted children with HIV and/or tuberculosis histories. The changes that were made allow these children to receive the appropriate screening for conditions of concern, while at the same time being able to be united with their families and receive appropriate love, care, and treatment.
In the years since its inception, Project HOPEFUL began partnering with University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital pediatric infectious diseases clinic. Together Project HOPEFUL and University of Chicago have created regional workshops designed to arm individuals and families with powerful medical facts about HIV/AIDS so they can make informed decisions about whether positive adoption is for them. The numbers of UnOrphaned children coming home to the Chicago-land area testifies to the power of local education and support in helping unite adoptive families and combat stigma. Project HOPEFUL is thrilled to report that 100% of families that had previously been undecided committed to pursuing HIV+ adoptions after attending Project HOPEFUL /University of Chicago workshops. Project HOPEFUL desires to replicate this model with other state associations and pediatric HIV specialists around the nation.
Project HOPEFUL also presents informative breakout sessions at various orphan care conferences around the U.S. and the world. Steadily there has been increasing awareness about adopting children with HIV/AIDS, and the number of families seeking to adopt positive children has increased. Project HOPEFUL is working to raise funds to aid in children’s adoptions in order to help curb any financial hurdles that might prevent otherwise willing families from adopting. Project HOPEFUL continues to raise awareness and advocate for children living with HIV/AIDS and other severe special needs. We are committed to spreading the TRUTH in PANDEMIC proportions, because NO child should perish for of lack of knowledge.
Project HOPEFUL is a registered 501(c)3 not for profit organization.