News & Notes
Citizenship for All Adoptees
For decades now, families in the United States have been adopting children born in other countries. But some of these children, who grow up as American kids, in the safety and love of their parents' homes, are not, in fact, U.S. citizens. And when this is the case, the ramifications can be profound.
Adoptive Families examines the history of citizenship for children adopted internationally, the current situation, and steps that can be taken to close critical loopholes on a policy-level scale, and to ensure protection for your family. Read the complete article here.
Adoptions By Same-Sex Couples Still on the Rise
In a New York Times article this summer, writer Sabrina Tavernise traced the recent increase in gay and lesbian couples adopting across the country. This is in the face of legal hurdles in many states that make adoption by same-sex parents an especially daunting process. What’s behind these numbers? And will the upward trend continue? In fact, advocates point to two primary reasons for the increase: the need for homes for children who are waiting for adoption, and growing acceptance among Americans of gays and lesbians. Read the complete article here.
Talking Truthfully About Trafficking
As news of child trafficking in China and Guatemala make headlines, rumors are rife about the negative aspects of intercountry adoption. Sadly, fact has overtaken fiction in more than a few countries that are or have recently been closed to U.S. adopting parents. Countries that closed because of concerns over coercion of birthparents, trafficking of children, and/or illegal gain by adoption agents include Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, Guatemala, and Romania. China, reputedly, is working to contain corroborated trafficking within its orphanage system.
Talking to your child about the possibility of trafficking is not easy. Read the complete article to learn how to open the dialogue.
Glee Petition Making National Headlines
AFC member amberlyn is making headlines with her nationwide petition asking the writers of Glee on FOX to produce a public-service announcement informing viewers about the realities of adoption. This is in response to a controversial storyline in which a birthmother vowed that she would acquire full parental rights of the daughter she legally placed for adoption. As of October 13th, 2011, more than 1,600 people had signed the petition. Please visit AdoptiveFamiliesCircle to learn more and lend your support!
Policy & Practice
A New Jersey bill that would give future adoptees access to their original birth certificates received approval by the state Senate on May 9. When this issue went to press, governor Chris Christie had not yet signed or vetoed the measure.
Representative Pete Stark of California has reintroduced the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, to prohibit discrimination in foster care or adoption placements based on sexual orientation. A similar measure was expected to be introduced in the Senate as this issue went to press. The bill, if passed by Congress, could help more foster children find permanent, loving homes.
On May 10, major adoption and child welfare groups assembled at a Congressional briefing to call for improved post-adoption support services in the U.S. Among the key policy recommendations in a report released by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute:
- Create a national task force to oversee the development of post-adoption services.
- Fund and conduct research in, and evaluation of, best post-adoption services.
- Make pre-adoption training an integral part of the adoption process.
Kyrgyzstan Opens Door
Kyrgyzstan has lifted a two-year moratorium on the international adoption of children from that country. The Kyrgyz government ruled on April 14 that a new agency would oversee the process, with new regulations taking effect within three months. As of press time, however, it was still unclear as to how the process would work or when processing would begin, as well as whether Kyrgyzstan would sign the Hague agreement.
Ukraine Guideline Change
In June, a new amendment went into effect requiring orphans to be registered on that country’s central adoption registry for one year and to be at least five years old before they are eligible for intercountry adoption. Exempt are children with certain special needs, and sibling or relative adoptions.
"Love Is Blind"
Chicago couple Alan and Paula Sprecher, both visually impaired, recently added to their family when they brought home their daughter, Aihau, from China. Aihau is six years old and visually impaired. She joins her older sister, Rupa, 10, who was adopted from India and is also blind. Speaking to the Chicago Tribune, on May 11, Paula said, “We knew there were children out there who needed homes who were also visually impaired. We wanted to provide a home for someone like us, someone we thought we could help.” Although they had had some early doubts about parenting, the Sprechers describe each of their daughters as a “gift.”
Slowdown in Ethiopia
Ethiopia's adoption authority has reduced by nearly 90 percent the number of foreign adoptions it is processing. Cases are being processed in a "more deliberate" manner because of concerns about unethical behavior. Previously, the authority processed as many as 50 international adoption cases each day. Though the government of Ethiopia had not made an official announcement by the time this issue went to press, the U.S. embassy estimates that that number will now be capped at five per day.
The State Department cautions parents involved in the approximately 1,000 in-process cases to expect "significant delays," and urges them to stay in close contact with their adoption service providers. Learn more on adoption.state.gov.
Examining State Use of Foster Kids' Benefits
Many states are wrongfully intercepting Social Security benefits earmarked for foster children, according to a new report released jointly by the Children's Advocacy Institute and First Star. Cash-strapped child welfare agencies say that the diversion of children's benefits is necessary to cover the basic cost of their foster care, while opponents say the practice undermines the financial security of foster youth. Read the report at caichildlaw.org/fleecing.htm.
Is Japan an Adoption Option?
U.S. officials are reminding prospective parents that intercountry adoption procedures have not changed as a result of the recent Japan disaster. There had been a spike in inquiries to agencies from Americans looking to help during the crisis. However, Japan's respect for biological family ties—and its lack of a comprehensive law on foreign adoption—means that children whose parents are missing or dead will likely be taken in by relatives.
"Intended Parents Are Legal Parents"
The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that two partners with a valid surrogacy agreement can both be named as legal parents on a child's birth certificate.
Anthony and Shawn Raftopol were denied a birth certificate for their twin boys, on the grounds that Shawn was not their genetic parent, and told they would need to complete a second-parent adoption. In hearing the case, the court questioned why the state department of health was contesting birth certificates bearing both names, when it had in the past accepted these documents as a matter of course. The agency says it accepts the ruling and will approve birth certificates if the intended parents have a valid surrogacy.
Additional Resource: Creating a Successful Transition Home
Adoption Learning Partners is offering four new online courses to prepare parents to raise children who arrive with difficult early experiences. The "Tough Starts Matter Series" covers topics that are timely and meaningful not only for pre-adopters—including brain development, treatment, parenting, and families—but also for families who are already in the thick of it, and are looking to help their children gain new skills.
Experts like Karyn Purvis, Ph.D., and Judy Stigger, LCSW, weigh in via short videos. The package includes four online courses totaling five hours. Buy the package for $60 at adoptionlearningpartners.org (a 29-percent discount from the list price per course).
Hurt children, of all ages and with all sorts of challenges, benefit when their parents (and professionals) receive extra support and preparation to transition them into a family. If your family is facing this situation, don't hesitate to sign up.
It’s Tax Time!
Parents who finalized an adoption in 2010 may claim a maximum credit of $13,170 for adoption expenses. The credit is now refundable, allowing lower-income families to claim it. If a family’s “qualified expenses” (adoption fees, legal fees, traveling expenses, and so on) exceed their tax liability, they will receive the difference in the form of a tax refund.
Record Low in International Adoptions
The number of intercountry adoptions by Americans fell 13 percent in the past year—from 12,753 to 11,059—to reach a 15-year low, according to data from the U.S. Department of State. Adoptions from China continued to head the list, with 3,401 adoptions to the U.S. in 2010. Rounding out the top five sending countries are Ethiopia (2,513), Russia (1,082), South Korea (863), and Ukraine (445).
Policy & Practice
[ARIZONA] A 31-year-old adoptee is facing deportation after a second conviction for theft, reports The Korea Times. The Korean consulate has contested the decision, maintaining that the woman has never returned to her birth country since her adoption at eight months old, does not speak Korean, and is the single mother of three children born in the U.S. It’s not clear why the woman, or her parents, never applied for her citizenship.
[MISSOURI] The Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the state’s lower court violated its own laws when it terminated the parental rights of an undocumented Guatemalan woman while she was imprisoned. Encarnacion Romero says she never consented to parental termination, or to her son’s adoption six months later. The high court has ordered a new trial to determine parental rights, and it may be months before the case is resolved. The boy has lived with an adoptive family for the last two years.
[TENNESSEE] Torry Hansen, the U.S. adoptive mother at the center of last year’s international scandal involving the abandonment of her Russian son, has refused to terminate her parental rights, according to media reports. Russian authorities believe that Hansen is delaying the process to place the child with a new family in order to avoid paying child support.
International Adoption Update
[HAITI] Haiti’s adoption authority is accepting new adoption applications for children who are documented as orphans or who have been relinquished by their birthparents. The U.S. Department of State is advising prospective adoptive parents to proceed with caution, citing a frail adoption infrastructure in Haiti, still affected by the earthquake a year ago.
[NEPAL] Although new adoption cases are not being accepted, the U.S. Department of State is processing pending cases. Officials are reminding in-process families that an accurate and up-to-date homestudy is critical to establish visa eligibility.
AF's Cost & Timing of Adoption Survey: Each year, Adoptive Families readers help us tell the real story about the average cost and length of time it takes to complete an adoption. To gather as much data as possible, we posed a challenge: If more people completed our Cost & Timing of Adoption Survey this year than last, we'd select one at random and donate $500 to the adoption charity of his or her choice. We're thrilled to report that more than 1,800 adoptive parents completed the 2010 survey! The winner of our giveaway is Janee Pedersen, of California, and we were honored to make a donation to From HIV to Home in her name. We're grateful to everyone who shared about adopting a newborn or foster child in the U.S., or adopting from one of the four largest, active sending countries, in 2009 or 2010. Click here for more information and to see the latest data.
New Tool for LBGT Adoptive Families: For an honest look at adoption by LGBT families, check out Living Adoption: Gay Parents Speak, a compelling resource for lesbian and gay parents and the professionals who work with them. Watch the trailer for the film and order the DVD on photosynthesisproductions.com. (The same production company previously brought us the award-winning films Struggle for Identity and Foster Parents Speak.) Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign, which collaborated on this film, offers additional tools and resources for navigating the process as an LGBT prospective parent or couple on its website, hrc.org.
International Adoption, Simplified
On November 30, President Obama signed into law the International Adoption Simplification Act. The bill, proposed by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, closed two exemptions that were eliminated by the Hague Convention. U.S. families may now adopt siblings, between the ages of 16 and 18, of a child they’re already parenting. Parents may also bring home and immunize their children within 30 days of their arrival, rather than having to do so in their birth country.
Florida Officially Ends Ban on Gay Adoptions
After a court in Florida overturned the state’s ban on gay adoption, on September 22, the state had 30 days to appeal. On October 22, Attorney General Bill McCollum announced that he would not appeal the ruling. For years, Florida had been the only state in our nation to explicitly prohibit gays and lesbians from adopting children.
New Foreign Policy Position at Work
Since being appointed Special Advisor for Children’s Issues by Secretary of State Clinton, in July, Ambassador Susan S. Jacobs has been busy. Her work has included traveling to Ethiopia, where she visited orphanages and met with government leaders, and a November trip to New York, where she attended a naturalization ceremony and met with the editors of AF, to explain her work and learn more about the magazine. As this issue went to press, Ambassador Jacobs was in Guatemala, discussing the country’s efforts to implement a Hague-compliant process.
West Australia Apologizes to Unwed Mothers
The government of West Australia issued a formal apology to the thousands of unwed mothers who were forced to relinquish their children for adoption between the 1940s and the 1980s. Common practices included denying mothers the chance to hold, or even see, their babies; obtaining “consent” to the adoption while the mother was under the influence of pain medication; and telling them their babies had died.
Adoptees in the News
• The editors of New York-based Adoptive Families were excited to see Russian adoptee Tatyana McFadden take first place in the 2010 ING New York City Marathon women’s wheelchair event. Congratulations!
• Twelve-year-old Shelby Lee has designed a limited-edition Nike shoe, to benefit Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Since Lee was adopted from China, in 2007, she has undergone five surgeries at the hospital to correct single-ventricle heart disease. Her shoe design features a map of China and “U.S.A.” sewn over a heart.
International Adoption Update
[ETHIOPIA] The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa “strongly recommends” that parents who return to the U.S. after their court hearing not travel back to Ethiopia until their agency has confirmed a visa interview. The expected wait is at least one month, to allow for a thorough I-604 investigation into the child’s relinquishment or abandonment. Those who wait in-country “should obtain Ethiopian visas in advance of travel.”
[UKRAINE] As this issue went to press, a bill that would impose a moratorium on adoption to countries without bilateral agreements, including the U.S., was scheduled for a second reading in the Ukrainian parliament. The bill passed a first reading on December 7. Until a legislation change, adoptions will be processed as usual. Stay up-to-date on adoption.state.gov.
Goodbye, Betty Jean
Also in this issue, paying tribute to the open-records advocate, Betty Jean Lifton, by Sarah Saffian.
Florida Court Overturns Gay Adoption Ban
On September 22, an appeals court in Florida ruled unconstitutional the state’s adoption law, which allows gay men and lesbians to serve as foster parents but bans same-sex adoptions without exception. Florida has 30 days to appeal the ruling, and it was unclear at the time this issue of AF went to press whether an appeal would be lodged.
Record High Number of Foster-Care Adoptions
In 2009, an estimated 57,000 children were adopted from the U.S. foster system—an all-time high—according to the latest data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS). The total number of children in care and the number of waiting children have dropped slightly in recent years, to 424,000 and 115,000, respectively.
National Adoption Day
On National Adoption Day, observed this year on November 20, communities in all 50 states will hold courtroom celebrations while finalizing thousands of adoptions of children from the U.S. foster system. The sponsors of the day have named actress and adoptive mom Nia Vardalos as its official spokesperson for the second year in a row.
Want ideas for raising awareness every day of National Adoption Month, in November? Download our adoption month calendar at adoptivefamilies.com/clip.
Best Workplaces Updated for 2010
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption released its fourth annual 100 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces list. Topping the list of organizations was Wendy’s/Arby’s Group, which provides up to $24,300 in financial aid and six weeks paid leave for employees who adopt. The Foundation reported an average of $5,500 in financial reimbursement and five weeks of paid leave.
See the full 2010 list at davethomasfoundation.org. Learn how to encourage your company to establish adoption benefits at adoptivefamilies.com/topcompanies.
More Planning Needed for Post-Adoption Contact
A study on preparing for the birthparent relationship finds that, while many adoptive families receive education on the importance of having contact, few are given the support they need to cope with their own feelings, and to work out problems that arise. More details appear in the August issue of Child and Family Social Work.
Primetime Feel-Good TV: Tune in to the 12th annual A Home for the Holidays special on CBS (airing the week of Christmas, date and time to be announced). This program, presented by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Wendy’s, Children’s Action Network, and Triage, will feature great stories and information about adopting from foster care.
A School We Love: The New York Foundling, one of NYC’s largest child-welfare agencies, has opened a full-service charter school for children in the U.S. foster-care system. The Foundling’s Mott Haven Academy, the first of its kind, will offer education and social and medical services under one roof. “The co-location facilitates the exchange of ideas, and the ability to quickly address the emerging issues that families have,” Bill Baccaglini, the Foundling’s executive director, told AF. The teachers are specially trained to meet the needs of children in the foster system, and, he adds, “They genuinely want to make a difference.” Learn more at nyfoundling.org and havenacademy.org.
International Adoption Update
[GUATEMALA] On October 5, the U.S. Department of State announced that it had withdrawn its letter of interest in a pilot program to resume intercountry adoptions from Guatemala, citing concerns about lingering corruption and a lack of adequate safeguards. The pilot program was announced in November 2009; as this issue went to press, Guatemala had not yet selected the participating countries. “Grandfathered” adoption cases from the U.S. will continue to be processed.
[NEPAL] U.S. officials have suspended the processing of new Nepal adoption applications, amid concerns involving cases of abandonment. The approximately 80 American families in the pipeline will continue to have their cases processed on an individual basis. The Department of State, however, is urging these parents not to travel at this time, and to expect delays.
[KAZAKHSTAN] Families adopting from Kazakhstan should prepare for delays of about three months, due to a new passport requirement. The option to expedite passport processing for a fee is no longer available.
[RWANDA] Intercountry adoption from Rwanda is temporarily suspended, as adoption officials there prepare to establish Hague guidelines. Dossiers received in-country prior to August 31 will continue to be processed.
Findings from the “Daddy Donor” Study
A study of adults conceived via sperm donation reveals that they face serious losses and confusion about their identities as a result of not knowing (or not having a relationship with) their biological fathers. Researchers at the Commission on Parenthood’s Future surveyed more than a million households across the U.S., and compared data on donor offspring ages 18 to 45 to those who were raised by adoptive or biological parents.
Among the findings: Donor offspring are one-and-a-half times more likely to report mental health problems, including depression; and about half are concerned about, or objected to, donor conception itself. Learn more at familyscholars.org.
Is Adoption on the Rise?
Several adoption agencies are reporting major increases, compared to last year, in interest in and applications for domestic and international adoptions. Adoption professionals attribute the upswing largely to increased interest from Christian couples, and from prospective adopters after the devastation of the Haiti earthquake in January.
Gay Parents Are Able, Too
A study on kids raised by same-sex parents concludes that children adopted early in life by lesbian and gay parents are as well-adjusted as those adopted by heterosexual parents. The parents and caregivers/teachers of more than 100 families headed by lesbian, gay, and heterosexual couples were surveyed about their child’s behavioral adjustment. (Previous studies relied on parent opinions only.) “Regardless of whether they had one mother and one father, two mothers, or two fathers, children were thriving,” say the study’s authors, in the August Applied Developmental Science (informaworld.com).
Open-Adoption Advocate Dies at 83
Clinical social worker and psychotherapist Annette Baran died on July 11. Baran spent much of her career advocating for adoptees’ access to birth records, and for openness between birthmothers and prospective adoptive parents. A groundbreaking book, The Adoption Triangle, coauthored by Baran, in 1978, is credited with sparking changes in attitudes about adoption.
Valuable Resources on Ethical Adoption
Want to support ethical, transparent adoption? AF encourages families to visit the websites pear-now.org and ethicanet.org. Among PEAR’s current initiatives: supporting parents’ rights to fully informed adoptions, and encouraging open records.
International Adoption Update
[HAITI] U.S. families who have been sponsoring orphans from Haiti since the January 12 disaster were sent information on beginning the formal adoption process. Proposed legislation in Congress (the “Help HAITI Act”; H.R. 5283) could provide a path to U.S. citizenship for many of them.
[RUSSIA] A fourth U.S.-Russia meeting, held in late July, concluded a series of talks between federal agency officials, designed to improve the intercountry adoption process. At press time, a bilateral adoption agreement with the U.S. was expected to be finalized. It could take effect as early as November. One decision of note: After this round of negotiations, Russia announced that only heterosexual married couples may adopt Russian children. As Alina Levitskaya, a senior official at the Education and Science Ministry, explained, the decision was made because Russia does not recognize same-sex marriages.
En Route to China? Waiting China families and families planning to return to their child’s homeland will find weninchina.blogspot.com an invaluable resource for planning their adoption trips. Read articles about everything from packing your bags and choosing your flights to shopping smart and staying healthy while abroad.
Family Viewpoints One of our favorite parenting resources has a wealth of articles tailored to parents and professionals in the adoption community. Perspectivespress.com/blog—headed by Arleta James, attachment therapist and coauthor of Brothers and Sisters in Adoption—explains the ins and outs, ups and downs, of raising an adopted child. Whether you’re close to finalization, or you have a full house already, you’ll find insight to guide your journey.
Greater Access to Open Records in Two States
A new law in Illinois will allow adult adoptees to access their original birth certificates. Those born prior to January 1, 1946 can request a copy of their original birth certificates immediately. Anyone born after that date must wait until November 15, 2011 to apply, a delay that allows time for birthparents to come forward to object to disclosure.
• Similar legislation has been proposed in Rhode Island. Its state House of Representatives approved a measure that provides adult adoptees copies of their birth certificates—unless the birthparent files a no-release form.
A Look Back at National Foster Care Month
The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute met on May 13, in honor of National Foster Care Month, to discuss best practices in parent recruitment for children in foster care. Speakers included Joe Kroll, of North American Council on Adoptable Children, and Rita Soronen, of Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Find the materials presented by visiting ccainstitute.org.
• The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill to ensure that foster children and their families understand all of their rights and responsibilities. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Phyllis Mundy, addresses protection from abuse and neglect, the right to live in a safe and healthy home, access to routine medical care, and other basic needs. Advocates say that many kids often misunderstand or are not told about certain services to which they are entitled. Similar legislation is already in effect in several states, including California and New Jersey.
• An ongoing study of adult outcomes suggests that extending foster care until age 21 can lead to far better outcomes for these youth. Researchers at Chapin Hall, at the University of Chicago, are following children from Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois as they move out of foster care. Illinois is one of the few states in which children can remain in foster care until they are 21. This allows researchers to compare the outcomes of children who leave foster care at different ages. View data from the Midwest Study at chapinhall.org.
Establishing Secure Relationships
A review of research findings shows that, although early experiences have lasting effects on a child, the intervention of adoption—by parents with strong attachment styles—can bring positive changes in attachment over a relatively short period of time. Interview-based narrative assessments suggest that parents need an awareness of their own and the child’s mental states, and the ability to establish a united front. Read more in Psychoanalytic Inquiry (volume 30, issue 1).
International Adoption Update
HAITI The adoption authority of Haiti is accepting new adoption applications for Haitian children who were classified as orphans before January 12, or who were relinquished by their birthparents after the quake. Families should prepare for the possibility of delays, as Haitian officials work diligently to ensure orphan eligibility.
RUSSIA Adoptions from Russia are continuing, at a slower pace, after the international scandal involving the abandonment of seven-year-old Artyom Savelyev by his U.S. adoptive mother, Torry Hansen. Despite talks of a suspension, the Department of State reports that adoption cases are moving forward in Russian courts. However, in response to the uproar, officials in both countries have reached a new bilateral accord on adoptions that is expected to be signed within two months. This agreement would require agencies and parents to report on their child’s health and living conditions, said children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov, to the Associated Press.
Stay up-to-date on Russia news at jcics.org.
KAZAKHSTAN Kazakhstan has temporarily suspended intercountry adoptions, as it prepares to ratify the Hague Convention. Kazakhstan hopes to have a system in place by September, and says the moratorium will not affect adoptions already in process.
Free Resource for New Families Have you discovered that parenting isn’t what you had expected? Adoption publisher EMK Press has compiled a valuable guide to help new parents put aside preconceived notions and navigate the first year of family life. Filled with articles, lists, and resources, “Realistic Expectations” contains practical advice on everything from avoiding parent burnout to managing an unanticipated special need. Download the 50-page, no-cost guide at emkpress.com/realisticexpectations.html.
(Free) Photo Op Our Mommy & Me Contest winners Jennifer and baby Madison (see winning photo) had this sweet portrait taken by Celebrating Adoption. This incredible organization promotes love and adoption by giving free sessions and proofs to families whose kids arrived within the last year. CA is staffed by volunteer photographers across the U.S.—many of them adoptive parents themselves! Learn more about the service at bludomain7.com/adoption.
Kids Need Kinship, Too
A new study on identity among adult multiracial adoptees highlights the need for parents to provide diverse experiences to their adopted children of mixed race. In the March issue of Family Process, lead author Gina Miranda Samuels, Ph.D., a transracial adoptee herself, explains:
> Relationships with African Americans are key to identity development. Participants in the study said that, despite being told of their heritage, receiving ethnic dolls and books, or attending cultural festivals, they remained disconnected from that heritage.
> Being involved in a social network of other transracial adoptees offers children a shared experience of race and family.
> Living in diverse communities provides opportunities for the level of cultural immersion that participants felt was lacking in their early childhoods.
A national survey on post-adoption experiences finds that the majority of adopted children under the age of 18 fare well on measures of social and emotional well-being. The findings were based on interviews with the parents of 2,089 adoptees, representing nearly 1.8 million children nationwide. Among the findings: More than half of all school-age adoptees are succeeding in reading and language arts; and most (85 percent) are in very good or excellent health. Read more from “Adoption USA” at aspe.hhs.gov (link will open a PDF file).
Tax Credit Update
A provision included in the new health care law will increase the adoption expense tax credit (currently $12,150), and make it refundable, so that lower-income families can claim it.
Drop in Foster Stats
Fewer children are in foster care—463,000 in fiscal year 2008, down from 491,000 in fiscal year 2007—and more of them are being adopted, according to preliminary reports issued by the U.S. Children’s Bureau of the Department of Health and Human Services. An estimated 123,000 foster children are currently eligible for adoption, a decline from 132,000 in fiscal year 2007. Learn more at acf.hhs.gov (link will open a PDF file).
Soon-to-be parents have clear, significant biases when it comes to race and gender, according to research that analyzed 675 applications for private domestic adoptions. Regardless of parents’ sexual orientation, girls were consistently preferred to boys, and Caucasian and Hispanic children were consistently preferred over African Americans. Key findings include:
• Lesbian couples exhibit the most intense preference for non-African-American girls. Gay couples, straight couples, and single women all exhibit a gender bias, however, so it cannot solely be ascribed to women’s preference for girls.
• A prospective parent would need to have significantly lower (by about $16,000) finalization fees in order to overcome this gender bias.
Read more at cepr.org.
Adoptees in the News
Born in Vietnam and adopted by a German couple in 1973, Philipp Rösler, 36, has been sworn in as Germany’s new health minister. The appointment makes Rösler the first German with Asian roots to serve as a minister in that nation’s cabinet.
French figure skater Florent Amodio, 19, performed in his first Olympic competition in the 2010 Vancouver Games. Amodio was born in Brazil and adopted by a French couple.
Funding Hope A non-profit organization, Hopes for Higher Education, is awarding college scholarships of up to $1,000 to children in foster care. To qualify, candidates must write an essay, provide two letters of recommendation, and reside in a foster home, group home, or kinship care, or must be an emancipated foster youth under the age of 25. Learn more at hopesforhighereducation.com. Deadline is May 15.
A One-Stop “Resource Shop” Jean MacLeod, author of At Home in This World: A China Adoption Story, offers a terrific resource for parents at adoptiontoolbox.com. There, you’ll find links and advice from adult adoptees, parents, and adoption professionals on topics ranging from multiculturalism/anti-racism to attachment and trauma education. The website is a labor of love, says MacLeod, an adoptive parent. “Sometimes, a single piece of empathic, insightful information can make all the difference for a mom, dad, or child.”
ETHIOPIA The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, in response to media reports of allegations of corruption, implemented changes to adoption visa processing in March. Additional paperwork proving a child’s orphan status is required, potentially extending the wait by several weeks or even months.
NEPAL The U.S. Department of State is strongly urging Americans against pursuing adoption from Nepal, amid ongoing concerns regarding that country’s adoption system.
AF's March/April News & Notes discussed in part the relief efforts for the children of Haiti in the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated the country and its people. Read our special report "Dispatch from Haiti, by JCICS's Tom Difilipo, at adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=2033.
International Adoption Update
Haiti Six days after the earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, the U.S. Department of State began expediting pending adoption cases and allowing children to join their prospective families, in a process known as humanitarian parole. At press time, at least several hundred orphans had joined families in the U.S. Learn more about the current situation at adoption.state.gov.
Cambodia The government of Cambodia has a new law on intercountry adoption. The law aims to create a countrywide child welfare system and a Hague-compliant adoption process. This is seen as an important first step in reform that could eventually lay the groundwork for a resumption of intercountry adoptions from Cambodia to the U.S.
Mexico Mexico City’s legislative assembly voted to legalize adoption by same-sex couples on Dec. 21. The same day, the assembly also approved gay marriage, making it the second major Latin-American city to do so.
Canada According to a report released recently by Ontario’s Ministry of Children and Youth Services, families in Canada who are interested in adoption face a number of barriers that may prevent them from ever adopting. Among the findings, objective information about adoption options isn’t readily available, and adoptive families of children with special needs don’t usually get the support they need after the adoption, the report says. Read the report at children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/infertility/index.aspx.
Another Drop in International Adoptions
The number of intercountry adoptions fell again last year—from 17,438 in fiscal year 2008 to 12,700 in fiscal year 2009, a decrease of 27 percent—according to early data from the U.S. Department of State on IR3 and IR4 visas issued.
The decline likely reflects several trends in intercountry adoption: Adoption from China continues to slow; and Vietnam and Guatemala processed only grandfathered international adoption cases during 2009.
Some countries saw an increase in intercountry adoptions last year. Adoptions from Ethiopia continue to rise, and adoptions from Haiti, the Philippines, and Ukraine have all increased.
Study of Adult Adoptees’ Identity Issues
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute released a major study on adoptees’ identity formation. The research included survey responses from 468 adult adoptees, and the study is the most extensive examination of adult adoptive identity to date. (Read the full report at adoptioninstitute.org.) Key findings include:
- Adoption becomes increasingly significant for most adoptees—and race/ethnicity grows in importance for adoptees of color—into adulthood, contrary to the notion that these factors diminish in importance after adolescence.
- Adoption-related teasing is a reality for many adoptees, but more so for whites. Race trumped adoption as a cause for teasing for adoptees of color, and a majority experienced race-based discrimination rather than (or in addition to) adoption-related negativity.
- A majority of transracially adopted adults wanted to be white as children, though most eventually grew to identify themselves as members of their racial/ethnic group.
- The most effective strategies for achieving positive identity formation are travel to birth countries and attending racially diverse schools for transracial adoptees, and contact with birth relatives for white adoptees.
HIV Travel Ban Lifted
President Obama announced in October that the travel ban into the U.S. by individuals with HIV would be lifted. The lifting of this ban eliminates the need for U.S. citizens adopting an HIV-positive child to file a 601-waiver application, significantly reducing the time the child will remain outside of permanent parental care.
PSAs Promote Adoption of African-American Kids
AdoptUsKids has launched a campaign to encourage the adoption of African-American children from foster care. According to the Administration for Children and Families, 31 percent of waiting foster-care children are African-American. The campaign includes television, radio, and print PSAs, and is designed to help prospective parents realize that “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent.” Learn more at adoptuskids.org.
International Adoption Update
Guatemala Officials in Guatemala announced that it will resume international adoptions, beginning with a two-year pilot program. Guatemala’s National Adoption Council will choose four central authorities, and only one service provider from each, to participate in the program. As this issue went to press, eight countries, including the U.S., had submitted letters of intent, but Guatemala had not yet selected the countries for the pilot program, or announced when the country would begin processing new adoption cases.
Cambodia The Cambodian National Assembly passed a law in October that includes provisions to prevent fraud and coercion, and brings Cambodia in line with Hague Convention guidelines. The new law stipulates that adoptive parents be between the ages of 30 and 45 and that they undergo a rigorous approval process. The U.S. suspended adoptions from Cambodia in 2001 amid allegations of corruption.
Canada According to statistics released by Citizenship and Immigration Canada in October, international adoptions to Canada increased by 11 percent, from 1,713 in 2007 to 1,909 in 2008. Adoptions from the U.S. to Canada doubled from 94 to 189 during this period, making the U.S. the second-largest source of international adoptions to Canada (the highest is China, sending 429 children in 2008).
China In “Chinese Babies Stolen by Officials for Foreign Adoption” (Sept. 20, Los Angeles Times), Barbara Demick reports that some parents in China say that their infants were taken from them by force or fraud. In some instances, officials were accused of stealing babies, reportedly driven by the $3,000 orphanage fee. Read the story at latimes.com (search “China adoption”).
Vietnam A draft law recently enacted in Vietnam will attempt to encourage domestic adoptions. Orphanages must try to find parents in country for children within 30 days of their arrival. If they fail to do so, they must send information about unadopted children to the Ministry of Justice for publication on its national website. If no interest is shown after a child has been listed for 30 days, the child will be available for intercountry adoption. This regulation does not apply to children with special needs or disabilities.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends hepatitis A immunization to anyone who expects close contact with adoptees arriving from countries where hepatitis A is prevalent, including China, Russia, and Ethiopia. It also recommends hepatitis B screening for all children born in regions where the disease is common.
National Adoption Day
On National Adoption Day, this year on November 21, communities in all 50 states will hold courtroom celebrations to finalize more than 4,000 adoptions of children from foster care. Hundreds of judges, attorneys, agencies, adoption professionals, and child advocates volunteer their time to complete the adoptions.
The National Adoption Day Coalition named Nia Vardalos as its 2009 National Adoption Day spokesperson. The writer and actress is an advocate for U.S. foster care adoption. She and her husband, Ian Gomez, adopted their daughter from foster care in 2008.
In an exclusive interview with AF, Vardalos said, "I've realized that the reason it took me so long to be a parent, and the reason I had such incredible success with My Big Fat Greek Wedding, was so that I could use my big mouth to talk about foster care." Read her story here.
A TB Regulation Victory
James Scruggs and Candace Litchford found themselves advocating for public policy changes after they traveled to China to adopt their daughter, Harper, and were not permitted to bring her home. Due to regulations for tuberculosis (TB) testing imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2007, Harper, who tested positive but was undergoing treatment, was required to remain in China for two months.
Children undergoing treatment for the TB virus are rarely contagious. The regulations held adopted children to a higher standard than children born to American parents in another country, or even to tourists. Families adopting from Ethiopia, the Philippines, and other countries have also been affected by the regulations.
Fortunately, Harper received a waiver to come home. And thanks to advocacy from the Scruggs and the Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS), on September 18, the CDC revised its regulations for children ages 10 and under. Read the revised regulations at cdc.gov/ncidod/dq/panel_2007.htm.
Adoptees Advocate for Open Records
More than 100 adoptees and birthparents protested for access to original birth certificates outside of the National Conference of State Legislatures meeting, in Philadelphia, in July, according to a July 22 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. They advocated state law changes to give adult adoptees the right to access their original birth certificates.
Singing from the Heart
Opera singer and adoptive mom Barbara Padilla was named runner-up on the September finale of America's Got Talent, on NBC. A Hodgkin's lymphoma survivor, Padilla told viewers about the effects of her cancer treatments, which included infertility. She and her husband wanted to adopt a child, but could not afford to do so, until a relative of a friend, who was not able to parent, chose Padilla and her husband as the adoptive parents of one-year-old Elizabeth.
Program Promotes Adoptions
"Wednesday's Child," a segment on KTTV FOX 11, in Los Angeles, recently helped coordinate its 220th adoption. Since 1995, FOX 11 has worked with the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Each week anchor Christine Devine profiles children looking for families to call their own. With the support and sponsorship of the Freddie Mac Foundation, the program has helped hundreds of foster children find the love and security of a permanent family.
CHINA The China Center of Adoption Affairs (CCAA) announced on September 15 that, beginning December 1, all adoptive families must be registered with a Hague-accredited adoption service provider (ASP). If an adoptive family is currently registered with a non-accredited ASP, they are required to transfer their adoption to a Hague-accredited ASP no later than December 1. Families currently using the I-600A and I-600 process (non-Hague) may continue with this process.
GUATEMALA In an effort to improve communication with families who have pending adoption cases in Guatemala, the Department of State will be creating a listserv. If you have a pending Guatemala adoption case and would like to be included, e-mail AskCI@state.gov, and provide the information listed at adoption.state.gov/guatemala.html.
LIBERIA The Government of Liberia informed the U.S. Embassy in September that it will not process any adoption cases during its suspension of intercountry adoptions, including those that were in progress before the suspension was announced, on January 26, 2009, and that it will not permit adopted children to depart Liberia. The Liberian government has made no provisions to grandfather cases under the existing laws. Therefore, any case in which a full and final adoption was not completed prior to January 26 is on hold. The Liberian government is willing to consider exceptions for certain special needs children. There is no indication when the moratorium might be lifted, and prospective parents should not apply to adopt there at this time.
Adoption Benefits Cut
Support for adoptive parents is becoming one of the first benefits to be cut as employers examine their budgets in the recession, according to a July 16 article in the Wall Street Journal. Adoption assistance is regarded as a "feel-good benefit"--it gives the company a family-friendly image, and it's cheap to provide, since just 0.1 percent of workers take advantage of it, according to Hewitt Associates. But as the recession brings tighter budgets, it's being cut, along with benefits like child care services and scholarships for employees' children. Just 10 percent of employers now offer adoption assistance, down from 22 percent in 2006, according to a February survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. Read "Targeting ‘Feel-Good' Benefits" at wsj.com. To encourage your employer to instate--or keep--adoption assistance, adapt our sample letter at adoptivefamilies.com/pdf/instantletter.
Families Improve Children's Development
Children should be placed into family care at the earliest age possible, says The Bucharest Study, a five-year examination of institutional care in Romania. Researchers from Harvard, Tulane, and the University of Maryland studied whether foster care could remediate the detrimental effects of institutional care, including delays in development and behavioral problems. The researchers found that placing the children in families resulted in improved cognitive, emotional, and behavioral development. The greatest improvements in IQ and development came when a child was placed with a family before age two.
Grants Make Adoption Possible
As many families are putting adoption dreams on hold during this recession, eight deserving families learned that their dreams are possible, thanks in part to Helpusadopt.org. On June 1, the company awarded a total of $50,000 in adoption grants to eight recipients, five married couples and three single women. Founded by adoptive parents Kipp and Becky Fawcett, the nonprofit has helped bring 24 children home since its inception in 2007. Helpusadopt.org's fourth round of grants will be awarded in December. An application is posted on helpusadopt.org, and the deadline for submissions is October 16.
A Thousand Happy Kids
Wendy's Wonderful Kids, a program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, reached its 1,000th adoption in early July. The program aims to move children in the U.S. and Canada from foster care into permanent adoptive homes, through grants to local adoption agencies for recruitment. Since the program began, in April 2004, more than 2,500 children have been matched with prospective adoptive parents, and 1,010 have been adopted. To learn more, go to davethomasfoundation.org.
The Latest from the State Department
Adoptive Families participated in the U.S. Department of State's roundtable discussion on intercountry adoption on June 29, led by Janice L. Jacobs, Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, and Michelle Thoren Bond, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Directorate for Overseas Citizens Services. Some highlights:
- The State Department plans to incorporate the results of the U.S.'s first year of participation in the Hague Convention into its website, adoption.state.gov, providing better data on timelines for waits in Hague Countries.
- Countries in which intercountry adoption is on hold, including Guatemala and Vietnam, aren't expected to reopen for another few years. Although Guatemala is completing in-process cases and working to set up a transparent, Hague-compliant process, the State Department does not anticipate intercountry adoption to reopen for several years. With Vietnam, U.S. officials expect that it will take a while before a new Memorandum of Agreement can be settled.
KYRGYZSTAN On June 5, Adoptive Families met with representatives from the Kyrgyzstan Parliament and its Prime Minister's office to discuss the future of its international and domestic adoption programs. The Kyrgyz delegation visited the U.S. as part of a State Department initiative, and met with adoption agencies, adoptive parents, and U.S. officials. The three members of the delegation are strong advocates for adoption, and we were pleased to hear of their two goals:
- To join the Hague Convention. As of yet, Kyrgyzstan has not signed the Hague agreement, but the Parliament members indicated that their visit to the U.S. proved to them that a transparent process is vital to intercountry adoption.
- To explore the benefits of increased openness. In Kyrgyzstan, domestic adoption is common, but is surrounded in secrecy. Children are not usually told that they joined their families through adoption, and, if they are, they are told when they are teens or young adults. After meeting with adoptive parents in the U.S., and hearing how openness truly benefits the child, the members intend to speak with adoption professionals in Kyrgyzstan and explore the idea of openness.
We were also thrilled to hear that they loved Adoptive Families and hope to begin a similar magazine in Kyrgyzstan!
NEPAL After a two-year closure, Nepal announced new procedures for intercountry adoption in May, during a presentation by Nepal's WCS Ministry to the U.S. and other embassies in Katmandu. Under the new regulations, single women older than 35 and married couples may now adopt. Parents must travel once, with an expected in-country stay of three weeks. Families will be required to submit post-placement reports until the child turns 18. Read more about the new process at adoptivefamilies.com/newsticker. Late last year, Nepal approved 32 agencies in the U.S. to process intercountry adoptions. Each agency is permitted to complete 10 adoptions each year.
Make the Tax Credit Permanent
The adoption tax credit--which currently lets families claim up to $12,150 per adoption--is set to expire in December 2010. Fortunately, there is a bill before Congress that would prevent the credit from being repealed and may make it permanent. Encourage your representatives to sign The Adoption Tax Relief Guarantee Act of 2009, H.R. 213 (find their contact information at writerep.house.gov).
Discrimination May Trigger Depression
Children who experience racial or ethnic discrimination are more likely to have symptoms of mental health disorders, including depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and conduct disorder, according to a new study from UCLA, published in the May issue of American Journal of Public Health. Fifteen percent of the children surveyed said they experienced discrimination, with most of these encounters occurring at school. The researchers encourage parents to watch for symptoms, and to go for regular checkups. Go to adoptivefamilies.com/transracial for resources on parenting a child of another race.
Rapping for Records
What rhymes with "adoption"? Rapper Darryl McDaniels, of Run-DMC, and singer-songwriter Zara Phillips may have puzzled over this as they wrote a new song called "I'm Legit." The two musicians, both adoptees, collaborated to raise awareness of a bill before the New Jersey state senate that would allow adult adoptees access to their original birth records. Nine other states are currently considering similar legislation. "Knowing who you are is about health, happiness--a human right," McDaniels told The New York Times. Check out the song at youbloom.com/web/zaradmc.
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption recently released its third annual 100 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces list. Topping the list was Wendy's International, which provides up to $24,300 in financial assistance and six weeks paid leave to employees who adopt. Citizen's Financial Group, LSI Corporation, United Business Media, and Liquidnet rounded out the top five. See the full list at davethomasfoundation.org. Learn how to encourage your company to institute adoption benefits at adoptivefamilies.com/topcompanies.
Pageant Winner Promotes Adoption
Courtni Hall demonstrated beauty inside and out when she won the Miss Indiana competition and went on to compete for the Miss USA title. Hall was adopted from India at five months old, and is using her title to promote adoption awareness as a spokesperson for Children's Hope International.
VIETNAM As of May 1, the government of Vietnam has stated its intention to introduce new adoption legislation and to institute reforms in its adoption process. The new legislation and regulations may take effect in 2011. However, establishing new procedures may take longer, so prospective parents are advised against applying for new referrals. Vietnam is still working to complete in-process cases.
CHINA As prospective parents experience longer waits, Time magazine reported on the decrease in China adoptions (3,909 in 2008, compared to 7,906 in 2005). Its investigation summarized the major reasons for the smaller numbers: stricter regulations that exclude singles and those who do not meet medical and financial qualifications; an increase in domestic placements, as adoption becomes more soc
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