Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute e-Newsletter - If you have problems reading this issue, please visit: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org
OCTOBER 2005 E-NEWSLETTER
IN THIS ISSUE
1.Law, Policy & Practice
5. Institute Update
1. Law, Policy & Practice
NEW CALIFORNIA LAWS AIM TO HELP YOUTH AGING OUT OF STATE SYSTEM|
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a series of bills into law in early October intended to improve the foster care system for the 80,000-plus children in state care. The three measures (AB1633, AB519 and AB824) address the challenges of foster youth in transitioning out of the system at age 18. Respectively, they give the maximum amount from Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits and extend benefits to age 19 for youth seeking a high-school equivalency certificate; allow emancipated youth to maintain their legal connections to birth families (and rights to inheritance and other survivor benefits); and provide, for teens about to emancipate, the option to extend transitional-housing up to age 24. In addition, SB436 and SB500 provide more support for pregnant and parenting foster teens. To read the measures, go to: http://www.legislature.ca.gov/port-bilinfo.html and search by bill number.
NEBRASKA OKAYS FOSTER CARE BILL OF RIGHTS, PENNSYLVANIA DEBATES ONE
The Pennsylvania House Committee for Children and Youth this month held a hearing on a "bill of rights" for foster children, similar to one already approved in Nebraska. The Nebraska legislature adopted its Foster Care Bill of Rights in June as a legislative resolution that will be used as the basis for future legislation; the resolution (LR76), introduced by state Sen. Dave Landis, outlines the basic rights of foster youth, including the right to know why they are placed in care, adequate clothing and food, proper medical assistance and shelter, and ability to visit and talk with biological relatives (unless restricted by the court). The Pennsylvania bill (HB511), sponsored by state Rep. Phyllis Mundy, would give a legal standard of suitable foster care in the state, including the "the right to live in a safe healthy home, receive routine medical treatment and receive an appropriate education, the right to be free from harassment, corporal punishment, unreasonable restraint and physical emotional and sexual abuse." To read the Nebraska resolution, go to: http://www.unicam.state.ne.us/pdf/INTRO_LR76.pdf ; to read the Pennsylvania bill, go to: http://www2.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/BI/BT/2005/0/HB0511P0549.pdf
TWO STATES CONSIDER BILLS ALLOWING ACCESS TO BIRTH CERTIFICATES
Testimony was heard this month by the Massachusetts Legislature's Joint Children and Families Committee on a bill that would allow adoptees to access their original birth certificates, upon becoming adults. The bill (SB959) also includes a contact preference form for birth parents. Similar legislation is being drafted or considered around the country, most recently in Utah, where state Rep. Kory Holdaway has sponsored a bill that would allow adoptees age 21 or older whose adoptions were finalized after Jan. 1, 2007, to obtain copies of their original birth certificates. The bill would allow birth parents to file affidavits requesting the information not be disclosed, but they could change their minds after being notified that an adopted person requested a copy. To read the Massachusetts legislation, go to: http://www.mass.gov/legis/bills/senate/st00/st00959.htm. To read an Oct. 21 article on the Utah bill in the Salt Lake Tribune, go to: http://sltrib.com/utah/ci_3137793
COURT RULES BIRTH FATHER MUST PAY PAST CHILD SUPPORT AFTER ADOPTION
A Wisconsin state appeals court ruled Oct. 12 that a birth parent's obligation to pay years of overdue child support did not end after the child's adoption. In Hernandez v. Allen, Randolph Allen argued that he no longer had an obligation to reimburse thousands of dollars in unpaid child support to his daughter's mother after their divorce, asserting that the adoption of his daughter by his ex-wife's husband absolved him of that legal responsibility. The 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled that the adoption did not eliminate pre-existing child-support obligations, and that only future legal obligations ceased once an adoption was finalized. To read the full court opinion, go to: http://www.courts.state.wi.us/ca/opinion/DisplayDocument.html?content=html&seqNo=19917
U.S. SENATE BILL MANDATES COURTS' COLLABORATION FOR `AT-RISK KIDS'
Senators Jay Rockefeller and Mike DeWine introduced legislation (S1679) that would require courts that oversee foster care cases to strengthen collaboration between state court leaders, abuse and neglect courts, and state welfare agencies. "WE CARE Kids: Working to Enhance Courts for At-Risk and Endangered Kids Act of 2005," would require the Chief Justice and other leaders in the state courts to: promote more effective court personnel standards; mandate the adoption of court performance measures; and provide effective and strong representation of children and parents in court through better-trained advocates and attorneys. If the federal bill is enacted, the state courts would have three years to demonstrate the effectiveness of their efforts. The legislation has been referred to the Committee on Finance. To read the bill, go to: http://thomas.loc.gov/ and search for S1679 in the bill number field.
ANALYSIS SHOWS INCREASE IN TRANSRACIAL ADOPTIONS FROM FOSTER CARE|
An analysis of AFCARS data shows that the national rate of transracial adoptions from foster care has increased from 10.8 percent in fiscal year 1995 to 15 percent in 2001; however, the rate varies widely by state and by racial group. (Racial information on adoptions is incomplete in AFCARS data but has improved in recent years.) "Transracial Placement in Adoptions with Public Agency Involvement: What Can We Learn from the AFCARS Data?" by Mary Hansen and Rita Simon, was published in the most recent issue of Adoption Quarterly (Volume 8, Issue 2). It reports that in some states (IL, CA, CO, GA NC, KY, PA, DC) increases in adoptions of African American children after passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act did not result in a higher rate of transracial placements; in other states (IA, OH, MN, NJ, OK, TN), the increases in adoptions were accompanied by a higher rate of transracial adoptions. Hispanic children had the highest rate of transracial adoptions (38% in 2001) as compared to African American children (17%) or white children (3%). For a free abstract, go to: http://www.haworthpress.com/store/TOC.asp?sku=J145
MALTREATMENT SEEN TO CAUSE SOCIAL-SKILL DELAYS FOR FOSTER CHILDREN
Recent research appears to affirm that young children in foster care who have been mistreated are placed at a significant disadvantage in developing social skills and family and peer relationships. The findings in "Emotion Understanding and Theory of Mind Among Maltreated Children in Foster Care: Evidence of Deficits," by Katherine Pears and Philip Fisher, suggest that these children need help with developing secure attachments and emotional expressiveness, and that interventions focusing on these needs can help remediate deficits in social development. The report, published in the Winter 2005 issue of Development and Psychopathology (Volume 17, Issue 1), compared 61 preschool foster children who had been maltreated to 31 living with their biological families, and controlled for intelligence and socioeconomic status. This study expands on research that found developmental "holes" in children who had been maltreated, both in relating to others and in regulating feelings and behaviors. For a free abstract go to: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayIssue?jid=DPP&volumeId=17&issueId=01
RESEARCH INDICATES DIVERSITY ALONE DOES NOT BOLSTER ETHNIC IDENTITY
A study of 266 elementary-age girls adopted from China found that school racial and ethnic diversity alone did not foster same race preference; in fact, it discovered the opposite. "The Development of Ethnic Identity Among Chinese Adoptees: Paradoxical Effects of School Diversity," by Gregory Adams, Richard Tessler and Gail Gamache, will be published in an upcoming issue of Adoption Quarterly (Volume 8, Issue 3). The study found that greater diversity was linked with a decrease in same-race preference, and that children attending public schools with greater diversity were more likely to show white preference than those attending schools with less diversity. The authors attribute the paradoxical results to differences in social class of adopted children compared to minority peers. They plan to reexamine the benefits of diversity with this same group of girls in adolescence. For a free abstract, go to: http://www.haworthpress.com/store/TOC.asp?sku=J145
PARENTS REPORT MORE BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS FOR ADOPTED ADOLESCENTS
A longitudinal study of 240 adolescents in 91 adoptive families - all headed by Caucasian parents in the 1980s - compared adjustments of birth children to several groups of adopted children within the same families (Caucasian, African-American, biracial, and Asian/Indian). The parents in the study reported more problems for their adopted adolescents than for their birth children. "The Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study: Parent Reports of Psychosocial Adjustment at Late Adolescence," by Weinberg et.al., was published in the most recent issue of Adoption Quarterly (Volume 8, Issue 2). This article is a recent analysis of data collected two decades ago. The children involved were placed later than early infancy (mean=23.4 months). The vast majority of adopted children were functioning well; however, the adoptee groups were reported to have higher school, behavioral and delinquency issues than their non-adopted siblings. For a free abstract, go to: http://www.haworthpress.com/store/TOC.asp?sku=J145
STUDY SHOWS MEDICARE CUTS WOULD HURT 80,000 IN CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM
Proposals to cut Medicaid funding, on which a vote by the U.S. Congress is pending, include a $10 billion reduction for children in the child welfare system over five years. An analysis by Casey Family Services examines the implications of such cuts. "Protecting Children in Foster Care: Why Proposed Medicaid Cuts Harm Our Nation's Most Vulnerable Youth," published in October and written by David Rubin, Neal Halfon, Ramesh Raghavan and Sara Rosenbaum, reports that the proposed reductions would hurt nearly 800,000 children who utilize mental health services. According to the report, foster children and youths account for 25 to 41 percent of mental health expenditures funded by Medicaid programs, and in many states Medicaid is accessed to provide services to youths aging out of system. The report also evaluates the pros and cons of four Medicaid reform proposals. To access the report for free, go to: http://www.casey.org/Resources/Publications/Medicaid.htm
PAKISTAN PROHIBITS ADOPTION OF CHILDREN WHO SURVIVED EARTHQUAKE |
Pakistan will not permit the adoption of unaccompanied children who survived the recent earthquake that devastated the region early this month, according to an Oct. 21 article published in The Daily Times. "No Provision for Child Adoption in Islam," by Mohammed Kamran, reported an estimated 50,000 children have either been orphaned or separated from their parents. Both domestic and international adoptions are uncommon in Pakistan because of religious beliefs that prohibit non-relative adoptions and a lack of legal provisions for the practice. As a result, the United Nations Children's Fund has urged the Pakistani Parliament to pass a comprehensive child-protection bill. To read the full article, go to: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2005%5C10%5C21%5Cstory_21-10-2005_pg7_27; to read a press release from UNICEF on the issue, go to: http://www.unicef.org/media/media_28853.html. To read the Adoption Institute's Policy Brief on "Intercountry Adoption in Emergencies," go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/policybriefs.html
AIDS CRISIS FUELS CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION FROM SOUTH AFRICA
About 3.4 million South African children under 18 have lost one or both parents as a result of AIDS-related diseases, but only 3,000 have been placed for adoption in 2005, according to an Oct. 17 article published by IPS News. "Intercountry Adoption: Last Resort, Or Best Hope?" by Nicola Spurr, attributes the low number of domestic adoptions to a lack of awareness about adoption by South Africans and to a system that provides support for fostering but not for adopting. Adoption by foreign nationals became an option in 2000, when a court negated a law prohibiting the practice. About 250 children have been placed with foreign families annually since then. "If adoptive families cannot be found locally," the author asks, "why not look abroad?" To read the full article, go to: http://www.speroforum.com/site/article.asp?idCategory=33&idsub=121&id=2014
GAO CITES ADVANCES IN INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS, BUT RECOMMENDS MORE|
A report from the Government Accountability Office, entitled "Agencies Have Improved the Intercountry Adoption Process, but Further Enhancements Are Needed," reviews attempts by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State to improve the intercountry adoption process and states that many 2002 recommendations of a task force have been implemented. Other recommendations made in this report include formalizing a Quality Assurance process within USCIS and establishing a systematic approach for documenting specific incidents of problems identified in foreign countries, so that these may be analyzed. To access this report, go to: http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-06-133
WEBSITE PROVIDES TOOLS FOR NOVEMBER 2005 NATIONAL ADOPTION MONTH
The National Adoption Information Clearinghouse and AdoptUsKids have collaborated to launch a 2005 National Adoption Month website. The theme for this year's commemoration in November is, "Answering the Call - You Don't Have to Be Perfect to Be a Perfect Parent." The website contains information on the history of National Adoption Month, a toolkit to promote adoption from foster care, and fact sheets on the number of children waiting to be adopted and how to adopt. The resources are available in Spanish as well. To access the information, go to: http://naic.acf.hhs.gov/general/adoptmonth/index.cfm.
CONCURRENT PLANNING LINKED TO POSITIVE OUTCOMES WHEN IMPLEMENTED
An issue brief on current knowledge and research related to concurrent planning has been developed by the Child Welfare League of America's Research to Practice Initiative, with funding from the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information. The brief incorporates an analysis of information from the first round of Child and Family Services Reviews and reports that while concurrent planning was mentioned in 51 of the 52 state reports, it is fully implemented in only a few states. The practice has been linked with positive results in at least 11 states, including reduced time to permanency and enhanced reunification through engaging parents. To access this brief, go to: http://nccanch.acf.hhs.gov/pubs/issue_briefs/concurrent_evidence/index.cfm
RESEARCHERS RECOMMEND BETTER USE OF KNOWLEDGE ABOUT ATTACHMENT
A review of attachment theory and research focuses on how to effectively use this knowledge in decision-making for children. "Informed Decisions in Child Welfare: The Use of Attachment Theory," by Ferol Mennen and Maura O'Keefe, was published in the June 2005 issue of Children and Youth Services Review (Volume 27, Issue 6). Among the authors' recommendations is that assistance for birth parents who do not have secure attachments to their children should go beyond parenting classes and include more individualized, therapeutic treatment. To access the abstract, go to: http://www.sciencedirect.com/
REVIEW EXAMINES MODELS FOR TREATING PROBLEMS OF FOSTER CHILDREN
A recent report reviews the current treatment approaches used for children in foster care, as well as research related to the success of these treatments. Cognitive-behavioral strategies have received the most validation in helping children generally, although studies have not been done on youths in foster care. Attachment-based therapies are also examined - as are system-of-care approaches such as Treatment Foster Care and Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care. "Psychosocial Treatment of Children in Foster Care: A Review," by Robert Racusin, et.al, was published in the April 2005 issue of Community Mental Health Journal (Volume 41, Issue 2). Due to their histories of maltreatment, loss and multiple moves, foster children consistently receive problematic psychiatric diagnoses at a far higher rate than counterparts from similar socioeconomic backgrounds living with their families. For a free abstract, go to: http://www.springerlink.com/
5. Institute Update||
INSTITUTE SEEKS AN END TO MARKETING OF DOLLS THROUGH `ADOPTION'|
The Adoption Institute sent a letter to retailers and issued a press release this month asking for an end to the sale of dolls in "Newborn Nursery Adoption Centers," calling the marketing campaign "offensive" and "undermining for adopted children, for all their parents, and for adoption per se." Complaints from adoptive and birth parents, as well as adopted adults, led the Institute to act on the issue, which revolves around dolls sold in simulated "nurseries" from which buyers pick a "baby" to "adopt" according to physical characteristics - and with a money-back return policy. The Institute said the concept was problematical for many reasons, including that it was based on antiquated, discredited assumptions and stereotypes about how infant adoption occurs. An Associated Press story on the issue, by David Crary, ran in publications worldwide on Oct. 22. To read the press release, go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/pressrelease/20051018_dolladoption.html; to read the AP story, go to: http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/nation/12968405.htm
INSTITUTE BACKS ACCESS TO BIRTH RECORDS IN MASSACHUSETTS, NEW JERSEY
Executive Director Adam Pertman testified and provided written remarks on Oct. 27 in favor of Massachusetts legislation (S959) that would allow adopted people to have access to their original birth certificates after they become adults. The measure, being considered by the Joint Committee on Children and Families, gives birth parents the ability to express a preference on whether they subsequently want to be contacted. The Institute also submitted a letter to members of the New Jersey Assembly in support of a bill (A3237) that would allow adopted adults access to original birth certificates and adoption records. The Oct. 19 letter cited a growing body of research that supports the conclusion that "greater knowledge about their histories (biological and personal) yields better outcomes for adoptees and their families." To read the testimony submitted in Massachusetts, go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/pressrelease/20051027_testimony_mass.html . To read the letter sent to New Jersey lawmakers, go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/pressrelease/20051019_Letter_NJ.html; to read the NJ bill, go to: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/Default.asp and type the bill number in the bill search field.
FAITH-BASED AGENCIES VARY ON PLACING CHILDREN WITH SAME-SEX COUPLES
In an Oct. 21 article in the Boston Globe, "Archdiocesan Agency Aids in Adoptions by Gays," by Patricia Wen, Executive Director Pertman comments that in recent years Jewish- and Lutheran-affiliated adoption agencies have accepted applications from gays and lesbians at a far higher rate than by Catholic- or Methodist- affiliated organizations. His comments were based on the Institute's 2003 study, "Adoption by Gays and Lesbians: A National Survey of Adoption Agency Policies, Practices and Attitudes." To read the full article, go to: http://www.boston.com/; to read the Institute study, go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/whowe/Gay%20and%20Lesbian%20Adoption1.html
CALIFORNIA CASE ILLUSTRATES `LIMITS' OF SAFE HAVEN LAWS
An Oct. 16 story about Holly Ashcraft, a college student in California charged with murder after the body of her newborn baby was discovered in a trashcan, raised questions about the effectiveness of "safe haven" laws intended to prevent such tragedies. "USC Case Shows Limits of Laws to Save Babies," by Rebecca Trounson and Hector Becarra in the Los Angeles Times, was one of a growing number of accounts to suggest problems with the safe haven approach. Institute Executive Director Pertman pointed out that these laws apparently have not led to a decrease in the number of infants being unsafely abandoned but instead are "persuading women who never would have abandoned their babies to do so." To read the article, go to: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-sc16oct16,1,176947.story?coll=la-headlines-california. To read the Institute's study on the issue, go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/whowe/lastreport_coverpage.html .
ADOPTION'S IMPACT ON JEWISH IDENTITY, COMMUNITY AND FUTURE
An Oct. 29 article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, by Jane Clifford, examines the issues involved when Jews adopt children internationally, focusing on a family that adopted a girl from China and on adoptees' "place in a much bigger picture .. of increasing concern in some circles about the continuity of the Jewish people." The article quotes from "Adoption Nation," Executive Director Pertman's book, which says that "whatever (adoption) might accomplish for the adults in the picture, it provides a systematic opportunity for children to grow up in stable homes with loving parents." To read the full article, go to: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/features/20051029-9999-1c29adopt.html
UPCOMING EVENTS: APPEARANCES FOR NATIONAL ADOPTION MONTH
Executive Director Adam Pertman's appearances in the coming month include:
UPCOMING EVENTS: SAVE THE DATE FOR THESE IMPORTANT CONFERENCES
The Adoption Institute will cosponsor three major conferences in the coming year. Please mark your calendars, register, and check our website periodically for additional information:
The latest edition of the Adoption Institute's print newsletter, "Inside the Institute," is going to press and will be mailed to our contributors in November (which is National Adoption Awareness Month). You can receive a copy, too, by supporting our unique, important work - and perhaps taking advantage of a major new tax break in doing so. Your generous donation will help us achieve substantive improvements in the lives of millions of children and families in a host of ways - from cutting edge projects on identity, siblings and birth parents in adoption, to advocacy for better laws and practices, to our innovate Educate the Educators and Educate the Media programs. For an explanation of the tax incentive, which expires at the end of the year, go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/newsletter/2005_10_taxinfo.html. To donate to the Adoption Institute and to read the Executive Director's report from "Inside the Institute," go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/donate.html
6. About the Evan D. Donaldson Adoption Institute||
Since its establishment in 1996, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute has been a pre-eminent, independent voice for improving adoption for everyone it touches - particularly children - through innovative programs, educational initiatives, research and analysis, and advocacy for better practices, policies and laws.
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