THE EVAN B. DONALDSON ADOPTION INSTITUTE
August 2003 E-NEWSLETTER

IN THIS ISSUE

1. Laws, Policy & Practice

2. Research

3. News

 

5. About the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute


1. Laws, Policy & Practice


CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS SECOND-PARENT ADOPTION
In Sharon S. v. Superior Court, the California Supreme Court this month ruled that second-parent adoption in California is valid in appropriate circumstances and in the best interests of children. The decision allows parties, particularly the custodial birth or first adoptive parent, to waive the usual consequence of an adoption that a birth parent is relieved of all rights and responsibilities and the new adoptive parent becomes the sole parent. Estimating that there have been 10,000-20,000 second-parent adoptions in the state, the Court reasoned that allowing second-parent adoption is in the best interest of children, and thus consistent with public policy and the intent of the legislature. The Court reversed a lower court decision holding that the statute did not allow for second-parent adoptions, except by stepparents. Most second-parents adoptions involve same-sex couples raising children together. To read the decision, go to: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S102671.PDF. See also American Bar Association Supports Second-Parent Adoption below.

ILLINOIS EXPANDS ABILITY OF ALL PARTIES TO USE INTERMEDIARY PROGRAM
Effective January 1, 2004, adopted people 21 and older and adoptive parents can obtain a court-appointed confidential intermediary without proving medical or psychological cause, as they had to under the old law in Illinois. Additionally, birth parents now will be permitted to participate in the intermediary program once the children they placed reach age 21. All parties can access the intermediary program for the purpose of exchanging medical information, obtaining identifying information or arranging contact with mutually consenting biological relatives. Previously, intermediaries could only seek medical information from biological relatives. Provided a “sought-after relative” has not filed a Denial of Information Exchange, the confidential intermediary will inform such relatives of the petitioner’s request and of their options. The law also allows adult adoptees access to non-identifying information on original birth certificates and the “actual date and place of birth.” To read the law, go to: http://www.legis.state.il.us/legislation/publicacts/fulltext.asp?Name=093-0189.

AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION SUPPORTS SECOND-PARENT ADOPTION
The American Bar Association (ABA) issued a resolution supporting “laws and court decisions that permit the establishment of legal parent-child relationships through joint adoptions and second-parent adoptions by unmarried persons who are functioning as a child's parents when such adoptions are in the best interests of the child.” The ABA recognized that such adoptions ensure that children are entitled to the legal, financial, emotional and developmental benefits of having two parents. Second-parent adoption is available by statute or court order in ten states, but court decisions in another four states prohibit them. The statement is in line with previous ones by the ABA, such as its endorsement of the Uniform Adoption Act which allows second-parent adoptions and its policy supporting “the enactment of laws and implementation of public policy [providing] that sexual orientation shall not be a bar to adoption when the adoption is determined to be in the best interests of the child.” To obtain the report in support of the resolution, contact the ABA Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities: http://www.abanet.org/irr/home.html. For more information, go to: http://www.abanet.org/irr/hr/summer03/parental.html.


GUATEMALA REPORTEDLY SUSPENDS HAGUE IMPLEMENTATION
According to a State Department notice citing a media report, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala “ruled to suspend the implementation of the Hague Adoption Convention and the Central Authority.” The August 14, 2003, posting notes that the State Department is seeking confirmation from the Guatemalan government and assessing the effect on current and future cases. To read the notice, go to: http://travel.state.gov/guatemala_notice1.html.


FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HELPS PROSPECTIVE PARENTS ADOPTING FROM CHINA
The Department of Homeland Security announced this month that it would amend regulations to assist prospective adoptive parents who face processing delays in China. These delays follow the six-week, May 15, 2003-June 24, 2003, suspension of dossier processing imposed by the China Center for Adoption Affairs due to the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome. Changes in Homeland Security policy will give the Director of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services discretionary authority to extend the duration of any key application. The Chinese suspension raised concerns among prospective parents that their application approval would expire before they could travel to China to finalize their adoptions. To read the Department’s notice, go to: http://www.bcis.gov/graphics/publicaffairs/newsrels/adopt080703.htm


2. Research


CENSUS REPORTS NUMBER OF ADOPTED CHILDREN FOR THE FIRST TIME
The 2000 Special Report on Adopted Children and Stepchildren, released this month, found that there were 2.1 million adopted children of householders in the United States, representing 2.5% of all children; of these, 1.6 million were under age 18. This number was composed only of dependent children living in the owner or renter’s household at the time of the census. Of adopted children, 58% were non-Hispanic white, 16% African American and 14% Hispanic. Additionally, 13% of adopted children were born abroad; of these, 48% were adopted from Asia, 33% from Latin American and 16% from Europe. Korea was the largest country of origin, representing 22% of foreign-born adopted children. Census 2000 also discovered that 17% of adopted children under 18 were of a different race than the householder, and 7% were of different Hispanic origin than the householder. To read the full report, go to: http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/censr-6.pdf. To read a news account of it, go to: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/census/2003-08-22-adoptees-usat_x.htm.


ONLY 10 STATES MEET STANDARD FOR FOSTER CARE ADOPTION
The Department of Health and Human Services’ “Child Welfare Outcomes 2000: Annual Report to Congress” found that just 10 states met or exceeded the national standard for the outcome, “reduce time in foster care to adoption.” The national standard is moving 32% of children from foster care to adoption within 24 months; of the 48 states with sufficient data to calculate a percentage, the median was 19.7%. This outcome is one of seven child welfare outcomes, and the only one specific to adoption. In its report this month, HHS cited barriers such as inadequately implemented strategies to expedite adoption, but also acknowledged that states are attempting to place children who have been in foster care for long periods of time, as contributors to delays. To read the report, go to: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/publications/cwo00/cwo2000.pdf.


DELAYS REPORTED IN COMPLETING STATEWIDE CHILD INFORMATION SYSTEMS
A United States General Accounting Office report finds that despite spending $2.4 billion in federal, state and local funding, states cited median completion delays of two and one-half years in developing statewide automated child welfare information systems. The July 2003 report, “Most States Are Developing Statewide Information Systems, but the Reliability of Child Welfare Data Could Be Improved,” also found that nearly all the states described “insufficient caseworker training and inaccurate and incomplete data entry” and most reported insufficient guidance from Health and Human Services as contributors to diminished data quality. Of the 47 states developing or operating Statewide Information Systems, only five are complete; 34 are fully or partially operational (a lesser standard) for adoption information and 25 are fully or partially operational for adoption assistance payments. Congress requires that HHS compile data on children served by state agencies and authorized federal funding for the systems to support state information tracking. To read the report, go to:
http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/useftp.cgi?IPaddress=162.140.64.21&filename=d03809.pdf&directory=/diskb/wais/data/gao.


STUDY FINDS ADOPTIVE PARENTS PLEASED WITH OPEN ADOPTION
A longitudinal study, “Open Adoption of Infants: Adoptive Parents’ Feelings Seven Years Later” by Siegel found that among 16 adoptive couples, all parents were happy with the openness in their adoptions and adhered to the contact agreements they had with birth families. Open adoptions were defined as “those in which the birth and adoptive parents had some sort of personal contact and exchange of information about themselves before or after the adoption finalization, or both.” All of the parents responded that “my child is better off because she or he has access to her or his birth parent.” The research, published in the July 2003 Social Work, Vol. 48, No. 3, is the second part of a longitudinal study examining adoptive parents’ feelings about their infant open adoptions. The initial study, performed in 1988, surveyed 21 white married couples in New England; the 1995 study collected information from 16 of the original 21 families. To order the journal, go to: http://www.naswpress.org/publications/journals/social_work/swintro.html.


3. News


PROMINENT COLUMNIST SUGGESTS REASSESSING “SAFE HAVEN” LAWS
Calling “safe haven” laws “a classic illustration of two phenomena: well-intended public policy with unintended consequences and the almost irresistible appeal of an attractive label,” columnist Albert Hunt concludes that such laws are “largely ineffective.” His column, headlined “No Safe Haven,” was published in the August 21, 2003, edition of the Wall Street Journal. The column points out some of the laws’ deficiencies, such as precluding both access to health information and contact with biological family members. Additionally, Hunt writes that the laws open the door to coercion of biological mothers to abandon their newborns and jettisoning the rights of biological fathers. The article recommends confidential counseling about parenting, prenatal care, and adoption as constructive alternatives. The article is not available for free on the Wall Street Journal’s website.


MILLIONS OF AFRICAN CHILDREN, ORPHANED BY AIDS, STRUGGLE TO SURVIVE
The U.N. AIDS organization reports that in Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 3.5 million children have lost both parents to AIDS and more than 13 million have lost at least one parent to AIDS. According to an August 13, 2003, Washington Post article, “A Generation Orphaned by AIDS,” relatives of these orphaned children are often already overburdened and unable to house or help them. Parentless children are at-risk of complete poverty, hunger, poor health, not attending school, abuse and exploitation. To read the article, go to:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A51948-2003Aug12.html


UK LAW GIVES BIRTHMOTHERS RIGHT TO SEEK OUT ADOPTED CHILDREN
For the first time, birth parents in the United Kingdom have a chance to seek information about children they placed for adoption, reports the July 30, 2003, Guardian article “Past Present.” The Adoption and Children Act 2002 provides that once an adopted child turns 18, birth parents and other biological relatives can request information and contact through an intermediary. The law was informed by a Children's Society study of 78 non-searching adopted people who had been indirectly contacted by a birth relative, 90% of whom agreed to contact. The law covers both future and past adoptions and will be implemented in two steps. Beginning in April 2004, rules will address adoptions prior to 1975 and, a year later, adoptions after 1975. To read the article, go to:
http://society.guardian.co.uk/adoption/story/0,8150,1008334,00.html.

 


4. About The Evan B. 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.

Our award-winning web site, www.adoptioninstitute.org/old, is a popular and reliable source for accurate adoption information. Read past e-Newsletters at http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/old/whowe/nl_archives.html.

SUPPORT OUR WORK
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