THE EVAN B. DONALDSON ADOPTION INSTITUTE
January 2004 E-NEWSLETTER

IN THIS ISSUE

1. Laws, Policy & Practice

2. Research

3. News

4. Resources

5. About the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute

 


1. Laws, Policy & Practice


APPEALS COURT UPHOLDS FLORIDA'S BAN ON ADOPTION BY HOMOSEXUALS

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Florida's prohibition on adoption by homosexuals, the only such blanket ban in the country. The court rejected constitutional challenges in its January 28, 2004, decision in the Lofton case, called adoption a privilege not a right, and held that the state has broad discretion to regulate it. In applying the lowest level of review to the sweeping prohibition, the Court dismissed the equal protection claim, accepted the state's asserted rationale that children should be adopted by families composed of married mothers and fathers (though, in practice, children are often placed with single parents and foster children are placed with homosexuals). The Court also rejected the due process argument that foster parents and children have a right to family integrity. To read the opinion, go to: http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/ops/200116723.pdf.

NEVADA'S HIGH COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF VISITATION BY BIOLOGICAL SIBLINGS
The Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the state must provide a teenager in foster care with information about the adoptive placements of her biological siblings. Specifically, the Court last month ordered the state to provide the addresses of the two adoptive families so that the teenager can serve the adoptive parents with petitions for sibling visitation. The Court found that the state agency defied a previous family court order to develop a sibling visitation plan with prospective adoptive parents before the children were permanently placed. Moreover, the Court rejected the state's argument that releasing the adoption records would make families less likely to adopt. To read the opinion, go to: http://www.leg.state.nv.us/scd/119NevAdvOpNo68.html.

UNICEF SUPPORTS INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION OVER INSTITUTIONALIZATION
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) released a position statement on intercountry adoption, stating that support should be provided to families who need help caring for their children and "alternative means of caring for a child should only be considered when, despite this assistance, a child's family is unavailable, unable or unwilling to care for him or her." In it's statement this month, UNICEF acknowledged that "an appropriate alternative family environment should be sought in preference to institutional care." It said institutional care should be temporary and a "last resort." UNICEF also recognized that intercountry adoption "may indeed be the best solution" when adoption within the country itself is not possible. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child had been construed by some to support institutional care over intercountry adoption. To read the statement, go to: http://www.unicef.org/media/media_15011.html.

US AMENDS LAW TO CURB ABUSES IN ADOPTION OF MARSHALLESE CHILDREN
President Bush signed an amended Compact of Free Association (H.J.Res. 63, Public Law No. 108-188). The changed law, signed in December 2003, prohibits entry into the United States under the Compact by Pacific Islanders for the purpose of adoption. A 2002 Marshall Islands law established a Central Adoption Authority (CAA), which began operating October 1, 2003. In response to reported abuses, the law requires all adoptions to be processed by the CAA, which licenses and regulates agencies, educates birth parents about the permanency of adoption, and screens complaints, referring violations to the attorney general for prosecution. The law also prohibits the solicitation of birth mothers and bans arranging for them to leave the republic to finalize adoptions. To read the bill, go to: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=108_cong_bills&docid=f:hj63enr.txt.pdf.

GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, EXPERTS TESTIFY ON CHILD WELFARE

The Subcommittee on Human Resources of the House Ways and Means Committee held its third child welfare oversight hearing in as many months on January 28, 2004. The hearing focused on what federal, state, and local officials "can do and should be doing to ensure the safety, permanency, and well-being of children." Federal, state and local officials testified, along with representatives from several non-profit organizations, including the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care, Voice for Adoption and the Child Welfare League of America. To read the testimony, go to: http://waysandmeans.house.gov/hearings.asp?formmode=detail&hearing=122&comm=2.

UK TO END ANONYMITY FOR DONORS OF SPERM, EGGS AND EMBRYOS

The United Kingdom Department of Health this month announced new rules that, subject to Parliamentary approval, will end anonymity for people donating sperm, eggs and embryos after April 1, 2005. The new rules, crafted after a two-year review, would allow "donor conceived children" access to the donors' identities at age 18. In announcing the rules, the Public Health Minister stated: "I firmly believe donor-conceived people have a right to information about their genetic origins that is currently denied them, including the identity of their donor. There is a growing body of opinion, which I agree with, that donor-conceived people should not be treated so differently from adopted people. Today's new regulations will align their positions, removing the major discrepancy that exists between the rights of donor-conceived people and those of adopted people." The Department will conduct a public-awareness campaign to educate people about the law and the need for donors. To read the press release, go to: http://www.info.doh.gov.uk/doh/intpress.nsf/page/2004-0023?OpenDocument.

N.H. CONSIDERS GIVING ADULT ADOPTEES ACCESS TO THEIR BIRTH CERTIFICATES

A New Hampshire Senate Committee is weighing legislation (SB 335) to allow adult adoptees 18 years and older access to their original birth certificates upon request. Current law permits the release of identifying information to adoptees 21 or older only if a court has found "good cause" or if birth parents have filed a release with the child-placement agency and have "been contacted, if possible, by the agency, and reaffirmed [their] desire to be contacted." Existing law also gives agencies receiving requests from adoptees and birth parents discretion in cases where no release of information has been filed for contacting birth parents and adoptees to discover their preferences. The pending bill permits adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates on request and replaces references to "natural" parents with "birth" parents. The Public Institutions, Health & Human Services Committee will resume a hearing on the bill it began this month on February 3, 2004. While the New Hampshire House has passed open records bills in pervious sessions, currently there is not a companion bill under consideration in the House. To read the Senate bill, go to: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2004/SB0335.html.

 

 


2. Research


EXPERTS IDENTIFY INTERJURISDICTIONAL BARRIERS TO ADOPTION

"Interjurisdictional Placement of Children in Foster Care" by Freundlich, Heffernan and Jacobs identifies policy and practice obstacles to interjurisdictional adoptive placements of children in foster care. Among the policy problems, the authors cite the Adoption and Safe Families Act's failure to address financial support of interjurisdictional placement efforts and the absence in the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children of standards for prospective adoptive placement evaluations. According to the article in the January/February 2004 issue of Child Welfare, practice problems include lack of uniformity in home studies and post-placement services. The child welfare experts make the following recommendations to address these and other deficiencies: increase exposure of interjusrisdictional placements; use tools and resources, like websites and training, more effectively; develop new tools and resources, such as a uniform homestudy format; promote jurisdictional collaboration; focus on family-centered policy and practice, i.e., placement with relatives; and utilize existing and increase financial support for pre- and post-placement services. To order the journal, search for Child Welfare Journal at http://www.cwla.org/pubs/titl.htm.

SURVEY SHOWS ADOPTIVE PARENTS' PERSPECTIVES ON THEIR KOREAN CHILDREN

A 1990 survey of 117 two-parent Caucasian families with a least one Korean adopted child, in one Midwestern state, found that the most frequently cited reason for adopting a Korean child was a "desire to adopt internationally" for mothers, while for fathers it was a shorter waiting time. According to "Caucasian Parents and Korean Adoptees: A Survey of Parents' Perceptions," by Kathleen Ja Sook Bergquist, a plurality of both mothers (46 percent) and fathers (40 percent) responded that in terms of racial/ethnic group, their children identified with Koreans/Asians. A 1997 follow-up study (with 28% of the original group responding) showed an increase in the number of parents stating that their children had learned about Korean culture, while at the same time more said that in terms of racial/ethnic group, their children identified with Caucasians. The research, reported in Adoption Quarterly, Vol. 6, Issue 4, found that 50 percent of fathers and 43 percent of mothers reported "few or more" additional family problems "upon placement of the child." At the time of the survey, the average age of adoptees was 5.7 years, the children were with their families for a median of 3.5 years, and 85 percent were adopted at age 3 or younger. To order the article, go to: https://www.haworthpress.com/store/ArticleAbstract.asp?sid=J06LDH72SMXA9M7KALM846LC9QDXCQA0&ID=34430

STUDY FINDS TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS DOESN'T EXPEDITE PERMANENCY

A 2003 study of 1,995 children from several states, "After Parental Rights Are Terminated: Factors Associated with Exiting Foster Care," found that termination of parental rights (TPR) did not expedite children's discharge from foster care. The study, which used data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), tracked a group of children who were legally eligible for adoption in October 1997. Only 35 percent of the children in the sample were permanently placed at the end of fiscal year 1998. Older children, African-American children, children in kinship care, and children with more placements during foster care were less likely to be in permanent situations. The study by Brenda D. Smith, published in Children and Youth Services Review 25 (12), also found significant variations from one state to another, possibly because states define permanency or adoption finalization differently. To order the journal, go to: http://www.childwelfare.com/kids/cysr.htm

PEDIATRICIANS FAVOR COMMUNICATION, SEARCH FOR RELATIVES IN ADOPTION

A new American Academy of Pediatrics' report, "Families and Adoption: The Pediatrician's Role in Supporting Communication," provides an overview of children's developmental understanding of adoption and advice for parents and pediatricians concerning communicating with children about adoption. "From the time a child is adopted, it is appropriate for families to use language on a routine basis that relates to adoption," explains the article, which notes that such "foundations are important in the later development of positive attitudes about adoption, a child's birth parents, and himself or herself." The report, in the December 2003 issue of Pediatrics, also states that adopted children's search for biological families is "a sign of healthy emotional growth in the search for identity." To read the report, go to: http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/pediatrics;112/6/1437.pdf.

STUDY EXAMINES ADOPTEES' COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN, TIME SPENT IN INSTITUTIONS

The University of Minnesota International Adoption Project has initiated a "New Arrivals Study," a follow up to its 2001 study of families adopting from 1990-1998, and has received surveys from 292 families who have adopted children through Minnesota agencies from October 2002 to June 2003. According to "IAP New Arrivals Study" by Gunnar, Madsen and Kamin, most of the New Arrival children came from China (25 percent versus 10 percent in 2001), Korea (24 percent versus 32 percent in 2001), Russia (17 percent versus 8 percent in 2001), and Colombia (11 percent in both studies). The new survey, published in the International Adoption Project Fall 2003 Newsletter, found that nearly two-thirds of the children (64 percent) spent more than a month in institutional care, a 10 percent increase over the prior study. The largest percentage of children adopted were age 10-12 months (22 percent), as compared to 4-6 months in 2001 (31 percent). In both studies, about three-quarters of parents who adopted child younger than 1-year-old thought their children had been well or very well cared for before the adoption. Just 10 percent of parents in the recent survey responded that the children had more health concerns than expected. About 65 percent of the parents were offered pre-adoption information classes, and 77 percent said parental leave benefits were available through their employers (compared to 48 percent in the study's 2001 survey). To read the article, go to: http://education.umn.edu/icd/iap/2003iapnewslette.pdf.

MOST AMERICANS BACK EMBRYO DONATION, BUT MOST INFERTILE COUPLES DO NOT

According to a national survey commissioned by Resolve, a national infertility association, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Americans age 18-45 believe its is a "a good thing" for infertile couples to try to have children with donated embryos. Of Resolve members with frozen embryos stored from their own infertility treatments, "only 18% said they were likely to consider" donating those embryos to another infertile couple, while one-third (34 percent) of infertile members said they would consider using someone else's donated embryos. Three-quarters of infertile Americans said they did not have enough information about embryo donation to make an informed decision. Resolve is conducting a public awareness and education campaign, funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, to reach 500,000 people "facing decisions regarding frozen embryos." To read the press release, go to: http://www.resolve.org/main/national/media/pressrelease/pr20031014.jsp

U.S. BIRTH RATE, INCLUDING FOR TEENAGERS, FALLS TO RECORD LOW

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 4,021,726 births in the United States in 2002, slightly fewer than in 2001, and the birth rate dropped to the lowest on record (13.9 live births per 1,000 total population). The December 17, 2003, report by Martin, et al, "Births: Final Data for 2002," found that the birth rate for teens age 15-19 decreased 5 percent in 2002 to its lowest level (43.0 births per 1,000), while births to unmarried women 15-44 years old rose to more than 1.3 million, an all-time high. "Timely initiation of prenatal care" increased to nearly 84 percent and almost all (99 percent) of births were delivered in hospitals, with most (65 percent) of out-of-hospital births in a residence, "a rate that has fluctuated only moderately since 1989." To read the report, go to: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr52/nvsr52_10.pdf

 


3. News



12 ABANDONED INFANTS, NOT JUST 1, REPORTED FOUND DEAD IN CALIFORNIA IN 2003
A columnist for the Sacramento Bee, Marjie Lundstrom, reported that the number of illegally abandoned babies found dead in California in 2003 was 12 - not one, as she had originally reported. The January 17, 2004, column, headlined "Surrender Law Hasn't Reduced Number of Infant Deaths After All," was prompted by research provided by Bastard Nation's Marley Greiner and corrects the journalist's original assertion that the number of such babies found dead had decreased from 11 each in 2001 and 2002 to one in 2003. State officials say that 38 infants have been relinquished under the "safe haven" law since it went into effect in 2001. To read the article, go to: http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/columns/lundstrom/story/8115887p-9048060c.html.

ADOPTION AGENCY OWNER AND FACILITATOR CHARGED WITH FRAUD
The owner of Seattle International Adoptions and an adoption facilitator in Cambodia have been charged with federal fraud for falsifying documents to obtain visas for Cambodian children placed with American adoptive parents, according to "Indictment Alleges Fraud in Adoptions," by Timothy Hurley. The two women allegedly submitted false information to U.S. immigration officials to portray the children as orphans. The article in the January 6, 2004 edition of the Honolulu Advertiser reports that a grand jury indictment charges the women "with illegally obtaining immigrant visas 'to expedite the adoption process' and 'enhance their profits' between 1997 and 1999." To read the article, go to: http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2004/Jan/06/ln/ln13a.html

 


4. Resources


FAMILIES BY LAW: AN ADOPTION READER
Families by Law: An Adoption Reader, edited by Naomi Cahn and Joan Heifetz Hollinger, is intended to supplement law, social welfare, public policy, psychology, and legal studies courses on families, as well as for a general audience interested in the social and legal history of adoption and contemporary debates about issues such as openness. Families by Law, published by NYU Press and available February 1, 2004, "brings together diverse perspectives on contemporary aspects of adoption law and practice."

IRS TAX INFORMATION FOR ADOPTIVE PARENTS
IRS Publication 968: Tax Benefits for Adoption, is available for tax year 2003. The maximum credit for 2003 is $10,160, as is the exclusion from income of benefits under employer adoption assistance programs. It is the first tax year for which maximum credits and exclusions apply to adopting children with special needs, regardless of qualifying expenses. To access the publication, go to: http://www.irs.gov/publications/p968/index.html.

 


5. 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/newsletter/archive.html.

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