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


1. Laws, Policy & Practice

New Hampshire Law Allows Access to Birth Certificates Upon Request

Federal Government Wants Faith-Based Groups to Help Foster Children

HHS Offers Funding for Initiatives Focusing on Marriage, Older Children

$10 Million Available for Infant Adoption Awareness Training Projects

 U.S. House Leader Hopes to Streamline Interstate Adoption Placements

            Tennessee Court Rules Against Girl’s Biological Parents, Allows Adoption

  2. Research & Practice 

 

            Pew Commission Offers Guidelines to Overhaul U.S. Child Welfare System

 

           Majority of Adopted Adults Report Positive Reunions with Birth Mothers

 

            Study Concludes More Information on Birth Parents Has Positive Results

  3. News

Romania Considers Permanent Ban on Adoptions by Non-Nationals

Texas Judge Denies Effort at Class-Action Suit Against Gladney Agency

Russian Parliament Proposes Inquiry into Intercountry Adoptions

Despite Need for Post-Adoption Services, Resource Center to Close

4. Resources

 

 

1. Laws, Policy & Practice

NEW HAMPSHIRE LAW ALLOWS ACCESS TO BIRTH CERTIFICATES UPON REQUEST

A New Hampshire bill (SB335) allowing adopted people 18 years and older access to their original birth certificates became law without the Governor’s signature. The new law permits adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates on request and replaces references to "natural" parents with "birth" parents. The open records law will take effect January 1, 2005.  It replaces a law that 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."  For more information, go to: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/ie/billstatus/quickbill.html and search for SB335 in the bill number field.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WANTS FAITH-BASED GROUPS TO HELP FOSTER CHILDREN

The Department of Health and Human Services announced this month that it is hosting The National Adoption and Foster Care Recruitment Summit – Partnering with Communities of Faith, July 15-16, 2004, in Washington , D.C.   The event is an effort to bring together HHS staff, faith-based organizations, and adoption/foster care agencies to enlist the faith community to find permanent homes for foster children waiting to be adopted.  Secretary Thompson said, “This is an opportunity to learn more about these special children, to hear how community and faith-based organizations are already making a difference, and to strategize with State adoption and foster care agencies about how congregations and faith-based organizations can get involved in improving the prospects for these children."  To read the press release, go to: http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/040511/nytu096_1.html.

HHS OFFERS FUNDING FOR INITIATIVES FOCUSING ON MARRIAGE, OLDER CHILDREN

The Department of Health and Human Services issued a funding opportunity in mid-May for Field Initiated Service Demonstration Projects in Adoption. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) stipulated that proposals “must address one of the ACF key priorities: Healthy Marriage, Fatherhood, Rural Initiatives, Faith-based and Community Initiatives, Positive Youth Development and Prevention.”  HHS further stated that “topics of interest” are “special recruitment, retention, and support for the adoption of children age nine and older, sibling groups and children with disabilities,” as well as the “assessment of adoption services and services that expedite adoptions.” Fiscal Year 2004 funding will be $2 million for up to five projects; proposals are due June 28, 2004. To read the announcement, go to: http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/14mar20010800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2004/pdf/04-10966.pdf.

$10 MILLION AVAILABLE FOR INFANT ADOPTION AWARENESS TRAINING PROJECTS

This month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also announced Fiscal Year 2004 Infant Adoption Awareness Training Program (IAATP) funding opportunities. Up to 10 projects will be funded at a total of $10 million; applications are due June 28, 2004. In 2001, HHS awarded $6.1 million to the National Council for Adoption to implement a national training program.” The other 2001 grants were awarded to Spaulding for Children ($1.4 million), Harmony Adoptions of Tennessee ($626,000), and Arizona ’s Children’s Association ($515,000).  To read the 2004 funding announcement, go to: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants/pdf/HHS-2004-ACF-ACYF-CG-0015.pdf.

U.S. HOUSE LEADER HOPES TO STREAMLINE INTERSTATE ADOPTION PLACEMENTS

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) outlined legislation to reform the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). In a recent speech to the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA), DeLay noted that “some 4 percent of foster children in the United States — about 20,000 kids — need to go to another state to find adoptive families.” According to DeLay, children placed interstate on average spend a year longer “to find permanent homes” and two years longer in foster care than children placed within states. DeLay identified “administrative, procedural and financial” obstacles to interstate placement and said he was “drafting legislation to expedite the structural reforms of the child welfare system.” DeLay said the bill will ensure safety and “informed placement decisions,” and require timelines and provide federal incentives for permanent placements. According to the Voice for Adoption (VFA) April 2004 newsletter, the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) recently endorsed comprehensive reform of the ICPC process and will present reforms to its membership in December 2004. Among other reforms, APHSA recommended a new financing structure to “support improved performance and timeliness” for the interstate placements. VFA hosted a congressional briefing in mid-May on the issue of barriers to interstate adoption. To read DeLay’s speech, go to: http://tomdelay.house.gov/News/Speeches/speech%2030.htm

TENNESSEE COURT RULES AGAINST GIRL’S BIOLOGICAL PARENTS, ALLOWS ADOPTION

The Tennessee Chancery Court in Memphis issued a decision this month terminating the parental rights of a Chinese couple who have been living in the United States since the 1990s, who sought to regain custody of their daughter from her guardians. Due to financial and other problems, the biological parents had placed the child in foster care shortly after her birth, and subsequently agreed to a consent order that had “the force and effect of appointing [the foster parents] as legal custodians and guardians.” When the parents attempted to regain custody of the girl, who is now 5 years old, the guardians filed to terminate their parental rights and adopt the child. The court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the biological parents were unfit and that it was in the child’s best interest to remain with the legal guardians; despite heavily disputed evidence from 28 witnesses in an evidentiary hearing, the court found for the guardians on every factual dispute. The court specifically found that appointing the foster parents as legal custodians and guardians was valid because a lawyer had explained the appointment to them.  To read the decision, go to: http://www.wreg.com/global/story.asp?s=1863039&ClientType=Printable

2. Research

PEW COMMISSION OFFERS GUIDELINES TO OVERHAUL U.S. CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM

The Pew Commission On Children In Foster Care released recommendations on May 18 to improve the nation’s child welfare system. The Commission found that “federal funding mechanisms for child welfare encourage an over-reliance on foster care at the expense of other services to keep families safely together and to move children” to permanence and “longstanding structural issues in the judicial system limit the ability of the courts to play the important role in protecting children that ASFA assigns to them.” The report, “Fostering the Future: Safety, Permanence and Well-Being for Children in Foster Care,” highlighted 10 key recommendations. Included among the six recommendations to improve the child welfare financing system were federal adoption assistance to all children adopted from foster care and an indexed source of funding that combines all child welfare funding streams “into a flexible source of funding.” Among the four recommendations to improve the court system were steps to ensure that courts “track children’s progress, identify groups of children in need of attention, and identify sources of delay in court proceedings,” as well as collaboration between courts and state agencies.  To read the report, go to: http://pewfostercare.org/docs/index.php?DocID=47 

MAJORITY OF ADOPTED ADULTS REPORT POSITIVE REUNIONS WITH BIRTH MOTHERS

A mail survey study by Müller, et al. of a sample of 90 adults who searched for and met their birth mothers through a search organization in Massachusetts found that over half (57%) of the adoptees said the contact experience was very positive, 20% said mostly positive, and 18% said positive and negative. More than half of the adopted adults reported that the relationship with their birth mothers was extremely (32%) or very (26%) important, and half said their informational needs had been very well satisfied, according to “Adults Who Were Adopted Contacting Their Birthmothers: What Are the Outcomes, and What Factors Influence These Outcomes?” One-third (34%) said they were very satisfied with the relationship, another third somewhat satisfied, 18% not very satisfied, and 10% not satisfied at all. The study “did not find that those who established a mother-child relationship with their birth mothers felt less close to their adoptive mother than those who established a friendship relationship with their birth mothers.”  To order the article in Adoption Quarterly Vol. 7 No. 1 (2004), go to: http://www.haworthpress.com/web/AQ.htm 

STUDY CONCLUDES MORE INFORMATION ON BIRTH PARENTS HAS POSITIVE RESULTS

A study by Hollenstein, et al. concluded that “birthparent information had a positive influence on adoptive parents’ perceptions of the birth parents.” Interviews with adoptive parents (mostly mothers) in 90 families with non-relative, adopted infants found that only 31% wanted to change the level of openness currently in place in their adoptions; of that 31%, more than half (57%) wanted their adoptions to be more open and fewer than half (43%) wanted them to be more closed. The parents, recruited through practitioners and support groups, wanted to know more about birth fathers than birth mothers, according to “Openness in Adoption, Knowledge of Birthparent Information, and Adoptive Family Adjustment.” The majority of children covered by the study were adopted at birth, all were adopted before 7 months of age, and they were a mean of 23 months at the time of the interviews.   To order the article in Adoption Quarterly Vol. 7 No. 1 (2004), go to: http://www.haworthpress.com/web/AQ.htm

3. News

ROMANIA CONSIDERS PERMANENT BAN ON ADOPTIONS BY NON-NATIONALS

The Romanian Parliament, under pressure to reform its adoption system in order to join the European Union, was preparing to enact a permanent prohibition on most intercountry adoptions for the estimated 84,000-plus orphans in that country. Romania first imposed a moratorium on such adoptions in 2001, though some 1,000 children – mostly with handicaps or who were older than 3 – have been allowed to leave for adoptions since then. A vote on the issue had been planned by the end of the month, according to a USA Today article on May 17, “Orphans Caught in the Middle.” To read the article, go to: http://www.usatoday.com/life/2004-05-17-romanian-adoptions_x.htm.

 TEXAS JUDGE DENIES EFFORT AT CLASS-ACTION SUIT AGAINST GLADNEY AGENCY

A Texas judge rejected an attempt to create a class of parents who adopted their children from Gladney Center for Adoption in order to sue the agency to release medical and psychological records of birth families for 4,000 adoptions from 1975-1989, according to a May 26, 2004, article in the Star-Telegram. Gladney’s attorneys argued that the birth mothers had been promised confidentiality; the adoptive family seeking to create the class, the Williams, said refusal to release the records was a violation of state law, reports Max B. Baker inA Class Action is Denied for Gladney Suit.” In rejecting the creation of a class, the state district judge reasoned that "certifying this proposed class would also carry with it a significant risk of opening up a Pandora's Box on matters which at least some in the proposed class would prefer to remain closed." Last year, the same judge ordered Gladney to release birth family records of the Williams adopted daughter because of health and behavioral issues, reports a Star-Telegram article on May 23, 2004. To read the articles, go to: http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/news/8762827.htm and http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/news/8739457.htm.

 RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT PROPOSES INQUIRY INTO INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS

The Russian parliament, the Duma, this month proposed a parliamentary inquiry into the international adoption of Russian children, according to a May 27, 2004, Interfax story headlined, “Duma to raise question of child adoption by foreigners.” Families from other nations adopt about 7,000 children from Russia annually, more last year than there were domestic adoptions in that country. The chairwoman of the Women, Family and Youth Committee of the Duma reported that “agencies that do not have proper authorization to do so still act as brokers in this practice,” and recommended that Russia negotiate bilateral treaties with other countries. A May 28, 2004, story in the Moscow Times, headlined “Tighter Adoption Rules,” reported that “the appeal appeared to be a reaction to a recent NTV report about a few Russian children who were killed by their adoptive parents.” To read the articles, go to: http://www.interfax.ru/e/B/0/28.html?id_issue=9705160 and

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2004/05/28/031.html.

 DESPITE NEED FOR POST-ADOPTION SERVICES, RESOURCE CENTER TO CLOSE

The Post Adoption Resource Center in Albany , New York , which has 192 adoptive family clients, is slated to close next month because of the state’s budget delays, reports Stephanie Earls in “Mining Resources to Make Promises Real.” At the same time, a deputy commissioner with New York State acknowledged that a lack of post-adoption support is the “single largest barrier” to adoption finalization, according to a May 25, 2004, article in the Albany Times-Union. The Center, which provides post-adoption support services, is one of 13 in the state, but only one of three outside the New York City area. Cornell University research found that a lack of such services is a reason many foster parents do not adopt the child they are already caring for. To read the article, go to: http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=251213&category=LIFE&BCCode=HOME&newsdate=5/25/2004.

4. Resources

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