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MAINE BECOMES 8th STATE TO RESTORE ADOPTED ADULTS' ACCESS TO RECORDS
Maine Gov. Baldacci signed legislation (PL409) on June 25 restoring the right of adopted adults (18 and older) born in the state to access their original birth certificates. The law also allows descendants of an adopted person to obtain original records; birthparents can complete a contact preference and medical information form. The new law, identical to legislation passed in Oregon, Alabama and New Hampshire, will become effective on Jan. 1, 2009. Other states that have restored adult adoptee access to original birth records include Delaware and Tennessee; Alaska and Kansas never sealed their records. Meanwhile, a bill was introduced on June 16 (SB0592/HB4896) in the Michigan legislature that would allow adopted adults 21 and older access to their original birth certificates, with a contact preference form for birthparents; the bill is being considered in committee. Similar measures passed by state Senates in North Carolina (HB445) and Texas (HB525) in May are awaiting action in both state Houses; legislation in Massachusetts (SB63) is also pending action in the state House Committee on Ways and Means. To read Maine's new law, go to:
To read Adoption Institute Executive Director' Adam Pertman's testimony in support of Maine's legislation, go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/old/policy/.
to read Michigan's bill and status, go to: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/;
to read the North Carolina legislation, go to: http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/;
to read the Texas bill, go to: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/;
and for the Massachusetts bill, go to: http://www.mass.gov/legis/bills/senate/185/st00/st00063.htm.
OHIO STATE SENATE UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES ADOPTION LOAN LEGISLATION
Ohio state senators passed a measure (SB30) on June 19 that would enable prospective parents to apply for loans to pay for adoption-related costs. Parents would be eligible to borrow up to $3,000 from a state fund when adopting a child from foster care in Ohio and up to $2,000 if the child is adopted from another state. Total statewide loans would be capped at $500,000. The bill is aimed at increasing the number of adoptions for the 2,800 waiting children in Ohio. The new measure complements previous legislation (SB20) that will go into effect on Aug. 30 that tripled the state's income tax credit for adoptions from $500 to $1,500 per child. The current measure is waiting a vote in the state House. To read the bill, go to:
MASSACHUSETTS LAWMAKERS DISCUSS 'ADOPTION SPECIALIST' CERTIFICATION
The Massachusetts House Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities held a public hearing on June 6 to discuss legislation (HB130) that would establish an "adoption specialist" certification for mental health professionals. The certification would require 1,200 hours of direct clinical experience with adoptive and foster parents, foster children and adopted kids, kinship placements and step families, and 30 continuing education credits or hours on topics related to adoption, foster care, kinship and step families, with at least 15 units directly related to issues affecting adoptive families. The certification would be issued to state-licensed mental health professionals who met the above requirements. Also written into the bill are provisions to ensure the services would be covered by health insurance companies and Medicaid. The measure awaits final recommendation by the committee before it can be considered by the entire House. To read the bill, go to:
BILLS IN CONGRESS AIM TO HELP FAMILIES HEADED BY KIN CAREGIVERS
U.S. House Representatives Danny Davis and Timothy Johnson of Illinois introduced the "Kinship Caregiver Support Act" (HR2188) on May 7, aimed at addressing the needs of the six million children being raised by grandparents or other relatives other than their parents. The bill provides three-year grants to state agencies, metropolitan areas and tribal areas to establish kinship navigator programs that would connect kinship caregivers with information about and access to available services and would foster partnerships between agencies. In addition, the bill requires States to notify relatives when children enter the foster care system, and creates a subsidized guardianship option with federal foster care system Title IV-E funds. A companion bill (S661) was introduced in the Senate in mid-February by Senators Hillary Clinton (New York) and Olympia Snowe (Maine). Another measure, the "Adoption Equality Act" (S1462), was introduced on May 23 by Sen. Jay D. Rockefeller of West Virginia that would amend part E of Title IV of the Social Security Act in order to promote the adoption of children with special needs. To read proposed measures, go to:
http://thomas.loc.gov/ and search for HR2188 and S1462 in the Bill Text field..
U.S. CENSUS, IN REVERSAL, WILL MAINTAIN QUESTION ON FOSTER CHILDREN
The U.S. Census Bureau this month reversed its decision to eliminate the "foster child" relationship category in its American Community Survey and 2010 Census after strong objections from congressional leaders, child welfare organizations, researchers and advocates. Census officials considered removing the foster child category because it had the fewest responses in the 2000 Census and was not as accurate as state data. Proponents for the category argued the data provided information not available in state foster care records, including information on the economic well-being of children in foster care, the race and ethnicity of foster parents, and overall living arrangements for foster children. To read the Child Welfare League statement, go to:
to read a news article about the decision, go to: http://www.stltoday.com/
SURVEY FINDS LINKS BETWEEN CULTURAL SOCIALIZATION AND SELF-ESTEEM
An internet survey of 82 adults adopted from Asian countries by white parents found that cultural socialization to their country of origin was associated with more positive self-esteem, a greater sense of belonging in their adoptive families, and fewer feelings of marginality. "Family Cultural Socialization, Ethnic Identity, and Self-Esteem: Web-Based Survey of International Adult Adoptees," by Jayashree Mohanty, Gary Keokse and Esther Sales, is in the April issue of the
Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work (Volume 15, Issue 3/4). American respondents scored higher on self-esteem than those adopted in other Western countries, and Korean adoptees had lower scores on some measures than Vietnamese adoptees. Overall, adoptees reported low provision of socialization opportunities to their birth culture, and the authors suggested better preparation of adoptive parents to address ethnic identity issues in transculturally adopted children. To access a free abstract, go to:
RESEARCH SHOWS YOUTH WITH DISABILITIES UNPREPARED FOR EMANCIPATION
Researchers utilize data from their four studies on the transition to adulthood of foster youth with disabilities (47 percent of those emancipated from foster care) to discuss key elements of self-determination - skills, information, opportunities, and support from others. "Youth with Disabilities in Foster Care: Developing Self-Determination Within a Context of Struggle and Disempowerment," by Sarah Geenen, Laurie Powers, Jennifer Hogansen and James Pittman, was published in a special 2007 issue of
Exceptionality, devoted to self-determination in youth with disabilities (Volume 15, Issue 1). In each critical area for maximizing self-determination, youth with disabilities were found to be disadvantaged; for example, caseworkers often fail to refer them to independent living programs, and the special education and child welfare systems often fail to provide transition services because they incorrectly assume that the other system is providing this. The full article can be accessed by going to the website and clicking on "view printable PDF file" on top right menu:
ANALYSIS CITES FAILURE TO FOLLOW RECRUITMENT REQUIREMENTS OF MEPA
The Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994 and the Interethnic Adoption Provisions of 1996 (MEPA-IEP) were ostensibly attempts to address the disparate outcomes of minority foster children by promoting transracial adoptions and requiring diligent recruitment of diverse families; however, interpretations of the law have often resulted in unintended consequences - primarily a reduction in specialized recruitment efforts. "Making MEPA-IEP Work: Tools for Professionals," by Ruth McRoy and Madelyn Freundlich (both of whom are Adoption Institute Senior Fellows), Maryanne Mica and Joe Kroll, was published in the March/April issue of
Child Welfare (Volume 86, Issue 2). The authors recommend training staff to work with minority communities, implementing the diligent recruitment requirements of MEPA, and working collaboratively with programs that successfully place minority children. To access an abstract, go to:
REVIEWERS RECOMMEND THE STANDARDIZED`SAFE' HOME STUDY FORMAT
Researchers from the Jordan Institute for Families wrote a comprehensive analysis of the home study process for foster and adoptive placements, recommending the Structured Analysis Family Evaluation (SAFE) uniform home study format, which was developed in California and has now been implemented in 12 states, as a method for standardizing studies. "Home Study Methods for Evaluating Prospective Resource Families: History, Current Challenges, and Promising Approaches," by Thomas Crea, Richard Barth (an Institute Senior Fellow) and Laura Chintapalli, was published in the March/April issue of
Child Welfare (Volume 86, Issue 2). The authors review the history of home studies, relevant research on child welfare family assessments, and the key elements of home studies based on 18 interviews with adoption experts. To access an abstract, go to:
REPORT COMPARES NATIONS' BIRTH/ADOPTION BENEFITS, FINDS U.S. LACKING
The Urban Institute issued a report in April, "Compensating for Birth and Adoption," by Vera Brusentsev and Wayne Vroman, comparing leave benefits for birth and adoption across 26 countries. Only the U.S. and Australia did not meet the International Labor Organization's standard of 14 weeks of maternity-related leave. The U.S. and three other countries did not meet the standard of providing at least two-thirds pay during this time. The report also examines public social expenditure on the family as a percentage of gross domestic product, finding the U.S. the lowest (.4 percent) as compared to the 1.9 percent average among 21 countries. To download, go to:
STUDY INDICATES CHALLENGES IN IMPLEMENTING SWEDISH LAW ON DONOR ID
Swedish children born from donor insemination (DI) have the legal right to information about the identity of their biological father when reaching majority; however, this information is not released to their parents. An interview study of 19 couples with 29 DI children explored their reasons for telling or not telling their children about their conceptions. Overall, children in 13 families had been told about DI, but most had not been told about the possibility of identifying the donor. "Legislated Right for Donor-Inseminated Children to Know their Genetic Origin: A Study of Parental Thinking," by A. Lalos, C. Gottlieb and O. Lalos, was published in the June issue of
Human Reproduction (Volume 22, Issue 6). Respondents reported how they explained this to children and their reactions. Parents' thinking had been influenced by encouragement from health-care staff to tell their children, and the authors recommended more counseling and support groups for DI parents. To access a free abstract, go to:
ELIGIBLE CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE OFTEN DO NOT OBTAIN GREEN CARDS
Undocumented children in foster care who had been abused are entitled to green cards but are frequently not receiving them, according to a June 25
Los Angeles Times article, "Green Cards Go Unclaimed by Many Youths in Foster Care," by Anna Gorman. Congress passed a law in 1990 establishing a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status making certain abused, neglected or abandoned dependents of the state eligible for legal residency. Once children are adopted out of care, however, they are no longer eligible for the special status and obtaining a green card becomes more difficult; that puts them at risk of deportation and drastically limits their educational and work opportunities. The article reports that advocates and government officials are raising awareness by training judges, social workers, lawyers and youths around the country, especially in rural areas where immigrants are just beginning to settle. Current numbers show 634 Juvenile Court dependents nationwide were granted permanent residency in 2004, 679 in 2005, and 912 in 2006. To read the story, go to:
FLORIDA'S PRIVATIZED FOSTER CARE EXHIBITS PROBLEMS - AND IMPROVEMENTS
Florida's effort to privatize the state's foster care system was initiated a decade ago and was completed in 2005, but problems with the system persist, reportedly raising new questions about the ability of the state to protect its children. According to a June 24
St. Petersburg Times (Florida) article, "Failures Persist in Child Welfare," by Melanie Ave, a state audit last year showed the cost of the current child welfare system rose 83 percent per child over six years. Statewide annual funding per child exploded, from $9,800 in 1998 to $18,000 in 2005. In addition, the audit found that children were suffering from abuse at a higher rate, possibly as a result of families being reunited too quickly; in 2005, 11 percent of children experienced a second round of abuse, compared with 8 percent in 1998. But improvements have also reportedly been made: missing foster children are tracked better, the state now offers more foster homes, and case loads have been significantly reduced. To read the article, go to:
MORE U.S. EMPLOYERS OFFER ADOPTION BENEFITS, CANADIANS FOLLOWING SUIT
Two articles report that more companies in Canada and the U.S. plan to provide adoption benefits to their employees. According to the June 20 article, "More Companies to Offer Adoption Benefits," published on the website CTV.ca, a survey conducted by Hewitt Associates found that only 7 percent of Canadian companies currently offer adoption benefits; however, this number is projected to double by 2009. In an article published June 20 in USA Today, "More Companies Add Benefits for Workers Who Adopt," by Stephanie Armour, a survey conducted by Watson Wyatt Worldwide showed nearly 50 percent of U.S. employers currently offer adoption benefits. The decision to provide adoption benefits is seen as part of an overall effort to make work-life balance easier for employees and to recruit and retain workers. To read the Canadian article, go to:
To read the USA Today article, go to: http://www.usatoday.com/money/workplace/2007-06-20-adopt-benefits-usat_N.htm
POLICY REFORMS RECOMMENDED TO REDUCE NUMBER OF YOUTHS `AGING OUT'
The Pew Charitable Trusts' "Kids Are Waiting" campaign and the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative released a report, "Time for Reform: Aging Out and On Their Own," on May 24. According to the report, the number of youth aging out of foster care increased by 41 percent from 1998 to 2005, when over 24,000 left care without permanency. Using data from youth focus groups, research studies and interviews with professionals, the report highlights the outcomes of emancipation from foster care and makes four overall policy recommendations - primarily related to federal foster care financing structure. The report can be downloaded at:
TELECONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS TOOLS TO IMPROVE CHILD WELFARE PROGRAMS
The National Child Welfare Resource Centers for Youth Development and Organizational Improvement sponsored a June 14 teleconference on "Engaging Youth in the CFSR and Program Improvements." (CFSR stands for Child and Family Services Review.) Speakers from the two Centers highlighted tools and resources to assist workers in involving youth in improving child welfare programs, and a member of the Youth Leadership Advisory Team offered his own perspective. An audio file of the conference and handouts may be downloaded at:
CHILD ADVOCACY WEBSITE FEATURES NEWS, INNOVATIVE SUCCESS STORIES
A recently established website, Child Advocacy 360 News Network, is an independent, nonprofit service that features the latest news and insights on children's welfare and rights, along with the struggle to address child abuse and neglect. Key features are "Who's Doing What That Works" (focused on spreading news of local and state efforts that are improving outcomes for children) and "Smart News We Can Use" (which synthesizes key findings of relevant research and reports). The address of the site is:
SINGLE MEN REPORTEDLY ARE ADOPTING MORE CHILDREN FROM FOSTER CARE
In a June 20 USA Today article by Wendy Koch, "Number of Single Men Adopting Foster Kids Doubles," Executive Director Adam Pertman comments on the "historic shift" of foster adoptions by single men. The article says single men now account for 3 percent of adoptions from foster care - an option that a generation ago was rarely available for them. Pertman adds that single men often face more scrutiny when going through the adoption process, but they are generally most welcomed by agencies that place children from foster care. To read the article, go to:
REGISTRATION NOW AVAILABLE FOR NATIONAL ADOPTION ETHICS CONFERENCE
The Adoption Institute, which sponsored the first-ever ethics conference in the field in 1999, is partnering with Ethica, Inc. to hold a second major national conference in suburban Washington, D.C. Registration is now available for the event, "Adoption Ethics and Accountability: Doing it Right Makes a Lifetime of Difference," which will take place Oct. 15 and 16 at the Marriot Crystal Gateway in Arlington, Va. An early registration discount and CEU credits are available. This important, timely conference is designed to bring together the expertise and experiences of adoption triad members from domestic, foster care and international adoption. Attendees - together with over 60 of the most prominent adoption practitioners, researchers, policy makers, advocates and triad members in the filed - will examine and discuss ethical issues in adoption, with the objective of publishing recommendations for improving ethical policy and practice. Visit the conference website,
http://www.ethicsconference.net, to register and to read the full program itinerary and list of confirmed speakers. If you have questions, please contact Adoption Institute Project Administrator Mari Cochran at [email protected] or 617-680-0808.
INSTITUTE RECEIVES GRANT TO SUPPORT LEGISLATIVE/EDUCATION ADVOCACY
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute received a generous grant of $60,000 from the Arcus Gay and Lesbian Fund; the funding will serve as seed money for a project aimed at increasing the Institute's nationwide educational/advocacy and policy-influencing work on a wide range of issues relating to adoption and foster care. As part of this effort, we are planning to establish a Legislative Office in Washington, D.C., through which we will track relevant legislation and policy efforts at the federal and state levels; provide evidence-based information to the media and policymakers about adoption and foster care issues; coordinate current and future advocacy initiatives by the Institute; and serve as a liaison/coordinator with other organizations.
The grant - and our plans for this legislative, educational and policy initiative - were announced at an event in Washington, D.C., on June 27 attended by a diverse group of over 50 government and community officials, professionals, journalists, advocates, and members of the adoption triad. Our thanks to co-hosts Kathy Bushkin Calvin, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of U.N. Foundation, and Kim Allman, President of Allman Strategies, for providing an opportunity for people ranging from State Department officials and agency directors to practitioners and parents to share ideas and concerns about improving adoption in America. We look forward to continuing to partner with these individuals and organizations as we increase our presence - and effectiveness - in the nation's capital and around the country.
Other scheduled summer events include a house party in the Massachusetts Berkshires town of Monterey on August 18. Fall plans feature a major fundraiser in Los Angeles on October 25. A benefit concert is also scheduled for the Boston area on November 9. Details will be included in future newsletters and will be posted on our website as they become available.
If you are interested in hosting an event in your area, please contact Laura James at [email protected]. And if parties are not "your thing," we welcome direct support of our work. Some of our current projects available for support include:
TRANSCULTURAL ADOPTION & IDENTITY
RIGHTS & WELL-BEING OF BIRTHPARENTS
EXPANDING RESOURCES FOR CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE
ADOPTION AGENCY PRACTICES WITH GAYS AND LESBIANS
ADOPTIVE PARENT PREPARATION PROJECT
RESTORING RIGHTS TO ACCESS BIRTH RECORDS
SAFE HAVENS: ARE THE LAWS WORKING?
EDUCATE THE EDUCATORS AND EDUCATE THE MEDIA PROGRAMS
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.
Support Our Work
The Adoption Institute was established in 1996 with a one-time grant. To continue our work, we depend on new and renewable sources of funding. We need the financial support of people like you whose lives have been touched by adoption and who care
about the future of vulnerable children everywhere. Please send a generous contribution to the Adoption Institute’s annual fund today. To donate, please call 212-925-4089 or go online to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/old/about/support.php,
or print and complete this form http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/old/donate/donatereply.pdf,
and fax it to 775-796-6592, or mail it with your check or credit card information to:
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute
120 East 38th Street
New York, NY 10016
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