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ALASKA AND NEBRASKA BECOME LAST STATES TO ENACT ‘SAFE HAVEN’ LAWS
Alaska and Nebraska became the final U.S. states to enact “safe haven” laws, legalizing infant abandonment at designated sites. All 50 states have adopted the laws in the last 10 years. Alaska’s law provides parents with immunity from prosecution when anonymously leaving an infant 21 days or younger with a “person the parent reasonably believes would provide for the health and safety of the infant and who would act appropriately to care for the infant” or a public official or medical professional. The Nebraska law permits a “person” (not specified as a parent) to leave “a child” (no age limit) “with an employee on duty at a hospital” without fear of prosecution. To read Alaska’s law, go to: http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/; to read Nebraska’s law, go to: http://uniweb.legislature.ne.gov/FloorDocs/; to read the Adoption Institute’s report on “safe havens,” go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/old/whowe/
MS SENATE APPROVES MEASURE TO BAN ADOPTION BY UNMARRIED COUPLES
The Mississippi Senate passed legislation (SB 2766) this month that would “clarify” that “unmarried adults who are cohabitating outside of marriage with one or more sexual partners” are prohibited from adopting. The bill – which would also deny state recognition of out-of-state adoptions by more than one unmarried individual – is currently under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee. Mississippi law currently bans adoption by same-sex couples, while the status of second-parent adoption for same-sex couples is not clear.. There were 857 children in Mississippi’s public foster care system waiting to be adopted in 2005, per the latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. To read the bill, go to: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us.
TENNESSEE BILLS WOULD PROHIBIT COHABITATING COUPLES FROM ADOPTING
Both houses of the Tennessee legislature are considering bills (SB 3910 and HB 3713) that would prevent unmarried, cohabiting couples from adopting children. The bills state that “it is not in a child's best interest to be adopted by a person who is cohabitating in a sexual relationship that is not a legally valid and binding marriage under the constitution and laws of this state” and specifies that the ban “applies equally to cohabiting opposite-sex and same-sex individuals.” According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there were over 1,700 children in Tennessee’s public foster care system waiting to be adopted in 2005. To read the bills, go to: http://www.legislature.state.tn.us and
LEGISLATION SEEKS TO RESUME WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE ON CHILDREN
Congressmen Chaka Fattah (PA) and Jon Porter (NV) introduced legislation (HR 5461) to reestablish a White House Conference on Children and Youth. While the Conference was originally created about 90 years ago, it has not been assembled since 1970. The bill authorizes a conference to be convened in 2010, focusing on child welfare issues; it was referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor. The Adoption Institute and many other organizations support the Child Welfare League of America's campaign to reestablish this conference. To read a press release about the bill, go to: www.house.gov/list/ To read the bill, go to: http://thomas.loc.gov/, and type “HR 5461” in Bill Search.
COLORADO LAW REQUIRES VISITATION FOR SIBLINGS IN FOSTER CARE
Governor Bill Ritter (D) signed into law a bill (HB 1006) requiring counties to arrange single and/or ongoing visits between foster children and their siblings at their mutual request. The law specifically states that termination of parent-child relationships does not impact sibling relationships. The Governor’s office reports that “with the help of Mile High United Way's `Bridging the Gap’ program, a group of young adults who recently transitioned out of foster care wrote the legislation and testified on its behalf during committee hearings.” To read the law, go to: http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/; to read the Governor’s press release, go to: http://www.colorado.gov/cs/.
PREDICTORS IDENTIFIED FOR MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS OF CHILDREN IN CARE
A study of 347 foster children in Australia identified key predictors of mental health problems for children in foster care. These included experiencing abuse (sexual, physical, or emotional), having an intellectual disability or reading problems, recent adverse events, factors related to placement security and longevity, and age upon entering care (younger age was protective). “Retrospective and Concurrent Predictors of the Mental Health of Children in Care,” by Michael Tarren-Sweeney, was published in the January issue of Children and Youth Services Review (Volume 30, Issue 1). Overall, the study found over half the children had at least one score in the clinical range on the Child Behavior Checklist scales. To access an abstract, go to the link below and click on Issue 1 in the left menu: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/
ANALYSIS FINDS NO LINK BETWEEN MEDICAID ABORTION FUNDING, ADOPTION
An economic analysis of factors associated with the number of infants adopted in a state found that higher education and income of mothers, along with being Evangelical Christian, increased the adoption rate – while higher abortion costs and parental consent laws decreased it. States’ funding of Medicaid abortions and the generosity of state benefits to unwed mothers did not have a relationship with infant relinquishments. “The Effect of Abortion Costs on Adoption in the USA,” by Marshall Medoff, was published in the most recent issue of the International Journal of Social Economics (Volume 36, Issue 3). Medoff concluded that abortion and adoption are not considered to be substitutes for poor women with unwanted pregnancies and that higher abortion costs influence fertility through increasing pregnancy avoidance behaviors; hence liberal abortion policies are linked with higher rates of relinquishment for adoption. To access a free abstract, go to: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/0306-8293.htm
DISRUPTION REVIEW RECOMMENDS MORE CONCURRENT PLANNING CAREGIVERS
A review of 26 studies on adoption disruption reports higher risk associated with child factors (older age, behavior problems, sexual abuse history), parental factors (more educated, stranger to child) and agency factors (lack of preparation and supportive services). “Research Review: In a Rush to Permanency: Preventing Adoption Disruption,” by Jennifer Coakley and Jill Berrick, was published in the Feb. issue of Child and Family Social Work (Volume 13, Issue 1). Recommendations for potentially reducing disruptions include: worker training incorporating research findings on completing child and family assessments and increasing the pool of concurrent-planning caregivers. For a free abstract, scroll down to the article at: http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/toc/
“Early Adolescent Outcomes of Institutionally Deprived and Non-Deprived Adoptees. III. Quasi-autism,” by Michael Rutter, Jana Kreppner, Carla Croft, Marianna Murin, Emma Colvert, Celia Beckett, Jenny Castle and Edmund Sonuga-Barke, was published in the final 2007 issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (Volume 48, Issue 12). Researchers evaluated 144 Romanian adoptees with institutional history, 21 Romanian adoptees who were never institutionalized, and 52 domestic adoptees at several age points, finding that 11 percent of Romanian adoptees with institutional rearing demonstrated quasi-autistic behavioral patterns at age 11-12, significantly fewer than at age 6. None of the adoptees in the comparison groups demonstrated this pattern. The adoptees’ autistic patterns differed in several ways from classic autism. To access a free abstract, go to: http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/
“Scholastic Attainment Following Severe Early Institutional Deprivation: A Study of Children Adopted from Romania,” by Celia Beckett, Barbara Maughan, Michael Rutter, Jenny Castle, Emma Colvert, Christine Groothues, Thomas O’Connor, Suzanne Stevens and Edmund Sonuga-Barke, was published in the December 2007 issue of the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology (Volume 35, Issue 6). Compared on a battery of measures, it found that adoptees with six months or more of institutionalization scored significantly lower than domestic UK adoptees, but there was no significant difference between children institutionalized 6-24 months and 24-42 months. For example, on an IQ test, domestic adoptees scored a mean of 106, Romanian adoptees institutionalized less than 6 months (101), those institutionalized 6-24 months (87), and 24-42 months (84). IQ differences accounted for the bulk of variation on achievement tests. To access a free abstract, go to:
ARTICLE, INSTITUTE RESPONSE QUESTION EFFICACY OF SAFE HAVEN LAWS
Based on available data from Texas, the first state to pass a Safe Haven law in 1999, an analysis concludes that determining impact is compromised by lack of data and that, based on news accounts and data on legal abandonments, the law has not resulted in a dramatic increase or decrease in the number of illegally abandoned infants. “The Number of Illegally Abandoned and Legally Surrendered Newborns in the State of Texas, Estimated from News Stories, 1996-2006,” by Sandi Pruitt, was published in the Feb. issue of Child Maltreatment (Volume 13, Issue 1). Other analyses of this issue – including one entitled “Comment: Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute Response,” by Institute Executive Director Adam Pertman and consultant/researcher Georgia Deoudes – were included in this journal. The Institute comment also raised the concern that “safe haven” laws may result in negative unintended consequences such as encouraging women to conceal pregnancies, denying fathers their rights, or preventing adopted children from receiving information about their origins. Abstracts of the article and several comments from other authors may be accessed at: http://cmx.sagepub.com/content/
AMERICANS REPORTEDLY LOOKING TO ADOPT IN U.S. RATHER THAN ABROAD
A USA Today survey of a dozen of the country’s largest adoption agencies found that “many Americans are considering domestic adoptions of babies and foster-care children because of growing waits, restrictions and uncertainties in adopting abroad.” The survey is described in a Feb. 10, 2008, article by Wendy Koch, “Those Hoping to Adopt Look Closer at U.S. Options.” Among the recent issues with international adoption are U.S. concerns about potential abuses in Guatemala and Vietnam, as well as restrictions that China has placed on adoptive applicants. Because there are relatively few U.S. infants available for adoption, prospective parents reportedly are considering children who are: of different races, from the foster care system, older, part of sibling groups, and/or with special needs. A companion article, “Fewer Foreign Children Adopted,” reports that the USA Today survey saw “an increase from 2006 to 2007 in inquiries, home studies or placements of U.S.-born children.” To read the articles, go to: http://www.usatoday.com/news/ and http://www.usatoday.com/
SURVEY FINDS EXPANDING NUMBER OF EMPLOYERS GIVE ADOPTION BENEFITS
According to a Feb. 4, 2008, Financial Week article, more U.S. companies are offering employees help in adopting. “Adoption Benefits Can Pay Dividends,” by Patrick Kiger, reports that Hewitt Associates found that “47% of major U.S. companies now offer some type of assistance to adoptive parents, up from 12% in 1990.” A Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption 2007 survey found that, on average, companies provided a $4,700 reimbursement, compared to $2,500 five years earlier, and five weeks of paid leave. A human resources representative for Avnet, a company featured in the article, remarked that “the return on this benefit is substantially greater than the cash outlay . . . And I definitely think it makes us more competitive in recruiting.” To read the article, go to: http://www.financialweek.com/apps/
MORE STATES ALLOWING ADOPTEES ACCESS TO ORIGINAL BIRTH CERTIFICATES
A Feb. 12, 2008, article in USA Today by Wendy Koch, “As Adoptees Seek Roots, States Unsealing Records,” reports on the movement to allow adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates. Maine, Massachusetts and North Carolina all passed laws in 2007 permitting full or partial access – more than in any year since 2000, according to the article – while comparable bills in eight other states were not approved. Maine was the eighth state in the country to allow full access. The article’s research found that “most birth parents in Alabama, New Hampshire, Oregon and Tennessee have consented to contact with their children or the release of records,” and provides detailed supporting data. Adoption Institute Executive Director Adam Pertman is quoted as saying that more states will follow the general trend of allowing access, saying simply, “Success breeds success.” To read the article, go to: http://www.usatoday.com/news/. To read the Institute’s report on this subject, “For the Records: Restoring a Right to Adult Adoptees,” go to
NEW INSTITUTE REPORT FOCUSES ON PREPARATION OF ADOPTIVE PARENTS
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute issued a report this month, "Meeting the Mental Health and Developmental Needs of Adopted Children," designed to assist adoption professionals in the preparation and education of adoptive parents. The 18-page report, principally researched and written by the Institute’s Research and Project Director, David Brodzinsky, analyzes obstacles to effective preparation and education programs, reviews relevant research and practice literature, and offers recommendations for more effective parent preparation. To download the paper, go to: www.adoptioninstitute.org/old/research/
URBAN INSTITUTE STUDIES FOSTER YOUTHS’ VIEWS OF PERMANENCY
The Urban Institute posted on its website this month a summary of its exploratory study examining foster youths' views of adoption, permanency, and adoption recruitment. The study, based on focus groups with 34 foster youth, ages 11 to 19, reported three key findings: “foster care experiences influence adoption perspectives; youth have concerns and fears about adoption; and youth expect autonomy and want to feel empowered.” The report can be downloaded at: www.urban.org/
STRATEGIES FOR INVOLVING FAMILIES IN CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM CHANGE
“A Closer Look: Family Involvement in Public Child Welfare Driven Systems of Care,” a recent 2008 publication in Children’s Bureau Express, has been posted on the Child Welfare Information Gateway. This eight-page report draws from the experiences of nine communities receiving grants through the Children’s Bureau’s Systems of Care demonstration initiative and presents strategies for increasing family involvement in system change. To access the paper, go to: http://www.childwelfare.gov/
BIRTHMOTHERS EXPRESS CONCERN ABOUT DEPICTION OF ADOPTION IN ‘JUNO’
In a Feb. 21 article in the Chicago Tribune, “The Trouble with Juno” by Nara Schoenberg, birthmothers expressed concern about the movie’s view of the choices and consequences faced by pregnant teens. The teen-pregnancy comedy represents a fantasy vision of adoption, they say, not the gut-wrenching reality. Many birthmothers interviewed were troubled that the movie glosses over the difficult aspects, doesn't show an adoption agency providing help and support, and portrays the heroine as wanting to sever all ties with her first-born child. The article refers to a 2006 report by the Adoption Institute pointing out that several studies indicate birthmothers who had contact with the adoptive family after placement had lower levels of grief and regret. To read the article, go to http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/. To read the Institute’s paper “Safeguarding the Rights and Well-being of Birth Parents in the Adoption Process,” go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/old/research/
N.C. PANEL TO HEAR FROM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ON ADOPTION LEGISLATION
On Mar. 5 from 2 to 4 p.m., Executive Director Adam Pertman will be the main speaker before the House Select Committee on Adoptee Birth Certificates. Pertman will report to North Carolina legislators on research relating to access by adult adoptees to their original birth certificates. Members of the North Carolina Coalition for Adoption Reform also will give their recommendations to the legislators on what they would like to see the state legislature do on the issue as a result of this committee’s work. For more information, contact NCCAR at http://www.adoptionreform-nc.org. To read the Adoption Institute paper on this issue, go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/old/research/
INSTITUTE STAFF TO PRESENT AT ANNUAL AAC CONFERENCE IN MARCH
In a Feb. 21 article published in the Nashville newspaper, The Tennessean, a representative of the American Adoption Congress announced the agenda for the AAC’s annual conference, which will take place in Portland, OR, Feb. 26-29. The conference will feature “numerous workshops on families created through inter-country, trans-racial, and cross-cultural adoption,” and is designed to be attended by anyone touched by the subject of adoption. David Brodzinsky, Ph. D., the Institute’s Research and Project Director, is the keynote speaker, and will present during “Professionals Day” on Mar. 28. To read the article, go to: http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/. To get more information on the conference, visit: http://www.americanadoptioncongress.org/pdf/. For a full listing of appearances by Adoption Institute staff members, go to: http://adoptioninstitute.org/old/events/
CHRISTINE EBERSOLE AMONG HONOREES AT INSTITUTE’S SPRING BENEFIT
Our annual benefit, “A Taste of Spring” – which will be held Wednesday, May 14, 2008 – will feature celebrity chefs from wonderful New York restaurants, boutique wines from around the world, and live music. It is our most important event of the year, raising the funds needed to continue our unique work to improve the lives of the millions of people touched by adoption. Board members Kimberly Donaldson, Caroline Fitzgibbons and Sandra McManus are serving as the event’s Co-Chairs, and this year’s Honorary Co-Chairs are Institute supporters Roger Kline, Priscilla Newman (who is also a Board member) and Ron Cappello.
Our 2008 honorees are Board President Sandra Kresch, Tony Award-winning Broadway star Christine Ebersole and her husband, musician and composer Bill Moloney. Ebersole and Moloney have been outspoken in their celebration of adoption as a wonderful way to form a family – something that, in Christine’s words, “is not defined by biology; it's defined by spirit." The Institute is delighted to honor this couple that has so joyfully put the Institute’s core values into action. Kresch has served as our Board President since 1992, and has helped steer the organization through a period of unprecedented growth and productivity. As she ends her highly successful tenure as President this year, we are delighted to recognize her leadership, creativity and insight.
We are especially excited that this year, all event costs are being underwritten by our “Angels” and past Honorary Co-Chairs, Jurate Kazickas & Roger Altman, and Jane & Bill Donaldson. Their generosity means every cent of the proceeds will go toward our work. Please contact External Relations Director Laura James at [email protected] with questions, to reserve tickets (they go quickly!), or to become an individual or corporate sponsor.
FRIENDS OF THE INSITUTE HOLD HOUSE PARTIES TO SUPPORT OUR WORK
On Feb. 22, the actor Scott Lowell (one of the stars of “Queer as Folk”) held a house party for the Institute at his home in Los Angeles. Almost 50 guests gathered in Scott’s home to wish him a happy birthday, and to learn more about the Institute’s work. On Feb. 28, another supporter, Robin Heller, hosted a gathering for the Institute in Philadelphia at the home of friends. Both events helped the Institute raise matching funds to receive a second $50,000 grant from the David Bohnett Foundation to complete a large-scale, national-level project helping adoption agencies reach out to, and work with, gay and lesbian adoptive parents. We are very grateful to Scott and Robin – and to all those who attended their parties – for their passion, their commitment, and their support of our vital work.
If you are interested in hosting an event in your area, please contact Laura James at [email protected] or please consider advancing our initiatives by:
Making a donation - and asking friends and relatives to honor birthdays and anniversaries with gifts to the Institute
Making a gift to the Institute in a loved one's honor or memory
Including the Institute in your estate plans
Using your contacts to introduce us to foundations, corporations and other sources of support
Making "in-kind" donations or computer equipment, air miles and hotel vouchers
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
Adoption Institute was established in 1996 with a one-time grant. To
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We need the financial support of people like you whose lives have been
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