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N.Y. ENACTS LAW GIVING SOME PROSPECTIVE ACCESS TO BIRTH INFORMATION
New York Gov. Paterson signed a bill (S4630-C) on Aug. 5 permitting individuals born in the state and adopted after the law’s effective date – on Nov. 3, 2008 – access to their identifying information once they reach the age of 18, if the biological parents have filed a consent form with the adoption information registry. The law requires that adoption consents and surrender documents include a birthparent registration form stating whether they agree to identifying information being provided upon the adoptee’s signing up with the registry. The law allows biological parents to revoke their consent at any time. The form provides them with information about the adoption medical information sub-registry. To read the law, go to:
select the Chapters link, and select Chapter 435. The Bill of Adoptee Rights (A2277, S235), which would allow access to their original birth certificates and establish contact preference forms, has been in committee in both houses since January 2008. To read those bills and find out their status, go to:
SENATE COMMITTEE TO CONSIDER MAJOR CHILD WELFARE BILL IN SEPTEMBER
The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to consider S3038, the Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act of 2008, on Sept. 10, 2008. The bill is similar to House-passed bill HR6307 that was referred to the Finance Committee in June. Both bills reauthorize the adoption incentive program to states (set to expire this year), extend support for kinship care, and provide a state option to continue foster care until age 21. There are a few critical differences between the bills, however. The Senate bill would delink adoption assistance payments from AFDC eligibility standards. The House bill extends access to federal training funds to private agencies and requires greater health planning and educational stability by states for children in foster care. To read the legislation, go to:
http://thomas.loc.gov/ and search for HR6307 or S3038 in the search bill text field.
MAJOR STUDY LINKS ADOPTION OPENNESS TO BETTER OUTCOMES FOR PARENTS
Based on data from 323 adoption triads sampled from 33 agencies in 10 states, greater openness in adoptions is linked with more satisfaction with the adoption process for both adoptive parents and birthparents and with more positive post-adoption adjustment for birthmothers and birthfathers. “Bridging the Divide: Openness in Adoption and Postadoption Psychosocial Adjustment among Birth and Adoptive Parents,” by Xiaojia Ge, Misaki Natsuaki, David Martin, Jenae Neiderhiser, Georgette Villareal, John Reid, Leslie Leve, Daniel Shaw, Laura Scaramella and David Reiss, was published in the August issue of the Journal of Family Psychology (Volume 22, Issue 4). This is the first major study on openness to include birthfathers (n=112) and reports on the first wave of data collection six to nine months post-placement. To access an abstract, go to:
NATIONAL SURVEY FINDS MEN TWICE AS LIKELY AS WOMEN TO HAVE ADOPTED
A new report on the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, released this month, indicates that men ages 18-44 are more than twice as likely as women to have adopted a child, with the reason likely related to step-parent adoption. In addition, African-American women are more likely to be currently seeking to adopt than are Caucasian women. Overall, 2.3 percent of all men and 1.1 percent of women had adopted a child. The rate of relinquishment for children born to never-married women fell from 8.7 percent (before 1973) to only 1 percent in 1996-2002. To access the press release and the report, Adoption experiences of women and men and demand for children to adopt by women 18-44 years of age in the United States, 2002 go to:
REPORT SUGGESTS RELIGIOUS ADOPTIVE PARENTS EXPERIENCE LOWER STRESS
A study of 113 adoptive families in a rural, Southern area found that religiosity predicted lower stress in adoptive parenting and that faith was a primary factor in their adoption decisions. “The Role of Faith in Adoption: Achieving Positive Adoption Outcomes for African American Children,” by Kathleen Belanger, Sam Copeland and Monit Cheung, was published in the current issue of Child Welfare (Volume 87, Issue 2). While most families attended church weekly, the percentage was even higher among Blacks (91 percent) than Whites (78 percent), and the authors concluded that greater recruitment from African American churches and tailoring the message to key aspects of their faith would be the most effective strategies for increasing the adoption of African American foster children. To access a free abstract, go to:
The first article, by E. Wayne Carp, “Does Opening Adoption Records Have an Adverse Social Impact? Some Lessons from the U.S., Great Britain, and Australia, 1953-2007,” uses an international history of the adoption reform movement to demonstrate that the consequences of opening adoption records do not match the fears used to counter access. For example, in the time records have been open in Scotland (80 years), England and Wales (33 years), 55 percent of 550,000 adopted persons have sought information from their records and no cases of vindictiveness from adopted persons toward birthparents have been reported. The author argues that allowing access to birth certificates with contact preference forms or vetoes is a viable alternative to keeping them sealed. (In the 10 years records have been accessible in Oregon, approximately 5,000 birth records have been issued to adopted persons, and only 77 birthparents have filed preference forms specifying no contact.)
“Many Faces of Openness in Adoption: Perspectives of Adopted Adolescents and Their Parents,” by Harold Grotevant (an Adoption Institute Senior Fellow), Gretchen Wrobel, Lynn Von Korff, Brooke Skinner, Jane Newell, Sarah Friese and Ruth McRoy (also one of our Senior Fellows), reports on data collected from 177 adoptive families participating in Wave 2 of the Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project. The adoptions are categorized in four levels of openness; the highest was “contact with meetings,” the case for 52 families. Adolescents who had contact with their birthmothers had more positive feelings about them and were more satisfied with the level of openness in their adoptions. Also, adoptive mothers and fathers in these families expressed the highest satisfaction with the openness level in their adoptions. None of the teens having contact reported feeling confused about who their parents were, and the researchers conclude that there is no evidence of contact being harmful to children.
“Birth Mothers’ Perceptions of Their Parented Children’s Knowledge of and Involvement in Adoption,” by Susan Henney, Susan Ayers-Lopez, JamiLyn Mack, Ruth McRoy, and Harold Grotevant, reports findings from interviews with 94 birthmothers as part of the Minnesota/Texas Adoption study. Seventy-three percent of birthmothers were parenting one or more biological children, and for most of these (59 percent) the oldest parented child knew the truth about the sibling who had been adopted, a reality that was highly related to the level of openness. Some mothers planned to disclose this information at a later date. Children’s initial reactions were reported as primarily neutral (64 percent) or positive (25 percent), with 11 percent more negative. The authors recommend preparing birthmothers for making decisions about informing subsequent children about a previous adoption placement.
NUMBER OF INTERNATIONAL ADOPTIONS BY AMERICANS REPORTED DECLINING
According to an Aug.12 USA Today article, “Cuts in foreign adoptions causing anxiety in USA,” by Wendy Koch, international adoptions are increasingly complex and declining in number. Reasons for these developments include the recent cutoffs by Vietnam and Guatemala of adoption applications from Americans, more careful U.S. screening of visa applications, and nations promoting domestic adoptions over international. The Adoption Institute’s Executive Director, Adam Pertman, is quoted as saying these changes are likely to increase adoptions of children from the U.S. child welfare system, boost adoptions of children with disabilities, and result in more interest in adopting from Africa. Indeed, the article notes that Ethiopia and Liberia are the sources of growing numbers of international adoptions by Americans. To read the article, go to:
NEW FLORIDA PROGRAM LEADS TO RECORD IN ADOPTIONS FROM FOSTER CARE
A Miami Herald story on Aug.1 reports that the Florida Department of Children and Families achieved a record-breaking 3,674 adoptions of children from foster care in fiscal year 2008. "More Foster Kids Are Being Adopted," by Carol Marbin Miller, reports that the agency attributes its progress to a new statewide campaign, Explore Adoption, “that seeks to debunk the myths associated with public adoption.” For instance, the initiative counters the perception that adoption is expensive with the reality that the state pays most of the costs. In addition, a new hotline in Florida reportedly “has received a record number of calls” since the program’s inception. The article is available for a fee on the Miami Herald website:
DEBATE IN KOREA CENTERS ON ACHIEVING FEWER INTERNATIONAL ADOPTIONS
Jason Strother for Voice of America News reports from South Korea that “a growing number of advocates are calling for an end to international adoption and are trying to encourage Korean families to adopt.” The Aug. 13 article, “South Korea Debates International Adoption,” cites an organization called Adoptees Solidarity Korea, which asserts that the government should provide services to unmarried mothers instead of promoting adoptions. While international adoptions from South Korea over the last 50-odd years have been prevalent in part because of the cultural stigma against domestic adoption, “last year, for the first time since international adoption began in South Korea, more children were taken in by Korean families than sent overseas.” To read the article, go to:
EVALUATION SHOWS STATES HAVE MIXED RECORD ON CHILD WELFARE OUTCOMES
A major child welfare report released in August, “Child Welfare Outcomes 2002-2005: Report to Congress,” evaluates states’ performance on seven child welfare outcomes and the extent of progress in reaching national goals. This analysis incorporates 15 additional measures developed for the second round of Child and Family Service Reviews, which began in March 2007. States showed small gains on some measures and slight declines in performance on others. In relation to increasing permanency for children in foster care, the percentage leaving to a permanent home (reunification, with relatives, adoption, guardianship) increased from 85.7 percent in 2002 to 87.8 percent in 2005. To access the report, go to:
GAO REPORT RECOMMENDS ALLOWING SUBSIDIES FOR LEGAL GUARDIANS
The Government Accountability Office released a report on July 31 – entitled “African American Children in Foster Care: HHS and Congressional Actions Could Help Reduce Proportion in Care” – which contained the testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee of Kay Brown, the Director of Education, Workforce and Income Security. A primary recommendation was amending current law to allow subsidies for legal guardianships. To access the report, go to:
OPENNESS IN ADOPTION RECEIVES GROWING ATTENTION IN THE MEDIA
The release of the new study on openness in adoption, published in the Journal of Family Psychology (see first research item above), was an example of growing attention to the subject in the press. For example, Adam Pertman was quoted in an Aug. 18 National Public Radio story, “When Adoptees Know their Biological Mother,” by Nancy Mullane, which also includes an interview with Leslie Leve, one of the researchers. Pertman said that “this study challenges the long-held assumption that cutting ties is better” and suggested that practitioners could improve their practices by learning from research. To access an audiofile of the NPR story, go to:
The Institute’s Policy & Research Director, Jeanne Howard, was interviewed for an article also published Aug. 18 in the Peoria Journal Star. In the article, “Adoption’s New Face,” Dr. Howard described the forces leading to more openness in adoptions, including the market forces of supply and demand and the growth in the number of adopted adults searching for their birth families. According to Howard, “What we’re seeing now is a movement toward understanding how those connections can be good for kids.” To read this article, go to:
ARTICLE REPORTS ON IMPLEMENTATION OF NEBRASKA’S SAFE HAVEN LAW
An Aug. 22 Associated Press story, “Neb. ‘Safe-Haven’ Law Allows Abandonment of Teens,” by Jean Ortiz, reflects on a unique law that took effect July 18. Nebraska was the last state to enact a “safe haven” law – and it took its approach much further than any other, allowing anyone (not just a parent) to abandon a child under 19 (rather than just an infant). Pertman criticized that approach, stating: “Whether the kid is disabled or unruly or just being a hormonal teenager, the state is saying: 'Hey, we have a really easy option for you.'" This AP story was picked up by news outlets across the U.S. as well as in other nations. To access the story, go to:
INSTITUTE TO HOLD SECOND ANNUAL CONCLAVE OF SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOWS
A meeting of the Institute’s Senior Research Fellows, along with our Research Staff, will take place in New York on Sept. 22-23. The Fellows – who include some of the most accomplished professionals in the fields of adoption and foster care – are: Dr. Richard Barth, Dr. Devon Brooks, Prof. Naomi Cahn, Dr. Hal Grotevant, Dr. Victor Groza, Dr. Dana Johnson, Dr. Ruth McRoy, Dr. Ellen Pinderhughes, and Dr. Scott Ryan. The Fellows program is designed to better inform, vet and improve the Adoption Institute’s work and, consequently, to enhance our impact and ability to help children and their families. This is the second year that the Senior Fellows and Research Staff will hold a two-day meeting; the first day will be a private session to discuss developments in the field and its future needs, followed by a half-day, invitation-only conference at Spence-Chapin Services to Families & Children.
MATT DONALDSON RIDES 100 MILES OVER THE ROCKIES FOR THE INSTITUTE
In order to raise support for the Institute named after his mother, Evan B. Donaldson, Matt Donaldson spent Aug. 16 through 17 participating in the Leadville Trail 100 – “The Race Across the Sky.” This 100 mile ride through the Colorado Rockies covered forest trails and mountain roads as high as 12,600 feet above sea level. Matt’s tremendous effort has already raised thousands of dollars to support our important work – and donations are still coming in. To contribute, please send your check to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, 120 E. 38th Street, New York, NY 10016. (Please write “Matt Donaldson” or “100 Mile Race” on the memo line.) You can also donate online
Network for Good or through our support page at http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/old/about/support.php. Please put "Matt Donaldson" or "100 Mile Race" in the designation box. Finally, you can also donate by emailing Laura James, External Relations Director, at email@example.com or (212) 925-4089.
COMING IN OCTOBER: THE INSTITUTE’S NEXT STAR-STUDDED BENEFIT IN L.A.
Those of you who live on the West Coast – or plan to travel there! – please mark Oct. 23, 2008, on your calendars for the next Adoption Institute Benefit in Los Angeles. This is always a fun party, full of celebrities, movers and shakers in the entertainment industry, all devoted to supporting the work of the Institute to make adoption fairer and more beneficial for everyone it touches. The luminaries on this year’s Host Committee (so far) include
Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, Naomi Watts, Famke Janssen, Laura Dern, Helen Hunt, and Sarah Jessica Parker.
The event will be at a private home, so please contact Laura James for more information on sponsorship opportunities and on how to attend.
If you are interested in hosting an event in your area, please contact Laura James at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if parties are not "your thing," we welcome direct support of our work! Some of our current projects available for support include:
• 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 of computer equipment, air miles and hotel vouchers
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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