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U.S. CONGRESS PASSES MAJOR CHILD WELFARE REFORM LEGISLATION
On Sept. 22 the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the bipartisan Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (HR6893), which was passed by the House on Sept. 17. The bill makes significant reforms in child welfare by phasing in changes that include: reauthorizing the Adoption Incentives Program and increasing the financial award allocated to states that have increased the number of children adopted from foster care through 2013; ensuring adoption assistance for children with special needs adopted from foster care without regard to the income of the birth families, by 2018; requiring states to inform prospective adoptive parents about the adoption tax credit; ensuring that states make reasonable efforts to keep siblings together; establishing subsidized guardianship payments for relatives who adopt, and establishing a grant program to help support and keep children connected with kinship caregivers. In addition for the first time Native American children will have access to federal assistance and protections; states will be allowed to receive federal reimbursement to support foster youth up to age 21; and extends federal support to train child welfare workers. The bill went to President Bush on Sept. 26 and awaits his signature to be enacted. To read the legislation, go to:
http://thomas.loc.gov/ and search for HR6893 in the bill text field. For more analysis of the bill, go to:
LESBIANS LOSE ADOPTION CASE IN KENTUCKY, GAY COUPLE WINS IN FLORIDA
The Kentucky Court of Appeals, in a case involving a lesbian couple, ruled this month that stepparent adoption can only be allowed when the stepparent is married to the biological parent. Since marriages by gays are forbidden by both statute and Kentucky's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, the ruling bars gays and lesbians - as well as unmarried, cohabitating heterosexuals - from adopting their partners' children. In a Florida case involving gay foster parents seeking to adopt a child in their care (in which Institute Research & Project Director Dr. David Brodzinsky testified on the winning side), the Monroe County Circuit Court judge ruled that the state's law banning gay and lesbian people from adopting violates the U.S. and Florida Constitutions. This was the second time a judge in Florida allowed a gay man or lesbian to adopt but the scope of the case was limited, so it will not likely set a precedent. Florida is the only state that explicitly bars gays and lesbians from adopting by statute, though additional states also impose other types of roadblocks, and a ballot initiative in Arkansas this November would prohibit all unmarried couples from adopting or becoming foster parents. To read the opinion in the Kentucky case, go to:
to read the ruling in the Florida case, go to: http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/pdf/flaadoption.pdf;
to read the ballot measure in Arkansas, go to: http://adoptionact.familycouncilactioncommittee.com/AAFCAFullWording.pdf
INSTITUTE REPORT FOCUSES ON GETTING MORE FAMILIES FOR FOSTER CHILDREN
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute issued a report this month, "Expanding Resources for Waiting Children II: Eliminating Legal and Practice Barriers to Gay & Lesbian Adoption from Foster Care," that offers specific, research-based recommendations to increase the pool of prospective adoptive parents for children in foster care by changing state laws and agency practices so they become more welcoming of gay and lesbian applicants. Recommendations in the 50-page paper, principally researched and written by the Institute's Policy & Research Director Dr. Jeanne Howard and Senior Research Fellow Madelyn Freundlich, include changes in state policies so that they explicitly recognize foster parenting by gays and lesbians, permit joint and second-parent adoptions, and rescind any laws impeding non-heterosexual couples from adopting or fostering. In addition, it is suggested that adoption agencies assess their policies and practices to ensure that recruitment, training, and post-placement services are welcoming for all qualified family resources regardless of sexual orientation. To read the report, go to:
"Communicative Openness About Adoption and Interest in Contact in a Sample of Domestic and Intercountry Adolescent Adoptees," by nine authors (Amanda Hawkins, Celia Beckett, Michael Rutter, Jenny Castle, Emma Colvert, Christine Groothues, Jana Kreppner, Suzanne Stevens, and Edmund Sonuga-Barke) is a study of 122 intercountry adoptees from Romania and 40 domestic adoptees in the United Kingdom. Data were collected when children were age 11 and again at 15. A minority of children (32 percent) reported having difficulty talking about adoption, and adoptive parents were less likely than adopted adolescents to report that they or their children had such difficulty. Children who were happy with the amount of adoption discussion had higher levels of self-esteem. Most adoptees reported thinking about their birthparents occasionally or frequently, and the majority wanted some form of contact - but about three-quarters of parents reported that their children did not ask questions about their birthparents or about adoptive placement.
"Communicative Openness Within Adoptive Families: Adoptive Parents' Narrative Accounts of the Challenges of Adoption Talk and the Approaches Used to Manage These Challenges," by Chris Jones and Simon Hackett, draws on in-depth interviews with 20 adoptive parents to identify challenges of communicating with their children about adoption and how parents deal with these challenges. Half of the parents had adopted older children from public care. Parents emphasized the complexity and highly sensitive aspects of presenting positive, yet honest, accounts of adoption and determining the timing of when and how much to reveal. Adopted siblings often had different needs, and addressing the needs of the older child sometimes complicated things for a younger sibling. The authors report that parents do not have a shared language of adoption to draw from in discussions and would benefit from the development of adoption stories that could be shared with their children.
STUDY FINDS FOSTER YOUTHS COPE BY RESISTING EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS
A qualitative study of 44 youth (average age=20) who either exited foster care or are about to do so found that they experienced ongoing tension between independence and dependence leading to a coping pattern labeled "survivalist self-reliance." "'What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger': Survivalist Self-Reliance as Resilience and Risk Among Young Adults Aging Out of Foster Care," by Gina Miranda Samuels and Julia Pryce, was published in the October issue of
Children and Youth Services Review (Volume 30, Issue 10). The youths' self-reliant identification is seen as a defense against their fears of dependence, and consequently they become resistant to seeking and receiving emotional supports. The findings have implications for a blending of "interdependence" and healthy connections, with the focus on independent living for youths aging out of care. To access a free abstract, go to:
SWEDISH RESEARCH: KOREAN ADOPTEES MORE LIKELY TO COMPLETE COLLEGE
"Educational Attainment and Cognitive Competence in Adopted Men - A Study of International and National Adoptees, Siblings, and a General Swedish Population," by Monica Dalen, Anders Hjern, Frank Lindblad, Anna Odenstad, Finn Ramussen, and Bo Vinnerljung, was published in the October issue of
Children and Youth Services Review (Volume 30, Issue 10). The study analyzed military conscription data with intelligence tests and data on educational attainment comparing six groups of men - 780 Korean adoptees, 1,558 other international adoptees, 357 siblings of international adoptees, 1,153 national adoptees, 286 siblings of national adoptees, and 342,526 men in the general population - finding that Korean adoptees have test scores slightly above and are more likely to complete college than men in the general population. The highest rate of college completion is among siblings of international adoptees (66%). For an abstract, go to:
ANALYSIS LINKS OUTCOMES FOR FOSTER YOUTHS TO PRE-CARE FACTORS
Stephanie Berzin's comparison of 136 young adults with foster care involvement to a matched group (based on a range of risk factors) not having been in foster care was published in the most recent issue of
Social Service Review (Volume 82, Issue 2). "Difficulties in the Transition to Adulthood: Using Propensity Scoring to Understand What Makes Foster Youth Vulnerable," utilizes data from a national survey of youths in their early 20s. While those who had been in foster care had more problems than peers in the general population, they did not differ significantly from the matched youths, suggesting that aspects of their individual histories and not foster care itself increases their risk for problems as adults. The matching was based on factors such as race, gender, income, family home risk assessment, parental education, not having contact with father, witnessing a shooting, and many others. To access a free abstract, go to:
EVIDENCE-BASED THERAPY APPEARS EFFECTIVE FOR ATTACHMENT DISORDERS
Two outcome studies using comparison groups offer evidence of the efficacy of Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP), a treatment approach developed by Daniel Hughes that is based on the integration of several other evidence-based interventions. "Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy: An Evidence-based Treatment for Children with Complex Trauma and Disorders of Attachment," by Arthur Becker-Weidman and Daniel Hughes, was published in the current issue of
Child and Family Social Work (Volume 13, Issue 3). One outcome study found that almost four years after treatment ended, the 34 children receiving DDP had means on the Child Behavior Checklist scales in the non-clinical range, whereas the comparison group of 30 children receiving treatment in other programs was in the clinical range and had significantly worsened from pre-test scores. To access an abstract, go to:
CHINA CHANGES GUIDELINES TO ENCOURAGE LEGAL DOMESTIC ADOPTIONS
In order to address the growing number of illegal adoptions and to combat trafficking of infants and children, China has issued new guidelines that ease current restrictions on domestic adoption. According to the Sept. 24
China Daily article by Guan Xiaofeng, "China Eases Restrictions on Illegally Adopted Children," under the new guidelines parents can register their illegally adopted children without fear of punishment and do not have to meet the requirements of being over 30 years of age, healthy, and childless. In undeveloped areas of the country, the number of unregistered adoptions reportedly can be two to three times higher than registered adoptions. The new rules also stipulate that if an abandoned baby is found, he or she must be given to authorities before an application for adoption can be made. To read the article, go to:
CHILDREN LEAVING FOSTER CARE IN PHILADELPHA AT HIGH RISK FOR RE-ENTRY
Forty-three percent of children who leave the foster care system in Philadelphia re-enter it within a year, compared to just 28.6 percent of children throughout Pennsylvania, according to a Sept. 10
Philadelphia Inquirer article, "Phila. Kids Re-Enter Foster Care at 'Extremely High Rates'," by Alfred Lubrano. The story reports on findings from a paper published by the child advocacy group Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. The rate of re-entry for children aged 13 to 15 is even higher - 60 percent. The reasons that so many children go back into care are complex, but some factors identified as causing the problem are a lack of sufficient supports for foster families and a need to strengthen biological families so that children can be reunified with them. To read the article, go to:
ONLINE COURSE FOCUSES ON MAINTAINING CONNECTIONS TO BIRTH FAMILIES
An online adoption education service for parents and professionals, Adoption Learning Partners, has added its latest course, "Maintaining Connections." Created by the Family Connections Project through Adoptions Unlimited, Inc. in Chicago, the goals of this course are to help child welfare professionals recognize the benefits to older youth in care of maintaining connections with their birth families and to facilitate adoptions in which older foster youth can maintain such contacts. Enrollment in Maintaining Connections is free of charge. To access the course, go to:
GUIDEBOOK HELPS FOSTER PARENTS FIND FAMILIES FOR THEIR CHILDREN
The Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association has developed a guidebook to help foster parents find adults who can provide permanent, nurturing relationships for the children in their care.
Completing the Circle: Uncovering, Discovering, and Creating Connections for Your Foster and Adoptive Children can also be used by adoptive parents to help their children reconnect with important attachment figures. It contains information on internet search sites, preparing the youths for meetings, and other helpful topics. To downloaded, go to:
A Chapin Hall evaluation of two independent living programs, which was commissioned by the U.S. Children's Bureau, reviews a tutoring/mentoring program and a classroom-based life skills training program, both in Los Angeles County. "Multi-Site Evaluation of Foster Youth Programs" on Chapin Hall's website offers links to each of these evaluations:
DIFFERENCES NEED TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED IN BLENDED ADOPTIVE FAMILIES
An Associated Press article by Leanne Italie, "The Family Blended Together," focused on families that have biological and adopted children. In the piece, published Sept. 2, Executive Director Pertman comments on the shift from the past - when such parents were routinely told to raise their adopted children as though they'd joined the family by birth - to the present, when acknowledging and addressing differences is considered best for everyone involved. Pertman says that parents today, especially those adopting transracially, need to address the differences in their families, which "requires more education for the parent, and in a sense, more parenting." To read the article, go to:
MCGINNIS AND PERTMAN RECEIVE PRESTIGIOUS AWARDS FOR THEIR WORK
Policy & Operations Director Hollee McGinnis received the congressional "Angels in Adoption" award on Sept. 16 in recognition of her work at the Adoption Institute and her leadership in the adult intercountry adoptee community; the award was presented at a gala dinner sponsored annually by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Meanwhile, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists announced that it will give its Marshall Schechter Award to the Institute's Executive Director at its annual meeting in October in Chicago, where Pertman will deliver a lecture on informing best practices through research.
NEW SUPPORT ENABLES INSTITUTE TO INITIATE, EXPAND ITS INITIATIVES
Several supporters have recently provided the Adoption Institute with funding to continue and expand our work in a variety of areas - all designed to help families and children for whom adoption and foster care are realities of everyday life. An
anonymous benefactor has enabled us to grow our Adoptive Parent Preparation Project with a contribution of $50,000, while Harmony Adoptions in Tennessee has awarded us $20,000 for research on best practices relating to post-adoption services. A new
$10,000 grant from the Dave Thomas Foundationfor Adoption is furthering a project on expanding adoptions for older youths in foster care, and a few supporters made this year's meeting of our Senior Research Fellows possible with funding of at least
$5,000 each: the National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning, Casey Family Services, and a family foundation that donated anonymously. In addition, the generosity of Spence-Chapin Services to Families and Children allowed us to hold a highly successful conference in New York last week featuring our Senior Policy Staff and Senior Research Fellows. Especially during these tough economic times, we extend our heartfelt thanks to these and other supporters who make our unique, important work possible.
OUR SUBSCRIBERS SHARE WONDERFUL FAMILY PHOTOS - AND WE WANT MORE!
In the past two newsletters, we asked our readers to email us their photos so that we can represent the many faces of adoption and foster care in our publications, in our e-mail updates, on our website, on the cover pages of our studies, etc. We are delighted with the wonderful pictures we've received, and look forward to sharing them with you as we update our website (with a new logo and look!), publish this year's annual report, and create other opportunities to show the world the diversity of families in our community. For those of you who did not send us electronic photographs yet, but would like to, please email your favorites to
Harris Kaplansky at email@example.com. Thanks for helping us present a fuller picture of the extended family of adoption!
STAR-STUDDED L.A. BENEFIT IS COMING UP (AND SAVE THE DATE FOR N.Y. 2009)
The Adoption Institute's annual benefit in Los Angeles, to be held on October 23, is almost here. This is an exciting event, full of celebrities, movers and shakers in the entertainment industry, all devoted to supporting our work to make adoption fairer and more beneficial for everyone.
This year's Host Committee includes Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, Naomi Watts, Famke Janssen, Scott Lowell, Sarah Chalke, Carla Gugino, Victoria Rowell, Laura Dern, Helen Hunt, and Sarah Jessica Parker. The event will be held at a private home,
so please contact External Relations Director Laura James for more information on sponsorship opportunities and how to attend. Meanwhile, save the date for our annual Taste of Spring event in New York, which will take place on Thursday, May 14, 2009; more details to come, but mark your calendars now so you don't miss out on this always-fabulous food-and-wine party. To learn about, attend or support any of these events, write Laura at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Please contact her, too, if you want to host an event for us in your area, or consider advancing our many 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 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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