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SENATE BILL WOULD RESHAPE INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION POLICY, PROCEDURES
Sen. Landrieu and eight other senators on Sept. 19 introduced the
Children in Families First Act of 2013 (S.1530), which would make fundamental changes in U.S. policy and processes relating to intercountry adoption "so that seeking permanent families for children living without families receives more prominence, focus, and resources," among other goals. A new State Department Bureau of Vulnerable Children and Family Security would become the U.S. Central Authority (succeeding the department's Office of Children's Issues), and the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would become responsible for many key responsibilities. USCIS also could "determine, on a case-by-case basis, that a specific intercountry adoption case may proceed as a non-Convention adoption" from countries that have ratified the Hague Convention; relax requirements for relative adoptions; and permit undefined "parole" status to transfer custody of some children. The bill would also significantly alter application of "subsidiarity," the principle that prioritizes placing children within their nations of origin, saying there should be concurrent planning for intercountry adoptions. The bill is in the Foreign Relations Committee.
LEGISLATION SEEKS CHANGES IN MANY CHILD WELFARE ADOPTION PROVISIONS
Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV) and Sen. Casey (D-PA) on Sept. 17 introduced the
Removing Barriers to Adoption and Supporting Families Act of 2013 (S.1511) to reauthorize the Adoption Incentives program through 2017 and make several changes to child welfare adoption policy. New provisions would add an award for interstate adoptions, to be shared between sending and receiving states; require national standards for state home studies; eliminate "another planned permanent living arrangement" for children under 17; require states to use 20 percent of their adoption assistance delink savings for post-adoption and post-permanency services; dedicate 10 percent of Promoting Safe and Stable Families Funds each to adoption promotion and post-adoption and post-permanency services; encourage states to identify "evidence-based child-focused recruitment practices;" and promote placement with siblings. The legislation defines post-adoption and post-permanency services as "services for children placed in adoptive, kinship, or guardianship placements and their families," including individual counseling, group counseling, family counseling, case management, respite care, training, assistance to adoptive parent organizations, assistance to support groups and program evaluation. The bill is with the Finance Committee. Read the Institute's "Keeping the Promise" and "Never Too Old."
HOUSE INCENTIVES MEASURE FOCUSES ON INCREASING ADOPTIONS FROM CARE
Reps. Levin (D-MI), Camp (R-MI), Doggett (D-TX) and Reichert (R-WA) on Sept. 27 introduced the
Promoting Adoption and Legal Guardianship for Children in Foster Care Act (H.R.3205) to reauthorize the Adoption Incentives program through FY2016. The legislation would restructure awards to incentivize increasing adoptions of pre-adolescent (9-13 years old) and older children, and establish a new award for increases in the rate of children leaving foster care for legal guardianship. It would also mandate that states report savings resulting from the adoption assistance-income eligibility de-link and reinvestments in child welfare, as well as spend a minimum of 20 percent of savings on post-adoption services for children adopted from care. Read a
summary of the bill, and
summary of the differences between the bill and Aug. discussion draft. Ask your
Representatives to co-sponsor H.R.3205. Call 202-225-3121 and ask for his/her office; tell the child welfare/tax staffer that you are a constituent (provide your mailing address if leaving a message) and encourage your legislators to co-sponsor H.R.3205 (see if your lawmakers already are
ACT WOULD ENHANCE SUPPORTS AND SERVICES, INCLUDING FOR MENTAL HEALTH
Sens. Klobuchar (D-MN), Blunt (R-MO) and Landrieu (D-LA) on Sept. 19 introduced the
Supporting Adoptive Families Act (S.1527) to enhance pre- and post-adoption support services; it was referred to the Finance Committee. The bill seeks to ensure "the well-being of adopted children and their adoptive families" and promote efforts "to prevent such children from entering the foster care system through the provision of pre- and post-adoptive support services." The legislation would require states to spend "a significant portion" of their adoption assistance de-link savings on such services; establish grants for post-adoption mental health services; define adoption competency and post-adoption mental health services; and allocate $20 million for post-adoption mental health services. It also would mandate that the Department of Health and Human Services collect data on disruptions and dissolutions for domestic and intercountry adoptions. Read the Institute's Aug. report, "A Need To Know: Enhancing Adoption Competence Among Mental Health Professionals."
HOUSE LEGISLATION WOULD REFOCUS 'ADOPTION' INCENTIVES TO 'PERMANENCY'
Rep Davis (D-IL) introduced the
Investing in Permanency for Youth in Foster Care Act (H.R.3124) on Sept. 18, which would change Adoption Incentives awards to "Permanency" awards for exits to reunification, adoption and guardianship; it was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means. Awards would be made for these three types of exits for increases over projected numbers for the fiscal year, as well as increases over the base year (2012) for children who are older (14 years old and over), pre-adolescent (9-13), and young (0-8) with special needs. It also would require states to use all incentive payments to fund post-permanency services, which are defined as those "needed once children and youth have been reunified, adopted, or placed with guardians to stabilize and support the child and family." H.R. 3124 would authorize the program through 2017, with funding at $60 million for FY2014-2018 (up from $43 million).
IMMIGRATION POLICY AIMS TO PROTECT PARENTAL RIGHTS OF DETAINEES
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Aug. 23 issued a directive,
Facilitating Parental Interests in the Course of Civil Immigration Enforcement Activities, stating that "ICE personnel should ensure that the agency's immigration enforcement activities do not unnecessarily disrupt the parental rights of both alien parents or legal guardians of minor children." The policy provides that the agency "will maintain a comprehensive process for identifying, placing, monitoring, accommodating, and removing alien parents or legal guardians of minor children while safeguarding their parental rights." In May, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed an amendment sponsored by Sens. Al Franken (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA),
the Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections for Separated Children Act" (HELP Separated Children Act), to the immigration reform bill (S744). The Act seeks to protect children whose parents are involved in immigration enforcement actions and keep them out of the child welfare system when it is not necessary to ensure their safety. The
Applied Research Center has found that 5,100 children in foster care are prevented from uniting with their detained or deported parents, and in the next five years, an additional 15,000 children may be in the same situation.
Education & Advocacy
INSTITUTE: ACTION NEEDED TO ADDRESS INTERNET 'RE-HOMING' OF CHILDREN
The Institute issued a
media advisory on Sept. 10 calling on law enforcement officials, policymakers and adoption professionals nationwide to investigate and put a stop to "re-homing" – in which some Americans are using the Internet to find new families for their adopted children. The Institute recommended legal, regulatory and practice changes to better protect children and to support families in crisis "so that no one ever feels that deserting their child is their last resort." Pertman stated, "The
stories about 're-homing' ... are certainly exceptions in the world of adoption, but they also are unnerving and should serve as a wakeup call for us all to finally pay attention and take much-needed action." The State Department issued an
Adoption Notice on Sept. 18, saying it is "committed to ensuring that reliable safeguards for the wellbeing of children are in place." National adoption and child welfare organizations
responded on Sept. 11, calling on Congress to fund support services for adoptive families. Reuters ran an article on Sept. 13, "
Governments call on U.S. to track foreign adoptees," quoting Pertman saying "It's so risky for everyone involved, it's nuts."
China also expressed serious concern. The
New York Times and
NBC News covered the "re-homing" story as well. Pertman discussed the issue with the Reuter's reporter who broke the story on
PBS Newshour on Sept. 11 and on
BBC World News.
INSTITUTE CALLS FOR GREATER PROTECTION OF BIRTH/FIRST PARENT RIGHTS
The Institute issued a
statement on Sept. 27 in response to "Baby Veronica's"
return to her adoptive parents, urging better education about and protection of first/birth parent rights, saying that – as in this case – they too often are undervalued, misunderstood or ignored. The Institute – which was a party to an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting Veronica's Cherokee father, and whose publication "
Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents" was used by Native American groups supporting him in their own court filings – said: "Undercutting the rights of these men and women does more than just harm the affected adults; most pointedly, it deprives children of the care of the people who created them and of their own family connections." The Institute is expanding its work focused on birth/first parents with funding provided by its new
Lynn Franklin Fund, a dedicated source for research and advocacy on the issues and concerns that matter most for this too-often-neglected population. A Sept. 22 Post and Courier article, "
Skeptics of Veronica, Desaray cases call for closer look at private adoptions, laws," by Andrew Knapp quotes Pertman as saying, "We give lip service to the best interests of the child, then we do things that prove the adoptive couple are the only people we're concerned about."
INSTITUTE SEEKS PARTICIPANTS FOR CRITICAL NEW ADOPTION-INTERNET STUDY
The Internet and social media are changing the way adoption occurs throughout the world, yet we know little about the way social media and other elements of this modern technology affect the millions of people for whom adoption is part of everyday life. The Donaldson Adoption Institute has embarked on a new study seeking information from adopted persons, adoptive parents, parents who have placed children for adoption, and adoption professionals about their adoption-related use of the Internet and social media. This research is a follow-up to our 2012 report,
Untangling the Web: The Internet's Transformative Impact on Adoption. To participate in the survey, please
ANALYSIS FINDS SURRENDER DOCUMENTS DID NOT PROMISE CONFIDENTIALITY
A legal scholar who analyzed 75 surrender documents by first/birth mothers from 1936-1970s and 26 states concluded that the documents did not provide women with promises of confidentiality or guarantees of anonymity. "Surrender and Subordination: Birth Mothers and Adoption Law Reform," by Elizabeth Samuels, in the 2013 issue of the Michigan Journal of Gender & Law (Volume 20), gives an in-depth history of efforts to provide adult adoptees access to original birth certificates, finding that the most powerful resistance to restoring access has rested on the argument that first/birth mothers should be protected. These women, however, were not offered a choice of confidentiality, nor were they guaranteed this in legal documents. Forty percent of the documents indicated that the woman promised she would not try to find the child or interfere with the adoptive family.
COMMODIFICATION OF ADOPTION IN MEDIA COVERAGE CONNECTED TO STIGMA
A qualitative study of language used in media coverage of adoption, "Adopting Commodities: A Burkean Cluster Analysis of Adoption Rhetoric," by Jennifer Potter, is in the current issue of the Institute's partner publication, Adoption Quarterly (Volume 16, Issue 2). The analysis focused on the first of five major themes identified in media coverage of adoption: commodification of adoption (the other themes are biologization of adoption, renaming adoption, emphasizing parents and deemphasizing children, and biology versus adoption). Terminology that frames adoption as a commodity includes: supply and demand, marketplace, parents as consumers, children as products, costs, and "returning" children. The author concludes that such language contributes to stigma felt by some adoptive families.
EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS REPORTEDLY ENCOURAGING INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION
In a Sept. 21 New York Times article, "The Evangelical Orphan Boom," Kathryn Joyce reports on the growing trend of the evangelical Christian movement in urging Christians to adopt orphans from overseas. The article states that "Christian advocates of transnational adoption will often say that some 150 million children need homes — though that figure, derived from a UNICEF report, includes not only parentless children, but also those who have lost only one parent, and orphans who live with relatives." The story notes that finding infants for intercountry adoptions can include "alarming" practices such as falsely informing birth parents their children will only be sent away temporarily.
INTERNET SPEEDS UP SEARCHES FOR BIRTHPARENTS –– AND RAISES ISSUES
A Sept. 15 The Herald Journal News article, "Who are my parents? Adopted individuals find new ways to track roots in internet age," by Lis Stewart, recounts the personal stories of some adoptees' attempts at searching for their birth/first parents, describing mixed emotions as they embark on the complex journey of finding the pieces from their past. According to the article, although the Internet has made the search for relatives relatively easy through the use of social media, it has also stirred up emotions adoptees are often unprepared to handle. Internet search and reunion has raised a whole new range of challenges in open and closed adoption practice. Read the Institute's report on the Internet's transformative impact on adoption, "Untangling the Web."
In a Sept. 23 article, "Adoptions on the decline, advocates blame costly, time-consuming regulations," by Emma Penrod and Lois M. Collins in Deseret News, Pertman advises, "The solutions, I think, are less blanket solutions. Blanket solutions are less child-friendly than more tailored solutions." The second CNN article reports on an increase in adoptions of Black American children adopted by families in other nations, attributed to pregnant women in the U.S. wanting their children to face less discrimination and the relative ease of the process. "I think a lot of Americans are surprised that we are one of those sending countries," Pertman is quoted as saying. Pertman's CNN quotes are also included in a Sept. 23 Tulsa World article, "Dutch seemingly color-blind when adopting," by Adam Daigle.
RESOURCES AVAILABLE FOR 2013 NATIONAL ADOPTION DAY AND MONTH
The U.S. Children's Bureau, in partnership with AdoptUSKids, hosts the 2013
National Adoption Month website, with resources for professionals, adoptive parents, youth and a "Spread the Word" section with more information on working with the media. This year's theme, "Partnering for Permanency," underscores the need to create partnerships to find permanent connections for children in foster care.
National Adoption Day, Nov. 23, is dedicated to raising awareness of and celebrating adoption of children in foster care. The initiative – sponsored by the Freddie Mac Foundation, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and three other partners – offers a website with materials for hosting events, fact sheets, family stories, public service announcements and other resources. In 2012, more than 4,500 children were adopted on National Adoption Day in cities across the United States.
LSS OF IL OFFERS LIFEBOOK MATERIALS FOR FOSTER AND ADOPTED CHILDREN
"Lifebooks Help Kids Heal, One Page at a Time," an article in the summer issue of Eye on LSSI, discusses how the Lutheran Social Services of Illinois Lifebook program assists children and their foster parents. The LSSI website offers "My Awesome Life," a Lifebook developed by social workers "to help foster or adopted children understand and record their life stories, preserve birth family connections and make sense of trauma, loss and change, while also celebrating their unique strengths and talents." Professionals can
order versions for children in foster care, those returning home from foster care, and those adopted from foster care, as well as access a training curriculum and DVD.
WARMEST THANKS TO TWO SPECIAL FAMILIES FOR THEIR GIFTS TO THE INSTITUTE
This summer, the Institute was honored to be the beneficiary of memorials created by two wonderful families as tributes to their loved ones. We would like to offer our most heartfelt thanks and deepest condolences to the families of Albert Macks and Terry Franklin. Gifts in memory of Albert Macks will be used to support a range of Institute initiatives, while those given in Terry Franklin's name were contributed to our Lynn Franklin Fund. The Fund is named in honor of one of Terry's daughters, a longtime Institute Board member, author, literary agent and first mother. The Fund supports targeted research, education and advocacy for first/birth parent rights. If you would like to honor a treasured loved one in this way, please email Development Director,
William Boltz, or call him at 212-925-4089. Learn more about the
Lynn Franklin Fund.
On Sept. 4, Huffington Post ran a commentary by Institute Executive Director Adam Pertman and Program & Project Director Susan Smith, "A Lot to Learn: As the School Year Begins," in which they discuss the need for educators to learn more about adoption issues. "Teachers need to be prepared with both sensitivity and knowledge about adoption in order to assist all children and their families in successfully dealing with issues on an ongoing basis," the authors write. Bringing awareness to educators about the realities of foster care and adoption is an important diversity issue, as children should not be stigmatized as a result of their family type. You can also read the commentary on Pertman's
blog and read the Institute's "Adoption in the Schools: A Lot to Learn."
UPCOMING STAFF APPEARANCES
The following is a partial listing of upcoming appearances and/or presentations by Pertman and Institute senior staff; view a
complete list. To inquire about Institute staff availability for speaking engagements, call 212-925-4089 or email [email protected]
October 22 – Pertman will be the keynote presenter and will also participate in a panel discussion at a conference sponsored by
Adoptions From The Heart. The conference will take place at Wesleyan Excley Science Center on the campus of Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT.
From Our Partners
ADOPTION TODAY: WHAT'S IN STORE FOR INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION'S FUTURE
As the number of children adopted internationally has diminished over the last few years, many have questioned what is in store for the future of intercountry adoption. The October issue of
Adoption Today examines new legislation being introduced to help encourage countries to re-open intercountry adoption programs, as well as to address domestic adoption. The issue also includes several articles from adult adoptees who are working to move intercountry adoption practices forward. Other topics covered include residential treatment centers and prejudice and the adopted child.
SPENCE-CHAPIN: VARIETY OF SUPPORT GROUPS, MEETINGS OFFERED IN OCTOBER
Spence-Chapin will present a variety of
support groups and
meetings in October including: Adopted Teens, Adult Adoptees, Birth Parents, Adoptive Parents, and LGBT Adoptive Parents Support Groups. Trainings include strategies for recruiting, matching and conducting culturally competent home assessments with prospective LGBT parents. There are also adult adoptee panels, where adoptees will share their unique insights into ways adoption has impacted their lives, and an annual Halloween Bash open to all those who have been touched by adoption.
About the Donaldson Adoption Institute
Since its establishment in 1996, the 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 website is a popular and reliable source for accurate adoption information. Re-read our past e-Newsletters.
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 or print and complete this
form with your credit card information and fax it to 775-796-6592, or mail it with your check or credit card information to:
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