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February 2006

February 28, 2006. Congress Appropriates Money for Domestic Adoption. The obscurely titled Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 includes important appropriations for adoption programs. One section grants $50 million, over a five year period, to be allocated to state Supreme Courts for the purpose of strengthening state courts' oversight of children in foster care. The money is specifically to be used for creating and implementing court performance standards. A second provision allocates $50 million, over five years as well, to state Supreme Courts, to be used to train judges, attorneys and other child welfare personnel, including child welfare agency employees. Having granted states financial carrots, the bill also includes a stick by requiring that state courts and child welfare agencies, as a condition of receiving child welfare funds, prove that they provide "substantial, ongoing and meaningful collaboration" in administering child welfare services. We fervently hope that these provisions help alleviate the problems in state child welfare programs so tragically demonstrated by the deaths of children in the New York City child welfare system that we have recounted in recent posts. More information.

February 27, 2006. U.S. Senators and Representatives Protest Handling of Romanian Pipeline Cases. American legislators sent a letter to Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu on February 24 protesting the treatment of the more than 1,100 pipeline cases. This phrase refers to children who were in the process of being adopted abroad when Romania, succumbing to enormous pressure from EU officials, decreed its virtually complete ban on Intercountry Adoption last year. (American families had hoped to adopt around 200 of these children.) Romanian authorities recently announced that they plan to reject the adoption petitions relating to all these children. As the letter signed by 36 senators and congressmen from both parties points out, these rejections violate both the spirit and letter of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; Romania is a signatory to both treaties. Moreover, the manner in which the Bucharest government has trampled the future of these 1,100 children demonstrates neither transparency nor accountability. Children have no seat at the negotiating table. They rely on adults to protect them. This action by Romanian authorities is nothing more than a new abandonment of unparented children. More information.

February 17, 2006 Funding Child Welfare the Wrong Way. We believe strongly that child welfare must be funded more generously if the best interests of children are truly to be served. A sad story out of Greensboro, N.C. illustrates just how desperate child welfare agencies are and how in the end it is again the unparented child who loses out. This particular case involves a 16 year old boy named John. whose adoptive father left him a house when he died. When John became a ward of the state of North Carolina, officials, relying on a 2003 Supreme Court case that said welfare officials could use unparented children's Supplemental Social Security Income to offset the costs of their foster care, stopped paying the mortgage on the house. Now John may lose his only asset. As law professor Daniel Hatcher says, these Social Security payments are being treated as a reliable source of income for financially strapped state and city agencies, not as monies to be used individually for each child in his or her particular best interests. These sums, around $600 each month per unparented child, if properly used for education and counseling, could provide foster children their best chance at productive, adult lives. For their part, state agencies maintain that disallowing this use of SSI payments, "could leave the states in a position of economic peril." But the answer to underfunded state agencies is not to rob unparented children of what is rightly theirs. More Information.

February 16, 2006, Children in Foster Care Hurt Because of Lack of Lawyers and Social Workers. Children need responsible adults to protect and guide them. When a child's parents cannot function in this capacity, legal and child protective services must perform this function. Indeed a federal government study shows that a good outcome for abused and neglected children is directly related to their social workers' education and training-the better the social worker, the better the result for the children in his or her care. But as the tragic stories in this blog demonstrate, all too often the more than 500,000 American children in foster care are left bereft of even basic services. Unfortunately neither social work nor public interest law pays well. Given that a study by the Children's Center of Los Angeles showed that 68% of lawyers owed at least $50,000 in student loans and 24% owed over $75,000 in student loans, it is immediately apparent why so many professionals shun the underpaid child protective field. Proposed Congressional legislation would offer student loan forgiveness to attorneys and social workers who work with foster children. It is a good start. For more information, contact Public Children Services Association of Ohio, PCSAO, at 614-224-5802 or at www.pcsao.org.

February 15, 2006. Hague Regulations Issued as Final. The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption is designed to be the governing treaty on ICA. The U.S. helped negotiate it and signed the Hague Convention in 1994. Congress approved legislation, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 2000, which ratified the Hague but provided that the ratification would not go into effect until the underlying regulations were drafted and completed. They are now final. The State Department will authorize accrediting entities in the near future. The accrediting entities will set deadlines for agencies interested in doing adoptions with other Hague signatory nations to apply for accreditation. It is estimated that this process will take from one to two years. Once the deadline has passed, and the United States government has submitted certain paperwork to the Hague administrators, all American adoptions to or from other Hague countries will have to follow Hague rules. We are very pleased that the U.S. has taken this important step which helps ensure the propriety of Intercountry Adoption. More information.

February 14, 2006. Donating Eggs Purely for Cloning To be Allowed in UK. The British government is to permit women to donate their eggs for cloning purposes. This decision will be made by the Human Fertilisation and Embrolyology Authority, known in Britiain as the fertility watchdog. Egg donation had previously been allowed for fertility purposes but not for research. HFEA itself acknowledged that this decision might bring it adverse publicity but its ethics and law committee recommended proceeding regardless. Campaigners for embryo rights strongly object to the rule change: According to Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics: "The journal Nature last week described egg donation as an 'unpleasant, invasive process' which can cause 'life-threatening side effects'. How extraordinary then to find the HFEA endorsing donation at a time when scientists are at last acknowledging the significant risks associated with the process." In the UK payment for egg donation is now set at a nominal 15 plus expenses. CAP's Annual Conference, to be held this year on May 18, will be devoted to the topics of Science, Technology and Adoption. More information.

February 13, 2006, A Survivor Speaks Out. Tragically, most victims of child abuse and social services systemic breakdown only become known to us after they are dead. But Bruce Jackson lived to confront the adoptive mother who starved him and his brothers and testify against her. You may not recognize his name but many readers will remember the awful story from three years ago: Four brothers fostered and then adopted by Vanessa Jackson and her husband. What sounds like a happy ending became instead almost a death sentence as the four boys were starved and tortured while Mr. and Mrs. Jackson, inexplicably, properly fed and cared for five other children. When the boys were rescued, nineteen year old Bruce weighed 45 pounds. Now 140 pounds and 5 foot 3, Bruce recounted how he and his brothers never saw a doctor or dentist, were never allowed proper food and were continually beaten. "I want to see Ms. Jackson go to jail for life," he proclaimed. Mrs. Jackson instead was sentenced to seven years in prison; her husband died while awaiting trial. Why did no one notice? The best interests of children can only be served if responsible adults are watching out to ensure the safety and care of those too young to fend for themselves.

February 10, 2006. The Big Lie. The UK newspaper, the Sun, is running J.K. Rowling's account of her trip to Eastern Europe with a twist-the Sun's account includes an appeal for readers to help fund a new charity that will promote children's rights throughout Europe. The cut out form instructs readers ( and there are a lot because the Sun's huge circulation dwarfs that of all other UK papers) to send their checks directly to Emma Nicholson's House of Lord's address. Lady Nicholson promises in the article to create a militant charity which will do for all of Europe what she did for Romania. To well-intentioned contributors these words have an inspiring ring but readers of this blog know what her pledge really means: Lady Nicholson will use any money she receives as fuel in her campaign to end all Intercountry Adoption in Europe. Her goal is a world where unparented children have an ever greater chance of growing up without a permanent, loving family of their own. How tragic it is that Lady Nicholson is able to hide her own truth so well. For more information see Newscap, February 6, 2006.

February 9, 2006. Michigan's Office of Children's Ombudsman (OCO) Recommends Greater Access to Second-Parent Adoptions. The office of Children's Ombudsman is an independent Michigan agency whose job is to ensure the well-being of children who are under state supervision, either in foster care or under court supervision. In 2003 the OCO urged that Michigan's adoption statute be amended to "permit adoption of a child by two adults who are not married if the court determines it is in the child's best interest." The OCO reasoned that such a change would benefit children by giving them access to health benefits through both parents and would create greater security for adopted children. And with over 20,000 children in Michigan's foster care system, expanding the universe of adoptive families to include Gay and Lesbian families who would after appropriate legislation have the same legal status as heterosexual families is clearly in the best interests of children living in Michigan. More information.

February 8, 2006, Ukraine Suspends Intercountry Adoption from United States until American Adoptive Parents Improve Their Compliance with Requirements for Post-Placement Reports. The Ukranian Government requires that adoptive parents provide post-placement reports annually for the first three years after adoption and then every three years until the adoptive child reaches 18. American parents who adopt in Ukraine make the commitment to provide these reports as part of their adoption proceedings. Yet according to Ukranian officials, they have not received post-placement reports for around 900 out of the approximately 5,760 children adopted by U.S. parents between 1996 and 2004. Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Maura Harty, believes that Ukraine will probably continue to reject virtually all new adoption dossiers from U.S. applicants until this backlog is significantly decreased. American adoptive parents must realize that their failure to comply with Ukranian requirements jeopardizes the chances of unparented Ukranian children to find permanent loving families of their own. For more information see JCICS: (703) 535-8045 or jcics@jcics.org.

February 7, 2006 For the Children. Strangers and relatives of Quachaun Browne, the four year old boy who was murdered by his mother's boyfriend ten days ago, filled the McKeon funeral home in the Bronx, New York. "I needed to come - for the children," said Diane Maloney, a neighbor of Quachaun, who had brought her niece and nephew to pay their respects. Yes, we should remember Quachaun. But let his memory live in our determination that no child suffer what he suffered. The best way to make this hope a reality is for everyone in the child care field to remember that the ONLY guide in child welfare should be what is in the best interests of the child. Every child deserves a permanent loving family of his or her own. If that family is the birth family, fair enough. But if the birth parents cannot take care of their child, other options must be utilized. We must reject the current climate that allows ideology to trump actuality-whether in New York City where an unbending attachment to birth parents has blinded social workers to the reality of birth parent abuse or in Romania-where the unending rejection of Intercountry Adoption by European Union ideologues has sentenced tens of thousand of children to life without permanent families. More information.

February 6, 2006, J.K. Rowling Tries to Help But Intercountry Adoption Remains Taboo.

J.K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame, spent several days last week in Romania and the Czech Republic, as part of the Children's High Level Group delegation. This committee, guided by Lady Emma Nicholson, has as its laudable goal, the alleviation of the plight of unparented children. Group members are willing to consider any solution except one, Intercountry Adoption. Why this taboo? J.K. Rowling explains in an article she wrote for the London Sunday Times:

    When young children are cut adrift from their biological mothers they are much more vulnerable to an existence barely worth living. The UN estimates that the number of children trafficked annually, internally and externally, is around 1.2m. Some of these rootless children may be adopted, but others are sold into prostitution or domestic labor.

    Romania's response to this danger was to declare a moratorium on inter-country adoptions in 2001, a ban that the government is under almost daily pressure to reverse from powerful pro-adoption lobbies abroad. The latter insist that institutionalized children need the families they are offering. The Romanian government says it is not prepared to pay the price of children ending up in the hands of traffickers. It is an issue around which tempers flare like grenades.

But it is Ms. Rowling who insists that unparented children need families. She ends her article with these words: "Abandoned, neglected, caged or trafficked, these children were intended by nature to be protected by their parents. Now it is somebody else's job - partly, mine. " Proponents of ICA fully share Ms. Rowling's belief that unparented children need care and protection. Unlike Lady Nicholson and her allies however, we know that neither institutional care, whatever its quality, nor the intercession of outside visitors, however well-intentioned, can ever be as good as providing every child with a loving, permanent family of his or her own.

We also realize, as Ms. Rowling apparently does not, that the children most vulnerable to trafficking are not those who are or will be adopted but children who are institutionalized or left to fend for themselves on the streets. Britain's own Channel Four, in a path-breaking expose that was also shown on CNN, documented the trafficking of children from Romania. None of these children had been adopted. They were either offered to traffickers by their biological parents, or more commonly, were living on the streets. We urge Ms. Rowling not to accept Lady Nicholson's blinkered views but to examine the facts. In this same article, Ms. Rowling describes her sadness at leaving her own children to go to Eastern Europe. Our belief is that all unparented children deserve that same love, whether from biological or adopted parents. More information.

February 3, 2006. The Conference Rolls On. The Conference Rolls On. The head of the European Commission Delegation in Romania Jonathan Scheele, speaking at the International Conference on Child Rights, held in Bucharest and designed to stifle any dissent against Romania's European Union imposed ban on Intercountry Adoption, lauded Romanian authorities for their so-called progress. Scheele said: "Romania has proved in a very short period that through political commitment, professionalism and responsibility, a very serious problem affecting human rights can be transformed into a success story. Romania's current laws totally comply with the UN Convention on Human Rights and Romania now has all the experts needed to apply the laws properly. I hope other countries will follow Romania's example." Among other things Scheele's statement is wrong on the facts. Intercountry Adoption is governed by the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption which, on adoption questions, supersedes the UNCRC. The Hague Convention, together with the UNCRC not only accepts Intercountry Adoption but expects it as one of a number of appropriate ways to find permanent loving homes for unparented children. Unfortunately certain EU officials do not want to follow applicable laws when they violate their personal prejudices. More information.

February 2, 2006. International Conference in Romania Ignores Welfare of Children Once Again. The International Conference on Child Rights, organized by allies of Lady Emma Nicholson, the leading foe of Intercountry Adoption, which is currently being held in Bucharest, is betraying the unparented children it purports to protect. Lady Nicholson, who was grievously offended by an article in the Bucharest which favorably detailed stories of adoptive parents of Romanian children, has demanded equal space in the newspaper to slander her usual foes, those of us who believe that every child deserves a permanent, loving family of his or her own.. Nicholson is using the conference to back her unbending obsession that Romania should never in any way alter its virtual total abolition of Intercountry Adoption, notwithstanding the tens of thousands of abandoned children in Romania. But she took time away from the conference proceedings to tell the Bucharest reporter that proponents of Intercountry Adoption that "countries in transition that provide a market for international adoption would better serve the interests of their children by developing adequate community support." When asked why some European Parliament members support Intercountry Adoption, Nicholson said that "There are only 727 MEPs and over 4,700 lobby companies. Some MEPs might simply be subjected to pressures from the lobby companies." In other words, those who support Intercountry Adoption are black-market traffickers solely motivated by the lure of illegal profits. Never one to let facts stand in her way, Nicholson refuses to recognize that traffickers find their easy prey among those unfortunate children who are sentenced to a life of institutional care or a life on the streets. Parented children, either by birth parents or by adoptive parents, are the ones who have people to protect them from the very traffickers Nicholson purports to loathe. For More information: More information.

February 1, 2006. Attention Must Be Paid. Sunday night, January 29, 2006 was the last day of four year old Quachaun Browne. His mother's 18 year old boyfriend stands charged with Quachaun's murder, following what authorities maintain was a weekend of abuse and terror. Quachaun's mother stood by while her son was tortured and killed. She is charged with second degree manslaughter. Now New York City officials have disclosed that child welfare authorities had received six complaints about the family since October 2004 and that social workers had been inside the very apartment where Quachaun died four times in the last two months. Yet not one of the caseworkers involved intervened to protect this vulnerable child. What is needed is not just the usual hand wringing and scapegoating. What the child welfare system in New York needs is a completely new mindset, which puts the interests of children first and foremost, along with the budgetary resources to carry it out. For more information see NY Times.

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