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May 2006

May 31, 2006. Delays in Guatemala Adoption. Prospective adoptive parents hoping to adopt from Guatemala have been concerned about growing delays at the Guatemalan Solicitor General's office (PGN). All Intercountry Adoptions from Guatemala must be processed through the PGN. In the past this step takes between four and eight weeks; recently delays have been occurring as the PGN goes through what has been labeled "a period of transition." The best information is that there is now no typical timeline for PGN processing and there is little that a prospective adoptive parent can do about their adoption if it is delayed in the PGN office. More information.

May 30, 2006, Timeframe for Hague Ratification. With the regulations supporting the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption now in final form, a pertinent question is when will the United States finally ratify this treaty. The State Department, which will supervise American adoption activities pursuant to the Hague Convention is still predicting ratification in early 2007. Other observers estimate that ratification will occur in late 2007 or sometime in 2008. Before ratification can occur, an organization must be selected that will accredit adoption agencies seeking to arrange adoptions with other Hague countries. The Council on Accreditation is close to signing an agreement with the State Department which will allow the COA to be the main U.S. accrediting body. Once this agreement is signed, the COA will need to prepare applications and implement Hague accrediting procedures. Thereafter agencies will begin to apply for both temporary and permanent accreditation. Concurrently, the Hague Convention requires BCIS to prepare new procedures for the I-600 and I-600A visas. The new BCIS regulations need to be published in the Federal Register before they can become final. It remains unclear whether all these steps can be accomplished in time to make an early 2007 ratification possible. More information.

May 26, 2006. New Zealand MP Questions Ban on Gay and Lesbian Adoption. Calling current New Zealand adoption legislation a "serious human rights outrage," MP Metiria Turei (Green Party) wants new legislation to replace the 1955 Act still on the books. The statute in question does not permit same-sex couples to adopt. New Zealand is often influenced by what Australia does; New South Wales has now become the fourth Australian state to legalize same sex adoption. The New Zealand Labour Party has moved to redress much of the legal discrimination faced by Gays and Lesbians. However, while the existing adoption legislation is clearly antiquated, in the opinion of Canterbury University Professor of Law John Caldwell, conservative parties such as United Future and New Zealand First do not support Gay and Lesbian adoption. More Information.

May 25, 2006. Washington State Tries New Program for Children. In an attempt to stabilize the lives of foster children in Washington state, officials have begun a new program called "Concurrent Planning." The future of foster children is often unclear-they might be reunited with their birth parents, they could live in a permanent foster care situation or they might be adopted by a wholly new family. The goal of this program, which is getting support from courts and agencies, is to familiarize and prepare each foster child to be comfortable and ready with any one of these possible life-altering outcomes. At the same time, officials are trying to be cognizant of the rights of children, birth parents, foster parents and potential adoptive parents. More Information.

May 24, 2006. Russia Moving to Restrict International Adoption. In a move intended to curb the exposure of Russian unparented children to potentially abusive situations, Russia will permit Intercountry Adoption only through agencies officially accredited by the Russian government. Sergei Apatenko, head of the Education Ministry's youth department, has stated that the proposed legislation is intended to make it easier for Russians to adopt and to limit Intercountry Adoption. These changes are also designed to appease nationalist opposition to any ICA. However, Svetlana Goryacheva, a deputy from the State Duma lower house of parliament and a leading opponent of ICA stated: "There is fierce competition between accredited and non-accredited agencies ... [but] ...the only difference between them is that one has accreditation and the other does not..." According to Goryacheva, accredited agencies are equally to blame for the twelve Russian adopted children who have been died at the hands of their non-Russian adoptive parents. More Information.

May 23, 2006. Referral Times Lengthen For Chinese Adoption. As recently as 18 months ago, referral times for U.S. parents seeking to adopt non-special needs children from China had decreased to about six months from the date the documents were logged in with the China Center of Adoption Affairs. But in the past year, the referral times have increased to where now they are about 11 months from the log in date. The CCAA's explanation of this change is as follows: "CCAA highly emphasizes on efficiency, effectiveness and quality, we have put unremitting effort to achieve this. But the length of processing time after adoptive family apply for their application is correlated with the number of inter-country adopting families and the number with the adopting children waiting to be adopted. If the number of adoptive families is higher than the number of children to be adopted, the waiting period will be extended, on the other hand, if the number of children waiting for adoption out numbers the number of adoptive families, then the waiting period will be shortened. Therefore, the waiting period for adoptive families will vary according to this and not due to inefficiency or other controlling factors." Interested people are encouraged to check the CCAA website.

May 22, 2006. Our Response to the New York Times. On May 14 the New York Times ran an editorial on the plight unparented children in Romania. This is the letter CAP sent in response:

    We at the Center for Adoption Policy salute your editorial, "Romania's Orphanages, Continued (May 14, 2006)." We share your dismay at the institutionalization and continued mistreatment of Romania's unparented children. However, when you assert that "Romania should have been taking children out of institutions and placing them with adoptive or foster families..." you ignore the fundamental issue facing Romanian unparented children: the draconian 2005 adoption law that forbids Intercountry Adoption. European Union officials blackmailed Romania into ending Intercountry Adoption although there are insufficient Romanian domestic adoptive families for Romania's unparented children. Until Romania is permitted by European Union decision-makers to change its adoption law, the suffering of Romanian children will continued unabated.

May 16, 2006. Final Decision on Romania's EU Application Postponed - Bad News For Romania's Unparented Children. The President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, has just informed European Union Members of Parliament because neither Romania and Bulgaria has met the requirements for EU membership, he is postponing until October the final decision as to whether either or both countries will join the EU as scheduled in January 2007. We are deeply disappointed with Mr. Barroso's decision. Because EU representatives have convinced the Romanian government that the EU wants Romania to ban all Intercountry Adoption, no Romanian official will dare lift or modify the ban on ICA now. Any change of Romanian adoption laws will have to come from the European Union. More Information.

May 15, 2006. Romanian Government Responds. In response to the report filed by Mental Disability Rights International showing the dreadful conditions under which Romanian unparented children live, Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu has ordered the creation of an investigatory committee to assess the veracity of the MDRI report. The High Level Group for Romania's Children, including representatives of the National Authority for Children, the National Authority for People with Disabilities, the Ministry of Health, and non-governmental organizations will coordinate the committee's work. In the meantime both the head of the National Authority for the Protection of Child Rights, Bogdan Panait, and the head of the Romanian Adoption Office, Theodora Bertzi claimed that the information in the report is no longer accurate. We salute the formation of this committee and hope that its report will be an honest and accurate one. More Information.

May 12, 2006. Exposing the Truth. The report by Mental Disability Rights International on the plight of Romanian unparented children continues to gather attention in media outlets around the world. But these excerpts are a sliver of the actual report. We urge those interested in the tragic treatment of these children to go to www.mdri.org to see the full report and accompanying pictures. To learn of teenagers weighing 30 pounds, to see Romanian children who look like famine victims, to read about nurses describe how healthy children were turned into disabled ones is to know that something horribly wrong is going on in Romania. This crime against humanity is happening right now and right now is when it should end.

May 11, 2006. Attention is Good, Action is Better. It is laudable that the report by Mental Disability Rights International detailing the mistreatment of Romanian unparented children in adult psychiatric hospitals and maternity hospitals has received coverage in so many media outlets, such as ABC News and the International Herald Tribune, in addition to the New York Times article we discussed yesterday. But knowledge is one thing, action something else. In the short run, the only people who can improve the lot of Romanian children are European Union officials and Members of Parliament. The Romanian government enacted its unworkable adoption law in direct response to European Union pressure. EU officials and EU Parliament Members must now let the Romanian government know that they want Romania to amend its adoption law, among other things, to allow Intercountry Adoption again and that such changes will not affect Romania's bid to join the EU. Then and only then will the situation of Romania's children improve.

May 10, 2006. The Suffering Continues. Investigators for Mental Disability Rights International have revealed shocking details of life for Romanian orphans. As The New York Times today reports, many of these children are hidden away in hospitals and psychiatric institutions. There they are woefully mistreated-tied to beds, ignored completely, left in wards around the clock with no freedom of movement whatsoever. We salute the attention paid to the plight of Romania's unparented children. Unfortunately, the article also stated that Romania had passed a law stopping Intercountry Adoption "in the hope of cutting down on child trafficking." We wish that the Times' reporter had not bought Lady Nicholson's party line. Lady Nicholson and her allies blackmailed Romania into ending ICA. Desperate to join the EU, the Romanian government acquiesced in this demand. If Lady Nicholson actually cared either about the welfare of children or about ending child trafficking, she would encourage ICA among other child welfare remedies. Tragically it is Romania's unparented children who are paying the price for Lady Nicholson's obsession. More Information.

May 9, 2006. The Importance of Post-Placement Reports. Many countries that permit Americans to adopt their children require post-placement reports. These reports vary as to timing and requirements but all are intended to provide reassurance to officials in sending countries that adoptive parents are taking good care of the children that they have adopted. We have been very troubled to read statements from adoptive families that they have chosen not to file the post-placement reports they promised to submit. The effect of deciding to break this promise is devastating for unparented children -- right now, for example, Ukraine has halted Intercountry Adoptions until it receives 900 missing post-placement reports. We urge all adoptive families to provide these reports in a timely fashion. More Information.

May 8, 2006. We Are Not Surprised. European Union officials, notably Lady Emma Nicholson, blackmailed Romanian authorities into authorizing an adoption law that is unworkable and unrealistic. It forbids basically all Intercountry Adoption and envisions domestic adoptions and foster care programs that do not exist. Now comes more evidence of the tragic result of laws envisioned by people who maintain that they are humanitarians but show no interest in individual children. According to Bogden Jansen, the director of the Romanian Caritas maternity hospital, the adoption law forces him to keep eighteen abandoned babies, aged between one and six months, locked up for fear of being stolen. Others familiar with the Romanian system say that several thousand babies and toddlers are in legal limbo, forced to live, as in the much derided past, in maternity hospitals ill-equipped to care for them. What these children need are permanent, loving homes of their home-nothing less. More Information.

May 5, 2006. Making a Difference? Now that the European Parliament's hearings on Romania and Intercountry Adoption are over, the question becomes, "what will come of it?" If the heart-rending testimony of parents who had hoped to adopt Romanian children, of adopted Romanian children describing what their time in Romanian orphanages was like, of various European Parliamentarians pronouncing their desire for Romania to end its ban on ICA, brings about a new or modified Romanian ICA statute, we will be pleased beyond belief. But if all the public statements produce sound and fury but no action, then the situation in Romania will echo with (in the New Republics's phrase when talking about the genocide in Darfur), the reverberation of "heartless bleeding hearts."

May 4, 2006. Tennessee Supreme Court Agrees to Take Adoption Case. Shaoquiang and Qin Luo He voluntarily put Anna Mae, their now six year old daughter, in foster care shortly after her birth. They have tried to regain custody of her since then but lower courts have given custody to Jerry and Louise Baker, the American couple who has raised her for the past six years. The He family maintains that Tennessee laws on custody and abandonment are confusing and that parents who chose to place their children in foster care have fewer legal rights under Tennessee law than the parents whose children are taken from them by state authorities. This case has drawn international attention and has been taken up by the Chinese embassy in Washington. More Information.

May 3, 2006. Moldova Reopens to Americans Seeking to Adopt. After being closed for a considerable time, Moldova has now reopened its Intercountry Adoption programs. The Moldavan National Committee for Adoption is now operational and it has accredited two American agencies that are members of the Joint Council on International Children's Services. These agencies are Children's House International and World Links Association. Any one seeking to adopt from Moldova must ensure that they are working with an agency that has been accredited in Moldova in 2006 by the Moldavan National Committee. More information.

May 2, 2006. Federal Judge Strikes Down Law Reducing Adoption Subsidies. A federal judge in St. Louis struck down a Missouri law, passed in 2005, that would have reduced subsidies in many adoption from foster care cases. Missouri had been giving subsidies of at least $225 per month to families adopting from foster care (already among the lowest such subsidies in the nation). The 2005 law would have limited subsidies to families whose income is less than $50,000/year for a family of four. District Judge Scott O. Wright gave little credence to the state's economy rationale, holding that establishing a means test for adoption subsidies ''will not save taxpayer money, but will increase the overall cost of child welfare in the State of Missouri.'' This case had been closely watched as other state legislatures have considered reducing or ending adoption subsidies. More information.

May 1, 2006. Why the U.S. Needs to Ratify the Hague Convention. There is no question that the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption provides the best framework available to ensure that Intercountry Adoption remains a viable alternative for unparented children around the globe. The Hague Convention provides safeguards for both sending and receiving nations in the ICA dyad. Moreover, American ratification of the Convention will ensure that the U.S. has standing to make its voice heard on questions concerning ICA. We recognize that American ratification and implementation of the Hague Convention, which is scheduled for January 1, 2007, will present many challenges for adoption professionals and the adoption community. However, we are convinced that American ratification will help unparented children to find permanent, loving families.

Center for Adoption Policy (CAP)
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