Center for Adoption Policy
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November 2006

November 30, 2006. NGOs Will Be Able to Challenge Intercountry Adoption by Madonna. Judge Andrew Nyirenda has ruled that the 67 NGO consortium will be regarded as "friends of the court" and can continue its attempt to mount a full scale attack on Madonna's adoption of 14 month old David. Putting a postive spin on the ruling Madonna's lawyer Alan Chinula told reporters that he hoped that the court case will become a "guiding case for future adoptions. It will help fill in the gaps in the law on adoption." At the same time David's birth father, Yohane Banda said that whatever happened in court, David should not be removed from Madonna's care. We too hope that the outcome of any judicial or legislative proceedings in Malawi will leave David with his adoptive family and that it will also lead to a greater number of intercountry adoptions from Malawi. More Information.

November 29, 2006. Virginia Court Affirms Parental Rights Granted in Vermont. A three judge panel in Virginia unanimously ruled that a Vermont Supreme Court ruling that had recognized the parental rights of two women who had become parents while joined in a Vermont civil union was binding on the biological mother who now challenged its validity. The Virginia appellate court, in upholding the Vermont decision, based its ruling on a 1980 federal law, the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, which requires states to uphold custody decisions made by courts in other states. Because the biological mother had filed her petition of dissolution of union in Vermont, the Virginia court ruled that the Vermont court was still in charge of all questions of custody and visitation. As Judge Willis wrote, "the only question before us is whether under the 1980 law Virginia can deny full faith and credit to the orders of the Vermont court. This decision is a victory for families everywhere. More Information.

November 28, 2006. South Africa Permits Gay Marriage. South Africa's Parliament has voted to approve same-sex marriage. This stance is very unusual in Africa where homosexuality largely remains a taboo. The proposed legislation will change the definition of what marriage is to the "voluntary union of two persons, which is solemnized and registered by either a marriage or civil union." Parliament's action followed the 2005 ruling by South Africa's Constitutional Court that mandated government legalization of same-sex marriage by December 1, 2006. The Court's ruling, in turn, was based on South Africa's constitution which, alone of any constitution in the world, bars discrimination on the basis of sexual preference. More Information.

November 27, 2006. Adoption History-A Fascinating Field. The study of the history of adoption in the United States has greatly accelerated in recent years. We would like to draw attention to the Adoption History Project at the University of Oregon, headed by Ellen Herman. Professor Herman has compiled a fascinating set of online documents which will make compelling reading for anyone involved in adoption, either personally or professionally. Subjects such as home study, birth records, advice to adoptive parents are all illuminated by narrative description as well as by revealing document excerpts. More Information.

November 17, 2006. New York City's New Anti-Child Abuse System Appears to be a Success. In the wake of last year's tragic death of Nixzmary Brown (allegedly at the hands of her mother and her companion), New York City's child welfare authorities created new procedures to detect and remedy child abuse cases. The resulting improved coordination between schools and child welfare authorities, among other things, has led to a 37 percent increase in the number of reports of child abuse or neglect. Likening it to the "broken window" theory of crime prevention, Deputy Mayor Linda I. Gibbs said, "We want a system in place that produces a quick response to early signs that will prevent a situation from worsening". We congratulate New York City on responding to the Nixzmary tragedy so positively. More Information.

November 16, 2006. Missouri State University Settles Law Suit Growing Out of Gay Adoption Assignment. Missouri State University has settled a federal law suit brought by Emily Brooker, a student in its Masters of Social Work program. Brooker charged that a class assignment mandating that she draft and sign letters to the Missouri legislature supporting adoption by Gays and Lesbians violated her First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion. Adoption by Gays and Lesbians is currently permitted in Missouri but opponents have discussed drafting laws to make it illegal. Brooker maintained that completing the assignment violated her religious beliefs. In order to settle the case out of court, the university agreed to pay Brooker $9,000 in cash as well as pay two years of her academic tuition and fees and her living expenses for the same period. For More Information email adoptionnews@list.law.capital.edu.

November 15, 2006. Congressional Hearings on the Status of U.S. Ratification of Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. The House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations held hearings yesterday on the Hague Convention on International Adoptions: Status and the Framework for Implementation. Topics included the status of applications for Hague Temporary Accreditation, the role of the State Department as the U.S. Central Authority under the Hague and changes in orphan visa procedures to go into effect once the United States ratifies the Hague Convention. CSPAN-2 broadcast the hearings live and will no doubt rebroadcast them. The testimony given by Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS) President and CEO Tom DiFilipo, can be accessed at http://www.jcics.org.

November 13, 2006. What Will Mid-Term Elections Mean for Adoption? Now that the mid-term elections are over, we await the new Congress in January which will be controlled by the Democratic party. This shift means that the Congressional Committees and Sub-Committees that oversee questions pertaining to adoption, both domestic and international, will have new chairs. We eagerly await learning who these individuals will be and what their views on adoption related issues are.

November 10, 2006. Taiwan Makes Birth Record Available. Following a law enacted in 2003 which mandated that adoptees must have access to records from birth families, Taiwan has opened the Child and Juvenile Adoption Information Center. Adults adopted domestically or internationally are permitted to apply directly for birth family information; those under age 20 must have the written consent of their adoptive parents. This development is part of a trend allowing children whose families were formed through Intercountry Adoption to have access to birth family data. It illustrates an enormous change from the expectations previously held by many birth and adoptive parents. More information.

November 8, 2006. Arizona Rejects Ban on Gay Marriage. Arizona yesterday became the first state to reject a constitutional ban on Gay and Lesbian marriage. All too often, anti-Gay and Lesbian marriage amendments have become tools to ban foster care and adoption by Gay and Lesbian parents. We salute Arizona's electorate for taking this independent stance and welcome the advantages that this outcome will bring for Arizona's unparented children.

November 7, 2006. Errors in New York Times Article on Guatemala. The New York Times ran a front page article on Intercountry Adoption from Guatemala this past Sunday. We regret to say that the article contained serious factual errors. Most importantly the statement that Guatemala's constitutional court ruled in 2006 that the country must abide by the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption is diametrically false. Actually in 2003 the Constitutional Court ruled that then President Oscar Portillo's accession to the treaty violated Guatemala's constitution. This year the Court ruled that current President Oscar Berger could not be forced to formally withdraw from the Hague Convention. For More Information see www.Guatadopt.com.

November 6, 2006. The "Madonna Effect": British Focus on Adoption Continues. According to a poll commissioned by a British television network, the vast majority of British adults questioned believed that overseas adoption by British potential parents was easier than British domestic adoption and well over half of those polled thought that more British people adopted children through ICA than from Britain. Both these views are completely wrong. The number of children adopted internationally from Britain is very limited - it is less than one-tenth the number in France or Spain. British adoptive parents, both those who adopt domestically and those who adopt internationally, are agreed that the British adoption system creates extremely discouraging hurdles for anyone who wants to adopt. As Steven Whitehead from Oasis, an organization that supports ICA put it, "The reason many people think domestic adoption is hard is because far too often the process of preparing and assessing potential parents is too long, bureaucratic, inefficient and fraught with personal prejudice and political correctness. People view the efficiencies of other countries' systems and compare them unfavourably to the processes and procedures here." More Information.

November 3, 2006. National Adoption Month. November is National Adoption Month, as proclaimed each year by the president. November 18 is particularly designated as National Adoption Day-a day which will see many adoptions from foster care finalized. We salute these efforts to honor families created by adoption. We can think of no better tribute, however, than to work to make adoption, whether domestic or intercountry, transparent, safe and available as an honored way of giving every child a permanent, loving family of his or her own.

November 2, 2006. Incremental Adoption Costs under the Hague - Are They Really Too High? The Wall Street Journal article of November 2 entitled "Rules are Set to Change on Intercountry Adoptions", raises the possibility that U.S. ratification of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption will increase the cost of ICA for American families. Using the quoted American ICA statistics for 2005, and estimating the number of adoption providers at 400, implies an average placement of 57 children per provider. If each of those providers passed on their Hague accreditation costs ($7-13,000) every four years, the additional Hague-related expenses would amount to less than $60 per child in incremental costs-a very small number in comparison to the benefits of transparency and monitoring. In actuality, placement is more skewed; large agencies place several hundred children per year, and small agencies correspondingly fewer. Smaller agencies may cooperate with larger ones in a supervised provider relationship, sharing the burden of working one on one with families, while ensuring HCIA compliance. Everybody wins, especially the children who are more likely to find homes in a system that is purged of opportunities for deception and illegal profit. More Information.

November 1, 2006. What Unparented Children Need. In the wake of the Madonna controversy, John C. Smith, Chief Executive of "Friends of the Orphans" writing to the New York Times stated that supporting orphanages in the birth country of unparented children "will offer a better way to ensure that the children grow and develop into healthy, contributing adults" than adoption. While we support any program that improves the life of children in institutionalized care, we maintain that no institution can ever replace a permanent loving family for a child. More Information. (The TV Watch, Oct. 26)

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