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December 2007

December 20, 2007. State Department Repeats Warning Against Adopting From Guatemala. In a new communiqué, the State Department has warned U.S. families against beginning an Intercountry Adoption from Guatemala. The official words: "Fundamental changes in Guatemalan and U.S. adoption law will take effect over the next several months. These changes are likely to inject considerable uncertainty into the adoption process." Although Guatemala's Congress passed new adoption legislation last week, the government needs to create the mechanisms to implement the new law. Once the U.S. ratifies the Hague Convention, all adoption from Guatemala will cease until Guatemala's procedures meet Hague requirements. Moreover, the State Department asserts that: "Prospective adoptive parents face the real possibility that current, pending cases may be disrupted by legal investigations." More Information.

December 19, 2007. Chinese Foster Care Lauded. A British-based charity, Care for Children, has enlisted Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, star of Memoirs of a Geisha and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, to help raise awareness of its work organizing foster care in China. Founder Robert Glover arrived in Shanghai a decade ago. With British government funds and Chinese government support he and his colleagues have founded foster care programs throughout China. These programs are for both special needs and non-special needs children. Foster parents are paid a stipend by Care for Children so that, in Mr. Glover's words: "They don't make money, but they don't lose." We salute these efforts but point out that Intercountry Adoption also remains a viable and vital form of permanent, family formation for unparented children. More Information.

December 18, 2007. What U.S. Hague Ratification Means. There appears to be confusion in the adoption community over what Hague ratification will mean for the adoption community. Once the United States accedes to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, predicted for April 2008, the Hague treaty will cover all ICA to and from the United States and other countries that are governed by the Hague Convention. All ICA to and from Hague countries must meet Hague standards. The Hague convention will not cover adoption to and from the U.S. and nations that are not Hague nations. ICA will still be permitted to and from the U.S. and non-Hague nations under the pre-existing rules. Therefore, assuming the U.S. accession proceeds on schedule, in June 2008, Hague rules will govern U.S. adoption from China but not from Vietnam or Russia. However it will govern ICA to the U.S. from Guatemala because Guatemala did ratify the Hague Convention.

December 17, 2007. For Want of an Elevator. The New York Times reported last week that because the elevators in Bronx Family Court are such a disaster, many families miss their court appointments. In fact, warrants for parents who have supposedly missed their court date have been issued for people standing in line on the ground floor. The wait, snaking around the block, commonly extends over an hour, but can be longer. The public cannot use the stairs to reach the seventh or eighth floor of the building where the Family Court is located and are not permitted to use the elevator reserved for judges and court officers. To read of parents losing their opportunity to get a hearing because of the elevators is scandalous. More Information.

December 13, 2007. Guatemala's Congress Passes New Adoption Bill. Guatemala's legislature has passed Decreto 77-2007, which mandates a complete overhaul of Guatemala's Intercountry Adoption process. Outgoing President Oscar Berger is expected to sign the law into effect. At the last minute legislators added an amendment which allows both male and female singles to adopt. Various accounts have also stated that cases currently in process will be grandfathered under existing law. However we have been unable to verify the nature and extent of these exceptions. More Information.

December 12, 2007. Historic Day for Intercountry Adoption. Today Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, Maura Harty will deposit the U.S. instrument of ratification of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, formally known as the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, at the Hague in the Netherlands. Once this treaty goes into effect, scheduled for April 1 of next year, the Hague Convention will govern ICA to and from the United States and the more than 70 other nations that have ratified the Hague Convention. The Hague Convention on Adoption was initially approved by 66 nations on May 29, 1993. Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Intercountry Adoption Act in 2007. Today's deposit marks the one of the final steps in a very long process. More Information.

December 10, 2007. British Government Suspends ICA from Guatemala. On December 6 the British of Department for Children, Families and Schools suspended Intercountry Adoption From Guatemala. According to Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children, Young People and Families (Mr. Kevin Brennan), this decision came "in response to new evidence which demonstrates that "there are insufficient safeguards in the Guatemalan adoption system to prevent children being adopted without proper consents being given and improper financial gain being made by individuals in the adoption process. In particular that: there is a trade in babies being sold for overseas adoption; and mothers are being paid, or otherwise encouraged, to give up children for adoption." Application by British potential adoptive parents already in process in Guatemala will be permitted to continue; applications in process but still in the UK will only be allowed to go forward in exceptional circumstances. More Information.

December 5, 2007. A Ray of Good News. We are pleased to report that Russia has granted accreditation to four U.S. adoption agencies: Alliance for Children, Happy Families International Center, Life Adoption Service and Wide Horizons for Children. Given the various delays in Russian accreditation of foreign adoption agencies, and the decline in Intercountry Adoption from Russia, this is good news indeed.

December 4, 2007. Age Restrictions for China Adoptions. Under the guidelines adopted by the China Center for Adoption Affairs which went into effect on May 1, 2007, both parents must be under 50 for the Non-Special Needs program and under 55 for the Waiting Child program. These rules means that for NSN, both parents must be 49 or under on their Logged In Date while for the Waiting Child program, both parents must be 54 or under. The latter set of restrictions is particularly limiting for older children adoption. Under Chinese law children under the age of 14 may be adopted.

December 3, 2007. State Department Unofficial Visa Numbers for 2007 Available. Many sources are printing the totals for intercountry adoption visas for fiscal year 2007. As expected the overall number of intercountry adoptions has dropped; the final total is 19,292 from 20,679 in FY 2006. The number of children adopted from China, at 5,453, is down by 1,000 from the year before and is at its lowest level since 2001. Moreover the China number does not tell the whole story: an increasingly large percentage of adoptions from China are now Waiting Children or special needs adoptions. This marks a transformation from the earlier nature of the program. Adoptions from Guatemala rose from 4,135 to 4,728 but given the problematic legal and diplomatic situation in Guatemala, at best the Guatemala program will shrink dramatically next year. Russia, at 2,310, declined from 3,706 in FY 2006 and is at its lowest level since 1995. To say that Intercountry Adoption is in crisis is no exaggeration. The official State Department statistics will be available at http://www.travel.state.gov/family/adoption/stats/stats_451.html.

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