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February 2007

February 28, 2007. Will Guatemala's Protocol of Good Practices Be Announced Tomorrow? Information has reached us that First Lady of Guatemala Wendy Berger and Vice President Eduardo Stein will announce their Protocol of Good Adoption Practices tomorrow. Formal invitations to the unveiling of the document, scheduled for 10:45 am, have been issued. This "ceremony" was scheduled for mid-February and then was postponed until (apparently) tomorrow. The exact implications of the Protocol are not clear but we feel confident that any such document will have negative implications for Intercountry Adoption from Guatemala. More information.

February 27, 2006. What will the Hague Convention Govern? With all the conversation about the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, it is probably useful to clarify that the United States is on track to ratify the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption during the second half of 2007. Once we do ratify this treaty, the Hague Convention will govern Intercountry Adoption to and from the United States to other Hague countries. China, our chief sending country is a Hague country but Russia and South Korea are not. Guatemala is a Hague country with non-complying practices - a fact that has contributed to the serious uncertainty surrounding Guatemalan ICA. The Hague Convention will not govern ICA to the United States from non-Hague nations.

February 26, 2007. State Department Strongly Cautions on Guatemala ICA. In an advisory issued late last week, the State Department "strongly cautions American prospective adoptive parents contemplating pursuing adoptions in Guatemala to carefully consider their options at this time." Among other issues, the State Department points to the arrest of an adoption facilitator in the U.S. earlier this month, evidence that Guatemalan children have been smuggled into this country and the use of fraudulent documents by corrupt individiuals in order to illegally obtain orphan visas. Concurrently, the U.S. CIS field office in Guatemala has rejected adoption visa requests arising out of such fradulent practices as falsified DNA testing and impersonators pretending to be birth parents. The criminal investigations that have begun indicate that these allegations may comprise the worst scandal in recent ICA history. While the State Department "is not planning an immediate shutdown of adoptions at this time," we strongly urge all agencies involved in Guatemalan adoption to suspend any new applications for Guatemalan ICA. More Information.

February 15, 2007. Adoption Journey Blogs and Internet Postings. In the last few years adoption journey blogs and chat groups have proliferated. We understand the important role that the online community plays for members of the adoption community, both those who are involved with adoption in a professional capacity and parents forming their families by adoption. However, we urge everyone posting any message in any forum or on any site to remember that nothing you post will remain private. Virtually anyone can gain access to any site and any email can be forwarded without the permission of the sender.

February 14, 2007. Guatemala Adoption Imperiled? Information is reaching U.S. officials that Wendy Berger, the wife of Guatemalan President Oscar Berger, and Vice-President Eduardo Stein will introduce a Guatmalan adoption Code of Good Practices on Friday, February 16, 2007. While it is unclear what the legal effect of such an introduction would be, this Code, which is apparently approved by UNICEF, could hinder if not halt Intercountry Adoption from Guatemala. A Guatemalan lawyers group, the Association Defenders of Adoption, has vowed to oppose the Code and both the U.S. Department of State and JCICS are talking to Guatemalan officials. More Information.

February 13, 2007. Sociologists Find Adoptive Parents Do More For Children. In a path-breaking study published in the American Sociological Review, Laura Hamilton, Simon Cheng and Brian Powell conclude that adoptive parents are more engaged with their children than biological parents. Using the data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, the three writers show that contrary to the received wisdom that biological ties make for more committed parents, among other things, adoptive families are more likely to read and spend time with their children. More Information.

February 12, 2007. American Adoption Service Facilitator Working in Guatemala Arrested in U.S. The Office of Children's Issues of the State Department has announced that Mary Bridget Bonn has been arrested in Florida. According to the State Department's website, Ms. Bonn is accused of facilitating the illegal entry of Guatemalan children into the United States. The State Department will continue to post any legal or other updates concerning this case. This case reinforces the importance of researching the background of all members in the adoption triad. More Information.

February 9, 2007. Chinese Provincial Officials to Punish Strictly Families Who Violate Family Plannng Policy. Zheng Webiao, the head of the family planning commission in Zhejiang Province, announced that his agency intends to publicly "name and shame" rich families who have two and three children in violation of China's strict population control policy. From now on in this eastern Chinese province, fines for violators will rise to $130,000, in some cases. The Chinese government has made it a central goal to restrict Chinese population growth so that the population will be less than 1.36 billion in 2010 and less than 1.45 billion by 2020. Currently China's population is estimated at 1.3 billion people or 20 percent of the world's total. More Information.

Newscap, February 8, 2007. Romanian ICA Still Closed. As we sadly predicted, the accession of Romania to the European Union has not brought any change to the plight of unparented children in Romania. The Romanian government, now unconstrained by the fear of losing EU membership which for so long dominated politicians' thinking, has not taken any action to amend its draconian law forbidding virtually all Intercountry Adoption.

February 7, 2007. U.S. ICA in Guatemala on Hiatus from March 18 - 21, 2007. The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala will not schedule interviews for Intercountry Adoption visas between March 18-21, 2007. During that week, the Annual InterAmerican Development Bank Governors Assembly will be held in Guatemala. The State Department reports that over 2,800 people are registered to attend these meetings. The hotels American parents stay in are already fully booked for the week of March 15-21. Therefore, the U.S. embassy anticipates that final adoption cases that would normally be completed during the week of the Governors Assembly will be scheduled for visa appointments during the week of March 26-30, 2007. More Information.

February 6, 2007. Proposed CIS Fee Increases. The Citizenship and Immigration Services is proposing to raise fees relevant to Intercountry Adoption. As proposed, the I600 and I600A fee will rise from $545 to $670. By statute, the CIS is required to be self-supporting; officials maintain that these and other fee increases will be accompanied by improved service. More Information.

February 5, 2007. Minnesota Attorney General Investigating Complaints Against Adoption Agency. Jill Swanson, Minnesota's Attorney General, is investigating complaints against Reaching Arms International, a Minnesota based agency with Intercountry Adoption programs in Guatemala and Russia. According to one family, Tom Hilton, an agency board member, had told them that the "devil had a hold on them" and that was why they could not have biological children. Another woman stated that a so-called mandatory parenting session turned out to be a three-hour lecture on sin and Satan. The agency charged around $18,000 per family, wiping out the savings of applicant families in some cases and leaving them without an adoptive child. Ms. Swanson said she had never seen these kinds of complaints against an adoption agency, both because of the money the agency allegedly swindled and the nature of the pressure agency personnel put on families. More Information.

February 2, 2007. New Intercountry Adoption from Ukraine Apparently Proceeding. In 2006 Ukraine announced the creation of a new adoption authority, the State Department for Adoption and Protection of Rights of the Child (the "SDAPRC"). This new entity took over processing of Intercountry Adoptions and announced that new applications would be accepted, beginning in January 2007. Agencies are tentatively reopening their Ukrainian programs. At the same time the State Department and American agencies are urging all American families that have previously adopted from Ukraine to live up to the post-placement report (PPR) obligations. More Information.

February 1, 2007. Chinese Referrals Have Arrived. New referrals for adoptive parents whose dossiers were logged in with the Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs between September 27, 2005 and October 13, 2005 have arrived at U.S. agencies yesterday and today. These referrals came four weeks after the last batch. As is apparent, the wait between LID and referral was between 15 and 16 months for this group of parents. The next batch will probably not come until March because of the long Chinese New Year holiday.

January 31, 2007. World's Oldest Mother Admits Lying to Fertility Clinic. A 67 year old woman who became the world's oldest woman to give birth admitted that she lied to the California fertility clinic which provided her with IVF treatment. Carmela Bousada, a single woman from Cadiz, Spain, convinced the Pacific Fertility Center in Los Angeles that she was 55. Ms. Bousada, who gave birth to twin sons in December, chose the sperm and egg donors from a catalog. Her revelations have given rise to calls for greater regulation of U.S. infertility treatment centers. More Information.

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