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March 2007

March 29, 2007. Another Point of View of Intercountry Adoption from Guatemala. Focus on Adoption, an NGO with extensive experience working in Guatemala, has prepared a lengthy rebuttal to the State Department's recent updates cautioning about ICA from Guatemala. FOA's perspective is much more optimistic than that of the State Department and should provide comfort to parents currently adopting from Guatemala. FOA's policy paper can be accessed at http://www.focusonadoption.com/.

March 28, 2007. ICA Quota from Ukraine Set. On February 24, 2007 Ukraine's State Department for Adoption and Protection of the Rights of the Child (SDAPRC) released its Decree #16. This document gives approval of the maximum number of ICA dossiers which SDAPRC will allocate among various countries during 2007. This calculation is made using a complex formula devised by SDAPRC. The largest quota is for dossiers from the U.S. which is set at 558. By comparison, U.S. citizens adopted 821 children from Ukraine in FY 2005 (the last full year of ICA from Ukraine) and 1,106 children in FY 2002. More Information.

March 27, 2007. China Rethinks Orphan Names. Chinese officials have been following the practice of giving children living in orphanages made up surnames. These names have ranged from party political choices such as "Dang" meaning "party," and "Guo" meaning "state" or in some areas, taking a syllable from the district in which the child was found, such as "You" from Youxian County (Hunan) or "Ning" from Ningdu County (Jiangxi). For children adopted abroad, these choices had little practical ramification because they receive the surname of their adoptive parents. However, for children remaining in China, these unusual surnames mean a lifetime of being labeled as growing up in an orphanage. For that reason several areas in China are dropping this practice and returning to more traditional surnames. More Information.

March 26, 2007. Fee Increases Proposed by USCIS. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service has proposed various fee increases that will affect the Intercountry Adoption community. As currently scheduled to go into effect in June 2007 fees will rise on various necessary filings such as the I-600/600A Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative which will rise from $545 to $670 and the charge for fingerprinting which will go up from $70 to $80 for each parent's fingerprints. More Information.

March 23, 2007. Gender and Adoption. The nature of Intercountry Adoption has been shaped in significant measure by the gender preferences of parents. Most notably, the preference in China for having at least one son led to the large scale abandonment of girls and the consequent availability of girls for Intercountry Adoption. However, most potential adoptive parents interested in Intercountry Adoption express a preference for girls. This disparity is partly explained by self-selection-parents with biological sons are choosing to adopt a girl. Another contributory factor is the perception on the part of potential adoptive parents that girls are easier to parent, particularly if they have previously been in institutional settings.

March 22, 2007. Forthcoming Changes in Ukrainian Adoption Law. Ukraine's Parliament has passed a bill amending Ukraine's adoption law. The new measures forbid single foreigner parents to adopt children and also require that the maximum age difference between the adoptive parents and the adoptive child not exceed 45 years. We regret that yet another country is closed to single adoptive parents. More Information.

March 21, 2007. More on Guatemala. Guatadopt, a leading source of information on adoption from Guatemala has posted the following notice on its website: " To prospective parents considering adoption from Guatemala. After much thought and review, we feel it is important that parents think twice about entering the process. Prospective parents should expect considerable delays, increased scrutiny and strict interpretation of the orphan classification. Whether you agree with the recent DOS announcement or not, they are still in the position to determine Visa Issuance to the United States. Pursuing an adoption at this time may be risky and your agency will not be able to estimate realistic timelines. This warning will remain in effect until the process moves to a Hague compliant system and the current issues/concerns have been adequately addressed." More Information.

March 20, 2007. Adoption Law and Inheritance. In 1991 Olive Watson, then 43, adopted her partner, Patricia Spado, 44, under Maine law. Their intent was to establish a legal relationship. After 14 years together, the women parted from each other. Now Patricia Spado is claiming a share of the fortune left by Olive 's grandfather Thomas Watson, founder of IBM on the grounds that Olive Watson's adoption of Spado makes Spado the tycoon's nineteenth grandchild. American law does not necessarily require an adoptive parent to prove parental intent in order to adopt. Nor does U.S. law forbid a younger person to adopt an older person. More Information.

March 16, 2007. Angelina Jolie Adopts Son From Vietnam. Actress Angelina Jolie has adopted a three year old son from Vietnam who will be called Pax. He joins Jolie's children Maddox (adopted from Cambodia), Zahara (adopted from Ethiopia) and birth daughter Shiloh. Jolie adopted Pax as a single parent; Vietnam does not allow unmarried couples to adopt. More Information.

March 15, 2007. State Department Advises Potential U.S. Adoptive Parents Not to Adopt From Guatemala. The State Department yesterday issued an advisory listing frequently asked questions pertaining to Intercountry Adoption from Guatemala. Most importantly, State Department officials advised that "we cannot recommend adoption from Guatemala at this time." Their advisory enumerates the following concerns: conflicts of interest, lack of governmental oversight, unregulated foster care and the impact of the forthcoming U.S. ratification of the Hague Convention. Moreover, U.S. officials maintain that "we cannot say that the system of adoption currently in effect in Guatemala provides any assurances that a child adopted from Guatemala will have been properly relinquished by its birth parents or that the adoption proceeding fulfills the requirements necessary to obtain a U,S. orphan visa. We welcome the State Department's advisory and hope that all U.S. adoption agencies will proceed accordingly. More Information.

March 14, 2007. Colorado House of Representatives Committee Backs Same-Sex Adoption Bill. The Colorado House of Representatives Committee on Health and Human Services approved a bill allowing second-parent adoptions and sent it to the full House this week. The proposed law would allow same-sex couples as well as unmarried heterosexual couples who are living together to adopt a child. Colorado's law now allows Gays and Lesbians to adopt alone but not as couples. If this bill becomes law, Colorado will become the fourth state to allow such adoptions. More Information.

March 13, 2007. President Bush's Remarks About ICA from Guatemala. During a joint press conference held yesterday, President George Bush had this to say about the United States, Guatemala and Intercountry Adoption: "We also talked about adoption. I don't know if my fellow citizens understand this, but there are a lot of U.S. families who adopt babies from Guatemala, thousands of babies. This year it is very important for the United States and Guatemala to implement the Hague Convention on adoptions to help protect children and families during the adoption process. We found common ground on that issue. And I appreciate your strong stand, Mr. President, and I assured the President we would follow through, ourselves." We salute President Bush for raising the issue of ICA with Guatemalan President Oscar Berger. More Information.

March 12, 2007. Nepal's Government Admits Orphanages Involved in Illegal Child Trafficking. Urmila Aryal, Nepal's minister for social welfare, substantiating the work of British investigative journalists, stated that corrupt practices on the part of orphanage officials and others taint many Intercountry Adoptions from Nepal. These practices include placing for adoption children whose birth parents have not given proper consents and charging potential adoptive parents over $15,000 in illegal bribes and payments. Americans adopted 200 children from Nepal in the last three years. These revelations again underscore the need for transparent, accountable practices on the part of all members of the adoption triad. More Information.

March 9, 2007. Adoption by U.S. Citizens from Countries Governed by Islamic Shari'a Law. Many Americans have contacted the State Department to find out if it is possible to adopt an orphan from an Islamic observant nation. While domestic law varies from country to country, as a general rule Islamic Shari'a family law does not recognize adoption as that concept is understood in American law. For that reason an American who adopts a child in such a country may not be able to obtain an orphan visa for that child. However, some Islamic-law societies do recognize guardianship as a transfer of custody and under certain circumstances, U.S. citizens with legal custody and guardianship of a child may be able to obtain an orphan visa for that child which will allow them to bring the child into the United States. More Information.

March 8, 2007. State of Utah Is Closing Down Adoption Agency. Utah's Department of Human Services is moving to revoke the license of the Focus on Children-Utah adoption agency. U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman announced a federal indictment against the agency which is accused of tricking Samoan families into giving up their birth children and lying to U.S. adoptive families about the parental status of the adoptive children the agency was placing. The scheme apparently involved 80 children. Given that Americans only adopted 101 children from Samoa during the last five years, apparently 80 percent of these placements were fraudulent. More Information.

March 7, 2007. Guatemalan Adoption Attorneys Embrace the Hague Convention. Guatelmalan adoption attorneys met this week with Ignacio Goicoechea, the Latin American liaison for the Hague Conference of International Private Law to discuss the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. This was the first time that representatives from the Hague Conference have met with private adoption attorneys in Guatemala. Susana Luaraca, a leading member of the Asociacion Defensnes de la Adopcion, who was present at the meeting, stated that, "The announcement of the United States that adoptions will no longer be possible if Guatemala has not implemented such convention has brought us to the table of negotiations and to see the Hague Convention under a different light. We have changed our position and now we think that there could be adoptions after the Hague Convention." The Center for Adoption Policy is delighted to learn that the ADA is taking such a positive view of the Hague Convention; this treaty is not a death knell for ICA but constitutes the only way to preserve ICA as an option for Guatemela's unparented children. More Information.

March 6, 2007. Chinese Referrals Arrive. U.S. adoption agencies have forwarded to their clients referrals of non-special needs children from China. The Chinese Center of Adoption Affairs sent referrals for adoptive parents whose dossiers had been logged in with CCAA generally between October 13 and October 24, 2005. This schedule means that for this batch of referrals, the time from LID to referral was seventeen months. If the CCAA holds to its current pattern of taking two to three calendar months to process one month of logged-in dossiers, referral times will necessarily keep increasing.

March 5, 2007. President Bush to Travel to Guatemala. As part of his Latin American tour, which begins on Thursday, President George Bush will travel to Guatemala. The president is hoping to pay some conspicuous attention to an area of the world that his administration has comparatively neglected. We hope that in his talks with Guatemalan officials, the President and his advisors will bring up the subject of Intercountry Adoption to the United States from Guatemala and the timetable for Guatemala's enactment of legislation that complies with the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. More Information.

March 2, 2007. Guatemala's Vice-President Announces Manual of Good Adoption Practices. On March 1, 2007 the Vice-President of Guatemala unveiled a "Manual of Good Adoption Practices." Attendees of the announcement ceremony of these protocols dealing with adoption included First Lady Wendy Berger, UNICEF officials and the U.S. ambassador, who received a copy of the Manual. According to the State Department, once implemented the manual's rules will "constitute important steps toward better protecting children and both biological and adoptive parents in the adoption process in Guatemala." Vice-President Stein also stated that the manual is a first step toward Guatemala's goal of enacting an adoption law that meets the requirements of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. Among other things, the manual apparently states that the Guatemalan courts, not private attorneys, will determine which children are eligible for adoption. While the vice-president indicated that the new procedures will be implemented gradually, the effect of these new rules on Guatemalan ICA cases now in process is not clear. We certainly hope that Guatemala's adoption manual will be as beneficial for ICA as the State Department has indicated. More Information.

March 1, 2007. Romanian Government Officials Forbid ICA But Contemplate Legalizing Prostitution. Romania is struggling with a huge and still increasing human trafficking problem. Since 2004 the government has forbidden virtually all Intercountry Adoption. Rather than admit that the ICA ban has done little to combat trafficking and much to encourage it, Interior Minster Vasile Blaga told a television interviewer this week that his government is weighing legalizing prostitution. Now that Romania has joined the EU and can serve as a conduit to the richer western members of the EU, human trafficking is ever more profitable. One of the solutions to diminishing prostitution, particularly for underage victims, must be to permit exploited children to find permanent, loving families of their own through ICA as well as by virtue of domestic adoption. More information.

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