January 31, 2008. State Department Announces Accreditation Notification Date. The Department of State today announced that February 29, 2008 will be the Uniform Notification Date for applicants (ASPs) who wish to provide adoption services for Hague Convention adoptions. On that date ASPs who have applied to be either approved or accredited by the Council on Accreditation or Colorado's Human Services Department will receive notification as to whether they have been granted approval, denied or given pending status. After April 1, 2008, when the Hague goes into effect in the U.S., only approved, temporarily accredited or accredited ASPs may provide Hague adoption services. A list of accredited, temporarily accredited, and approved providers will be posted on the Department of State website, www.Travel.State.Gov, in the Children and Families/ICA section. It will be updated on a rolling basis.
January 30, 2008. State Department Update Concerning In-Process Guatemala Adoptions. The State Department has laid out procedures for Potential Adoptive Parents from Guatemala who had begun notarial adoption cases prior to December 31, 2007. The new Guatemalan adoption law apparently permits grandfathering of these cases provided they were registered with the National Adoption Council (CNA) before January 31, 2008. Each case needs to be registered with the CNA unless the case has been approved by the PGN. As set forth in the State Department's notice, PAPs should confirm with their agency and their attorney that the Aviso registering their case has been filed with the CNA which will then send a Constancia confirming such registration. According to this advisory, filing the Aviso prior to February 12, 2008 should be sufficient even if the Constancia has not been received by that date. However, the U.S. government cautions that the CNA is still not fully established and that the definition of "registered case" can still change. PAPs should remain in close contact with their adoption service providers to ensure that they have met all present and future Guatemalan adoption requirements. More Information.
January 29, 2008. U.S. CIS Issues New Warnings on Guatemala. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has issued new warnings concerning Intercountry Adoption from Guatemala. CIS points out that the Guatemalan government, not the U.S. government, is in charge of adoption cases which were in process but not completed before December 31, 2007. In CIS's words: "It is the responsibility of the proper Guatemalan authority, and not USCIS, to determine how Article 56 and other provisions of the new Guatemalan law will be applied to a specific adoption case." (boldface in original). The CIS release also reiterates that in process families that wish to have their CIS documents processed under the I-600/I600A system must have filed with CIS prior to April 1, 2008 and must continue to keep their CIS documents up to date. Finally, CIS reminds potential adoptive parents that the situation in Guatemala will remain in flux after April 1, 2008, when the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption becomes effective in the U.S., and that the U.S. government might not be able to approve adoptions from Guatemala thereafter. More Information.
January 28, 2008. Department of State Issues New Warnings on Vietnam. The State Department has issued warnings to Prospective Adoptive Parents about beginning adoption processes in Vietnam. American adoption from Vietnam is governed by a Memorandum of Agreement negotiated between the American and Vietnamese governments in 2005; it is due to expire in September 2008. There is no certainty that the agreement will be renegotiated and if it lapses, adoptions from Vietnam will stop. As the State Department explains, "We do not know whether the Government of Vietnam will continue to process pending cases if the current Agreement expires before a new Agreement takes effect. Moreover, given concerns about the existing level of protection for children in Vietnam, it is unlikely that the Agreement can be renewed in its current form." The reference in the last sentence relates both to the State Department's concerns about corruption and Vietnam's failure to publish a fee schedule, as agreed to in the 2005 MOA. More Information.
January 24, 2008. Tragic Case Raises Questions About Parents' Right to Beat Their Children. Readers of this column will remember the horrid life and death of seven year old Nixzmary Brown, who died, allegedly at the hands of her stepfather and mother, in 2006. The defense attorney during the current trial of her stepfather is defending his client by pointing out the discipline styles vary and alleging that parents typically do not know what is too much force until it is too late. The defendant has admitted beating Nixzmary with a belt, using duct tape to force her into a chair for hours on end and "hitting her with all my force." However, all fifty states allow corporal punishment by parents; the American right to spank was repeatedly referred to in the successful battle to keep the United States from ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. More Information.
January 23, 2008. Dateline Showcases Adoption Stories. As part of its January 20 story on a corrupt baby broker in Guatemala, NBC's Dateline has showcased adoption stories sent in by American families. These accounts show the good and bad sides of Guatemalan adoption as practiced prior to this year. Clips from the actual show may be seen here and the adoption stories can be viewed here.
January 17, 2008. Protecting Families, One Case at a Time. NCLR (the National Center for Lesbian Rights) recently settled a case against the San Joaquin Community Hospital in California. When Donna and Sharolyn Jones brought their child to the emergency room, staff members refused to allow both mothers to be with their daughter and even stopped Sharolyn and Donna from trading places so that Donna could have a turn at their daughter's bedside. The hospital has now agreed to alter its non-discrimination policies and train its staff accordingly as well as to apologize to the family in question. More Information.
January 16, 2008. Biological Twins' Marriage Sparks Battle for Opening Adoption Records. Lord Alton, a member of the British House of Lords, during a debate on adoption records and related legislation, told his colleagues of a case in Britain where fraternal twins, separated at birth and adopted into different families, unwittingly married each other. Having been informed of this case by the High Court judge involved, Lord Alton used this sensationalistic story to demonstrate the need for adoptees to have full and complete access to their birth records. In his words, "The right for children to know the identity of their biological parents is a human right. There will be more cases like this if children are not given access to the truth. The needs of the child must always be paramount." Such disclosure rights are equally relevant to children conceived through donor sperm or donor egg procedures. More Information.
January 15, 2008. State Department Warns about Guatemala. The State Department has warned potential adoption service providers and potential adoptive parents not to begin new adoptions in Guatemala. The old adoption system in Guatemala has been superseded by new law intended to be Hague compliant but no one can predict when the new system will be functional. Moreover, after April 1, when the Hague goes into effect in the United States, the U.S. will not be permitted to process adoptions from Guatemala that do not meet the requirements of the Hague conventions. More Information.
January 14, 2008. CAP Alert. Today we begin a new column, CAP alert. Located under a button of the same name, this column will provide bulletins to the adoption and related communities of important events and changes as well as warning of time-sensitive developments.
January 10, 2008. Study Reveals High Price of Growing Up In an Orphanage. Dr. Charles H. Zeanah Jr. of Tulane and Dr. Charles A. Nelson III of Harvard and Children's Hospital in Boston have produced one of the first scientific studies contrasting the development of children raised in orphanages to children receiving foster care. They worked with 136 Romanian children who had been abandoned at birth. This longitudinal study revealed that children raised in orphanages had significant intellectual deficits compared to other children; that foster care improved children's abilities and finally that the earlier a child was placed in foster care, the better it was for the child. Equally importantly the study showed that children in foster care had significantly lower IQs than children raised in their biological families. Here we have empirical proof of what we have long known -- children need as well as deserve permanent loving families of their own. More Information.
January 9, 2008. Guatemala Announces Location of New Central Authority. The Guatemalan government today released the address of the new central adoption authority which was created by last year's Hague-compliant adoption authority. It is located at 32nd street, 9-34 zone, 11 Colonia Las Charcas, Guatemala City. It is welcome news to see that the Guatemalan government is making progress on the difficult task of revamping its adoption procedures. We do not have any information on registration procedures. More Information.
January 8, 2008. When Adoptions Fail. There are times that the promise of a permanent loving family through adoption does not come true. What happens next for children and their parents is always sad and often tragic. Among other problems, there is a significant lack of education and resources for adoptive parents and children whose relationship has failed. One successful option is Ranch for Kids, a therapeutic boarding school in Montana. Founded by Joyce Sterkel, herself the parent of children from adoption disruption, the ranch offers respite care to children who were adopted internationally but cannot live in their families. The children have histories of sexual and physical abuse and in turn have seriously acted out. For example Sterkel's son Sasha tried to poison his first adoptive mother. Now Sasha works with troubled children at the Ranch. Treatment costs around $3,000 and the typical stay is six months. One-third of children return to their original adoptive family, one-third find new families and one-third go to job training. More Information.
January 7, 2008. Number of Chinese NSN Referrals Shrinks Again. The most recent referrals sent by the Chinese Center of Adoption Affairs and received by U.S. agencies on New Year's weekend, was one of the smallest batches yet. These referrals covered dossiers that were logged in with CCAA from December 15 through December 19, 2005. Referrals therefore are now taking more than two years from the time of LID to the time families receive their referrals. Counting the time it takes on the front end to prepare the dossier and on the back end to receive the approval to travel from the CCAA as well as the U.S. consulate appointment as well as make travel arrangements and actually journey to China, families are now spending at least two and a half if not three years in process. More Information.
January 3, 2008. A Watershed Year. Without the passage of any time we know that 2007 was a crucial year in the history of Intercountry Adoption. During last year the United States ratified the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption and deposited it at the Hague, Netherlands. U.S. adoption agencies have applied for and received accreditation to work on Hague adoptions - those between the U.S. and other countries which have ratified the Hague Convention. The U.S. is therefore on track to become a fully participating member of the Hague Convention in April. We salute this progress; notwithstanding its flaws, U.S. participation in the Hague Convention is not optional if ICA is to remain an option for unparented children. But will it? Events which occurred in 2007 are not promising. ICA from both China and Russia are drastically down. The time from Logged In Date to referral for Non-Special Needs adoption from China is now in excess of two years; if current referral rates hold, families fling now for NSN adoptions will not see referrals until 2012, if they are lucky. Having reopened to ICA, Vietnam is now a country with question marks about its program and very few programs available to interested families. ICA from Guatemala (our second largest sending country in 2007) is closed to new families as Guatemala attempts to create and implement a Hague-approved system. Exactly how many of the estimated 5, 000 families in process in Guatemala will be grandfathered remains unclear. Ukraine has already announced that its U.S. quota for 2008 will be limited to 460 children of which only 32 can be individual children under six. Whether Ethiopian adoption programs will continue to experience the growth we saw last year is not clear. As a result, number of children adopted internationally into the U.S. will continue to decline in 2008 as it did in 2006 and 2007. It would be a tragic irony if the U.S. implemented the Hague Convention only to find that there no longer was any ICA to regulate.
Center for Adoption Policy (CAP)