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July 2008

July 17, 2008. Why Citizenship Should Always Be A Top Priority. U.S. citizens who adopt internationally and who have full and final adoptions of their children in the birth country are now usually accorded the benefit of having their children become citizens automatically when the children arrive in the United States. But the automatic citizenship provisions do not apply to children who don't have a full and final adoption, where only one parent has traveled or who were adopted before the citizenship law changed in 1998. Now a 15 year old girl, adopted in 1994 from Guatemala, is facing the real possibility of being deported. She does not have citizenship and her parents' efforts to obtain citizenship for her have been blocked by U.S.CIS which maintains that her adoption could be fraudulent. The adoption agency has gone out of business, making the struggle for evidence a very difficult one. More Information.

July 16, 2008. McCain Rethinks Comments on Gay and Lesbian Adoption. Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has clarified his remarks of published in last Sunday's New York Times apparently opposing Gay and Lesbian adoption. McCain is quoted as having said, "I think that we've proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no, I don't believe in gay adoption." After facing significant criticism, the McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds rephrased the Senator's position as follows: "Senator McCain's expressed his personal preference for children to be raised by a mother and a father wherever possible. He recognizes that there are many abandoned children who have yet to find homes. John McCain believes that in those situations that caring parental figures are better for the child than the alternative." More Information.

July 15, 2008. A Matter of Justice. Today Judith Leekin will be sentenced in federal court in Manhattan for systematically torturing the 11 children she adopted using four different aliases in New York City a decade ago. Leekin's spent the $1.68 million she received from the child welfare system on her own lavish lifestyle. Morever, Leekin physically abused and kept restrained the children she had adopted, all of whom had physical or mental challenges. She also denied these children, with whom she had moved to Florida, any chance at an education. Whatever sentence Leekin receives will not be long enough. More Information.

July 14, 2008. Vietnam Update. Two weeks ago, on July 1, the Vietnamese Department of International Adoption (DIA) stopped accepting new applications from U.S. parents seeking to adopt from Vietnam. Earlier in the spring, the DIA had announced the July 1 date for ending application acceptance and at the same time stated that the last referrals would be given on September 1, 2008, the date of the expiration of the Memorandum of Understanding between the U. S. and Vietnam which governs intercountry adoption from Vietnam to the U.S. While the July date has come to pass, the September deadline is still unconfirmed. We have heard rumors that the negotiations between the U.S. and Vietnam on a new MOU are continuing; according to some sources at a speedier clip than before. However, it appears that the uncertainty over the fate of in process ICA cases from Vietnam will continue right down to the expiration date of the current MOU.

July 10, 2008. HBO To Air Documentary on "China's Stolen Children" on July 14. Next Monday HBO will air a BBC documentary on Chinese children who have been trafficked. This movie focuses on children kidnapped or sold in China, who are adopted domestically or press-ganged into working in factories or sexually exploited. In 1996 the same filmmakers were responsible for the documentary entitled "The Dying Rooms," which shed light on then prevalent terrible conditions in Chinese orphanages but also contributed to a temporary closing of intercountry adoption from China. More Information.

July 9, 2008. CIS Names New Ombudsman. The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services has appointed a new ombudsman whose job it is to help individuals and employers encountering a problem with USCIS. What follows is the CIS announcement, together with contact information.

Thank you for contacting the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (CISOMB) in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). CISOMB is an independent office that assists individuals and employers in resolving problems with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The new CIS Ombudsman is Mr. Michael Dougherty. If you experience problems with a pending USCIS immigration benefit, please submit your case problem using Form DHS-7001, CIS Ombudsman Case Problem Submission. This form is attached to this message, and also available on this website: http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/cisomb_dhsform7001.pdf. If you submit a case problem on behalf of another individual with a pending USCIS immigration benefit, please obtain the individual's signature in Section 15: Consent on Form DHS-7001, CIS Ombudsman Case Problem Submission. Case problems cannot be submitted through facsimile or email at this time due to confidentiality and Privacy Act issues. Please mail your completed and signed form, with supporting documentation, to the following address:

Via Regular Mail: Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman Department of Homeland Security, Attention: Case Problems, Mail Stop 1225, Washington, D.C. 20528-1225

Via Courier Service: Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman Department of Homeland Security, Attention: Case Problems, 245 Murray Lane, Mail Stop 1225, Washington, D.C. 20528-1225

Please allow 14 business days for receipt of your form. You will receive confirmation through postal mail of receipt and review of your case problem from CISOMB and USCIS CAO within 45 business days. Please remember that CISOMB cannot provide immigration advice or adjudication. For further information, please consult this website: http://www.dhs.gov/cisombudsman.

July 8, 2008. Intercountry Adoption Programs from Bulgaria Reopen. U.S. adoption agencies are announcing the reopening of intercountry adoption programs from Bulgaria. In FY 2003 198 Bulgarian children were adopted into the U.S. The following year the number had dropped to 110 while by FY 2005 the number declined drastically to 29; in the last fiscal year only 20 children were adopted from Bulgaria. The politics of the European Union, in particular the anti-ICA obsession of Lady Emma Nicholson largely explains this decline. The unparented children of Bulgaria still suffer brutalized lives as Bulgarian institutions are among the worst in the world. Unfortunately, as the State Department points out in its recent circular, as a result of the EU driven structure of Bulgaria's adoption laws, "there are very few children on the waiting list, which means that the adoptive parents may wait many months and even years until the Ministry of Justice offers them a Bulgarian orphan for adoption." For this reason we urge prospective adoptive parents to be very cautious before committing to a Bulgarian ICA program. More Information.

July 7, 2008. British Adoption Association Urges Government to Follow U.S. MEPA I/II Policy. Concerned that minority children languish in institutionalized care, the British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) has urged social workers to place a higher premium on finding a permanent loving family for unparented children than to precise race matching. "Local authorities and agencies need to be flexible and thoughtful about how children's needs can be met. Remember the risks are high, too, if the child stays in the care system,"said John Simmonds, the BAAF policy director. Unfortunately race-matching advocates have an entrenched position that will be hard to defeat. Sue Cotton, head of adoption services for a prominent charity brushed aside any talk of multiracial placement: "When we talk to couples we explain they have to meet all the child's needs, and ethnicity is one of their needs. They would struggle to meet that, no matter how well-meaning and understanding they are." We hope that BAAF's children-first, ideology succeeds as soon as possible. More Information.

July 3, 2008. Good Discussion on International Adoption. PBS correspondent Judy Woodruff moderated a wide-ranging discussion on International Adoption for the News Hour this week. Her guests, Kathleen Strottman of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and Susan Soon-Keum Cox of Holt International Children Services, discussed the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption as well as the ICA programs in Vietnam, Russia and Guatemala. Reassuringly, both Strottman and Cox were optimistic on the long-term outlook for ICA. More Information.

July 2, 2008. Child Abuse Clearance Requirements Increase with Hague Convention. The new Hague Convention adoption process requires that potential adoptive parents receive criminal abuse clearances from every state or foreign country either of them has lived in since the age of 18. Further, this requirement applies to anyone else who is a member of the household who is over 18. While this requirement was instituted for the best of reasons - to protect children - it can add significant time to home studies. For those in the military or with similar itinerant careers, it is proving particularly difficult.

July 1, 2008. Is Today the Last Day for New Dossiers to Vietnam? According to the State Department update issued last month, the Government of Vietnam has set today as the last day it will accept dossiers from U.S. prospective adoptive parents seeking to adopt from Vietnam; as of September 1 the Vietnamese government will not issue any new referrals. We hope that the State Department and the Government of Vietnam clarify this decision so that PAPs in the Vietnam program understand precisely where things stand. We also urge that PAPs received the same grandfathered treatment given to PAPs in the Guatemala program. More Information.

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