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April 2011

April 28, 2011. Government Notices and Updates. The Department of State has issued updates pertaining to Guatemala and Nepal this week. Ambassador Susan Jacobs traveled to Guatemala on April 24-25, accompanying Senator Mary Landrieu. They met with Guatemalan government officials and NGOs to discuss both pipeline adoptions and the future of international adoption from Guatemala. Concerning Nepal, DOS has posted the welcome news that of the 56 petitions by prospective adoptive parents which were sent to USCIS New Delhi as "not clearly approvable," USCIS has found 54 petitions approvable (after reviews through the RFE process). We are very happy for the children coming home. More Information.

April 27, 2011. U.S. Government Announces Support for Unicef Child Adoption Program in Vietnam. The U.S. Embassy in Hanoi has announced that USAID, a major conduit for U.S. foreign aid will contribute to a new Unicef program designed to help the Vietnamese government improve "the legal and regulatory framework to better protect children without parental care by developing and implementing national legislation and policies on domestic and inter-country adoption." USAID is donating $300,000 to this Unicef project; the French National Committee for Unicef is giving $700,000. One important aspect of this U.S. government grant is that (according to the press release) USAID is spending U.S. tax dollars partnering and matching funds with a private French NGO, not the French government or even Unicef itself. This structure will greatly complicate transparency and accountability issues with regard to the expenditure of US government funds. More Information.

April 26, 2011. New China Special Needs Shared List Released Last Night. The CCCWA (formerly the CCAA) released a new list of children with identified special needs or children who are over the age of six who are available for international adoption this morning China time. As we have noted, CCCWA has been very actively promoting waiting children adoption through the special needs program, the special focus program and the new adoption for prospective adoptive parents who are interested in adopting a special focus children concurrently with another child from China. These adoptions, in contrast to the almost moribund non-special needs program, are generally taking under a year from the first step, a PAP letter of intent, until the PAPs return home with their new child(ren).

April 20, 2011. U.S. Ban on Adoptions From Cambodia to Remain in Place. During her recent trip to Cambodia, Special Ambassador for Children's Issues Susan Jacobs stated publicly that the U.S. is not ready to lift its ban on international adoption from Cambodia because the Cambodia system does not meet U.S. criteria. According to the VOA-Khmer report Ambassador Jacobs said that the new adoption law is a good start but "they need to have a database that will have that information in it. Right now, it's my understanding that in Cambodia there is no system for formal relinquishment and that is something that will have to be in the new law." Unicef spokesman Marc Vergara echoed Ambassador Jacobs' views, saying "We believe that mechanisms in place are not positioned and the system in place is not adequate, and these still are not good enough at this stage to resume international adoption in Cambodia," he said. More Information.

April 19, 2011. Progress and Pitfalls in International ARTs. An article in the Los Angeles Times reveals the both sides of international Assisted Reproductive Technology. India has become a particular destination for families seeking to create their families through ARTs. According to this article, in 2010 there were 1,500 babies born in India through ARTs, for both Indian and foreign intended parents. Contrasting this statistic with US DOS records which list 241 adoptions from India in FY 2010 for U.S. adoptive parents spotlights the rapid growth in Indian ARTs. But the story of Toronto couple Myleen and Jan Sjodin illustrates the problems in a largely unregulated arena of law. The Sjodins allege that they were bilked through extra fees and extortionate treatment to which they submitted so that they could bring home their daughter. Also very troubling was the Sjodins agreement with the surrogacy doctor that the Sjodins' fees would be reduced in proportion to how many other clients they brought to the surrogacy agency. More Information.

April 18, 2011. New York Courts Debate Presumption of Husband's Name on Birth Certificate. Retired schoolteacher Nina Montepagani is suing New York City, as the issuer of birth records, in order to remove the name of the man listed as the father on her birth certificate, which was issued in 1952. Ms. Montepagani is taking this step in order to claim an inheritance from the man she says was really her birth father. But in launching this lawsuit, she is seeking to change what Supreme Court justice Michael D. Sallman described as "one of the strongest presumptions in the law: the presumption that children born to married couples are 'legitimate,' i.e. children of the marriage." Ms. Montepagani is appealing the decision against her by the New York Sumpreme Court (New York's lowest general trial court). This case could have major ramifications for the adoption and ARTS communities. More Information.

April 14, 2011. Government Alerts and Updates. The Department of State has posted an alert relating to Ukraine. Last week the president signed a decree, effective DOS thinks this week, which transfers the duties of the current Ukraine central authority (SDA) to the Ministry of Social Policy. DOS does not know how this transfer will affect current or future IA cases from Ukraine but asks all PAPs in Ukraine now or who have plans to come to Ukraine to send their information to send their information to kyivadoptions@state.gov. Ukraine PAPs should make sure to contact their ASPs for the most current information. DOS has also posted an update from China concerning single adoption of special focus children. That information was posted here in March.

April 13, 2011. CCAI Report on Russian Adoption Case, One Year Later. The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute has marked the one year anniversary of the return to Russia on 7 year old Artyem Saviliev by his U.S. adoptive mother to issue a major report: "Important Policy Considerations Raised by Russian Adoption Case." The report highlights the need for better pre-adoption education and more extensive post placement services for adoptive parents, especially in light of the preponderance of special needs and older children adoption. That these deficits in training and support needs must be met at a time of budget stringency affecting both governments and adoption service providers impacts any possible solution. To read the report please click here.

April 12, 2011. Father who loses Custody to Surrogate Mother, Forced to Pay Child Support. A birth father, only identified as Mr. W. but revealed to be a person of means, has been ordered by a court to pay monthly child support for his biological child although he and his wife will have no relationship with the child. Mr. and Mrs. W (who had many failed pregnancies) entered into a contract with "Miss N" who agreed to be both the biological and surrogate mother of a child for the couple. Once she was pregnant Miss N started asking for more money above the contractually expected expenses and after the child was born refused to give the child to the Ws. Miss N was awarded custody and now has been awarded child support as well. Mr. W said, "'We should have seen the signs when she started asking for more than we had agreed. I don't think this was ever about her suddenly wanting to keep the baby, I think this was about getting an income." He added that he would be much more comfortable giving vouchers for food and clothing for the child, rather than cash. This case demonstrates the pitfalls of traditional surrogacy. More Information.

April 11, 2011. Excellent Decision Handed Down by Arkansas Supreme Court on Gay Adoption. The Arkansas Supreme Court in Arkansas DHS v. Cole, has struck down the blanket prohibition against gay adoption in that state, ruling that unmarried cohabiting couples must not be excluded from eligibility to become adoptive parents or foster parents. According to adoption expert, Professor Joan Hollinger, one the unanimous decision "includes good discussion of why individualized case by case assessments of prospective adoptive parents serve children's best interests and needs much better than categorical inclusions or exclusions of certain kinds of prospective parents." The Center for Adoption Policy and the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys both participated as amici in this case. This decision represents a clear victory for children.

April 7, 2011. Ethiopian Adoptions Stakeholders Meeting Update. We participated in person yesterday in the USCIS engagement on Ethiopian Adoptions. Part of the meeting included a power point presentation briefing on the Joint USCIS/State Adoption Site Visit to Ethiopia in January 2011 visit. The formidable data base assembled by USCIS demonstrates that the core of the Ethiopian adoption program is sound and should be continued as a valid, appropriate and accessible preserved as a method of family creation for unparented children. We salute USCIS and DOS for obtaining an evidentiary basis on which to evaluate Ethiopian adoptions and hope that this data base becomes a template for the evaluation of other international adoption programs. The power point presentation may be accessed on our government bulletins page.

April 5, 2011. Message from An Unknown Chinese Mother. Chinese author Xinran has written a book of great importance to the Chinese adoption community. Message From An Unknown Chinese Mother is revealingly subtitled "Stories of Love and Loss". Xinran, who has been the repository of unrevealed life stories from Chinese women for decades, ascribes the abandonment of Chinese girls to three main phenomena: first, the millennia old custom in Asian farming cultures of abandoning female babies, secondly, the sexual ignorance of women in China and thirdly, the one-child policy in effect since 1979. She also notes that "the village custom [euphemistically put] of "doing" girl babies was extremely common in provinces such as Henan, Shandong, Anhui, Jiangxi, Hunan, Shanaaxi, Shanxi and Northern Jiangsu." Not coincidentally, we would think, these provinces were the birthplaces of thousand of girls who have been internationally adopted. But that this reality has been confronted by millions of birth mothers of girls through the centuries does not make it easier to bear. Xinran quotes a mother-in-law saying to her daughter-in-law who has had a girl, "Any woman who's had a baby has felt pain, and the mothers of girls are all heartsick too!"

April 4, 2011. International Adoption of Children with HIV/AIDS on the Increase. The number of children adopted internationally with HIV/AIDS has risen dramatically over the last two years from a tiny number to several hundred children each year. The development of much better medication has transformed HIV/AIDS from a death sentence to a chronic condition. Moreover the revisions to CDC regulations, effective last year, removed HIV infection from the list of communicable diseases of public significance, removed the requirement of HIV testing for immigrant screening and ended the requirement that anyone with HIV be granted a waiver as a pre-condition to receiving an immigrant visa. For the story of one family who has adopted children with HIV/AIDS, click here.

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