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May 2012

May 31, 2012. Child Citizenship Act Should Be Amended to Cover All Adopted Children Born Abroad. The plight of Kairi Abha Shepherd and her siblings illustrates the need for legislation to grant citizenship to all children who have been adopted by U.S. citizens. Children who were born abroad and adopted prior to 2000 were not given U.S. citizenship automatically. They are subject to mandatory deportation in certain circumstances and do not enjoy the legal protections granted to citizens. Kari Shephard was one of five foreign-born children adopted by a family in Utah. Her mother, now deceased, did not obtain citizenship for any of these children. As a consequence of her felony arrest and conviction, Kari faces deportation. She has served her prison sentence and should not face this second punishment. More Information.

May 30, 2012. African Child Policy Forum Condemns International Adoption. A report delivered at the Fifth International Policy Conference on the African Child (IPC), has criticized the increase in international adoption from Africa. According to David Mugawe, executive director of the ACPF, "It must at all costs be discouraged. It should be a last resort and an exception rather than the normal recourse to solving the situation of children in difficult circumstances, as it seems to have now become. Every child should have an inalienable right to be nurtured and reared in the country and culture in which they are born." International adoption was also condemned by Najat M'jid Maalla, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography: "Due to the illegal nature of these acts, it has been difficult to properly document them, but it is known that there have been cases of children sold by their parents, and children abducted and later trafficked or even placed for adoption because wrongly considered orphans." We are waiting for the full report but these excerpts show just how widespread the campaign against international adoption as a method of addressing the best interests of the individual child has spread. Note that Ms. Maala admits that she doesn't have proof of her allegations but finds the lack of proof irrelevant to her policy prescriptions. More Information.

May 29, 2012. "From Tragedy to Triumph:" the story of Memuna Mansaray McShane. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof's has given us the profile in courage of Memuna McShane. Memuna is a 15 year old high school freshman who lives with her family in Washington. Born in Sierra Leone, she was a victim of horrendous civil war, losing her mother and grandmother to a barbaric attack which also cost Memuna one of her arms. When then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was photographed holding Memuna, the little girl became a symbol of civil destruction. Memuna's father was also killed and Memuna came to the United States where she was adopted by a U.S. family. Today Memuna is a successful, happy and loved child. She and her American family keep in touch with her biological brothers and have visited Sierra Leone, where her mother had been a peace corps volunteer. Other children deserve the chance that Memuna received. More Information.

May 24, 2012. Government and Other Notices: Ethiopia. The latest Department of State update on international adoption from Ethiopia discusses, among other things, the I-604 investigation that is required by U.S. law to be conducted for every international adoption. DOS observes in this update that: "We continue to encounter birth relatives who have been told that a child will return to Ethiopia at the age of 18. When informed that intercountry adoption is a permanent severing of a familial relationship and that there should be no expectation of the child's return, birth relatives often become very emotional." We would ask the Department of State to tell us how often DOS employees face this problem so that we can assess the magnitude of the problem. More Information.

May, 23, 2012. U.S.-Russian Bilateral Adoption Agreement: Is No News Good News? The United States and Russia signed a bilateral agreement on international adoption last July. The Russian Duma (Parliament) needs to ratify the agreement before it can go into effect. As newly inaugurated President Vladmir Putin has now appointed his new cabinet, the Duma could consider this agreement as it gets down to business. But given Putin's prior opposition to international adoption and the politics of U.S. -Russian relations in this U.S. presidential election year, we are not confident that the Duma will rapidly consider the agreement. Moreover, any changes demanded by the Duma to the agreement would have to be negotiated thereafter with the U.S. government.

May 22, 2012. Supreme Court Rules In Case of ARTs Children. The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that twins who were conceived with the frozen sperm of their dead father were not eligible for social security survivor benefits. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for a unanimous Court which held that the Social Security Act of 1935 required this question to be decided on the basis of state law and under Florida law, the state where the mother-plaintiff resides, the children were not entitled to insurance payments. As Ginsburg wrote: "We cannot replace that reference [to state law] by creating a uniform federal rule the statute's text scarcely supports." The course is clear: states and Congress should re-examine these laws in light of the new kinds of families and methods of family creation. More Information.

May 21, 2012. Children Should Come Before National Image. In 2008 Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, participated in a British undercover television documentary which included footage depicting the miserable suffering of Turkish children in a state-run orphanage. Now a Turkish court is conducting a trial - not of orphanage officials - but of the Duchess of York. Her crime: "acquiring footage and violating the privacy" of orphans. As Laurie Ahearn, head of Disability Rights International, explains in a powerful column, "It has been our experience that institutional or governmental authorities who deny permission to take photographs and/or video on the grounds that they are protecting a person's "privacy" are actually acting to protect themselves from public exposure. The same authorities often deny residents of institutions much more fundamental choices about their lives. Detentions are often illegal, and a broad array of human rights are often violated in institutions, as was the case in Turkey." More Information.

May 17, 2012. State Department Notice on Guatemala Illuminates Crucial Mission of Senator Landrieu. The Department of State's latest Guatemala update highlights the vital work accomplished by Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Senator Landrieu has long served as Congress's dedicated champion of adopted and fostered children. From April 10-14, 2012, Senator Landrieu, together with Representative Karen Bass and USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas, traveled to Guatemala (not for the first time) to advocate on behalf of children who are languishing in foster homes or orphanages in Guatemala, unable to join potential adoptive parents, as a result of the closure of Guatemala to international adoption on December 21, 2007. The delegation met with President Otto Perez Molina, Vice President Roxana Baldetti, Foreign Minister Harold Caballeros, the Attorney General, the Ministerio Publico (MP), the Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala (CICIG), the Procuradur’a General de la Nación (PGN), the National Adoption Council (CNA), UNICEF, and Ministry of Social Development. If these cases find resolution soon, we know Senator Landrieu is one of the people who deserves the most credit. More Information.

May 16, 2012. NPR's Show on Ethiopian Adoption Shouldn't be Missed. NPR's Tell It More broadcast an excellent show on adoption from Ethiopia yesterday. Dr. Jane Aronson's comments about older children adoption should resonate with adoptive parents, wherever their children are from: "I felt very strongly about the fact that older children rarely get an opportunity to have permanency out of a situation like that. And yet, I would say that when a child first comes home there are a lot of challenges. A child has to learn English and has to learn what it's like to live in a permanent family and has to trust, and it takes a long time... So as a parent you need not to be judgmental. You have to have an open heart. But at the same time you have to really be prepared for the kinds of things that you are not thinking about... I think that those things, and I know in all my 25 years of doing this, this is not just about Ethiopia. It's about that world. It's a complicated world and there are lots of things that you may not know that you may find out later in life. And so I try to tell people don't be so definitive." More Information.

May 15, 2012. British Pedophile Abuse Scandal Highlights Dangers of Group Homes. The recent conviction of nine men in the northern British city of Rochdale highlights the ghastly nightmare of children put into group homes. Teenage girls, some as young as thirteen, were lured into sex-trafficking by organized gangs while the people who were in charge of their care did nothing, never even letting police know that the girls were missing. The gang's named ringleaders, Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rauf, 43, both married men with families were jailed for conspiracy and sex-trafficking. But what will happen to the public and private employees who were supposed to be watching out for these children? A permanent, loving family is always a better answer than a group home. More Information.

May 14, 2012. Haiti's Cholera Crisis Deepens. As a straight-forward New York Times editorial makes clear, "The cholera epidemic in Haiti, which began in late 2010, is bad and getting worse, for reasons that are well understood and that the aid community has done far too little to resolve." The respected organization Doctors Without Borders has warned that Haiti is not equipted to cope with this spring's predicted resurgence of the epidemic. While the crisis was cearly caused by the United Nations, Unicef and its sister organizations have done too little, too late to halt the spread of this dreadful disease which is estimate could infect 200,000 to 250,000 Haitians this year. United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Haiti, Nigel Fisher, has conceded that "what we are doing is sort of patchwork, Band-Aid work on a fundamental problem." We know 1,200 children who are safe from cholera. They are the children who came to the United States though the humanitarian parole program. More Information.

May 10, 2012. Nonsense. The Department of State's disinformation campaign against international adoption continues. The Associated Press today quotes Alison Dilworth, adoptions division chief at the U.S. Office of Children's Issues, as denigrating all Guatemalan adoptions because, "They have incredible problems with fraud." However, our recent review of a massive collection of internal U.S. government documents on Guatemala written between 1987 and 2008 demonstrates that U.S. officials contemporaneously believed that problems in the Guatemalan adoption program were limited to begin with and, because of U.S. policy changes, were becoming fewer as time continued. DOS continues to be a stalwart supporter, says Dilworth, of Hague Convention international adoptions. But why, we ask, did DOS not support the Guatemalan pilot program or Vietnam's Hague accession in a timely manner which would have permitted both these countries to remain open to international adoption as a method of finding permanent homes for unparented children? More Information.

May 8, 2012. Haiti Announces Temporary Suspension of Processing of New Adoption Cases. L'Institut du Bien ætre Social et de Recherches (IBESR), the Haitian adoption authority, has announced that it is temporarily suspending the processing of new international adoption cases. This moratorium went into effect yesterday. According to the Department of State, IBESR has taken this step in order to deal with its backlog of cases. We are puzzled because the Haitian earthquake and the resulting Humanitarian Parole program for U.S. in process adoptions as well as similar programs for other countries ended long term backlog issues. More Information.

May 7, 2012. U.S. Government Lowers Adoption Fees. The Department of State has announced that effective April 13, 2012, the fee for immediate relative applications, which are process because of an I-130, I-600 or I-800 application have been reduced from $404 to $230. However, as these fees are charged on the day of payment, not the day of interview or the day the visa is received, applicants will not receive refunds of previously made payments. More Information.

May 1, 2012. Why Not Prevent the Atrocity of Being Without a Permanent, Loving Family? The White House has announced the creation of an Atrocities Prevention Board. Consisting of representations of State, Defense, Treasury, Justice, Homeland Security, USAID, the Joint Staff, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the CIA, and the Office of the Vice President under the direction of National Security Advisor Samantha Power, these high level delegates will do what? As James Gibney points out, while it is clear what the definition is of genocides is, "atrocity" is a much more amorphous concept. So we have a suggestion: why doesn't this new group consider the importance of family in the life of children everywhere and the devastating impact of institutional care and focus U.S. government attention on the importance of keeping each method of family creation, including international adoption, as a viable option for unparented children? More Information.

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