Announcing October 4th Advocating to Save the Adoption Tax Credit Webinar

Dear Adoption Tax Credit Working Group:

Attached please find details about our Webinar: Advocating to Save the Adoption Tax Credit on Thursday, October 4, from 8:00pm – 9:30pm EST.

To register, please view the attached announcement for more information, and register to participate at https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/279558502.

Please spread the word to your networks and encourage families to participate.

With warm regards,
The Executive Committee

The Adoption Tax Credit Working Group’s Executive Committee:
American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, Adopt America Network, Christian Alliance for Orphans,
Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (Secretariat), Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption,
Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, Joint Council on International Children’s Services,
National Council For Adoption, North American Council on Adoptable Children,

RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, ShowHope, and Voice for Adoption.

Afghan Baby ‘Happiness,’ Found Beside Road, Gets a Family

Every child’s right is to their biological family when possible, a native country family if not and then, only then shall inter-country adoption be an option for children in need of a permanent family.  As an inter-country child placing agency, we firmly believe and support this path for waiting children. Check out this great story on how one abandoned baby girl found her way into a waiting family’s lives.

Save the Adoption Tax Credit – Co-Sponsors

Dear Congressional Representatives,

I “LIKE” you if you are a co-sponsor of the Adoption Tax Credit…. you know who you are.  We, your constituents and adoptive families, thank you with our collective hearts!

If you don’t see your state representative’s name on this list, now is the time to let them know YOUR family needs their support. This bi-partisan bill has recently gained more Congressional support and now has the following co-sponsors.

You’re Not My REAL Mother

By Dawn, creatingafamily.org

All children get mad at their parents—or at least they do if their parents are doing a good job of parenting, which should include saying “no” on occasion. How they express this anger depends primarily on two things: their temperament and what works.

Our children come to us with set temperaments. Some kids are strikers, lashing out verbally when ticked off; others are sulkers, retreating to their rooms to plot their revenge; while some sunny souls are slow to boil and quick to recover. Science has shown that children are born with their basic temperament. We have done a couple of terrific Creating a Family shows on Nature vs. Nurture. On one show (Nature vs. Nurture/ Genetics vs. Environment) our guests were the directors of two of the leading longitudinal twin studies in the US.  The guests on the other show (Is Genetics or the Environment Most Important in Determining Who Our Kids Will Be?) represented two of the leading adoption studies in the US and also were both involved in twin research, as well. (I summarized my take on the nature vs. nurture debate in this blog titled Nature vs. Nurture.

You might think that your genetic child will come with a temperament similar to yours, but there are no guarantees. Genes are slippery little buggers, and Great Grandpa’s temper can pop out when least expected. (I might add that temperamentally similar parent and child combos are not always a blessing—imagine life with two sulkers. {horrors})

While parents have little control over our child’s temperament, we have a great deal of control over what works. If you are a parent through adoption or donor egg or sperm blessed with a bright temperamentally volatile, expressive child, and you fall apart or back down when your little darling throws down the “you aren’t my real mom” card, or the “I wish I hadn’t been adopted” card, or the “I hate you” card, or “I’m nothing like you” card, chances are good that these cards will be thrown again and again. If these remarks don’t work to derail you, they are less likely to be used. And lest you think that only parents through adoption or donor gamete will hear some version of “I wish you weren’t my mother”, think again. Most kids wish this every once in a while regardless how they came to be yours. (Read my blog titled “I Wish You Weren’t My Mother”.)

The funny thing is that we parents tend to focus on our children’s temperament, without recognizing that we also have a genetically set personality that comes into play when interacting with our kids. But we are the adults in the situation, and we can choose how we respond.

Mad as hell kid: You’re not my real mother!!!!

Equally mad mom who is successfully faking calmness: (choose one)

  • That’s funny, I sure feel like your mother {said with a healthy dose or irony}. Now, back to what we were talking about—your behavior.
  • I don’t scream at you, and I expect the same courtesy from you. You clearly need some time in your room (or time-out chair) to think about this. {with a well-timed harrumph thrown in for good measure}
  • Your feelings about me really aren’t the topic of this conversation. We are talking about your behavior.
  • I’d love to talk about adoption later, but right now you are sitting in the time-out chair, and the time doesn’t begin until you are quiet.

It’s so darn easy to give power to the wrong things. What else do you give power to? What are some of your favorite responses that the rest of us can stick in our back pockets to use if (when) necessary.

News From Bulgaria

Today Hopscotch received invitations for TWO families to travel and meet their future children in Bulgaria.  We never get enough of this kind news!  We’ll keep you posted.

News From Armenia

Congratulations to TWO Hopscotch families on their invitation to travel and register with two Armenian waiting children.  It’s the first steps of two children towards joining a loving and permanent family.

In post-Soviet Georgia, democracy faces critical test

By Kathy Lally, washingtonpost.com

TBILISI, Georgia — Eight years ago this small, mountainous country, driven by peaceful revolution, picked itself up from post-Soviet chaos and began transforming into a Western state. Now, in the week ahead, it confronts a critical test of how well its young democracy can prevail over an authoritarian past.

Georgia’s progress is being measured by the parliamentary elections scheduled for Oct. 1, and the outcome will have profound implications not only for this nation but also for others struggling to build free societies after a history of corruption and repression.

Internationally, the government had been mostly viewed as sure-footed — until last week, when a scandal erupted over evidence of systematic abuse and torture in the nation’s prisons. Videos made by an insider and broadcast on national television showed guards admitting a line of new inmates to a prison — each methodically beaten, one by one, with the casualness of getting their papers stamped. Other videos showed prisoners sodomized with truncheons and broomsticks, taunted as they cried or begged for mercy.

Thousands of shocked and furious citizens took to the streets, the interior minister and prison officials were forced to resign, several guards and officials were arrested, and Georgians young and old demanded to know how their government could have ignored persistent reports of brutality and wrongdoing.

“For many years, we have been talking about illegal treatment,” said Tamar Chugoshvili, chairwoman of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association. “The government has not investigated, and nobody really cared about it.

“They have accomplished many very good things, but they have failed to build a democratic system and protect human rights,” Chugoshvili said. “A small group of people in the executive branch makes all the decisions, and there is no check or balance on this power.”

The United States has invested deeply in Georgia and democracy, providing $3.37 billion in aid from 1992 to 2010, putting the country’s 4.5 million population high on the list of per capita assistance, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Georgia, perched in the Caucasus Mountains in the shadow of Russia and Iran, has been a staunch U.S. ally, sending troops to Afghanistan and providing energy security with a pipeline that takes oil from Azerbaijan through Georgia and on to Turkey. Georgia values the alliance, and government and opponents alike have been spending freely on lobbying in Washington.

The World Bank this year published a 100-page book describing Georgia’s reforms so that other countries might benefit from its experience.

Though President Mikheil Saakashvili and his circle have eliminated day-to-day corruption, turned the despised police into a trusted force and made government services citizen-oriented and easy to obtain, they have not permitted development of political competition, their critics say.

The Oct. 1 parliamentary elections bring the first serious opposition, a spectrum of parties called Georgian Dream united behind Bidzina Ivanishvili, a 56-year-old political novice whose $6.4 billion fortune equals almost half of the country’s gross domestic product.

The elections have been preceded by charges of violations from both sides, and the government has levied huge fines on Ivanishvili and his team — mounting to more than $125 million, he said. On Monday, Georgian Dream officials said police arrested about 20 of their members Sunday without clear charges; police officials said those arrested had harassed election officials or resisted and attacked officers when stopped for auto violations such as not wearing seat belts.

The news media are mostly partisan and dominated by the government.

“There is skepticism about the ability to manage political competition,” said Ghia Nodia, chairman of the Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development. “Political opponents don’t just want to win the election, they want to destroy the government and put people in prison.”

‘Georgians are dreamers’

Last week found Ivanishvili traveling into the mountains beyond the capital, Tbilisi, to the poverty-stricken Tianeti region. Official statistics put national unemployment at 16 percent, but the real rate is double that or more, Nodia said. Anyone with two acres of land is considered employed, and Georgians say that means if you own two fruit trees and can sit on the curb selling a basket of apples, you have a job.

Getting to Tianeti required driving about 15 miles of what was once a road but is now little more than a winding, bone-jarring path strewn with gravel here and there. Along the edge of a field, a horse pulled an elderly couple in an ancient cart, the woman so absorbed in talking on her cellphone that she paid no notice to a clutch of sport-utility vehicles stirring up dust.

“Georgians are dreamers,” Ivanishvili told an appreciative crowd in Tianeti. “We should try to make our dreams come true.”

He offered plans to invest in agriculture, create jobs, promote small business — and save Georgia’s dying villages, responding to cheers with an air of modesty. “Please don’t shout my name,” he said.

Tamuna Zedginidze, a 21-year-old villager wearing jeans and a blue Georgian Dream T-shirt, had come with her extended family of seven from their hamlet 10 miles away.

“I will vote for him,” she said, “because I think he can end the injustice. No one in our family works. We are full of energy, but we cannot use it. We want a better future for our kids.”

The family keeps a cow, sheep, some pigs. There is no school, and women move to town with their children when they reach school age.

“Why must we leave, when it’s the most beautiful place in Georgia?” she asked.

Later, in an interview, Ivanishvili said Georgia needs to solve its internal problems before becoming a reliable part of Europe and NATO, and repairing relations with Russia. “If we build a country with a foundation of democratic institutions,” he said, “we’ll get more attention from America and Europe.”

The Rose Revolution of 2003, set off by citizens infuriated by rigged parliamentary elections and fed up with inept government, brought the reform-minded Saakashvili into the presidency in 2004. His term expires a year from now, when the system changes from a strong presidency to one in which power rests with the prime minister, who is to be elected by the largest faction in Parliament.

Ivanishvili intends to fill that post. So does Vano Merabishvili, who was appointed prime minister in June by Saakashvili, apparently not only to give Merabishvili an electoral advantage but also to quell rumors that the president wanted the job himself, in a Vladi­mir Putin-like maneuver to stay in power.

Saakashvili’s United National Movement party dominates Parliament with 79 percent of the seats, allowing unquestioned ability to change the constitution. Businesses are reluctant to support the opposition because they fear damaging relations with the ruling party, Nodia said. A recent study of Tbilisi courts by the Lawyers Association, Chugoshvili said, found that judges granted 100 percent of prosecutors’ motions.

Saakashvili moved rapidly to stem the damage from the prison crisis last week, putting George Tugushi, the country’s human rights ombudsman and a persistent critic of the prison system, in charge of it.

‘Voters have a clear choice’

Giga Bokeria, the national security secretary and a key Saakashvili adviser, said he shared the nation’s shock and outrage, and he acknowledged the government’s shortcomings.

“We as a government made a grave mistake when we did not properly evaluate the signals coming from the ombudsman and other civil society groups about the systemic problems in the penitentiary system,” Bokeria said.

Georgia is a democracy, he said in an earlier interview, where the government depends on voters. The country has made huge progress, he said, and more lies ahead.

“There’s a very vigorous and active campaign going on now, and no one is being suffocated,” said Bokeria, who supervises an interagency group charged with ensuring fair elections. “Voters have a clear choice.”

The day after the prison videos were shown, Chugoshvili still looked pale from shock.

“They painted the prisons and put the guards in very nice shirts,” she said. “They have nice little stores where prisoners can shop. They put up posters reminding everyone of their rights. The streets are safe day or night.

“But unless we develop a system of controls, you’ll be safe from the criminals but not from the state.”

Most vulnerable casualty of DC tax battle may be orphans, foster kids

By Greg Wilson, FoxNews.com

Amid talk of the “fiscal cliff” and how much wealthier Americans should pay the government, not much attention has been paid to the most vulnerable class of tax code casualties: orphans and foster kids desperately hoping to be placed in loving homes.

But among the so-called Bush tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year is a one-time adoption tax credit that can give families nearly $13,000 in aid for taking in a parentless child. Advocates fear that if the tax credit is not renewed, tens or even hundreds of thousands of kids will be left to fend for themselves.

“Without the tax credit, thousands of parents who could not afford to do adoption would just simply not be able to adopt children,” said Bill Blacquiere of Grand Rapids, Mich.,-based Bethany Christian Services.

The tax incentive, first written onto the Internal Revenue Service books in 1997, allows people who want to adopt children but don’t have the financial means to take in kids who might otherwise grow up in foster homes.

According to the National Council for Adoption, there are more than 100,000 children in foster care in the U.S., and millions more orphaned and abandoned children around the world. Cutting the tax credit for adopting these children will mean far fewer find homes, say advocates. The council has started a website, savetheadoptiontaxcredit.com, with the hope of building support for making it a permanent part of the tax code.

While both parties in Washington, as well as the White House, appear to support the adoption tax credit, the standoff over renewing a much broader package of tax cuts could doom it. Democrats want to make renewing the Bush tax cuts contingent on raising income taxes for people earning $250,000, while Republicans are adamantly opposed to anything that raises taxes above current levels.

Unless Congress acts to extend this tax credit, on Jan. 1, 2013, the only credit for adopting will apply to parents who take in special needs children from within the U.S. — and that credit will be for just $6,000.

The adoption tax credit, which adjusts annually for inflation, is $12,650 this year, down $710 from 2011. But what really hurts families with big hearts and tight budgets is that the credit is no longer refundable, according to Bankrate.com. That means it can help lower the tax bill, but once expenses are covered no excess credit can be claimed as a tax refund. That especially hurts poor families who may have little or no tax liability.

The National Council for Adoption wants to not only save the credit, but make it refundable, as it was in 2010 and 2011.

Joe Kroll, executive director of the North American Council on Adoptable Children, cited the case of the case of Todd and Mary Hankel, of St. Croix Fall, Wisc., as an example of how important it can be to be able to claim adoption expenses as a refund and not simply a credit. When seven siblings from a troubled Twin Cities family were put up for adoption in 2006, the Hankels stepped forward to adopt all seven in order to keep the kids together.

They were able to carry forward the tax credit against their expenses — which included building an addition on their house — until 2010, when the tax break became refundable and they got a check that helped them pay off a mortgage for the addition.

The Hankels are not wealthy, said Kroll, and neither are most people who make the decision to take in foster children.

“When you look at the numbers, you see that folks under $100,000 make up the bulk of the adoptions,” Kroll said. “It’s stunning how many families at lower income levels are adopting children.”

That’s why Kroll wishes the heated political debate about the Bush tax cuts did not include an incentive for helping otherwise helpless kids.

“I wish the discussion of all the different taxes did not include this particular tax issue,” Kroll said. “It is support to families that are adopting, and doesn’t belong in the political mix.”

Important Adoption Tax Credit Updates!!

Dear Adoption Tax Credit Working Group Members:

We are pleased to provide you with the following update on the status of the federal Adoption Tax Credit (ATC) and pending legislative efforts related to it. Our progress thus far is very much because of the continued advocacy of the members of this Working Group and we want to encourage you to continue to engage your networks in reaching out to their Representative and Senators to express support for the extension of the adoption tax credit and the inclusion of refundability of the credit.

Update on the Senate Adoption Tax Credit Bill
S. 3616 A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to make permanent the expansion of tax benefits for adoption enacted in 2001 and to permanently reinstate the expansion of tax benefits for adoption enacted in 2010, and for other purposes, the Senate ATC bill including refundability (the companion to House bill H.R. 4373) was introduced Friday, September 21, 2012 by Senators Landrieu (D-LA), Blunt (R-MO), Hutchison (R-TX) and Cardin (D-MD)!  Please begin to reach out to Senators and encourage their support for it and please be sure to take time to thank the above four original Co-Sponsoring Senators for their tremendous leadership as well.

Update on H.R. 4373: Making Adoption Affordable Act of 2012
There are now 29 co-sponsors of this bill! While this is a good start, we would like to see even more Members support this legislation.  Please continue to contact U.S. Representatives about H.R. 4373 – especially if they are a Republican Member of Congress or sit on the House Ways & Means Committee (http://waysandmeans.house.gov/About/Members.htm).  This bill and this issue are bipartisan – but recently H.R. 4373 gained several Democrats as new cosponsors, so we need to work together to keep this bill evenly supported.

General Update
The Adoption Tax Credit is likely to be included in a package of other tax credits that need to be extended, and we expect such a package to be considered by Congress sometime after the election. The Middle Class Tax Cut Act, which passed in early August, included an extension through 2013 of the ATC without refundability, and the House passed H.R. 8 with a straight extension of the ATC without refundability. These bills may or may not reflect what could be passed at the end of the year.  Since neither of these bills included a refundable credit, we are concerned the final extended credit will also not be refundable.  We are working hard to get refundability back on the table and need your help in showing Members that refundability helps foster care adoption and lower to middle income tax filers.

We face three hurdles when it comes to refundability. First, it adds to the cost in a time when Members are looking to scale back most proposals. Second, certain Members have expressed concerns that refundable credits in general have an increased likelihood of fraud and abuse, and finally, refundability was added to the ATC as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (which is in the center of political debate right now.) We can respond to these concerns in several ways—by noting there has been no evidence of fraud related to the ATC, by explaining that finding children a family saves money over caring for them in foster care, and by reminding Members that the ATC and adoption have always been bipartisan issues. One of the most effective ways to respond to these concerns is by continuing to highlight examples through sharing the personal stories of individual families and/or encouraging families to share their stories directly with their legislators.

Please continue to reach out to and communicate with Members and staffers on Capitol Hill about the refundable ATC so that Members feel pressure to keep the ATC part of any deal that moves in the lame duck session after elections.  Our goal remains to have both the above pieces of legislation supported by the majority of Members in the House and Senate, especially Members of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committee.

Thank you for your efforts in the Adoption Tax Credit Working Group. If we can assist your efforts in any way, please do not hesitate to contact us.

With warm regards,
The Executive Committee
The Adoption Tax Credit Working Group’s Executive Committee:
American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, Adopt America Network, Christian Alliance for Orphans,
Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (Secretariat), Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption,
Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, Joint Council on International Children’s Services,
National Council For Adoption, North American Council on Adoptable Children,
RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, ShowHope, and Voice for Adoption.

Additionally, here is  a great article highlighting the importance of the adoption tax credit.

News From Armenia

Happy Independence Day to Armenia!

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