Re-Aligning U.S. State Department Policy to Support Child Rights to Family

Source: https://chronicleofsocialchange.org

by Elizabeth Bartholet and Chuck Johnson

The current State Department has developed policies that have been disastrous for children languishing in institutions abroad. There are many millions of such children, some of them orphaned, some abandoned by or removed from their birth parents.

Most of these children have no likelihood of finding a family in their country of origin. International adoption provides their best prospect for a family, and the social science shows that such adoption works extremely well for children, helping repair damage done prior to adoption and enabling children adopted at early ages to thrive. By contrast the brain and social science shows that institutions cause mental, emotional and physical damage destructive of a child’s potential.

Despite this evidence, the State Department has joined with other forces to help shut down international adoption as a meaningful option for institutionalized children, bowing to claims that equate such adoption with first-world imperialism, child trafficking and cultural genocide. As a result, the number of children adopted into the U.S. has dropped by two-thirds since 2004.

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Article from The Economist: Hundreds of thousands of children languish in orphanages. Adopting them should be made easier.

Source: http://www.economist.com/

Babies without borders

20160806_LDP001_0 OF THE 2 billion children in the world, about 15m are parentless. Millions more have been abandoned. Most of these unlucky kids are cared for by other relatives. Others live temporarily with foster parents. But hundreds of thousands languish in state institutions of varying degrees of grimness. The youngest and healthiest will probably find local adoptive parents. For older or disabled children, however, willing adopters from abroad are often the best and only option. Yet the total number of overseas adoptions is dwindling (see article).

There is a reason for this. For decades cross-border adoptions were often a racket. In Romania after the fall of the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, thousands of orphans were adopted illegally. In post-civil-war Guatemala middlemen paid poor women a pittance to get pregnant repeatedly—or simply stole babies and sold them. When one country tightened the rules, the trade in babies moved somewhere laxer.

That trend has stopped. As countries have implemented the Hague Adoption Convention, passed in the wake of the Romanian exodus, they have stamped out the worst cases. Last year 12,500 children were adopted by overseas parents, about a third of the total just over a decade ago. The crackdown was necessary: babies are not goods to be trafficked. But many governments have gone too far. It is now too hard for willing, suitable parents to adopt needy children—and this hurts both the would-be adopters and, more importantly, the children.

Cambodia and Guatemala have stopped foreign adoptions completely; Russia has banned those by Americans. In many other countries the paperwork can take years. This is cruel. The early months and years of life are the most crucial. Depriving a child of parental love—inevitable in even the least dire orphanage—can cause lifelong scarring. The priority for any system should be to perform the necessary checks as quickly as possible and to place every child with foster or adoptive parents.

The Hague convention is a good starting-point. It says: first try to place an abandoned child with a relative; if that fails, try for a local adoption; and if a local family cannot be found, look overseas. Critics of international adoption point out that children who grow up in a different culture sometimes feel alienated and unhappy. This is true, but for many the alternative—growing up in an institution—is far worse.

When overseas adoption is a last resort, the children who end up with foreign families are the ones whom no one else wants: the older ones, the severely handicapped, members of unpopular ethnic minorities. In Guatemala only 10% of the children awaiting adoption are babies or toddlers without special needs. Few Guatemalans will consider taking the other 90%. Plenty of evangelical Christians in America would be happy to. It makes no sense to stop them.

No one cares for you a smidge

Creating a fast, safe adoption system should not be costly. Indeed, it should be cheaper than keeping children in institutions. All it takes is political will, as can be seen from the success of schemes in Peru and Colombia. Public databases that match children with good, willing parents work well locally in some rich countries. (Pennsylvania’s is praised, for example.) There is no reason why such systems should not be made international. Children need parents now, not next year.

Comment by Robin E. Sizemore

“All too often foreign governments come to rely on UNICEF’s child welfare policy of de-institutionalization programs, which on the surface appear to be in the best interest of any child. However, what has resulted is a permanency plan of foster care, as the end goal for these children. Governments are all too happy to rely on subsidized programs and justify it to the beat of ‘keeping children’s heritage and culture’ over a child’s TRUE best interest, which is a loving, suitable, permanent family – wherever that may be. The preamble of the Hague offers that ‘a family environment’ is every child’s right – until that phrase is removed, and permanent family is made the single goal for every child, we can continue to expect governments to fail children through policy and practices counter to any child’s best interest.”

Robin E. Sizemore
Executive Director of Hopscotch Adoptions, Inc and Adoptive parent

Article from The Economist: Hundreds of thousands of children languish in orphanages. Adopting them should be made easier.

Source: http://www.economist.com/

Babies without borders

20160806_LDP001_0 OF THE 2 billion children in the world, about 15m are parentless. Millions more have been abandoned. Most of these unlucky kids are cared for by other relatives. Others live temporarily with foster parents. But hundreds of thousands languish in state institutions of varying degrees of grimness. The youngest and healthiest will probably find local adoptive parents. For older or disabled children, however, willing adopters from abroad are often the best and only option. Yet the total number of overseas adoptions is dwindling (see article).

There is a reason for this. For decades cross-border adoptions were often a racket. In Romania after the fall of the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, thousands of orphans were adopted illegally. In post-civil-war Guatemala middlemen paid poor women a pittance to get pregnant repeatedly—or simply stole babies and sold them. When one country tightened the rules, the trade in babies moved somewhere laxer.

That trend has stopped. As countries have implemented the Hague Adoption Convention, passed in the wake of the Romanian exodus, they have stamped out the worst cases. Last year 12,500 children were adopted by overseas parents, about a third of the total just over a decade ago. The crackdown was necessary: babies are not goods to be trafficked. But many governments have gone too far. It is now too hard for willing, suitable parents to adopt needy children—and this hurts both the would-be adopters and, more importantly, the children.

Cambodia and Guatemala have stopped foreign adoptions completely; Russia has banned those by Americans. In many other countries the paperwork can take years. This is cruel. The early months and years of life are the most crucial. Depriving a child of parental love—inevitable in even the least dire orphanage—can cause lifelong scarring. The priority for any system should be to perform the necessary checks as quickly as possible and to place every child with foster or adoptive parents.

The Hague convention is a good starting-point. It says: first try to place an abandoned child with a relative; if that fails, try for a local adoption; and if a local family cannot be found, look overseas. Critics of international adoption point out that children who grow up in a different culture sometimes feel alienated and unhappy. This is true, but for many the alternative—growing up in an institution—is far worse.

When overseas adoption is a last resort, the children who end up with foreign families are the ones whom no one else wants: the older ones, the severely handicapped, members of unpopular ethnic minorities. In Guatemala only 10% of the children awaiting adoption are babies or toddlers without special needs. Few Guatemalans will consider taking the other 90%. Plenty of evangelical Christians in America would be happy to. It makes no sense to stop them.

No one cares for you a smidge

Creating a fast, safe adoption system should not be costly. Indeed, it should be cheaper than keeping children in institutions. All it takes is political will, as can be seen from the success of schemes in Peru and Colombia. Public databases that match children with good, willing parents work well locally in some rich countries. (Pennsylvania’s is praised, for example.) There is no reason why such systems should not be made international. Children need parents now, not next year.

Comment by Robin E. Sizemore

“All too often foreign governments come to rely on UNICEF’s child welfare policy of de-institutionalization programs, which on the surface appear to be in the best interest of any child. However, what has resulted is a permanency plan of foster care, as the end goal for these children. Governments are all too happy to rely on subsidized programs and justify it to the beat of ‘keeping children’s heritage and culture’ over a child’s TRUE best interest, which is a loving, suitable, permanent family – wherever that may be. The preamble of the Hague offers that ‘a family environment’ is every child’s right – until that phrase is removed, and permanent family is made the single goal for every child, we can continue to expect governments to fail children through policy and practices counter to any child’s best interest.”

Robin E. Sizemore
Executive Director of Hopscotch Adoptions, Inc and Adoptive parent

Reevaluating Child Welfare Priorities by Katie Jay

Katie Jay posted: "Children enter foster care because they are in danger. A child’s safety should be the first priority in any child welfare system, shouldn’t it? As a lawyer, I’ve been examining the role the judicial system plays in making sure children remain safe once.”

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2014-01-04-14.20.06-e1421780390497-959x1024 A child’s safety should be the first priority in any child welfare system, shouldn’t it? As a lawyer, I’ve been examining the role the judicial system plays in making sure children remain safe once they have been removed from danger.

But when I look around at what our judicial system is actually doing, it becomes clear that our courts too often favor a parent’s right to autonomy over a child’s right to safety.

I don’t know why I am surprised. To give some legal background, our constitution is a “negative rights” instrument, which means that it obliges our government to not interfere with our lives unless necessary. So a parent’s right to privacy in how she raises her family is legally protected.

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Petition update for New York Adoptive Families – Governor Andrew Cuomo: NYS Should Fund Statewide Post Adoption Services

Dear New York Adoptive Parents and Adoption Professionals,
New York State Citizens’ Coalition for Children just posted an update:

Governor Andrew Cuomo: NYS Should Fund Statewide Post Adoption Services

1,188 supporters

Need you to call -Federal funding for post adoption services in jeopardy

New York State Citizens’ Coalition for Children

Jul 31, 2014

HR 4980—Important Child Welfare Legislation which would fund post adoption services is in jeopardy because of Senator Coburn thinks it is too expensive and unneeded. We need as…

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This message was sent by New York State Citizens’ Coalition for Children using the Change.org system. Change.org does not endorse the contents of this message.

Progressives Believe In Child Welfare

Source: http://childrendeservefamilies.com/progressives-believe-child-welfare/

2014-05-18-11.16.04-e1400533116556 Have you noticed how there are new progressives in the adoption debate? Traditional liberals like me have begun to call ourselves “Progressives” instead because we are embarrassed by how the most radical and mindless liberals have taken center stage, and liberals who know better have been taken along for the ride.

As Progressives, we reject the idea that nationality should determine which children deserve a family and which do not. Our opponents come in a few categories.

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Joint Council Statement on ‘Re-Homing’

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Dear Colleagues,

Joint Council has co-signed the following statement regarding the issue of ‘re-homing’.  We stand with you and our colleagues who have also signed this statement urging for reforms needed to prevent unregulated placement of children and increase protections for children.

Sincerely,

Tom DiFilipo

TOM DIFILIPO | President & CEO | +1.703.535.8045 | Uplifting Families. Serving Children. Worldwide.

JointCouncil.org |   AdoptionNutrition.org |   OrphanNutrition.org |   facebook |   blog |   twitter DONATE

For Immediate Release:                                                                                                             September 11, 2013

National Adoption and Child Welfare Organizations, Responding to ‘Re-homing’ Reports, Call on Congress and Public Officials to Protect Children, Support Adoptive Families

The recent Reuters reports about the “re-homing” of adopted children and youth are heartbreaking and appalling. No child should go through agony like this. We know the vast majority of adoptive families are committed to their sons and daughters, and do all they can to keep their children safe and sound and to help them overcome early losses or traumas. But the practice of parents – of any sort – giving their children away to unapproved, unlicensed strangers is anathema to us and must be prevented and prosecuted.

As a society, we must make children’s needs paramount; they are not commodities that can be traded or discarded. We call on federal and state policymakers to take immediate actions to prevent the terrible and unregulated activity that is being called “re-homing,” in which parents privately transfer custody of their adopted children.

Parents who adopt must understand they are making a lifelong commitment to a child. But forcing families to struggle without support, trying to raise children they feel unable to parent, is also unacceptable and harmful to children. The recent news coverage of “re-homing” calls attention to critically important questions about the circumstances that lead to adoptive parents transferring custody, the intentions of those who are seeking children to parent through these practices, and the effects on children. Some parents who seek new homes for their children may be callous and uncaring. Others may not have been properly trained about the core issues of adoption – about the specific issues their child is facing – or may have chosen to adopt through an agency more interested in fees than in vetting and preparation. We must improve processes and require training in the unique challenges of parenting children who have experienced early adversity or have special needs. Agencies that place children for adoption must properly assess families’ abilities, prepare families for a lifetime commitment, and commit to providing ongoing support.

Other parents, however, are good people who are feeling desperately unable to care for their children—some children who have been traumatized by adverse experiences in their early lives, who have brain damage from alcohol or drug exposure in utero, or who have serious mental health and behavioral challenges. We strongly believe children benefit when all adoptive families have access to ongoing services, whether their adoptions were of children from foster care, from other countries, or as infants in the U.S. While many states offer some such services, they are rarely comprehensive. Many known supports do not serve families who adopt internationally, while others may be available in cities, but not in smaller towns. Some offer basic information and referral, but not adoption-competent, trauma-informed family care. Adoptive families need a continuum of support – from information about core adoption issues, to training on special needs, to clinical services that address mental health and behavior challenges. They also need connections with experienced adoptive parents, who can encourage them to hang in there, show them how children can heal, and remind them that adoption is a lifelong commitment.

A coalition of adoption and child welfare partners have been raising visibility about the critical needs of some adoptive families; in recent years, the coalition has called on Congress to implement changes to ensure adopted children and their parents get the services they need to keep their families safe and stable. In a briefing on Capitol Hill, coalition members shared joint policy recommendations to encourage federal policy makers to help shift the paradigm away from simply placing children for adoption to providing the ongoing supports families need to raise children to healthy adulthood. We should wait no longer to implement these recommendations, which include:

  • Establish a reliable, comprehensive, and flexible federal funding source for post-adoption services
  • Ensure services offered to adopted children and their families embrace best practices, are trauma-informed, and are provided by professionals who are trained in supporting children and their adoptive families
  • Invest in research and evaluation to identify and promote the most effective post-adoption services
  • Address the significant gaps in the service delivery system and state policies which too often present parents with the impossible choice of giving up custody to receive state-funded services for their children
  • Provide access to post-adoption services regardless of the type of adoption

We can’t think of a more critical time to pass legislation that extends greater federal support for post-adoption services for children and their families. We applaud the House Ways and Means Committee draft proposal that establishes some designation to support such services, but it is not enough. As Congress sets its sights on adoption legislation [reauthorizing the federal Adoption Incentives Program] this fall, we call for broader action to pursue policies that will put an end to trading children and will create a network of support services that help children and their adoptive families, beginning before a child is adopted and throughout their subsequent journey.
In addition to the above recommendations, we strongly urge legislators and policymakers to protect children from unregulated custody transfers, whether or not they cross state lines. Congress should act immediately, beginning by holding oversight hearings, initiating a comprehensive GAO investigation of the practice of “re-homing” and adoption dissolution, and passing legislation to strengthen the policies and practices that will prevent harm to adopted children. We believe any such investigation should review legal practices and the need for prosecution of wrong-doers in the re-homing of children.

In the meantime, we call on Congress to immediately convene a meeting of senior leadership from the State Department, SAMSHA, ACYF, CMS, and states to examine state-by-state policy implications for this population, with the intended goal of developing better coordination of funding and services and providing technical assistance, training, and strategies to address the needs of adopted children and their families.

For more information or questions contact:

Nicole Dobbins, Voice for Adoption (VFA)
voiceforadoption@gmail.com or 202-210-8118

Joe Kroll, North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC)
joekroll@aol.com or 651-644-3036

Linda Spears, Child Welfare League of America (CWLA)
LSpears@cwla.org or 202-688-4189

Adam Pertman, Donaldson Adoption Institute
APertman@AdoptionInstitute.org or 212-925-4089

Tom DiFilipo, Joint Council on International Children’s Services
tdifilipo@jointcouncil.org or 703-535-8045

UNICEF’s Unethical War Against International Adoption

Source: http://ethicsalarms.com

Unicef%20no%2006-27-2013 There are few things more harmful than a trusted organization associated with good will and good deeds that uses its influence irresponsibly, and there are few organizations with more accumulated trust than UNICEF, the United Nations organization dedicated to children’s rights, safety and welfare. That UNICEF could be promoting policies that actually harms children seems too awful to contemplate, but that appears to be what is occurring. The problem is that most people have grown up thinking of the organization as the epitome of international virtue. UNICEF doing something that hurts kids? Impossible. Since the group’s impressive moral authority seems to be focused in an unethical direction, the damage it can do before public opinion turns is substantial.

An Adoption Law Only King Herod Would Sign

By Victor Davidoff | www.sptimes.ru

After the State Duma passed a bill banning adoptions by Americans, journalist Valery Panyushkin wrote on Facebook, “I know of only two organizations in the world that scare their enemies by harming their own children: Hamas and the United Russia party.”

As a child welfare activist in addition to being a journalist, Panyushkin knows better than most how disastrous the situation is for Russia’s orphans. Today, more than 100,000 orphans live in state institutions, and about 11,000 are adopted in Russia every year. Children with cerebral palsy, other genetic conditions and HIV have it worst of all. Their chances of being adopted in Russia are nil. They are often denied basic care and grow up unable to speak or communicate. As  children’s rights activist Ksenia Fisher wrote on Twitter, “The last time I was in an orphanage, I remember what the kids with disabilities said. They all dream of being adopted by Americans. Otherwise, no one will take them.”

It is also well-known that the chances a child will die after being adopted by a family in Russia are almost 40 times higher than if adopted by a family in the West. In just a few days, more than 100,000 people signed a petition asking the Duma to vote against the ban. There was even opposition to the ban among some United Russia deputies, and the Kremlin was compelled to take unprecedented tough measures to tame their unruly deputies to vote for the ban. The deputies were given an ultimatum: Vote for the law or be ousted from the faction and lose your parliamentary seat. Deputy Alexander Sidyakin abstained, and he was asked to write a note explaining that the electronic voting system at his seat “broke.” Sidyakin refused and is now awaiting the party’s decision on whether his seat will be taken away.

That wasn’t the only dramatic moment in the debates. Vyacheslav Osipov, another United Russia deputy, had chest pains and didn’t attend the voting. But he left his electronic voting card with another party member. His colleague voted for him, and Osipov’s vote for the ban was duly registered. The twist was that by the time deputies cast their votes, Osipov had already died of a heart attack. Even the most rational mind would see a bad omen in a blessing from a dead man.

In the Russian blogosphere, the law was quickly dubbed “the law of scoundrels” and “the law of King Herod.” As television journalist Alexander Arkhangelsky wrote on his LiveJournal blog: “You can argue about whether the Magnitsky Act is good or bad. But you can’t argue about whether or not our orphaned children should be adopted by families that live in the country that passed the Magnitsky Act. Children are above political interests, sovereignty and citizenship. Any response that uses these children leads to dehumanization.”

The reaction of the country’s liberals could be predicted, but it was surprising to hear negative reactions from people who never disagree with the government. Even some members of the Russian Orthodox Church’s high clergy expressed criticism. On the Web portal “Orthodoxy and the World,” Bishop Panteleimon of Smolensk and Vyazemsk wrote: “It is unacceptable to make decisions that affect children based on political trends. All the laws passed by the government must be based on the interests of people. For the sake of people’s interests, you can even sacrifice the prestige of the state.”

Even more surprising was the opinion of Kremlin-loyal television commentator Mikhail Leontyev, whose anti-Americanism on a scale of one to 10 is a solid 11. Nonetheless, Leontyev came out against the law on his Odnako blog. While not renouncing his standard anti-U.S. rhetoric, he reasonably noted that “there are certainly problems with American adoptions, but not with American adoption in and of itself. Through these adoptions, about 50,000 children have gotten the help, care and love that they couldn’t have gotten in their homeland.”

Although passage of the law was formally motivated by concern for the health and well-being of adopted children, few deputies hid that their real goal was punishing the U.S. Liberal Democratic Party Deputy Sergei Ivanov made this very clear in his statement to the protesters: “We have a huge number of ill-wishers abroad. With this law, we can stop their activities in Russia.”

Just Russia Deputy Svetlana Goryacheva had an even more exotic justification for supporting the law. According to her theory, the U.S. is using these children to form an army to invade Russia. In her speech in the Duma on Wednesday, Goryacheva said that “60,000 children have been taken to the U.S. from Russia. And if even one-tenth of these orphans were used for organ transplants or sexual pleasure, there will remain 50,000 who can be recruited for war against Russia.” Josef Stalin would have applauded that speech with loud cheers of “bravo!”

Indeed, the Soviet government forbade foreign adoptions. They were first allowed during the warming of relations with the U.S. during the last years of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s rule. It looks like Putin’s time machine, set in motion at the start of his third term, is returning the country to that era. In the past year, inch by inch, Putin has been rebuilding parts of the iron curtain, creating obstacles to free flow of information and personal contacts. On the same day the law on adoptions was passed, the Duma also ratified a law prohibiting people with dual citizenship from heading Russian nongovernmental organizations. It is widely believed that this measure was taken against two people: Lyudmila Alexeyeva, who heads the Moscow Helsinki Group, and Tatyana Lokshina, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Moscow office.

Grigory Yavlinsky, a leader of the Yabloko party, wrote on his LiveJournal blog: “This law not only is cruel but also speaks of the Bolshevik nature and Stalinist roots of the Russian political system. This is capitalism with a Stalinist face.”

Now the only question is: How far back into the dark days of the Soviet Union will Putin’s time machine lead the country?

Victor Davidoff is a Moscow-based writer and journalist who follows the Russian blogosphere in his biweekly column.

Notice: Approval of the Agreement between the United States of America and the Russian Federation Regarding Cooperation in Adoption of Children

On July 10, 2012 the Russian Duma approved the bilateral adoption agreement signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on July 13, 2011.  This marks a significant milestone toward the entry into force of the Agreement, which will provide additional safeguards to better protect the welfare and interests of children and all parties involved in intercountry adoptions. To find out more about the agreement, please visit the U.S. Department of State’s FAQs and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) FAQs on the Agreement and its implementation.

The Agreement will now go to the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian Parliament, and once approved, will be sent to President Putin.  Following President Putin’s signature, the parties will need to establish procedures to implement the Agreement, which we are committed to doing as expeditiously as possible.  Following the establishment of these procedures, the Agreement will enter into force upon the exchange of notes between the U.S. and Russian governments. The Department of State and USCIS will provide guidance on their websites related to the Agreement.

Please monitor adoption.state.gov and uscis.gov for more information.

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