Monday, November 1, 2010

State Department Briefing on International Adoption

To mark the start of National Adoption Month, Special Advisor for Children's Issues Ambassador Susan Jacobs gave a briefing about international adoption.  Pretty pro forma stuff, but brief mentions of Ethiopia, Nepal & Haiti:
One of the countries that we are working with is Ethiopia. The number of adoptions from Ethiopia continues to increase and it now ranks second in the world behind China in the number of children who are adopted from Ethiopia to the United States. At the beginning of September, I was pleased to accompany Senator Mary Landrieu and U.S. Agency for International Development Special Advisor for Orphans and Vulnerable Children Gary Newton to Ethiopia. We visited orphanages, child care centers, and other organizations and met with government leaders. One of the results already of this visit is greater cooperation between the United States, other countries that adopt from Ethiopia, and nongovernmental organizations as we work with the Government of Ethiopia to help them improve their child welfare system and to make sure that adoptions are transparent and honest.

The United States joined a number of other countries – in fact, all the countries that were then doing adoptions in Nepal, in suspending any new adoption cases based on abandonment. We recognize the heartache experienced by parents whose cases have not yet been processed, and they are waiting for the completion of their investigations. We are especially mindful of the effects that any delay in an investigation may have in the life of a child, and for prospective adoption parents who are looking for a conclusion to their case and the ability to bring their child home.

However, investigations are necessary to ensure that the children sought for adoption are indeed orphans and eligible for inter-country adoption. A joint U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and State Department team traveled to Nepal in an effort to determine how to address the existing cases. Officials at our Embassy in Kathmandu are making every effort to expedite these cases.

After the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the Departments of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and State coordinated efforts to ensure the safety and welfare of orphans who are in the process of being adopted by American families. Through the extraordinary commitment of the United States Government in Haiti, their personnel in Haiti and here in the United States, we united over 1,000 children with their adoptive families. During the crisis, 12 children were also brought from Haiti to the United States who had not previously been matched with families here. Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and State have been working closely with the Government of Haiti to ensure the welfare of children and respect for Haitian laws and procedures. A delegation from the three agencies traveled to Haiti about four weeks ago to work with the Haitian Government to resolve these cases.
More details about the 12 Haitian children came out in the very brief Q & A session:
QUESTION: I have a question. You mentioned the 12 Haitian children who were brought here and had not been matched. Where do those cases stand?

* * *

AMBASSADOR JACOBS: We sent a team down there to meet with the Haitian officials and with the parents of these children, and we expect that these cases will be resolved very soon.

QUESTION: Resolved in what way? Will the children go back?

AMBASSADOR JACOBS: Resolved in whether the parents want to relinquish the children so that they can be adopted in the United States or --

QUESTION: So the parents have been identified?

AMBASSADOR JACOBS: Oh, yes. I mean, and the children have – were in contact with their parents throughout this process.


AMBASSADOR JACOBS: They’re in a very safe, loving atmosphere. I have been in touch with the social worker there. So the children are well-protected and well-cared for. But it’s up to the parents to decide whether or not they want to relinquish these children for adoption. And if they don’t, we will send back the children whose parents want them returned.
Doesn't that seem backwards?  Shouldn't we return them to their parents in Haiti, and THEN ask whether they want to place them for adoption?!

There were other questions about Russian and Guatemalan adoption, though not very forthcoming answers. Click the link above to read the whole thing.

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