Sunday, July 31, 2011

Root-Seeking Tour in China

From China Economic Net:
Adopted Chinese children from 90 American families attended a welcome ceremony in Beijing on Wednesday, marking the start of their root-seeking journey which will feature a whirlwind of tours to China's ancient relics.

The adopted children, aged from four to 18, have been invited to return to their birthplace or orphanage and attend activities that would help them have a better understanding of China, an unnamed official with China's Ministry of Civil Affairs told Xinhua.

Most of the adopted children are from China's southern provinces of Jiangxi, Hunan and Guangdong as well as Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Together with their parents, the returning orphans have a fully-packed schedule including visits to China's most renowned places of interests including Chengdu, home to the giant pandas, and Xi'an, where the terra-cotta warriors are.
Not much different from the reports of previous China-sponsored "root-seeking" tour. It seems to me, though, that the real focus is the adoptive parents, not the supposedly root-seeking child. . . .

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Angelina Jolie & Culture Keeping

In a lengthier interview in the Financial Times (registration required), Angelina Jolie talks about her kids and culture (you can also get this snippet of the interview from People without registration (thanks to LisaLew for the link)):
The Jolie Pitt family is a miniature League of Nations. Their eldest son Maddox, who is almost 10, was adopted in 2002 from his native Cambodia. Zahara, aged six, was born in Ethiopia, while Shiloh, the couple’s first biological child, was born five years ago in Namibia. Pax, whom they adopted four years ago, was born in Vietnam and three years ago, Jolie gave birth in France to twins Knox and Vivienne. “They are all learning about each other’s cultures as well as being proud of their own,” she says. “So it’s not like just the boys get to do the Asian thing. They all have their flags over their beds and their individual pride. We owe Vietnam a visit, because Pax is due. Z wants to get back to Africa, and Shiloh too. So everyone takes their turns in their country.”
The FT interview also references the Louis Vuitton ad I posted here:
She has been to Cambodia this year, to shoot an advertising campaign for Louis Vuitton with Annie Leibovitz. An impoverished country might seem like an odd place for a luxury fashion house to shoot an ad campaign but the final decision was made by Jolie herself. “To actually do it there, to highlight the beauty of the country, was something I was very happy to do because it is a place people should travel to,” she says. Indeed, she and Pitt have a house there – “it’s a little place on stilts”. Her fee from the campaign will go towards charitable projects in the country, she says, building on work she began with a foundation the family established in Maddox’s name. “It’s focused on protecting mountains from deforestation, poaching and clearing landmines. We put it together for Mad so when he’s older he’ll hopefully take it over.”
 Lots of issues here -- the always-popular "miniature League of Nations" crack, culture-keeping, including multiple cultures, culture when adopted and bio children in the family, travel to birth country, charity in birth country (does donating her fee to charity absolve Jolie of charges of exploitation?), expectations of adoptees' charity in birth country. . . and what else am I missing?

Your reactions?  Comment, please!

Single Mom Stigma, Alive & Kicking

From Brain, Child Magazine:
They’re easy. They’re slutty. They got pregnant with some random guy. Or, selfishly, they ran out to the sperm bank when they turned forty. It’s their fault.

They’re always broke. They’re on welfare. They’re sponging off the taxpayers. They should work for a living, and, simultaneously, they should stay home with their kids. Whatever they do, it’s never as good as what a married mom does. Ever. It’s their fault.

They should have worked harder to keep their marriages together. They go out partying anytime the ex has the children. They’re man-haters. Or manhunters, who shouldn’t be left alone with other people’s husbands. Their kids are troubled, or troublemakers, bound for the penitentiary, suffering without a male in the house, un-cared for, un-read to, a bad influence on other children.

They’re brave but pitiable. Their families, and their lives, aren’t complete because they don’t have a mommy and a daddy living under the same roof. And that’s their fault.

Thank God it’s 2011, not the 1950s, and people no longer subscribe to those heinously out-of-date stereotypes about single mothers. Right?


Maybe not. This past February, the Pew Research Center issued findings from its survey on changes in family structure, in which respondents were asked to rank a list of seven trends, such as interracial marriage and gay couples raising kids, as being good, bad, or of no consequence to society. More respondents—nearly seven out of ten—ranked “single mothers” as being bad for society—more than any of the other choices.
It's a fascinating essay, exploring these themes and others.  Be sure to read the whole thing.

I'm interested, not just because I'm a single mom myself, but also because of the implications for adoption more generally.  These attitudes influence policymakers in a number of ways, from laws limiting singles adopting and laws limiting oversight on minors relinquishing parental rights (after all, if single momhood is so bad, the only possible decision is adoption, so why bother to protect an unmarried mother's decision to relinquish?).

Friday, July 29, 2011

Staycation 2011, Entry Five

We headed to Dallas today for our staycation adventure, hitting three museums in Fair Park -- the Museum of Nature & Science, the Children's Aquarium, and the African-American Museum.
The motivation for the trip was the Chinasaurs exhibit at the Nature & Science museum.  It focused on newly-discovered dinosaurs from China, but it was mostly dinosaurs, not China.  The girls liked looking at the provinces the dinos were from, and there was a short video opining that the Chinese dragon myth came from fossils of dinosaurs.  Those were the only touches of China there.  Still, it's a nice exhibit for the dinosaur lovers out there.

There were other fun parts of the museum:

Oh, and for any China adoptive parents who got stuck in the SARS outbreak slowdown, I snapped this in the DNA exhibit, which used the SARS virus to illustrate DNA matching:

Then on to the Children's Aquarium.  The highlight was the outside stingray lagoon, where the girls had the opportunity to touch the stingrays.  They were excited to see more sharks than we did in our recent visit to the Sea Life Aquarium in Grapevine.

And just like the drama of the dinosaur picture above, where they played scared, they had to act out another drama -- Zoe captured by an octopus with Maya coming to the rescue!

The last stop turned out to be my favorite, and the girls actually liked it, too.  There was GREAT artwork at the African-American Museum.  Lots of mixed media and fabric art, including this gorgeous quilt/wall hanging:
This piece was an homage to the artist's mother's garden, and there were gaps in the quilt with notes and photos and ephemera tucked in -- very cool!  Zoe named it her favorite thing in the museum.

There was also a great exhibit about Dallas' Freedman's Cemetery, very interesting.  Zoe in particular liked to listen to the interview videos of older African-Americans talking about what it was like living in Dallas during the Jim Crow era.

Whew, we were worn out after all of that, though with our Fair Park Passports, we still have lots more museums to see and 90 days to do it! 

81 Children Rescued from Chinese Child Trafficking Ring

From the New York Times:
In a significant illustration of China’s illicit trade in babies, the Ministry of Public Security said Wednesday that the police had rescued 81 children from a major child trafficking ring that had operated throughout eastern China.

Xinhua, China’s official news agency, reported that 13 babies were rescued in the city of Handan in Hebei Province, ranging in age from only 10 days to 4 months. Most were girls, the news agency said.

More than 2,600 police officers from 14 provinces were deployed in a sting operation on July 20, which resulted in the detention of 330 suspects, the ministry said in a report posted on its Web site.

Another raid earlier this month broke up a cross-border child trafficking operation in China’s southern provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi, Xinhua reported. Eight children were rescued and 39 suspects, mostly Vietnamese, were arrested, according to Chinese media reports.
So what happens to the children?  According to China Daily:
All 89 kidnapped children, including eight Vietnamese infants, who were recently rescued by police from two major human trafficking rings in South China, will not be allowed to stay with the people who bought them.

The decision is part of an attempt to limit the growth of the black market in stolen children, said Chen Shiqu, director of the anti-human trafficking office under the criminal investigation bureau of the Ministry of Public Security.

Chen told China Daily the existence of a buyer's market is the main cause of human trafficking crimes.

He said the children should be placed under the temporary care of civil affairs departments before their parents can be located and verified through DNA tests.

"To make the buyers lose both the child and their money, and to completely deny their original intention, we will ask the civil affairs departments to temporarily take care of the rescued children," he said.

The Criminal Law says abducted children whose parents cannot be found will not be available for adoption due to the lack of identification. This means they will live in welfare institutions, which are not conducive to the healthy development of children.

"We are negotiating with civil affairs departments to improve the laws to allow unidentified children to be adopted," Chen Shiqu said.
Despite the quote from Chen, that the existence of a buyer's market is what causes this human trafficking, the buyers will not be facing criminal charges as long as they did not abuse the children they bought.  The New York Times article says, "'The cost of the crime of buying children is not great,' Liu Ancheng, deputy director of the ministry’s criminal investigation bureau, told the newspaper."  No kidding!

And, no, for those who will want this pointed out, there's no evidence that these trafficked children were intended for international adoption to the West.  Though the children taken from Vietnam to China were trafficked internationally. . . .

Thursday, July 28, 2011

15 Months Later, Artyom in Orphanage

From the Moscow Times, an update on Artyom, the young Russian boy returned to Moscow alone on an airplane with a note saying the mother no longer wished to parent him:
Seven-year-old Artyom Savelyev will find a new family in Russia in no time, children's ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said last year after his adoptive U.S. mother shipped him home unaccompanied on a plane.

The rejection of Artyom in April 2010 prompted threats to ban the adoption of Russian children by American parents and ultimately an adoptions treaty signed by the top U.S. and Russian diplomats in Washington this month.

The treaty should have been named in Artyom's honor, Astakhov said in an interview Wednesday. But the boy, now 9, remains in an orphanage, more than a year after he was promised new parents.

Savelyev's adoption has been delayed by red tape and worries about his psychological condition, not over a lack of willing adoptive parents, his caretakers said. But these are the same factors that keep any Russian from adopting one of the country's 150,000 parentless children.

* * *

Astakhov said in May 2010 that several Russian families were prepared to take in Artyom and most likely a diplomat family who spoke English and Russian would be selected to ease the boy's re-adaptation to Russian life. Astakhov said the boy would be adopted within a month.

But the prediction proved overly optimistic, in part because a Moscow court only formally canceled the boy's U.S. adoption last month, Astakhov said Wednesday.

"I have no doubts that Artyom will find parents," Astakhov said by telephone.

But Alexei Shnykin, who works at the Moscow orphanage caring for Artyom, said he was not so sure.

The boy has learned to love several adoptive families, including Hansen, but all have abandoned him, causing lasting psychological damage, Shnykin said.

"We are afraid that the situation might be repeated in a new family, and we don't want to traumatize the boy," he said by telephone.

He could not predict how long it would take for Artyom to be ready for re-adoption, but added that Savelyev is treated well and went to summer camp recently.
At least one bit of "red tape" that delayed any possibility of adoption was the adoptive mother's refusal to relinquish parental rights.  Sheesh.

Man's Dying Wish to Help North Korean Orphans

From the Korea Herald:
His hard-won adoption by an American professor transformed Han Sang-man’s destiny from that of a North Korean street boy to a successful U.S. businessman with the means to help other refugees.

His adoptive father, Arthur Schneider, took the orphaned Han under his wing while serving here in the aftermath of the Korean War. Schneider then lobbied the U.S. government to pass a special law that in 1961 legally allowed Han to live with him in America.

Now Sam Han ― as he became known on arriving in Minnesota aged 16 ― is fighting to give many more North Korean children the chance to find loving homes in the U.S.

The terminally ill charity founder is campaigning to have the North Korean Refugee Adoption Act of 2011 passed in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

If passed, the bill would allow U.S. citizens to adopt North Korean children who have successfully fled Pyongyang’s oppressive regime, but are now living in poverty in third countries such as China.

Han said there were many willing families waiting to take them in, but the U.S. government must first help them overcome hurdles from the legality of the adoptions and mediating with third countries to transporting the children to the U.S.

“The Hague Treaty has a clause about Human Trafficking that does not allow U.S. citizens to adopt North Koreans because of North Korean Law,” he told The Korea Herald.

"What this law does is it forces several departments within the U.S. government to figure out a way for the legal adoption of North Korean orphans.”
I wish the U.S. would do more to help North Korean refugee families, not just unparented children.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Interview with Dr. Jane Aronson

Interesting interview with Dr. Jane Aronson, well-known as the "adoption doctor;" she talks about what orphans need beyond adoption and what her non-profit organization is doing in communities:
Early on I made an assessment that in situations where there is no chance for children to find permanent homes, that you had to be engaged with, involved with and committed to the local community to gain support. That’s why WWO doesn’t just work with orphans in a community, but also help other children and entire families, people of all ages.

Every orphan is in someway connected to a community. If we can help support that community, we help the kids. We focus on the community. What’s going wrong there to create orphans? Battered families? Illness? Extreme poverty? We try to focus on alleviate the causes. For instance, we set up the Family Resource Center in Vietnam, which supports parents who are HIV positive. If we can help them stay well, we help their children stay within a family and prevent them from becoming orphans.

* * *

Adoption is obviously the gold standard. Every kid deserves a permanent family in a safe and loving home. The trouble is the orphan problem is too great to be resolved through adoption alone. There just are too many children. There has to be another solution to support these kids. To me, orphans symbolize the lack of justice in the world. These children are the victims of poor adult decisions and the big picture is that it’s incredibly sad that human beings allow this to happen. But the fact is they do, these kids exist and we have a moral obligation to do something about it.

* * *

Every community that has high number so orphans should be given a family resource center, where all families can tap into help with everything from mental health to vaccines to job training to parenting classes. We should be putting a major emphasis on strengthening families.
I couldn't agree more with what Dr. Aronson says here.  I'm on record as also saying that adoption can't solve the orphan crisis, no matter how many Orphan Sundays we have; the only way to solve the orphan crisis is to work to eliminate the reasons children become orphans in the first place.

Hacking Attack on Journalist Who Reported Child Trafficking in China

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that the reporter from Caixin Century magazine who reported about the confiscation of over-quota children by family planning authorities has been the target of a hack attack:
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a hacking attack on a Chinese journalist's e-mail account reported by her employer on Saturday. The attack originated from a region of China where the journalist was investigating child trafficking.

The Beijing-based Caixin Media group said in a statement posted to its website on Saturday that its Caixin magazine reporter Zhao Hejuan's Gmail account had been hijacked by an unknown person or group. A Gmail security alert notified Zhao on July 21 that someone had been accessing the personal account she used for work purposes, according to the statement. Caixin said the unauthorized access had begun on July 19 and was traced through the IP address to the county of Longhui in Hunan province. Zhao had been in Longhui investigating the alleged abduction of children born outside family-planning restrictions for adoption overseas, which Caixin said in May was a for-profit scheme run by local government officials.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Staycation 2011, Entry Four

Today's close-to-home adventure was at the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, aka the Money Factory.  Fort Worth is the only place outside of Washington, D.C. that prints American paper money.  We picked exactly the right week to visit (purely by accident), one of the three weeks of the year where there are special exhibits and kids' activities in addition to the usual tour.

The kids loved the special activity -- designing, engraving and printing their own money.  Really.  They designed their bills with the help of tracing paper, some shapes to trace and some number and letter stencils.  Then they turned the paper over to get a reverse print and engraved the image on a clear plate.  The plate was inked by a plant worker and run through a hand-run spider press by another plant worker, and voila! the girls had their own money!  The image above is Zoe's printed money;  Maya's was a little too light to scan well, so here's her paper design:

Oh, and what the heck, in case you can't really see Zoe's printed money, here's her drawn design, too:

It was actually a pretty impressive kids' activity;  I'd recommend my local friends high-tail it there before the end of the week.  Watching the real money being made is really interesting, too.  I learned lots of new tidbits about money, like the fact that it isn't really made of paper, but cloth.  THAT explains how I can wash the same money over and over again in the washer without it falling apart!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dear Abby: Fund-Raising for Adoption

OK, here's the letter:
DEAR ABBY: My best friend “Zoe” is unable to have children. She tried in vitro four times without success. The doctors told her there’s nothing else they can do.

Zoe and her husband have decided to adopt. However, it is very expensive and all of their savings went toward the IVF treatments. Zoe’s mom wants to have a benefit to raise money for them. I am against the idea because, in my opinion, benefits are given for something you don’t choose (like cancer or a house fire). Adopting a child is a choice.

I live paycheck-to-paycheck as it is, and I don’t feel comfortable donating to this cause. What if they change their minds after the benefit or the adoption doesn’t work out? What will they do with the money then?

Is what they’re planning acceptable? I know I’ll be talked about by Zoe and her mother if I don’t contribute. — Friend in Conflict
So how would you answer the letter?  What do you think of all the fundraising for adoptions that goes on, spread far and wide on the blogosphere?  How do you think Abby answered it?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Drop in International Adoption Sparks Debate

From USAToday:
In the United States, the number of children adopted internationally has fallen 52 percent -- from a high of 22,991 in 2004 to 11,058 last year. In comparison, 25,000-30,000 children were adopted through private agencies and about 50,000 were adopted through the foster care system in 2009, the most recent year for which those numbers are available.

Elizabeth Bartholet, a Harvard law professor and international adoption expert, said those numbers are "pretty stunning. I see it as a crisis for international adoption, which I think is a crisis for children worldwide."

But others say a needed transition is under way, and that international adoption should be the last resort for finding homes for unparented children. Loose regulations and the large sums of money changing hands have spawned corrupt practices, they say, and as abuses are exposed, many countries have shut down or severely limited inter-country adoption.

"Which is as it should be," said Julie Gilbert Rosicky, executive director of the American branch of the International Social Service, a nonprofit active in 140 countries. "We should not be adopting children when children are being bought and sold or being stolen."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's Offical: Boys Have 2 Moms

From the Orlando Sentinal, reporting on gay/lesbian adoptions after a Florida appeals court lifted the ban:
Lori Bott and Georgette LeMieux met at an Orlando Walmart 12 years ago and fell in love. They moved in together and, during the next five years, each would give birth to a son.

Earlier this month, they joined a small but growing number of Florida gays and lesbians who have done what, until this past autumn, was illegal: They adopted children.

Bott became a legal parent to LeMieux's 9-year-old, Mike, who wants to be a soldier. LeMieux adopted Bott's 7-year-old son, Matt, who so loves John Deere tractors that he has a bedspread and curtains covered with pictures of them.

Each woman got teary-eyed during the July6 court hearing in Hillsborough County that finalized the adoptions.

"It's exciting," Bott said at the time, "because we know what it means."

For 33 years, gays and lesbians were barred by state law from adopting. That changed in October, when Florida's 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami upheld the right of a Miami man — a foster parent — to adopt two children he had been raising for years.

* * *

LeMieux, a fast-food executive, and Bott, a deputy sheriff, said they didn't adopt to be trendsetters. They just wanted to unify their family, said Bott, 39.

The adoptions change little in their day-to-day lives. They have always lived as a family of four, but this allows LeMieux to put Matt on her company's health-insurance plan and straightens out who will care for the boys if one of the adults dies.

"This is solid," Bott said. "This is something that can't be taken away from us."

Author Sapphire Talks Adoption

Sapphire, author of Push, from which the movie Precious was made, tackles some adoption issues in her new book, The Kid.  Here's a profile in the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
It has been 15 years since the novel "Push" introduced readers to Claireece "Precious" Jones, an illiterate abused teen mother with AIDS. It has been two years since "Precious," the movie version of that book, rocked the film industry winning a number of major awards including two Academy Awards.

Early this month, "Push" author, Sapphire, re-entered the literary scene with her second novel, "The Kid," (The Penguin Press, $25.95). The novel, a journey into the life of Precious' son, Abdul, begins the day of her funeral. Abdul is 9 years old and he's all alone in the world. But despite the opening scene, Sapphire is quick to note, ‘The Kid" is not a traditional sequel.

"It is a sequel in that it continues to look at the profound and devastating effect AIDS has had on the African-American community," said Sapphire by phone before her Tuesday book signing in Atlanta. "I wanted to do another psychological portrait of a character."

Brace yourself for a journey through a new set of social issues that define Abdul's generation from adoption and the foster care system to sex abuse in the Catholic church.

* * *

Sapphire believes some buttons were just meant for pushing. She may not be a social worker, but if she were, heaven help the foster care system.

"We have in our country a large pool of adoptable African-American children, especially black boys, who do not ever get adopted," Sapphire said. "They kind of tell that to Abdul [which they have no business telling him, she adds] to disempower him. They tell him it would be easier for him to be adopted if he was small or a girl or biracial."

For these reasons, Sapphire said she firmly believes in adoption of all sorts from transracial adoption to adoption of children by single women. "Had Abdul been adopted at 9-years-old, I wouldn't have had to write ‘The Kid,'" she said.
Has anyone read "The Kid?"  What did you think of it?  Even if I hadn't liked Push (which I LOVED!), I'd be a Sapphire fan since she stopped by the blog and left a kind comment at this post (brag, brag, brag!)(OK, all she said was "great post," but it doesn't take much to make me happy!).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Putin Weighs in on Russian Adoption

Yahoo News reporting:
Couples who want to adopt Russian children should undergo special training in the basics of teaching, psychology and first aid, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said.

'High-quality training must be compulsory for the adoptive parents,' Putin said.

The classes should be required for both Russian and foreign couples, he said, adding that regional authorities should cover the costs incurred by Russian couples.

Russia and the US have signed an adoption deal that stipulates psychological testing of adoptive parents and requires them to use only accredited adoption agencies.

Staycation 2011, Entry Three

Today's staycation visit was the Ghengis Khan exhibit at the Irving Arts Center.  At this statue in the lobby, the girls are showing just how scary Ghengis Khan was, though once inside the exhibit we learned there was a bit more to him than just evil barbarian (though there was plenty of that, too!). Did you know he created a code of laws?  One was translated as "love your neighbor as you love yourself."  Really?!  That was next to the exhibit about the seige of a walled Chinese city where he used captured Chinese on the front lines and used a catapult to send diseased animals over the wall to infect people in the city.  How neighborly. . . .

We learned that the Mongolians invented passports, diplomatic immunity, ground meat, eyeglasses and pants.  Bless the Mongolians for pants!  The girls loved every mention of China, even when it involved invasion and destruction.  I hadn't realized that the Mongol Empire had extended all the way through China as far south as Hong Kong  (I thought it was limited to the north.) 

The exhibit included the mummified remains of a Mongolian noblewoman who died over 800 years ago, which the girls found fascinating and not gross. What I liked was that the exhibit had to be kept at a lovely 60 degrees to preserve the mummy -- first time this month of 21 consecutive 100+-degree days I've felt comfortable!  They actually handed out blankets to the crowd at the exhibit -- sheesh!

No photos allowed in the exhibit, so I compensated by taking tons in the gift shop, including the kids' activity area where the girls dug in the sand for archeological finds and made paper Mongolian-style hats.

I took a picture of a poster showing a Buddhist dance-drama with a masked figure -- we got to see the actual mask in the exhibit.

I think the most fun in the gift shop, though, came when we all tried on Mongolian-made hats, some old-style, some new, and some just plain silly!

Umm, in case you're wondering, I didn't buy the hat!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jolie's Journey to Cambodia Ad for Louis Vuitton

OK, it's a long video, but I'd be interested in your reaction to this ad for Louis Vuitton, featuring Angelina Jolie talking about Cambodia, the country from which she adopted one of her children.  If you're limited for time, look at these time marks especially:

*Around 4:50, where Jolie talks about visiting Cambodia and knowing she would adopt from there.

*Around 5:50, where she talks about introducing her boys to eating crickets as part of their culture (here's a link with a summary of the crickets conversation.)

*Around 6:10, talking about blending in when traveling (with Louis Vuitton luggage?!)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Organization Pushing for Domestic Adoption in Ethiopia

I love to see this kind of story of groups working for domestic adoption in countries that send children for international adoption.  There are a lot of barriers to overcome in this kind of work, in particular the financial motive to push international adoption over domestic adoption:
It has repeatedly been said that one of the greatest problems that Ethiopia is facing as a nation is the Orphan Crisis. According to one statistics, of the estimated 143 million orphans worldwide 5.5 million live in Ethiopia. KIDMIA foundation is a non-governmental organization with the vision to see orphaned and vulnerable children released from physical, economic, and spiritual poverty, and to help them reach their highest potential. KIDMIA is a word play in Amharic for ‘priority’, clearly establishing the organizations motivation to prioritize the cause of orphans.

For years, there have been various attempts to address this issue individually and collectively. International adoption from Ethiopia, for example, has increased considerably in recent years. There are also a large number of national and International aid organizations operating and sponsoring orphanages in all parts of Ethiopia. However, at current rate, it is estimated that it would take 5.5 million families 125 billion US dollars and 2,500 years to solve Ethiopia’s orphan crisis through international adoption alone and Institutional care is understood to be a last resort by all.

A more obvious, but little utilized option to stem the orphan crisis is generally believed to be domestic adoption. Many are quick to claim that adoption, in the sense of legally and emotionally taking responsibility for adopted child, is alien to Ethiopian culture. Ato Aschalew Abebe, shown above with wife Ruth and son Fikir, who is the Country Director of KIDMIA Foundation, however firmly believes that wide spread domestic adoption is not only desirable but viable.

* * *

“There are many international adoption agencies working in Ethiopia but none are actively working in promoting or facilitating domestic adoption. Local orphanages that work with these organizations are reluctant to make children available for domestic families because of the large amount of money that is involved when children are adopted internationally. One particular director let us know in no uncertain terms that it ‘was a survival issue’ as they depended on the money from international adoptions to maintain their institutions.

* * *

“Orphanage directors make calculated decisions primarily based on what is beneficial to the institutions and not with the best interest of the children at heart. It is only by creating and empowering a national adoption Agency that we can change the system that allows orphanages to arbitrarily decide the fate of the children. We need to be able to make changes on the policy level as well as increase the capacity of the organizations dealing with adoption both governmental and non-governmental. Policy changes that favor and facilitate the processes for domestic adoption and increase awareness within existing institutions are paramount. There is also great need for increasing the capacity of personnel dealing with and interpreting the principles of adoption. KIDMIA is currently working with its partners to influence these changes at all levels,” says Ato Aschalew.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Father loses bid to overturn Utah adoption

From the Salt Lake Tribune:
The Utah Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a Virginia father’s appeal to overturn the adoption of his daughter, a child known as “Baby Emma,” finding he did not meet required deadlines for asserting his parental rights.

* * *

In Virginia, Wyatt said he was not surprised by the decision.

“This is what Utah does,” he said. “They steal people’s babies. It is like a big game to these people.”

* * *

Jeri Wyatt, John’s mother, said she was “just heartbroken. We’re not stopping and we’re going to fight like hell to get that baby back. They are not going to steal this baby because that’s all it is — a kidnapping. Shame on Utah for crafting biased, unconstitutional laws against unmarried biological fathers. The state of Utah has been doing this for years and they’ll continue doing it, and somebody has to stop it.”

* * *

Utah’s statute requires unmarried biological fathers to follow a strict time frame, regardless of where they reside or where a child is born, to preserve any right to object to an adoption. The biological father must show he did not and could not have known an adoption was being considered; begin court proceedings to establish his paternity before a birth mother gives consent for an adoption to proceed; and demonstrate he is fully committed to assuming his parental responsibilities, such as paying for pregnancy related expenses.

At least half a dozen unmarried biological fathers have waged unsuccessful efforts to stop adoptions in Utah. In one case, the court found a father was on notice when his pregnant girlfriend told him she was in Utah; in another, the court said a father failed to adequately show how he would provide for a child.
Utah's law is not that unusual in putting up near-impossible hurdles for unmarried fathers interested in parenting their children when the birth mother wants to place the child for adoption. 

Since Lehr v. Robertson, from the U.S. Supreme Court, approved a state requirement that the father file in the state's paternity registry as the exclusive way to assert a desire to parent, that's pretty much the default rule in most states.  The facts in Lehr are telling;  the mother and her new husband were aware than the bio dad opposed the adoption by the new husband, the bio dad had filed a paternity action in another court, and the judge of the adoption court knew that he had done so.  Still, since he failed to file in the paternity registry, the Supreme Court said he had failed to grasp his opportunity interest in being a parent.

So to grasp his opportunity interest in being a parent, an unmarried father must file in a state's paternity registry.  How many people do you suppose know this?  And where to file?  For this Virginia dad, where the sex happened in Virginia and the birth happened in Virginia, how is he to know to file in Utah?

And what about the father who doesn't know the woman he slept with is pregnant, much less contemplating adoption?  The courts say sex is notice! 

So I tell my male students that they should send in notice to the paternity registry in all 50 states any and every time they have sex with a woman they're not married to if they want to protect their rights as potential fathers!  Of course, that's a pretty ridiculous thing to do, and even if you have no sympathy for the hound-dog bio father, think how it violates the privacy rights of the women who are not pregnant or contemplating adoption when he dutifully sends in his postcard claiming paternity in a sex-as-notice world.

The bio father can also grasp his opportunity interest by having a relationship with the child, something a little difficult to do in newborn adoption, huh?  He can also prepare himself to parent -- setting up a nursery, putting the child on his insurance, etc.  But he has to know she's pregnant, right?  He can also be financially and emotionally supportive of the mother during the pregnancy, but that requires her to cooperate, and sometimes she doesn't want to.  And the biggie -- he can marry her!  Again, something she may not be inclined to do. So a lot of these things are kind of out of the father's hands.  We set standards that are pretty difficult to meet, especially in newborn adoption.

When we talk about birth mothers in my Adoption Law class, I ask the students to give me the first words that come to mind when they hear the phrase "birth mother."  I usually get words like loving, young, overwhelmed -- generally sympathetic words.  When I ask for the same thing for "birth father," I get uncaring, disinterested, not nurturing.  Those words say it all, right?  That attitude explains our legal treatment of birth fathers.  We assume he's not interested in parenting or competent to parent.  No problem, then, in having laws that ignore his role completely.

Those laws won't change so long as the attitude remains the same.

Staycation 2011, Entry Two

Today's staycation stop was the new Sea Life Aquarium in Grapevine.  Definitely pricey -- compared to the C.R. Smith Aviation Museum, which cost the four of us $10, the aquarium was almost $75.  Ouch!  Still, it was pretty amazing, and the girls had a great time.  Just look at those faces in the bubble that let them be in the middle of the manta ray exhibit!  Our photos are lousy, since we didn't use flash so as not to bother the sea life, but I'm going to share them anyway!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Test-Drive-an-Orphan Programs

As reported in the Houston Chronicle:
Six-year-old Omar ran into the Evermon's living room clutching an R2-D2 toy, pushing every button he could find on the Star Wars droid.

The boy with sparkling blue eyes, who arrived from Colombia on Saturday, has much to explore in this new world.

"Omar is definitely very interested and curious," said Vanessa Evermon, whose family is hosting three of the 16 orphans making a summer trip to Houston with Orphan Hope International.

If all goes well, the Evermons, who already have three children, may expand their family.

To the Colombian orphans, this three-week journey is a chance to learn about American culture and to escape their everyday lives. In reality, the high-stakes vacation is designed to find permanent homes for older orphans from the poverty-stricken, war-torn Latin American country.

* * *

Several other groups around the country also offer host programs to allow families to meet children before deciding on an international adoption. Despite the rising popularity of this type of program, some worry about the ramifications on the orphans' already fragile emotional well beings.

Programs and participants must be sensitive to the children's feelings and careful not to raise their expectations of being adopted, one expert said.

"How you do it, how thoughtfully you do it, how carefully you do it, and how sensitively you do it, really matters big time," said Adam Pertman, author of Adoption Nation. "Because done well, this is a technique that can really work to a kid's benefit and to a family's benefit, but they haven't always been done well. And some children and some families have been hurt emotionally by it."

Fredy Rincon, a Colombian psychologist chaperoning the kids on the Houston trip, said Orphan Hope International has addressed these concerns. "The children were not told that there may be a chance they may get adopted," he said. "We prepare them by telling them they are on a vacation and before we leave, we prepare them for return to Colombia."

While they emphasize that this is a vacation, the "orphans understand the reason for the visit and pray for adoption," according to the group's website, which also touts that host programs have average adoption rates of 85 percent.
This takes speed-dating for children to a whole new level, doesn't it? Here you get to move it with your speed-date and stay awhile. . . .

Sunday, July 17, 2011

FCC Swim Party

Abandoned as a baby, 62-year-old looks for birth relatives

From the Chattanooga Times Free Press:
Elevator operator Ruth Thomas found him.

The baby, covered by a pink blanket, was left on a chair in the women’s restroom at Chattanooga City Hall, according to an article in the Sept. 29, 1948, Chattanooga Times.

Whose baby was it?

That was the question then, and it’s still the question today for 62-year-old James Alfred “Al” Graham.

“I am that baby,” the Norman, Okla., equipment salesman said when he called the Times Free Press recently.

Graham, who said he grew up under the care of loving adoptive parents, has lived a good life and has raised a family of his own. He just wants to find out more about his biological family.

“I don’t want anything out of anybody,” he said. “This is something for my kids.”

Graham said his adoptive parents, Jess and Cile Graham, never hid from him the fact he was adopted. They adopted him from the Tennessee Children’s Home Society of Memphis, which employed a friend of his grandparents who alerted them to his availability. He’s not sure if his parents even knew he was a Chattanooga City Hall foundling.

“I was legally adopted, as far as I know,” Graham said.

That’s not the case for all children who were adopted from the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. A 1950 state investigation revealed that operator Georgia Tann had arranged for thousands of adoptions under questionable means and that the Society was a front for a black-market adoption ring.

“Was [the quick placement] a set-up or legitimate?” Graham said, “I don’t know.”

Read the whole thing -- interesting DNA matching info, and an unfortunately typical reference to the fact that he didn't search until both his adoptive parents had died.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Staycation 2011, Entry One

No big vacation planned this year -- a combination of high gas prices and lack of planning! So we're trying to take advantage of places in the Metroplex we haven't visited before. Yesterday we went to the American Airlines' C.R. Smith Aviation Museum. I went almost 15 years ago, pre-kids, and found it interesting but remembered it as not particularly kid friendly. Either I misremembered, or it changed, because it was really great for the kids. They especially liked the Cyberchase exhibit, where they got to solve math problems in the context of code-breaking, music-making and other fun things.

There's even an activity center where the girls played games and made parachutes to fly in the wind tunnel.

There's an old airplane -- DC 3, I think -- that you can go into and everything.  Mimi remembers taking one like it when she was 10 and returning to France from Madagascar.

The undisputed highlight for both girls, though, was the flight simulator!  A retired pilot helped them to take off, fly around the DFW area, and land.  Afterwards, Maya whispered that she had a secret -- she didn't really do anything other than hold onto the steering wheel (or whatever it's called on an airplane), the pilot did all the flying!

At the gift shop, the girls found really cool American Airline posters -- one for Beijing and one for Asia (they left the Shanghai one behind since they've never been to Shanghai!).  They liked them enough that they actually bought them with their own money! (We're flattening them here preparatory to hanging them outside the playroom!).

And since the museum isn't close to where we live, we got to go to a restaurant off our usual path, Italianni's, where they had the BEST. KID'S. MEAL. EVER!  Make your own pizza!

So this is entry one in Staycation 2011.  Stay tuned!