Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Missing Limbs, Empty Boxes

Zoe's class did a project about family in their Religion workbooks yesterday.  They were to fill out a family tree form -- mother's side, father's side.  And then there were boxes in which they were asked to put traits they had inherited from their parents.  Great.  THIS again.

Zoe filled out the mother's side of the family tree, and left the father's side blank. She showed her tree to the boy sitting next to her, and complained to him that her family tree was dull since she didn't have a dad.  He was puzzled:  "You don't have a dad?"  Nope.  He didn't get it:  "How can you not have a dad?!"  Zoe didn't really explain it, saying, "I just don't."

Then Zoe went to talk to her teacher, asking what she should do about the boxes for inherited traits, since "I wasn't born from my mom."  Now, this is something her teacher knows, that Zoe's adopted.  How could he not know, right, since she's Chinese and I'm not?!  He told her to fill in the boxes based on "ancestors she knows."  I think he might have been trying to tell her to fill it in based on her adopted family, but I'm not sure.  Zoe didn't take it that way, explaining that she didn't know anything about her ancestors.  Next her teacher told her to just "do what you know."  Zoe left the boxes blank, since what she knows about her biological family is nothing.

Why do schools keep having these projects????  This one isn't even a science lesson, isn't really teaching genetics or biological inheritance!  It's RELIGION, for God's sake!!!!  And of course there's no warning for the parents that this is coming up, no way to give the teacher a head's up that maybe this project is problematic for adopted kids who have no information about their biological parents. Like they need a head's up to avoid projects that make any child in the classroom feel excluded, abnormal, less than.

Did it bother Zoe?  She says no, but I don't believe her.  The first thing she did after school yesterday?  She pulled out a big piece of paper and markers, and made an elaborate family tree, including every relative she could think of, including her birth parents.  And she filled the entire page with family and color and design.  No more dull family tree for her.  No more missing limbs. No more empty boxes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Little Dragon Tales: Chinese Children's Songs

Shanghai Restoration Project has a new album, downloadable from iTunes and Amazon, Little Dragon Tales:  Chinese Children's Songs.  It's billed as classic Chinese children's songs with a modern twist, and you can see from the video above that the children singing in it are as cute as their voices! I recognize most of the songs on the album from my kids' oh-so-many years in Chinese School, so I suppose it really is CLASSIC Chinese children's songs!

h/t Angry Asian Man

This is What National Adoption Month is Really About

It isn't about getting a healthy, white newborn as quickly as you can, or about adopting from China or Ethiopia or Haiti or Russia. Not saying anything's wrong with that, it's just not what National Adoption Month is about. National Adoption Month was conceived to highlight the outrageously high number of children in foster care who need permanent families.  And the centerpiece of National Adoption Month is National Adoption Day:
National Adoption Day is a collective national effort to raise awareness of the more than 107,000 children in foster care waiting to find permanent, loving families. This one day has made the dreams of thousands of children come true by working with policymakers, practitioners and advocates to finalize adoptions and find permanent, loving homes for children in foster care. In total, more than 35,000 children have been adopted from foster care on National Adoption Day.
And I am proud to say that students at my law school volunteer each year to help finalize adoptions from foster care during National Adoption Day:
Teddy bears, children’s books and balloons filled the courtrooms of the Tarrant County Family Law Center during National Adoption Day. Fifteen Texas Wesleyan School of Law students participated in the event, held on Friday, Nov. 18, 2011, at the Family Law Center in downtown Fort Worth. Forty-one children in Tarrant County were adopted by 30 families. Since 2000, more than 35,000 children nationwide have had their adoptions finalized on National Adoption Day. . . . [Judge] Boyd also recognized the contributions of the students at Texas Wesleyan School of Law who volunteer their time to assist the lawyers. “Every year [the students] have worked with National Adoption Day, and this is a wonderful opportunity for students who will become new lawyers to get their first experience in a courthouse.” The law school students, who worked with mentor lawyers throughout the fall semester to prepare the adoptions, stood with the children and their new families as the adoptions were finalized before a judge.
Gotta love feel-good stories about lawyers and law students! (Um. And maybe this is a good time to mention that the views expressed at this blog are solely my own and not those of my employer!)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Finding Fernanda

The Christian Science Monitor reviews Erin Seigal's book, Finding Fernanda, about Guatemalan adoption corruption:
This well-researched examination of international adoption captures a world of inexplicable actions – some based on religious faith and others purely criminal – through thoughtful detail and an engaging narrative. Siegal began this work as a master’s project for her graduate degree in journalism, working with documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, leaked e-mails, and sources in the US and Guatemalan governments. “Finding Fernanda” – released just in time for National Adoption Month and which Siegal has published at her own expense – reads like a mystery novel, but the facts it reveals are hauntingly true.

In 2006, Mildred Alvarado was a struggling single mother living outside Guatemala City, one of the poorest and most dangerous cities in the Western Hemisphere. Betsy Emanuel was a devout Christian living in rural Tennessee with a house full of kids between the ages of 1 and 19 years old, a loving husband, and a pony in the backyard. Siegal frames her investigation into Guatemalan adoption around the palpable love both Alvarado and Emanuel have for their children and their faith in God. Despite their myriad differences, Alvarado and Emanuel share an ability to see the very best in people: a characteristic that made them vulnerable to deceit – but eventually also served to bring them together in search of a young child they both claimed as their own.

* * *

Siegal weaves the history of Guatemala and international adoption into her narrative, explaining how a system as seemingly altruistic as adoption could tumble into such criminality and corruption. US families began adopting from Guatemala in the 1980s, at the height of a violent civil war that left many children orphaned. Adoption proved a great source of revenue for the economically deflated country and – unfortunately – Guatemalan children became commodities.

The Bad Economy's Effect on Adoption Placement?

From the Oklahoman:
Nationwide, about 134,000 domestic adoptions were reported in 2007, according to the most recent figures available from the National Council for Adoption. That's a 3 percent increase from just five years before.

The economy has affected birth parents in complex ways, said Frank Garrott, president of the Gladney Center for Adoption, a national and international adoption agency based in Fort Worth, Texas.

“It's really hard to define that trend,” Garrott said. “Certainly the economy does come into play with some young women and their families make that decision. At the same time, we kind of see a counter-trend. As some young women get into a situation where they're really struggling and they are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, that baby is the one thing that really gives them hope. ... It may not be a trend at all.”

But the face of families involved in the adoption process is changing a bit, Garrott said.

As adoption has become a more socially acceptable option, more families with children are looking to adoption as a solution for unplanned pregnancies.

“To me, that's so sad,” he said. “That couple knows the joy of parenting firsthand. To make that incredibly painful decision that one more child in the family is going to sink them, it's so painful when you think about putting yourself in their shoes.”

In recent years, birth mothers seeking help from Deaconess are a little older than in the past, McCool said. Most are in the 25- to 34-year-old age bracket. Several are married. Some already have children.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Obese Child Removed from Family & Placed in Foster Care

Remember a couple of months ago the story from England of children being removed from their parents and placed for adoption because they were obese? Couldn't happen in America, right?  Or maybe it could:
An 8-year-old Cleveland Heights boy was taken from his family and placed in foster care last month after county case workers said his mother wasn't doing enough to control his weight.

At more than 200 pounds, the third-grader is considered severely obese and at risk for developing such diseases as diabetes and hypertension.

But even though the state health department estimates more than 12 percent of third-graders statewide are severely obese -- that could mean 1,380 in Cuyahoga County alone -- this is the first time anyone in the county or the state can recall a child being taken from a parent for a strictly weight-related issue.

* * *

Cuyahoga County does not have a specific policy on dealing with obese children. It removed the boy because case workers considered this mother's inability to get her son's weight down a form of medical neglect, said Mary Louise Madigan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Family Services.

They said that the child's weight gain was caused by his environment and that the mother wasn't following doctor's orders -- which she disputes.

"This child's problem was so severe that we had to take custody," Madigan said. The agency worked with the mother for more than a year before asking Juvenile Court for custody of the child, she said.

Lawyers for the mother, a substitute elementary school teacher who is also taking vocational school classes, think the county has overreached in this case by arguing that medical conditions the boy is at risk for -- but doesn't yet have -- pose an imminent danger to his health.

They question whether the emotional impact of being yanked from his family, school and friends was also considered.

* * *

Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics and medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said that before a trend of removing children takes hold, the broader public-policy issue needs to be explored.

"A 218-pound 8-year-old is a time bomb," Caplan acknowledged. "But the government cannot raise these children. A third of kids are fat. We aren't going to move them all to foster care. We can't afford it, and I'm not sure there are enough foster parents to do it. "
He said he is worried that the families with the fewest resources, which are often minorities, will end up being ones with their children removed.
Caplan said one could get ethical whiplash in a world where one arm of government is so concerned about a child's weight that it removes him from his home, while another branch of government argues that french fries and tomato paste on pizza should be counted as servings of vegetables.
What do you think? Should obese children be removed when the parents are not successful in getting them to lose weight?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pax Visits With Biological Grandmother in Vietnam

According to US Weekly:
During a recent family trip to Vietnam -- the first since Angelina Jolie adopted Pax from an orphanage near Ho Chi Min City on 2007, the 8-year-old spent some time getting to know his biological grandmother Nhan Dung.

"It was a one day visit," an insider tells the new Us Weekly, on stands now. "Nhan was looking forward to it after Pax had lived so many years abroad."

Jolie, 36, and longtime love Brad Pitt arranged for Dung to visit Pax at the seaside Six Sense resort in Con Dao, where the gang stayed during their trip.
Good for them.

When is Enough Enough?

The Chicago Tribune writes about a family with 14 children, 6 adopted from Africa, who want to adopt more but can't get approval from the necessary state agency because of the size of the family:
But the Twietmeyers and other like-minded large families in Illinois face an obstacle to their mission of adopting from countries where the orphan crises are especially dire. In order to adopt children from countries such as Uganda, India and the Philippines, parents must be licensed by the state as foster care families. That's a problem for the Twietmeyers and other families who far exceed the standard licensing limit.

It's also a problem for Jojo, Carolyn Twietmeyer's nickname for Jonathan, a 3-year-old child with Down syndrome and HIV, who lives in a Ugandan orphanage. Twietmeyer dreams of the day she can bring him home and call him her son.

But social workers at the Twietmeyers' adoption agency say they have been told the family won't be licensed for more children, a necessary step to adopt from Uganda, where adoptions are not finalized until after children reach the U.S.

The conflict pits the families' desire to live out their religious mission of caring for orphans against the state's mission to protect children.

Kendall Marlowe, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, said enough adoption agencies have abused their authority that it would be irresponsible to allow private adoption agencies to operate without public oversight. Five other states — Alabama, Colorado, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina — have similar guidelines, Marlowe said.

* * *

While the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has to approve a home study for every international adoption, the state also must issue a foster care license to parents adopting from certain countries such as Uganda and the Philippines where adoptions can't be finalized outside the U.S.

Families who apply can be licensed for up to eight children, more with a waiver. Children with special needs count twice, reducing the total number of children that families can have in their home.

* * *

As the Twietmeyers' children took turns one recent afternoon cradling their youngest sibling — Sofia, who has Down syndrome and who came to the family through a domestic adoption — they showered her with kisses. The couple pointed out that a large family is ideal for a child with special needs because there is no shortage of affection and helping hands.

But child welfare experts often see a fine line between a large family and a group home and worry that parents can rely too much on older siblings to serve as housekeepers, cooks and caregivers.
So what do you think?  Is Illinois right to impose a limit on family size?  Is 8 enough? Does a large family seem more like a group home? At what point does a large family become a group home?

Friday, November 25, 2011

New Christmas Ornaments!

Our only "Black Friday" shopping today was for Christmas ornaments.  First stop, Hallmark, a longstanding tradition, for each girl to pick out a favorite for the tree.  Next stop, World Market, where we have very good luck finding Asian-themed ornaments for our Touch of China Christmas Tree.  The photo, above, shows our haul. All the ornaments, except Po, came from World Market. 

Po, as a baby from Kung Fu Panda 2, in the radish box he was abandoned in and then found in, came from Hallmark. Hmmmm, what an interesting choice to commemorate that scene in an ornament.  And Zoe was immediately drawn to it in the store.  Part of it is that she likes pandas, but she also said it reminded her of China, where she was found in a box, and I've written before of how that box is important to her.  So now we have an ornament on our tree to commemorate abandonment.  Weird, but Zoe's choice.

Maya's favorite new ornaments, one that says China on it and one that's the Chinese lucky cat:

Zoe's favorite new ones, Po and a glittery purple pagoda:

It makes for a mixed-up tree, with ornamental nods to France (Mimi's home country), music, ballet, kids' artwork, family, and China, but it's our own!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope your Thanksgiving wishes, like mine for family, food, fellowship, and fun, came true!

And a special word for my blog readers, new and old:  I am thankful for your readership, your thoughtful comments, your support.  It's hard for me to believe there's been over 300,000 blog visitors since I started this blog in 2008.  I'm thankful for your votes for top blog at various contests, and most especially I'm thankful to those who have included me on their personal blog rolls.  I'm thankful each time you have shared posts with friends via email, twitter and facebook. 

Thanks to all of you, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

'Steve Jobs' & 'Blue Nights' Explore Abandonment & Adoption

ABC News looks at Steve Jobs' biography (I posted about it here)  and Joan Didion's memoir about her adopted daughter (which I posted about here), and discovers a common theme:
Didion agonizes about her parenting and Quintana's recurrent fear of abandonment and a failed reunion with her biological family. "Adoption," Didion writes. "I was to learn, though not immediately, is hard to get right."

Such fear also haunted Apple founder Steve Jobs, who died last month at the age of 56. In numerous interviews with family, friends and lovers, biographer Walter Isaacson unveiled the dark side of adoption in his life.

Jobs ultimately formed strong bonds with his sister, author Mona Simpson, but he refused to meet his biological father, despite the lifelong sense of loss.

* * *

Both bestsellers, "Blue Nights" and "Steve Jobs," expose an unspoken truth in the adoption world: Fear of abandonment is universal.

Always an Orphan

At Talking Writing, a magazine for writers, David Biddle writes about his search & reunion, including this poignant section about always feeling like an orphan, even 40+ years after being adopted and 8+ years after reunion with a loving birth mother:
Orphanhood is not a simple concept. When parents adopt a child, they do their best to shield him or her from ever sensing that feeling. When you’re adopted by good, loving parents (as Bruce and Ellen Biddle adopted me), you learn early on that you were chosen, that you are special.

Still, feeling special is also part of the problem. At their cores, all adoptees are orphans. This is such a primal feeling and so closely held, so secretly self-defining, that even now, eight years after finding my loving birthmother (whom I call Mom), I can’t get beyond feeling alone in the world and different from everyone around me.

And, yet, orphanhood gives adoptees a strange power, too. The fact that we have been adopted means nothing if we aren’t also willing to adopt the family who adopted us—and to choose the particular life situation we find ourselves in.

We are powerful from the moment we understand that we are adopted. We are independent beings far too soon in life. But that independence gives us a kind of grace and intensity of feeling, as we affirm and establish daily, over and over, our connection to the world that has taken us in.

This premature ability of orphans to create their own identities and connections in the world is not lost on our culture. In some ways, it’s a major motif. Many of the great characters of the past two hundred years—Oliver Twist, Clark Kent, Tom Sawyer, Pippi Longstocking, Harry Potter, Annie—are parentless.

In one sense, adoptees are the ultimate recycled product. But, in another way, we are the least recycled. We are required to stand on our own—even if we don’t know that’s what we’re doing—and from within that solitude, we reach out, understanding that we have no choice but to define ourselves.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

For Teen Adopted from Colombia, it's a Small World

At TeenInk, an essay from a Colombian adoptee about learning about her birth brother:
I was adopted from Colombia. The parents I live with today knew they wanted a little girl, and they also wanted to better someone’s life, so they decided to adopt. One day, they got a phone call about a baby girl in Colombia who had just been born and needed a family. Soon, they were on a plane to Bogota.

I have lived a completely normal childhood knowing that the people I call Mom and Dad are my “real parents” because I love them and they love me. I never met my birth parents and really didn’t know anything about them until one afternoon when I casually asked my mom if I had any biological siblings that I could contact one day. She gave me a worried look, and then said that she had planned to wait until I was 18 to give me the information, but she thought I was old enough.

My mother explained that I had two biological brothers living in the area and then took out some Christmas cards and letters that one had sent me years ago. The letters contained pictures of my oldest brother when he was four and I couldn’t believe how much of myself I saw in him. My mom told me that she had waited to tell me because she didn’t want me to be confused, but as time passed it got harder since she didn’t want me to think that she was trying to keep a secret. I had to be understanding. My parents never want anything but the best for me - I might have done the same thing.
Hmm, I'm not sure I would have been as understanding if I were in her shoes. . . . To see what happened next, and why the essay is entitled, "It's a Small World," go read the whole thing!

Monday, November 21, 2011

International Adoptees Take Citizen's Oath

This report from Newsday (subscription/registration required) recounts a citizenship ceremony held recently where international adoptees were sworn in as U.S. citizens (lots of cute pictures, too).  This gives me an excuse to post again about the petition at asking that all international adoptees, even those who have "aged out" under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, be made citizens. 

And check out this post at Transracialeyes, where an adoptive parent asks if it is ever OK not to get U.S. citizenship for an adopted child, like when an older adopted child doesn't want U.S. citizenship.  I look forward to reading more comments from adoptees in reply.

Intercountry Adoption's Mixed Record

Interesting to see RH Reality Check, a website devoted to reproductive & sexual health and justice, tackling this topic:
Most Americans have been touched by adoption and many would agree that inter-country adoption is important and even an embodiment of our nation’s commitment to children and humanitarianism. Since World War Two, approximately one million children have been internationally adopted; leaving their country of origin and placed with adoptive families in other nations. Because US families have received at least 50 percent of these children we have been called an “Adoption Nation.”

* * *

Even with so much good, there has been a dark side to adoption. It is a practice which has more than its fair share of scandals. The 2010 case of the young boy sent back to Russia unaccompanied with nothing more than a note requesting adoption “annulment” is a good example. Then, there was the Russian girl named Masha Allen who was adopted by a pedophile and he proceeded to sell her sexual abuse photo images into Internet pornography. . . .

Other problematic history includes allegations of child abduction. It is hard to forget that during the 2010 aftermath of the Haitian earthquake that a faith or mission group from Idaho attempted to illegally remove or traffic children into the Dominican Republic for the purpose of inter-country adoption. International press eventually identified that most of the children were not ‘orphans’ and their families believed that the children would be cared for and that their families would be able to visit with them and retain relations. When you think about it, families living in extreme poverty could so easily be led to believe such a thing and in a moment of desperation and hope. Allowing your child to leave with a stranger from the U.S. who promises of food and an education may be the only sense of salvation in the moment of disaster chaos. The desperate act eventually plays out as a decision made in haste and with a misrepresentation of intent. Legally such a scenario it fits international child abduction definitions when poor families are unable to retrieve children and then the children enter into adoption schemes.

There have been cases like Cambodia where an American adoption ‘facilitator’ orchestrated child ‘adoptions.’ Rural and mainly illiterate Cambodian families were often given a small sum of money and a bag of rice in exchange for their signature on critical legal documents. Again, these children were not orphans but they were desirable children—relatively young and healthy children who were easily matched with eager US families willing to pay $20,000 or more for the adoption. Investigators found that some of these Cambodian families were led to believe that their children were going to boarding schools overseas. The facilitator was eventually arrested by U.S. Federal Marshalls and she served time in prison for tax evasion, among other charges.

More recently, the most notorious adoption nation with profound problems has been Guatemala. Approximately 30,000 children departed as inter-country adoptees from 1999-2007. Human rights defenders agree that abuses within this system were profound and while there were legitimate adoptions, there were also an unknown number of adoptions with serious irregularities and illegalities. Problems ranged from birth mother payments to induce adoption arrangements to actual child abduction for adoption. . . .

Sadly there are three mothers in Guatemala who have taken to hunger protests for their individual daughters return from the U.S. One of those three women now has a Guatemalan court order for her daughter’s repatriation as a victim of abduction.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Prescription for the Orphan Crisis

Dr. Jane Aronson's prescription for the orphan crisis, published at CNN, is not adoption:
The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every child has a right to safety, health and an education, as well as the right to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. The U.S. and the international community must find permanent solutions to address the international orphan crisis. Effective and innovative strategies need to be implemented and more resources must be devoted to preventing child abandonment and helping families to remain intact or to be reunified and reintegrated.

Investment in child welfare systems with trained social workers capable of case management in impoverished countries must be the highest priority to strengthen and support families and communities. Families need economic opportunities to make a viable living and social services to help guide them out of poverty. Access to medical care and psychosocial services and universal, free education must be available for all children and their families.

Without such support services, families are more likely to be torn apart by poverty and become victims of depression and hopelessness, which continues the cycle of relinquishment and abandonment. We must figure out how families and communities survive poverty and adversity. What are the intrinsic cultural mechanisms that work in one country and not in another?
I'll say it again: The only way to solve the orphan crisis is to prevent children from becoming orphans in the first place.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Russia Seeks International Arrest Warrant for American APs Who Killed Russian Boy

From the Washington Post:
Russia will seek tougher punishment for an American couple convicted in the U.S. of the involuntary manslaughter of a 7-year-old boy they adopted from the country, authorities said Saturday.

Michael and Nanette Craver of York County in Pennsylvania were sentenced Friday to the 19 months they have already spent in prison for the 2009 head-injury death of their adopted son Nathaniel, formerly Ivan Skorobogatov.

Russia’s federal Investigative Committee said in a statement it will seek an international arrest warrant for the Cravers and prove that the murder was brutal and premeditated.

“That’s the opinion the prosecutors in the U.S. court stick to, and the Investigative Committee fully shares it,” according to the statement from the country’s top investigative body.

Prosecutors had argued that the boy died from repeated blows to the head, but offered no theory at trial about which parent delivered them.

The Cravers insist the boy suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome and attachment disorders. They claimed he ran headlong into a stove the night before they found him unconscious.
Hmmm, can't say I expect much to come of this (lots of difficulties in prosecuting crimes that occur outside your borders and committed by non-citizens even if the victim is a citizen of Russia), but 19 months for involuntary manslaughter (meaning a reckless or grossly negligent killing) of a child seems pretty low. . . .

The New York Times also reports on the angry reaction of the Russian government to the lenient sentence.  The article includes the explanation of the trial judge for the time served sentence:
"Judge Kennedy, in ordering that the couple serve no more jail time, said he did not believe that they posed a danger to the community, or that a stiffer sentence would serve as an example for others. He also said that given their ages — Mr. Craver is 47 and Mrs. Craver is 56 — he did not believe they would become parents again."

Of course, they are already parents of another child -- the twin of the boy they were convicted of killing.  The judge also refused prosecutors' request that he order that the Cravers have no unsupervised contact with her until she turns 18, but the judge said he would leave such decisions to child welfare officials.   

Nov. 29, 2011:  As predicted, this isn't going anywhere!  Russian court rules against issue of arrest warrant for Michael, Nanette Craver.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Love is NOT Colorblind

At the Livesay[Haiti]weblog, an exploration of that troublesome phrase, "Love is colorblind." It's a long and important post, so you should go read the whole thing, but I find THIS paragraph to be THE point:
When your adopted minority child looks in the mirror he/she sees black, brown, peach, yellow, tan, etc. skin looking back. For that child to hear us say that our love is “colorblind” can be far more hurtful than any of us would dream. What we mean is that our love for them transcends color and ethnicity. But what they often hear is “I don’t see part of you.” We so desperately want to affirm our children in the security of our unconditional love that we miss the point. What if Tara came to me tomorrow and said, “Amie, I’m going to overlook the fact that you are a red-headed freckle factory and continue loving you anyway”? Besides how completely ironic that would be given our shared features, it would also hurt me deeply because the very nature of such a statement implies that my traits are unbecoming and undesirable and something to be overlooked in order to find me acceptable. Our children want to be accepted because of who they are –inside and out- not in spite of it.
YES! This is the same point I was trying to make, though not as eloquently, in the post, Parenting While Not Noticing Race:
You're essentially saying to a child, "I don't think of you as Black or Asian or Latino," when you refuse to acknowledge that race exists. You're denying part of your child. How can that be good?

* * *

I just don't get it -- how can parents adopting transracially ignore the race of their children? Do your love your child because of their race or in spite of it? Loving your child because of his or her race is loving ALL of your child, not just some parts of your child. Please love all of your child, including the color of their skin. Please.
So let's all agree to strike that phrase from our vocabulary.  Love is not colorblind. Love sees and revels in ALL colors! As Amie says at the Livesay blog, "Love that overlooks is belittling. Love that acknowledges is accepting." Show your child accepting love, acknowledging love:  "I love you because of your race, not in spite of it."

Boom-and-Bust Cycles in International Adoption

NPR reports about the downturn in international adoption under a headline that speaks volumes: Fewer Babies Available For Adoption By U.S. Parents.  Boy, doesn't that signal the "real" concern -- making sure babies are available for Americans to adopt?  And here I thought adoption was about finding families for needy kids, not finding kids for wanting parents. . . .

The article focuses on the boom-and-bust cycle of international adoption from poor countries infected with corruption:
Motivated by the desire to provide a home to a needy child, parents . . . don't like to talk about international adoption as a business. But clearly the market forces of supply and demand have been at work.

A country opens its doors to prospective parents, whether because of war, natural disaster, civil strife or chronic poverty. Adoption agencies and their clients rush in, suddenly turning a small country such as Kazakhstan or Nepal into a major exporter of children.

The demand for healthy babies is extremely high among American and European parents, who are willing to spend upwards of $25,000 to $50,000 in fees and travel costs. That kind of money — multiplied many thousands of times over — has led to cases of corruption in many countries.

Numerous countries, including Guatemala and Vietnam, have experienced problems such as judges and lawyers taking bribes, and gangs or even police stealing children. In response to such charges, a nation's government might decide to put a halt to intercountry adoptions, as Romania did a decade ago. Other countries have seen their markets closed, with U.S. or European nations blocking visas for their children, as happened in Nepal.

* * *

Once a country such as Guatemala closes its doors to international adoptions, demand shifts to a new "sending" country such as Ethiopia, and the boom-and-bust cycle repeats itself.

"What we see is a country becoming fashionable," says Susan Jacobs, the State Department's special adviser for children's issues. "People go to the countries where it's easiest to adopt, where the rules are lax and you can do an adoption quickly and perhaps get a baby."
The article also touches on some of the current debates about international adoption:
There seems to be a consensus within international child welfare circles that orphans should be kept within their own families or communities whenever possible and adopted domestically if need be.

How often international adoptions should be allowed for children who can't find a home in their country of origin, however, is a matter of heated debate.

* * *

Some advocacy groups believe that the best way to improve the lives of needy children is to provide services and support for families in their home countries.

"I don't want to say there's a groundswell, but there is definitely a lot more going on to build up child protective systems than we've ever seen before," says Bissell, of UNICEF. "There's an increased ability of countries to take care of their children and a desire to do so."

But Bissell recognizes that children's services remain underfunded, particularly in the poorest countries.

 * * *

Alleviating poverty should be the ultimate goal, Franklin [chairman of the board of the Joint Council on International Children's Services] says, but in the meantime there are millions of orphans around the world who could use a home, many of them in the United States.

"My perception is that it's becoming harder and harder to adopt children while the need is getting bigger," he says.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Statistics: Intercountry Adoptions Disrupted or Dissolved

The State Department's Annual Report on Adoption includes statistics about disrupted adoptions:
In FY 2011, adoption service providers (ASPs) reported five disrupted placements in Convention adoptions, i.e., cases in which there was an interruption of a placement for adoption during the post-placement (but pre-adoption) period. Table 6 summarizes this information.

In addition, information received from the Department of Health and Human Services pursuant to §422(b)(12) of the Social Security Act indicated 33 cases of disruptions and dissolutions involving 41 children who were adopted from other countries and entered state custody as a result.
First, note that the figures for adoptions from Hague Convention countries are only those reported by an agency.  Second, note that the disruption figures apply ONLY to cases where the disruption happened prior to finalization of adoption.  That's a pretty small pool, since most international adoptions are finalized in the foreign country, before the child comes to the U.S. That explains why the only countries represented on the list of disruptions are the Philippines and India, two countries where the adoption is not finalized until the child is in the U.S. So a child whose adoption was finalized in China, for instance, and then after coming to the U.S. the adoption was disrupted or dissolved, won't appear in these statistics. 

Second, the report won't report an adoption dissolution until a court has legally ended the adoption. The 2010 report notes, for example, that Artyom's case, where the adoption was finalized in Russia and then his mother returned him, is not included in the disruption statistics because no court had yet to legally dissolve the adoption.  But, of course, the only reason the State Department knows about Artyom's case is that it was "widely reported," as they put it.  Post-adoption, it might be that the agency would never know about it to report it, and the federal government would never know about it because the child has already acquired citizenship.  And readoption or foster placement is just a domestic adoption/family law matter that flies under the radar of the State Department.

Third, though the number is small (5), it represents an increase over the 2010 report and the 2009 report, where there were no reported disruptions. Whether that represents an increase in disruptions or an increase in reporting can't be known from the reports.

The second set of statistics is still small -- 33 cases of disruption or dissolution involving 41 children -- out of 9,320 total adoptions in FY 2011. And the pool is likely to be actually larger, since the cases of disruption are captured here regardless of when the adoption happened.  Still, it is a disturbing figure. According to the report,
This information was provided in the annual update from states on progress made toward accomplishing goals and objectives in the Child and Family Services Plan. This information was submitted by states to the Department of Health and Human Services through an Annual Progress and Services Report (APSR). The most recent APSRs were submitted on June 30, 2011 and contained information from FY 2010. All of the information provided by states in the APSR was included in this count regardless of the date provided from the states on specific actions taken in a case or when it was reported to the state.
First, this statistic is unlikely to reflect the full picture.  A child who did not end up in state custody after disruption won't appear in this statistic, either.  And it's common for a child from a disrupted adoption to simply be passed on to a new family without entering state custody.

Second, this also represents an increase over 2010, where there were 9 cases representing 22 children. The 2009 report did not include this category.

Intercountry Adoptions to U.S. Down Again

The State Department's Annual Report of adoption statistics is out.  As the AP reports, intercountry adoption has hit a new low, and the reason is, at least in part, corruption in adoption:
The number of foreign children adopted by Americans fell by 15 percent last year, reaching the lowest level since 1994 due largely to sharp cutbacks by China and Ethiopia, sources of most adoptees in recent years.

Figures released Tuesday by the State Department for the 2011 fiscal year showed 9,320 adoptions from abroad, down from 11,059 in 2010 and down nearly 60 percent from the all-time peak of 22,884 in 2004.

Once again, China accounted for the most children adopted in the U.S. But its total of 2,589 was down from 3,401 the previous year as China finds itself with fewer abandoned children and more interest in domestic adoptions.

Ethiopia was second, at 1,727 — but that was down from 2,513 in 2010. The main factor was a decision by Ethiopian authorities to slow down the handling of adoption applications to reduce instances of fraud and ease a heavy workload at Ethiopia's youth ministry.

Following Ethiopia on the list were Russia, which accounted for 970 adoptions, South Korea at 736, Ukraine at 632, the Philippines at 230, India at 228, Colombia at 216, Uganda at 207 and Taiwan at 205.

One reason that the overall adoption numbers have dropped so sharply in recent years is that problems of fraud and corruption prompted the U.S. — as well as other nations — to suspend adoptions from several countries, notably Vietnam, Cambodia, Guatemala and Nepal.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Harvard Prof: Orphanage Care Stunts Brain Development

The article doesn't say whether this is new research, but it's about adoption/orphan care so I share it -- Harvard prof says orphanage care in Romania negatively affects brain & physical development of children:
Lack of stimulation in Romanian orphanages stunts brain development in children, Harvard Medical School Professor of Pediatrics Charles A. Nelson said at a Harvard China Care event Tuesday evening.

At the request of the Romanian government, Nelson studied the influence of childhood experience and early psycho-social deprivation on the brain in Romanian orphanages.
“Romania had a particularly egregious history,” Nelson said.

Communist policies have left an overwhelming population of abandoned children to state institutions.

Children in overcrowded orphanages often struggle with a stifling, highly-regimented daily routine, Nelson said.

These environments often cause social interaction and attachment problems, autism, and stunted growth.

Without stimulating experience, children develop “brain deprivation” as a result of social neglect.

Nelson’s study found that children suffering from brain deprivation appear physically stunted. The body appears to save essential growth hormones for brain development, he said.
About the only thing I hadn't heard before was this: "According to the study, girls do not suffer in institutions as much as boys. Girls also benefit more when they are placed in foster home."  Anyone have information on why orphanage/family care differs in effect on boys and girls?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Considerations for Multicultural Counselors When Working With Transracial Adoptive Families

Here's the abstract to an article published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy:
In global terms the number of international adoptions increased over 40% between 1998 and 2004. Research from Canada that surveyed white parents of children adopted transracially on their experiences of pre-and post-adoption services raises a number of issues with implications for multicultural counselling. This study found that many professionals charged with the responsibility of helping to facilitate transracial adoptions need to be better educated in the needs of adoptive children and families. Findings also showed that, because of parents’ lack of preparation in the pre-adoption phase, transracially adopted children may be at risk for medical, social and emotional problems. This paper suggests topics that should be considered in a multicultural counselling setting in order to be responsive to some of the experiences of transracially adoption (sic) children and their parents.
I'll try to track down the article and post more about it later.

"The burning desire. . ."

At BlogHer, an adoptee talks about her need to know more about her biological parents:
I found out about my adoption when I was barely five years old. Growing up, it seemed like just another fact, nothing that would come to haunt me -- like knowing my best friend liked cats and had a tendency to break her wrist when she skateboarded. I liked soccer, surfing, and didn't know my birth parents. No big deal.

Once I hit puberty, finding out anything about where I came from was of utmost importance to me. I spent hours in the library, researching adoption laws, e-mailing Congressmen and Senators who voted in favor of adoptee rights, even joining websites that promised the Holy Grail of reconnecting family members. I applied to the Wisconsin department of Children and Family Services to "open" my records.
In the last seven years, I've been turned down six times.
As she describes her desire to keep searching, "The burning desire and curiosity, the need, won't die out."

What does the Sandusky case say about gays and lesbians adopting? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

Unless it says that more gays and lesbians should be allowed to adopt so that kids in foster care are not vulnerable to pedophiles like Jerry Sandusky. . . .

Not that you would have concluded that from NPR's To the Point, as reported at Gawker:
On Friday, Gawker broke the story of a horrifically ill-conceived installment of Warren Olney's current affairs show on public radio, To The Point. Using the Jerry Sandusky child rape scandal as its jumping-off point, the show somehow drew a dotted line to the topic of gays and lesbians' suitability as foster and adoptive parents. The thinking behind it (and there wasn't much) was that Sandusky was ostensibly a heterosexually married man who had access to foster and adoptive children he could prey on. "With 500,000 children desperate for loving homes," Olney's intro went, "we'll look at efforts to widen the pool of available parents. Should gays and lesbians qualify?" I don't know, Warren. Should they?

* * *

[One of the invited speakers on the show was]  Jerry Cox, whose Arkansas Family Council unsuccessfully petitioned the state to ban foster children from entering same-sex-parent homes. (The state Supreme Court unanimously shot down the measure as unconstitutional.) Cox was given a generous platform to preach his particular brand of hate, referring repeatedly to "studies" that proved the "gold standard" for any child was a household headed by "one man and one woman." He also deftly used Olney's lead-in of the Sandusky case — if not to outwardly accuse gay parents of being predisposed to pedophilia, to at least align the two topics snugly: "In both cases," he said, "the children's rights get put in second place." And why not? This was how Olney chose to frame this discussion, after all. But never did Olney challenge Cox's falsehoods or bigotry, or even attempt to establish a delineation between gay parents and pedophilia. In his wildest dreams, Cox couldn't have asked for a more generous platform — not here of all places, in the supposedly liberal bastion of public radio.

* * *
Today, at the end of the To The Point broadcast, Olney issued this, far more contrite announcement. It read, in part:
"With hundreds and thousands of troubled children in need, we thought it was a good time to point out that gay and lesbian couples are often prohibited from both fostering and adopting, even though they can provide loving homes. we failed to point out explicitly that pedophilia and homosexuality are not connected, and that led some listeners to think we were buying into an infamous falsehood. Over the weekend, we received a lot of critical comments from people that by discussing both topics in one show, we had equated the two. We respect our listeners, and we want to respond. There is no connection between pedophilia and homosexuality, and we never intended to say or imply there is. But our failure to make that crucial distinction explicit was a serious oversight. We regret it, and we apologize." [Empasis added, link added]
Apology accepted?  Or does the show need to do more?  Maybe a whole show to emphasize that there is no connection between pedophilia and homosexuality?!  How's that for a starting point?!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Different Courts, Different Treatment for LGBT Adoptive Parents

This article, about different courts in Maryland ruling differently in adoption cases involving gay and lesbian parents, is actually fairly typical in all states:
The rows of wooden benches were filled with seven families for adoption day in Baltimore City Circuit Court last month.

A pair of gay men seeking to adopt a baby. Three lesbian couples, two with twins. Two single moms with two kids between them.

And one heterosexual couple — the only nuclear family with a mother and father — who had filed to adopt a young boy.

Most adoption days in Baltimore look like this. The city is the favored jurisdiction among Maryland's 24 circuit courts for same-sex adoption petitioners because of a legal precedent written 15 years ago and because of local procedures that allow all Maryland residents — regardless of which county they call home — to file adoption paperwork in the city.

Maryland's adoption statute is silent on same-sex parents, leaving the matter to the discretion of each circuit judge. Baltimore, according to adoption lawyers, appears to be the only jurisdiction where judges have agreed to treat homosexual couples the same way they treat straight couples. Other jurisdictions, attorneys say, are a gamble for would-be parents who are gay.

So even as more circuit courts become willing to grant adoptions to same-sex couples — at least seven other counties have done so — lawyers who specialize in representing gay families nearly always tell their clients to file in Baltimore, steering them away from their home counties if judges there are known to turn down adoption applications or if the judicial waters are untested.
Most wouldn't be surprised to hear of different states treating gay couples differently for purposes of adoption, but within one state?!  Unfortunately, that's fairly common as well.  That lack of certainty of legal treatment, even within the same state, is a pretty powerful argument for the proposed federal statute, Every Child Deserves a Family Act, to end discrimination against LGBT parents.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sandusky's "Angel in Adoption" Award Rescinded

Reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
A Washington non-profit group has rescinded a 2002 "Angels in Adoption" award presented to former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse of young boys.

"As an organization that fights to stop child abuse, our thoughts and prayers are with the children harmed and the families affected by his alleged actions," the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute said in a statement released Thursday. "This tragedy underscores how important it is to have a foster care system that ensures our most vulnerable children have a safe and stable environment in which to grow."

The group said it was acting to "preserve the inegrity" of the Angels in Adoption Award, which has been presented since 1998 to 1,800 people and organizations who have done exemplary work to help children in need of loving homes.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a current candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, sponsored the Sanduskys for the award. Santorum has said he is sickened by the allegations and the scandal at his alma matter.

Sandusky was widely admired in the state and nationally for his post-football charitable work, a reminder that alleged child predators can lurk anywhere.

Adoptions More Difficult Since Artyom Sent Away

Touting improved screening and post-adoption scrutiny, which is as it should be, which is very good news:
International adoption has never been easy. It takes time, money, and commitment to bring a child from another land into a new family.

Then last year a woman from Tennessee put her adopted 7-year-old son on a one-way flight back to Russia, and a difficult process got a whole lot harder for a lot more Americans.

Russia banned adoptions to America for the better part of a year. Other nations began requiring much more careful screening and post-adoption follow-up visits for prospective families.

* * *

If any good has come out of the Hansen scandal, it's been to improve the education and training that adoptive families undergo. Parents already go through extensive background checks - criminal and financial - home visits and counseling. Now, the scrutiny is tightening and parents can expect social workers to drop in on them and their new families for as many as five years after the adoption.

"Countries have become more stringent in their criteria" for screening potential adoptive parents, said Julie Bolles of Catholic Charities of Tennessee, which conducts home study visits for a variety of international adoption agencies. "Agencies have become more stringent about educating and preparing adoptive parents."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Taking Pax Back to Vietnam

From People:
Angelina Jolie keeps quite the busy travel schedule. And though it's often for work, her current trip is in line with her desire to keep her three adopted children familiar with their roots.

Her latest destination: Vietnam, where she was photographed with her son Pax, 7.

"We owe Vietnam a visit, because Pax is due," Jolie, 36, told the Financial Times in July, adding of her six children with Brad Pitt: "They are all learning about each other's cultures as well as being proud of their own. They all have their flags over their beds and their individual pride."

According to the photographer, the actress and Pax went out for lunch together in Ho Chi Minh City, and the rest of the Jolie-Pitt brood is along for the trip as well.

Pitt, 47, and Jolie adopted eldest son Maddox, 10, from Cambodia, Zahara, 6, from Ethiopia. Their daughter Shiloh, 5, was born in Namibia, and twins Vivienne and Knox, 3, in France.
And according to US Weekly, as reported at a Vietnamese news site, the entire family will visit Pax's orphanage.

Friday, November 11, 2011

"Do you take care of them?"

The girls and I stopped at a neighborhood convenience store the other day to pick up an after-school snack as we hurried to some after-school activity.  We've been in a few times, but not all that often.  The clerk always looks puzzled when she looks at us, and often asks something-or-other about our family -- which is pretty much why we don't go in all that often!  This time she asked if Zoe and Maya were sisters.  I said yes, though I'm pretty sure she was asking if they were biologically related. 

Then she asked, "Do you take care of them?"  Well, the short answer to that one, too, would be yes.  Like mothers do, I take care of my daughters.  But I'm not just the baby-sitter, I'm more than a nanny.  And that's really what she was asking me, right?  Are you the baby-sitter?

I have to admit, there have been times when I've felt like the baby-sitter.  I didn't feel like a mother until I had been parenting Zoe for about six months.  So I had a bit of a problem with simply answering, "Yes, I take care of them."  I wanted to claim them as my family; anything else seemed like a rejection.  So I answered, "No, I'm their mother."  And out the door we go, a mismatched family of three.

Zoe and Maya were tickled that the lady thought I was their baby-sitter.  They've so rarely had a non-family-member baby-sitter that the novelty of it was quite intriguing.  After giggling over it for a while, Zoe said, "Well, at least she didn't think you were our grandmother!"  Despite my quite youthful looks (!) and my obviously-prematurely-gray hair, we frequently get the "grandmother" question.  Sigh.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Talking to Kids About Adoption Trafficking

Great and timely article at Adoptive Families mag by Sheena Macrae, whom you may know from EMK Press' Adoption Parenting, covering reasons to tell and tools for telling:
At the nub of such concerns is the reality that the nurturing role of an adoptive parent is tough. You are parenting in the present, and that means making sense of the past. If corruption exists in your child’s birth country or may have played a role in your son's adoption, it is your job to give him a truthful account of his past. Otherwise, the child will certainly find out another way, from his peers, other kids' parents, newspaper headlines that scream "Baby Buying" and "Money-Driven Adoption," Facebook, or YouTube. A child who knows the basics about adoption and trafficking, and his own journey to his family, is empowered by knowing. He is in charge of his story.

* * *

If facts are not known, parents can offer "what-ifs," possibilities involving the child's pre-adoption history. These aren’t fictional stories, but reasonable possibilities that may have affected our children, given what we know and can deduce about their circumstances from reading, researching, and the news. Describe the situation in the child's birth country, even if it involves closure, a slowdown, or trafficking. Discussions won't be fruitful until the child is about five years old, but it's good practice to start telling the story earlier, in an age-appropriate way. Here's how to open the dialogue:

1. Tune in together…and then discuss. You might watch kids' news programs on television with a younger child. Read and comment on newspapers with an older child. Current affairs shows can spark discussion. Go lightly. You might talk about how trafficked babies might feel, or what it feels like to work in bad factory conditions or have to work as a street beggar as a child.

* * *

2. After talking or watching a TV program together, always "return" to the security of your home and family. End discussions with hugs, and be prepared for emotions as your child processes what she is learning. Kids around this time might like to see copies of their adoption paperwork or citizenship papers. These things reassure them that their adoption is secure.

* * *

6. Listen to what your child says in response to your discussion-starters; her thoughts matter. Provide extra support if you know there are comments in local newspapers about intercountry adoption and "babies for sale." She may take it to heart, and need extra help.
Lots more good info in the article -- I've just given you a few points here -- so be sure to read the whole thing. You might also be interested in these resources at EMK Press: Telling About Trafficking, also by Macrae, and the Impact of Illegal Adoption on One Family by Julia Rollings.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Can Adoption Lead to Child Abuse?

At Huffington Post, Lisa Belkin answers "yes:"
I have not been able to get four-year-old Sean Paddock, or 11-year-old Hanna Williams, or 7-year-old Lydia Schatz out of my mind. As Erik Eckholm reported in the New York Times yesterday, and Anderson Cooper discussed on CNN, most recently last week, the three children all died within the past five years, and they had several chilling factors in common.

Each of their deaths were brutal and agonizing: Sean suffocated; Hana, who was found lying naked in the muddy yard, died of hypothermia and malnutrition; Lydia showed signs of a brutal beating. In each case, one or both of their parents has been charged with their murder.

And in each case, those parents are said to have essentially punished their children to death, allegedly because they believed it was God's will. They are said to have been guided by the book To Train Up A Child, by Michael and Debi Pearl, which advocates beating children with rubber tubing, leaving them outside in the cold, and witholding food for days at a time in keeping with Biblical teachings.

* * *

[E]ach of these children joined these families through adoption. Sean was born in the US, as were his five adopted siblings. Hana was from Ethiopia, as was her adopted brother (their parents had six biological children as well), and Lydia was from Liberia (there were two other adopted siblings among the family's nine children).
Is this merely grisly coincidence? Or is there something about the adoption dynamic that makes violent abuse more likely?
One possibility is that adoptive children -- particularly those who spend their earliest years in an orphanage or shuttling from one foster caregiver to the next -- are more likely to suffer reactive attachment disorder, which are essentially the inability not only to bond, but to feel. The effects are not just psychological, but also physical, with evidence these children can have elevated levels of the hormone cortisol, which increases their tolerance for pain. Some speculate that spanking a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder can spiral out of control quickly, because it takes abusive levels of pain before the child actually feels it and responds.
Belkin also notes that a commenter claiming to know Hana's family wrote:
They expected Hana and her little brother to assimilate into their family, and most likely ignored their culture, how they had grown up (customs, beliefs, etc), and most importantly, the trauma that Hana and her brother had gone through in their childhoods. These kids just weren't acting like their biological children. Instead of taking a step back and getting professional help, they decided that they would continue to follow the Pearl method, but continued to up the ante, because these kids were NOT succumbing to being "broken".
When we read media reports of adoptive parents who have abused and/or murdered their children, it raises lots of questions.  Who commits more abuse, biological or adoptive parents?  Is abuse of adopted children because of or in spite of adoption? If adoption is causitive, in what way is it causitive? Are adoptive parents less able to "feel the pain" of a child not biologically related to them? Is that tendency (if it exists) exacerbated if the adoption is transracial? Does RAD and the reaction of the child play a role, as Belkin suggests?  Is the stress of adoptive parenting a factor? Is the connection between adoption and religion implicated?

I wish I had the answers. . . .  What do you think of Belkin's suggestion? Reactions?

Adoptive Parents Say Doctor Traumatized Them

From the Courthouse News Service, a bizarre story from Florida:
Adoptive parents say a doctor, apparently distraught at his own divorce, refused to hand over their 2-day-old baby unless they "agreed to purchase a plane ticket for the birth mother to visit their daughter and only if plaintiffs agreed to return their daughter to the birth mother when she reached her fifth birthday."

Alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress, Nicole and Bienvenido Olivencia sued Dr. Felipe A. Caballero and Tenet Hialeah Healthsystem dba Hialeah Hospital, in Miami-Dade County Court.

The Olivencias say they traveled from their home in Virginia to Hialeah Hospital in Miami to bring home the baby they were adopting.

On Aug. 9, 2009, they say, they met Caballero, the doctor in charge of signing the 2-day-old baby's discharge papers.

"Felipe A. Caballero M.D. examined the newborn baby girl and determined her to be a well baby and signed the discharge at approximately 11:00 a.m.," according to the complaint.

Then, the Olivencias say, they met with the adoption agency social worker to begin the paperwork and accompany the social worker to the nursery, where custody of the child would be transferred to the social worker.

"When plaintiff and the adoption agency social worker arrived at the nursery Hialeah Hospital, employees informed then that defendant Felipe A. Caballero M.D. had wrongfully taken plaintiff's daughter outside the nursery and into a separate room without medical facilities for newborns," the complaint states.

The Olivencias say they "found defendant Felipe A. Caballero M.D. holding their daughter and rocking her with the lights off without their consent, against their will, contrary to Hialeah Hospital policy and procedures and in violation of his duties.

"The adoption agency social worker advised defendant Felipe A. Caballero M.D. that she required the plaintiff's daughter. Defendant Felipe A. Caballero M.D. ignored the adoption agency social worker and yelled at plaintiffs, ordering them into the room demanding they answer his questions. Fearing for the well-being and safety of their daughter who defendant Felipe A. Caballero M.D. was wrongfully holding captive at this point, plaintiffs complied.

"Defendant Felipe A. Caballero M.D. while continuing to hold plaintiffs' daughter captive and against plaintiffs' will began a verbal assault and personal offensive improper interrogation of plaintiffs, questioning their fitness as parents and insulting them, thereby causing severe emotional distress by his verbal abuse and their growing fear of potential harm to their daughter," according to the complaint.

The Olivencias say Caballero "threatened to call three different lawyers to prevent the adoption if his questions were not answered to his satisfaction.

"Eventually, defendant Felipe A. Caballero M.D. outrageously stated he would approve the adoption to plaintiffs only if plaintiffs agreed to purchase a plane ticket for the birth mother to visit their daughter and only if plaintiffs agreed to return their daughter to the birth mother when she reached her fifth birthday."

The Olivencias say they "were intimidated and coerced into" agreeing to Caballero's demands because they were "(d)esperate to have their daughter, distraught concerning her safety and fearing the adoption process was jeopardized ...".
The Miami New Times article reporting the lawsuit starts: "It sounds like a tale adoptive parents tell around a campfire to scare each other sleepless."  Indeed.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Beware Orphanage Scams

At E.J. Graff's Prospect blog, a warning to those who want to donate to orphanage and to biological families who think they are dealing with reputable orphanages:
Beware of overseas orphanages seeking donations. If you're not careful, you may become the victim of an orphanage scam—in which a savvy entrepreneur in a poor country hustles up some children so that he or she can ask developed-world humanitarians for money for the children's support. In some of the notorious cases, the orphanage director pockets the money while the children are left to starve or sold for sex. Few people know that they may be underwriting kidnapping or other modes of defrauding local families out of their children. In other cases, the traffickers put the children—who are neither abandoned nor orphaned—up for international adoption, which can bring in astonishing fees.

One version of the orphanage scam has just been uncovered in India by the Esther Benjamins Memorial Foundation. Several years ago, a now-infamous child-trafficker traveled through Nepal's Humla province, asking families to pay him to take their children to boarding schools in Kathmandu. Instead, according to information I received from Joseph Aguettant of the child welfare NGO Terre des Hommes, many of the boys were sold into international adoption, while many girls were sold into the sex trade in India. (You can see Joseph Aguettant's documentary of the Nepal adoption issues, "Paper Orphans," on You Tube here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4).

Citizenship for ALL U.S. Intercountry Adoptees

There's a petition at asking Congress to fill the gap left in the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 that has led to the deportation of international adoptees whose parents have failed to take the required steps for them to receive citizenship:
"The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows certain foreign-born, biological and adopted children of American citizens to acquire American citizenship automatically. These children did not acquire American citizenship at birth, but they are granted citizenship when they enter the United States as lawful permanent residents (LPRs)." U.S. Department of State

One of the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA 2000) was that the adoptee be under the age of 18 on its effective date, February 27, 2001. International adoptees 18 and older were not granted citizenship under its provisions. Some, but not all, obtained citizenship through their own efforts or those of their adoptive parents. Of those who did not, many were unaware that they lacked this legal protection. Being without citizenship while believing they possessed it placed these intercountry adoptees at risk of violating U.S Federal law through no fault of their own by representing themselves as citizens upon return to the United States at any port of entry (including Canada and Mexico), applying for public benefits (including Federal education aid), or voting in Federal or other elections.

Further, strict immigration policies under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 increased the risk of deportation. This law does not provide for “discretionary relief,” which would allow the unique circumstances that led to an adoptee's lack of citizenship to be taken into consideration in determining outcomes. Adoptees have faced deportation and have been deported to countries in Asia, Latin America and Europe - countries unknown to them in every way: language, culture, family or friends. Additionally, adoptees without citizenship who travel to their countries of birth may be subject to laws there that prevent their return to the United States.
My children benefitted from the automatic citizenship provisions of the Child Citizenship Act.  Shouldn't all international adoptees have the same benefit?  Why would we visit the sins of the parents (failure to acquire citizenship for their children) on those unwitting children?

For the sake of Joao Herbert, Matthew ShererJohn Gaul, Tara Ammons Cohen, Tatiana Mitrohina, Jennifer Haynes, Seo, and many, many more, including those unnamed and unknown -- please sign the petition and share it with your friends.

Turning a Lens on China Adoption

A profile of Dr. Changfu Chang from the Philadephia Inquirer:
Millersville University professor Changfu Chang figured his first documentary on Chinese adoption would be his last.

After all, how much could he say on the topic?

He thought the same about his second film. And his third, fourth, and fifth.
Now, with eight documentaries in print and a ninth in production, Chang has accepted that the careful examination of this one complicated corner of humanity is in fact his life's work and calling. The story of the adopted children, mostly girls, about 80,000 strong, has moved in directions no one could have anticipated since he produced Love Without Boundaries in 2003.

"I feel like there's more urgency," Chang said in an interview, adding: "You feel like you're part of this global community."

It's not what he expected. Not while working as a reporter for Fujian Television in China, nor while studying mass communication as a doctoral student at Purdue University.

* * *

More recently the narrative around the one-child policy has been upset by news that officials in Hunan seized babies and sold them into a lucrative black market. In August, the New York Times reported that at least 16 children were taken between 1999 and 2006. Officials threatened big fines against couples who had "illegal" births, then took children when parents could not pay.

Chang said he believed China's system was basically clean. At the same time, his films show that girls enter orphanages in many different ways, with complicated backstories, and that official accounts may not bear scrutiny.
Given his unique place in China adoption, it isn't surprising that I've posted quite a bit about Dr. Chang before.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cabbage Patch Dolls to Raise Money for Adoption Awareness?

I kid you not, a Steven Tyler Cabbage Patch doll:
Rocker Steven Tyler and actresses Katherine Heigl and Kristin Chenoweth have been immortalised as one-of-a-kind Cabbage Patch Kids dolls for a charity auction.

Former child star Raven-Symone has also been 'Patched' as part of a special celebrity range to raise funds for U.S. adoption organisation the Children's Action Network (Can).

The dolls are being sold via auction website and each one comes complete with its own autographed birth certificate.
Oh, and don't forget Al Roker. He's included, too.

So what do you think?  Are Cabbage Patch dolls good spokesmodels for adoption awareness? After all, they come from under a cabbage leaf, no pesky birth parents in sight, no prior history at all, just a birth certificate signed by the famous baby him/herself. . . .

November is National Adoption Awareness Month

Last year's post on this subject I titled In Case You've Been Living in a Cave, Snowed In Without Newspapers, and Your Cable Was Knocked Out and Your Antenna Knocked Down, and You Just Had Your Internet Service Restored But You Can't Remember Your Facebook Password, Twitter is Over Capacity, Though You Can Finally Catch Up on Your Blog Reading, Here's the BIG News You Missed: November is Adoption Awareness Month!  Can you tell I get a little tired of all the hoopla about adoption in November?  Well, this is what I said last year, in case you missed it, which hopefully is still relevant a year later:

November is National Adoption Month, and we're asked everywhere to "celebrate" adoption. I admit, I have a hard time with that. I acknowledge that, as an adoptive parent, I'm the only one in the adoption triad who didn't come to adoption through tragedy. How can I "celebrate" the tragedy that made my children available for adoption? But I can certainly accept a national adoption AWARENESS month, which happens to be the official name. There are LOTS of things people need to be aware of when it comes to adoption.

I thought I'd go through Adoptive Families Magazine's 30 Ways to Celebrate National Adoption Month article, and suggest some ways that their ideas could be tweaked a bit to increase awareness, both inside your family and out:

2. Ask your library to display adoption books to commemorate National Adoption Awareness Month.

Here are some books to suggest -- books from the important perspective of adopted persons, and books that reveal a history of adoption that is often ignored:

The Language of Blood by Jane Jeong Trenka
Fugitive Visions by Jane Jeong Trenka
Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption
Orphan Train: Placing Out in America
Kinship by Design: A History of Adoption in the Modern United States
The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler

5. Find out where your representatives at the state and national level stand on adoption issues. Write to them regarding your concerns.

You can click here to find out your state's position on adoptee access to original birth certificates. Chances are, your state does not allow such access since only 6 states do. The American Adoption Congress provides lots of online materials to help you inform legislators on this issue.

7. Create a scrapbook with your child. Talk about significant events as you record them together.

Make sure you include significant events -- such as BIRTH! -- that occurred before you and your child met. Here's a link about adoption lifebooks to get your started.

9. Find an adult adoptee or a person of color—a coach, a teacher, or a babysitter—who can serve as a mentor for your child. Arrange for them to get together monthly.

If your area is not very diverse, you need to act intentionally to bring adults who share your child's race into their lives. Pediatrician, dentist, eye doctor -- given a choice, choose the one who shares your child's race. Getting to know adult adopted persons can be a great help in letting kids know someone older and wiser who can listen to their problems.

11. Spend some time celebrating your child’s heritage.

The internet is a wonderful place to find recipes, traditions, folklore, about your child's birth country.

13. Give an adoption talk at school.

Keep it real, keep it age-appropriate, and talk as much as you can about how families can be different, and that's OK.

14. Pass along an adoption-related article to another adoptive parent or friend.

Here are a few I'd suggest:

The Lie We Love by E.J. Graff
The Baby Business: Policy Proposals for Fairer Practice by E.J. Graff
Anatomy of an Adoption Crisis by E.J. Graff

I'd also suggest that you share blog links -- especially adult adoptee and birth mother blogs -- with your adoptive parent friends. It's so important for all adoptive parents to read from all perspectives, especially from those that might be different from their own. Check out the links in the blog roll to your right. Send your favorites via email, Facebook and/or Twitter to your friends.

20. NATIONAL ADOPTION DAY! Courts across the country will finalize thousands of adoptions today.

These are adoptions from foster care. If you are an attorney, consider volunteering. Remember, courts are open to the public. Feel free to visit your courthouse and watch the finalizations. This can be a great experience for kids, especially if they were too young to remember their own, or if they are experiencing anxiety about how permanent their adoption is. You can show them how the judge makes a family a family forever. Click here to check for events in your area.

21. Develop a family ritual to show thanks for your family and the special way you’ve found one another AND 27. Together, light a candle in honor of your child’s birthparents. Turn off the lights and hold hands as you watch the flame.

I love family rituals, and combining 21 and 27 acknowledges that your child's birth family is part of your family. For some suggestions of family rituals, check out Creating Ceremonies: Innovative Ways to Meet Adoption Challenges.

I also think rituals are extremely important when a child's birth parents are unknown. Rituals can give them a concrete presence in a child's life. My kids, for example, write notes to birth moms on Mother's Day, and burn the notes so that the smoke can carry good wishes to them in China.

28. Make holiday crafts that incorporate designs from your child’s heritage.

Again, the internet is your friend here!

30. Make a donation in your child’s or birthmother’s name to an adoption-related charity or organization.

Tw of my favorites are family preservation funds; after all, the only way to solve the orphan crisis is to prevent kids from being orphaned in the first place. So check out:

The Unity Fund from Love Without Boundaries

The Family Preservation Initiative from Ethica

So get out there and do your part for adoption awareness -- awareness of ALL the issues in adoption, the good and bad, the happy and sad. That's the awareness the public needs, that's the awareness you need to help your child.