Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"I'm Not What's Best for My Baby"

At Elle Magazine, an article, entitled "I'm Not What's Best for My Baby," about a birth mother's relinquishment of her son for adoption:
On a bright, hot afternoon in July 2010, Julia Barnes* gave birth in a Chicago hospital to a slightly premature but healthy five-pound boy after a short labor. When he emerged, black hair plastered to his head, she looked away and did not ask to hold her child—or, as she kept reminding herself, “the” child.

This was far from the blissful scenario she’d imagined when she and her husband, her college sweetheart Bill, learned she was pregnant the previous fall. But as her stomach had grown and she’d begun picturing her future as a mother, Julia discovered a secret that upended her life.

Lying in the hospital bed, now finding herself unable to take her eyes off her newborn as he was cleaned and swathed by nurses, she focused on what she’d trained herself to think during her pregnancy whenever she felt the jab of a small foot or glanced down to see her abdomen rippling: He doesn’t belong to me, he doesn’t belong to me. Julia had chosen a couple to adopt the baby, and the wife was there—she cut the cord. Watching the adoptive mother trail out of the room behind the nurse and the baby in his crib, Julia silently repeated another mantra: I’m not what’s best for him, I’m not what’s best for him.

Julia was not physically or mentally ill, nor was she poor or very young, unable to make a living, or alone in the world. At the time she gave birth, she was, in fact, a 30-year-old lawyer who’d been thrilled when she conceived the first time she and her husband tried. Yet eight months later, she was intoning to herself, The baby doesn’t belong to me; I’m not what’s best for him.
Read the whole thing.  Not exactly a feel-good piece, and the adoption doesn't seem like a happy ending in the circumstances. I came away from reading it more than a little depressed, which probably wasn't the author's intent.  What about you?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Adopting Out the Children of Illegal Immigrants: The Trial Starts

Today the trial commenced in the adoption battle over Encarnacion Bail Romero's son, adopted out over her objections while she was jailed for immigration charges (I've blogged about the case here and here and here and here). 

The issue is larger than this one case, as is made clear by Michelle Brane, director of Detention and Asylum at the Women's Refugee Commission:
"The real issue is if the parent wants to be deported with their child, what right do we have to say 'No, you cannot have custody of your child?' Romero's intent now is to go back home with Carlos, but he has already started a life here with another family...This is the kind of tragedy that needs to be avoided and can be avoided by doing the right thing early on and giving people access to the courts and to their children early on."
Bail Romero's parental rights were terminated by a Missouri trial judge at least in part on the grounds that she abandoned her child because she didn't make contact with him while she was in jail.  The judge apparantly doesn't recognize how difficult that could be:
Without any policies in place to regulate the care of U.S. citizen children while their parents are detained, immigrant parents are unable to attend court hearings, contact caseworkers, complete parenting classes or take any of the necessary steps to meet the strict timelines dictated by juvenile courts.

"And the result is that nobody is really recognizing that there's a parent there trying desperately to communicate that they want to still be involved with their child," said Nina Rabin, an immigration attorney with the University of Arizona's Immigration Law and Policy Institute.

It's those parents that are slipping through the cracks between two huge bureaucracies, she said.
There are also some huge factual issues unresolved in the first hearing where the judge found that the mother had abandoned the child -- she didn't attend, she didn't testify, her attorney was paid by the adoptive parents. . . .  So it will be interesting to see -- factually -- what develops in this new trial.

Italy/Vietnam: Adoptees Learn About Heritage

From the VietNamDaily:
Italian families who have adopted Vietnamese children attended a meeting in Rome yesterday to share experiences and learn more about Vietnamese culture.

50 families took part in the event, which was hosted by the Vietnamese embassy in Rome and the Italian Adoption Families Association.

Speaking at the event, Vietnamese ambassador to Italy Dang Khanh Thoai expressed his gratitude to the Italian families for their love and support of adopted Vietnamese children.
He stressed that Viet Nam would continue to co-operate closely with Italy in improving adoption procedures appropriate to the two countries' legal policies as well as hosting more cultural exchange events and discussions.

In response to Viet Nam's concerns, the association would carefully watch over adopted children and help them to learn about their origins and cultural heritage.
Chinese consulates in the U.S. have hosted the same kind of thing.

Inter-country adoption risks children lives

That's the headline in the Daily Times (of Malawi), a country suspicious of international adoption after the Madonna kerfuffle:
Inter-country adoptions negatively affect adopted children if not properly regulated, a law commissioner has observed.

Law Commissioner Gertrude Hiwa made the observation in Lilongwe on Monday during a consultative workshop for the fifth International Policy Conference on the African Child (IPC) organised by the Malawi Law Commission.

She said inter-country adoptions in some instances are marred by dysfunctional and insufficient regulation which result in serious violations of children's rights.

She said the very children which the system endeavours to improve their wellbeing may be exposed to even greater risks by the system.

"Such risks may include child trafficking, sale of the children , abduction and abuse, coercion of birth parents especially mothers to relinquish their babies, fraud and also corruption," Hiwa said.

"Further Africa has not yet carried out a comprehensive situation analysis of inter-country adoption with the result of unavailability of proper information on the issue and therefore a gap on the accurate status of inter-country adoption in Africa," she said.

Hiwa further said it is important for Africa to try and address this matter collectively and collaboratively in order to ensure a harmonious approach to defeat unscrupulous actors who take advantage of the countries whose rules and systems are weak and therefore puts vulnerable children at even greater risk.
It's always interesting to hear perspectives from sending countries.

Monday, February 27, 2012

"Open Adoption" of Embryos

From TODAYMoms blog:
Carmen Olalde really wanted children. She went through years of infertility treatment and IVF, then a difficult pregnancy, to have her twins. And as her twins turned four, she realized that two kids were enough.

But she still had four frozen embryos from her last IVF cycle. And so she made a decision that put her at the frontier of reproductive ethics. She donated the embryos to a Virginia couple also suffering from infertility, whom she met via a website ad – on the condition that the donation be "open," and they send regular photos of any resulting child and hopefully keep in touch by e-mail and phone.

“My motherly part of me thinks that I think that I would at least want to know what happened to them, that it would hit me once in a while that I have these genetic children out there. But at least I will know that [the couple] Karolina and Oscar have them and that they’re happy, they’re OK,” says Olalde.
Meet the modern "open adoption" family -- at least two hopeful humans and one embryo, brought together by science, trust, complicated legalities and a goodly bit of luck.

Many post-birth adoptions these days are “open,” in which the birth and adoptive families know each other’s name and perhaps have some degree of contact. Pre-birth arrangements may be following suit, though the law hasn't yet caught up.

* * *

The donation arrangements are murky legally, as well as emotionally. Adoption laws only cover children already born, so families involved in embryo donation usually sign forms and contracts dictating "ownership" of the embryos, often hiring their own lawyers for private agreements. Some follow up with a legal adoption after a child is born to further secure their rights.

Margaret Swain, an attorney whose practice focuses on adoption and reproductive technology, says children born from donation will likely appreciate an open arrangement, even though parents might initially feel uncomfortable.

“Following the lessons learned from adoption, and what we are hearing from children born through gamete donation, some degree of openness is probably a good idea. Children born of gamete donation -- donation of either egg or sperm -- usually like to know more about the person who donated, or to meet that person,” she says.
"Adoption" is the word the article uses, which I consider a misnomer when it comes to embryo donation.  "Open donation" would be more accurate here. And the article needs to straighten out another misperception it creates -- by talking about the fact that openness in embryo donation is legally murky, they create the impression that there's no legal murkiness in open adoption agreements.  Indeed, in most states such agreements are still not legally enforceable.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Spain: 92% Adopted Parents Satisfied With Decision

I didn't find the figure at all surprising, but others might -- a study in Spain revealed that the number of adoptive parents satisfied with their decision to adopt is an extremely-high 92%.  The report also identifies some variables that cause lower satisfaction rates, some not surprising and others a bit of a surprise:
"We wanted to know to what extent adoptions in Spain are providing children who need it with a healthy family environment that promotes their development" Yolanda Sánchez-Sandoval, a researcher from the University of Cádiz (UCA) states. In order to assess that, a comprehensive questionnaire was sent to families with adopted children in Andalucía, which was employed, amongst other uses, to assess family's satisfaction with the decision as a measurement of success.

The results show that, although their lives have been not been free of difficulties, these families are happy with the adoption. "Generally speaking, they are very satisfied with their decision and its implications on their family and personal lives" Sánchez-Sandoval affirms.

77.7% of families stated that their lives have been happier as a result of the adoption and 91.9% consider its repercussions to be positive. However, 37% consider family life to be more complicated in their situation.

The children's opinion of their lives is also linked with that of their parents. "When the parents are more satisfied with the adoption, we found that the children are also happier with their own lives" the researcher declares.

In the study, which is published in the journal Psicothema, they identified some variables that are linked with difficulties in adoption, for example, if the children were older when arriving at the home, if they were adopted alone or with a sibling, or if they had previous experiences of abuse.

Adopting a child that they already knew before also affects the process. "Those who adopted children that they had a relationship with before were less satisfied, probably due to the reason for adoption. These families may have felt somewhat obliged, or reflect more on the decision" Sánchez-Sandoval analysed.

The satisfaction is also lower in cases where the parents have a higher level of education. "They have higher expectations" the author says. The mothers are less affectionate and caring, and the children are less caring and have behavioural problems.
So, does anything surprise you in these results?  I'm not quite sure I understand why adoption of children you already know leads to a lower rate of satisfaction.  And don't you love the condemnation of us over-educated, not-affectionate moms?!

I find it interesting that the researchers thought parent satisfaction was a measure that would illuminate what they were apparently studying -- the extent to which adoptions in Spain are "providing children who need it with a healthy family environment that promotes their development." Certainly, it would be A factor, since it would be linked with children's happiness (we're all familiar with the saying, "If mama ain't happy, nobody's happy," right?!).  But I'd think other factors might be more illuminating.  Maybe we'll see other reports from the survey, addressing other issues, in the future.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Linsanity & Perpetual Foreignness

I've written before (both as a scholar and a blogger) about the concept of "perpetual foreignness," that class of individuals with "marks of foreignness," like speaking English with a foreign accent or being Asian or Hispanic, groups often assumed to be foreign-born, regardless of actual place of birth. Here's what I said about perpetual foreignness in a law review article examining the Constitution's requirement that the president be a "natural born citizen:"
Being “foreign” seems to trump “citizenship” for naturalized citizens. Many naturalized citizens, especially when non-White, are seen as “permanently foreign.” Robert Chang argues that the figure of “perpetual internal foreigners” has been necessary to construct America’s sense of identity, because immigration and naturalization restrictions “were based on a sense of who properly belonged in the national community.” Without restrictions on who could be a citizen, there would be no “them” to compare “us” to. Once the foreign-born become citizens through naturalization, the “myth of a historically homogeneous American identity” must be preserved by devaluing naturalized citizens. One might argue that it is different today, where immigration laws are no longer based on race, where, as Nathan Glazer puts it, “a strong accent, a distant culture, is no bar to citizenship.”

But Professor Glazer must concede, “whatever we mean by the American nation, the new citizen may not yet be considered a full member of it by many of his fellow citizens, because of race or accent.” He continues: "Many of us, perhaps most of us, have a mind-set in which certain races and nationalities, despite their formal equality in American law, despite the fact that distinctions of race are not recognized in immigration or naturalization law, have a greater claim to becoming American and are accepted as more legitimately American than others.

In America, it seems, some citizens are more equal than others.
Of course, this concept of perpetual foreignness is not limited to naturalized citizens.  Those who are born in the United States -- but are from groups thought to be "foreign," like all minority races other than African-American -- also face the stigma of perpetual foreignness.  Remember when Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan won gold and silver in 1998 Olympic figure skating? One headline announcing the result read, "American Beats Kwan." Tara Lipinski, American. Michelle Kwan, not so much, despite the fact that she was born and raised in California.  Michelle Kwan, perpetual foreigner.

What about Jeremy Lin?  Everyone knows he was born in America -- he's touted as one of the first Asian-AMERICAN players in the NBA (actually, he's frequently touted as THE first, which isn't true, since the first was a man of Japanese descent in the 1940s).  But is Lin REALLY American?!  That's the question subtly asked in this Time Magazine piece about whether Lin, who is apparently unlikely to be selected for the American team by Team USA coach Jerry Colangelo, would play for the CHINESE team in the upcoming Olympics:
Colangelo, however, says he won’t be swayed by public opinion, or even the remote possibility of China taking him away. Lin’s maternal grandmother is from mainland China, and Xinhua, the state news agency, has already called on Lin to renounce his U.S. citizenship and suit up for the Chinese team. (China does not allow dual citizenship. Lin’s parents are from Taiwan, but the Taiwanese team cannot qualify for the London Games).

Yes, it would seem outlandish for Lin to join the Chinese team. . . .
YES, it would seem outlandish -- or in the vernacular, completely LINSANE -- so why are they advancing such an idea??!!! All it takes is being Asian, and suddenly we speculate on whether you are willing to renounce your American citizenship in order to play for a foreign team!?! See, when you're a perpetual foreigner, your American-ness is always in doubt, slightly suspect, apparently disposable.  Being "foreign" trumps citizenship, even birthright citizenship.

Even more outlandish than the idea that Lin would join the Chinese team is the fact that a major news magazine like Time would actually speculate about it.  They need to read the Asian American Journalists Association guidelines for reporting about Jeremy Lin (how sad that they actually needed to issue such guidelines):
Jeremy Lin is Asian American, not Asian (more specifically, Taiwanese American). It's an important distinction and one that should be considered before any references to former NBA players such as Yao Ming and Wang Zhizhi, who were Chinese. Lin's experiences were fundamentally different than people who immigrated to play in the NBA. Lin progressed through the ranks of American basketball from high school to college to the NBA, and to characterize him as a foreigner is both inaccurate and insulting [emphasis added].
Indeed.  The AAJA's bottom line is a good one: "Stop to think: Would a similar statement be made about an athlete who is Caucasian, African American or Latino?" Words to live by.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Artyom News

Well, not really about Artyom, but about about Torry Hansen and the Hansen family, those fine folks who sent 7-year-old Artyom back to Russia with a note saying they did not wish to parent him any longer --

First, the Shelbyville (TN) Times Gazette has an exclusive interview with Nancy Hansen, Artyom's grandmother, who escorted him to that international flight to send him -- alone -- to Russia to be picked up by a stranger and transported to the Children's Ministry. Mostly she complains about the lawsuit for child support against Torry:
The family of a woman who sent her adopted son back to Russia in 2010 is speaking out, claiming they never wanted the press barred from court proceedings -- and blasting the attorney they fired earlier this month.

* * *

In an exclusive interview, Hansen told the T-G that Torry has written a letter dated Feb. 12 to Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell, asking for a court-appointed attorney and requesting a transcript of the Feb. 1 hearing. The Hansens claim they have not yet heard a reply from Russell.

Last week, the Hansens' latest attorney, Sandra L.M. Smith of Murfreesboro, filed a motion to withdraw as counsel, saying that she had been unable to communicate with her clients, but Hansen claims that isn't true.

* * *

Hansen claims that after the Feb. 1 hearing, Smith failed to contact her clients to tell them the outcome, saying they had attempted to contact her in the three days that followed, but that Smith did not respond by e-mail or phone. Nancy claims that Smith left a message on Feb. 4, saying she wanted to go over documents, and for the next four days, the Hansens say they tried to get in touch with Smith, but to no avail.

The letter from Torry said "they still don't know what transpired" during the Feb. 1 hearing in Lynchburg, asking to have the transcripts e-mailed to them. Nancy claims that Smith "only tried to cover herself after Feb. 8," also claiming to have recordings of their phone conversations.

Hansen added that Smith could have reached her family if she had wanted to.

Nancy also told the T-G that she was going to travel to Washington state, where WACAP is located, and file a slander suit against the adoption agency. She said that she was going to file it in this state, but now says that "I would not hire another Tennessee lawyer for nothing." She stated she also intended to file a suit against the National Council for Adoption.
Hmm, I'm not sure she'll find a lawyer in Washington state to take the case, having fired 3 previous attorneys and complaining to high heaven about this one. Sounds like the kind of high-maintenance client a lawyer who doesn't want to deal with a grievance filed against him/her with the state bar association will avoid like the plague.

Second, the Washington Post reports on Torry Hansen's failure to attend depositions, leading to a contempt of court hearing:
An American woman who sent her 7-year-old adopted Russian son back to Moscow has been ordered by a Tennessee judge to appear in court to face a possible motion for contempt.

Attorney Larry Crain represents the adoption agency and the boy, Artem Saveliev. Crain said mother Torry Hansen, formerly of Shelbyville, Tenn., has not appeared at three noticed depositions, the last one scheduled for Monday.

On Thursday, Bedford County Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell ordered Hansen to appear in court on March 7 when the judge will consider whether to hold Hansen in contempt of court. He also will consider a motion for a default judgment against her.
I wish I could say all of these shenanigans were unusual in legal proceedings, but they are not. In fact, it all seems rather typical of a family law case, where someone is always unhappy with the lawyer, hiring and firing multiple lawyers, etc. And it's a toss-up on the client-won't-contact-me/lawyer-won't-contact-me she said/she said allegations here -- lawyers hardly ever contact clients as often as the client would like, and clients are always ducking their lawyers when they've done things like failed to show up for a scheduled deposition.  My bet -- Torry will be a no-show for the hearing on contempt, too.  I'll let you know. . . .

But my favorite quote from the Washington Post article:
Nancy Hansen recently told The Associated Press she doesn’t believe Artem was traumatized by being sent home alone.

“All I can say he was very happy when he was on the plane,” she said. “Witnesses have said that he was running all around and he was happy. There were stewardesses watching over him.”
Wow, what a loving, sensitive grandmother! And if I were the lawyer, I'd be slapping a gag on that woman!  According to the Times-Gazette piece, at least part of the unhappiness the Hansens express with their latest lawyer is that she filed motions to exclude the media from the court hearing when the Hansens didn't want the media excluded.  Hmmm, sounds like the lawyer was doing something in the best interest of her clients -- keeping the media from hearing them speak as much as possible!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Adoption Legal Cases in the News

Can't help it, I'm a law geek, so I have to share a couple of recent cases I've found interesting.

First, a biological family regains a child after a 6-year custody battle, from what looks to be an illegal adoption, if it's true that the adoptive family just changed the child's birth certificate instead of having a legal adoption proceeding:
Seven years after he was born, a Raytown boy is finally living with his biological parents. Noah Bond’s birth father fought all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court to get his son back.

Until August of 2011, Noah was living in Texas with a couple who wanted to adopt him and who had raised him since he was an infant. But the birth father, Craig Lentz had never agreed to the adoption and his girlfriend, Ebbie Bond says she only did so under duress.

Noah Bond is now seven-years-old, but his birthday in December was the first he ever spent with his parents. It was December 2004 when Craig Lentz filmed the birth of his son when his girlfriend gave birth. But during a bout of what she says was postpartum depression, Ebbie Bond agreed to give up custody.

Lentz’s name wasn’t on the birth certificate so he had no legal standing to stop the process.

“When we went to get it, there was no record that Noah was ever born.”

More than six years of legal battles followed with Stuart and Megan Taylor, who refused to talk with us the one time we caught up with them outside of court.

“Somehow the Taylor’s had changed Noah’s birth certificate without ever having an adoption and that if I died in the accident there would be no record that he was ever born and he would’ve just disappeared into Texas and that would’ve been that,” said Craig Lentz.

The accident Lentz refers to was a car crash on Highway 350 in June of 2010. He died on the operating table twice only to survive months of painful rehabilitation and more delays to his expensive custody battle.
Second, the Baby Veronica case. I was disappointed in the one-sided presentation of the issues in this Anderson Cooper piece (opinion pieces, clearly identifiable as such, can be one-sided, but straight news isn't afforded that luxury!), but even more disappointed in the fact that the "expert" (identified as an expert in disability law and as a child advocate, no mention of expertise in adoption law; still, a lawyer in any field should know better than relying on overruled law!) Cooper interviewed after showing the video (interview not on the video below) got the law wrong.  She says the South Carolina court hearing the appeal of this matter should follow a particular case decided by the courts of Kansas, without noting that the Kansas courts have since rejected that interpretation of the law as wrong! I blogged about the so-called "existing Indian family doctrine," the interpretation of the law the expert was talking about, here.

Third, in this Minnesota case, the appellate court ruled that an Ojibwe mother's rights under ICWA were not followed when she petitioned for custody of her son, who was adopted, and then the adoption disrupted, and the child placed in foster care:
A Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe mother with a history of substance abuse may petition to regain custody of her son, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

The court cited the high threshold of the Indian Child Welfare Act in reversing an Aitkin County judge's decision to deny the mother's petition. She voluntarily terminated her parental rights to the boy, now 12, in 2006.

Under the act, which seeks to protect the rights of Indian tribes in retaining children in their society, a high set of standards must be met before determining the mother is not fit to regain custody. Not all of those standards were met, the court ruled. The case will now return to Aitkin County.

According to the order, the boy, who suffers from multiple behavioral disorders, was removed from his mother's care and adopted in 2008. A year later his adoptive parent sought out-of-home placement because she could no longer care for him due to his behavior. The boy was then placed in foster care with a Native American adult who is not a member of the boy's tribe. The adoptive parent terminated her rights and the boy seemed to thrive in foster care.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In the Dark

The Illinois Times looks at allegation that parents adopting from foster care are not being provided with information about the child's mental and social history:
Tammy Herstad feels like a failure. A mother of three adopted sons and one biological daughter in the Chicago suburb of Bartlett, Herstad spends much of her time worrying about her adopted son, Adam. The 9-year-old has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and other emotional disturbances that manifest in violent, destructive behavior at the slightest provocation.
“Right after the adoption, he fell off the deep end,” Herstad says. “He would wake up in the middle of night and destroy things. He would take (his brother) Abel’s diabetes syringes and stick them in things. He would break glass, he would hurt our dogs, he couldn’t sit in his seat anymore. He was hearing voices…(he was) aggressive, violent. It was just absolutely crazy.”
Herstad says she feels like she failed Adam because her love and parenting skills weren’t enough to stop his damaging and dangerous behavior. But Tammy Herstad also feels let down herself. She says she wasn’t warned about Adam’s bipolar disorder, reactive attachment disorder and other issues. And she’s not the only one who feels left out of the loop.
Illinois Times spoke with five families in Springfield and around the state who say the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, along with the private agencies with which DCFS contracts, fails to give families the full picture concerning the children they adopt. Undisclosed tendencies toward violence and self-harm can lead adoptive families to throw up their hands in desperation, jeopardizing the future of an adopted child.
Does DCFS keep potentially explosive information from adoptive parents or offer promises it doesn’t keep? The answer is nuanced, but not very comforting.
In the 70s & 80s there were a lot of cases of failure to inform adoptive parents of information about the children they were adopting.  An adoptive parent might not be told about known sexual abuse of the child, or of known significant physical and mental health diagnoses.  The first court to recognize a legal cause of action for this failure to provide information, usually called "wrongful adoption," did so in 1986.  The publicity associated with these cases led many states to enact legislative reform, creating obligations to provide medical, psychiatric, educational, social, and family information about a child prior to adoption.

I think many have come to believe that the problem of informational deficits has been solved by these reform efforts, at least in the domestic adoption context. This article suggests that that is not the case, at least not in Illinois.

International Adoption: The Debate

Two noted legal scholars on adoption, Elizabeth Bartholet and David Smolin, are debating the topic of international adoption in an upcoming book chapter; that chapter is now available here. The abstract describes the debate as follows:
This chapter is taken from a forthcoming book on Intercountry Adoption, edited by Judith L. Gibbons and Karen Smith Robati and forthcoming in June of 2012. The chapter constitutes a debate between Professor Elizabeth Bartholet and Professor David Smolin. Each independently was given three questions to answer, and then one opportunity to respond to the other's answers to those three questions, all with strict space limitations. The debate illustrates some of the starkly different perspectives regarding the law, policies, and facts relevant to intercountry adoption.
The three questions were as follows:
1. From a worldwide perspective, identify basic human rights, core human needs, and best interests of unparented children, those living without family care including those in
institutionalized care.
2. How should we understand the subsidiarity principle of the Hague Convention and how do the expressions of that principle in the CRC and the Convention aid or hinder the best interests of the child?
3. How should the law (and the governments of sending and receiving nations) respond to concerns with child trafficking, corruption, and adoption fraud in the intercountry adoption system?
If you've read the previous writings of these two scholars (I've blogged about some of Bartholet's perspectives here and Smolin's perspectives here), you'll find nothing new in this written debate, but it is fascinating to see in one place their "starkly different perspectives."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Economy a Factor in Declining Adoption?

The Northwest Herald suggests it's so, but admits it can offer little proof:
Suburban families continue to bring home adopted children, but the lingering effects of the recession may be limiting their numbers.

Statistical sources and anecdotal evidence point to a decline in the number of adoptions here. Thirty-three adoption cases were filed in McHenry County Circuit Court in 2010, less than half of the 79 cases filed in 2001. But records show the numbers were falling even before the recession began and case filings have remained nearly flat since 2008.

Statewide, the number of children adopted from foreign countries dropped from 1,052 in 2005 to 434 in 2011, according to the State Department. That closely follows a national decline for this type of adoption.

The decline in foreign adoptions is the result of a combination of factors, including corruption in source countries, added regulations and treaty disputes, said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and author of “Adoption Nation.”

The economy, both here and in other countries, likely plays a role, too.

“The recession has people wondering, ‘Can I take another mouth to feed?’” Pertman said. “But, as far as I know, no one has figured out how much of this is due to the economy.”
If the economy is affecting the decision to add children to a family, might it not also affect the decision to place a child for adoption?  Same article suggests the answer is yes, again with little empirical evidence:
On the other side of the issue, it’s not clear what effect the economy might be having on the number of children placed for adoption. Financial stress is one of the reasons some parents look to adoption and “it’s easy to imagine the economy would play into that,” Pertman said.
But there are many other factors that have an impact on adoption placement. In 2008, teen pregnancies dropped to the lowest levels in nearly four decades, according to a study published this month by the Guttmacher Institute. Teen birth and abortion rates also have declined, the study showed.

Ehrenpreis, of the Adoption Center for Family Building, said she had noticed many of the women placing children for adoption were in “much more dire circumstances,” possibly because of the recession.

Baby-Sitting While White

A cautionary tale for all transracial adoptive families, from a blog that doesn't usually do adoption (I read it for opinions on Texas politics and criminal justice matters) -- a police encounter for the white grandfather of a black child (and not the first time), suspected of kidnapping because they didn't match:
A few years back Grits posed the question, "Is babysitting while white reasonable suspicion for police questioning?" after my granddaughter and I were detained and questioned at length in my neighborhood on suspicion of some nefarious deed (it was never quite clear what). In that incident, the police were pretty clear I was stopped solely because Ty, like her mother (who came to live with my wife and me when she was a child) is black, while I'm an almost stereotypical looking white Texas redneck. At the time, Grits was amazed that three squad cars were dispatched to question me for walking down the street with a child of a different race, detaining me for no good reason and scaring the bejeezus out of then-two-year old Ty.

Last night, though, Ty and I got the full jump-out-boys treatment, making our earlier interaction with Austin PD seem downright quaint. It could only have been more ridiculous if they'd actually arrested me, which for a while there didn't seem out of the question.

* * *

Our story began at the Millennium Youth Center in central east Austin, which is a city-owned rec center just a few blocks from my home of 22 years. . . .

Perhaps at 7:40 p.m. or so, after she'd had her fill of skating (if the event were put to music, the appropriate theme song would have been "Slip Slidin' Away"), I asked Ty if she'd like to walk home.

* * *

Our interaction with law enforcement began after we left the Millennium Center on foot, with the giddy five year old racing ahead and me trotting along behind admonishing her to stay out of the parking lot and stop when she gets to the sidewalk, don't run into the street, etc.. She was in a good mood, obeyed, and we held hands crossing the street and as we walked down the bike path toward Boggy Creek and back home.

Then behind us I heard someone call out, though I couldn't make out what was said. We stopped to look back, and there was a dark silhouette crossing the street who Ty thought was calling out to us. We waited, but then the silhouetted figure stopped, crouched down for a moment, then took a few steps back toward the rec center, appearing to speak to someone there. I shrugged it off and we walked on, but in a moment the figure began walking down the path toward us again, calling out when she was about 150 feet away. We stopped and waited. It was a brown-suited deputy constable, apparently out of breath from the short walk.

* * *

 "Do you know this man?" the deputy asked. "Yes," Ty mumbled shyly, "he's my Grandpa." The deputy couldn't understand her (though I did) and moved closer, hovering over the child slightly, repeating the question. Ty mumbled the same response, this time louder, but muffled through a burgeoning sob that threatened to break out in lieu of an answer.

The deputy still didn't understand her: "What did you say?" she repeated. "He's my Grandpa!," Ty finally blurted, sharply and clearly, then rushed back over to me and grabbed hold of my leg. "Okay," said the deputy, relaxing, acknowledging the child probably wasn't being held against her will.

* * *

Ty was angrier about this, even, than I was. "Why is it," she demanded a few steps down the path, stomping her feet and swinging her little arms as she said it, "that the police won't ever believe you're my Grandpa?" (Our earlier run in had clearly made an impression, though she hadn't mentioned it in ages.) "Why do you think it is?," I asked, hoping to fend her off with the Socratic method. She paused, then said sheepishly, "Because you're white?" I grinned at her and said, "That's part of it, for sure. But we don't care about that, do we?" "No," she said sternly as we walked across the bridge spanning Boggy Creek just south of 12th Street, "but the police should leave you alone. It's not right that they want to arrest you for being my Grandpa." More prescient words were never spoken.

* * *

As soon as we crossed the street, just two blocks from my house as the crow flies, the police car that just passed us hit its lights and wheeled around, with five others appearing almost immediately, all with lights flashing. The officers got out with tasers drawn demanding I raise my hands and step away from the child. I complied, and they roughly cuffed me, jerking my arms up behind me needlessly. Meanwhile, Ty edged up the hill away from the officers, crying. One of them called out in a comforting tone that they weren't there to hurt her, but another officer blew up any good will that might have garnered by brusquely snatching her up and scuttling her off to the back seat of one of the police cars. (By this time more cars had joined them; they maxxed out at 9 or 10 police vehicles.)
Is this something you worry about?  Early on in the adopting process my social worker advised that it was always a good idea to have proof of parentage on you at all times when you and your child's race didn't match.  She suggested I always carry a recent picture of the two of us together, so I could show it as proof that I hadn't just snatched my child.  Of course, none of these tactics would prevent the initial police encounter, but the thought was at least you could avoid arrest as a kidnapper. . . .

I've never been doubted as a parent to this degree, though I wished I had followed my social worker's advice when the clerk at the pediatric opthamologist's office wanted to see my adoption decree for Maya (yeah, that's what all kidnappers do, take the kid to the pediatric ophthamologist!).  But I'm sure familiar with a more benign phenomenon -- the kids are racing ahead of me toward a store, shopper exiting the store looks around for the parents of these Asian kids, and the eyes skim right by me, looking for the matching set of parents!  You can just feel this potential Good Samaritan trying to figure out if she needs to intervene to corral these apparantly-unparented children.  You call out, "Zoe, Maya, wait up!"  The kids stop, the shopper relaxes, we all go on our way. . . .

Have you had similar experiences? How do you explain it to your children?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Is the U.S. State Department Anti-Adoption?

The Christian Post asks, and answers yes, citing the usual suspects:
In 2004, Americans adopted 22,991 orphans from other countries. That number has steadily declined to only 9,319 in 2011, according to State Department records. This decline is happening due to a set of complicated factors based partly upon different views regarding what is best for an orphaned child.

The Christian Post spoke to several international adoption experts to understand why the decline is taking place, and why adoptive parents have recently run into difficulties with the State Department when trying to bring their children home.

* * *

"It's an enormous collapse of a really valid service to children. It didn't just happen by accident. There's a reason that this all happened," Tom DiFilipo, president and CEO of Joint Council on International Children's Services, said in a Jan. 19 interview with The Christian Post.

Which is a priority: a child's need for a loving family or a child's race and ethnicity? How one answers this question drives some of the disputes over inter-country adoptions, according to Jedd Medefind, president of Christian Alliance for Orphans and former head of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in the George W. Bush administration, in a Feb. 2 interview with The Christian Post.

"Both internationally, as well as domestically in the U.S., there have been fierce debates over which is more important, a child's ethnic background, or their need for a family," Medefind said.
As usual, we're seeing the U.N., UNICEF, and the State Department being scape-goated for following the Hague Convention.  And it's more than halfway through the article before it concedes that adoption corruption and sending country's internal politics might have something to do with the decline, too!

What Might Have Been

An adoptee piece published in the New York Times yesterday; another blogger describes it as a feel-good piece for adoptive parents, because the adoptee expresses her gratitude at being adopted.  I find it rather sad, not because of the adoptee's happiness -- adoptees are entitled to feel however they feel about their adoptions without anyone telling them otherwise -- but because it illustrates so many things adoptive parents should do differently:
FOUR years ago, when I was 24, my mother handed me a case file on myself. I had long known that I was adopted as an infant and that my birth mother had died in a car accident several years after I was born. But this case file was new to me.

Growing up, I had internalized my parents’ matter-of-fact approach to the subject, and by the time I was in elementary school, being adopted hardly seemed worth mentioning. Even so, when a classmate and I came across a book called “Why Was I Adopted?” one day during reading time, I said to him happily, “I’m adopted!”

“No you’re not,” he replied. “You’re lying.”

“I really am,” I said, bursting into tears.

I told the teacher’s aide, and within minutes I was already over it, but the aide apparently saw the chance for a teachable moment.

“Do you know why you were adopted?” she asked.

I told her it was because when I was a baby, my biological mother didn’t want to take care of me anymore.

“Didn’t want to, or couldn’t?” she asked pointedly.

I was taken aback, then said I guessed it was because she couldn’t, though the distinction hardly seemed important.

Who cared if she could or couldn’t, didn’t want to or simply didn’t care? I was a bubbly, smart child who insisted on wearing only dresses to school and who commanded the room during Christmas parties by standing on a folding chair and belting out carols. I was delightful. As far as I was concerned, if this mysterious woman didn’t want me, it was her loss.
Wow.  I'm glad this child didn't internalize a sense of rejection because she believed her birth mother didn't want her.  But many adopted children who receive this message do deal with that feeling of rejection.  How amazing that she was in elementary school before anyone drew a distinction for her between someone who can't parent and someone who doesn't want to parent.  It's especially sad when we learn later that the file her adoptive parents had about her birth mother would have allowed them quite truthfully to opine about her birth mother's inability to parent and her love for her child.
A couple of years later I came home from school and my parents looked worried. “We thought this might happen,” they said. “But we didn’t think it would happen this soon.”

My mind immediately leapt to divorce, since that was the only thing I could imagine warranting such seriousness. Instead, they sat me down and told me that my half sister had called and left a message. They had mentioned before that she existed, but for the first time they told me more.       
I give the adoptive parents kudos for at least letting their daughter know she had a biological half-sibling.  But how sad that they would convey that the contact was somehow worrisome.  They were apparently quite capable of talking about adoption in a matter-of-fact manner with her daughter, too bad they couldn't do the same about birth family contact.
She and I had the same mother, they explained, and she was interested in meeting me. She was only 18 and had just had a baby.

I don’t remember the conversation very clearly, but I gathered they felt the timing was a little suspect. They were concerned she might be after money. They said the decision to talk to her was up to me, and I told them no, I didn’t want to. It was hard to ignore their expressions of relief.
ARGHHHH!  Why convey their suspicions, and then ask if she wants contact?  Don't you think she's smart enough to figure out what YOU wanted after that?  Do you think the answer you got was what SHE wanted?  And given your obvious relief, is it any surprise that it was years later before she expressed any interest in her biological family again?
It wasn’t until several years after I had graduated from college that I thought more about the biological relatives I never knew. Out of the blue, my half sister had contacted me via Facebook, introducing herself, and I wrote back, which led one winter day to my going to visit her and her daughter in the sleepy Vermont town where she grew up and still lived with her paternal grandmother.

* * *

The next summer my half sister invited me to a family reunion where I would meet my grandmother and several aunts and uncles. Over an outdoor picnic lunch, with pained smiles, they told me a little about my birth mother.

* * *

It was dark when I returned home that night. I was staying with my parents, and after months of living in close quarters tensions among us were high.

“How was it?” my mother asked in a wobbly voice.

“Fine. I had a good time.”

“Do you consider them your family?” she asked.

I told her I did. “Of course, you’re my family, too,” I added, though it should have gone without saying.
Why ask the question?  They are, OF COURSE, her family -- her biological family.  By asking the question, you're asking her to choose between them and you.  Why?  Can't she have both?  A touch more matter-of-factness was called for, it seems to me.
The next day I was reading a book in the living room when she sat down next to me and handed me the file.       
“I think it’s time to give you this,” she said. I flipped through it awkwardly without reading anything. Only now do I realize how strange it was that she would hand over such an overwhelming collection of information without a word about what I might find.
No kidding!  And wasn't the timing awfully suspicious, too?  Sounds like mom was hanging onto the file to "play it" at exactly the right time -- a time when she fears the biological family might be threatening her position as "only family."  This is when she finds it appropriate to share negative information about birth mom.  Nice.
It would be months before I had the courage to read any of it. One night I gave in to curiosity and opened the folders with a boyfriend. I was entranced as I turned over page after page. But I completely lost it when I came across a letter my mother had written to me when I was 2.

Composed in a shaky, barely legible cursive more typical of an elderly person than a young woman, the letter was a page long, on notebook paper. Near the beginning she wrote, “The reason why you are adopted is because of the risk of poverty.” And she concluded with: “Jaime I share the pain and love you but not with the mistaken message and I try to do my best also.”

CLEARLY there were strong emotions she was trying to convey, but much of the letter made no sense, and it infuriated me.

“What is this?” I cried, wiping away tears. “She tried to write me a letter and this is the best that she could do?”

* * *

In a strange way, the file has changed my perception of my own behavior. A social worker observed that while my birth mother was pregnant with me and living in a group home, her ability to communicate “was somewhat difficult to follow at times and made it hard for certain residents to take her seriously.”

Well, I thought. When I’m nervous, I tend to ramble in a nonlinear way, or make people laugh with my unintentionally blunt responses. I had accepted these quirks as part of who I am; now I twisted the mannerisms into insidious character flaws — signs of some impending unraveling.
And this is what happens when you throw the file at your daughter without helping her deal with what's inside, without having explained all along why her birth mother couldn't parent her.  You leave her to believe she's going to have the same issues. You haven't helped her understand. Parenting FAIL.
A part of me hates the file and wishes it never existed. But some bits I treasure, and I read them over as a mental salve when the rest of it leaves me feeling depressed. Not only does it help me understand my parents’ attitude toward my biological family, it reminds me of how truly lucky I am: how my life could have been different had my adoptive parents not endured years of uncertainty and stressful battles in trying to legally make me their child.
Sounds like the file had exactly the effect adoptive mom wanted it to have, to reinforce a negative impression of birth family, to make the adoptive parents the heroes of the drama. Wouldn't it have been nice if the adoptive parents could have subordinated their feelings to their child's feelings? Helped her cope with negative information about her birth mother? Helped her see it in context?  Isn't that the job of parents?  If they had done so, and their daughter had reached exactly the same point she's at now -- grateful to be adopted rather than raised by her biological family -- I'd say good for them!  But when they've told her what to think over and over again? Not such a success, it seems to me.
Helping your child understand what might have been, if she had been raised with her birth parents, is to deal frankly with how it would have been different without making judgements about better or worse.  It's about showing how birth parents are human, fully three-dimensional, making both good and bad choices, like every other person.  It's helping the child develop positive identity, by seeing how the good in them comes from the good in their birth family, and how they have the capacity to make different choices. The "what might have been" that I would hope for this adoptee is a fully integrated life, not needing to choose between birth family and adoptive family, with an understanding and appreciation of what life has brought, both good and bad.  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The painful new realities of international adoption

That's the headline from the Globe & Mail (Canada) about the changing face of international adoption, and focusing a lot on adoption agencies going broke and going out of business:
The heyday of international adoption appears to be over.

“Intercountry adoption is changing continually. It’s not static. But there are more restrictions in place now,” says Cathy Murphy, the acting executive director of the well-regarded non-profit Ottawa agency, the Children’s Bridge.

The result is higher fees, fewer adoptions, longer waiting times, older kids.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada reports that in 2010, there were 1,968 international adoptions, down from 2,130 in 2009, and peak of 2,180 in 2003.

The downward trend is more stark in the United States, says Elizabeth Bartholet, a professor at Harvard Law School and faculty director of its child advocacy program. From an all-time high of 22,991 in 2004, international adoptions fell to 9,320 in 2011.

“In seven years it’s fallen off by more than half. So that’s a pretty stunning falling-off-the-cliff phenomenon. It definitely has affected agencies in Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere that help facilitate international adoption. It’s just drying up.”

There are about two dozen agencies in Canada, and shutting down can mean hundreds of families left in the cold. A Vancouver agency, Hope Adoption Services, closed in January, also for financial reasons. An Ontario agency, Imagine, shuttered in 2009 after its founder and general manager were charged with breach of trust and fraud. It all leaves prospective parents with a feeling that their access is shrinking.“The agency pool is getting smaller and smaller,” Ms. Beeman says.
The paper also offers a snapshot of international adoption in Canada  and a by-the-numbers infographic on international adoption.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Should White Parents Foster African-American Child Over Birth Parents' Objections?

From the Grio, a case out of Virginia raising the question of the role of biological parents' wishes in making placement decisions; we've talked about it in terms of religion, but what about race?
A white couple who say they have been denied the right to continue fostering a black child have vowed to fight authorities to overturn the decision.

For five months, foster parents Ben and Sarah FitzPatrick, gave the child a loving home but on Monday were told the baby could be taken away as early as Friday. A pair of Norfolk social workers visited their home and said because their foster baby is black, the child would be better off with African-American foster parents.

* * *

A Norfolk City Council official says that his workers do not make race-based placement decisions, but they do consider "the will of the biological parents."

* * *

A subsequent report by NewsChannel 3 says Norfolk allows biological parents who have lost custody of their child to ask for foster parents of a specific race and the investigation alleges this practice is highly unusual and it might even be illegal.

In the televised interview Norfolk's Human Services director Stephen Hawks said, "we do have to consider the will of the biological parents as one of the factors in making a decision on the appropriate placement of the child." He adds, "It's not the only factor, but that is one factor in determining the appropriate placement for a child."

Oscar-Nominated Short Film Addresses Adoption Trafficking

The MovieMaker website interviews the director of Raju, a student film that's been nominated for an Academy Award:
The Oscar-nominated short film Raju is something of an enigma. A German student film shot, not in a crew member’s backyard, but in India, the film’s small budget meant that, for director/co-writer Max Zähle, paying the cast wasn’t an option—but he snagged two A-list German actors, Wotan Wilke Möhring and Julia Richter, to star all the same. And, of course, it’s a student film that’s been nominated for an Oscar… and that’s not something that happens all too often.

In Raju, Möhring and Richter star as a German couple who travel to India to adopt a child, only to become entangled in the illegal adoption epidemic—where children are stolen from their parents and sold to couples through phony adoption agencies—that plagues the country. Zähle took the time to chat with MovieMaker about how he managed to snag A-list talent for his student film, the challenges of filming in India and his feelings on Raju‘s unexpected (but certainly most welcome) Oscar nomination.

* * *

MM: How did you learn about the issue of illegal adoption that serves as the centerpiece of Raju? And what about that issue made you want to make a film about it?

MZ: I was researching [topics for my] film and found out about a situation where children get stolen out of the country. The [foster parents adopting them] want to do something good, but it’s bad, it’s illegal. So I started to research, and I found out about this global, massive, child-trafficking illegal adoption problem, and it really touched me. How far is a couple willing to go to get a child? On the other hand, who has the right to have a child? Those were the questions that really interested me as a filmmaker, finding out how far a person would go, what the moral order of a person is if they want to have a child [so badly].

MM: And if they knew where the child had come from, would they do the right thing in returning it to its real parents? I thought was one of the most interesting parts of Raju, how the wife didn’t want to give the child up, but the husband did.

MZ:That was actually the whole drama. Because even the woman, she’s not a bad person. It’s heartbreaking, because she doesn’t want to do anything bad, but they just want the child so badly that it gives them this moral dilemma.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Rescue Meme

Yes, I know it's talking about adopting an animal.  I'm all for that.  And I also don't  care when adoption is used to talk about things that are not like adoption -- highways, stars, zoo animals, liberals . . . .  But a friend sent the photo to me, and it reminded me of how much I dislike the rescue meme, which I've written about before

I thought you might like to watch this trailer for a new documentary about saving orphans, believe it or not, called Rescued:

Oh, and the trailer is quite frank about one thing -- the rescue isn't just saving a life, it's "collecting lost little ones" to save their souls.  What else could adoption be about, huh?

Why Jeremy Lin Matters

Lots being written these days about Jeremy Lin, basketball player, and the fact that he's Asian-American and one of the few Asians in the NBA.  Angry Asian Man has a blog roundup of Linsanity posts;  Racialicious warns that a great deal of Linsanity is about race.  I'm watching a news show right now, where they're talking about a televised image of Jeremy Lin's head emerging from a fortune cookie as a racist image. So clearly there are a lot of layers to Linsanity, including this post by an Asian mom about what Jeremy Lin means to her 3.5-year-old son, and what he would have meant to her as a young girl facing racism in America:
Jeremy Lin is riding a well-deserved wave of goodwill and adulation. After being undrafted and waived by not one, but two, NBA teams last year, the 23-year-old point guard for the New York Knicks has become the sport's latest sensation.

And Asian-Americans are loving it.

Each time Lin shows off his skills on the basketball court or does an on-air interview where — surprise! — he has no accent, he helps Asian-Americans get one step closer to being accepted as "real" Americans.

Like millions of other viewers last week, my family was glued to the TV watching the Knicks defeat the Los Angeles Lakers. Like most Americans, my 31/2 - year-old son Kyle had never seen an Asian-American basketball player in the NBA. Pointing at Lin, he shouted, "That's me! He looks like me!"

What a difference a few decades make.

"Following the Plan" Might be Harder Than it Seems

Rhea Perlman visits Children's Court in Los Angeles, and writes about what she saw there at Huffington Post.  Read the whole thing, but I wanted to share this part, since it's a perspective we rarely hear, one sympathetic to biological parents in dependency proceedings who "just need to follow the plan" to regain custody of their children:
I was invited back to visit Judge Marguerite Downing in her chambers. Judge Downing is a confident, down to earth woman, with years of experience as a lawyer for juveniles and a judge. She seems quite astute at sizing up the people who come before her. She told me that she thought that many of the families she sees have problems that come and go. Most have other family members who could step in to care for the children when they are taken from their homes, and that this would be the best situation for these kids. The problem is that very often the regulations for fostering a child are too tough to be met by the family... for example, a house that doesn't have the required amount of space. So the kids end up in foster homes with unfamiliar people, separated from their siblings and away from relatives who know them. Often parents are mandated to take classes they can't afford and have no way of getting to.

Even visitation can be tough... for example, in a hearing I watched, the Dept of Children's Services recommended that the father and the mother be allowed to have unsupervised visits with their children at separate times, in a neutral setting, for three hours a week each. This particular mother didn't drive. Her husband was her ride. Their 4 children were not living together. They were placed with different families in neighborhoods far from where the parents lived. The judge questioned how it would be possible to continue trying to parent the children with these restrictions. She ruled that the parents could visit together in a neutral setting for 6 hours a week, for now. Another hearing was scheduled in 6 months time.
We often hear about biological families that don't "follow the plan" set out for them by courts and Children's Services to regain custody of their children, as if that failure is just another in a long list of personal failures that mean these parents shouldn't be allowed to parent.  Not often do we hear about some of the practical difficulties  in following the plan.
Since Perlman actively promotes adoption, I think most people will see the title of her article, A Child Can't Be Raised by a System... or a Court, as a plea for more and faster adoption from foster care.  It might well be that, but it also suggests that the system, including courts, is no more able to allow children to be raised by their parents, either.

Name-Calling: "You Dangerous Adopted Boy!"

I've always rememembered a story my 6th grade Math teacher told about some people slinging insults at each other, and one emerged victorious by calling the other, "You hypotenuse!"  Yes, the winning insult was "You longest side of a right triangle!"  But it really does sound awful, doesn't it?

Well, we've always known kids will sling insults about adoption, telling someone they're adopted when they're not as a way to say you're weird, or you don't fit in, or you don't belong.

But grown-ups?  "He's an adopted boy" as an insult?  A talking-head psychologist on Fox News thought that was the way to put down political opponent, David Brooks Brock:
This is an adopted boy who needs to plumb the depths of his psyche. He was adopted. Many adopted children are tremendously well-adjusted, but for some reason, this man feels he’s unloved and unlovable, shunted to the side, and that’s the antidote he feels: unlimited power.
And this isn't the worst of it, the same guy tags this "adopted boy" as "dangerous."  Sigh.

I know what you're thinking, this is just liberal Malinda dissing Fox News again, this didn't really happen, right?!  Wrong.  Listen for yourself:

P.S. Dawn Davenport at Creating a Family is calling for a write-in campaign asking for an apology.  You can get all the details, including addresses and a sample letter at this link.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

In the Matter of Mothers

From the Atlantic, a piece mostly about surrogacy and egg donation, entitled Do Mothers Matter?, also relevant to adoption, despite a quasi-disclaimer:
Do mothers matter? Having no mother was -- at least until recently -- widely agreed to be a tragedy. Psychiatric case studies, Disney movies, and well-known spirituals such as "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" have testified to the importance of mothers and the pain of mother loss. But such views have not meant that every child has lived in a society that affirms the importance of the child's bond with his or her mother. Children have been denied their mothers because of class biases (see, poor); racial and ethnic biases (Indian, Aborigine); as part of severe civil conflict (Argentina, Dirty War); amid widespread, institutionalized human rights abuses (slavery); or because their mothers were rightly or wrongly perceived to be unfit (see: history of adoption, good, bad, and ugly).

Yet even as the broad history of helping ourselves to other people's children continues to be probed and largely condemned (except in the case of adoption, where most reasonable people agree that such an institution must exist in order to find loving homes for children in need of them), a newer and notably deliberate form of mother loss has sprung up, one that receives relatively little debate and is often presented as benign or even good, without question. I am referring, of course, to the practices of surrogacy and egg donation.

* * *

Based on a representative sample, in "My Daddy's Name is Donor" we reported that most sperm donor-conceived persons strongly object to anonymous donation of sperm. Nearly half feel troubled by the role of money in their conception. Most want to know about their biological father's family, and they wonder if that family would want to know about them. Compared to their peers raised by biological parents, sperm donor-conceived persons are more likely to struggle with delinquency, addiction, and depression.

Clearly, at least some of these kids are not really all right. It seems entirely plausible that at least some conceived never to know their mothers might share the feelings of the sample in our study. For decades we have debated whether fathers matter. Must we now debate whether mothers matter, too?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Love Day!

Happy LOVE day!  That's what Zoe wrote on the Valentine's Day card she made for me.  It was a lovely day, and I hope yours was, too. In addition to Zoe's card, Maya gifted me with a poem far nicer than last year's "Roses are red, violets are blue, you're a terrible mother and I HATE you (long story)."  Obviously inspired by the children's book Love You Forever (a book I can't read to my kids without tearing up), this year Maya said, "I love you forever, I like you for always, as long as I'm living, my Mommy you'll be!"

I think most people think of Valentine's Day as a romantic holiday, but I consider it a celebration of love of all kinds (probably because my life is sans romance these days!). So I thought I'd round up some previous posts about love.  If you have nothing better to do this Valentine's Day, I'm sorry, but I hope you'll enjoy!

The nature and quality of love in adoptive families

 What's Love Got To Do With It?

Will I love my adopted child like I love my bio child?

Love is NOT Colorblind

I Love My Hair!

Not Always Love at First Sight

Gitchi Gotcha Goo Means I Love You?

Love, Abandonment Style

Blog Love (as true today as when I wrote it years ago!)

Kristin Chenoweth & Rosie O'Donnell Talk Adoption

The website describes it as:
Kristin Chenoweth Opens Up About Her Adoption
At first, actress Kristin Chenoweth was scared to talk about being adopted, but she explains why she's not afraid anymore. Plus, Kristin and Rosie share an emotional moment when they contemplate what it would be like for Kristin to meet her birth mother and for Rosie's children to meet their birth mothers.
What do you think?

Monday, February 13, 2012

New Study: Adoptees & Suicide Risk

A new study suggests that both nature and nurture work together to increase risk of suicide in adoptees:
A new study from Karolinska Institutet and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA, shows that adopted children from a biological family with experience of suicide were more likely to themselves attempt suicide if their adoptive mother had also been treated for a psychiatric disorder. The results, which are presented in the scientific periodical The American Journal of Psychiatry, suggest that the genes can be affected by environmental factors, according to the researchers.
It is known from previous research that a family that has already suffered a suicide is at risk of a recurrence. Suicide appears to be more likely in those who are exposed to suicidal behaviour in the family as a child or teenager than as a young adult. Suicidal behaviour is also slightly more likely in adults if, as children, their mother - rather than their father - had attempted suicide. To ascertain whether this increased risk is genetically or environmentally determined researchers at Karolinska Institutet and Johns Hopkins studied early-adopted children with an enhanced family-related suicide risk but, as adoptees, no exposure to a suicidal act by a biological parent.
Their results show that the likelihood of an adopted child attempting suicide later in life was unaffected if there was only one biological parent who had committed or attempted suicide or if the adoptive parent had been receiving psychiatric treatment before the child turned 18; however, there was a four-fold risk if a biological parent displayed suicidal behaviour and the adoptive mother had been in psychiatric care.

"We see this as a sign of hereditary-environment interaction, whereby the biological or genetic inheritance can be influenced by environmental factors in early childhood," says investigator Professor Bo Runeson at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet. "Identifying and treating psychiatric disorders in parents is one possible way to prevent a predisposition for suicidal behaviour being passed down to the next generation."

Religion & Adoption/Foster Placements

As I've mentioned before, past adoption practices required matching of adoptive parents and children on all kinds of factors from socioeconomic background to hair color and texture to religion.  We've also discussed in the context of international adoption whether maintaining a child's culture meant also maintaining a child's religion.  And then a few months ago I posted about a proposed statute in New Jersey to require foster and adoption placements to be in homes that would “maintain a child’s religious upbringing,” because of concerns about children being “put in a home where the parents practiced a religion other than that of the child.” From what I can tell, the bill died in committee, but has been reintroduced this legislative term.

With that background, I thought folks might find this article in the Jerusalem Times interesting:
The Haifa Family Court officially declared a five-year-old girl ready for adoption on Sunday, while criticizing social workers for taking years to file for the adoption order.

The child, “Baby P.,” is the daughter of a single mother of no stated religion, and a Muslim Israeli Arab father. For the past four years, the child has lived with a haredi (ultra- Orthodox) foster family, which has since expressed a wish to formally adopt her.

* * *

In her ruling, Judge Esperanza Alon slammed a decision by social workers to place “Baby P.” for such a long time with a foster family whose religious and cultural backgrounds, she said, were very different from the child’s own. Alon said “Baby P.’s” identity and fate remained under question for many very significant years.

“Under the Adoption Law, social workers are supposed to place minors with foster families with the same or similar lifestyles and religion as their biological families,” Alon said. “It was not right that she should have grown up in a haredi family, when the gaps between the community into which she was born and the one in which she grew up have such significant differences.”

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Search for Identity & Adopted Teen's Death

A tragic story of a teen runaway found dead, cause of death unknown but suspicious (found in a suitcase in an abandoned lot), sharing because of the adoption elements:
Josh, whose 17th birthday came and went while he was missing, was an adopted child whose search for identity may have led to the shallow grave where his remains were discovered.

"He was a kind and compassionate soul, but on the other hand, he didn't understand the consequences for his actions," said Jan Churchwell, his adoptive mother.

She and her husband, Bob, took in the boy after he was removed from his mother's home. The Churchwells raised him in a house full of children, some their own, others foster kids.

* * *

Josh was the biological son of Luis Rivera and Tammy Fernandez. Adams County Human Services took him out of the home when he was 3 years old for reasons Fernandez would not discuss.

"He was my little Bucky Beaver; when he smiled he showed all his teeth," said Fernandez, 47.

A couple that took Josh and two of his siblings decided to keep his brother and sister but found him difficult. They asked Adams County to find another home.

At that point, the Churchwells, who had provided emergency foster care for Adams and Kit Carson counties, opened their home to Josh.

* * *

Jan Churchwell recalled stopping short outside a room in her home when she heard the boy chattering inside. The then-fourth-grader was standing alone in front of a mirror.

"I am not a Churchwell," he said to his reflection. "I am a Rivera, I want my real family."

She spoke with him, and it was clear he believed the rest of Fernandez's seven children remained with their mother, that he was the only one separated from the family.

"It was terrible because I hadn't realized for all those years that he was internalizing that loss. That explained why he was so angry," she said.

[His adoptive parents facilitated a reunion with his birth mother and siblings, none of whom remained with his birth mother.] 
* * *
As he grew, Josh took up wrestling, following in the footsteps of Isaiah, one of the Churchwells' older children. And he played drums and tuba, earning spots on the Burlington middle and high school bands.

He was fascinated with his Hispanic heritage and spent time in Burlington's Mexican-American community.

He attended quinceañera balls — coming-out parties for girls when they turn 15. He ate at the homes of Hispanic friends, where he learned to tell authentic Mexican dishes from more pedestrian fare made to American tastes.

But as his circle of friends widened, he fell in with some troubled teens. [Criminal acts led him to Juvenile detention, and he ran away from an alternative school].

* * *

The system failed Josh twice, the Churchwells believe — first when social services separated him from all of his siblings and again when his disappearance was treated as an escape.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Russia Suspending Adoptions to the U.S.?

Several different media outlets are reporting this, as if it's NEW news, but I'd already heard that this request was in the works since January 18, and blogged about it 10 days ago.  So I don't know if it qualifies as new-news.There's also lots of contradictions in the reporting. Maybe it's worthwhile to try to clear up some of that. . . .

All seem to agree as to the reason is "an 'incessant string of crimes' allegedly committed by American adoptive parents." Some are saying that adoptions are suspended until the U.S. and Russia "sign an accord."  But of course, we know there was a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Russia about adoptions in July 2011, after the Artyom incident.  Maybe it's the nature of the agreement -- some of the reports say adoptions are to be suspended until there's an agreement that "allows Russian monitors to visit the homes of adopted children."

The Russia News Agency.seems to be reporting it differently:
Moscow will suspend the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens until the Russian-U.S. adoption deal comes into force, Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.

The move comes after series of incidents involving the mistreatment of adopted Russian children in the United States.

“Regarding the incessant series of crimes in the United States against adopted Russian children, Russian Foreign Ministry rules that the adoption procedures for the U.S. citizens should be suspended until the Russian-U.S. adoption deal, signed on July 13, 2011, comes into force,” the ministry said in a statement.

Russia and the United States signed a bilateral adoption agreement in July which states several important points, including psychological testing of the adoptive parents as well as obliges adoptive parents to work with only accredited adoption agencies.
If it's just a suspension until prospective adoptive parents have satisfied the psychological testing requirement, it doesn't seem like such a big deal.  If it's until the U.S. agrees to let Russian monitors into adoptive parents homes?  That could be a deal breaker, since the U.S. wouldn't agree to it in the July 2011 bilateral agreement, as the State Department background briefing about the agreement made clear.

Probably too early to tell what will ultimately come of it. Maybe it's as this article reports -- just a political tool in the domestic elections in Russia to gin up anti-American sentiment, and after those elections (in March, I believe) the issue will go away. Who knows.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bio Children Challenge Father's Adoption of His Adult Girlfriend

A new twist to the already twisted case of John Goodman's adoption of his 42-year-old girlfriend -- his teen children are challenging the adoption:
The outraged kids of International Polo Club Palm Beach tycoon John Goodman are demanding that a judge throw out their dad's move to adopt his 42-year-old girlfriend, accusing him of intentionally duping the court.

Goodman, 48, is accused of drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter in the death of 23-year-old Scott Wilson in February 2010.

In a stunning move last fall, Goodman adopted his girlfriend Heather Laruso Hutchins, 42, entitling her to up to a third of his biological children's trust fund, worth $300million.

Harriet and John Jr - who are in their teens - are now fighting the adoption, charging their father with intentionally committing fraud and making a mockery of the adoption process.

The Palm Beach Post reported that a motion was filed in Miami-Dade court on behalf of the children’s guardian, Jeffrey Goddess, arguing that they and their mother had no idea the adoption had taken place until two months after it was finalised.

The motion reads: The motion continues, 'If Mr. Goodman would like to protect her and take care of her financially, the obvious solution would be to marry her - not to make her his child.'

Their attorney, Joseph Rebak told the paper: 'I have never seen anything like this in my 31, 32 years practicing law. Obviously we think it's wrong and we are hoping to have it set aside.'

But longtime adoption lawyer Charlotte Danciu told CBS 12 that she’s 'not sure these children will actually have the standing to challenge the adoption.'
In all the centuries of parents embarrassing their teenage children, Goodman might well win the grand prize with this little trick. I certainly don't blame the kids for being upset -- it's pretty outrageous behavior on the part of a parent. But it's also an interesting legal point -- can biological or previously adopted children challenge the legality of a subsequent adoption? 

Of course, the children would have no grounds to complain if Daddy had another biological child, right? Adding another child to the mix would, in fact, reduce the potential inheritance of previous children or reduce their share of a trust created for all children of the parent, regardless of whether the child was added to the mix via adoption or birth. So no right to complain that Daddy adopted Heather, right?

Umm, maybe; maybe not.  A will or trust listing the beneficiaries as "children of X" would only go to the legal children of X.  Beneficiaries couldn't complain about the fact that Daddy had more legal children, thus diluting the share of existing children in a pot of money. But beneficiaries can certainly tangle over who is actually a legal child of X; that might include a challenge to biological paternity or a challenge to the legality of an adoption.  (This is one of the reasons international adoptive parents are encouraged to "re-adopt" in the U.S., to make sure that a later legal challenge to the adoption proceedings in another country -- either upon divorce of the adoptive parents, when one is trying to duck child support obligations, or upon probate, when other beneficiaries might seek to lop off some beneficiaries to increase their share of the pie -- will have less chance of success.)

So, yes, I think Goodman's previous children can legally challenge the new adoption, though whether they can challenge NOW will depend on the terms of the trust, and in particular how the trust payouts are structured.  If it were simply a will, I'd say they couldn't challenge it until Daddy died and the will was in probate.

Of course, this would all be irrelevant if a will or the trust listed named individuals as beneficiaries -- leaving his money to Heather wouldn't give the kids grounds to complain, or at least not complain on the grounds that her adoption wasn't legally effective to make her his child.  But doing it that way wouldn't meet his apparant objective of adding her to a trust that he thinks insulates his assets from any judgement in that wrongful death lawsuit.

Oh, and I should mention that I'm not a trust or probate attorney, I know nothing about the actual facts of the case other than what I've read in the newspaper, and this is not legal advice!  There, CYA done!

Ah, what a tangled web we weave. . . .