Saturday, June 30, 2012

Russia Children's Ombudsman 'Shocked' by U.S. Ranch for Russian Adoptees

I've posted before (see here and here) about this Montana ranch,  where many adopted children from Russia are sent by their adoptive parents, but it didn't go over well with Russia's children's ombudsman:
Russia's children rights ombudsman has condemned a U.S. ranch, where troubled adoptees are held.

Pavel Astakhov has been visiting the Ranch for Kids, in the U.S. State of Montana, which is a respite care home that helps children, most of them from Russia, who have suffered disrupted adoptions.

"The very form of the children's being there is shocking. What is it, a pre-trial detention facility? A penal colony? Or a trash can for unwanted children?" Pavel Astakhov said, in comments carried by his official website.

All the children were removed from the facility just before Astakhov'a arrival.

"These children are completely isolated from the outside world, which is grounds for violating their rights. It has not been made clear to us whether the children receive the necessary help and treatment, which is why the condition of the Russian kids at the ranch causes concerns," Astakhov said.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Growing Up the Ethiopian Child of White Parents

From chef & author Marcus Samuelsson at Huffington Post, a recollection about growing up as an Ethiopian adoptee of white Swedish parents:
In my book Yes, Chef you can see old photos of them: my Mom with her beautiful, long hair and my dark blonde Dad, sporting a stylishly scruffy beard. They were so cool, so ahead of their time, without even trying. So many of our neighbors and my friends couldn't understand what my parents had done in adopting us, especially children from Ethiopia, but the impact on our extended family was immediate. I had Canadian relatives and cousins from Korea. If we got into fights at school, it wasn't because we were adopted. If we didn't understand what a word meant, it wasn't because we were adopted. My mother made sure that fact never creeped into conversation and she didn't let it define us.

But that didn't mean we were oblivious to the fact that Linda and I had white parents and my parents had black children. This one time we were visiting D.C. and my mother had to take us kids and leave the city. She had been so excited to come to America, to buy copies of Essence and Ebony magazine so she could learn how to comb our hair and buy the products she needed to tame our unruly afros. But she was getting it from both sides -- white people couldn't understand what this Swedish woman was doing with two little Ethiopian children, and black people would be constantly asking her a thousand questions. This was the 1970's and there weren't celebrities adopting children from African countries. I was about eight years old at the time and I can remember thinking Anne-Marie was most disappointed because her expectations of that trip were not met; how times had changed when I accompanied my mom to a conference for adopted children and their families in our nation's capital some 30 years later.

* * *

A dozen times a week, easily, I am stopped on the street by someone -- most often a woman -- who tells me that she is the mother of an adopted child. More and more, over the past few years, these women have adopted a child from Ethiopia and they've read about me or seen me on TV and know my story. While I love to hear these stories, I always wonder when will be the time the "norm" will flip on its head again. Will there be black parents adopting white kids? I'm waiting for the moment when some rich Nigerian man decides he wants to adopt an Asian child. Is this happening yet and if not, what will it take to change the conversation? In an open-minded world, everything is a possibility.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Last Day of Chinese Language Camp!

Well, this picture pretty much says Maya enjoyed her third year of Chinese Language Camp!  Zoe didn't attend, doing Ballet Camp instead, but she had to be in the picture, along with our friends L & L, who've been attending almost as long as wee have.  Making the tshirts was one of the camp activities, with the character for "dragon" and Chinese name on the front.

As part of the open house for parents, each child had to tell something about Chinese culture -- Maya explained the invention of fireworks and their role in Chinese New Year celebrations.

The class also put on a kung fu demonstration.

The kids also showed off their craft projects -- paper cuttings of the Chinese zodiac signs, dragon boats, opera masks, fans, etc.

Proud mommy moment -- for the third year in a row, Maya got one of the few "Certificates of Excellence!"

I'm a big fan of this program, which is FREE as part of the federal government's strategic languages initiative.  Click here to see if they have a similar program in your area.  In addition to Chinese, the program teaches other "strategic" languages, including Arabic, Dari, Hindi, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu.

Australia to Stop Adoptions From Ethiopia

Reporting by ABC (Australia) News:
The Government says it has had issues with the program for several years, including too few children being successfully adopted.

But the president of the Australian African Children's Aid Support Association, Mark Pearce, says the Government has given up too easily.

"People are just devastated and in shock about the decision that's been made... it doesn't fit nicely in the way that Australia might want something to be done and I think they've decided it's all too difficult for them," he said.

Mr Pearce says up to 100 families in the program, including his own, have been left devastated by the decision.

He says he and his wife had been trying for six years to adopt a second Ethiopian child.
"We're still processing it in our minds and our hearts at the moment and we're still quite shocked and upset by it all," he said.

The adoption group says it will lobby the Federal Government to have the program reinstated.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Advertising in Adoption, Texas Edition

From my own backyard:
A mother accused of trying to sell her infant son insists she was simply trying to put him up for adoption.

In a jailhouse interview with News 8, Brittany Hill, 26, says she never wanted to make any money off her son.

“Never in my wildest dreams would I sell a child,” she told News 8. “A child is not an animal or a dog on the street.”

She posted the classified ad online several weeks ago on the website The ad said she was “in search of an [sic] great family for my son... I can no longer care for him the way he needs to be.”

“I'm working with an adoption agency so there is an adoption fee they have set up,” the ad continued. “I believe its $6,500.”

Hill said she wanted to alert potential parents that an adoption would likely cost thousands of dollars.

“This is how much you’re going to have to pay for an attorney, living, medical -- all that stuff,” she said. “You can’t just say, ‘Oh, here’s your baby for free!’”

Hill said she stumbled across the website while Googling ways to put a child up for adoption. She decided to offer her child after noticing families posting ads wanting to adopt or take in foster children.
One problem with the mom's defense is that, even if she wasn't going to sell the child, it is against the law in Texas to merely advertise a child for adoption unless you are a licensed adoption agency.  (See Tex. Penal Code 25.09.)  So even if she wasn't selling the child, she committed a crime.

But what about all those people she saw advertising that they wanted to adopt?  Is that a crime, too?  The Penal Code says that it's an offense if a person advertises that they "will . . . obtain a child for adoption." Does that apply to a prospective adoptive parent advertising that they wish to adopt?  The Texas Attorney General, in response to a request for an opinion from the bill's sponsor says it's unclear:
You next ask whether section 25.09, Penal Code, prohibits a prospective adoptive parent
from advertising that he or she wishes to adopt a child. Section 25.09 prohibits a person, other than a licensed child-placing agency, from advertising that the person “will place a child for adoption or will provide or obtain a child for adoption.” The phrase “will. . obtain a child for adoption” could plausibly be read to refer to a person who seeks to adopt a child. Parts of the statute’s legislative history indicate that such a reading was intended. During a hearing on House Bill 1091 before the House Committee on Juvenile Justice and Family Issues, a witness asked you, as the bill’s sponsor,whether the provision would prohibit prospective adoptive parents from advertising that they wished to adopt a chi1d.s You stated repeatedly that the provision was intended to do so. You made reference to the committee’s interim report, the impetus for House Bill 1091, which recommended legislation that would ban “baby wanted” advertising.

On the other hand, the phrase ‘will. . obtain a child for adoption” could also be read to refer to the act of acquiring a child for someone else to adopt. Other parts of the legislative history support this construction. The Juvenile Justice Committee’s report on House Bill 1091 states: “The bill amends Penal Code Chapter 25, stating that a person commits an offense by advertising in the public media that they will place a child in adoption, or provide a child for adoption.“ And, in explaining House Bill 1091 on the floor of the House of Representatives, you stated that the bill “amends chapter 25 of the Penal Code creating an offense to advertise in the public media that a "child will be placed for adoption or provide a child for adoption.” Thus at least two explanations of the bill to the legislature omitted any reference to application of the prohibition to prospective adoptive parents. While the bill’s sponsor may have contemplated a different construction, when interpreting a statute a court must seek to effectuate the “collective” intent of the legislators who enacted it.” In doing so a court normally focuses on the literal text of the statute, which in this case we think is susceptible to more than one understanding. In light of the ambiguity in both the wording of the statute and its legislative history, we cannot predict how a court would rule on this question. Moreover, we believe this ambiguity makes the statute susceptible to a challenge that it is unconstitutionally vague.
So, a placing birth parent can't advertise without violating the criminal law, but a prospective adoptive parent can probably get away with it. Why is that, I wonder? Obviously the concern about advertising the placement of a child is that it might allow baby selling.  But don't "baby wanted" ads risk baby buying?

States take a variety of positions on advertising in adoption -- you can find a quick primer here.  I'll write more about other states some other time. . . .

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

American Couple Jailed in Ghana for Suspected Child Trafficking for Adoption

There's been a lot of gossip on various adoption blogs (like here and here and here, for a small sampling) about this case, but this, from the AP, is the first "official" media report I've seen:
Police in Ghana say an American couple was recently detained on suspicion of child trafficking after trying to board a plane with four children they are trying to adopt.

Comfort Miah, an official with the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit, told The Associated Press: "They say the children were adopted and we are investigating to find out if this has been properly granted by a court of proper jurisdiction."

Sol and Christine Moghadam from Irvine, Calif., were traveling with their two biological children and four adopted siblings from Ghana. They were stopped Friday at Accra's airport.

On their blog and in a video created on their behalf, the couple says they were forced to spend Friday night in jail. Their two biological children were placed in an orphanage. As of Tuesday, they had still not been allowed to leave Ghana.
For the family's blog mentioned in the article, click here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Camp: Flamenco, Ballet, Jazz

"Do You Have to Pay Money to Buy a Baby?"

We're car-pooling for Chinese Camp this year with friends of the girls from school.  We've all known each other since Zoe and their oldest started kindergarden, and frequently do things together.  They pretty much know all of Zoe's and Maya's adoption stories, since Zoe especially tends to share.  Today, while we were at lunch (both my girls were in the buffet line during this conversation, thank goodness!) after I picked up the girls from camp, the 8-year-old asked me, "Do you have to pay money to buy a baby?"  Now, all adoptive parents are pretty used to the "how much did she cost" question from random grownups, but I admit a bit of surprise when asked by a child!

First step -- rephrase the question:  "Are you asking me about how much it costs to adopt?"  Yes, that's what she's asking.

Second step -- clarify language:  "Actually, you can't buy a baby.  That would be against the law.  People aren't for sale."

Next step -- clarify concept:  "When we adopt, we pay for the services of the people who help us make sure the adoption is legal.  It also cost money to travel to China, and to go to court, and to bring the baby home."

Final step -- compare to something familiar:  "You remember when your mom had baby A?  Well, she didn't buy her, but she had to pay the doctors and nurses and hospital for helping her have the baby.  Adoption is like that."

Feeling pretty good about my big self, and then I get the next shocker:  "Why did Zoe's parents put her out of the house?"

First step -- rephrase the question:  "Are you asking about why Zoe's birth parents couldn't parent her?"  Yes, that's what she's asking.

Second step -- clarify language:  "There are lots of reasons why birth parents can't parent their children and so find a new family for them."

Next step -- clarify concept:  "Good parents want what's best for their children, and if they can't provide what their children need, they still want to make sure their children get what they need.  Sometimes that has to happen with a new family.  That can be very sad for everyone."

Final step -- compare to something familiar: "When baby A was born, do you remember the things she needed?"  Out comes the litany of blankies and milk and hugs, etc. . . .

Final, final step: wishing I could have a large gin and tonic!  And final, final, final step?  Wishing I could have had a more nuanced conversation about money in adoption, but impossible with an 8-year-old!

Joyce Maynard Talks About Adoption Disruption

I've posted before (see here and here) about Joyce Maynard's decision to disrupt her adoption of two Ethiopian girls.  Here, in an interview with National Geographic Traveler, she talks about it for the first time publicly (at about 11:30 she talks about the decision to adopt, then the meeting with her new daughters, then traveling in Ethiopia with the two girls, and then starting around 18:15, she talks disruption until the end of the clip):

If you watch the whole clip, it seems rather bizarre to have this conversation about disruption in the midst of casual talk about travel. I found the whole thing rather unsettling because of the juxtaposition of this conversation with flighty talk about bad haircuts and fun travel.

Some of the reasons Maynard gave for why she "wasn't the right mother" for these children is that they needed a father and they needed a younger mother.  That's as much detail as she gave. She confesses her own arrogance in believing that "love conquers all," but that's as close to an apology I heard.  And there's nothing about lessons learned, nothing that sounds like genuine regret, just a blythe assurance that all was right in the girls' lives now.

I'm sure she chose this forum because it would be a softball interview.  But, in my opinion, the softball nature did not show her in a very positive light.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

International Adoption's Trafficking Problem

From the Harvard Political Review:
International adoptions have an illustrious façade, conjuring images of couples saving a hungry, orphaned child and living happily ever. While imagining international adoptions as a corrupt business is abhorrent, connections to child trafficking have recently arisen. Accordingly, the State Department reports that though Americans adopted 22,991 international children in 2004, the implementation of The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption brought about a precipitous drop to 9,319 adoptions in 2011.

Over the past decade, Western investigative journalists led by Scott Carney have published on hidden realities. Despite the illusion that there are more orphans available than parents looking to adopt, there is insatiable demand for children from the developing world, particularly healthy infants.

With this enormous market, many opportunities exist for profit seekers. Promises of astronomical adoption fees motivate orphanages to ensure a steady supply of children. This causes orphanages to resort to drastic measures, even occasionally paying kidnappers directly. According to Carney’s reports in his book The Red Market, the problem is particularly rampant in impoverished Asian countries. Malaysian Social Services, located in Chennai, India, has paid about $236 per child, while China’s Hunan Province hosts institutions that openly purchase children openly for up to $350. Western adoption agencies are not immune from temptation either. Notably, employees of Zoe’s Ark, a French charity, attempted to fly 103 “Sudanese war refugees” from Chad in 2007. Police later determined that most of the children had been taken unwillingly from their families in Chad.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Learning New Skills

Ah, summer!  Time to rest, relax and . . . learn new skills!  The girls are at separate camps this month -- Maya doing the same Chinese language camp both girls have been doing for the past few years.  Zoe skipped Chinese camp to do an intensive ballet camp.  It's not that she's forsaken Chinese -- since her camp ends a week before Maya's, Zoe actually asked if she could join the Chinese camp for the last week!  That won't be possible, but since both girls will be back in Chinese School in the fall, I don't think Zoe will lose too much ground!  It's been good for Maya to be in an activity WITHOUT Zoe for a change.

Ballet camp has been good for Zoe.  In addition to ballet 5 days a week, she's learning jazz and flamenco dance for the first time.  She likes flamenco, but she REALLY likes jazz.  And unexpectedly, she garnered a performance opportunity from the ballet class.  The camp is with Ballet Concerto, a company associated with her ballet school, and the company puts on an outdoor ballet every summer (FREE lawn seating, come if you're in the local area (click on Ballet Concerto for more info)).  This year, it's Carmen (and two other shorter ballets), and a handful of girls were chosen to be "street urchins" in Carmen, basically background figures except for a few turns mocking the soldiers and cheering the bullfighter. Some of the girls' parents declined the performance opportunity because they felt Carmen, with its love triangle and violent end, was inappropriate, but I felt that standard pretty much excluded most of the classical ballet repertoire, all of opera, and 9/10ths of Shakespeare and other classic literature! And don't get me started on the famous Greek plays (Oedipus Rex, anyone?!).

So, Zoe gets a little stage time, has learned how to do "dirty face" makeup (I suggested we use dirt, but that simply produced the stink-eye stare!), and has had the opportunity to work with Luis Montero, a well-known choreographer (In addition to choreographing ballet and flamenco, he's known for choreographing the 2010 Winter Olympic gold-medal-winning ice-dancing routine for Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir).  Here he is talking to the girls about showing enthusiasm on the stage by thinking of something they get excited about (one girl suggested meeting Justin Bieber, another getting an iPad!).

Another plus for the camp is that one of the professional dancers performing and teaching there is Brandon Nguyen, an Asian dancer.  Never hurts to have Asian role models! He's the bullfighter in Carmen, and is quite impressive in the role.

I'm not as thrilled by the performance opportunityas Zoe is, only because it's Texas, it's June and it's HOT outside!  (Not so hot as to excuse the crazy lady in the park where the ballet is performed who decided to go topless last night while watching dress rehearsal!) Still, the last two nights with stage rehearsal and then dress rehearsal haven't been too bad.  I suppose I'll survive the four nights of performance this week.  Maya has had fun sliding down the hill behind the performance area (how we do it in Texas sans snow -- a sheet of cardboard!), and doesn't feel too left out not performing.  She'll have her chance to perform at the closing ceremonies for Chinese camp (and of course I'll post photos!)

I'm not really raising my girls to be professional dancers, but ballet gives them a chance to learn important skills and values like hard work and perserverence, gives them a circle of friends in addition to school friends, provides exercise and motivation for healthy eating, and lets them have fun!  Oh, it also gives me proud mommy moments to blog about!

Artyom's Mom Asks Court to Stay Child Support Order

From the Daily Mail:
An American woman who sent the Russian boy she adopted back to Moscow alone on a one-way flight has told a judge she no longer wants to pay $150,000 in child support ordered by the court.

Torry Hansen claimed the money would not go to benefit the boy, who she named Justin but is called Artem Saveliev.

Hansen said the funds would get lost in the Russian bureaucratic system.

In 2010 while living in Tennessee, Hansen sent her then seven-year-old adopted son back to Russia with a letter saying he was violent and she didn't want him anymore.

She was sued by her adoption agency for child support to care for the child, who is now living in a group home in a Moscow suburb.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for July 13.

On May 17 a judge in Bedford County, Tennessee ruled that she must begin making the child support payments in June and continue to pay until the boy, who is now 10 years old, turns 18.

Torry Hansen was told to pay a lump sum of $150,000 to the child she named Justin but later abandoned, as well as $1,000 per month until he is an adult.

Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell said the $150,000 Hansen must pay includes damages for breach of contract, legal fees and support for the boy.
Like I said when the court first ordered the payment of child support, the saga hadn't ended and the hard part was going to be execution on the order. Looks like Hansen will continue to fight to renege on her legal obligations as a parent.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sibling: Should I tell my sister she's adopted?

Here's a 16-year-old sister with much more sense than her mother, who's been lying to the 10-year-old sister about her birth -- and an advice columnist who's got it right:
Dear Amy: I am a 16-year-old girl with a 13-year-old biological brother, "Paul," and a 10-year-old adopted sister, "Natty."

My parents have never told Natty she's adopted. She resembles our family, so I don't think she notices.

She recently started asking questions about her birth, and my mom has made up elaborate lies to cover up her adoption. My mom says she'll tell her when she's old enough. Paul and I think she deserves to know but don't want to defy my mom.

Can you help? — Distressed Sister

Dear Distressed: Your mother's refusal to tell your sister her adoption story has now devolved from lying by omission to outright lying.

Your mom is putting all of you in a terrible position, and it has the potential to profoundly affect everyone.

Your sister is old enough to learn her adoption story. She was always old enough to know this story, because it's the truth. It's nothing to be ashamed of or worried about, except, of course, when it becomes this big and powerful secret that the whole family must keep.
Just when you think things are getting better -- more openness, more understanding -- you get proof that adoptive parents can still be mired in the bad old days of adoption secrecy and shame.  We're talking about an adoption that happened only 10 years ago, not in the last century, not in the decades when social workers insisted that adoptive parents did best by keeping the adoption a secret.  Only 10 years ago. 

And do we need a better reminder that if we, as adoptive parents, shirk our responsibilities to talk openly and honestly with our kids about their adoptions, then someone else with step in to tell them.  And as sensible and well-intentioned as this 16-year-old big sister seems to be, do you really want her to be telling your child about her adoption?!

Interstate Adoptions: Harder Than They Should Be?

From ABC News:
Fewer children would be stuck in foster care if state authorities reduced red tape and standardized procedures nationwide to encourage more adoptions by out-of-state families, according to a coalition of child welfare experts appealing for change.

"Children wait in foster care not because there aren't enough families to adopt them, but because of artificial barriers we erect," said Jeff Katz, executive director of Listening to Parents, a Boston-based group that organized the initiative.

The coalition — representing several of the nation's leading adoption advocacy groups — issued a report Tuesday detailing some of these barriers and proposing steps to overcome them.

* * *

The report cites federal data showing that there were only 4,600 interstate adoptions out of 690,000 children adopted from foster care between 1998 and 2009. In the 2010 fiscal year, according to Katz, there were 527 interstate adoptions out of about 53,000 total adoptions from foster care.

* * *

The issue of interstate adoption arose last year in Florida in the case of 10-year-old Nubia Barahona. She was adopted in 2009 by her foster parents, Jorge and Carmen Barahona of Miami, and they have been charged with killing her in February 2011.

The adoption by the Barahonas was approved despite strenuous objections from Nubia's aunt and uncle in Texas, Isidro and Ana Reyes, who tried for years to adopt Nubia and her brother themselves — saying the children would be better off with blood relatives who loved them.

The case fueled criticism that interstate adoptions are often needlessly hampered by bureaucratic hurdles.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Trafficking, Human Smuggling & Child Adoption in Africa

At the Critical Investigations of Humanitarianism in Africa blog, an intro to a promised series of posts on trafficking, human smuggling and child adoption in Africa:
During a recent research trip to Sierra Leone to attend a conference on Sierra Leonean history, participants, including myself, could not but help notice that the local new stations were captivated by new claims that the Help A Needy Child International Center, known as HANCI, had fraudulently removed children from their parents during the country’s recent civil war. Parents of over twenty children have now come forward to claim that their children were removed from their control under false pretenses in the context of conflict. They want their children back and they want to know where they are.

* * *

The recent child adoption scandal in Sierra Leone echoes an earlier incident of child abduction by the French NGO, Arche de Zoé, in Chad. On 30 October 2007, the government of Chad formally charged six members of the charity for child abduction. Despite the group’s claim that the children were orphans from Darfur to be fostered in France, most of the 103 children have been found to be Chadian, and to have at least one living parent or guardian. Three journalists, seven Spanish Girjet flight crew, four Chadian and Sudanese nationals, including two Chadian officials, were also charged for complicity. Allegedly, some parents were convinced to surrender their children with promises of schooling, while some children were offered sweets and biscuits to leave home. To demonstrate the authenticity of the war orphan claim, aid workers applied fake blood and bandages to the children.

* * *

These two cases, and others like it from Benin and Nigeria, have thrust the issues of child adoption, smuggling, and trafficking once again into the foreground. The context of war and conflict ties together the stories from Sierra Leone and Chad. In both cases, Western organizations stand accused of removing children from their natal family situations under false pretenses. Child placement is one form of bonding and enslavement with a rich and complicated history and present in Africa.

When Adoptions Fail

From the Boston Globe, an opinion piece on adoption disruption that starts with the recent case of Joyce Maynard (which I posted about here), and then broadens into a more general discussion:
Madonna and Angelina Jolie may be the glamorous public faces of successful international adoptions, but in her recent silence, Maynard speaks for the minority, the devastated families for whom a new addition doesn’t work out.

“Families are embarrassed when there’s dissolution,” says Chuck Johnson, president of the National Council for Adoption.

Around 15 percent of all adoptions fail, and the older the child, the more likely the failure. Of course, compared with the 50 percent of marriages that dissolve, 15 percent for adoptions doesn’t seem so bad.

Still, adoptions fail frequently enough that Johnson’s group held a seminar on the topic at its annual convention last week in Maryland. The goal is to construct a strong web of support not just for the children, but for the families they join; to avoid catastrophic failure, such as the Tennessee woman who, two years ago, put her adopted son alone on a plane back to Moscow. Public failure like that costs children homes, and international adoptions are already declining. Last year, Americans adopted just 9,320 children from foreign lands, compared with 22,000 in 2004. Throw a few horror stories into the ether, and they may stop altogether.

Maynard self-censors wisely. Intelligent people can disagree on whether she violated author J.D. Salinger’s privacy by disclosing their affair and auctioning his letters, but no one needs to know the specifics of why she could no longer care for two motherless Ethiopian girls.

Even without the gory details of Maynard’s case, the challenges of her situation should be evident. Children who come traumatized to this country don’t leave their trauma at the border. Sometimes — as in one case I know of — they assimilate beautifully, and then, months later, spread feces on the walls of their room. That’s too much information for most of us, yes. But it’s a possibility that people about to spend $20,000 to $40,000 to adopt a foreign child might at least consider.

To unappointed judges who say Maynard re-homed the children much like a troublesome cat, there’s news out of Tennessee.

Last month, a judge ruled that Torry Hansen, the woman who put her adopted son on the plane, must pay $1,000 a month in child support until the boy is 18, even though he is back in a Russian orphanage. It is, perhaps, the most expensive re-homing fee ever. For Maynard and other parents in the 15 percent of adoptions that fail, the cost is emotional only, but no easier to pay.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day Burn

No way were the girls going to forget their Father's Day tradition of writing notes to Grandpa and their birth fathers, and then burning them so the smoke could carry their wishes to Grandpa in heaven and birth fathers in China.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

China Daily: Adoptive Father Seeks Birth Parents for Adopted Child

From China Daily, just in time for Father's Day:
Dutchman who visited East China's Jiangxi province last week in the hope of finding the natural parents of his adopted Chinese daughter has told how the trip was satisfying though ultimately unsuccessful.

Jan Steenbergen, 45, said that he wanted to help his daughter -- Jiang Yongquan, nicknamed Quanquan -- find her birth parents as a Father's Day gift.

Though empty-handed on Tuesday, the night before his return to the Netherlands after two weeks' searching, Steenbergen said that he would feel better when facing Quanquan since he has done his best for her.

Quanquan, nine, was born in Yongxiu county in Jiangxi, and was adopted by Steenbergen in 2004 at the age of one.

In Yongxiu, Steenbergen put up many posters on kiosks, visited local orphanages, public security bureaus and hospitals, and even made key rings featuring photos of the girl and delivered them to residents living near the site where she was abandoned.

This was not the first time the hunt has brought him to Yongxiu.

In 2010, when Quanquan came up with the idea of finding her mum and dad, Steenbergen immediately agreed and spent several weeks in China.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fifty-somethings refill nests with adoptions

From the Tennessean:
At 57, Marla and Dwayne Hastings have a house full of child playthings and little feet running around. Again.

The Franklin couple, who have five grown children, just a few weeks ago brought home their third child from an orphanage in China, a 5-year-old boy with a huge smile whom they’ve named Hudson.
He’s quickly adjusted to life here with the help of big brother James, 8, who joined the family in 2008, and big sister Gracee, also 8, who came home in 2005.

“People think we’re crazy,” says Marla, who adds that people thought they were crazy when they kept on having children back in the day. Or when her husband left a corporate job for seminary.

“They ask, ‘Why?’” she says. “We say, ‘Why not?’”

At a time of life when many Americans would be checking on the 401(k)s and helping the kids move out of the nest, the Hastings are part of a close-knit group of faithful 50-somethings who are starting family all over again through adoption.
One of the adoptive parents in the article credits her decision to adopt to a colleague who said "Better old parents than no parents." What do you think?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Spread of Baby Hatches Alarms U.N.

The spread of baby hatches -- what we call "safe havens" here -- in Europe concerns the U.N., who see anonymous abandonments as violative of childrens' rights says the Guardian:
The United Nations is increasingly concerned at the spread in Europe of "baby boxes" where infants can be secretly abandoned by parents, warning that the practice "contravenes the right of the child to be known and cared for by his or her parents", the Guardian has learned.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which reports on how well governments respect and protect children's human rights, is alarmed at the prevalence of the hatches – usually outside a hospital – which allow unwanted newborns to be left in boxes with an alarm or bell to summon a carer.

The committee, a group of 18 international human rights experts based in Geneva, says that while "foundling wheels" and baby hatches had disappeared from Europe in the last century, almost 200 have been installed across the continent in the past decade in nations as diverse as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Czech Republic and Latvia. Since 2000, more than 400 children have been abandoned in the hatches, with faith groups and right-wing politicians spearheading the revival in the controversial practice.

Their proponents draw on the language of the pro-life lobby and claim the baby boxes "protect a child's right to life" and have saved "hundreds of newborns". There are differing opinions on this key social issue across Europe. In France and Holland women have the right to remain anonymous to their babies after giving birth, while in the UK it remains a crime to secretly abandon a child.

However UN officials argue that baby hatches violate key parts of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which says children must be able to identify their parents and even if separated from them the state has a "duty to respect the child's right to maintain personal relations with his or her parent".

In an interview with the Guardian, Maria Herczog, a member of the UNCRC committee, said that the arguments from critics were a throwback to the past. "Just like medieval times in many countries we see people claiming that baby boxes prevent infanticide … there is no evidence for this."

Herczog, a prominent child psychologist from Hungary, says baby boxes should be replaced by better state provision of family planning, counselling for women and support for unplanned pregnancies.

She likened the pro-baby box movements in Europe to the religious right in the US. "Very similar to the United States where we have the spread of the Safe Haven programme with baby boxes in 50 states since 1999. Now we have MEPs arguing for baby boxes and they just reject the convention."
I've posted before about baby hatches/safe havens: Finder's Fees, Baby Hatches & Safe Havens: Incentivizing "Safe Abandonment."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Gay Couples Sue Over Second-Parent Adoption Ban in North Carolina

I've posted about this issue in North Carolina before (see here and here), and now the ACLU is suing on behalf of gay couples prevented from doing second-parent adoptions:
Same-sex couples in North Carolina have filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on second-parent adoptions for gay families, saying it violates their constitutional rights and is discriminatory, the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday.

The ban came out of a state supreme court ruling in December 2010 that only stepparents who are legal spouses of the child’s biological parent can adopt. Same-sex marriage has never been recognized in North Carolina, and in May, voters approved a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman, so there is no way for same-sex couples to become legal spouses.

The ACLU, along with its North Carolina chapter, filed the lawsuit on behalf of six same-sex couples and their children. In each of the families, the child has a legally-recognized relationship with one parent and wants to establish the same with the second one. But under the state court ruling, the existing legal parent would have to give up their parental rights for an adoption to occur.

Consequently, the legal complaint argues, these children “suffer numerous deprivations,” including exclusion from a number of benefits, such as health, disability and social security, “as well as uncertainty about their ability to continue their relationship with their second parent if something should happen to their legal parent.”
Click here to see the legal complaint.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Program to Help Searching Adoptees Resumes

Article about a specific search program, but offers insight more broadly on searching:
Adult adoptees, rather than birth parents, are typically the individuals who initiate the searches, Ms. Gehring said, because birth mothers don't feel that they have the right to do so. Adoptees -- typically in their late 20s to mid-30s -- will look into finding their birth parent when they have reached a point of stability in their own lives, perhaps after a marriage or the birth of a child.

The process of locating and reconnecting families is not speedy. "It's not a matter of finding people and putting them together right away," Ms. Gehring said. "We want to make sure that it's a relationship that will be conducive."

Before the search for a birth parent can even begin, Ms. Gehring or another social worker meets with the adult adoptee to assess readiness to begin such a search.

"It really is like a roller-coaster ride. A lot of emotions are involved, be it joy, happiness, oppression, anger, elation. It can be any number of reactions throughout the journey of the search itself," Ms. Gehring said.

Many times, Ms. Gehring said, adoptees such as Ms. White are looking to find missing pieces of their backgrounds, pieces that those who are not adopted take for granted, such as access to medical records and information about skill sets.

Adoptee Helps Others Find Their Roots

Introducing a book by the search angel who helped Darryl McDaniels of Run DMC find his birth family:
Through her own experience, [Pam] Slaton has set up a genealogy service and has helped more than 3,000 people searching for their biological parents or children.

“I have a knack for this,” she said.

She helped Darryl McDaniels of the hip-hop group Run DMC produce a documentary, “My Adoption Journey,” about his search for his biological parents after learning he was adopted at age 35.

“I assisted him in locating his mother,” she said. “The documentary won an Emmy.”

She has been interviewed on “Nightline” and participated in a 10-episode documentary called “Searching For ...” that appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Now she has released a book called “Reunited,” written with the help of Samantha Marshall, a professional writer from New York.

Published by St. Martin’s Press, it’s available at, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers.
The book is about her own quest and memorable searches undertaken by other adoptees.

“It’s a reflection on relationships,” Slaton said, as well as her way to help people understand the dynamics of searches and reunions.

“Even when our childhoods are perfect, with wonderful adoptive parents and tight-knit, nurturing families, the desire to know is always there, lurking under the surface,” she wrote in the introduction to her book. “We can’t escape it.”

"Would you feel left out if I lived with my birth family?"

Last night I was talking to my mom and Zoe about this article, about a ballerina with the American Ballet Theater who was adopted from Korea.  She went with the company to Korea a few years ago, and the media there tracked down her birth family without her knowing.  She's going back with the company for another tour, and is uncertain whether she wants to meet her birth mother. Zoe just couldn't understand why she didn't want to meet her birth mother, since that is Zoe's dearest wish.  My mom told Zoe that she's met many adoptees (my mom is a retired therapist), and some wanted to meet their birth families and some didn't. 

I reminded Zoe that until recently Maya wasn't at all interested in meeting her birth family, she didn't even want to hear about them!  Now, Maya says she wouldn't mind meeting them, but she wouldn't want to live with them.  Zoe said she would definitely want to live with her birth parents.  She said, "I can see myself living with them, but I always see you and Maya there, too.  But I don't see Maya's birth family with us."  Hmm, she's obviously given this a lot of thought.

Zoe then asked me, "Would you feel left out if I lived with my birth family?"    Hmm, how to answer that one?!

I said, "Well, it would depend.  I would miss you if you lived with them for a long time and I didn't see you.  But I wouldn't mind if you saw me, too.  Like you imagined, with you and Maya and me all living with them."

Zoe asked, surprised, "That wouldn't bother you?"  No, I said, "You know you're my daughter forever and I'm your mom forever, but you're also your birth parents' daughter forever and they are your parents forever.  I would be sad if I never saw you, but I wouldn't mind at all sharing you."

"OK!" said Zoe, and then she was off to swim with her sister.

Of course, this is all in the nature of a fantasy right now.  We're no closer to finding her birth parents than when we started.  Sigh.

P.S.  Of course, Zoe's emotions are more complicated than this conversation shows.  She picked "Annie" as the movie to watch together tonight.  As Annie's biological parents come to take her back, Maya asked Zoe, "How would you feel if your birth parents came to take you back?"  Zoe's immediate response, "Sad."  Really?!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Update on Man Who Found Birth Family Via Google Earth

Remember the man from Australia, adopted from India as a child, who found his birth family using Google Earth? The AP has done a two-part story updating his story.  Part I covers how the boy ended up lost and adopted, his search, and his mother's search in India.  Part II covers the reunion with his family, with the ubiquitous issues of language and culture, and the intense media reaction to the story.  This snippet from Part I sets the tone:
It was 1987 and Saroo knew only that he was alone on the train.

Soon, he would find himself alone in the world. He wouldn't know for decades that this fateful train ride was setting into motion a chain of events both fantastic and horrific - events that would tear him away from his family and join him with a new one. Events that would spark the determined hunt of a mother for her son and a son for his mother, brought together only to realize that you can never really go home again.
The two parts are a long read, but the details are fascinating and well worth it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Last Private Adoption Agency in Nova Scotia Closes Doors

Citing changing times, the Home of the Guardian Angel has shuttered its adoption program after 125 years:
The Home of the Guardian Angel has stopped doing adoptions after 125 years.

Executive director Donna Williamson said times have changed and there isn’t enough sustainable funding to run the not-for-profit program.

Operating through the Chebucto Family Centre in Spryfield, the child placement agency transferred its responsibility to the province’s Department of Community Services in April. The Home of the Guardian Angel provided shelter and counselling to metro women who wanted to place their babies for adoption.

Williamson said only five or six babies were being adopted each year.

“Twenty years ago, we were doing 50 or 60 placements a year. I’ve been here since 2005 and the most we’ve ever done in one year is 10. And there was a year where we only placed one baby,” Williamson said.

* * *

Nearing also noted that the number of young women putting their babies up for adoption has decreased “dramatically” over the years. “In any given year, we wouldn’t expect any more than a dozen, maybe 10 a year.”

“No. 1, we see more young women parenting their children,” Nearing said. “There are more supports in our community to assist them in doing that. Over time, there has been better access to birth control so that teen pregnancies aren’t occurring as often.”
Sounds like a happy story to me, just like the stories of less babies available for adoption from China are happy stories -- as long as the reason there are fewer babies is that more parents are deciding to parent, how can we be sorry about it?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu discovers her parents gave up secret sister without legs for adoption

Dominique Moceanu, part of the 'Magnificent Seven' gymnasts who won gold at the 1996 Olympics, has revealed how she discovered her parents gave up for adoption a secret sister who had no legs.

Moceanu, now 30 and living in Cleveland, Ohio, only found out about her younger sister two decades later when the woman wrote to her to say she had learned her birth name was Moceanu.

'It was the biggest bombshell of my life,' Dominique Moceanu told ABC's 20/20. 'I had this sister that was born who was given up for adoption, and I never knew it.'

The gymnast had a famously fraught relationship with her parents, divorcing them when she was 17. She was also granted a restraining order against her father, after she accused him of stalking her.

But when the 20-year-old woman contacted her with a letter and photographs of herself just over five years ago, Moceanu contacted her parents with questions, ABC News reported.

Dimitry and Camelia Moceanu, who moved from their native Romania in the 1980s and had both been keen athletes, told her the baby girl was born the day after her sixth birthday

They added that the baby had medical problems that would require expensive care that they could not afford, so they gave her up for adoption. The woman confirmed this story.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sarah Silverman on Adoption

Remember when Kristen Chenowith compared adopting children to adopting puppies from the shelter?  Sarah Silverman has recently done the same:
During an appearance on “The Conversation with Amanda De Cadenet” Sarah Silverman, who hopes to adopt in the future in a bid to avoid passing on her own problems with depression to a child, explained:
“We live in Los Angeles, where everybody is like, ‘Don’t get your dog from a breeder, get your dog from a shelter…’ and I agree, but don’t get your people from a breeder. There are human puppies in shelters and it’s odd that that never seems to be a connection that people make.”

“If you’re not OK with yourself… it’s easier to love a dog than a person in need because you don’t see all the things you hate about yourself reflected back in the eyes of a dog. If Africa was full of springer spaniels dying of AIDS and starvation we’d probably take care of it in a day.”

"Bastard Child of Confucius"

At the Seoul Times, a heartfelt "Letter to the Editor" from a French-speaking Korean adoptee:
As a French-speaking "Ibyangin," Korean-born adoptee, I am a bastard child of Confucius amongst the 200.000 of others alike scattered overseas. I accuse the Neo-confucianist South-Korean society to maintain an ambiguous relationship with the adoption issue.

Korea, amongst the top industrialised country in the World! Korea, member of the G20!

Korea, member of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)!

Korea, host-country of the Winter Olympics in 2018!

Korea, worldwide top-sellers of cars, lCD screens and phones!

Admittedly, a materially and technologically very well-advanced society, but, at some points, an archaic society in its social-welfare approach.

Korea who, yet never signed the "Hague Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption!"

Korea who, in 2012, keeps 'feeding' the International adoption 'network' with its "bastards children!"

Korea who treats childishly its adult adoptees in quest of their origins!

Korea who asks to their "bastards who never asked for" to bend their backs and accept without complaining what they are being told by the Post-Adoption Services!

* * *

'Motherland' trip-tour? Hangul Scholarship grants? F-4 visa? Double nationality? Are you expecting to buy your redemption and shame ?

Do you honestly believe that a Korean Passport or a Korean ID card would make us feel more "Korean?"

Do you honestly believe that promoting Korean domestic adoption instead of international adoption will resolve your deeply rooted systemic socio-cultural problem with abandonment of babies?

Who do you think you are luring, except yourself, Ô Korean people!You are pitying us, but we, Confucius' bastards, should pity you!

My heart cries and is full of anger, not for myself but for these thousands of my peers who have to face the daily humiliation and to live the loneliness of their identity.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I have a bad feeling about this. . . .

It seems that Gene Simmons of KISS fame is contemplating adopting, all recorded by his "reality" show Family Jewels, as reported at the Ultimate Classic Rock website:
In therapy with Dr. Ann Wexler, Gene explains that perhaps if Shannon is more focused on the adoption she will forget about his portfolio mishap from the previous episode.  To this, Dr. Wexler suggests that he is merely using the adoption to combat the nude photos.

* * *

Rich Abramson, Gene’s friend and business partner, is told about the adoption. His response is quick, “The dog barks next door and you don’t like it.” He believes it’s a bad idea to jump into it, for which Gene asks how to get out. An idea is struck up – instead of saying no, see what it entails.

Back at therapy, Dr. Wexler has another opinion about the idea. “You do realize that you’re purposely withholding telling her how you feel in the hopes that you don’t have to look like the bad guy in hopes she agrees with you." When Dr. Wexler bluntly asks Gene what if Shannon ultimately decides she still wants to, he freezes.
Oh, yeah, a great reason to adopt -- to distract your spouse! And Simmons is definitely pictured as the classic reluctant spouse:
"When leaving, Gene makes joke to Shannon, which shows his obvious hesitance to adoption. 'Why don’t you adopt me?'”

"Together, back at therapy, Dr. Wexler asks if they’ve talked to the kids yet and inquires as to how Gene feels. He struggles, obviously uncertain."

"Gene admits he doesn’t think adoption is a great idea. . . ."

"At therapy Gene is asked if the children’s reactions influenced his thoughts on adoption. It did. He says, 'It’s clear that not everybody thinks it’s a good idea besides Shannon.'”

"Back at home, Gene takes Dr. Wexler’s advice and tries speaking to Shannon about his feeling towards the adoption. However, Shannon is on the phone with the credit card company and has no time."
But don't worry, once everyone gangs up on him, he'll change his mind!
"The next day, at the adoption agency, Shannon talks to the agency director, Robyn Harrod, and says Gene is ‘wishy-washy’ regarding the adoption, something Robyn suggests is quite normal with husbands."

"Gene finally admits that he is worried about adopting a child and having that connection with a child. To which, Dr. Wexler says that should they adopt, it is his own child."

"Gene and Shannon go to another [adoptive] family. . . .The experience changes Gene’s opinion it seems. At Dr. Wexler’s Gene says that he learned there was still love regardless of the adoption Shannon is thrilled. He admits that he is considering it. He is now on board."
All to the titillation of the viewing public. Sigh.

Anyone watching this show?  Is it as bad as this article makes it sound?

Toby Dawson, Olympian & Adoptee

If you adopted from Asia before the 2006 Winter Olympics, I bet the story of Toby Dawson struck you as it did me -- a Korean boy adopted by American ski instructors, who ended up medaling for the U.S.  He's now coaching the South Korean ski team, and has found his biological family.  Here's a video from Korean TV (in English).

Trafficked Babies Returned to Mothers

That's the good news in the trafficking case in Mexico involving Irish prospective adoptive parents:
Mexican authorities have returned to their biological mothers all but one of the babies ensnared in an apparent illegal adoption ring providing children to Irish couples, the women's lawyers said Monday.

Attorney Yuri Marquez said Jalisco state authorities returned 10 of the 11 babies to their families last week. The children had been in the custody of the state's protective services since January, when prosecutors opened an investigation after detaining a 21-year-old woman who was accused of "renting" one of her children.

Prosecutors are still running DNA tests on the remaining baby to confirm who her mother is, Marquez said.

The state restored custody to the parents after determining the mothers were tricked into believing their babies were being photographed for an anti-abortion ad campaign, while in reality the children were really being shown to Irish couples looking to adopt.

"The judge was able to see that far from being members of organized crime they are victims, they were tricked," Marquez said.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Collecting for Chinese Orphanages

It all started in the waiting room at ballet.  Several of the younger sisters (Maya included) were inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit and the captive parent/sibling audience to raise money.  One girl sold candy.  One sold hair bows.  Maya sold bracelets.  Sometimes, the girls operated with a charitable motive, planning to give their earnings to "the poor."  Other times the girls were seemingly "the poor," using the money to buy sodas from the studio machine.  Zoe decided to show them how it's done!

She, on her own, decided to collect money for Love Without Boundaries, which she knows we donate to. And instead of selling a product, gave an origami crane as "free gift with your donation."  So for a few weeks she folded cranes, and then set her display on the table at ballet.  She collected a little, and set as her goal $100 by the end of summer.  She went around Mimi's active-seniors complex and collected more.  She set her display at the booth the FCC Girl Scout troop had at the Dragon Race to solicit bone marrow donations, and collected more money.  She went to my work, and collected a boatload of money!

All in all, before summer even really started, she surpassed her goal, collecting $133.44!

OK, I admit to a bit of mixed feelings about all this.  I'm extremely proud of her initiative, hard work, charitable feelings and follow-through.  But it feels odd, awfully close to holding her out as an object of charity, since everyone from whom she solicited knows she was adopted from a Chinese orphanage.  If it hadn't been solely her own idea, I would completely hate it. . . .

Ghana Working Toward Hague Convention Ratification

Adoptions from Ghana to the U.S. are in relatively small numbers -- 99 in 2011, 117 in 2010, but it's good to see the country being pro-active in looking to ratify the Hague Convention on international adoption:
Ghana is to reform its adoption system with the establishment of a Central Authority (CA)at the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) to receive a list of all adoptable children to be entered into a national database.

The CA as part of its mandate would receive all applications for inter-country adoption, enter all eligible applicants for adoption into a register as well as other functions necessary to ensure that the adoption process is carried out in a truthful and transparent manner.

To give impetus to the reforms the DSW has submitted a memorandum to the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare for onward submission to the Cabinet for approval of the creation of the CA, which would serve as a launch pad for Ghana to sign on to the Hague Convention of Inter-Country Adoption.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Murder & Adoption

This is an unusual story, with the relatives of the victim wanting to send a message that the murder ISN'T related to adoption -- not the usual meme when an adoptee kills an adoptive parent:
George Stevenson grew up in a family that cared for numerous foster children, and after mentoring and coaching boys in youth baseball for years, he decided to adopt a child of his own.

He became the father of an 8-year-old boy and named him Galen, after his brother. As the boy grew older, relatives say, it became apparent that he was troubled, and at one point he had to be sent away to a treatment facility.

Still, they say, none of that could have foretold what happened in late April, when police say Galen stabbed his 43-year-old father repeatedly inside their North Baltimore apartment. George Stevenson died of his injuries, including a punctured lung and severed kidney, this month, and the boy has been charged as an adult in the attack. Galen is 16 now.

George Stevenson's relatives continue to stress, even in the face of his death, that foster care and adoption are important and positive experiences, and they are speaking out to ensure that public perceptions of the institutions aren't tainted by this case. They also still want the best for Galen, calling the killing "an isolated incident."

"We don't want people to think it has anything to do with adoption or kids in the foster care system. That's not the case," said George Stevenson's sister, Rashelle Stevenson-Oliver, who has seven adopted children. "It's an isolated incident, and we hope things work out so that he can get the attention and the help that he needs."

Galen's defense attorney, Elizabeth Lopez, said the allegations were out of character for the teenager. Lopez said one of the boy's teachers told her that he played chess with her every day and was a "great student." Lopez declined to comment further.

Incidents of children killing their parents are rare, including those involving adopted children.

Taiwan Outlaws Private Adoptions

Interesting, when you realize that private adoption is alive and well in the U.S.:
Starting this month people giving up their children for adoption and those seeking to adopt will no longer be able to do so privately, as a law stipulating that all adoptions will have to go through authorized institutions — excluding those conducted between relatives — comes into force.

“Revisions to the Children and Juveniles Welfare Act (兒童及少年福利法) stipulating that child adoption should go through government-authorized institutions were passed at the end of November last year and have taken effect from the end of May,” Child Welfare Bureau director-general Chang Hsiu-yuan (張秀鴛) said.

“With the new measures in place, we hope to better regulate child adoption, preventing problems such as child selling and adoptive families ‘returning’ children to their original families,” she added.

* * *

“Many people adopt children simply because they do not have kids and want to pass on the family lineage. As they are largely ill-prepared, they regret their decision once they find the kid is not behaving as they would have expected,” Chang said. “This hurts the children involved.”

Even worse, there have been cases where parents have sold their children, she said.

* * *

“When adoptions are done through authorized institutions, such problems can be better prevented,” Chang said. “In addition, parents who want to adopt children would be required to attend 30 hours of lessons on relevant laws, welfare resources, child-raising and how to tell their adopted children about the adoption.”

“The authorized institutions are also required to track adoptions for three years to provide assistance on any problems that may occur and will regularly host reunions for adoptive families to discuss issues that they face in common together,” she said.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Last Day

Well, our last day on the island was a doozy!  It started out fine, going to the beach around 11, but deteriorated rapidly when my mom got really sick and almost passed out.  I ended up calling 911, the ambulance came, and they took her to the hospital -- diagnosis:  dehydration.  It seems that the antibiotics she was taking should have said not only to stay out of the sun, but also to stay out of the HEAT!  She's much better now, though feeling a bit foolish about going to the hospital for dehydration.  But I don't know how we would have gotten her rehydrated without two bags of IV solution, so it was definitely the right decision.

I was really lucky that my friend Lynne, who shared the conference podium with me, was also extending her stay for a brief vacation.  She took care of the girls while I shared ER time with Mimi.  The girls think Lynne rocks, and her 13-year-old son Quinn is da bomb!  They had fun at the pool and the beach after I called to say Mimi was doing fine. 

When we finally got the all-clear from the doctor and made it back to the island, it was time for our dolphin-watching/sunset-viewing/fireworks-ogling boat cruise.  Mimi wisely stayed home, but Lynne and Quinn joined us.  It was really fun -- we saw brown pelicans (Zoe snapped this pix -- I think she has the makings of a wildlife photographer!), a pirate ship (the boat we were on was far more mundane) and, most exciting of all, dolphins (which are really hard to photograph)!

We didn't see a very exciting sunset, since the clouds were pretty low, but you can see a smidgen of pink as we head toward the causeway joining the island to the mainland.

We soon passed under the causeway toward the fireworks area.  The kids had a great time watching the show -- it was short, but we were so close it was super-exciting.

We head home tomorrow. I can't believe I was lucky enough to score this work trip -- turned into a really fun vacation!

Out of Africa

Two stories today (neither new) about adoption from Africa.  First up, from Voice of America, about the nonconsensual adoptions from Sierra Leone during their civil war in the 1990s:
Dozens of parents in Sierra Leone say their children were given up for adoption in the United States without their consent, during the west African country's horrific civil war in the 1990's. The results of a government inquiry may reunite them with their children.

Mariatu Mansaray says she is still crying and suffering because two of her children, Adama and Mustafa, were taken from her in Sierra Leone. She wants them to know she never intended to give them up. Mansaray is just one of 40 parents in the rural Makeni area who say they never authorized their children to be adopted.

Abu Bakar Kargbo, a spokesperson for the parents, says none of them speak English and that made them easy targets.

"These are poor, illiterate and defenseless people. They live in villages," he explained. "They came to advocate, hundreds of miles, for the government to intervene and they are ready to testify, to contest they did not consent any adoption. "

The parents say they left their children at the Help A Needy Child International Center during the war temporarily, so they would be safe and get educated. The Center then apparently contacted Maine Adoption Placement Services, which placed 29 children with parents in the United States.

Their anguished pleas say they want to see their children.
Second, from CNN, a report about the report from the African Child Policy Forum saying that international adoptions should be discouraged:
Nyla was just two or three days old, no one really knows for sure, when she was found abandoned in the middle of a field in Rwanda. She was "black and blue," says her adoptive mother, Karen Brown. Her umbilical cord was still attached.

One year later, Nyla lives in a high-rise building in Hong Kong with American parents and a four-year-old sister who is Chinese. She just started walking and has "seven-and-a-half" teeth, though she's too shy to show them.

The bright-eyed baby is one of more than 35,000 children sent from Africa in a surge of adoptions in the last eight years, according to adoption expert Peter Selman from Newcastle University in the UK.
During that time, figures have risen three-fold at the same time as international adoptions from all countries have slumped to a 15-year low, Selman said.

A new report from The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) entitled "Africa: The New Frontier for Intercountry Adoption," says the trend indicates that receiving countries are turning "en masse" to Africa to meet demand for adoptive children as other options close. It's a trend, they say, that needs to stop.

"It must at all costs be discouraged. It should be a last resort and an exception rather than the normal recourse to solving the situation of children in difficult circumstances, as it seems to have now become," said David Mugawe, executive director of the ACPF in a press statement.

The group says that the lack of regulation combined with the promise of money from abroad had turned children into "commodities in the graying and increasingly amoral world of intercountry adoption."