Monday, October 29, 2012

Should the Adoption Tax Credit be Renewed?

At the New York Times Room for Debate page, a discussion of the adoption tax credit, pro and con.  The MOST AMAZING thing is that a birth mother and two adoptees are included in the debate!  Here's a sample of the debate:
Children’s lives depend on the renewal of the adoption tax credit. Most adoptive families need it in order to afford adoption, which costs an average of $30,000. Most of our applicants at spend $30,000 to $50,000, and sometimes more depending on the circumstances and travel involved.

Many American families seeking to build their families through adoption can provide for a child on a day-to-day basis but cannot pay these fees in full and up front. So these large costs present insurmountable financial obstacles.


The Adoption Tax Credit originated mainly as an incentive to find families for special needs children who needed homes. (At the time it was nonrefundable, meaning it would only offset any taxes owed, but would not apply to families with too little income for a tax liability.) Lobbyists from the adoption industry pushed to expand the credit.

This increased the demand for adoptable children and adoption agencies responded by finding more mothers at risk to increase their own profits. Historically, as the adoption tax credit went up, agencies followed suit and raised their fees as well.

For a mother facing relinquishment, that same credit could very well be the bit of certainty she needs to parent her own baby. She would know how to pay off medical bills, or pay for day care, or take time off from work to enjoy her child.


The adoption tax credit should not only be renewed, but Congress should once again allow it to be refundable – available even if an adoptive family doesn’t have an income tax liability to apply against -- as it was in 2010 and 2011.

A refundable credit would ensure that more families of modest means can provide homes to vulnerable children. When children are adopted from foster care the credit can help care for children with special needs, and keep brothers and sisters together. A 2007 study showed that families who adopt from foster care have, on average, lower incomes than other adoptive families.

* * *

Unless the tax credit is refundable, many children would remain in expensive foster care. Analysis has shown that each adoption from foster care saves the government up to $235,000, so legislation encouraging adoption from foster care — like a refundable adoption tax credit — can both help vulnerable children and save taxpayers money.


The original intent of the adoption tax credit was to help families adopt through foster care, because, as Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, said, those parents “are of lower income than those adopting with an agency or internationally.”

But extending the tax credit to families who wish to adopt internationally, in 2001, was a misplacement of resources and effort. It benefits American families, often upper middle class and white, but not struggling families overseas.

* * *

Many children adopted internationally, said Mary Martin Mason of the Minnesota Adoption Resource Network, have post-traumatic stress disorder or fetal alcohol syndrome, “as well as traumatic orphanage experiences that are overwhelming to parents who try to parent with traditional techniques. These children are in jeopardy of adoption dissolutions if their families can’t find adoption-competent therapists. Funding post-adoption supportive services such as therapists for adoptive families is truly needed.”

Allowing the adoption tax credit to cover international adoptions only adds to this problem.


As an adoptee who’s just begun to learn about my birth family, I can honestly say adoption saved my life. If my biological mother had raised me after I was born, or if I grew up in foster care, I cannot imagine where my life would be.

There are more than 100,000 children in foster care. They can live in three to as many as 12 different homes before they age out of the system. When they do age out, they have no parent’s arms to run to when life has the best of them. They have no place for guidance, financial assistance in case of an emergency or help in fulfilling their dreams. Just 2 percent of foster children earn a bachelor's degree or higher, and studies have shown that most prison inmates have been in foster care at some point in their lives.

These children deserve and need a place to call home, but the high cost of adoption deters many families from considering it. The adoption tax credit is one of the most important resources for them.

 Please comment on the New York Times site, and whatever your opinion, please compliment them for including multiple voices not usually included in these debates.  This is really a HUGE DEAL!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Adopting Out the Children of Illegal Immigrants V

A more positive entry in the continuing series (see part I, part II, part III and part IV), from, of all courts, the Texas Supreme Court, who ruled that deportation alone is not sufficient for termination of parental rights:
[T]hough we agree with the court of appeals that deportation, like incarceration, is a factor that may be considered (albeit an insufficient one in and of itself to establish endangerment), its relevance to endangerment depends on the circumstances. Under the court’s reasoning, the mere threat of deportation or incarceration resulting from an unlawful act, regardless of severity, would establish endangerment. We disagree with that analysis. Many offenses can lead to an immigrant’s deportation, including entering the country unlawfully. Under the court’s reasoning, virtually any offense that could lead to deportation—even a minor one committed long before the parent’s children were born—would create such an unstable and uncertain environment as to establish endangerment, subjecting countless immigrants to the potential loss of their children. The court’s broad reasoning necessarily applies to citizens as well. Any offense committed by a citizen that could lead to imprisonment or confinement would also apparently establish endangerment, simply because the parent’s ability to be present in his children’s lives would be uncertain. Our nation’s Constitution forbids such a far-reaching interpretation of our parental rights termination statutes. Here, though Francisco engaged in a criminal act and left Wisconsin without completing his probation before his children were born,there is no evidence that these actions created such uncertainty and instability for his children sufficient to establish endangerment. Nor is there evidence that Francisco abandoned his parental responsibilities once he was forced to leave the country. Instead, the undisputed evidence illustrates that Edna and Francisco lived together as a family unit without apparent incident until they separated, and Francisco and his family remained a regular presence and source of support in the children’s lives after he was deported.

* * *

Deportation flowing from an unknown offense occurring many years earlier cannot satisfy the State’s burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that a parent engaged in an endangering course of conduct, nor can mere guesswork undergird such a finding.
Oh, and how did Francisco end up between the cross-hairs of ICE so that he was deported? He went to apply for a green card!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Homecomings of Adult Adoptees Reveal Dark Side of Adoption

Another piece on international adoption from the Korea Times:
Washington State Senator Paull Shin, French digital economy minister Fleur Pellerin and French Senator Jean-Vincent Place. They all have something in common.

All three are Korean adoptees who have become successes in their adopted countries.

Behind the success stories of those people, however, are others who suffer emotional distress after being adopted by foreign parents.

Adoptees' rights activists say many of the children sent for inter-racial adoption suffer racial and other social discrimination, constantly longing for their biological parents and homeland.

In the United States, a country where adoptees must undergo a separate procedure to obtain citizenship, more than a few adoptees never become naturalized, partly due to indifference from their adoptive parents.

According to South Korea's health and welfare ministry and an activist group devoted to Korean adoptees' human rights, there are 23,000 Korean adoptees in the U.S. whose citizenship status the groups do not know.

The figure represents about 20 percent of some 110,000 adoptees sent to America over the past 60 years since the 1950-53 Korean War.

A majority of those 23,000, in fact, appear to have obtained U.S. nationality but the true figure remains unknown due to local adoption agencies' poor management of post-adoption information.

"Most of the unconfirmed cases may be caused by the agencies' failure to inform the government of information on adoptees' acquisition of U.S. nationality," said Rev. Kim Do-hyun of the activist group KoRoot. "But several thousand of them are still believed to be living without any nationality."

In recent years, a sizable number of adoptees have been deported to Korea after being convicted of criminal charges while living overseas without becoming citizens of the country in which they live.

"As far as I know, there are more than 100,000 adoptees who voluntarily returned or were deported to South Korea while living without nationality," Kim said. "But the actual number may be larger than this when the number of people who live in South Korea without telling others they were deported, for fear of possible disadvantages, is counted."

The returnees are often unwelcome in Korean society, also.

Except for those with professional skills or fluency in the Korean language, most face language and cultural barriers.

Some return to locate their biological parents and find their true Korean identity only to discover that all the personal information they thought they knew about themselves was fabricated to facilitate their adoption.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

South Korea: Adoptee Justice/Adoptees Return

Two stories about South Korean adoption came across my radar today.  First, from a German magazine, South Korea's Lost Children Return, highlighting the life and work of Jane Jeong Trenka:
When South Korea was left in ruins following its war with the North in the 1950s, many children were sent to families in the United States or Europe. Western families were convinced they were giving these Korean orphans a better life.

Meanwhile, some of those international adoptees have returned to the land of their birth to learn more about their own history.

Jane Jeong Trenka was born in 1972 and adopted with her sister to northern Minnesota. Trenka says she always had questions about her adoption. Some of the stories her American parents told her didn't make sense. In 1995, she visited Korea and tracked down her birthmother.

It was then Trenka found out that her adoption was a lie and that her biological mother had been trying to find her.

"My American parents were told that I was the child of a single mother, that I was an unwanted child," she told Deutsche Welle. "When my birth mother made contact with my American parents, they really didn't welcome that, because the agency had lied to them."

Trenka found out her mother was married - to an abusive husband. She apparently never wanted to give up her children. An adoption agency worker simply took them from her.
Second, from the Korea Times, Adoptee Justice is About Social Justice, by Korean/Danish adoptee Anders Riel Muller:
The conventional narrative surrounding adoption is one of poverty but as I began to dig into Korean economic history I started to question the conventional narrative of a poor country who had no other option to sending children overseas. Rather, my understanding of overseas adoption has now come to the point where I see adoption as a political choice to address the social problems that came from rapid economic transformation. The highest numbers of overseas adoptions occurred during a time of radical and accelerated economic transformation.

By 1980, when I was sent overseas for adoption, Korea no longer belonged to the poorest countries in the world. But by then overseas adoption had become a very effective tool for population control and limiting social welfare expenses by the government. For each adoption, Korea received several thousand dollars in good hard foreign currency. Foreign currency was tightly controlled by the state, because in order to industrialize, the government took loans from overseas and they had to be paid back in U.S. dollars.

Every dollar earned was vital to the continued ability to industrialize. It is estimated that overseas adoption contributed between $20 and 40 million in hard currency every year in the 1970s and 80s. At that time, if any Korean company exported even $1 million in goods, they were acknowledged by the government. Also, by sending children from marginalized groups overseas, the government saved a lot on social welfare that could instead be reinvested in economic development.

This understanding of history leads me to the conviction that adoptees contributed to the economic miracle and that we have a place in the history of Korean development and hence to be critical of it.

* * *

As an adoptee, who now has a better understanding of how my adoption history relates to Korean development, my duty to Korea is to get involved in changing the system and work for a more just and equitable society. Many adoptees are doing the same. They are actively engaged in different kinds of political activism such as supporting single mothers, migrant workers and adoptee justice. Hopefully adoptees will continue their involvement with other groups working for justice and equality in Korea. But it is a two-way exchange. Progressive Koreans also have to recognize our place in their society and history. We may be outsiders in terms of language and culture but our place in history as laborers for Korean development should be acknowledged. Hopefully this can lead to new alliances, new networks of solidarity and ultimately a more just society for all.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Meeting the Wrong Birth Parents

A Korean adoptee, who thought she'd met her birth parents -- until the DNA tests showed they were the wrong people (they actually belonged to another Korean adoptee, a mixup from the orphanage), tells her story on the Ricki Lake Show:
I sat in a lobby nearly 6000 miles from home with nerves nagging my insides, sweating my brains out and breathing as heavily an 85-year old man with sleep apnea. I’ve waited before– for auditions, at the doctor’s office, in line at the DMV... But never had I been so overcome with fear, joy and hope (although, the anticipation of a new driver’s license picture does conjure up the aforementioned feelings). As far as I knew, this was the most important day of my life. I was about to meet the people whose genetic makeup I had been toting around for the past 29 years of my life.

My name is Michaela and I am adopted. I was born in South Korea, where I lived until, at three and a half months old, I joined my new family, a kind posse of tall Caucasians living in Upstate New York. From as far back as I can remember, I have thought about my bio-mom; what she looked like, where she was now, if we had the same raspy voice and raucous laugh, if we would one day meet, if she ever thought about me…

Last year I received a letter from the orphanage in Korea notifying me that they had located my bio-mother! And get this: She’s married to my bio-father! They have two children, AKA my full-blooded siblings! Finally, I could play out the reunion fantasies that had been camping out in my brain for years.

* * *

As I walked through the door, tears coating my face, my first thought was, ‘they look nothing like me.’ I was mad at myself for being so critical in the first moments, so I tucked the doubts away and hugged without abandonment. (No pun intended). It was exactly as I had pictured it: we embraced and cried and then cried some more—my bio-mom could not let me go. For as big of deal as this was for me, it was a bigger deal for her.

* * *

After leaving Korea, I had been back in Los Angeles for a couple of months, anxiously awaiting the DNA results. When they came, I felt devastated and vindicated: The people I met in Korea were not my family. From what the Korean orphanage explained to me, they belonged to someone else; another girl who had been born on the same day I was. We were two star-crossed babies. Who was this other girl? Where was she now? Would I ever meet her? I had met her bio-family. I hoped she would get the chance to meet them too.

Korean Adoptee Twins Now Homeless

Incredibly painful story from KoreAm:
The tragic story of homeless twin sisters in Washington, D.C. has been met with anguished reactions from the Korean American community.

Korean broadcasting station SBS recently aired a one-hour documentary about the Korean American twin sisters living on the streets of our nation’s capital.

Mi-kyung and Mi-young, both 32, were only 6 years old in 1987 when their father Soon-hong Min sent them to an orphanage in South Korea. The twins’ mother passed away only three years after giving birth. Min, who struggled to make ends meet, decided to drop off his daughters at a local orphanage, where they were later adopted by American parents.

On their way to the orphanage, Min told his daughters that they will be staying with their aunt until he comes back to take them back home.

The twins were soon taken to the United States to meet their new family. However, they were often harassed by their adoptive parents, who they described in an interview last year with the Korea Daily as being heavily abusive. They said at the time that the abuse was severe, so much so that both were convinced a mysterious stranger kidnapped them to separate their biological family.

* * *

However, everything changed when the twins received a letter from Min last year. Min, after learning that his daughters had become homeless 26 years after he had taken them to an orphanage, wrote a letter to them asking for their forgiveness.

Having thought that they had been kidnapped for all these years, the twins were devastated by the truth that they had actually been abandoned by the very person they spent nearly all of their lives trying to find.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Nigerian Mother's Battle to Keep Her Baby

From the BBC:
A doting, smiling mother cradles her first born caressing his tiny fingers in her hand. But 16-year-old Affiong Ene Essien is close to tears when she describes her journey to motherhood and says she was almost forced to give up her baby for adoption.

Affiong had been sharing a simple one room rented home in south-east Nigeria's Akwa Ibom State with her mother, her sister and young niece. Her parents say they had no idea about their daughter's pregnancy when she went missing.

"We had hoped she would get a job after completing her secondary school last year," her father Ene Ekpe Essien told the BBC.

Affiong says the father of her child disappeared and cut off contact when she became pregnant. With problems at home, Affiong headed for the city of Calabar in neighbouring Cross River State.

Confused, scared and broke, she was extremely vulnerable. She says she was offered free food, lodging and medical care at a refuge for pregnant teenagers - but on one condition.

"Since I did not have anywhere to go, I had to accept to sign with them that I would give the baby [away] and go."

Refuge Girls Home denies that any of the girls it takes in are ever coerced into signing over their babies.

* * *

Affiong said she was not allowed to use a mobile phone to call anyone and that the only time she was allowed to leave the home was for medical check-ups or to go to church along with other pregnant teenagers.

She says she was escorted to church and after the service had to come straight back to the home.

On 4 August, Affiong delivered her son by caesarean section at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital. Medical staff were soon suspicious that all was not well.

"I wasn't happy and it wasn't to my own mind that I should hand over my first child to the government," said Affiong, who told me that an employee of the home threatened her.

"The woman said that if I think of carrying that baby and running away then they were going to arrest me and jail me."

* * *

One doctor has chosen to speak out after discovering that some babies are being removed from the hospital even before their mothers are discharged.

"When I came in I discovered that everybody was in a state of panic - scared. They were talking in hushed tones," said Dr Elihu Osim.

"The truth was that young Affiong was worried about her child being taken away from her. She was frantic and had been crying all day and that's how the nurses got to know there was a problem.

"She was hysterical. She was not just weeping, not just sad because of what was going to happen to her baby but she was scared of what would happen to her. It was a double tragedy," said Dr Osim.

* * *

Dr Osim helped reunite Affiong with her parents and they all tell me they are proud of the latest addition to the family.

"When I remember the pain and I turn around and see my son I am always happy," said Affiong, taking it in turns with her mother to hold Daniel.

"At least even if I'm not going to have any child again, I have one and that will always make me happy."

Adoptive Parents in China Still Live in the Age of Secrets

From Channel News Asia:
More Chinese are defying tradition by adopting abandoned babies, especially handicapped children. These adoptive parents however, face many obstacles.

14-month-old Cui Keren was born with a cleft palate and abandoned by his parents shortly after birth.

First sent to a children's home in Shanxi province, Keren was later taken to Beijing for medical treatment.

In the capital, Keren was cared for by 48-year-old volunteer Cui Yaji at a temporary home for abandoned children.

The bond between the two became so strong that Ms Cui decided to adopt the infant.

"Initially I was very hesitant as it means adding another member to the family," said Ms Cui in Mandarin. "Raising a child is not a small matter but something with long-term implications."

She had the strong support of her husband and her 17-year-old daughter, Kexin.

Keren is an indispensable part of the family now. He has also undergone an operation for his cleft palate.

The only worry faced by the otherwise happy family is that Keren is unable to obtain his hukou, or household registration, in Beijing.

That is because Keren was abandoned and found in Shanxi province.

Under current regulations, Beijing only allows abandoned children to be registered in the Chinese capital if they are found and abandoned in Beijing.

"This is really troublesome for the child in future, whether in registering for school, finding a job, or going abroad," lamented Ms Cui.

"I won't be able to produce his proper registration. I'd only be able to produce the adoption papers. This isn't good for the child's healthy development."

Like most adoptive families, Keren's does not want him to know that he is an adopted child.

They prefer to break the news to him when he is older. But not being able to register him in Beijing means that it is difficult to keep his adoption a secret.

"Being abandoned by his natural parents meant that he had already been wounded once. I don't want to see him wounded a second time," said Ms Cui.
Sigh.  Like it isn't going to wound him when he finds out his loving adoptive parents have lied to him for every minute of his life. . . .

Maya's foster parents have fostered several children after her, one of whom was domestically adopted in China.  They told me that it was a family from Guangdong Province (not from Guangxi Province where Maya is from), and that they came to a different province to adopt so as to make it easier to hide the fact the child was adopted.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

In Gay Couple Custody Dispute, AP Wins over Bio Parent

The New York Post reports on a custody case pitting biological mother against her partner who adopted the child:
A Family Court judge has awarded full custody of a young child to her adopted mother, instead of her biological mom, in what is believed to be the first such New York state case involving a same sex couple.

Manhattan real estate attorney Allison Scollar defeated the little girl’s biological mom, Emmy-winning TV producer Brook Altman in a bitter court battle, the Post has learned.

“Love doesn’t just come from biology,” a relieved Scollar, 50, said days after being awarded custody and decision-making authority for her daughter, who turns 6 tomorrow. “And the minute I saw this little baby, I knew she was mine.

* * *

Manhattan Judge Gloria Sosa-Lintner said, “Although . . . Altman is the biological parent, this does not give her an automatic priority over the adoptive parent. This is analogous to a father getting custody of his own child, where only the best interests of the child are paramount.”

Scollar, the judge ruled, “is indeed the more responsible parent looking out for the child’s best interests, not her own interests” — while the 47-year-old Altman “behaved more as a friend or older sister than a responsible parent.”

Altman, who is co-CEO of the consulting and life coaching company The Handel Group, said, “This is just the end of the first phase. The judge ignored the evidence and issued a decision that is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law. We’re appealing this decision and I’m confident we’re going to prevail.”
Reactions?  Should biology trump adoption?  Suppose this was a heterosexual stepparent adoption case -- the couple divorces, and the court considers custody.  Should legal adoptive/step-mom or bio dad get custody? Reverse the sexes -- should legal adoptive/step-dad or bio mom get custody? Should these kinds of cases be decided as any other custody case, disregarding distinctions of biology or adoption?

PAP Sues Agency for Failed Adoption

From the Courthouse News Service:
Pakistan authorities charged an American with child trafficking because her Michigan adoption agency failed to fully investigate its partner program, she claims in court.

Nancy Baney says that she contacted Lighthouse Adoptions in October 2008 about adopting a child from Russia. After experiencing significant delays, however, Lighthouse president Lorien Wenger allegedly "recommended a new country program for the adoption of children from Pakistan."

Baney says she was "hesitant because she had strong heart ties to Russia after having adopted her son from that country."

"Defendant Wenger told plaintiff that she had been 'working for a year' to develop a Pakistani adoption program," the complaint in Washtenaw County Circuit Court continues.

"Defendant Wenger told plaintiff that she had partnered with a Non-Governmental Organization in Pakistan for Christian adoptions.

    * * *

After Wenger offered Baney the chance to adopt a 1-month-old baby in 2009, Baney says she wired over $14,000 for the adoption and spent a nearly month in Pakistan as one of the first families for the Pakistan pilot program, according to the complaint.

"Plaintiff was to spend the time in Pakistan bonding with her baby daughter and visiting the birth city and to complete an IR-4 adoption immigration visa to bring baby Marina back to the United States," the complaint states.

"On or about October 12, 2009, plaintiff was awarded a permanent guardianship for Marina by the Pakistan court.

"Two days later, on October 14, 2009, the US Embassy denied plaintiff's application for an IR-4 adoption immigration visa for Marina. The denial was based on an I-604 investigation that confirmed that two (2) of Marina's identity documents were forgeries.

"The US Embassy also confirmed for the plaintiff that Global Adoption Services was a front for a large child trafficking ring located in Faisalabad, Pakistan. Faisalabad was the city of Marina's birth."

Ultimately, the complaint says "Marina was taken from plaintiff's arms while plaintiff sat at gunpoint by the Pakistani Federal Investigative Agency," according to the complaint. "Marina was placed in an orphanage while her mother, the plaintiff was investigated for child trafficking."
My favorite allegation in the whole suit?  "Lighthouse Adoptions and Wenger allegedly 'became acquainted with Global Adoption Services and [its director] Sadeem Shargeel through unsolicited e-mails that he sent ... offering his services.'"  Lordy, wonder of the idiots at the agency also answer those emails from Nigeria looking for someone to accept a wire transfer of $1.6 million, just send us your bank account information. . . .