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February 2012

February 28, 2012 "Babyklappe" Gain Favor in Switzerland. The use of baby safe havens is now expanding in Switzerland. Proponents of the plan to expand these "babyklappe" point to the recent discovery of a baby found dead on a junk heap as an example of a child who could have been saved by a safe haven. In neighboring Germany, however, a different policy is gaining favor - German Minister of Families, Kristina Schroder, is seeking to "create a legal framework in 2012 for so-called 'confidential births'." However, Schroder's plan would guarantee birth parent anonymity only for ten years. A recent study of German women who abandon their babies points to fear and lack of family or community support as key indicators. Social status was apparently not a determining factor which led to child abandonment nor was income. More Information.

February 27, 2012. Surrogacy Lawyer Sentence to Prison for Baby-Selling Scheme. Theresa Erickson was nationally renowned for her assisted reproductive technology related law practice. She appeared as a guest expert on television and had the grateful clients to provide references. But Erickson was nothing more than a scam artist. On Friday a federal judge sentenced her to five months in prison and nine months in home confinement for her lead role in a fraudulent operation which used U.S. surrogates and Ukrainian facilities to create babies Erickson and her confederates would sell to desperate families for $100,000 each. We applaud this sentence and hope the penalty discourages anyone else from such despicable practices. More Information.

February 23, 2012. Government and Other Notices - Russia. The Department of State has announced that effective January 1, 2012 the timeline for international adoptions from Russia has increased because of changes in Russian family law. Judges must announce their decisions in person and then supply a written ruling five days later. The adoption decree, if issued, will go into effect thirty days after the written ruling was issued. Only then can the adoptive family apply, in person, for a Russian passport. These changes will lengthen the processing time for international adoptions and may cause families to need to schedule an extra trip to Russia. More Information.

February 22, 2012. Full Disclosure is a Key Ingredient of Safe Adoptions. Adoptions of older and special needs children constitute an increasing percentage of both domestic and international adoptions in the United States. This laudable trend, however, needs to be accompanied by increased standards of multi-layered disclosure. The first level is suitable education for potential adoptive parents concerning the different medical, emotional, psychological, developmental and intellectual needs of older children. Second, adoption service providers and local and state agencies which place children must be completely honest with the potential adoptive parents concerning the case history of the particular child being adopted. The tragic consequences of non-disclosure are painfully illustrated in the accompanying article. More Information.

February 21, 2012. International Adoption Solves Abandonment; It Does Not Create It. The linked article describes the efforts of a Vietnamese nun who, during the past 16 years, has cared for 52 abandoned children at a pagoda near Da Nang, Vietnam. Knowing of her refuge, birth parents or relatives leave babies that families cannot raise on the steps of the pagoda. While Minh Tinh provides a caring shelter, she cannot provide a family for the children. The absence of a family will be a difficult legacy for the children to deal with in this family-centric country. It is instructive that children are consistently abandoned, whether or not Vietnam is open or closed to international adoption. There will always be children whose birth families cannot raise them. The choice is whether these children should remain without permanent, loving families. More Information.

February 16, 2012. Adoption By Military Families. Potential adoptive parents who serve in the U.S. military face special challenges on the road to creating a family through adoption. Home studies, police clearances and Hague adoption requirements can be much more difficult to accomplish for mothers and fathers who have served short tours around the world and may not have been stationed in the U.S. for years. Fortunately there is specific information directed at this group of families which focuses on their particular issues. More Information.

February 15, 2012. IA Survey Still Posted and Open. The survey on international adoption which was commissioned by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee may still be filled in by adoptive parents, potential adoptive parents and other interested parties. The information is of importance to the adoption community and we urge everyone to complete the survey, if you have not done so. The links for the survey are:

    If you are an adoptive parent or prospective adoptive parent, please click here.
    If you represent an adoption agency, please click here.

February 14, 2012. China Will Ban "Orphanage Names." The Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs is in the process of finalizing regulations which will prohibit orphanages from giving the children last names which label them as orphans, thereby subjecting them to a lifetime of prejudice. For the last decade many orphanages have given children in their care a name derived from the name of the county in which the orphanage is located. Other orphanages give all the children in their care the family name of Guo ("state") or Dang ("Communist Party.") As one person quoted in the article said "We don't want children who grow up in orphanages to carry labels that imply they are different from those who have parents." Instead orphanages will select commonly used Chinese surnames. More Information.

February 13, 2012. Russian Adoption Rumors So Far Unsubstantiated. We have seen a number of reports stating that the Russian Foreign Ministry has called for a moratorium on U.S. international adoption from Russia until the Russian parliament (the "Duma") has ratified the U.S. Russian Bilateral International Adoption Agreement. However, neither U.S. nor Russian officials have confirmed this story. To the contrary, U.S. officials during our previous discussions on Russian adoption have remained optimistic that the Duma will ratify the Bilateral Agreement in the spring.

February 9, 2012. Survey for Families/Agencies Involved in the International Adoption Process. We have been asked to help publicize a survey about the international adoption process which be used to assess and improve U.S. government practices which affect international adoption. There are two separate surveys - the first is for adoptive parents and potential adoptive parents. The second is for approved service providers. We urge everyone involved in international adoption to respond to this opportunity for feedback.

SURVEY ON INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION

The survey below is intended to inform policy makers on adoptive families' experiences when interacting with U.S. government officials during the intercountry adoption process. Data from this survey will be used to help identify areas of possible improvement within the current process. All questions should be answered based on your personal experience with U.S. government officials (not with your adoption agency representative). Your candid answers are appreciated. The responses will be consolidated and presented in a cumulative format. No personal identifying information will be included or divulged.

Results received by February 14 at 5:00pm will be made available to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for use in an upcoming roundtable on intercountry adoption. The survey will remain open until March 1.

If you are an adoptive parent or prospective adoptive parent, please use the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Surveyonintercountryadoptionparents

If you represent an adoption agency, please use the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Surveyonintercountryadoptionasp

Thank you for your time and participation.

February 8, 2012. Government and Other Updates: Honduras Bans Two U.S. Adoption Agencies. According to the U.S. embassy in Honduras, the Instituto Hondure–o de la Ni–ez y la Familia (IHNFA ) has withdrawn the accreditation for Living Hope Adoption Agency and Gladney Center for Adoption. IHNA is the central authority for Honduran adoption although Honduras is not a Hague country and the Embassy announcement states that the "IHNFA will no longer approve adoption requests filed by families who utilized the agencies to facilitate the adoption of a local child, as the agencies are no longer registered in Honduras." We will post further word when it is available. The Department of State's website adds that the Honduras international adoption program has been in flux for the past eight years. More Information.

February 7, 2012. Playing the China Race Card-Again. Chinese foreign policy is a legitimate subject for debate this election year as is Chinese economic policy. But Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra's super-bowl ad for his Michigan Senate campaign (which ran locally in Michigan) demonstrated how easily genuine political questions can be morphed into racist appeals. Even worse is the fact that the ad's original HTML address was labeled "yellowgirl." By Monday it had been changed to "yellowshirtgirl." This is the second time this year that Republican candidates have used unacceptable anti-Asian messaging. More Information.

February 6, 2012. Service Dogs Helping Children with Disabililies such as FAS. The linked article is a fascinating account of the impact a service dog has had on a child adopted from Russia with severe Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Service dogs have long aided people with physical disabilities and now their utility has been noted for children and adults with mental disabilities as well. In this case Donnie and Harvey Winokour have seen huge positive changes in their son Iyal since Chancer came into his life. Iyal now sleeps through the night, is much calmer, has increased speech and shows affection in a way he could not do previously. Scientists cannot explain the reasons for all the changes; for the Winokour family it has been life-changing. More Information.

February 2, 2012. Vietnam Continued. As we reported yesterday, immediately after the Hague Convention on International Adoption became effective in Vietnam, the Department of State declared Vietnam a Hague non-compliant country which bars U.S. citizens from bringing back to the United States children adopted from Vietnam. This is a devastating development for the children who will remain unparented. It is also puzzling in that DOS has been advising Vietnam on Hague procedures for the last three years. We would therefore request that DOS specify exactly what deficiencies in Vietnam's procedures and practices caused this determination. We would further suggest that DOS and USAID consider using some of the funds appropriated by Congress last year for best family practices be used for the technical assistance Vietnam may require.

February 1, 2012. U.S. Department of State Declares Vietnam Not Hague Compliant. The Department of State announced today that it had determined that Vietnam, which is a Hague-effective country as of today, does not meet the criteria necessary to meet Hague Convention standards. In DOS's words: "...Vietnam does not yet have a fully Hague compliant process in place. We continue to caution adoption service providers and prospective adoptive parents that, to ensure that adoptions from Vietnam will be compliant with the Convention, important steps must still take place before intercountry adoptions between the United States and Vietnam resume. Adoption Service Providers should not initiate or claim to initiate, adoption programs in Vietnam until they receive notification from the Department of State that it has resumed adoptions in Vietnam." More Information.

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