e-Memo for May 2004

Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care releases final report

On May 18, the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care released its policy recommendations to reform federal child welfare financing and strengthen court oversight of child welfare cases.

The Commission’s key financing recommendations include: - Preservation of federal adoption assistance as an entitlement and expanding its availability to all children, regardless of birthfamily income and including Indian children and children residing in US territories.

- Improving the current Child and Federal Services Review process to strengthen state accountability.

- Allowance of guardianship subsidies in the event that neither reunification nor adoption is a viable alternative.

- Extension of the adoption incentives to other forms of permanence, i.e., reunification and legal guardianship.

- Increased and more flexible federal funding mechanisms for states to devise strategies to meet the needs of their foster care populations through:

° Available grants.

° An expanded and more simplified waiver process.

° Reinvesting of foster care dollars into other child welfare programs when states safely reduce use of foster care.

The Commission’s key court recommendations include:

- Use of national performance measures to improve judicial oversight of children in foster care, identify areas of needed improvement, and ensure court accountability.

- Use of incentives and requirements to foster effective collaboration between courts and child welfare agencies.

- Better leadership from chief justices and other state court officials in positions of influence to institutionalize needed reforms.

- Improved advocacy for children and parents in court, through the use of better-trained attorneys and more volunteer advocates.

NCFA’s comments on the Pew Commission report will be forthcoming.

Click here to to access and read the report.

TV-land's Trophy Baby: '20/20' Adoption Show in Bad Taste

During the week preceding "Be My Baby" on "20/20," the media ruckus focused on the obnoxious, reality-TV-style promotion of the show's "inside look at open adoption." The universal condemnation of those promotions was well deserved. It is almost beyond belief that anyone, even TV-hype writers, could be so insensitive as to cast adoption in terms of a reality-show competition, where contestant couples vie for a baby. It's no wonder that ABC News and the Federal Communications Commission received thousands of complaints.

So other than that, how was the show? Flawed from the get-go. The very idea of broadcasting an adoption on national television is degrading and inhumane. The purpose of adoption is to...

Click here to read NCFA President Thomas Atwood's Washington Times op ed.

Intercountry Adoptions Increase for 11th Year in a Row: China Adoptions Rise Dramatically Despite SARS-related Travel Suspension; Problems with Romania, Vietnam, and Cambodia Persist

The U.S. Department of State recently updated its report on "Immigrant Visas Issued to Orphans Coming to the United States," by adding figures for fiscal year 2003, which ended September 30, 2003. This report provides authoritative data regarding the number of children adopted internationally by U.S. parents, which increased this past year by 1,517 children, from 20,099 in 2002, to 21,616 in 2003.

"It is encouraging that international adoptions by U.S. parents continued to increase in 2003, for the eleventh year in a row. More than ever, children in need around the world found loving, permanent families through adoption by U.S. parents," said National Council For Adoption (NCFA) President Thomas Atwood, about the State Department figures. "But the facts that one country, China, with an increase of 1,806, accounted for more than the entire increase, and that other countries stagnated or declined, indicates that intercountry adoption continues to face obstacles that block many children from enjoying the benefits of family life."

Click here to read NCFA's entire analysis of the new intercountry adoption statistics.

2004 National Adoption and Foster Care Recruitment Summit

Hosted by the Children’s Bureau and AdoptUSKinds, the 2004 National Adoption and Foster Care Recruitment Summit will be held on July 15-16, in Washington, DC. The event will bring together state agency staff, adoption and foster care organizations, and the faith community to help build partnerships to recruit adoptive and foster families.

As of September 30, 2001, there were 126,000 children in foster care with the case status of waiting to be adopted, and more than 19,000 youth "aged out" of the foster care system that year, never having found the love and security of a family. There are approaching 400,000 places of worship in the United States - about 3 places of worship for every child waiting to be adopted. Universal to America's faiths is the admonition for believers to care for children whose biological parents cannot or will not parent them. Clearly, there is an opportunity to help these deserving children enjoy the love and security of a forever family by recruiting parents from faith-based communities.

There is no fee to attend the conference.

Click here for Summit info, or to register online.

House Committee holds hearing on state efforts to comply with federal child welfare reviews

The House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Human Resources held a hearing on Thursday, May 13, to review state efforts to come into compliance with federal Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSR). CFSRs are designed to enable the Children's Bureau to review state child welfare agency practice, ensure conformity of agency practice with federal child welfare requirements, and enhance states’ capacity to help children and families achieve positive outcomes. The May 13 hearing was the third in a series of hearings held by the Human Resources Subcommittee since November 2003.

The links below provide additional information.

Click here to learn more about the hearing.

Click here to learn more about Child and Family Service Reviews.

New Hampshire enacts “open records” law

On May 12, New Hampshire’s SB335 became law after Governor Craig Benson failed to veto the bill. This new statute eliminates privacy in adoption by allowing adult adopted persons to access their original birth certificate, without birthparent knowledge or consent. When the law goes into effect on January 1, 2005, no future New Hampshire birthparent will have the option of a confidential adoption. And, birthparents who placed a child for adoption in New Hampshire in the past will no longer be entitled to the confidentiality promised them at the time of placement. The overwhelming majority of states prohibit adopted adults, and birthparents, from accessing identifying information without the other’s permission. Rather, states have in place laws that allow access to identifying information when both the adult adopted person and the birthparent mutually agree. Since 2001, at least 11 other states had considered more than 25 pieces of similar "open records" legisla tion. Not one had been approved.

Click here to read NCFA’s analysis of the harmful effects of this new law.

Azerbaijan announces temporary hold on adoptions

On May 17, the Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Azerbaijan informed the US Embassy in Baku that it has put a temporary hold on adoptions pending the results of an ongoing investigation, which it expects to conclude in the very near future. The Prosecutor’s Office has not provided a specific timetable, or speculated on what the results of the investigation will be. Adoptive families who have accepted a referral of an Azerbaijani orphan are asked to contact the Office of Children’s Issues at:

Azerbaijan placed 62 orphans with American families in 2003.

For additional information on the 2003 State Department adoption data, click here.

Safe Haven update

A number of states took up Safe Haven-related bills in 2004. The following outlines noteworthy developments:

- Nebraska’s and Hawaii’s legislatures failed to enact their respective Safe Haven bills this session. Both bills would have allowed birthparents to place their child with a Safe Haven within 72 hours of birth with a designated Safe Haven without fear of prosecution.

- Massachusetts’ legislature is still considering House Bill 4325. The House of Representatives passed the bill, and it is now with the Senate Ways and Means Committee. In the meantime, 15 Commonwealth communities, 11 towns and 4 cities, have passed the Safe Haven home rule petition. Massachusetts’ largest city, Boston, and its largest town, Framingham, have both passed the petition. There are over 20 other communities that are still considering the home rule petition.

- New Jersey is considering two Safe Haven-related bills. A312-A would strengthen the existing law, by giving birthparents immunity from prosecution, rather than only the right to an affirmative defense, should they place their child with a Safe Haven. It would also prohibit the State from any attempts to locate or contact birthparents if provided identifying information. A312-A was passed by the Assembly and is now before the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee. No hearing has been scheduled in the Senate Committee, yet.

Click here to read A312-A.

A1971 would appropriate funding in the amount of $100,000 to be used for Safe Haven public awareness. The Assembly Family, Women, and Children’s Services Committee held a hearing on May 17, and referred the bill to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Click here to read A1971.

Infant Adoption Awareness Training Program reaches significant milestones, launches second phase of national public information campaign

The Infant Adoption Awareness Training Program is proud to announce that since commencing a nation-wide training initiative in 2002, the Program has trained more than 10,000 individuals as Adoption Specialists and Adoption Liaisons. In some 1,000 training days in just over two years, counselors and healthcare professionals have gained in-depth knowledge about the adoption process and legal issues, as well as effective counseling techniques. The Program is currently offered in all 50 states, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

In addition to reaching thousands of pregnancy counselors, clinic workers, and other healthcare professionals, the Program is currently reaching millions of individuals with a positive adoption message through an award-winning public information campaign, entitled, “Thanks for Considering Adoption.” The campaign materials include radio and television announcements, as well as print, billboard, and transit ads. The Program proudly announces the release of an entirely new set of television spots featuring more children and even greater diversity. More than 3,600 media outlets across the U.S. have received the new thirty and sixty-second commercials, as well as the popular radio and print materials. The new campaign has already received great attention from existing media partners, as well as commitments from additional outlets.

To find out more about the Program, click here.

Senator Charles Grassley and Senator Hillary Clinton commission the General Accounting Office to study barriers to adoption

Senator Charles Grassley and Senator Hillary Clinton have requested a GAO study to determine the presence of any financial and non-financial obstacles in placing and keeping children in adoptive homes; the steps that the Department of Health and Human Services and the states have taken to address these obstacles; and the extent to which the Adoption Promotion Act of 2003 and the Title IV-E Adoption Assistance Program assist states in increasing adoptions, as well as any needed changes to further facilitate adoptive placements.

Romanian Parliament still considering international adoption legislation

As of the time of this eMemo distribution, Romania is still considering international adoption legislation that would effectively end intercountry adoption from Romania. Some powerbrokers in the European Union have made Romania’s admission into the E.U. contingent upon the once adoption-friendly country’s enactment of this anti-adoption policy. There is, however, a proposed amendment that would correct the problem. The Romanian government reportedly is awaiting a report from an EU Commission that will address certain legalities, before it will take action. Hopefully, child advocates in Romania will be able to amend this legislation in ways that put the interests of children first. Romania suspended intercountry adoption with the United States in 2001. The moratorium has remained in effect since then.

Just Added to Website: 2004 Annual Conference, Washington, DC

Adoption professionals, child welfare advocates, and policy makers from across the country gathered in Washington, DC, on April 1-2, for the NCFA’s National Adoption Conference 2004. The conference provided the opportunity for adoption agency staff and others committed to adoption to come together and learn from experts, and each other, about issues affecting the institution of adoption today, as well as help set the adoption agenda for the future.

For a glimpse of the 2004 National Adoption Conference, click here.

Also New on the Website: National Council For Adoption Presents "Adoption Hall of Fame" and "Friend of Adoption" awards

The annual Adoption Hall of Fame 2004 Awards Banquet sponsored by the National Council For Adoption (NCFA) took place on Wednesday, March 31, at the elegant Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington, D.C.

Click here to read more about this event and to view photos.

NCFA's e-Memo is a monthly publication distributed free of charge. Subscribe online.

You can contact NCFA by mail, phone, fax, and email:

National Council For Adoption
225 N. Washington Street Alexandria, VA 22314

703-299-6633 (Phone)
703-299-6004 (fax)

To unsubscribe/change profile: click here.
To subscribe: click here.