Showing posts with label International Adoption. Show all posts
Showing posts with label International Adoption. Show all posts

June 17, 2017

Lawmakers Are Trying to Make Foster Care Part of Illegal Immigration

A portrait of Tristan Torres. Photo via Tristan Torres

The proposed federal legislation follows several states that have made it legal for adoption agencies to refuse to serve queer children and families.

Tristan Torres, a 16-year-old from Las Vegas, Nevada, decided that Thanksgiving would be the ideal day to come out to his mom as transgender. He chose that day in the hopes his mom would be more supportive on a holiday oriented around gratitude and family. Torres told me that immediately after he tried talking to his mom and her boyfriend about his gender identity, he found they weren't willing to accept him; Torres's mom took away his house key, told him to leave their house, and locked the doors. 
"I didn't even get the chance to get anything from my room," Torres recalled. "I was just wearing my clothes and that was it."  
In 2014, Torres became one of over 400,000 youth in the US foster care system, a system that's teeming with LGBTQ youth. Like Torres, many young LGBTQ people wind up in the system because of family rejection or abuse due to their gender identity or sexual orientation. A recent report from Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ civil rights organization, estimates that queer youth make up nearly 25 percent of those in the nation's foster care system. 
In states like MassachusettsNorth CarolinaNew Mexico and others, demand foster care placement outstrips the number of available beds. Despite the need for more adoptive families, a federal bill introduced this April, the Child Welfare Inclusion Act of 2017, could make it much harder for LGBTQ kids to get adopted. If passed, the legislation could allow adoption and foster care agencies to claim religious or moral objections to fostering LGBTQ youth or providing for LGBTQ couples looking to adopt. 
Currey Cook, director of Lambda Legal's Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project, said this legislation is "a government-endorsed message that LGBT youth and families are not worthy or are less than." 
But the bill's sponsors, Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Representative Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, believe that foster care providers should continue raking in government dollars even if they turn away LGBTQ couples, mistreat kids, or force queer homeless youth to turn elsewhere.
"There is no good reason why any of these care providers should be disqualified from working with their government to serve America's families simply because of their deeply-rooted religious beliefs," Senator Kelly wrote in an April press release about the bill. Representatives for Enzi and Kelly did not respond to requests for comment.
Before 2017, states like Michigan, Virginia, and North Dakota already had laws that permit anti-LGBTQ discrimination toward foster youth or couples. This year, South Dakota and Alabama were able to pass their own bills that do the same, and this May, a version in Texas passed in the House and now awaits the state governor's signature. Alabama's law would apply only to private agencies that don't accept state or federal funds. 
Illinois, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia have made it illegal for providers (faith-based or not) to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Cook says that this is the reason Enzi and Kelly created their bill.
"All types of families come into the [foster care] system. Every faith, race, and background. You have to have a system in place to serve everybody equally because you are serving a representation of our entire country," Cook explained. "There are amazing churches and communities that support LGBT people. Bills like these are pitting communities of faith against others."
Protecting one's "deeply-rooted religious beliefs" to withhold a child from a loving home could also mean that more kids stay stuck in a severely overpopulated system. But the bill and state laws similar to it aren't just ridden with between-the-lines bigotry—they're also bad for the economy. The Department of Health and Human Services' 2016 budget for foster care and related programs was $8 billion, which doesn't include significant state-level costs. In 2010, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services estimated that it can cost the state and federal government up to $29,000 annually to keep one child in foster care. Those costs could be driven down systemwide by placing more children into stable adoptive homes.
A 2013 report by the Williams Institute, an LGBTQ legal rights organization, calculated that same-sex couples are four times more likely than heterosexual couples to be raising an adopted child and six times more likely to be raising a foster child. By cutting off LGBTQ couples from adopting, fewer kids will find permanent and loving homes, something many of these bill's proponents ironically fail to mention. 
Kate Stevenson and Jennifer McGowan have been married for over 10 years. Today, the Alabama-based couple are among the thousands of LGBTQ partners hoping to adopt children. 
"We have a lot of love to give," Stevenson told me. "And we thought we'd be really great moms."
When Stevenson and McGowan began looking into adoption, they chose a more LGBTQ-friendly (and costly) agency, rather than go through a state adoption agency. Even though Alabama's version of this federal bill hadn't yet passed, McGowan already sensed the threat of systematic discrimination.
"We knew it'd be more difficult to adopt in the South as a gay couple. And when you do the research, you realize you might have to pretend like you're a single person instead or even say that your partner is your roommate when caseworkers come for home visits," McGowan explained.
Cook worries most about the LGBTQ youth in foster care who already have limited support if any.
"[Turning away LGBTQ couples who want to adopt] is unconstitutional and should not be permitted. But then when you think about young people in foster care, they don't have a choice where they are placed," he explained. "When you're placed in state custody, your whole life is controlled by the people that you're placed with. It's everything from the clothes you wear to who you are allowed to see, what you're allowed to do, and who you see for therapy."
That Thanksgiving, after Torres was kicked out of his home, a caseworker from Child Protective Services came to pick him up. He spent a week in the psychiatric ward at a local hospital before landing in a Christian-based foster home. 
"I had no choice whatsoever in anything. I was basically finding out things day-by-day about what my life was going to be like for the next 9 months," the now 19-year-old recalls. "I had two of the worst experiences of my life in the foster home they placed me in."
Torres didn't have time to process anything. As soon as he was released from the hospital, he had a one-on-one interview with a woman who wanted to know about his hobbies and feelings about doing chores.
Torres figured the woman was another CPS caseworker. "Turned out, though, that I was going to be living with her and her three biological kids and one [foster kid]," he said.
After just a few weeks of living with his new foster family, Torres says his foster mom demanded that he stay away from her biological kids. She thought he was "turning them transgender," he says. During the two months he lived there, he says, she often lectured him for hours about why "being trans is wrong."
It would take two more turns through abusive homes before he landed in a supportive environment: The home of Andre Wade, the CEO of the Gay and Lesbian Center of Southern Nevada, and his partner.
"It's the most healthy, caring environment I've ever been in and I'm so grateful for them," he said. 
Torres is now studying journalism at the College of Southern Nevada. This year, he provided instrumental advocacy for the passage of AB99, a Nevada bill that requires training for caseworkers and foster parents on accommodating LGBTQ minors' gender identity, pronouns, and preferred clothing.  
"We don't have enough foster parents to even consider turning away anyone for their religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or gender identity," Torres said.

March 1, 2017

In Landmark Decision The Italian Court Recognizes Gay Parents

An Italian court has ruled for the first time that two gay partners should be legally recognised as the fathers of two surrogate children. In a landmark ruling, the Court of Appeal in the northern city of Trento decided that both men can be officially named as the father - not just the parent who is biologically related.

The children, now aged seven, were born to a surrogate mother in Canada through artificial insemination and neither they nor their fathers have been identified.

In their decision, the judges said in Italy parental relationships should not be determined only by the biological link.
"On the contrary, one must consider the importance of parental responsibility, which is manifested in the conscious decision to raise and care for the child,” they said.

Details of the decision were published on Tuesday on Article 29, a website that refers to an article regarding family in the Italian Constitution.

It said the decision made on February 23 had "great significance", as it is the first time an Italian court has ruled that a child has two fathers, while also recognising the need to safeguard the needs of the child.

“This is a recognition of full parenthood, in other words, not adoption,” said the couple’s lawyer, Alexander Schuster. “It has recognised for the first time a foreign provision that gives the second father the status of a parent.”

The ruling was immediately hailed as an important precedent by gay activists and support groups.

“In the absence of clear laws we hope now that all Italian courts follow the same path,” said Marilena Grassadonia, president of gay parents’ group, Famiglie Arcobaleno (rainbow families).

“It is the only way that we can safeguard our children.”
Italian law currently prevents couples from using a surrogate mother, and in theory, anyone caught entering into a surrogacy arrangement faces up to two years in prison and a fine of up to a million euros.

Two years ago, a child was removed from parents who had paid a surrogate mother in Ukraine. The couple were charged with fraud and the child put up for adoption.  

In 2016, during debate over Italy's same-sex unions bill, the current foreign minister, Angelino Alfano, sparked outrage when he said that surrogacy should be treated as a “sex crime”. The Italian parliament approved civil unions between homosexuals last May despite fierce resistance from the Catholic Church and conservative politicians.

April 5, 2015

Adam, an Adopted Am-South Korean at 6, Now 40 to be Deported


This past February, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers knocked on an apartment door in Vancouver, Wash., looking for a man named Adam Crapser. A 39-year-old former barbershop owner and auto-insurance claims estimator, Crapser was now the married stay-at-home father of three children, with another baby on the way. He lived a mostly quiet life, playing the guitar and ukulele, looking after a rescue dog and taking his children to the park and the science museum. But the ICE agents at the door were there to inform him that the agency was opening deportation proceedings that could send him to South Korea.

Amy Mihyang Ginther with her birth mother, Park Jeong-hee, at Park's home in Gimcheon, South Korea.Why a Generation of Adoptees Is Returning to South Korea JAN. 14, 2015
After a federal immigration raid in 2008, about a third of the town, including many Guatemalans, vanished within weeks.Postville, Iowa, Is Up for GrabsJULY 11, 2012
Crapser was born Shin Song Hyuk, to a mother described in his adoption papers as “Amerasian.” When Crapser was 3, he and his older sister were abandoned and ended up at an orphanage three hours outside of Seoul. A worker there noted that Crapser cried often, played alone and wanted his sister in his sight at all times. After five months, he was on his way to a new home in the United States, along with his sister and a handful of possessions: a pair of green rubber shoes, a Korean-language Bible and a worn stuffed dog.

The first family that adopted Crapser and his sister fought viciously and punished the children frequently; Crapser remembers being whipped and forced to sit in a dark basement. After six years, the couple decided they no longer wanted the children they had adopted and the siblings were split up. Crapser bounced between foster homes and a boys’ home before landing with a family in Oregon.

His new parents, Thomas and Dolly Crapser, had a house full of foster and adopted children, as many as ten at a time. Their punishments, too, were frequent and even more brutal than his first adoptive parents’. Dolly, Crapser says, slammed the children’s heads against door frames and once hit him in the back of the head with a two-by-four after he woke her up from a nap. Thomas duct-taped the children’s mouths shut, Crapser says. He also burned Crapser’s hands and once broke his nose when Crapser couldn’t find Thomas’s car keys. Neither Thomas nor Dolly returned my repeated phone calls to discuss Crapser’s account, but the state ultimately did charge the couple with dozens of counts of child abuse, including rape, sexual abuse and criminal mistreatment; they were convicted in 1992 on several counts of criminal mistreatment and assault, and Thomas was convicted on one count of sexual abuse, though he served just 90 days in prison.

When Crapser was 16, he got in an argument with Dolly over using the phone, and Thomas kicked him out of the house. He moved into a homeless shelter, then stayed on friends’ couches and, finally, in his car. Then, one day, he broke into the Crapsers’ home in hopes of reclaiming the few remaining bits of his past life in Korea: his rubber shoes and his Korean Bible.

Police arrested Crapser after he broke in through a window. He pleaded guilty to burglary and served 25 months in prison. Once he was back on the outside, his troubles continued. Not long after his release, he was found guilty of unlawful firearm possession. A couple of misdemeanors followed and, later, an assault conviction after a fight with a roommate. Two years ago, he violated a protection order taken out against him by an ex-girlfriend with whom he had a child, by trying to telephone his son. “I made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I’m not proud of it,” Crapser told me last week. “I’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way.”

But recently Crapser has worked to get his life on track. He married, became a full-time dad and began trying to settle into a long-term job. The problem was that, legally, he couldn’t hold one. None of Crapser’s adoptive parents, nor the adoption agency that brokered his arrival in the United States, had ever bothered to file for his U.S. citizenship.

After years of fighting, he was finally able to get his adoption paperwork from Thomas Crapser and in 2012 applied for a green card. Those applications typically trigger a Department of Homeland Security background investigation, which in Crapser’s case turned up his old convictions — a criminal record that made him subject to deportation.

It’s a Kafkaesque episode: Crapser’s various crimes may have warranted the punishments he received, but deportation to a country in which he had barely lived? In fact, Crapser has company. No one knows exactly how many international adoptees in the United States don’t have U.S. citizenship; in some cases, adoptees don’t find out themselves until they apply for federal student loans, try to get a passport or register to vote. But at least three dozen other international adoptees have also faced deportation charges or have been deported to countries like Thailand, Brazil and South Korea.

Adoption experts in South Korea — the world’s top exporter of children for American adoption at the time that Crapser was sent to the United States told me they know of at least 10 to 12 deported adoptees in the country, including one who served in the U.S. military. In 2000, a 22-year-old Brazil-born, Ohio-raised adoptee named Joao Herbert was deported from the United States after he was caught selling 7.5 ounces of marijuana. Four years later, he was shot dead in the slums of Campinas, a city just north of São Paulo. According to a newspaper report at the time, the killers were drug-dealing teenagers who Herbert had sought to help smuggle guns in order to raise the money he needed to sneak back into the United States.

Congress tried to address the problem in 2000 by passing the Child Citizenship Act, which granted automatic citizenship to children adopted by U.S. citizens. But the law only covered adoptees who were under the age of 18 when it went into effect. The omission left adult adoptees vulnerable to an immigration law passed by Congress a few years earlier, which allowed the federal government to deport noncitizen immigrants who were found guilty of any of a wide range of “aggravated felonies.” Under immigration law, those crimes includes battery, forged checks and selling drugs.

With so much at stake for their children, why wouldn’t parents have filed citizenship papers? In some cases, outright neglect was to blame. But in others, parents didn’t understand that their children didn’t automatically become citizens when they finalized the adoption. Other parents simply put off dealing with the cumbersome paperwork.

One woman I spoke with told me that her adoptive mother, who had raised eight adopted children in all, died of breast cancer before she could file the application for her daughter’s citizenship. (To protect her privacy – she fears more attention from ICE – the woman asked me not to identify her or the country in which she was born.) In 2012, a few years after she was convicted of writing forged checks, ICE ordered her deported, and although the agency ultimately didn’t follow through on the order, it has also never officially closed the case, she told me. She now lives in a legal limbo, unable to get a green card or a driver’s license or to travel outside the country.  “If you look at adoption from a business perspective, agencies get money for the upfront work of placing children,” says Kevin H. Vollmers, head of Gazillion Strong, an advocacy and social-service agency for adoptees, immigrants and other groups. “So you have all this staff on the front end and just one or two providing post-adoption services,” including citizenship.
Whoever is at fault in any individual case, it is hard to imagine a more bizarre and cruel twist for adoptees who grew up in the United States. Deportation back to their birth countries goes against the story that children are often told after they are adopted, that they are living in “forever homes” with “forever families.” Many adoptees, especially of the earlier generations left out of the 2000 law, were encouraged to assimilate, to become “American” and leave their birth country behind. As Maureen McCauley Evans, a former executive director of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services, a nonprofit group that promotes adoption and other children’s issues, says: “It undermines the integrity of the adoptive family. These adoptees are genuinely family members, and then we have the government saying, ‘No, they are not.’”

He was awaiting his first deportation hearing, scheduled for this week on what happens to be his 40th birthday. “As I tell my kids, you have to pay the price for your wrongs,” he said. “I’ve done that. I’ve done my time and probation and followed the rules.”

Andrew Muñoz, a spokesman for ICE, says that although Crapser’s criminal history makes him potentially deportable, “ICE was not aware of Mr. Crapser’s childhood history” when it made the decision to pursue his case and would take it into consideration. Meanwhile, Korean adoptee groups, both in Seoul and the United States, as well as other activist organizations, including Vollmers’s, have been lobbying local lawmakers on Crapser’s behalf. They and other advocates are also pushing Congress to finally write an amendment to rectify the grandfathering lapse in the Child Citizenship Act; to both put an end to the deportations and to make all adoptees, regardless of their age, U.S. citizens.

“Lawmakers and the public need to understand that these adoptees were adopted by American citizens, were brought to this country legally, were raised in American society,” says McLane Layton, a former U.S. Senate staff member who helped draft the 2000 law and the founder of Equality for Adopted Children, an advocacy group. As Crapser’s lawyer, Lori Walls, of the Washington Immigration Defense Group in Seattle, told me, “Adam’s ultimately responsible for his actions, but at what point do we stop punishing him?”

As for Crapser, the narratives he heard for most of his life about what it means to be adopted in the United States have proved to be a lie. “I was told to be American,” he told me. “And I tried to fit in. I learned every piece of slang. I studied everything I could about American history. I was told to stop crying about my mom, my sister, Korea. I was told to be happy because I was an American.”

Maggie Jones is a contributing writer for the NYTimes magazine.

June 25, 2014

There is a need for adoption in the US but racists laws instead gives the black kids to foreign parents


“Just as the U.S. looks to China and other countries, Canadians look to the United States,” says Jane Turner of Adopt Illinois, a private adoption agency. Adopt Illinois is one of 26 agencies in the U.S. accredited by the State Department to handle adoptions involving an American-born child and foreign parents. This practice, known as outgoing adoption, is raising important questions not only about entrenched attitudes toward race and adoption, but the rights of our youngest citizens.
Since the 1990s, the U.S. has allowed an untold number of healthy infants to be exported to other countries in private adoptions. Exact figures are not available because, astonishing as it seems, neither our federal nor state governments document the number of adoptions of this kind. Estimating where American children are going and in what numbers requires gathering information from more than a dozen sources. (I consulted the State Department, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Adoption Authority of Ireland, non-profit websites, and individual adoption agencies.)
Over the past 10 years, Canadian parents have adopted more than 1,000 American-born children; another 300 are growing up in the Netherlands; and at least another 100 will be raised in the United Kingdom. (British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and his American-born wife adopted two U.S.-born boys rather than adopt in England, where the process is more difficult for infants.) The best estimate, from Joan Heifetz Hollinger, a professor at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law, is that as many as 500 infants, most of whom are blackleave this country through outgoing adoption every year.

More than 100,000 thousand children become eligible for adoption in the U.S. in a given year; on average, about 50,000 of these children will be adopted annually.

When it comes to the adoption of black infants, the European market is all demand and America all supply. Social acceptance of single parenthood, the accessibility of contraception, and the legalization of abortion have drastically reduced the number of children available for adoption domestically in much of Western Europe, and U.S. agencies have emerged to meet the demand.
As outgoing adoption processes in other countries have become increasingly unpredictable, the U.S. is ever-more appealing as a “sending” nation. In 2004, there were 45,000 international adoptions globally; in 2012, that number fell to 25,000. While the financial crisis may have depressed overall rates, increased regulation has also had an effect. In response to revelations of deceit, fraud, and coercion in the international adoption market, several countries have tightened related laws in recent years. Ukraine, for example, instituted stricter requirements for the formalization of a child’s eligibility in 2011; South Korea now prioritizes domestic adoption and restricts visas; China has formally reserved the prerogative to reject adoptive parents on the basis of age, marital status, education, finances, weight, physical and mental health, or deformity. And Russia has politicized adoption in its diplomatic sparring; the country passed legislation to ban adoptions to the U.S. that interrupted 1,500 proceedings.
Against this backdrop, the relative leniency and predictability of the outgoing American adoption processes is attractive. Foreign adoptive parents can be almost certain that adoptees have not been illegally separated from capable caretakers, eliminating moral qualms and the possibility of later legal contests. American-born adoptees are also much less likely to have hidden health issues or one of the diseases still plaguing developing countries. Moreover, parents can apply for U.S. citizenship through their adopted children once the children turn 21. And the U.S. makes outgoing adoption easier than its international counterparts in Western Europe. In practice, foreign adoptive parents aresubject to the same requirements as most American parents, plus just a few slightly more complicated but surmountable bureaucratic requirements.
Once accredited by the State Department, an agency is merely obligated to make “reasonable efforts” to find a timely domestic adoptive placement before carrying out an outgoing adoption. The Intercountry Adoption Act charges state courts with verifying both that the adoption passes state requirements and that the agency has satisfied the additional outgoing adoption case criteria—i.e., that the agency has tried to place a child domestically, that a home study of the adoptive parents has been performed, and that the receiving country has agreed to permanently accept the adoptee. Adoptive parents then provide documentation of the court order to the State Department to receive a Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Declaration.
THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF international adoptions involve an infant coming to the U.SOver the past 10 years, as outgoing adoption has been on the rise, American parents adopted more than a quarter of a million children from Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America. By 2000, 13 percent of the 2.1 million children living with adoptive parents in the U.S. were foreign-born. Although it’s impossible to assess the motives behind all of these adoptions, entrenched racial attitudes that discourage white Americans from adopting black American babies undoubtedly played some part.
For the first half of the century, according to the Adoption History Project at the University of Oregon, it was extremely uncommon for a white family to adopt a child of color. But that changed in the 1960s, when white families began adopting black children. From 1968 to 1971, the number of white families adopting black babies tripled, reaching 2,574 in 1971. This prompted a backlash.
In 1972, the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) announced its opposition to transracial adoption: “transracial adoption of an African American child should only be considered after documented evidence of unsuccessful same race placements has been reviewed and supported by appropriate representatives of the African American community.” NABSW President William T. Merritt would later tell a Senate committee, “We view the placement of black children in white homes as a hostile act against our community.”
It seems that the NABSW’s 1972 pronouncement had an immediate effect. That year, white families adopted 1,569 black children; the next year, fewer than 1,000 transracial adoptions took place domestically. The Child Welfare League of America alsoamended its Standards for Adoption Practice. Prior to 1972, the manual stated “racial background in itself should not determine the selection of a home for a child.” After, it read, “children placed with adoptive families with similar racial characteristics can become more easily integrated into the average family and community.” Public sentiment followed: Transracial adoption ground almost to a halt by 1976.
Although race-based matching between potential adoptees and their parents is explicitly illegal for child welfare agencies (or contractors) receiving federal funding, state-funded and private agencies don’t face the same restrictions.
Even authorities barred from race-matching often sidestep prohibitions. “Agencies routinely separate children and prospective parents into racial categories, assign children to racially-matched parents, and hold children for whom there is no racial match available rather than place them with waiting parents of another race,” writes Harvard Law’s Elizabeth Bartholet in the Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy. Race-matching endures in myriad additional forms, from honoring adoptive parents’ racial preferences to considering “cultural competency” in transracial adoption applications.
The perseverance of race-based preferences is troubling for a number of reasons, not least of which is that black children are less likely to be adopted than white. Any policy—official or not—that slows the adoption of non-white children is a worrying one. More than 100,000 thousand children become eligible for adoption in the U.S. in a given year; on average, about 50,000 of these children will be adopted annually. Rough math finds a troubling truth: Approximately 46 percent of black children awaiting adoption were placed in 2012, compared to 58 percent of eligible white children over the same time period.
It can be argued that outgoing adoption is an indirect consequence of the commoditization of adoptees in the American market: White children are, in these terms, more “valuable,” and there is, as now-judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Richard Posner once put it, “a glut of black babies.” Foreign prospective parents, it seems, appear less concerned with a child’s race than American parents; in some countries, international, transracial adoption has become “the norm.” One legal scholar explicitly champions outgoing adoption as a “win-win” for black adoptees, arguing that they benefit when we allow less racist countries to adopt children of color. A CNN opinion piece took a more personal but ultimately similar view, claiming many birth mothers placing children for adoption abroad are motivated by the desire to give a child of color the chance at a life less affected by racism.
WITH TWO SUBSTANTIVE SHIFTS in policy, the U.S. could reshape its domestic adoption market. Reforms should bar all adoption agencies from race-matching practices and remove barriers to adoption based on marital status, gender, and sexual orientation.
The theories and policies that govern American adoptions are out of date. The malleable “best interests” standard that animates much of U.S. policy—and is codified in statutes concerning “custody, placement, and other critical life issues”—is open-ended and frequently misapplied. As Northwestern University School of Law professors Annette Appell and Bruce Boyer argue, this ambiguous language poses the greatest threat to “families whose racial and economic status already place them at great risk of destructive state intervention.” The “best interests” standard requires officials to make and enforce moral judgments about what a family should be. The result, one court warned, can amount to social engineering.

Social acceptance of single parenthood, the accessibility of contraception, and the legalization of abortion have drastically reduced the number of children available for adoption domestically in much of Western Europe, and U.S. agencies have emerged to meet the demand.

Indeed, this “best interests” standard has been used by state and private adoption agents to dismiss single women and men, and gays and lesbians, as prospective parents—and to justify prioritizing heterosexual couples. The bias against single men is especially unfortunate given the greater willingness of men to adopt older boys. (The average age of a child waiting to be adopted hovers around eight years old.) Gay and lesbian prospective adoptive parents face particularly intractable discrimination. Anti-gay advocacy organizations, such as the Christian Research Institute, and purported academics called by states to testify in favor of laws restricting gays from adoption, claim that the adoptive children of these same-sex couples are imperiled, more prone to risky behaviors, or likely to be the victims of pedophilia—despite ample evidence to the contrary.Some states legally bar LGBT people from fostering or adopting. Variations on these anti-gay state laws and rules have generated high-profile legal battles: An Arkansas woman barred from caring for her own granddaughter; the foster fathers of two Florida boys denied the right to adopt their sons after six years of foster-parenting.
There are considerable economic benefits in broadening parental eligibility for domestic adoption, most notably reducing the long-term costs of foster care. “Annual state and federal expenditures for foster care total more than $9 billion under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act alone,” according to a Brookings Institute study. A child who’s been adopted instead of remaining in institutions or being shuffled among foster care placements is more likely to achieve greater earning potential. Estimates of the “net benefits to society” range from $150,000 to $300,000. One Yale economist’s statistical analysis shows that if domestic adoption became a viable option for same-sex couples nationally, the number of children adopted domestically would rise by at least six percent. Should things go in the other direction, there would be detrimental economic effects: A national ban on adoption by same-sex parents would cost the U.S. foster care system as a whole $130 million annually, according to the Williams Institute, a think tank at University of California-Los Angeles Law.
But there is another, less-obvious benefit to ending discrimination in domestic adoption: Hundreds of children who might otherwise be sent abroad through outgoing adoptions would experience the full rights and benefits of American citizenship from birth onward.Any child born in the U.S. is an American citizen, but outgoing adoptees are treated very differently from other Americans; adoption agencies and birth parents get to determine whether and how these children realize their citizenship for the first two decades of their lives. Despite retaining American citizenship, foreign-adopted American children growing up in Toronto or Amsterdam instead of Tallahassee or Atlanta have to “opt in” to exercise U.S. citizenship. Some never will; others may do so only at significant cost, arriving in the country without cultural ties or social networks. Although they do not face legal barriers to entry and residency, socio-cultural factors may put them at a disadvantage. The spirit of equal protection, too, is absent: The children who are disenfranchised in this way are almost all black. To deprive American children of their citizenship and residency in this country seems to violate the spirit if not the letter of the Constitution.
WHILE ANYTHING SHORT OF a ban on outgoing adoption means birth parents will still be free to choose foreign over domestic adoptive parents in private adoptions, encouraging transracial adoption and prohibiting agencies from discriminating against single and gay parents would almost certainly increase the number of domestic adoptions. Reforms to prohibit discrimination by public agencies and promote transparency could even nudge a few parents who would otherwise use a private agency, where demand exceeds supply, to adopt a child from foster care. Reforming adoption laws in the U.S. will change important norms surrounding who can adopt and be adopted.
Biological parents who would otherwise believe a child’s chances for a successful adoption in the U.S. to be low might reconsider a domestic placement; potential adoptive parents who would otherwise seek to adopt from abroad or use artificial reproductive technology could have confidence in the adoption process at home. These slight modifications to our domestic market might result in birth parents choosing to allow these children to be adopted into loving homes in the U.S., allowing more children to enjoy the full benefits of American citizenship.
Yet if the U.S. system cannot be fixed, outgoing adoption may become a favored solution: Jane Turner asked, “Wouldn’t it be interesting to look at the possibility of non-U.S. residents adopting children from the foster care system?”
There are those who believe, like Turner, that outgoing adoption “would be a great opportunity to place kids who would otherwise be in the foster care system.” And she may be right: If the choice is between outgoing adoption and lingering in foster care, no child awaiting adoption should be denied the opportunity to be placed in a loving home based on parents’ nationality. Especially if the U.S. can’t fix domestic adoption, her reasoning makes sense. She tells me, “If you keep a child’s best interests in mind, you think it could involve children in the foster care system leaving the country.” Already, she says, she knows of one private agency in Pennsylvania that helps Oklahoma child welfare services place children in Europe.
Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza
Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza attended Harvard College and Yale Law School. She has written on law and politics for the Nation, the Atlantic, Politico, the Daily Beast, and CNN, and co-authored James Carville’s 40 More Years. Follow her on Twitter @rpbp.

April 23, 2013

In a One Two Punch French Parliament Legalizes Gay Marriage and Adoptions

French stars come late to gay marriage fight


© Photo: AFP

The French parliament has approved a bill legalising gay marriage and adoption for same-sex 

couples in its final vote on the legislation. The landmark reform has been the source of months of heated debate and demonstrations.

 By Joseph BAMAT 
French lawmakers on Tuesday extended marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples, making France the 14th country in the world to legalise gay marriage. The 331 to 225 vote was preceded by months of bitter –and sometimes violent– exchanges on the subject in parliament and in the streets.
The National Assembly first passed the so-called “Marriage for All” law in February. It had to give it a second and final reading on Tuesday, after the upper-house Senate approved the same bill with some amendments on April 12.
The landmark legislation was greeted by wild cheering from some and boos by others gathered outside the National Assembly. Opponents were scheduled to converge outside the building to protest the reform at 7pm, as they have been doing for the past several days.
“I hope people across the country will celebrate this moment,” said Martin Gaillard, a 31-year-old advocate of gay marriage, who admitted feeling stressed during the past weeks because of all the attention garnered by the law’s detractors.
“This remains a joyous day,” added Gaillard, whose “Projet Entourage LGBT” has sought to build support for gay marriage on the Internet for over two years.

He recalled that gay marriage had little political traction at the start ofhis project, but then became a hot topic of the 2012 presidential campaign. President François Hollande came to power last Maypromising to legalise marriage and adoption for same-sex couples.
Recent opinion polls show that a majority –between 53% and 58%– of people in France support gay marriage.
According to Yves-Marie Cann, of the French polling firm CSA, those figures have remained constant throughout months of controversy. However, he noted that the number of people against adoption by same-sex couples has risen in recent months, with 56% now opposed to the measure.
Violent confrontations
The months-long legislative process was closely followed by supporters and opponents of the bill, who staged massive rallies in Paris and around the country to either defend or try to defeat the historic bill.
The anti-gay marriage camp –a motley mix that includes traditional Catholic families, some members of the opposition UMP party and far-right groups– organised some of the largest marches seen in France in recent years.
Homophobia in France: Homeless for being gayCSA’s Cann said the issue had revealed a sharp ideological divide in French society, with more than 72% of right-wing sympathisers saying they were against the law.

As the bill neared a final vote, some opponents adopted a hardline approach, leading to violent confrontations with policeon Paris’s iconic Champs Elysées in late March.
Meanwhile, rights groups said they had documented a significantrise in attacks targeting gays and LGBT-friendly businesses, and accused the so-called peaceful protests of trivialising hateful homophobic speech. On the eve of the vote, National Assembly president Claude Bartolone received a letter filled with gunpowder warning him to delay it.
Frustrations also spilled over inside parliament, where quarrelling MP’s allegedly threw punches and had to be separated by security last week.
An evolving process
Opponents pledged to keep fighting the marriage reform despite its passing. Just hours before the vote, opposition MP Henri Guaino told France Inter radio that he would continue joining protests until Hollande called a referendum on the issue.
Guaino nevertheless admitted that it would be very difficult to reverse the law once it went into effect and after same-sex couples began to wed.

Other lawmakers said they would immediately request that the law be scrutinised by France’s Constitutional Council, while others said they would repeal it as soon as conservatives regained a majority in parliament. Leaders of the anti-gay marriage marches announced they would consider running in mayoral elections next year.
Gaillard, the gay-marriage activist, said the legislative victory was somewhat anticlimactic. “I feel like this is part of an evolving process; this is clearly the direction France needs to move in. The impression I have is that we are finally catching up.”
France is now the ninth European country to legalise gay marriage, joining Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Portugal, as well as neighbouring Belgium and Spain.
Questioned as to what would become of Projet Entourage LGBT –now that gay marriage was no longer an idea but a reality– Gaillard said his group was considering turning its attention to championing access to in vitro fertilisation for same-sex couples or supporting teen victims of homophobia. For now, he said he was only sure he would be catching up on some hard-earned rest.

November 24, 2012

Americans and Russians Trying to Work Out Friction on Abortions

Children play in an orphanage in Moscow. While some Russian officials are critical of foreign adoptions, the U.S. and Russia are finalizing an agreement designed to improve the safety and quality of adoptions of Russian children by American families.
Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images

Americans have been adopting Russian children in sizable numbers for two decades, and most of the unions have worked out well. But it remains a sensitive topic in Russia, where officials periodically point to high-profile cases of abuse or other problems.
Now, the two countries are putting the finishing touches on a new agreement governing these adoptions. It will make the process costlier and more time-consuming, but it's designed to address a host of concerns.
Some Russian officials still seem to bristle at the very thought of foreigners adopting Russian children.
In a speech before parliament last month, Pavel Astakhov, President Vladimir Putin's commissioner for children's rights, cited statistics that make the U.S. look like a hotbed of violence against children.
He attacked the notion that Russian orphans will be deprived of a future without foreign adoptions, calling the claim "hysterics" and "lies."
Tightening Standards
Artyom Savelyev, now 9, was sent back to Russia on a plane by his adoptive U.S. mother in 2010. The case stirred anger in Russia.

Misha Japaridze/AP
Artyom Savelyev, now 9, was sent back to Russia on a plane by his adoptive U.S. mother in 2010. The case stirred anger in Russia.
Despite his vehemence, Astakhov is one of the main authors of the new agreement, which seeks to improve the safety and quality of U.S.-Russia adoptions.
More than 60,000 Russian children have been adopted into American homes since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Even so, critics focus on what they say are at least 19 cases worldwide where Russian children have been killed by their foreign adoptive parents.
In a U.S. case that attracted widespread attention in 2010, a Tennessee woman put her 7-year-old adopted son on a plane back to Russia alone, along with a note saying that he was mentally unstable.
The new rules seek to avoid such incidents by requiring adoptions be carried out only through certified agencies.
"If we look at some of the adoptions that have made the news, they were done somewhat spontaneously — not with accredited agencies," says Linda Brownlee, executive director of the Adoption Center of Washington.
In some of the cases, parents were also not properly prepared to adopt, Brownlee notes. Under the agreement, adoptive parents must attend and pay for a mandatory preparation course, she says, a commitment of time and money that many prospective parents haven't been planning on.
"I have had one family here from our agency in Northern Virginia [that] had to travel within three days to Philadelphia, and spend three or four days in a hotel, so that they would get their education credits," Brownlee says.
Kathleen Strottman, executive director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute in Washington, says she thinks the preparation courses will pay off.
"We've found over the last several years that children who are institutionalized for long periods of time will have an adjustment period once they come here to the United States," Strottman says. "Often, parents were finding they were unprepared for that."
Ultimately, Strottman says, "parents will be glad they did it."
Inside Russia, Relatively Few Adoptions
U.S. adoptions of Russian children have fallen off in recent years. Experts say that's due in part to the uncertain U.S. economy.
But inside Russia, internal adoptions haven't picked up the slack — even though the process for Russians to adopt is free of charge and many regions offer financial incentives for families to adopt.
Anatoly Vasilyev, director of the SOS Children's Village, a children's home on the outskirts of Moscow, says government incentives hadprompted an upsurge in the number of children adopted by Russian families.
But now, as many of those children reach the difficult age of puberty, Vasilyev says about 1 in 10 of those children is being returned to state orphanages.
More should be done, Vasilyev says, to place children in caring families who aren't motivated by money.
Chuck Johnson, president and CEO of the National Council for Adoption in Alexandria, Va., says Russia's political hostility toward foreign adoptions is understandable. He said a similar hostility would emerge in the U.S. if foreigners began adopting American kids.
"That's true in every country, and it's true in Russia," Johnson says. "Even though they have more than 700,000 children in institutional care, even though the polls show that Russian citizens are not interested in adopting them, there's still this tendency to want to keep them there — even though it's in [the children's] best interest to be adopted."
Johnson points out that there are still elements of the agreement that need to be clarified in U.S.-Russia talks that are to be wrapped up this winter.
Overall, Johnson says, he's optimistic that the agreement will end up being a good one — for the children and for families who want to adopt.

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