Monday, September 29, 2008

International or Domestic Adoption?

The number of international adoptions continued to decline in 2007. While the State Department reported that adoptions from countries such as China and Russia rose between 1993 and 2005, recent restrictions from overseas adoption agencies have caused the rate of international adoptions to go down. With over 114,000 children in the United States still living under foster care, perhaps it is time to turn our attention closer to home. It is important to consider some of the undeserved myths and overlooked benefits of adopting domestically.

Access to your child’s medical and social history is essential in order to adequately address special needs such as exposure to drugs and alcohol in babies or attachment disorders in older children. Medical records and foster agencies will provide all of this information for domestic children, while information on children from overseas is often not available at all. It is commonly believed that agencies in other countries are desperate to get rid of orphaned children and will therefore adopt them more cheaply and quickly than children in the United States. This is also untrue, as the costs and waiting periods for typical international and domestic adoptions are very similar. Fears concerning an adopted child’s biological parents reclaiming them are also unsubstantiated; any domestic adoption requires the birth family to relinquish their parental rights through a legal process and in most cases a foster child is already legally free.

This is not to say that children in other countries do not desperately need parents too. It is essential for every potential adoptive parent to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of adopting domestically and to clarify many of the myths that contribute to so many American children remaining in foster care.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Older Youth in Care

Last week we shared some statistics from the 2008 Survey of Washington State Youth in Foster Care, we continue that this week.

The survey was done with youths aged 15 to 18 years of age. Directly from the survey:
The median number of years spent in foster care, including relative placements, for these youth is five years. The median number of different placements experienced by these youth during their entire years in foster care is four. However 19% of these youth reported having more that 10 different placements during their years in foster care. The median number of social workers that these youth have has since they've been in foster care is three.

Taken together, these statistics show the transience that these youths have had to deal with in addition to the separation from their biological family. Change is difficult for people of any age, but especially for those who have lived through so much uncertainty. Without strong roots, it is difficult for the tree to withstand the pressures which abound. This is why we at NAC support efforts to give children and youths the security of permanency in their lives.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fixing DC's System

A recent article reports that “a federal court has given D.C. two weeks to come up with a plan to fix its adoption system or risk it going back into receivership.” Although the article does not directly point out the ways in which the city’s system is “broken,” it does assume a correlation between it and the currently low rates of both permanent placement and adoption. The number of adoptions in Washington D.C. has dropped by 50 percent between 2005 and 2007, and the trend looks to continue this year. The article provides an account of a couple who attempted to adopt a teenaged foster child and, faced with unreasonable challenges and frustration, was unable to bring the child into their home. If D.C.’s system is in fact preventing children in foster care from finding homes with ready and capable families, then it does indeed need “fixing.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Adoption Clubhouse

With the blog well underway, we just wanted to remind you of another great resource: the Adoption Clubhouse. By going to, children aged 8-13 have access to helpful resources ranging from help with school to information on famous people who have an adoption connection. We know it can be hard to find all of the answers to your child's questions, so we have also included nearly 40 essays and stories created by children that can help them to relate their experiences to others. There is also information for teachers and links to more than 25 featured books and movies about adoption. Take a look and let us know how we can make it even better.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Adoption Around You

Today during an introduction someone mentioned that she was in foster care as a child, until going to live with her aunt and uncle. This was at a business event completely unrelated to adoption or foster care. I began to wonder how many people I know have been touched by adoption or the foster care system. I know two people who are dating men who were adopted. I know others who are parents to adopted children. I'm sure I could think about it and find many other connections. How has and how will adoption touch your life? Even if it is not obvious, it may be impacting your life in many ways, even today.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Right to Know vs. Privacy

Several months ago, we had an email from a 25-year-old woman I’ll call Meryl who was adopted when she was a toddler. Recently, she learned that she had a twin sister, knew where her sister was living and the names of the couple who had adopted her. She called her sister’s adoptive parents and identified herself, but was warned by them not to contact her sister. Why? Her sister did not know she was adopted. Her parents had never told her and had no intention of doing so now. They were worried about how she would handle it and how they would be viewed by her for keeping her adoption a secret for so long.

Meryl wanted to know what to do. She didn’t want to ruin her sister’s life or create a problem between her and her parents. Yet, she felt her sister was entitled to know she had a twin. What if medical issues emerged in the future that would make it important for the two women to be in contact? What about the emotional fallout of being separated from your twin sister?

We told her it was an ethical decision, requiring a determination about whose priorities were the most critical. We referred her to Art Kaplan, head of ethics at the University of Pennsylvania who helped her craft a plan.

How do you think Art Kaplan advised her? What would you have done? Tell us what you think.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Survey of Youth in Foster Care

Washington State just published the results of a survey of youths in foster care in 2007. The youths in question were ages 15-18. There are some really interesting results in this survey. We'll examine a few in forthcoming posts.

Today, let's focus on what the youths thought about their preparedness for life after foster care. Typically at age 18 a youth "ages out" of the system and is on his or her own to find a place to live, find a job, find a way to continue his or her education.

In the survey (full text can be found here), 37% of the respondents participated in an Independent Living or a Transitional Living program. Of those who were facing aging out within 6 months of the survey, 26% felt very prepared to live on their own, 51%, somewhat prepared, and 23% not very or not at all prepared.

Through adoption, one creates the network which will assist a youth growing into adulthood. This network, family, is something we believe all children are entitled to. How prepared were you at 18 to handle all of life's responsibilities with little to no help or guidance?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Foster Children In and Out of Care

According to a new report compiled by the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, a statewide child-advocacy group, Philadelphia children who leave foster care re-enter the system at “extremely high rates.” Many child welfare experts believe that enough isn’t done to strengthen the children’s families so that the children may return to their homes safely and receive loving care.

While no one wants to see children taken away from their parents permanently, the facts show that some parents will never be able to take care of their children, no matter the supports they are given. Little seems to have changed in three decades…we continue to see children who are returned to their family homes again and again only to be abused and neglected, sometimes to the point of death. Indeed, the first option for these children should be living with their parents, but only when the parents demonstrate that they will nurture and care for them. If that can’t happen, the children should be freed to be placed with adoptive families.

We have helped find adoptive families for more than 21,000 children and we know that there are families who want— who will even advocate for-- these children. Every one of them deserves the chance to grow up healthy and happy. It is up to those of us in child welfare, those who are responsible for these children’s futures, to know when enough is enough…when children, in order to survive and thrive, must leave the parents who gave birth to them and move on to parents who will cherish and nourish them.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

White House Conference for Children Bill

As an organization we have signed on in support of the Child Welfare League of America's effort to get a White House Conference on Children & Youth. Upon congressional approval, a conference would be held in 2010 at the White House re-establishing conferences that took place every ten years from 1910 to 1970. Typically there is one year of local, state and tribal events to gather input and momentum in advance of the conference. Participants would include state officials, court and legal representatives, providers, children, tribal representatives and other parties effected by or involved with the child welfare system.

Why are we supporting this conference? Because it covers solely child welfare
, it would focus attention on issues from prevention, intervention to permanency including reunification, kinship care and adoption. The timing of the event, early in a new presidency, should get the candidates to address child welfare issues in their campaigns and to have these topics on their agendas early in their terms.

What can you do?
First and foremost you can contact your Senators and Representatives in Congress and urge them to support this. Call 202/224-3121 to connect to Congress. Go to the CWLA's website for further information.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Legislative Action

The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, September 10 to consider the Chairman's Mark of the Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act (S. 3038), which includes important improvements for children and youth in foster care. The Center has supported this piece of legislation and we ask you to also.

What does the new legislation call for?
  • Extending and Improving Adoption Incentives - continuation of current state-incentive program with new emphasis on special needs adoptions.

  • Increasing Tribal Foster Care and Adoption Access - tribes would be able to receive funding directly to provide foster care services within the tribal community.

  • Keeping More Kids with Relative Guardians - Permanent placements with relatives would be encouraged through both relaxing the home-study rules for kin adopters and by providing adoption subsidy to relatives who become permanent guardians of kin.

  • Supporting Older Children in Foster Care - States would be required to assist youths transitioning out of the foster care system, even after their 18th birthday, in finding housing, employment, education and medical coverage.

  • Helping Caregivers Reach support and resources - Programs would be set up to assist relatives who are permanent guardians find the support and resources already in place for them.

The committee mark-up will take place at 10:00 am in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 215. Please call or email your local senator and voice your support of this bill.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Hague's Impact Domestically

As a result of the Hague Adoption Convention, ratified in December, 2007, which standardizes policies and protocols for international adoption, adoptions by Americans of children from other countries has slowed dramatically.

Maybe this is good news for the 120,000 children in this country’s foster care system who wait to be adopted. They are not the healthy babies or toddlers often associated with adoption; they are usually school aged, some are teenagers, and they may be brothers and sisters who want to be adopted together. Some have emotional issues; others have physical or mental disabilities. But they all need families, and if you ask families who have adopted children like them, they invariably say they regret they didn’t do it sooner.

Advantages of adopting these children include:

• Cost—while international adoptions usually cost more than $20,000, there is virtually no cost to adopting from the foster care system
• Ease of adoption—there is no need to travel to another country, sometimes more than once, and to go through extensive immigration and naturalization procedures
• More information available on children—While information about the children’s background and medical history is scant when adopting from other countries, adoption agencies here make every effort to get complete medical and background information on the children in foster care, back to infancy

We want to see every child who needs a home find one no matter where in the world he or she lives. But the rush to adopt children from Russia and Guatemala and China and Roumania has shortchanged the children right here in our own country who need families. Some of them have been waiting for years. As one ten-year-old boy put it, “I’m a good boy. Why doesn’t anyone want me?”

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New Beginings

Whether one has children in the home or not, September always seems like a time of new beginnings. Here at the Center we are starting our new blog. This is our voice to you where we can share all types of things from the latest adoption news, to common obstacles we see our families and children facing.

We also want to hear back from you. While we'll be posting specific questions for you to respond to, we welcome comments on any post. We will be using the information we gather from you to inform our work here at the Center. We want to ensure that all the children in foster care find permanent homes, and your insights, suggestions, front-line reports will help us to reach that goal.

Thank you for entering this dialog with us.