Thursday, December 18, 2008

PEAR is a 501(c)(3)

Dear Members, Friends and Supporters,

PEAR is pleased to announce that the IRS has officially determined us to be a 501(c)(3) Public Charity. Donations made to PEAR between March 14, 2008, the date of our incorporation in Pennsylvania, and into the future are tax deductible.

Please consider making your tax deductible donation to PEAR by December 31, 2008 in order to include it in your 2008 tax return.

Donations can be made through our website via PayPal or by check. See our website http://www.pear-now.org/ for details.

Warmest Regards,

Gina Pollock
President
PEAR
http://www.pear-now.org/
Make a Difference - Join PEAR Now!

BE the change you want to see in the world. - Gandhi

Friday, December 5, 2008

DOS Notice on Ukraine

Adoption Notice

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children’s Issues
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

December 5, 2008

New Adoption Regulations in Effect

On October 8, 2008 the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine approved Resolution #905, introducing new regulations for adoptions and the protection of the rights of adopted children. This Resolution cancels the previous adoption Resolution #1377. The new regulations went into effect on December 1, 2008.

The Resolution sets regulations for the registration of abandoned children at the local, regional and central levels. It also describes adoption proceedings for both domestic and intercountry adoptions. Some of these changes will affect the intercountry adoption process. These changes are described in more detail below and in the updated country specific information on adoption from Ukraine. We have also revised the list of documents that should be submitted to the SDAPRC for registration to reflect all of the changes.

Adoption Home Study

Resolution #905 introduces more specific requirements for the adoption home study. The home study should include the following items: home address, living conditions (number of bedrooms, living space and conditions for the adopted child), biographic information of the parents, household members (number of persons residing in the same household and their relation to the adoptive parent, number of biological children, if any); adoptive parents’ approach towards adoption. The home study must also include the recommendations regarding the number, age and health condition of the children that can be adopted by the prospective adoptive parents. The important thing to remember is that the conclusion should clearly state that it is the agency/social worker’s recommendation for this family to adopt this particular child or children, not just the family’s own preference.

Refusal to Register Adoption Dossiers

According to this Resolution the SDAPRC will now have the right to refuse to register your dossier if, at the time of the dossier’s submission to the SDAPRC, the central database of Ukrainian children available for intercountry adoptions will not contain any children complying with the recommendation in your home study. Given the statistics published by the SDAPRC and available on our website at: http://kyiv.usembassy.gov/amcit_adoptions_notice_0119_eng.html, there are currently no healthy children (or children with minor, correctable health problems) under three and very few under six years old. Therefore, if you are recommended for a healthy child or a child with minor/correctable health problems under six years of age, the SDAPRC is very likely to refuse even to accept and register your dossier.

Adoptive Parent’s Commitment to Register the Child and Provide Annual Reports to the Embassy or Consulate of Ukraine

This document must be prepared in duplicate and should include the following commitments:

•to register the adopted child with the respective Consulate or Embassy of Ukraine (indicating the name and full address of the Consulate/Embassy);
•to provide the adopted child with the opportunity to keep their Ukrainian citizenship until 18 years old;
•to submit annual reports on the adopted child to the Consulate or Embassy of Ukraine at least once a year for the first three years after the adoption and once every three years afterwards, until the child’s 18th birthday;
•to provide an opportunity to the representatives of the Consulate/Embassy of Ukraine to communicate with the adopted child;
•to inform the Consulate/Embassy of Ukraine about any change of address of the adopted child.
Marriage Certificate

The SDAPRC will now require two notarized copies of marriage certificate, instead of one.

Proof of income

W-2 forms for the most recent six months or tax returns for the last calendar year, certified by the issuing authority or notarized.

Ownership/Rental Documents

Your adoption dossier must now include a notarized copy of the document confirming the ownership or rental rights of the adoptive parents for their house or apartment, indicating its total and living area as well as the number of bedrooms.

Other Requirements and Notes

The SDAPRC will not accept any notarized statements in place of W-2 forms or other proof of income; neither will they accept notarized statements/affidavits instead of the documents confirming the property rights.

On the date of submission of your documents to the SDAPRC they should remain valid for at least six months. Documents are valid for 12 months from the date of issuance or notarization, except for the I-171H form, which is valid for 18 months.

Priority for Adoptions

The SDAPRC will give priority for submission of documents and scheduling appointments to the following adoptive parents:

•biological relatives of the adopted child;
•those who are applying for adoption of biological siblings of their previously adopted children;
•adoptive parents applying for adoption of the children suffering from one of the health problems posted on our website at: http://kyiv.usembassy.gov/amcit_adoptions_eng.html These children are also not subject to one-year registration term at the central database for intercountry adoptions.


Maximum Number of Appointments with the SDAPRC

As of December 1, 2008 the SDAPRC will allow only three appointments to each adoptive family to look at the children’s files. If you have not chosen any children after the third appointment, your adoption dossier will be returned to you immediately. (Currently, the SDAPRC also limits the number of adoption referrals issued to each family to two referrals.) You need to submit a notarized statement to request a second appointment with your dossier to the SDAPRC and then they officially have ten business days to respond with the date of your second/third appointment.

Please note this information is provided as a general guidance only; all questions involving interpretation of specific Ukrainian adoption laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel or your adoption service provider.

Source: http://adoption.state.gov/news/ukraine.html

Friday, November 28, 2008

DOS Notice on Sierra Leone: Nov 28, 2008

Sierra Leone
Adoption Notice

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children’s Issues
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________ October 28, 2008

U.S. Embassy Offers Orphan First Program

Due to the high rate of adoption fraud in Sierra Leone, the U.S. Embassy in Dakar is offering prospective adopting parents the opportunity for a preliminary, unofficial review of a child's orphan status. Under the "Orphan First" pilot program, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), in conjunction with the Department of State (DOS), will determine whether or not a child meets the definition of orphan prior to the adoptive parents completing adoption proceedings at the parents' request. It is hoped that this program will prevent situations where U.S. citizens find that they have adopted a child from abroad but the child is not able to immigrate to the U.S. because the child does not meet the definition of orphan under section 101(b)(1)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

*Note: The formal, final determination of whether or not your child meets the definition of orphan still cannot be made until after you have a legal obligation to your child.

Prospective adoptive parents who would like to take advantage of this offer, should fax (011-221- 822-5903) or email (consulardakar@state.gov ) the following documents, if available and applicable, to the U.S. Consul when they request this unofficial review:

1. Completed I-604
2. A copy of the child's official intake form completed at the time the child was brought to the orphanage. The intake form should indicate the circumstances under which the child was brought to the orphanage and any actions taken to confirm the facts.
3. A copy of the child's birth certificate.
4. A copy of a death certificate for any parent who has died.

If the child has one sole or surviving parent, a copy of the statement the biological parent made at the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs irrevocably relinquishing parental rights.

If a parent has abandoned a child or disappeared, copies of the police report, the report by Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs detailing efforts to locate the parent and severing parental ties of the missing parent, and/or a court order making the child a ward of the state.

After reviewing the documents, the U.S. Consul will inform you whether the child you hope to adopt is an orphan if all of the documents are authentic, whether the child is not an orphan, or whether it is likely that a field investigation would be required in order to confirm orphan status.
The U.S. Embassy in Freetown is responsible for field investigations. Due to workload constraints, field investigations are not conducted until the U.S. Consul in Dakar receives a copy of a court order from the High Court of Sierra Leone granting either a full and final adoption (IR3) or leave to adopt (IR4) and evidence of orphan status. Field investigations can take between 3 and 6 months, depending on workload and the availability of witnesses to confirm evidence of orphan status.

With addition questions, contact the U.S. Embassy in Dakar or the Office of Children’s Issues.

Source: http://adoption.state.gov/news/sierra%20leone.html

Saturday, November 22, 2008

PEAR's Fall Newsletter

Greetings to all of our members, followers, and curious folks wondering what we are up to.

Fall Membership Drive

Our Fall Membership Drive officially commenced on November 20, 2008. An e-blitz to over 400 online and offline adoption information and support groups was undertaken in an effort to make the adoption community aware of the missions and current projects of PEAR and to increase our membership. PEAR has great ideas and lots of work to do but we need the help of dedicated members to get the work done. Please read about our projects below and if you are not yet a member, consider joining us. If you are a member, please consider helping out in one or more of our projects or just drop a line in our members only group and let us know what you would like to see PEAR do to help make adoption practices ethical. For more information on the Membership Drive, please contact Pam Veazie at PharmGirl13@indy.rr.com.

Adoption Agency Licensure, Regulation, and Oversight Project

PEAR is commencing a study on the licensing, regulation and oversight of adoption agencies. The purpose of this study will be to better educate prospective adoptive parents, expectant mothers and the general public on the role of adoption agencies, to ensure best practices in adoption, to find appropriate avenues for resolving conflicts among agencies and clients, and to establish the groundwork for a model system that adequately protects the entire triad. The first phase of the study will explore the current laws and regulations governing adoption agencies. PEAR is working with a Pennsylvania Law School to establish a pro bono research opportunity to help us complete this phase by April 30, 2009.

The second phase will explore current systems for resolving conflict, making formal complaints and overseeing the work of adoption agencies. The final phase will analyze the efficacy of the current system, and propose improvements that will better protect the adoption triad. For further information on this project, please contact Gina Pollock: rmprhp @ yahoo.com.

Post Adoption Services Project

PEAR is pleased to announce the creation of a Post-Adoption Service Project. The first phase of this project will be an Observational Survey of Adoptive Parents on Success, Satisfaction and Types of Post-Adoption Services. To date, there has been no comprehensive survey of this nature ever conducted by any other group. This project has three main goals: to identify Post-Adoption support that PEAR can provide to fill in the gaps that currently exist, to lay the groundwork for a joint clinical, randomized study with a larger, well-established adoptive parent organization, and to demonstrate PEAR's commitment as an organization dedicated to wholly supporting adoptive parents. Our hope is that this project will lead PEAR to work with other organizations to provide a comprehensive “healing roadmap” for adopted children and their families. For further information on this this project, please contact Pamela Veazie: PharmGirl13 @ indy.rr.com

Call to Action Vietnam

Last November, PEAR launched the Call to Action: Vietnam in response to increasing concerns within the adoption community over the ethical problems surrounding adoptions from Vietnam. Although we were officially barred from the JCICS Summit on Vietnam, we were permitted to comment on their proposed Standards of Practice. While JCICS incorporated many of our comments into the proposal, there many issues left unaddressed, or inadequately addressed, such as fees, paper trails, relinquishment/abandonment, and other issues surrounding ethical practices. A copy of our comments can be downloaded at our website http://www.pear-now.org/.

Throughout the following year, PEAR has offered support and resources to families with children adopted from Vietnam who are facing the difficult realization that their adoptions may have been corrupted. We have also continued to monitor the situation and have offered our perspective to our government officials in Washington and Hanoi. For further information on Call to Action: Vietnam, please contact Karen Moline or Margaret Weeks at reform @ pear-now.org

Hague Issues

PEAR has been monitoring the transition to the Hague Process for the past year. We have submitted official comments on the Hague regulations regarding the adoption process and I800 which can be downloaded at our website: http://www.pear-now.org/. We also provided feedback and comments to the COA, Colorado DHS and DOS on applicant and accredited agencies and approved persons throughout the accreditation process. We continue to monitor agencies and approve persons, the applicant process, and complaints against Hague accredited agencies.

In addition to the accreditation and I800 issues, PEAR encouraged the USCIS to properly interpret the federal regulations regarding the grandfathering of transition cases and allow the renewals of I600a approvals. As a result of our efforts and the efforts of numerous adoption advocacy groups and adoptive and prospective adoptive parents, the USCIS changed its position in October to officially permit the continued renewal of I600a's in transition cases.

For additional Information on our Hague related activities, please contact us at reform@pear-now.org

Adoptee Access to Records

PEAR fully supports the right of all adoptees to full and complete access to their birth information. Over the past year, we have written to numerous state legislatures and adoption groups concerning our position and encouraged them to support initiatives and legislation in support of open access. For further information on PEAR's work in support of Adoptee Access to Records, please contact us at reform@pear-now.org

Adoptive Parents Bill of Rights and Prospective Adoptive Parents Bill of Rights

In response to a request at the Ethics and Accountability Conference last fall for a written Bill of Right for Adoptive Parents and Prospective Adoptive Parents, PEAR has been busy drafting and refining a version that respects the rights of adoptive parents, families of origin and adoptees and ensures best practices in adoption and post adoption services. Our committees are currently polishing the final drafts, which we hope to release in early January 2009. For further information on these projects, please contact Gina Pollock at reform@pear-now.org

Nonprofit Status and Corporate Issues

In March of 2008, PEAR became a non profit corporation organized under Pennsylvania law. We completed our 1023 application for 501(c)(3) status which was filed in July of 2008 and are currently awaiting our determination letter. Until we receive a favorable determination from the IRS, donations to PEAR are not tax deductible. However, your financial support is still needed to complete our projects and keep our organization viable! Copies of our corporate documents are available upon request by writing to us at reform @ pear-now.org

In the Spotlight

Tidbits of information, resources and articles worth pursuing in the fight for ethical adoptions:

So, sue me! For far too long adoptive and prospective adoptive families injured by unethical practices remained silent believing they had no power to fight the adoption industry. However, a trend over the past two years shows that families have begun to speak up and demand justice. In October of 2006, a civil RICO case was filed against Waiting Angels Adoption Agency in Michigan. Since that time, numerous adoptive and prospective adoptive parents have sought each other out through online adoption support groups, pooled their resources and banded together to seek justice against agencies engaging in unethical and illegal acts. To date, civil RICO complaints have been filed against Waiting Angels, Adoption International Program (AIP/Orson Moses), Project Oz, and Main Street Adoption Services. Further information on these law suits can be found at the website for Fixel Law Offices fixellawoffices.com. Remember, each of these cases began by families sharing stories and reaching out in online adoption groups. Use your voice, you would be surprised at the power we have when we join forces!

The Lie We Love. A recent article written by EJ Graff and published in Foreign Policy, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/, has generated a lot of discussion in adoption groups in the US and abroad. PEAR highly recommends that prospective and adoptive parents read Ms. Graff's article and visit the Brandeis University Schuster Institute website for more information on corruption in international adoption. Prospective adoptive parents should be sure to check out the interactive map available on the website before selecting a country program.

DOS Updated Adoption Site. It's been a long time coming, but the US Department of State has finally updated and revamped its information on international adoption from both Hague and non-Hague countries. Please take some time to peruse the site, especially if you are just starting the process of adoption. http://www.blogger.com/www.adoption.state.gov

Make a Difference - Join PEAR Now!

Gina Pollock
President
Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform
http://www.pear-now.org/
526 N President Ave
Lancaster PA 17603
reform@pear-now.org

BE the change you want to see in the world. - Gandhi

Thursday, October 16, 2008

UPDATE: Call to Action Vietnam - USCIS/DOS Statements

Adoptions from Vietnam to the United States Will Not Resume Without a New Bilateral Agreement - Action Taken to Establish Safeguards that Protect Children and Families

WASHINGTON – United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State (DOS) issued a joint statement with the government of Vietnam announcing that the processing of new adoption cases will not resume until both countries sign a new bilateral agreement.

The governments of the United States and Vietnam are taking this action jointly because both governments recognize the complexity of issues relating to intercountry adoptions and the importance of developing a transparent adoption system that protects all parties. The United States continues to strongly support the Vietnamese government's efforts to establish an appropriate child adoption system with sound safeguards and protections for children and families. Until a new bilateral agreement is reached, USCIS and DOS have concluded it is in the best interest of children and families to not process any post-Sept. 1, 2008 adoption cases. This action does not affect cases where the prospective adoptive parents were matched with a child before Sept. 1, 2008, the date the previous bilateral agreement expired.

USCIS and DOS will continue to process Vietnamese intercountry adoption cases where the child was matched with the prospective adoptive family before Sept. 1, 2008. Prospective adoptive parents, who may need clarification of the status of their case, may verify whether their adoption petition qualifies as a pre-Sept. 1 case by e-mailing the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi at: hanoiadoptions@state.gov. The Embassy strongly advises prospective adoptive parents not to travel to Vietnam until they have received notification from the Embassy that their case is ready for final processing and travel is appropriate.

The United States government is committed to supporting Vietnam in its efforts to establish practices necessary to appropriately process intercountry adoptions. We have therefore expressed our willingness to begin negotiations on a new bilateral agreement with the government of Vietnam that addresses the deficiencies in their current system. We cannot predict when a new bilateral adoption agreement with adequate safeguards for all parties will be concluded.

http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=fa81be340e10d110VgnVCM1000004718190aRCRD&vgnextchannel=f3beaca797e63110VgnVCM1000004718190aRCRD

Tiny URL: http://tinyurl.com/4dqxzo

The joint statement between the United States and Vietnam is available in the RelatedLinks section of the USCIS webpage.

Additional information on international adoptions is available online at www.travel.state.gov, or in the Adoptions section of the USCIS website.

Additional printed FAQ available at the USCIS website: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=a805be340e10d110VgnVCM1000004718190aRCRD&vgnextchannel=f3beaca797e63110VgnVCM1000004718190aRCRD

Tiny URL: http://tinyurl.com/3vw9aw

USCIS Update on I600a Renewals for Hague Transition Cases

Finally, some good news for Hague Transition applicants!

The USCIS published a new FAQ on October 14, 2008 containing an update and reversal of it's previous stance on I600a renewals for Hague Transition cases. Transition applications will now be fully grandfathered, meaning that families may file one free 18 month extension AND, if their transition adoption has not been completed by the expiration of the free extension, they may file another I600a and fee to renew approval.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Families with a transition case MUST keep their underlying I600a from expiring. If they allow the I600a to expire without filing for renewal, the case will have to be processed under Hague Convention rules (I800a).

http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=b1131c48aabfc110VgnVCM1000004718190aRCRD&vgnextchannel=68439c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD

Tiny URL: http://tinyurl.com/I-600infofromPEAR

Thank you to all adoptive and prospective adoptive families, adoption advocacy groups, and friends who took the time to contact government officials on this issue, our voices were heard!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

USCIS Posts FAQ on Intercountry Adoption

The USCIS published an updated list of FAQ on Intercountry adoptions dated
9/29/08. The New FAQ can be found at:

http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=0dc16c30c3fac110VgnVCM1000004718190aRCRD&vgnextchannel=68439c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD

Tiny URL: http://tinyurl.com/3zr4qb

If either link gives you trouble, just go to: http://www.uscis.gov/ and click on "Press Room" in the upper righthand corner.

The FAQ address some frequent concerns stated by PAPs in process of adopting from Hague and Non-Hague countries and I600a vs. I800a issues.

Noticeably missing is a clear statement as to the number of times a PAP can renew an I600a filed before April 1, 2008 in a Hague Country. DOS informed PAPs who were in process last spring that if they filed the I600a before April 1, 2008, they would be grandfathered into the I600a pre-Hague process (see DOS statement: "Transition cases will continue to be processed in accordance with the immigration regulations for non-Convention adoptions which were in effect at the time the case was filed. Non-Convention procedures differ from the new Convention adoption procedures." http://travel.state.gov/pdf/AdoptionFactSheet_TransitionCases4-09-2008.pdf).

The Immigration regulations on renewals which were in effect on April 1, 2008 can be found in the Final Rule on I600a renewals published in the Federal Register in February 2007. Read in its entirety, the Final Rule states that PAPs may receive one free renewal and subsequent renewals must be accompanied by a fee.(see: http://www.uscis.gov/files/nativedocuments/FinalRule.pdf) We at PEAR read this as meaning there is more than one opportunity to renew the I600a, but only one renewal is free. From what we understand, however, USCIS is interpreting this to mean that only one renewal is permitted. PEAR continues to press USCIS on a final statement that is consistent with the intent and letter of the law. We encourage PAPs and APs to call or write to the USCIS, DOS and their Congressmen requesting that USCIS permit more than one renewal of I600a applications in Hague transition cases as well as non-Hague cases.

Some helpful contact information:

USCIS
1-877-424-8374

DOS
AdoptionUSCA@state.gov

Gerry W. Fuller,
Intercountry Adoptions
FullerGW@state.gov


Gina Pollock
President
PEAR
http://www.blogger.com/www.pear-now.org

Thursday, September 11, 2008

UPDATE on I800a Processing for Hague Convention Cases

Notification of a change in processing for Hague Convention cases was published in the Federal Register on August 26, 2008. The notice regards a change in filing location for I-800A and I800 applications and other related forms for adoptions from Hague Convention countries.

Beginning September 25, 2008, all listed forms should be filed with the following USCIS Chicago Lockbox facility located in Illinois:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
P.O. Box 805695,
Chicago, IL 60680-4118.

Please see the link below for further information and a complete listing of forms that should be sent to the Chicago Lockbox location

http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/E8-19723.htm

ALSO, PLEASE NOTE: This change only impacts Hague country adoptions. [Note that forms I-600 and I600A related to countries not party to the Hague will have no change in filing location.]

Here is the summary of the notice as published in the Federal Register:

SUMMARY: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is expanding its Direct Mail Program to include Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative, and Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country.

Applicants must submit Forms I-800, I-800A, and all related supplements and forms to the USCIS Chicago Lockbox facility located in Illinois, for initial processing. Applicants were previously required to file at a USCIS field office with jurisdiction over their place of current residence. The Direct Mail Program allows USCIS to process applications more efficiently by eliminating duplicative work, maximizing staff productivity, and introducing better information management tools."

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Lissette Kvortek,
HQ Adjudications Officer
Office of Field Operations
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Department of Homeland Security
20 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
Washington, DC 20529
Telephone (202) 272-1001.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

DOS:Update on Tu Du Hospital in Vietnam (2008)

Vietnam

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children’s Issues


August 19, 2008

Documentation related to intercountry adoption of children born at Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City is unreliable, according to recent field investigations by U.S. officials. Specifically, U.S. officials conducting verification reviews see a pattern of false information in documentation pertaining to the birth mothers of children born at Tu Du Hospital. Field investigations indicate that one particular facility possesses the correct information. U.S. officials have been told that they do not have permission to review hospital records or interview hospital staff regarding any individual case; therefore verifying the orphan status of these children is extremely difficult. U.S. officials have also recently been informed that it is Tu Du Hospital’s policy to document all children as desertion cases regardless of the actual circumstances leading to their being made available for intercountry adoption.

In light of these discoveries, the Department of State and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recommend that U.S. adoption service providers refer children born at Tu Du Hospital only when the child is a special need child or when all parties can ensure that the information pertaining to the birth parent can be verified, where a birth parent can be identified and/or when a birth parent can be interviewed to confirm that the child qualifies as an orphan in accordance with U.S. law. State and USCIS will continue to process cases already filed for children born at Tu Du Hospital; however, prospective adoptive parents should be aware that the circumstances discussed above have resulted in significant delays in the verification process of their cases. State and USCIS understand the severe impact of these delays, and commit to working expeditiously on these complex cases. To the extent possible, State and USCIS will process cases on a first in, first out basis.

USCIS and the Department of State are committed to seeking an ethical and prioritized resolution to these cases. The U.S. Government continues to reach out to local authorities who oversee the hospital’s actions in order to achieve greater cooperation in conducting field verifications. Prospective adoptive parents may contact USCIS through HCMAdoptions@dhs.gov to address specific questions they may have regarding their case.

http://www.travel.state.gov/family/adoption/intercountry/intercountry_4329.html

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.
http://www.pear-now.org/

Saturday, May 3, 2008

UPDATE: Call to Action Vietnam - USCIS Warning

UPDATE: Call to Action Vietnam

On Friday, April 25, 2008, the US Embassy in Hanoi took the unprecedented step of releasing a detailed "Summary of Irregularities in Adoptions in Vietnam" about the adoption corruption their recent investigations uncovered in Vietnam. The text of this summary can be found at: http://vietnam.usembassy.gov/irreg_adoptions042508.html

This summary followed an earlier warning not initiate adoptions from Vietnam, which can be found at:
http://vietnam.usembassy.gov/adoption_warning0408.html

In it, the Embassy stated: "On April 25, the Government of Vietnam announced that it will allow adoption to be completed in cases where prospective adoptive parents have been matched with a child and received an official referral prior to September 1, 2008". It further stated that in accordance with Vietnamese law, "the DIA will suspend the acceptance of new dossiers on July 1, 2008. On September 1, 2008 any dossier that has not received a referral will be closed and returned to the Adoption Service Provider. In view of the processing time required in Vietnam from placement to the Giving and Receiving Ceremony, an adoption process begun now cannot be completed before the current Agreement expires."

In news articles widely disseminated on the Internet, DIA angrily denied the charges and stated that the MOU (Memo of Understanding) governing adoptions between the US and Vietnam would not be renewed.

Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform (PEAR) sympathizes with all families caught up in this situation: prospective adoptive parents (PAPs), adoptive parents, birth parents, and children. We know that this news is extremely disturbing to parents waiting to adopt, as well as to adoptive parents (APs) of Vietnamese children, who must now wonder if their children's adoptions had been free from corruption. This is a tragedy effectively ending the adoption dreams of many PAPs, while affecting the future of the legitimate orphans awaiting these families. It particularly puts ongoing humanitarian aid from adoption agencies (ASPs)
to these desperately needy orphanages at risk. It is a position no person should ever have been placed in.

We also wish to support the efforts of the US Embassy in Hanoi, particularly the Adoptive Children Immigrant Visa Unit, who have worked tirelessly for many months, and amid mounting criticism from many PAPs angry at delays affecting their paperwork, to uncover the ongoing corruption that has been presented in damning, incontrovertible detail. Given this report, there can be no doubt about the serious flaws in the adoption process in Vietnam. Adoptions from Vietnam can no longer be defended as free from potential corruption, and they need to cease. A great deal of work on the part of both countries must be undergone before there is any talk of entering into a new agreement.

However, given the lack of transparency; the failure of DIA to adhere to several of the most salient points of the MOU; the licensing by DIA of many agencies known to have engaged in corrupt practices before the first shutdown; the anger engendered by the Department of State's investigations in different Vietnamese provinces; and the staunch denial of wrongdoing by these ASPs (and their clients) who knowingly tried to hide their trafficking, PEAR is not surprised that Vietnam adoptions to the US will cease.

As a result, PEAR believes it is time for PAPs who will no longer be able to adopt from Vietnam, as well as APs who now may have reason to doubt the legitimacy of their child's adoption, to unite. By uniting, we can better demand reform from agencies that have behaved with little government oversight and regulation for far too long.

We suggest the following course of action:

A. For PAPs:
1. Contact your ASP immediately to ask how to proceed with your case.
2. Contact PEAR with any concerns or questions you may have about the proposed procedures from your agency.
3. Contact the US Department of State and or the US Embassy in Hanoi with any suspected illegal or unethical behavior on the part of any ASP.
4. Demand that the DOS dislcose and take legal action against the ASPs that have committed outright illegal and unethical acts in Vietnam.
5. Keep meticulous records of contacts and information provided by your agency. You may have grounds for legal action against the ASP - be prepared with good records.
6. Do not be afraid to speak out. Do not be afraid to demand answers.
7. Consider joining us at PEAR and assisting in our work.
8. Consider donating to legitimate humanitarian aid programs supporting Vietnamese orphanages.

B. For APs who suspect that their completed adoption
may have been unethical and/or illegal:

1. Prepare to take legal action. Review your paperwork, contact your agency, the DOS and the Embassy and request information and assistance in verifying your child's identity and paperwork. Keep meticulous records of contacts and information provided by your agency.
2. Consider an investigation into the adoption through the use of a searcher. PEAR is currently compiling a list of expereinced searchers in Vietnam.
3. Report your concerns and suspicions to PEAR, DOS and the US Embassy in Hanoi. PEAR will be compiling lists of clients according to ASP and province in order to provide families with connections and resources.
4. Consult an attorney who specializes in adoption fraud. PEAR is currently compiling a list of experienced attorneys who may be willing to assist you.
5. Demand that DOS disclose and take legal action against ASPs found to be participating outright in illegal practices.
6. Do not be afraid to speak out. Do not be afraid to demand answers.
7. Consider joining us at PEAR and assisting in our work.
8. Consider donating to legitimate humanitiarian aid programs supporting Vietnamese orphanages.

C. For ASPs working in Vietnam
1. We ask that all ASPs suspend submitting new dossiers at this time, unless they have been assured by the Department of State and DIA that there will be official referrals prior to July 1.
2. We also ask that agencies contact us with their plans and their projected needs for assisting their clients who do not have referrals by July 1.
3. We are calling on all Vietnam ASPs with support of the JCICS to act in a manner that respects the emotional and financial hardship PAPs will be experiencing, and to work in a cooperative manner to find solutions for all families effected by the
pending closure. To assist in this we suggest:
- An effort from all 42 ASPs working in Vietnam to transfer Vietnam dossiers to other country programs within the agency
with minimal financial hardship to families.
- A cooperative effort by the 42 ASPs, with the support of JCICS, in the creation of an inter-agency transfer of dossiers to
other open programs for a minor fee if the original agency does not have other viable options, such as working in
countries other than Vietnam.
4. We ask all APSs currently working in Vietnam to continue with their humanitarian efforts in the provinces and orphanages
with which they work. PEAR will assist in getting the word out to the public concerning legitimate humanitarian aid programs in Vietnam orphanages.

D. For everyone concerned with providing ethical
adoptions in all countries:

1. Write to the DOS and the US Embassy in Hanoi and request the disclosure of ASPs engaged in corrupt activities. While the US Embassy in Hanoi may not be permitted to name the ASPs described in their "Summary of Irregularities"�, we hope they will name the provinces investigated, which will make it easier to identify these ASPs, and for their clients to consider how to respond. The culture of secrecy has permeated the entire international adoption industry, but without naming suspect ASPs, no action can be taken against them.
2. Consider joining us at PEAR and assisting in our work.

Contacts:
US Department of State:
Gerry W. Fuller,
Intercountry Adoptions
202-663-2928
FullerGW@state.gov

US Embassy, Hanoi:
U.S. Embassy Hanoi
Rose Garden Tower
170 Ngoc Khanh St.
Tel: (84-4) 850-5100
Fax: (84-4) 850-5145/850-5026
Email: hanoiadoptions@state.gov

PEAR:
Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform
526 N. President Ave.
Lancaster, PA 17603
reform@pear-now.org

To join PEAR, please visit our website,
www.pear-now.org, and download a member application form. Membership is $20 annually. Completed
applications and payment should be sent to:


Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform
1455 Stoney Creek Drive
Charlottesville, VA 22902

Friday, April 25, 2008

UPDATE: Call to Action Vietnam - USCIS Warning

The US Embassy in Hanoi has issued the following warning for adoption from Vietnam:

ADOPTED CHILDREN IMMIGRANT VISA UNIT

Warning Concerning Adoptions in Vietnam

April 2008
The Department of State continues to urge prospective adoptive parents and adoption service providers not to initiate new adoptions from Vietnam at this time. The 2005 Memorandum of Agreement, required by Vietnamese law to authorize adoptions between the United States and Vietnam, expires on September 1, 2008. In addition, recent field investigations have revealed incidents of serious adoption irregularities, including forged or altered documentation, mothers paid, coerced or tricked into releasing their children, and children offered for adoption without the knowledge or consent of their birth parents.
The United States is strongly committed to processing legitimate intercountry adoptions from Vietnam if possible. Our primary concern is to ensure that the children and families involved in the adoption process are protected from exploitation. The Government of Vietnam shares this concern. Both countries acknowledge that more needs to be done to address deficiencies in the current system.
On April 25, the Government of Vietnam announced that it will allow adoption to be completed in cases where prospective adoptive parents have been matched with a child and received an official referral prior to September 1, 2008. It further stated that in accordance with Vietnamese law, the DIA will suspend the acceptance of new dossiers on July 1, 2008. On September 1, 2008 any dossier that has not received a referral will be closed and returned to the Adoption Service Provider. In view of the processing time required in Vietnam from placement to the Giving and Receiving Ceremony, an adoption process begun now cannot be completed before the current Agreement expires.
Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that documents relating to adoptions in Vietnam, such as birth certificates, abandonment reports, relinquishment agreements, and investigative reports are generally issued by orphanage directors, local People’s Committees, Provincial Departments and the Department for International Adoptions (DIA). The facts asserted in these documents are not verified by the issuing officials. Attempts by U.S. officials to verify the accuracy of these documents have routinely uncovered evidence of fraudulent or inaccurate information. Therefore, documents issued by the authorities listed above, and any other documents containing information not verified by the issuing authority, cannot be considered adequate evidence of the facts claimed. They may be used in conjunction with primary and contemporaneous secondary evidence, or must be independently verified by U.S. officials in Vietnam, before they can be considered valid for immigration purposes. (http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/reciprocity/reciprocity_3705.html)
Consular officers have routinely completed field verifications of orphan status in over 35 provinces in Vietnam. However, in some cases, Vietnamese officials have prevented the U.S. Government from conducting independent field inquiries into the status of children identified in I-600 petitions. Embassy outreach, as well as support from adoption agency officials, have thus far allowed independent investigations to resume in some areas that were previously impeded. We continue robust efforts to resolve this issue. Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict when we can complete the field inquiries in areas which are still closed to our staff.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and the Department of State have instituted procedures to verify that children identified for placement meet the requirements of Vietnamese and U.S. law, before the child has been adopted under Vietnamese law. Information about these procedures is available from USCIS or through their website http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis. The Embassy strongly advises prospective adoptive parents not to travel to Vietnam until they have received notification from the Embassy that their case is ready for final processing and travel is appropriate. Parents should contact the Embassy immediately if anyone, including their adoption service provider, encourages them to travel to Vietnam prior to receiving this notification. The Embassy can work together with adoption service providers, Vietnam’s Department of International Adoptions, and local authorities to resolve issues such as the scheduling of a Giving and Receiving Ceremony.


Source: http://vietnam.usembassy.gov/adoption_warning0408.html

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Government Resources for Hague Information

The US Department of State has put together a lot of information for families, and the general public, on the Hague Convention and Adoption. If you have questions and concerns about the implementation of the Hague, please see:

Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. Of special interest for families is the pdf download entitled: Information for Parents http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/convention/convention_462.html

and,
Intercountry Adoption News which contains updates and breaking news as well as the list of Hague accredited agencies and individuals in the US. http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/intercountry/intercountry_482.html


The USCIS has also put together information,entitled Questions and Answers: Intercountry Adoption Instructions
Post-Hague Adoption Convention Implementation
, which can be found at:

http://www.uscis.gov/pressroom

The Department of State is also currently updating the Country Specific Information pages, http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/country/country_369.html, to reflect changes for each country post implementation.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April First and the Hague Convention

Today I received the following announcement from the US Department of State:

Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention Enters into Force

From the US Department of State:

On April 1, 2008, the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (the Convention) enters into force for the United States. As of this date, the provisions of the Convention will govern both immigrating (incoming) and emigrating (outgoing) intercountry adoptions between the United States and other Convention countries.

Implementing the Convention and the IAA has led to many changes in the U.S. intercountry adoption process. Some of these key changes are:

* Federal accreditation, through accrediting entities designated by the Department, of adoption service providers who provide certain key adoption services in connection with Convention adoption cases.
* The replacement of the Department of Homeland Security petition forms I-600A and I-600 for orphans with new forms I-800A and I-800 for “Convention adoptees.”
* New documents will be issued by consular officers overseas in Convention cases stating that the requirements of the Convention and the IAA have been met for an adoption or custody declaration completed overseas. These are the Hague Adoption Certificate (HAC) or Hague Custody Certificate (HCC), which will accompany the IH-3 or IH-4 immigrant visa.
* For the outgoing adoption or custody declaration completed in the United States, the Department will issue the HAC or Hague Custody Declaration (HCD) stating that the requirements of the Convention and the IAA have been met.
* The creation of the Adoption Tracking Service (ATS) through which the Department will track both incoming and outgoing cases. For the first time, it will be possible to track the cases of American children who are adopted by citizens of other (Hague) countries. Previously there was no federal role in these cases, and no system for collecting information from the various states about the numbers and destinations of American children adopted abroad.
* The creation of a Hague Complaint Registry to track public complaints related to intercountry adoptions.

For more information on the Convention’s implementation in the United States, please visit the “Intercountry Adoption” section of our website at www.travel.state.gov or contact the U.S. Central Authority at AdoptionUSCA@state.gov.


We had hoped additional information on accredited agencies would also be released today, but it seems the agencies who didn't make the first cut are still "pending".

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Kazakhstan Adoptions Update

Yesterday the JCICS released this statement on Kazakhstan:

"Joint Council confirms the suspension of dossier processing by the Kazakhstan Embassy and Consulates pending the finalization of a review of adoption cases by the Kazakhstan government. The following represents our understanding of the suspension.

*The suspension of dossier processing by the Kazakhstan Embassy/Consulate is effective immediately.
*Dossiers which have been processed and forwarded to Almaty will be permitted to continue through to finalization.
*Dossiers which have not yet been processed by the Embassy/Consulate will not be forwarded to Almaty and will remain at the Kazakhstan Embassy/Consulate pending the completion of the review noted above.
*The Kazakhstan Embassy/Consulate will not accept new dossiers pending the completion of the review noted above.

Joint Council hopes to meet with Kazakhstan officials soon and will continue to provide updates and information."

http://www.jcics.org/Kazakhstan.htm

Quite a few agencies put out letters to families yesterday denying the JCICS statement. However, this morning, in response to an inquiry from PEAR, the DOS Intercountry Adoption Unit confirmed the JCICS statement. DOS will be issuing a formal statement on their website later today or tomorrow. Hopefully this statement will give further information and guidance for families in process.

PEAR will continue to monitor the situation and status of adoption from Kazakhstan.

Gina Pollock

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Un-Angry Adoptee and Adoption Guilt

~ By Barbara J McArtney

I was relinquished at birth to a local agency and adopted at 6 weeks of age. I was told by my Parents that my birth Parents "gave me up" because they were unmarried college students. My Parents adopted following the death of their second born son and simultaneous loss of my Mother's fertility. I am also a Mother of seven including two internationally adopted children with some special needs. When I was a child, I always thought I would adopt someday.

Being adopted was not especially traumatic for me though I think I sensed I was somehow 'different' in some indefinable way. I also had the uncanny knack as a child of being able to recognize an unseen quality in others that signaled to me that they too were adopted. As I grow older and observe the issues in my own adopted children I recognize more of the impact of adoption upon myself however subtle.

I experienced the typical hurtful comments as a child from others such as "How sad that you don't have REAL Parents" and "They can't love you like a REAL child". These comments made me angry as much as sad as I didn't know how to make them understand that these WERE my REAL Parents. My Parents loved me completely and just as much as my biologically born brother. I didn't doubt that then or now.

When the time was ripe, I tossed "You're not even my REAL Parents" at them just to turn the knife a little and sadly, it did hurt them just as I intended as a snotty, rebellious teen. Such comments roll off my back with my own kids who tried it once or twice. I informed them that I was very absolutely their Mother forever, like it or not, and felt free to punish them as such. Having missed the mark, they haven't tried it since.

I've wondered about my biological roots: Who did I look like? Who did I act like? Would they have kept me if they had been older? But I can honestly say I didn't brood about it. Though I had my given birth name and a city of origin, I never searched beyond signing up with a registry. It has always been something "I will get to when I have time". And I'm 51 now!! Am I avoiding it? I have had my Parents blessing, even encouragement to do so since I become an adult. Sometimes I worry it might be a bad idea given my internationally adopted kids may not have the option. We are the "adopted people" in the family - our own little sub-group. We even say so of our abandoned dog we acquired. We share this identity which makes it comfortable and normal.

I watched the experience of others who relinquished children for adoption and the emotions they felt and the aftermath of it. I considered the pain my Mother in particular probably felt. Was she pressured? I don't know if she regrets it. I don't know if she wants to meet me. Even if she does, she may not be trying much harder than I, since she has not signed up with the state registry. She may be dead by now. Am I wrong not to try harder? Would I be forcing myself into the life of a now elderly person who may view that portion of her life as history she would prefer to forget? Would I be giving her a wonderful gift to tell her it all turned out all right for me? Or would that be rubbing salt in the wound? Part of me feels I should try before it is too late. I owe it to both of us. The other part……doesn't seem to get around to it.

My Father died last month. We were very close and he was especially close to my two youngest and adopted children. Ironically, he was always uncomfortable about my adoption and that bothered me. He viewed it as a very private and highly sensitive matter- a source of shame? Both he and my Mother always seemed to think that I spoke too freely and too often of adoption with my kids. My youngest is mildly handicapped and my Dad's single minded devotion got him to accomplish things no one thought were possible. His death is a huge loss for my one son especially. Does he have another Grandpa out there? Am I wrong to deny my son that opportunity? What wounds might it open for a man in his 70s? What wounds might it heal? Is it selfish and shallow to consider looking for another Grandpa now when his "real" Grandfather is gone? In 1956, a young man wouldn't/couldn't raise a baby on his own. If my Mother and her family decided to "put the baby up for adoption" that would have been that. How does he feel 51 years later? Is it respecting their initial choice to sever this relationship for me to search? Would this just be opening Pandora's Box I honestly don't know.

I've been informed by some I'm in denial about how I feel about my adoption. Apparently, I'm deeply wounded whether I know it or not. I disagree and resent being told that. I wouldn't tell another adoptee that their adoption shouldn't be a big deal for them or they are not in genuine pain over it. Every situation is different. Is there a primal wound in me? I doubt it's possible for a child to be separated from her Mother without psychological consequences. But I don't personally find that wound to be devastating. I was fortunate to have landed in such a great life given my initial loss. Not everyone is so lucky.

There is a wide variation in the adoptive experience. Being adopted at 6 weeks from an institution is not the same as being adopted at age 10 after having lived with Your First Family for a long time. Such circumstances bring a whole range of painful issues that can interfere with bonding and attachment and the adjustment of Parents and child. This sort of adoption can be devastating and leave a child traumatized and angry.

I don't view adoption from the perspective of what is right or fair. Life isn't fair. To suffer trauma following birth whether it is separation from Parents via adoption or months in an incubator or being sick in a hospital for months as a child or living through the death of one or more parents or loved ones is not a singular event. It is human history. Loss is part of life and no one gets through unscathed. Early loss is tragic for a child but it happens. The longer the loss continues, the more damage and hurt. Our job as adults is to help our children grieve, heal and accept. The job of the child is to cope and move into the life they have, not the one they might have had. Hopefully, their life is a good one with good Parents.

Adoption is definitely a positive aspect of a largely negative event. I personally acknowledge but don't dwell on the loss sustained by my birth family. I speak to my children of the sadness that must have been there for their birth families, a difficult choice they had to make because of their unfortunate circumstances.

I obviously don't speak for those families. I know I offend some by using the term "Birth Family". A part of me resists the new preference that they be respected by the use of language that calls them simply "Parents" or "First Parents" or "Original Parents". I think it creates confusion to say "Parents" for both biological and adoptive Parents except in contexts where it is obvious which is intended. I additionally think it is demanding a status equal to adoptive Parents who do the parenting. I just can't call them my "First Family", because in my personal experience, they were never that. I mean no disrespect in this denial. I don't mean to be insensitive. I just don't feel like it's my truth. My Birthmother gave birth and left me. My Birth Father gave sperm and left her. I stayed for 6 weeks in an infant home until my Adoptive Parents came and have been there through thick and thin since. I feel phony and like I'm caving into pressure to be politically correct to call them my "First Family". For others, it may be totall a perfect description. But I feel the circumstances must dictate the use of the adjective describing what sort of Parent one is. From my perspective, being a Parent is Parenting a child. Giving birth after 9 months without the act of parenting is being a Birth Parent. Had they raised me for a while it would be different.

There are some who would argue that adoption is an alien and unnatural act that should not exist at all. That any Mother who gives birth is entitled to be called "Mother". In some cultures adoption is deemed incomprehensible as the biological bond is considered so primal and absolute that nothing can ever sever it. But that isn't my culture or my truth. Some say adoption is merely a legal fiction. But I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that it is no fiction. My Parents ARE MY PARENTS and always will be.

Is it fair, I can "move on" so easily, when perhaps my Birth Family can not? As adults at the time our relationship was severed, their wound may have been far greater than mine. But I am not responsible for what happened. I am simply the result. On my own behalf, I do not mourn. And on their behalf, I will not. I am grateful for my life and their choice and have both respect and compassion for their loss--- but I don't feel it's mine.

Adoption is all about losses and it is important that Adoptive Families educate themselves about the other side of the process. Respect, compassion and acknowledgement of the gravity of the loss of a child are essential. It isn't all teddy bears and hugs for everyone. With adoption, someone out there is without their child even if they made that choice voluntarily. Having lost a child to illness, I feel there is no greater loss. Many Adoptive Parents have themselves come to adoption following the painful loss of fertility, pregnancies and children. We are biologically programmed to love, protect and nurture our children at least until they reach adulthood. Any interruption of that process is unbearably painful regardless of the reason. And it is probably fair to say that very, very few of those who relinquish children do so because they WANT to. Most probably feel they have little choice. But part of adoption, ultimately, part of ALL losses, is moving on past them and adjusting to what is. Using language that enhances their role in adoption doesn't change their painful reality. I wonder if viewing oneself as a Parent rather than a Birth Parent makes the loss even more poignant. I don't know.

I think we owe it to all concerned to acknowledge Birth Parents with respect and sensitivity. But I am uncomfortable elevating them to a role they haven't played in my life or in the lives of most adoptees out of political correctness. I won't pretend to mourn the loss of Parents I don't know or love. I won't pretend they are my Parents by virtue of "blood". I can't pretend my adoption wasn't a wonderful thing for me even if it caused pain for another. We don't hold back in the celebration of the birth or adoption of a child because there was a prior loss of a child or pregnancy. It is still positive.

Adoptive Parents are immensely fortunate to adopt. It is an amazing and joyous experience for them. Acknowledging the loss of another Parent need not diminish their joy. In my opinion, they are perfectly entitled to celebrate this wonderful creation of a family without any sense of guilt. And so too are adoptees, without apology and without regret if that is the way they feel.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Hague Convention Countries

PEAR has been receiving requests from PAPs, APs and the general public as to which countries are "Convention" countries under the new US regulations. According to the DOS website, "[a] Convention country means a country that is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention and with which the Convention is in force with respect to the United States. DOS will post a list of those Convention countries on its website. A list of countries that are currently parties to the Hague Adoption Convention is provided on the website of the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law: http://www.hcch.net/."

(source: http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/intercountry/intercountry_3824)

Since the DOS has not yet published the list of countries, families, agencies and other interested parties will need to do a bit of research. To find out the most current list of countries subject to the new requiremnts as of April 1, 2008, please visit:

http://hcch.e-vision.nl/index_en.php?act=conventions.status&cid=69

Adoptions from any country in either the member or non-member list with a date under the column "EIF" will be subject to the new requirements as of April 1, 2008. (source DOS website above and Ethica http://www.ethicanet.org/)

As of today, March 6, 2008 these are the countries meeting the above qualifications:

Albania
Andorra
Armenia
Australia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Belarus
Belgium
Belize
Brazil
Bolivia
Bulgaria
Burkina Faso
Burundi
Cambodia
Canada
Chile
China, People's Republic of
Colombia
Costa Rica
Cuba
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Dominican Republic
Ecuador
El Salvador
Estonia
Finland
France
Georgia
Germany
Guatemala
Guinea
Hungary
Iceland
India
Israel
Italy
Kenya
Latvia
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Madagascar
Mali
Malta
Mauritius
Mexico
Moldova, Republic of
Mongolia
Monaco
Netherlands
New Zealand
Norway
Panama
Paraguay
Peru
Philippines
Poland
Portugal
Romania
San Marino
Slovakia
Slovenia
South Africa
Spain
Sri Lanka
Sweden
Switzerland
Thailand
Turkey
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
United States of America
Uruguay
Venezuela

Monday, March 3, 2008

Clarification on Accredited and Approved Entities List

Many prospective adoptive parents have expressed concerns over the DOS list of Hague Accredited and Approved Entities that was published on Friday, February 29, 2008. The published list is substantially shorter than the list of agencies that applied for accreditation. According to the DOS, the accrediting agencies, COA and Colorado, will continue to review applications on a daily and weekly basis and new agencies can be
accredited at any time. All agencies that are accredited before April 1 will be able to work on Hague Convention cases from the day the Convention enters into force for the U.S. Many of the agencies that applied by the November 2006 deadline are pending and may very well be accredited in the short or medium term if the accrediting entity determines they have met the accreditation standards.

If you know that your agency applied for accreditation but they do not appear on the DOS list - don't panic. Contact your agency or the accrediting entity and ask for their current status.

Contact Information for COA:

Phone: (212) 797-3000
FAX: (212) 797-1428
120 Wall Street, 11Floor
New York, NY 10005

Richard Klarberg
President/ Chief Executive Officer
rklarberg@coanet.org

Jayne Schmidt
Hague Project Manager
jschmidt@coanet.org

Contact Information for Colorado:

Marva Livingston Hammons
Executive Director
Department of Human Services
State of Colorado
1575 Sherman Street
Denver, CO 80203-1714
Tel: 303.866.5700
Fax: 303.866.4047

Gina Pollock

Saturday, March 1, 2008

US Hague Accreditations Announced by DOS

The US Department of State published the list of agencies and persons approved to perform Hague convention adoptions last evening. The list of agencies with accreditation or temporary accreditation to perform adoptions in Hague Convention countries can be found at:

http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/convention/convention_4169.html

Agencies that did not meet the original deadline for application are currently being considered and the list will be updated as they are approved.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Helping Adoptive Parents Understand the Role of Families of Origin: From the Viewpoint of Another Mother Who Lost her Child to Adoption

~by Suz Bednarz

How could I, me, a mother who lost a child to adoption in 1986, possibly help adoptive parents understand the role of families of origin?

Didn’t my role end the minute my child was taken from me and given to them?

Harsh question but until a few years back that is what I was lead to believe. Clearly, I struggled with this blog topic. The more I thought about it the more I struggled. I then began to think not about the topic but about why I was struggling with it.

I have come to one very painful conclusion.

The reason I feel I cannot help adoptive parents understand the role of the family of origin is because I have been made to feel, most of my daughters life, I had no role. Correction. I had one role and one purpose and that was to provide a baby to an infertile couple. In that context, I was not a family of origin (in fact I never even heard that word 20 years ago), I wasn’t even acknowledged as a mother -- I was an incubator. I, me, the cute curvy redhead honor student, president of student government, did not exist. I was dehumanized. I had no voice. I did not matter. She mattered. Her adoptive parents mattered. My parents mattered. The Catholic Church mattered. My family’s reputation mattered. The agency and the fee they would fetch for the sale of my child mattered.

I did not.

I had no role outside of supplier to the demand. It should be no surprise that I struggle now to find that voice and as a result define my role.

To understand this and why I use what could potentially be viewed as harsh words, one must understand and reflect upon adoption as it occurred in 1986. Not only did I lose my daughter twenty-two years ago but I lost her to a known baby broker (and by known I say the fact was known to others but not to me) against my will. While my daughter was born years past the Baby Scoop Era (BSE), my experience was not unlike that of many of my BSE sisters.

I was sent away to a maternity home. I was not provided with any legal representation. I was not told my rights. I was alone, abandoned, intimidated and coerced into surrendering my child. My parents signed a promissory note (obligating them to pay the agency for any services they rendered to me prior to surrender). When I told the agency a few weeks prior to my daughters birth that I wanted to keep her, I was reminded of the promissory note and informed that if I did not give them my child I, and my parents, would be sued. I was reminded how I was young, without a place to live and a job, and that my child was better off without me. I was reminded of the pain I would cause the family that was anxiously awaiting my daughter.

My role? Produce a child for someone else, be quiet about it and go away.

As I matured and educated myself (and underwent extensive therapy for PTSD), I began to realize I did have value to my child – incredible value in fact. I realized the value of the mother – child bond. I spoke to adoptees and learned the importance of genetic mirroring, medical history and more.

I realized that while I made an infertile couple extremely happy, I had also caused damage to my child and myself. Whereas I once viewed myself as nothing more than a breeder, I began to realize my value. No longer was my role to service an adoptive parent. My role now was to be my child’s mother - something I should have done many years prior. My role was to find her, to assure her she was always wanted and to welcome her with open arms into our family – should she want to be there. My role was to stand up for myself, for her and mothers and children like us. My role is to be there for my child and to never ever allow myself to be intimidated into leaving her again – even if it is she that is doing the intimidating. My role is to do whatever I can to ease the pain of my daughter’s primal wound, a wound I caused, however unknowingly.

In contemplating the blog topic at hand along with my own experience, I feel as though it is not my job or my “role” to help adoptive parents understand the role of the family of origin. That task should be undertaken by the agency, the adoptive parents, and society as a whole.

More importantly, there should be no question as to the role of the family of origin. If a prospective or current adoptive parent questions the value or role of the family of origin, I would have to question if they should even be adopting. You are not adopting a doll. A child is not a blank slate. The child comes from somewhere, was born to someone.

The child HAS a mother and a family before you even adopt them. Respect the family of origin and you respect the child. Refuse to acknowledge the family of origin? Why bother adopting? The child will likely never feel completely connected to you for you are only acknowledging a part of them and not their entire being.

I don’t mean to sound harsh but my role is to be the best mother I can to my child – even in light of present circumstances – years after the fact. My role is not to make the lives of adoptive parents easier or better.

I already did that.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Have a Heart - Support Ethica's "Operation Identity"

In honor of Valentine's Day, PEAR is asking the adoptive family community to support and assist in Ethica's Operation Identity: Cooperating to Protect the Identity of Vietnamese Orphans. Identifying information is extremely important to adopted persons, it is important to all persons. As adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents, it is our duty to preserve and protect our child's identity. It is our duty to make sure that the choices we make in adopting a child, choosing a program, and choosing an agency, do not negatively impact our future children. As a gift of love to our children, we need to stand up for what is right, not what is quick or what is easy.

Please take a few moments to read the following (from Ethica's website), then visit the website to read a further detailed report. Contact your agency, or any agency you know that works in Vietnam and encourage them to participate in this program.

Happy Valentine's Day,

Gina Pollock
Interim President
PEAR

"Operation Identity is a project designed to encourage the accurate identification of Vietnamese orphans and to prevent skyrocketing abandonment rates from impacting the future of adoptions from Vietnam.

The Problem:
The U.S. Embassy in Hanoi is reporting that 85% of all adoptions being filed at this time are for "abandoned" children. The Embassy believes that many of these abandonment cases are staged.

Ethica believes that other factors could be influencing the trend, and there is no clear evidence on why the trend is occurring.

The Effects:
There are two serious effects of this trend. Children are being deprived of their identifying information, and the high rate of abandonment in a country without a history of it could be a factor in whether adoption from Vietnam will continue.

The Initiative:
Operation Identity is designed to bring transparency to this situation, and to promote change that will protect the identifying information of children and future adoptions from Vietnam.

Agencies currently operating in Vietnam will be asked to confidentially provide statistics of the rate of abandonments for time periods before the closure of Vietnamese adoptions in 2002 and for the current time period; and from province to province. The database will go live next week.

Each agency working in Vietnam will be encouraged to speak with their overseas representatives, orphanage staff and provincial officials to discuss the need for children to have identifying information and the problems that high numbers of abandonments can cause.

The Desired Outcome:
Through cooperative reporting and concerted effort, the abandonment rate will start to decline.

FAQs:

1. Why do you need statistics?

Statistics are important to establish when the trend changed, and whether or not the changes are geographically limited to particular areas. Statistics also point to where efforts at change need to be targeted.

2. What is causing this trend?

We don't know. The Embassy believes there could be intentional erasure of identities to thwart investigations or to cover illegal activity. But there are other possibilities--the decision could be coming from local officials or orphanages who do not understand the importance of identifying information or who are looking for a simpler way to process cases.

3. Are you investigating agencies?

No! Ethica is not an investigative authority. The statistics reported on our site will not be linked to any particular agency or provider. The Embassy already has the agency by agency statistics--there is thus no need for us to collect statistics in order to "investigate" or harm any agency.

4. Why would abandonment rates impact future adoptions?

Officials become concerned when they cannot trace children's histories. A sudden rise in abandonments can signal that identities are being intentionally erased, perhaps to cover unethical activities or to stop successful investigations. When the U.S. government cannot conduct effective investigations into children's backgrounds, it can be difficult or impossible to determine which children are really "orphans" and concerns rise that visas could be given to trafficked or abducted children. This could lead to a decision to halt adoptions from that country until better practices emerge which provide transparency to the process.

5. What can I do to help?

Adoptive parents and supporters of adoption and adopted children can encourage agencies to cooperate in publishing statistics and take steps to change this practice. Agencies can participate and cooperate with others in finding ways to stop this disturbing trend."

Read a detailed discussion of this issue by visiting Ethica's website:
http://www.ethicanet.org/item.php?recordid=Identity1&pagestyle=default

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Helping Adoptive Parents Understand the Role of Families of Origin: From the Viewpoint of a Mother who lost a child to adoption

~ by Mirah Riben

The United Nations has determined that the difference between a good and bad life for a child is a mother with a sense of empowerment.

Adopting a child today is far different than it was a generation or two ago when it was felt best to keep the entire process secretive.

Adopting today requires accepting the reality that the child you have adopted has two sets of parents. It means being able to deal with your child's feelings of rejection and abandonment, not just expecting him or her to accept that he was "chosen" and is "special" for having been adopted, which can lead to feelings of indebtedness and gratitude.

Adopting today may mean on-going contact with the family of the child you are raising. Adoptions today either start out open or may become open when a mother or father initiates a search or they are searched for. This will undoubtedly mean a bumpy ride as your child's family of origin will likely be very different from yours and have different styles of communicating and different cultural values, even if they are American.

Your child's family are your child's family not your friends. True open adoption welcomes and embraces an ongoing relationship between the child and his family, not between the two sets of parents. The tightrope you walk, not an envious one, is that even your most well-meaning friendship could appear to be solicitous. Well-meaning comments like "I understand" can be taken very badly from someone who knows you have not walked a mile in their shoes.

Unlike the popular portrayal of adoption by the media and movies such as the purely fictional Juno, adoption is not a win-win. It is a win-lose. The family of origin has lost a child. Many mothers do not think of adoption as a gift or a sacrifice. For them it is a loss and nothing else. No matter how much the "decision" may appear to have been their "choice" it was a choice made as a last resort, quite likely as your choice to adopt was also made only after other methods of parenting were unattainable for many of you.

One way to show your respect is to always refer to them as the mother, father, grandparents etc of the child you are raising, as in their hearts that is their reality. They neither need nor want any prefix. They are not "first" mothers, "original", "birth" mothers, or "tummy mommies". They are simply your child's mother and father. Children are remarkable at not being confused as to who their "mom(s)" and "dad(s)" are!

If you are caring and loving parents you need not fear the old adage that blood is thicker. They will be psychologically bonded to those who care for their needs on a daily basis, even as their natural family members may play important roles in their lives as well. The psychological bond may be tested and strained, especially in teen years, but if it is a strong bond, it will withstand that strain.

The bond with your child is strengthened by the respect you show for their family members, as children, once they've taken a science class, are keenly aware that they share genes with these people and even the slightest look or disparaging remark on your part will strike them very deeply as an attack on them and add to their fear of not having been wanted by their family of origins and possibly not being wanted by you.

The best way to keep smooth relations with them is to keep all promises of openness, or even seek more. The most contentions adoptions are those in which promises were made and not kept. If you are having difficulties, seek a professional mediator.

Often, mothers in open adoptions will be the ones to back off visitation, leaving adoptive parents confused and disappointed. There could be many pragmatic reasons for this such as: distance or new obligations - school, job, new boyfriend, husband or child. Often, however, it is because watching others do what they are unable to, is too painful.

Brenda Romanchik of Adoption Insight reports (CUB ALL email list 3/25/06 with permission), "[B]irthmoms in open adoptions actually experience more grief symptoms than less. But they also grieve in a much more healthy way than our predecessors. We don't bottle it up and shove it under the rug to deal with at reunion. The contact we have forces us to confront our loss. We don't do open adoption because it hurts less; we do it because it is what is best for our kids."

Adoption involves a great deal of loss and hurt. Your child is suffering from that loss as are the members of her family. While an adoptee as he grows may at time be angry at one set of parents and then another, you will, rightly or wrongly, often be seen as the big bad meany who tore his that family apart. No explanation of his family's financial situation or their age will make any sense to a child, or quite frankly to a broken hearted mother. The less you try to defend your position, the better. The less you try to show gratitude the better, because you are grateful for their loss when all one ever needs to is sorry for another's loss.

Adoption is a difficult path. It is said that the truth will set you free, but is also painful. The best thing you can do is to help her accept the reality of her life situation with all of its thorns and all of its joys. We all know that children learn what they live. Let them learn honesty, openness, respect, and grit from you.

Resources:

Marcy Axness, Painful Lessons, Loving Bonds: The Heart of Open Adoption

Jim Gritter, Lifegivers: Framing the Birthparent Experience in Open Adoption

__________________

Open Adoption & Family Services of Oregon and Washington's groundbreaking 2002-2003 client survey project, "Emotional Intelligence in Children of Open Adoption" found the following:

* 80 percent of adoptive parents and their child's mothers reported ongoing visits between the mother and child at least once a year seven to eighteen years after placement.

* As the amount of contact (through visits, phone calls and letters) between mothers [or fathers] and adoptive families increases, so does overall adoption satisfaction as reported by all triad members.

* Ninety-one percent of adoptive parents and their child's mothers reported high levels of healthy collaboration.

* Ninety-four percent of the adopted children are at or above national averages for emotional intelligence. Fifty-three percent of these children are considered highly above average.

* Children who perceive strong levels of collaboration between their adoptive parents and birthparents score higher on emotional intelligence tests.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

On Monday, January 28, the DOS issued a warning adoptions from Vietnam: (travel.state.gov/family/adoption/intercountry/intercountry_3939.html) Ethica then published their statement about the status of adoption from Vietnam. (http://www.ethicanet.org/item.php?recordid=vietnam&pagestyle=default).

PEAR commends and fully supports both the DOS and Ethica for their efforts to oversee that adoptions between the US and Vietnam are done in an ethical and transparent manner. We are in agreement with the warnings issued and the statements following those warnings by both Ethica and the US Department of State.

When adoptions between the US and Vietnam resumed under the terms of agreement of the current MOU in 2005, one of the most salient conditions was that the DIA (Department of International Adoption in Vietnam) publish a fee schedule for adoptions. To date this has not been done, and this failure remains a major obstacle in renewing the MOU.

In addition, there have been numerous reports of ethical violations by employees of US-based Adoption Service Providers (agencies) as well as by orphanage and provincial authorities in Vietnam since the resumption of adoptions. There are at present 26 US families who have received Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs) from DOS in Hanoi, indicating that the paperwork involved in these adoptions appears to contain irregularities warranting further investigation. Other serious allegations of unethical behaviors include money being paid to orphanages, a wide disparity in cost of adoptions from one agency to another, agencies bidding against each other to procure children, the coecion of birth mothers to give up their children, and orphan paperwork being falsified. The province of Phu Tho has recently been closed to all US adoptions.

There are currently over 2,000 US families who have filed paperwork to adopt from Vietnam, and the DOS statement has naturally caused great concern among them, as well as in the US Vietnam adoption community. Prospective parents fear that
adoptions from Vietnam could be suspended if not shut down completely. PEAR understand that this is a difficult and unnerving time for these families and fully supports them while awaiting further clarification from DOS as to the status of the MOU.