Thursday, December 29, 2011

PEAR Website Announcement

Our website will be down December 26 to January 6 for a redesign. Due to this, our web comments, membership forms and donate buttons will be inoperable.

Please direct your correspondence to the following board members:

Comments and requests for assistance:
Gina Pollock
Vice President Advocacy and NGO/Government Relations

Membership Issues:
Shanna Wright
Secretary and Membership Chair

Donations and financial issues:
Margaret Weeks

All other correspondence:
Kimberly Kennedy

Thank you for your continued patience and support!

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Book Review: Finding Fernanda

by David Kruchkow
Board Member of Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform

Where can I start a review of Erin Siegal’s Finding Fernanda? I know Erin Siegal as an online friend and someone who came to me for advice on this book. Why me? Perhaps it is because I made my story public more than a dozen years ago as one of 22 families victimized by an illegal Mexican adoption/baby smuggling ring. At that time, I called for the adoption industry to police itself and remove the cancerous, criminal, profiteering element that infected its underbelly. Back then, I underestimated how deep that infection was. It turns out that it is a systemic infection that pervades all international adoptions, even today and even with the regulations of The Hague Agreement that were intended to prevent abuses.

There are now hundreds of stories that involve most sending countries, like Betsy Emmanuel’s and mine. What Siegal has done with Finding Fernanda that makes her book a must-read is take a purely journalistic approach to the story she presents. She reports on what she learned without passing judgment. The reader can draw his own conclusions about motives, about who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, and the conclusions become devastatingly obvious.

Stories like this are by their nature very convoluted, and Siegal does an amazing job of making the twists and turns as easy to follow as possible. Her preamble includes a section on the cast of characters which can serve as a reference should the reader get confused. A photojournalist by trade, Siegal uses one photo per chapter and each one is carefully chosen to supplement the story appropriately while having the most impact.

What you’ll learn in the book is that international adoption involves a great imbalance of power. The wealth, privilege, and entitlement of prospective adoptive parents in developed Western receiving countries directly impacts the poverty and vulnerability of mothers in impoverished and underdeveloped sending countries, leading to a money-driven market that exploits women and children for the benefit of the middlemen who procure and place the children. This is made abundantly clear in Finding Fernanda. What Siegal has done that is unique is to include the story as experienced by an impoverished, exploited mother who was stripped of two of her children for the adoption trade without her informed consent. Women like Mildred Alvarado have always had no voice, but now, Siegal has given her a voice and presented her view. For that reason alone, every single person who has been touched by international adoption must read this book and go to You will feel the anguish, pain, suffering and strength of Mildred Alvarado when you read her story. This book will make you angry and it will make you cry.

There is one other party that has never had a voice in international adoption, and that is the one that belongs to the exploited children. Readers need to pay careful attention to Siegal’s description of Ana Cristina, the child stolen from Mildred Alvarado’s womb and reunited with her years later. In that description is a harrowing picture of the kind of damage done to children by corrupt international adoptions.

Erin Siegal deserves a standing ovation, if not a journalistic award, for her thorough research, her writing skills, her hard work and her braving of a dangerous, criminal world in order to get this story told. Bravo Erin!

Additional information on Finding Fernanda is available at

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

DOS Adoption Notice: Guatemala Processing Plan for CNA cases

December 12, 2011

Notice: Processing Plan for CNA cases

This Adoption Notice is a follow up to the Notice of September 27, 2011.

The Government of Guatemala's Consejo Nacional de Adopciones (CNA) has agreed to a process for certain adoption applications pending under the CNA's processing authority. The U.S. Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will contact affected families to provide detailed information regarding the next steps. We anticipate that the CNA may identify additional cases for processing at a later time. The general outline of the planned process is as follows:

  • The CNA will initiate the process by providing the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City with the names of children identified as ready to be finalized.
  • The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City will then notify the USCIS Guatemala City field office. USCIS Guatemala City will contact U.S. prospective adoptive parents individually to provide detailed instructions regarding the CNA application requirements and final USCIS processing.

This process applies only to cases pending with the CNA's processing authority and not to cases pending with the Procuraduria General de la Nacion (PGN) as "notario" cases. We anticipate that the CNA will process cases on an ongoing basis. Families who have questions about the process may email the Department of State at

Processing questions related to a Guatemalan Form I-600 petition that qualifies as a grandfathered petition under U.S. law should be directed to USCIS at

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

USCIS will hold a follow up to their October 28 Teleconference on Ethiopian Adoption

USCIS will hold a follow up to their October 28 Teleconference on Ethiopian Adoption. The invitation is open to all stakeholders.

Meeting Invitation

USCIS Stakeholder Meeting on Ethiopian Adoptions Friday, December 9, 2011 @ 10 am (EST)
As a follow up to the October 28, 2011, Ethiopian Stakeholder call, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of State would like to invite you to attend a stakeholder call to discuss USCIS’ November trip to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa to adjudicate “not clearly approvable” adoption petitions.

After the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, identified a number of adoption petitions (Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as Immediate Relative) that it determined were not clearly approvable (NCA), and thus, must be referred to USCIS for adjudication, USCIS dispatched a team of officers to go Addis to adjudicate the petitions. USCIS and the Department of State would like to discuss the results of the NCA Team’s trip, lessons learned, and the way forward for Ethiopian adoptions.

To Participate in the Session

Any interested parties may participate in this event by telephone. All participants must respond to this invitation. Please contact the USCIS Office of Public Engagement at by Thursday, December 8, 2011 referencing “Ethiopian Adoptions” in the subject line of your email.

Please also include your full name and the organization you represent in the body of the email.

To Join the Call
On the day of the engagement please use the information below to join the session by phone. We recommend calling in 10 minutes prior to the start of the teleconference.
Call-in Number: 1-800-779-1424
Overseas Toll Number: 1-630-395-0144
Passcode: Adoption

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

USCIS Releases Executive Summary of October Teleconference on Ethiopian Adoption

USCIS has published the following executive summary of the October 28, 2011 Teleconference on Ethiopian Adoption. USCIS will hold a follow up teleconference on December 9th at 10 am. Details will be published on our blog and are also available at the USCIS website

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Office of Public Engagement Washington, DC 20529-2000
November 30, 2011

Executive Summary
Teleconference on Ethiopian Adoptions

On October 28, 2011, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State (DOS) hosted a stakeholder engagement to discuss the increased number of adoption petitions (Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as Immediate Relative) that the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, has found to be “not clearly approvable.” After these petitions are found “not clearly approvable” they are referred to USCIS for adjudication. During the session, USCIS and DOS representatives explained why there is an increase in “not clearly approvable” cases, defined what “not clearly approvable” means, and provided an explanation of how the processing of these cases will unfold once they are referred to USCIS. In addition, USCIS and DOS answered questions from stakeholders, most of whom were prospective adoptive parents, concerning next steps for cases that were found to be “not clearly approvable”. The session was not intended to obtain group or consensus advice.

Under U.S. law, USCIS has responsibility for the adjudication of Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative. A family files this petition with USCIS to seek a determination that the adoptive child has a qualifying relationship with the petitioning parent. After a Form I-600 petition is approved, then the U.S. citizen parent(s) may apply for an immigrant visa for their adopted child through the U.S. Department of State. USCIS has delegated authority to the Department of State to adjudicate Form I-600 petitions on its behalf where there is no USCIS presence at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, such as the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia. The Department of State, however, only has the authority to approve Form I-600 petitions that are “clearly approvable.” If a Form I-600 petition is “not clearly approvable,” then the Department of State must refer the case to USCIS. USCIS then decides if the case is approvable, if more evidence is needed before a decision can be made, or in rare circumstances, if the case should be denied.

Due to the increase in the number of cases identified as “not clearly approvable” by the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia, stakeholders have questioned if there has been a policy change at the Department of State. Department of State officials reported that there has been no policy change regarding Form I-600s, rather there has been a practical change at the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia

Roles and Responsibilities
to ensure that its procedures are in compliance with Department of State procedures. Previously, the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia sent multiple requests for additional information to the Adoption Service Providers (ASPs), giving them several chances to correct deficiencies in the file. The U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia is now in line with Department of State procedures worldwide so that if a case has material deficiencies it is being labeled as “not clearly approvable”, and is then transferred to USCIS. Once a case is transferred to USCIS as “not clearly approvable”, the Department of State no longer has the delegated authority over the case. Therefore, Department of State will not be able to accept further evidence or provide any further information on the status of the case. It is then USCIS’s responsibility to review the file and determine the appropriate next steps.

After a case has been identified as “not clearly approvable,” DOS will refer it to a USCIS officer for review with three possible outcomes. In most cases, the USCIS officer decides either that the case is immediately approvable or that the petitioner has not provided enough information, resulting in the issuance of a Request for Evidence (RFE). An RFE means that further dialogue is needed between USCIS and the petitioner. In rare instances, there is evidence in the file that clearly indicates the case is not approvable. For those cases, USCIS will issue a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID).

It is very common practice for USCIS to issue RFEs in adoption cases. An RFE can notify the petitioner of missing information, request clarification, and/or give examples of what evidence is needed. Once an RFE is issued, the petitioner generally has 87 days to produce the requested information. Please note that USCIS makes each decision on a case-by-case basis according to its own individual merits. Petitioners should feel free to submit as much documentation or evidence as they have and a decision will be made based on the totality of the evidence.
When the Department of State refers a case to USCIS as “not clearly approvable” they do so because they have done everything to adjudicate the case within the scope of authority that has been delegated to them by USCIS. The Department of State does not have the authority to issue RFEs. “Not clearly approvable” does not necessarily mean that the case will be denied. If USCIS does ultimately approve the case, it should not be seen as an indication that the Department of State was wrong to refer the case to USCIS. The Department of State simply adjudicated the case to the fullest extent possible given the evidence submitted at that time under the scope of their delegated authority.

Previously, the U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa had only identified a small number of cases as “not clearly approvable.” Typically, these cases have been sent to the USCIS Nairobi Field Office at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya by diplomatic pouch which often took four to six weeks. When USCIS became aware that the US Embassy in Addis Ababa had identified a large number of Form I-600 petitions as “not clearly approvable,” we immediately began planning with the
Clarifying the Meaning of “Not Clearly Approvable”

Process after U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa Finds a Case Not Clearly Approvable
Department of State to send a team of USCIS officers to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to adjudicate the growing caseload, as a more efficient and timely way to address the situation. In addition, USCIS and the Department of State coordinated to ensure that no additional cases were sent through the diplomatic pouch to USCIS Nairobi prior to the USCIS team’s arrival in Ethiopia.
USCIS and DOS fully recognize that the transfer of these cases needs to happen quickly and smoothly to ensure timely processing of the cases. USCIS is considering a number of options in order to process the cases as quickly as possible, including electronic transmission and sending additional teams of USCIS officers to Ethiopia if necessary.

Form I-600 petitions that cannot be immediately approved by the USCIS team in Ethiopia will be completed by USCIS under normal procedures. If the case was not immediately approved, the petitioner will most likely receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) or in some circumstances a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID). At this point, communication regarding the case should take place between USCIS and the petitioner.

Since the stakeholder call, USCIS has revised its communication approach, as follows:
For general questions about cases that have been approved or that have not yet received a decision from USCIS, please contact the USCIS office in Nairobi using the following address:

For cases that have been issued an RFE or NOID, please be sure to carefully read your notice, and if you choose to respond, send your hard copy response according to the instructions on your notice to the USCIS Rome District Office. For inquiries about a case that has been issued a RFE or NOID, please contact the USCIS Rome District Office at If, following the issuance of an RFE or NOID, the case is ultimately approved, USCIS will inform the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia so that the Department of State’s immigrant visa process can begin. The Department of State will then take the necessary steps on deciding whether an immigrant visa should be issued. Please keep in mind that just because the Form I-600 petition is approved, this does not guarantee that State Department will approve the immigrant visa.
USCIS and the Department of State expect to hold a follow-up engagement around the beginning of December 2011. USCIS can then report on the patterns and trends in cases seen by our officers on their mission in Ethiopia. Hopefully, this will allow USCIS to give petitioners tips on how to make their case more robust and lessen the chance of future petitioners receiving a “Request for Evidence”. The State Department has also begun additional training for Adoption Service Providers (ASPs) on how to avoid deficiencies in case files.

Next Steps
Contact Information:
* For questions regarding cases which after they have been defined as “not clearly approvable,” please contact or as appropriate as explained above
* For complaints about treatment by a Consular Officer at a U.S. Embassy please contact or attorneys may use
* For general questions on the adoption process please contact

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sri-Lanka: Media Updates and Information Concerning Orphanage Raid and Ban on Adoptions

Various media outlets are reporting on the recent raid of an orphanage in Sri Lanka and the subsequent arrest of a nun on suspicion of her involvement in child-trafficking for adoption. The orphanage involved is ‘Prem Nivesa’ at Rawatawatte, Moratuwa. According to the media sources, the Sri Lankan authorities have placed a ban on adoption of children from this orphanage pending the outcome of the investigation. The nun is reportedly scheduled to appear in court on December 15.

At this time, we are unable to directly confirm the ban with the Sri Lankan authorities and the US Department of State. Office of Children's Issues has published nothing concerning the ban or any impact it may have on pending adoptions to US families.

It is our hope that the Sri Lankan authorities will swiftly and thoroughly investigate the issue and make any changes deemed necessary to their child welfare and adoption system that may be needed to protect the best interests of the children.

Media reports:

BBC: Adoption Ban on Prem Nivasa Nov. 30, 2011

The Sunday Times: Vital to focus on the child, Prem Nivesa and the NCPA raid Dec. 04, 2011

The Sunday Leader: Missionaries of Mary do not deal with money...for God Provides Dec. 04, 2011

The Sunday Leader: A Baby Shop in Rawatawatte Nov 25, 2011

Sri Lankan Guardian: Rev Sr Eliza Released on Bail, Dec 02, 2011

US Agencies and other Foreign Bodies with Adoption Programs from Sri Lanka:

US: New Horizons Hague Accredited through COA

Canada: Cornerstone Adoptions in Ontario see:

Australia: Australian Central Authority-

Miscellaneous Information:

US Central Authority Information on Adoption from Sri Lanka:

Sri Lankan Central Authority:

We will update as information becomes available.

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.