Sunday, October 27, 2013

PEAR Statement on "Baby Veronica" Case

Over the last four years, PEAR has been following the increasingly complicated custody case of “Baby Veronica.” As the story involved several states, the ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act), a Supreme Court  ruling, numerous other court rulings, Nightlight Christian Adoptions, and often erroneous coverage in the media, we suggest you read the history of this saga at,,,,, and, for the adoptee perspective,0,1433838.story for deep background. Many other bloggers, from the adoption community and the Native American community, have also spoken up.

We believe this is a case of wrongful adoption of Veronica Brown by Matt and Melanie Capobianco. To summarize briefly, Nightlight Christian Adoptions (NCA) allowed this “open” adoption to proceed without the consent of the biological father, Dusten Brown. Furthermore, someone – whether the biological mother, her attorney Raymond Godwin (who is married to NCA’s director), and/or NCA is unknown to us - apparently deliberately falsified paperwork prior to the birth, misspelling Dusten’s name and using an incorrect birth date so that his Cherokee tribe would not be notified, which is a requirement for a child with Native American heritage. Had the tribe been contacted, the adoption could not have taken place.

The Capobiancos were permitted to raise Veronica until she was two. At that point, the court in South Carolina ruled that Dusten had not knowingly given up his parental rights. Veronica was given to him, as she should have been as soon as the adoption was contested. Yet the Capobiancos refused to accept that decision. Over the last two years, the Capobiancos have been relentless in their pursuit of this child. They took this case public, exposing Veronica’s privacy in perpetuity and using Dr. Phil and adoptee-locator Troy Dunn as part of their PR machine to sway public opinion and the courts in their favor. They have had Dusten arrested and are now suing him for legal fees that were provided to them pro bono, travel fees to cover the media/publicity appearances they made (which are normally paid by the media, such as Dr. Phil).  

Not only have the Capobiancos done their utmost to procure this child through what we believe are fraudulent, deeply unethical means, but they, their adoption agency, and their lawyer have betrayed the basic concept of what adoption is meant to be: providing a family for a child who has none.   Fortunately, Veronica’s case has garnered so much attention that she will be able to realize how her father fought to keep her, despite the machinations of the Capobiancos and their team. (For details, go to

We are extremely disheartened that the courts in this country have allowed this adoption to take place. Numerous adoption laws have been broken. South Carolina and Oklahoma do not have open adoption regulations that can be enforced. Given the animosity the Capobiancos have shown toward Dusten, we sincerely doubt they will allow Veronica’s father to be a regular presence in her life, or that they will be speaking of him and his extended family (as well as the Cherokee Nation) with the respect and love he deserves.  

We fear for Veronica’s mental and emotional health, as she has been removed from the home of her father, step-mother, step-sister, and many other relatives and friends, and taken thousands of miles away to live with a couple who has shown the utmost disdain for her family while claiming that their custody is in “her best interest.” 

Most important, however, is that this child has rights of her own. Veronica has the right to be raised by a competent, loving biological family. Prospective adoptive parents, their adoption agencies, and their adoption attorneys should not be allowed to trample on a biological father’s (or mother’s) rights. They should not be allowed to encourage biological mothers to deliver in a state (especially one with lenient adoption regulations) that is not their legal residence. They should not take their private situations public. They should pay utmost care when preparing paperwork that determines a child’s future. They should not feel justified, with an overwhelming sense of entitlement, to another person’s child.

The tragedy of this case highlights the inequity between determined adoptive parents and the rights of the adoptees and their biological families. 

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

DOS Alert: Democratic Republic of the Congo Authorities Announce Changes to Suspension Exceptions and New Prohibition on Adoptions by Single Parents

October 23, 2013:  Changes to limited exceptions to suspension on exit permit issuances: 
On October 22, the Congolese Ministry of Interior and Security, General Direction of Migration (DGM) clarified limited exceptions to the suspension of exit permit issuance referred to in the Department of State’s October 8 adoption notice. The DGM will issue exit permits to adopted Congolese children whose adoptions were approved by the Congolese Ministry of Gender and Family’s interministerial adoption committee beforeSeptember 25, 2013. The DGM provided the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa with a list of children whose adoptions meet this requirement. The U.S. Department of State will contact the families whose children are on the DGM’s list by October 28. Adoptive parents are advised that the possession of a U.S. immigrant visa may not, on its own, be sufficient for the DGM to issue an exit permit to an adopted Congolese child.
Adoptive parents whose Congolese children’s cases fall under the exception must apply in person to the DGM’s Administrative Secretary for exit permits. Please note there is no fee for the service. The DGM usually takes a minimum of seven days to process exit permits for adopted children. The DGM Administrative Secretary may be reached at:
Mr. Albert Luyinu, Administrative Secretary
Direction Generale d’Immigration
65, Boulevard du 30 juin,
Commune de la Gombe
Ville de Kinshasa, R.D.Congo
The DGM further clarified that the Ministry of Gender and Family will not process any pending or new applications for approval of adoptions during the suspension on exit permit issuances.
New prohibition on adoptions by single parents: 
On October 22, the DGM informed the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa that it will no longer issue exit permits to Congolese children adopted by single parents, unless the adoption meets the above criteria for limited exceptions. The DGM contends that certain provisions of Congolese law prohibit single individuals from adopting Congolese children. This prohibition applies to single individuals from all countries and is intended to be permanent. The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa is seeking clarification on the prohibition’s impact on children whose adoptions by U.S. families were already completed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo before the suspension.
Adoptions in progress: 
Prospective adoptive parents and adoption service providers are reminded that adopted Congolese children cannot depart the Democratic Republic of the Congo without an exit permit. Therefore, while the courts may continue processing adoptions, the children adopted during the suspension will not be able to obtain exit permits to depart the country.
Please direct questions related to this alert or a specific adoption to the Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues at 1-888-407-4747 within the United States, or 202-501-4444 from outside the United States. Email inquiries may be directed to We will also post new information as it becomes available on

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

DOS Notice: Reminder of Kenyan prohibition against pre-selection of prospective adoptees

October 15, 2013:  The Kenyan Adoption Committee has requested that the United States government remind adoption service providers and prospective adoptive parents of Kenya’s strict prohibition against pre-selection of children by prospective adoptive parents.  The Kenyan National Adoption Committee, Kenya’s Central Authority under the Hague Adoption Convention, is likely to reject dossiers and/or referrals for families that have pre-selected a child or have had prior contact of any kind with a specific child, the child’s guardian, or individuals with power to determine a child’s eligibility or placement for adoption.  This could include, but would not be limited to, contact through mission trips, volunteering at orphanages, or other relationships with the prospective adoptee.  The sole exception to this prohibition is when a prospective adoptive parent can prove a blood relationship with a prospective adoptee. 
The U.S. Intercountry Adoption Act, which implements the Hague Adoption Convention in the United States, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Interim Hague regulations require disclosure in the home study of any information relevant to the prospective adoptive parents’ eligibility to adopt under the specific requirements of the child’s country of origin (See 8 CFR 204.311(q)).  Prior contact between prospective adoptive parents or any additional adult member of the household and a Kenyan child’s parents, custodian or other individuals or entity responsible for the child’s care may be grounds for denial of the Form I-800 (See 8 CFR 204.309(b)(2)).
Adoption service providers and prospective adoptive parents who wish to know more about intercountry adoptions from Kenya can visit the Department of State’s page on adopting from Kenya and the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi’s website for more information.

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

DOS Alert: Guidance on Processing of Emergency Adoption Cases during Ghana’s Suspension

October 15, 2013:  On April 30, 2013, the Government of Ghana suspended processing of all adoption cases, including intercountry adoptions, pending Ghana’s review of its current adoption procedures.  This alert provides additional information on how the Ghanaian Department of Social Welfare (DSW) is implementing the suspension and how the suspension impacts processing of related Forms I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.
Cases Subject to the Suspension
All adoption cases that received final approval by the Ghanaian Department of Social Welfare (DSW) or were filed with a court before April 30, 2013, are not subject to this suspension.  
For cases filed with a court on or after April 30, 2013, only emergency cases may proceed to final adoption in Ghana.  Emergency cases include children who have special needs or medical conditions, children who could “age out” of adoption eligibility, and children adopted by biological relatives.  These emergency cases must be submitted to the Acting Director of DSW for approval before being submitted to a Ghanaian court.
We strongly encourage prospective adoptive parents not to proceed with an adoption in Ghana unless you meet the suspension exceptions described above.  If you wish to pursue an adoption in another country due to the suspension, please see the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website for more information at
Guidance Regarding Form I-600 Petition Processing
When filing any Form I-600 petition, U.S. prospective adoptive parents must establish that the adoption or grant of custody took place in accordance with the law of the child’s country.  For all Form I-600 petitions filed on behalf of a child from Ghana USCIS and the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Accra require evidence that the Minister or Acting Director of DSW has approved the adoption case filed with the court after April 30 to ensure it was completed in accordance with the regulated exceptions to the suspension.  In an effort to efficiently process these cases, USCIS Accra will continue to contact the DSW directly for petitions filed in Accra, when necessary, to confirm whether the case was approved by DSW.  Prospective adoptive parents may also choose to obtain this evidence directly from DSW and submit it with their Form I-600 petition.  The address for the Acting Director of the Department of Social Welfare is P.O. Box MB 230, Accra, Ghana. 
Please note there is no fee by DSW or USCIS for confirmation that a specific case was approved by the DSW.  If prospective adoptive parents are unable to obtain this information from the DSW, please notify USCIS Accra at
The Department of State and USCIS will continue providing updated information on as it becomes available.  If you have any questions about this notice, please contact the Office of Children’s Issues at 1-888-407-4747 within the United States, or 202-501-4444 from outside the United States.  Email inquiries may be directed to

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Friday, October 25, 2013

DoS Notice: Children Adopted From Vietnam Before July 1, 2009 Must Register with the Government of Vietnam to Retain Vietnamese Citizenship.

The 2008 citizenship law of Vietnam requires that children adopted from Vietnam before July 1, 2009 must register with overseas Vietnamese diplomatic missions prior to July 1, 2014 to retain their Vietnamese citizenship (Art. 13.2 citizenship law of Vietnam).  The law does not require children adopted from Vietnam after July 1, 2009 to register because they automatically retain their Vietnamese citizenship (Art. 37.1 citizenship law of Vietnam).
After July 1, 2014, those who do not register for retention will lose their Vietnamese citizenship.  In order to reclaim their Vietnamese nationality, they would have to apply for restoration of Vietnamese citizenship, proving that they meet the conditions of Article 23 of the citizenship law of Vietnam and following a rigorous process that requires the approval of the President of Vietnam.
For instructions on how to apply to retain Vietnamese citizenship, please visit the website of the Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


The “Children in Families First Act of 2013” (, sponsored by Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, begins with the assumption that “The people of the United States recognize and believe that children must grow up in permanent, safe, and nurturing families in order to develop and thrive.” Unfortunately, that underlying assumption by the Senator and her co-sponsors is not supported by the changes proposed to adoption law and regulation in the act itself.

Senator Landrieu makes many authoritative-sounding assertions that lack any evidentiary support in social literature and studies. For example, while neglect in an institutional setting should certainly be avoided, there is nothing that shows that long-term foster care arrangements with area foster families is detrimental to child development, and the ability of a child to thus remain in their native culture can and should be seen as a significant advantage.

The goal of the bill is to “realign the United States Government’s current operational system for assisting orphans and vulnerable children, and processing intercountry adoptions.” Thus, the primary goal of the bill is not to seek to improve the domestic adoption program inside the United States, but to impose United States goals and desires upon the rest of the world. The bill, for example, will require each sending country to annually report to the United States Department of Homeland Security how many children are “living without families,” to what extent “family permanence solutions are being utilized,” and other detailed reporting requirements. It is not clear why other countries would or should feel obliged to provide this information, but the bill seems to assume that such reporting can be accomplished by legislative fiat.

Although the subsidiarity principle (placing children domestically as a first priority) is recognized by the authors of the bill, under this legislation both in- and out-of-country options would be considered simultaneously, with preference given for whichever method results in the quickest adoption. Thus, under the terms of this act, if an infant child could be adopted within a month through international adoption and six months through domestic adoption, the act gives preference to the international adoption. This, in effect, negates any deference to the subsidiarity principle as codified in the Hague Agreement.

The underlying assumption among those in the adoption industry, including the authors and supporters of this bill, is that the collapse in international adoptions in recent years is due to increased administrative and regulatory burdens on sending countries, adoption agencies, and potential adoptive families. The conventional wisdom is that there are millions of orphans that could find permanent homes if the governments of the world would just get out of the way. The “Children in Families First Act of 2013” thus seeks to convert the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from a participant in the international adoption arena to its overseer.

But the facts are that the decline in international adoptions has been the result not of increased regulations and oversight, but adoption scandals in the sending countries themselves. China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Guatemala, Ethiopia, and nearly every other large program collapsed or is collapsing under the weight of baby-buying and other unethical practices. The “Children in Families First Act of 2013” does not address this reality, and imposes no new safeguards to make the world’s international adoption program more secure, transparent or ethical.

As concerned parents of adoptive children from around the globe, PEAR feels passionately that steps must be taken to improve the transparency and ethical standards of the world’s adoption programs. We support changing the U.S. definition of child trafficking, for example, to include trafficking for purposes of adoption. But the “Children in Families First Act of 2013” does little to increase the reliability and transparency of the international adoption programs in the world.

For additional information on the Act, see:

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.