Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute e-Newsletter - If you have problems reading this issue, please visit: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org
MAY 2006 E-NEWSLETTER
IN THIS ISSUE
1. Law, Policy & Practice
5. Institute Update
1. Law, Policy & Practice
MISSOURI JUDGE BLOCKS LAW THAT WOULD HAVE CUT ADOPTION SUBSIDIES |
U.S. District Court Judge Scott O. Wright of Kansas City, in a May 1 ruling, permanently blocked the state from ending adoption subsidy payments to former foster children and their families. The lawsuit was filed in response to legislation (SB539) signed by Gov. Matt Blunt in April 2005. The legislation limited all prospective adoption assistance agreements to one year and automatically terminated all existing adoption assistance agreements upon their one-year anniversary; in addition, the law imposed a "means test" based on the income of the adoptive parents for certain groups of abused and neglected foster children. The state Department of Social Services has accepted the decision that it must honor its current contracts and continue payments to families already receiving subsidies, but plans to challenge the part of the injunction that bars the state from restricting payments to future adoptive families. To read the permanent injunction, go to: http://www.childrensrights.org/pdfs/Permanent%20Injunction.pdf; to read a summary of the case E.C. v. Blunt, go to: http://www.childrensrights.org/site/PageServer?pagename=cases; to read an April 2005 Adoption Institute press release criticizing the Missouri law, go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/pressrelease/20050414_missouri.html
OKLAHOMA COURT OVERTURNS STATUTE, RECOGNIZES SAME-SEX ADOPTIONS
Federal District Judge Robin Cauthron issued a 31-page decision on May 19 overturning a 2004 law prohibiting Oklahoma from recognizing adoptions by same-sex couples from other states and foreign countries. The lawsuit was filed by Lambda Legal in September 2004 on behalf of same-sex couples - ones who adopted while living in other states and later moved to Oklahoma with their families or wanted to visit the state where their children were born - seeking to ensure that "legal, final orders of adoption from other states" would be respected in Oklahoma. The court decision found that the Adoption Invalidation Law violated the U.S. Constitution by singling out a specific group for discrimination. The court ordered officials in Oklahoma to issue birth certificates for the three children involved in the case, listing the names of each child's two mothers, and prohibited state officials from enforcing the law in the future. To read the court decision, go to: http://www.lambdalegal.org/cgi-bin/iowa/cases/decision.html?record=1958; to read a summary of the case Finstuen v. Edmondson, go to: http://www.lambdalegal.org/cgi-bin/iowa/cases/record?record=215
KANSAS GOVERNOR COMMITS $2.1 MILLION TO AID GRANDPARENT CAREGIVERS
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signed the Grandparents as Caregivers Act (SB2) into law on May 23; the measure allocates $2.1 million in grants for eligible grandparents who have custody of a grandchild from foster care or legal guardianship $200 per child per month (not to exceed $600 a month) until the child reaches majority age. Grandparents must be at least 50 years old and have an annual income under $21,580 to be eligible for the grant; the child's parent(s) cannot reside with the grandparents. An estimated 2.5 million children are being raised by grandparents or other relatives other than their parents. The bill will take effect after publication in the state statute book. To read the enrolled bill SB62, go to: http://www.kslegislature.org/legsrv-bills/showBill.do?id=121307; to read an article on states efforts to expand kinship care programs, go to: http://www.infozine.com/news/stories/op/storiesView/sid/15324/
U.S. HOUSE PASSES BILL TO EXPEDITE INTERSTATE PLACEMENT OF CHILDREN
The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Safe and Timely Interstate Placement of Foster Children Act (HR5403) by voice vote on May 24. The legislation is intended to accelerate interjurisdictional placements and improve protection of adoptive and foster children across state lines. Currently, interstate placements on average take a year longer than placements within a state. The legislation sets specific timelines for home study completions: a state receiving a request to place a child for adoption or foster care must complete a home study within 60 days; the state making the request must then respond within 14 days of receiving the home study. In addition, the legislation authorizes funding for an incentive program of $1,500 for every home study completed within 30 days. The bipartisan bill was sponsored by former Rep. Tom Delay and is awaiting action in the Senate. To read the bill, go to: http://thomas.loc.gov/ and search for H.R. 5403 in the Search Bill Text field. To read a 2005 policy brief by the Adoption Institute examining the Interstate Compact, go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/2005_Brief_Safeguarding_Interstate_
REPORT FINDS MORE REGISTERED AND INFORMAL ADOPTIONS IN RURAL CHINA|
Registered adoptions in China have increased dramatically, from 2,900 in 1992 to over 55,000 in 2001, according to a new study. It said Chinese families adopt for a variety of reasons: because they are childless (50 percent); have been sterilized and want more children (47 percent); want a second child of the opposite gender from their first, and for other reasons. A 1992 law made unregistered adoptions illegal, yet they continue. Indeed, families in rural China use informal more than legally registered adoption, according to the study of 425 adoptive families in south-central China. The researcher found that fewer than 1 percent of adoptions studied were from state-run orphanages; about half were arranged by intermediaries; 23 percent were of abandoned children, and 26 percent were by kin. "Child Adoption in Contemporary Rural China," by Weiguo Zhang, was published in the March issue of Journal of Family Issues (Volume 27, Issue 3). For a free abstract, go to: http://jfi.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/27/3/301?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10
RESEARCHERS LINK HIGHER NUMBER OF PROBLEM BEHAVIORS TO DISRUPTION
A California study has found that foster parents tolerate about six problem behaviors in foster children, and when that threshold is exceeded, disruption is highly likely to occur. For each problem behavior over six, researchers found the risk of placement disruption increased by 25 percent. Children living with kin were less likely to disrupt. The study followed 246 elementary-aged children over a 12-month period. "Who Disrupts from Placement in Foster and Kinship Care?" by Patricia Chamberlain, Joe Price, John Reid, John Landsverk, Phillip Fisher and Mike Stoolmiller, was published in the April issue of Child Abuse & Neglect (Volume 30, Issue 4). The researchers recommended using the Parent Daily Report Checklist to identify placements at high risk. For a free abstract, go to: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=JournalURL&_cdi=5847&_auth=y&_acct=
STUDY SHOWS ADOLESCENT ADOPTIONS CAN SUCCEED DESPITE CHALLENGES
A qualitative study of 37 adolescent adoptions found that parents and adolescents defined adoption success in similar terms: being part of a family, and improving the teen's present and future quality of life. "Adolescent Adoption: Success Despite Challenges" also explored obstacles family members faced and how they dealt with them. Parents' most common challenges were children's behavior problems; fully 26 percent reported considering disruption. The teens' biggest challenge was missing their birth families. The authors recommend extensive preparation for all participants, with special attention to expectations. The study, by Lois Wright and Cynthia Flynn, was published in the May issue of Children and Youth Services Review (Volume 28, Issue 5). For an abstract, go to: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=JournalURL&_cdi=5892&_auth=y&_acct=
FOSTER PARENTS IDENTIFY BARRIERS TO DEALING WITH CHILDREN'S NEEDS
In a new study, foster parents identify many barriers to their ability to meet children's mental and physical health needs. Focus groups of foster parents in nine different localities cited such factors as authorities' failure to disclose the children's needs, a lack of continuity in care (especially medications) when children move, inaccessibility of treatment, and long delays in expense reimbursement. "Health and Mental Health Services for Children in Foster Care: The Central Role of Foster Parents," by Eileen Pasztor, David Hollinger, Moira Inkelas and Neal Halfon, was published in the January issue of Child Welfare (Volume 85, Issue 1). Some of the recommendations include clarity in role definitions and information sharing, timely receipt of Medicaid cards, "on-call" medical advisers to answer questions, training, and support. For a free abstract, go to: http://www.cwla.org/articles/cwjabstracts.htm#0601
DATA POINT OUT DISPARITY IN SUPPORTS FOR CHILDREN WITH TANF GRANTS
A study using national survey data compared the service needs and well-being of three groups of children displaced from their birthparents' homes: 54 children in kinship care supported by TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) "child-only" grants, 456 children living with kin but not receiving TANF grants, and 565 children in non-relative foster care. Researchers found that, although children in TANF "child-only" care had similar or higher incidence of mental health and behavioral problems as the other two groups of children, they did not have access to the comprehensive assessments, support services, financial support, and permanency planning services of children in state custody. "Between Two Systems: Children in TANF Child-only Cases with Relative Caregivers," by Deborah Gibbs, Jennifer Kasten, Anupa Bir, Dean Duncan and Sonja Hoover," was published in the April 2006 issue of Children and Youth Services Review (Volume 28, Issue 4). Case studies in five states were employed to expand on quantitative analyses. For a free abstract, go to: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=JournalURL&_cdi=5892&_auth=y&_acct=
MANY GRANDPARENT CAREGIVERS, CHILDREN NEED MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
A Chapin Hall study of the mental health needs of grandparent caregivers and their grandchildren reported that one-third of grandmothers had symptoms of depression, while their grandchildren were more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems than those whose grandmothers were not depressed. This qualitative study of 39 families, "Caring for their Children's Children: Assessing the Mental Health Needs and Service Experiences of Grandparent Caregiver Families," by Cheryl Smithgall, Sally Mason, Lisa Michels, Christina LiCalsi and Robert Goerge, found that two-thirds of the children assessed had emotional/behavioral problems at a level warranting clinical intervention, and half of these children received mental health services. Only a few grandmothers received mental health services. Barriers to accessing services are explored in depth, including frustrations with past services. To access this study, go to: http://www.chapinhall.org/article_abstract.aspx?ar=1427&L2=61&L3=131
ADOPTIONS FROM SOME AFRICAN NATIONS ON THE RISE, BUT STILL LIMITED|
Of the 53 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, international adoptions routinely take place only from Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Liberia - despite the fact that across the continent there are 12 million orphans from HIV-AIDS alone, as well as from war, famine and other catastrophes. According to the May 24 article in the (Toronto) Globe and Mail, "Out of Africa, A Trickle of Orphans," countries such as Nigeria and Sudan expressly forbid the practice, while other nations, including Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, permit it but make the process so overbearing - for instance, by requiring adoptive parents to live in the country for several years - that international adoptions effectively do not occur. Some of the reason is reportedly cultural; for example, non-relative adoptions and orphanages are foreign to most African cultures, which have traditionally relied on extended family and the community to care for children. The number of Canadian adoptions from Africa has increased from 42 a decade ago to 105 last year, almost all of them from Ethiopia. To read the article, go to: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20060524.wxadoption24/BNStory/
FEWER ADOPTIONS IN MASS. ATTRIBUTED TO DROP IN NUMBER FROM CHINA
The number of children adopted through Massachusetts agencies in 2004 has declined by 6 percent, in part because of a decrease in the number of babies from China available to single parents; the state's tight economy putting adoptions fees out of reach of many families; and changing demographics, including fewer people of parenting age. According to the May 1 Boston Globe article, "China's Policies Lead to Drop in Bay State Adoptions: Local Economy Also a Factor," by Patricia Wen, a recent study examining adoption trends in the state conducted by the University of Massachusetts Center for Adoption Research also found that more than half of the 2,392 children adopted in the state were foreign-born, primarily from China, Russia, South Korea and Guatemala, and about one-third had been foster children in state custody. Fewer than 10 percent were American-born infants adopted through private agencies. To read the article, go to: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2006/05/01/
SUBSIDIZED GUARDIANSHIP SUGGESTED AS GOOD OPTION FOR KIN CAREGIVERS|
Nationally, almost one fourth of children in foster care live with relatives, although they are likely undercounted in many states' statistics. That is one of the conclusions from a report from Generations United, "All Children Deserve a Permanent Home: Subsidized Guardianship as a Common Sense Solution for Children in Long-Term Relative Foster Care," which provides state-specific data on foster children living with relatives. This report presents data from California and Illinois on the benefits of subsidized guardianship as a permanency alternative for some of these children. To access, go to: http://www.gu.org/GU_Br4191474.asp
JUDICIAL GROUP ISSUES BROAD PLAN FOR IMPROVING FOSTER CARE SYSTEM
Judicial and child welfare leaders from across the U.S. have developed a comprehensive plan for improving the foster care system by achieving four goals: greater accountability through enhanced performance measures; greater collaboration between courts and agencies; judicial leadership to improve outcomes; and more effective legal representation of children and parents. The National Center for State Courts has issued the report, "Justice for Children: Changing Lives by Changing Systems." To access, go to: http://www.ncsconline.org/WC/Publications/CallToActionInside.pdf
SIX STEPS FOR IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF THE CHILD WELFARE WORKFORCE
Improving the working conditions of frontline workers in the child welfare system will raise the quality of the workforce itself, according to a 2006 report on promising practices from across the country. "Toward a High Quality Child Welfare Workforce: Six Doable Steps," by Susan Robison for Cornerstones for Kids, lists improvements in recruiting and hiring, supervision, giving workers the tools they need, recognizing and rewarding staff, and other areas. To access the full report, go to: http://www.cornerstones4kids.org/images/six_doable_steps_406.pdf
5. Institute Update||
COMMENTARY: BARRING GAYS FROM ADOPTING ONLY HURTS WAITING KIDS|
Executive Director Adam Pertman wrote an op-ed piece, based on an Institute study, that was published May 21 in the Virginia-based Daily Press. The commentary, headlined "We Shouldn't Bar Gays from Adopting Kids," concluded that state laws and policies aimed at preventing gay individuals and couples from adopting do not prevent them from becoming parents because they can do so in other states or in other ways; rather, such restrictions shrink the pool of prospective parents and thereby decrease the odds that children in temporary custody will ever get permanent, loving homes. Pertman's comments were based on research conducted by the Adoption Institute on gay and lesbian adoption. To read the opinion piece, go to: http://www.dailypress.com/news/opinion/dp-22788sy0may21,0,3967721.story?
coll=dp-opinion-editorials; to read the March 2006 policy brief on this issue, go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/2006_Expanding_Resources
_for_Children%20_March_.pdf; to read a 2003 study on agency practice relating to gay and lesbian adoption, go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/whowe/Gay%20and%20Lesbian%20Adoption1.html
NUMBER OF AMERICANS ADOPTING FROM ETHIOPIA AND LIBERIA ON THE RISE
In a May 19 article published in the Boston Globe, "Americans Adopting More African Children," by John Donnelly, Pertman acknowledges there has been a "spike" in the number of adoptions from Africa, in part as a result of news reports on AIDS orphans and the realization by some African countries that they can't cope with the huge number of children in need. According to the article, Americans have adopted Ethiopian children for years; the number of adoptions from Liberia greatly expanded when 14 years of civil war ended in 2003. Last year, according to Department of State figures, 623 visas for orphans from Ethiopia and Liberia were granted, a 10-fold increase from 1995. To read the article, go to: http://www.boston.com/news/world/africa/articles/2006/05/19/americans_adopting
TRANSRACIAL ADOPTIONS HARD BECAUSE OF PREVAILING SOCIETAL RACISM
Pertman states in a May 8 Philadelphia Inquirer article that despite current federal legislation that bars denying adoption on the basis of race, the unspoken policy in many places has been to try to place children with families of the same race except when the alternative is keeping a child in foster care. "For Adoptees Racial Divide Still Wide: Families May Be Colorblind, But the Worlds is Not," by Jeff Gammage, explores the experience of interracial adoption of black children by white parents and the challenges of growing up in a race-conscious society for transracial adoptees. To read the article, go to: http://www.timesleader.com/mld/timesleader/living/14662134.htm
ADOPTION INSTITUTE HOSTS SUCCESSFUL 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY GALA
On May 24, the Adoption Institute held a gala celebration marking 10 years of providing high-impact projects designed to improve the lives of everyone touched by adoption - especially children. The gala, "A Taste of Spring," took place in New York City and was a joyous evening of celebrity chefs, winemakers, a silent auction and live music. It was a major financial success, too, grossing nearly $400,000. The Adoption Institute thanks its Board of Directors, staff, major donors, friends and supporters whose generosity will enable the organization to pursue its important mission. If you want to make a contribution to support the Institute's unique work, go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/about/support.php
Executive Director Pertman will deliver a keynote address, "10 Things Everyone Should Know About Adoption," at the Summer Adoption Event sponsored by the State of Connecticut, Department of Children and Families, on June 8. To learn more, please go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/events/appearances.php#june. For a list of Pertman's speaking engagements and presentations by senior staff, go to: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/events/appearances.php
6. About the Evan D. Donaldson Adoption Institute||
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