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Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

July 2012 Archives

Concern about adoption assistance fraud

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On July 9th, 2012, the American Bar Association published a story about fraud in adoption subsidies. According to the report, hundreds of millions of the $2.5 billion paid in adoption subsidies may have been collected by adoptive parents who do not support their adopted children.

The likely scenario, according to this report, is that an adopted child is no longer living with his or her adoptive parents. There are many reasons for this; for example, in the case of divorce, a child may be living with a parent in a state that is not paying the subsidy, or a a child may not be living in the home because he or she ran away or were kicked out by his or her parents.

From the report:

Available data suggest that the number of adopted children who do not live with their adoptive parents until they turn 18 is significant. Nina Williams-Mbengue, program director at the National Conference of State Legislatures, found that 10-25 percent of pre-adoptive placements disrupt before adoption proceedings are finalized, and 10-15 percent of adoptions dissolve after they are finalized. Some practitioners believe that the numbers are much higher.

The ABA directs the blame on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which prohibits states from investigating possible adoption subsidy fraud. Furthermore, states are not allowed to suspend or reduce the adoption subsidy payments "without the concurrence of the adoptive parents."

However, federal laws allow for states to investigate and/or request proof of support that they are not allowed to do for adoptive parents receiving adoption subsidies. Therefore, relatives that qualify for relative guardianship assistance for becoming legal guardians to relative children may have their subsidies withheld or reduced if the state discovers they are not supporting a child.

For more about this issue, read the report here.

Couples sue state for right to adopt partner's children

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FOX Carolina 21

The ACLU is assisting six families in North Carolina in filing a federal lawsuit against the state for discrimination. North Carolina currently prohibits a partner from adopting his or her partner's biological or adopted child. This law affects both same-sex and unmarried heterosexual couples.

Until 2010, North Carolina recognized second parent adoptions. In 2010 the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the state could prohibit second parent adoptions for both heterosexual and LGBT families. Some states prohibit adoption only by same-sex couples while other states ban a partner in an unmarried, or cohabiting, relationship.

The ban against allowing second parent adoptions puts familes at risk, according to the Center for American Progress. For example, if a child is hospitalized, a parent that is not the biological or adoptive parent cannot visit his or her child or make decisions about his or her care.

The harm to children, according to the Center for American Progress report, All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequities Hurt LGBT Families, also includes:

  • Risk to children's health and well-being, by restricting access to health insurance and the abovementioned inability for parents to make full medical decisions and visit their children in the hospital;
  • Risk of not being able to have joint custody with both parents should the parents' relationship dissolve;
  • Risk of child welfare involvement if the legal parent dies or becomes disabled;
  • Possible denial of disability and survivor benefits if the non-legal parent dies; and
  • Possible denial of inheritance from the non-legal parent.

See our blog post in Child Welfare Policy for more details related to policy on this topic.

For a copy of the full report, click here.

New study of public opinions about adoption

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A new study conducted for Oxygen Media surveyed more than 1,000 Americans about their views on adoption. According to the report:

  • 86% of women and 77% of men are open to single parent adoption;
  • 73% of women and 62% of men are open to gay and lesbian couples adopting;
  • 90% of women and 84% of men thought it was more socially acceptable to adopt across race than in the past;
  • 97% thought adoption was a good option for people who are infertile;
  • 17% of women and 34% of men thought adopted individuals struggle more than non-adopted individuals;
  • 19% of women and 27% of men thought raising an adopted child is more difficult than raising biological children; and
  • 17% of women and 35% of men thought it was better if the adopted child looked like the adoptive family.
The study found that 90% of those surveyed identified teen pregnancy as the main reason why a child is placed for adoption.

Of the participants in the study:

  • 66% knew someone who was adopted,
  • 33% had considered adopting, and
  • 21% knew someone who had placed a child for adoption.

The study was conducted to coincide with the release of a new show on the Oxygen network, "I'm Having Their Baby," which is about the experiences of women who place their child for adoption. The show premiered this past Monday.

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MN Adopt is offering a training on August 6, 2012 on Working with the Mind-Body Connection: Understanding Stress and Trauma in Adopted and Foster Youth. The training will be presented by Lora Matz, LICSW.

From the description:

Increased levels of anxiety, depression and hopelessness are being seen in children from all socio-economic conditions, cultures and family life. Stress-related stomachaches and headaches in children of all ages are being reported as the number one health concern for children by physicians today. The principals and practices of Mind-Body skills are easily learned and empowering. Lora Matz offers Mind-Body skills that not only increase self-confidence, resilience and self-regulation but contribute to decreased disruptive behaviors often seen in children who have trauma histories. Participants will gain insight on how to talk to children of different ages about the stress response and how it impacts the body and emotions.

Lora Matz, LICSW is an internationally known health and wellness expert in the practices of Integrative Medicine. She currently serves as Clinical Education Specialist of Prairie Care and has a rich background as a psychotherapist, lecturer, writer and consultant in the areas of mind-body medicine and transpersonal development. Lora has many years of experience working with both children and adults in the areas of trauma and stress reduction strategies. She has served as Associate Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington D.C. and supervised the team who worked with the children who were on the school bus when the I-35W bridge collapsed. Addtionally, she has worked with adoptees and foster children as a foster mother, psychotherapist with both children and adults who have been adopted and their families. She also has worked as a psychotherapist and clinical supervisor with individuals struggling with issues related to failed adoptions.

For more information on this or other trainings, contact MN Adopt at:

trainings@mnadopt.org or

612-861-7115
612-861-7112 (fax)
866-303-6276 (toll free)

scale.jpgAn Ottawa man's children have been removed from his custody and will be placed for adoption because of the father's weight. According to the CBC News report, a parent's obesity can be a factor to determine a person's "fitness" to parent. Despite a 180 lb. weight loss, according to the unnamed father he is still being judged because he weighs over 300 pounds.

Obesity has been a factor in other cases, such as this case of a Cleveland, OH child, where it was the child's weight that targeted the family for child protection intervention.

What are your thoughts? Should weight be a factor in a child's removal and termination of parental rights?

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The San Francisco Giants will partner with the Mixed Roots Foundation to create a PSA to raise awareness about adoption. The PSA will premiere next Tuesday, July 24th, which has been designated as "Adoptee Night," during the Giants game against the San Diego Padres.

Guests will include filmmaker and director George Lucas, an adoptive parent, adoptees Michael Reagan and Aubrey Anderson-Emmons (Lily on ABC's Modern Family), and Ken McNeely, President of AT&T and an adoptee and adoptive parent.

According to SFGate.com,

The goal of 'Adoptee Night' will be to embrace and celebrate all people who have been touched by adoption and ultimately replicate this special event to other sports teams across the country.

Mixed Roots Foundation promotes and supports resources to the adoptee community through mentoring, scholarships, and grants.

New foster care legislation in Minnesota, part 2

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On Monday, we highlighted some of the changes to the foster care statutes that were passed in the 2012 legislative session in Minnesota. This post will continue the focus on the foster care changes that were made.

Thumbnail image for 90x60-05.jpgMany of the changes impact relatives. Changes to the law regarding relative search include:

  • The court may now order an agency to reopen its search for relatives at any time during the juvenile protection proceedings.
  • Previously, it was required that paternity for the father had to have been adjudicated in order for paternal relatives to be included in a relative search. That requirement has been eliminated.
  • The new law now allows for internet or other electronic means of identifying and locating relatives.
  • Agencies may now ask a child in an age appropriate manner who they consider to be family.
The agencies must document their efforts to locate relatives within three months of the child's placement into foster care, and the report must include documentation of the agency's efforts to:
  • Identify maternal and paternal relatives,
  • Engage with relatives to provide support for a child and family, and
  • The agency must document its decisions regarding relative placements.

Strengthened policies regarding working and engaging with relatives include:

  • Amending language to require placement consideration with relatives any time a child moves from, or is returned to, foster care;
  • Clarifying the agency's responsibility to engage with relatives who respond to a notice of a child in care. This section now includes activities that may be considered "participation in the care and planning for a child" including:
  • Relatives must be notified that they have the right to be notified of any court hearings and that they have an opportunity to be heard by the court.
  • Agencies must do one of the following at the permanent placement hearing:
  • Send notice to relatives,
  • Ask the court to modify the requirement to send notice to relatives, or
  • Ask the court to relieve the requirement to send notice to relatives.

Placement decisions based on the best interest of the child:
One of the requirements for placing children for foster care and adoption is that the placement is based on the best interest factors (previously eight, now ten). The amended law now requires this same requirement for any placement into a permanent legal and physical custody home.

The court must now review and determine findings regarding the agency's competence in:

  • Conducting diligent efforts regarding relative search,
  • Conducting individualized determination of the child's needs, and
  • Assessing a home that is best able to meet the needs of the child.

Other major changes:

  • A court may no longer order a child into long-term foster care.
  • Eliminates the option for a private agency to be appointed guardian for a child whose parents are deceased.
  • The option to separate guardianship and legal custody has been eliminated. Previously a court had the ability to grant one person or agency guardianship and another person or agency legal custody.
  • Foster parents may no longer be appointed guardian for a non-adopted foster child age 14 years or older.
  • The commissioner is no longer guardian of a child past the age of 18 years. If a youth 18 or older continues or re-enters foster care, the social service agency has legal responsibility for the child.

Summary of 2012 Foster Care Legislation in MN, part 1

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Significant changes were made to the foster care statutes in the last legislative session. This post will summarize part of the new legislation changes, and more will come in a future post.

Several definitions were amended:

  • "Child" was amended to include references to other statutes allowing youth to remain in foster care to age 21.
  • "Sibling" was amended to "one of two or more individuals who have one or both parents in common through blood, marriage or adoption, including siblings as defined by the child's tribal code or custom."
Juvenile Court
Amendments were made regarding juvenile court to include its jurisdiction for youth up to age 21 in child welfare and permanency, and to include adoption proceedings in juvenile court.

Emergency protective custody hearing amendments include:

  • Reasonable efforts to prevent placement are NOT required if a parent has committed sexual abuse against their child or another child, or is a registered sexual predator.
  • The court may order chemical dependency, mental health, medical or parenting assessments/evaluations as the court deems necessary as a means of supporting the development of a reunification plan.
  • Out of Home Placement plans must be based on the results of the emergency protective custody hearing, and the agency must make reasonable efforts to engage both parents (including paternal) in case planning.
Out of Home Placement Plan
The term "residential facility" was replaced with "foster care" and includes
  • family foster homes (both relative and non-relative),
  • group homes,
  • emergency shelters,
  • residential facilities (not otherwise excluded),
  • child care institutions, and
  • pre-adoptive homes.
Agencies are now required to document their efforts to keep the child in the same school if a placement change occurs.

Duties of the commissioner and the child-placing agency
Changes to the legislation include:

  • Training for prospective foster and adoptive parents now must specifically include preparing parents to care for the needs of foster and adoptive children.
  • Home studies must follow the commissioner's designated format.
  • The home study must provide the information needed for agencies to determine the family's capacity to meet the needs of a child based on the best interest factors.
  • Licensing agencies may provide the updated adoption home study for their foster families who want to adopt.
  • Prospective adoptive parents with approved home studies may have their foster care license applied through the same agency.
One of the aspects of the new legislation that struck me in particular was the following section. Chapter 260C was amended to broaden child protection to include juvenile protection. This includes adding juvenile protection proceedings including CHIPS, permanency, TPR, post-permanency reviews and adoption. Juvenile protection proceedings are intended to ensure permanency planning.

Additions to section 260C also include permanency planning for children in foster care that includes both a primary plan for reunification with parents and a secondary plan for an alternative permanent legal home in the case that reunification "cannot be achieved in a timely manner." Reasonable efforts include:

  • Locating and assessing both parents,
  • Identifying and notifying relatives, and
  • Placement with a caregiver that supports concurrent permanency efforts.
The new legislation also includes the expressed prioritization that adoption is the preferred permanency option, whether by a relative or non-relative. The next best option if adoption is not possible or in the child's best interest is a transfer of permanent legal and physical custody to a relative.

**What are your thoughts about adoption being prioritized in statute as the preferred permanency option? What are the political and/or social biases that led to this expressed change in the law? What are the potential outcomes for families?****

Fewer international adoptions - behind the numbers

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AsGirl_000004802916Medium.jpgFull Disclosure: I have been asked to appear on MPR to discuss international adoption, in part as a response to criticism that the discussion on Monday was not inclusive enough of adoptee perspectives. This post was written earlier this week and scheduled to publish yesterday. More information will be provided about the show and where you can listen in.

Since the State Department released its report on international adoption, there have been a lot of news stories about the fewer numbers of international adoptions occuring in the United States. In Minnesota, the news that one of the oldest and best known adoption agencies, Children's Home Society and Family Services, had merged with Lutheran Social Services due to the economic ramifications of this decrease in international adoptions, created quite a shock in the local adoption world.

Over the past month, several local news stories focused on the topic of fewer international adoptions. In the StarTribune article published July 2, 2012, reporter Jean Hopfensperger details the merger between Children's Home Society and Family Services (CHSFS) and Lutheran Social Services (LSS) as a result of restrictions and/or closures on the part of sending countries and implementation of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in respect of Intercountry Adoption.

On the Minnesota Public Radio Daily Circuit show that aired on July 9, representatives from CHSFS and LSS reiterated those two factors, as well as the emphasis on in-country care that many sending countries are focusing on, such as domestic adoptions and domestic fostering programs.

This blog post is a critique of how the media writes about international adopton. In all these articles or stories aired or published in the past few weeks, the decline in international adoptions has been framed as an "Oh no, the sky is falling!" As a result, the reader is set up to believe that any decrease in international adoptions is a bad thing.

For example, Tom Weber, in the MPR story, kept referring to the "precipitous drop" and "huge drop." The StarTribune said international adoptions were "crashing to its lowest level in 15 years" and called it a "precipitous decline." And Madeleine Baran in her MPR report described international adoptions as having "plummeted."

However, this rhetoric conceals the whole story. Yes, the numbers are declining. Unfortunately there is a lack of emphasis on examining why this may actually be a good thing.

For example, on closer inspection we learn that part of the reason for the decline in numbers may actually be attributed to positive things—for example, that countries are now building and supporting their own domestic adoption programs, or are working on family preservation. In other words, some part of the cause of the drop in children available for international adoption may be as a result of better care, better support for families, and better interventions for children in their home countries. Why would better care, supported by stable families and communities, be a bad thing for children?

Second, we learn that many countries have shut down, restricted, or postponed their adoption programs in light of unethical practices that have harmed birth families and children. By now most of us know that there have been many instances in which chlidren were unethically or illegally taken from their birth families for the purpose of international adoption. International adoption programs in a country that is poor and has no self-governing infrastructure to manage the care for their children and families in need often provide an economic benefit to that country. As a result, children may become commodities because of the money that international adoption brings to an impoverished area.

As both Ms. Harpstead and Ms. Warren stated in the MPR report, the "re-set" on adoption in light of responding to these unethical and illegal adoption practices in many countries is a good thing. Compliance with the Hague Convention is necessary for the protection of children. Again, a good thing.

Yet, articles in the media continue to portray these delays and/or closures as burdensome on waiting adoptive parents, and as evidence of government bureaucracies infringing on the rights of adoptive parents. The articles rarely look at the issue from the point of view of the adopted child, or what it would be like to be a child who learns they were illegally placed for adoption by these unethical adoption agencies. In fact, the point of view from the adopted individual altogether is almost never included in these stories (as a result of the response by adult adoptees on social media networks about the lack of adoptee perspective on the MPR piece, on July 10th MPR added a new section to their website asking for adoptee feedback. The responses that adult adoptees left in the comment section reveal the frustration that many adoptees feel about the lack of inclusion in the discussion).

Finally, what we learn when we dig deeper is that there are still many children who actually still are in need of a permanent home. These kids are typically older, may have a disability, or are part of a sibling group. Those children still exist; yet they wait. If all those children were to be adopted by families in the U.S. would the numbers of adoptions be so low? And what about all the children in this country who are waiting for adoption? And why don't any of these reports discuss that the U.S. is a sending country, not only a receiving country, and those numbers of U.S. children adopted by families in foreign countries have been fairly steady for the past five years?

I can't help but wonder if the "Chicken Little" language so often used (i.e. "the sky is falling") in stories about international adoptions actually reflects a more unpleasant reality—that international adoption is actually a business based on supply and demand. Rhetoric in media stories that reflect on such hyperbolic descriptions of dwindling supply (of adoptable children) in the face of still heavy demand (by adoptive parents) should be looked at more closely.

Overall numbers of international adoptions should not matter; what should matter is that the quality of each and every international adoption that takes place is ethical, in the best interest of the particular child, and is done with the utmost care and concern for that child's well-being. The numbers of international adoptions, however, do matter if money is attached. And that's one of the most problematic aspects of the adoption profession: that as much as we want to think of it as a service, in many ways it feels like a business.

When it comes to adoption, there are two clients: prospective parents and children. Many of us working in adoption have a very clear understanding of this. Adoption is supposed to be about finding families for children - not children for families.

Adoption is complex. Like all other areas of child welfare, it is fraught with complicated ethical dilemmas at all stages of the process. Adoption is not merely about the adoptive parent's burden; at heart, it is about a child in need of love, safety and security.

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One of the long-held myths about adoption has been that children become confused about the concept of having more than one set of parents. This became one of the rationales used to amend birth certificates identifying adoptive parents as birth parents once an adoption finalization has occurred in the United States, and to justify closed adoptions.

However, it is untrue that children can be confused about who their parents are, and it is untrue that children cannot love more than one set of parents. We don't expect parents to be incapable of loving more than one child. And children whose parents divorce and re-marry often end up having more than one "mother" and "father" figure. The onus is on the parents and adults to be secure in their parenting role and to communicate well with children about the parental figures in their lives.

In California, a bill has been introduced by Senator Mark Leno (D) that would allow for more than two legal parents for a child. That bill, SB1476, does not change the definition of a parent, but it eliminates the requirement that a child may only have up to two parents.

According to the article in the Sacramento Bee, examples of three-parent relationships that could be affected by SB 1476 include:

• A family in which a man began dating a woman while she was pregnant, then raised that child with her for seven years. The youth also had a parental relationship with the biological father.
• A same-sex couple who asked a close male friend to help them conceive, then decided that all three would raise the child.
• A divorce in which a woman and her second husband were the legal parents of a child, but the biological father maintained close ties as well.

The law was created to expand the possibilities of caregivers for children without having to place children in foster care, the situation that occurred for one girl when her two mothers (in a same-sex relationship) were both unable to care for her and her biological father could not be deemed the legal father because of the law limiting the number of parents to two.

Leno's website states:

This bill would reaffirm a family court judge's ability to recognize parent-child relationships based on the evidence and what is in the best interests of the child. The bill modernizes state law by giving courts the flexibility to protect children who have parent-child relationships with more than two

As expected the legislation is opposed by many groups, including the Association of certified Family Law Specialists. The organization's president stated in an interview that this law would "create confusion in the minds of children and in the legal system."

For more information:

MSN: Bill would let children have more than 2 parents
Sacramento Bee: California bill would allow a chlid to have more than two parents

Webinar on helping children with sexualized behaviors

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MN ADOPT is hosting a webinar on July 25, 2012 on Helping Children with Sexualized Behaviors: What Parents and Professionals Need to Know with Jane Seymour, MSW, LGSW.

From the training desciption:
This webinar will review the common myths and facts about children who are exhibiting sexualized behaviors. Participants will learn about the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy sexual behavior in children. The presenter also explores the influence of early traumas, such as domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse and how it manifests with children who display sexualized behaviors. Parents and professionals will learn specific strategies and interventions for working with and helping these children.

Jane Seymour, MSW, LGSW is a Clinical Specialist with the MN ADOPT HELP program at Minnesota Adoption Resource Network (MARN). MN ADOPT HELP provides a Warm Line for adoptive families and connects adoptive families with adoption competent therapists. Prior to her work with MARN, Jane provided individual and group therapy to children who had experienced intra-familial sexual abuse. She also provided in-home therapy, education, and skill building to adoptive and kinship families. Jane has previously worked with families involved with Child Welfare, and with youth in residential and day treatment settings.

For more information on this or other trainings, contact MN Adopt at:

trainings@mnadopt.org or

612-861-7115
612-861-7112 (fax)
866-303-6276 (toll free)

I've mentioned before what a wonderful resource the Child Welfare Information Gateway Library subscriptions are to professionals, researchers and families.I subscribe to a number of their "Libraries" - adoption, permanency, prevention, well being, etc. Each month the CWIG gathers the newest research articles, practice guides and policy updates on a number of child welfare topics, and sends the subscriber a list with links to these resources. (Want to subscribe? Click here.)

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It was on the adoption library link that I came across this journal article by Annette Ruth Appell for the Northwestern Journal of Law & Social Policy.

Appell writes from the perspective of a legal scholar and as a former attorney working in family and juvenile court systems in Illinois, South Carolina, Nevada and Missouri. Appell's major argument in this paper is that the child welfare system has created a "myth of separation" - that parents are "fungible" (that is, replaceable in whole or in part for another of like nature or kind) and that the separation of children and their parents improves children's lives.

Appell argues that parents aren't just "replaceable" in the minds and hearts of children, that separating children from their parents ends up being a systematic way of blaming parents in a way that "individualizes and pathologizes deviations from middle class norms" rather than addressing systemic and social problems such as poverty and violence.

It's an intriguing article that challenges a lot of beliefs about adoption. Read the article here and let us know what you think!

Summary of MN DHS 2012 Adoption legislation bulletin

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A few weeks ago, we updated you on the new Adoption Assistance legislation that will go into effect in August 2012. Today we will summarize some of the other child welfare legislation that was enacted in the same legislative session.

We will cover adoption policies in this post and in an upcoming post we will summarize foster care policies.

Previously most of the adoption rules and regulations were housed under Chapter 259. The rules and regulations pertaining to children under the guardianship of the commissioner (also referred to as state wards) will now be moved to Chapter 260C. This move means adoption is now included as part of the overall continuum for children in public child welfare. Guidelines for children who are NOT under the guardianship of the commissioner will continue to be in Chapter 259.

Some of the highlights and changes to the adoption of children under the guardianship of the commissioner are:

  • The new legislation reiterates and reorganizes language around "reasonable efforts" to finalize an adoptive placement, emphasizing concurrent permanency planning.

  • There is added emphasis that children under the guardianship of the commissioner may not refuse or waive "reasonable efforts" to recruit, identify or place said child into an adoptive home. This does not change the consent needed by any youth 14 or older to the adoption of a specific parent - this only means that children/youth may not refuse efforts on behalf of the agency to find them an adoptive placement. Youth ages 14+ still need to consent to a specific adoptive placement.

  • Relatives or foster parents who want to file a motion to adopt once a chlid has been placed with another family for adoption has 30 days after receiving the required notice of the adoptive placement to file. The relatives or foster family must have an approved adoption home study and prove that the agency has been unreasonable in responding to their request to adopt.

  • Previously, the home study requirement could be waived for a relative. The relative waiver is no longer an option. All relatives who wish to adopt a child under the guardianship of the commissioner must now have an approved home study.

  • The court is no longer able to order a child that is under guardianship of the commissioner into long-term foster care.

  • Previously, the commissioner was required to consent to the adoption. Under the new policy the commissioner is a signatory to an adoption placement agreement but is no longer required to give consent.

  • Previously, all requests to separate siblings for adoption had to be approved by consent from the commissioner. Under the new policy, the courts will now provide approval for separating siblings for adoption.

  • There will no longer be any exemptions to the requirement that the identified adoptive parent must have a fully executed adoption placement agreement in order to file an adoption petition.

  • The adoptive parent petitioner must be a minimum of 21 years of age, unless the adoptive parent is related to the child.

  • Previously, the court had to waive a requirement that an adoptive parent had to reside in the state of Minnesota of one year prior to filing the adoption petition. With the new legislation, the Minnesota residence has been eliminated.

  • The new law requires a petition for adoption to be filed no later than 9 months after the date of the adoption placement agreement. Previously, the filing requirement was 12 months.

  • If a married couple petitions to adopt, both spouses must sign their willingness to adopt. Exceptions may be made by the court in cases when spouses do not live together or for other reasons the court deems reasonable.

  • The child placing agency must provide testimony in support of the adoption petition during the finalization of the adoption in court. The testimony may be in person, by telephone, or by affidavit.

  • The requirement that a child live at least three months with their pre-adoptive parent prior to the court's order of an adoption decree has been eliminated.
For a more in-depth review, please read the full bulletin.

Data, data, and more data

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As someone who is interested in understanding the impact of adoption on children, youth, families, and social welfare systems, one of my biggest frustrations is that there seems to be concurrently an over-abundance of data, and yet the adoption data is very unorganized, un-centralized and differs greatly depending on who is managing the data.

This past week, I saw two data-related stories that interested me. First, a blog I read regularly, the Child Welfare blog, posted about the blogger's project that aims to improve data-sharing capacity nationwide, county by county, so that nationally, researchers (and anyone interested in the data) could better understand the well-being of children in the child welfare system. County- and state-level data is often not collected uniformly, so this project would create an integrated database.

The other data-related story I came across comes from the Right For Kids site. This organization out of Florida created a ranking system of states using AFCARS and other national data to look at several measures of child safety, permanency and well-being (although the report could do a better job citing where the data came from). The full report is available here.

Adoption data in the United States is not centralized so we have no idea the actual numbers of adopted persons in the country, nor how many children are actually being adopted from the many different silos, or types, of adoption that can occur.

For example, each of the following types of adoption are tracked separately (or not at all):

  • children adopted from foster care
  • children adopted by relatives or kin
  • children adopted by stepparents
  • children adopted from other countries
  • children adopted through private arrangements
  • children adopted through illegal/undocumented arrangements
The reality is that the courts, the state child welfare systems, the private adoption agencies, and the U.S. Census all have different ways of "counting" adoption, and none of them are integrated. In addition, trying to understand multiple facets of adoption, permanency and well-being of children is difficult to do without good data. The U.S. Census only began asking about adopted children in the 2000 Census!

The Right For Kids report discusses their desire to have been able to understand even more about children and youth in foster care, such as their educational outcomes.

In Minnesota, thanks to the Minn-LInK project, the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare could answer that question - as they did in their study, Educational Outcomes for Children in Out of Home Placement - because of the shared data agreement between the state's Department of Human Services, Department of Health and Department of Education.

Better data and shared data means being able to better answer the questions we have about the children and families whom we are serving. Research tells us what is working, what needs to be improved, and promising practices that make lives better.

Today the Star Tribune published an article by Jean Hopfensperger highlighting the changes that adoptive parents wanting to adopt internationally are now facing. These changes include increases in older children, sibling groups, and children with disabilities available for adoption, and a trend toward open adoptions, once considered impossible and/or improbable (even if desirable) a few years ago. In fact, you still often hear that the reasons people choose to adopt internationally rather than domestically from foster care is because adoptive parents want younger, healthy infants, and without siblings and/or birth family contact (in other words, closed adoptions).

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

However, times are changing in Minnesota and throughout the rest of the United States.

Minnesota has long been a leader in adoptions, including intercountry adoptions, currently holding the title as the state with the highest per capita rate of intercountry adoptions in the U.S. And as countries shut down, halt or slow their intercountry adoption programs, prospective adoptive parents and adoption agencies search for new areas of the world from which to adopt.

This Star Tribune article features a family that adopted from the Marshall Islands, where in the past there have been questions about ethics by adoption agencies and facilitators who misled or coerced parents into relinquishing their children for adoption by American prospective parents (for more about this, see links below).

The concept of openness in international adoptions is a new practice. Relatively few open adoptions occur. This family is bucking the trend against open adoption with children adopted internationally.

For more information about adoption in the Marshall Islands, see these links:

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