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Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

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Recently in adoption Category

This blog post was written by Joan Riebel, LICSW, Executive Director of Family Alternatives in Minnesota. Family Alternatives is a licensed foster care and adoption agency.

Teens.jpgAndrea Brubaker's blog post on San Pasqual Academy caused me to share our experiences as well. For any child, being removed from her family is a traumatic experience, regardless of how well that family did or did not care for her. Family Alternatives has begun to address how kids "make sense of the situation" by providing programming and by developing new protocols around our social work practices. In the fall of 2009 we implemented Creating Ongoing Relationships Effectively (CORE), which has helped us address the socio-emotional needs of older youth in foster care who are nearing transition into adulthood. Evaluated by Chapin Hall, University of Chicago, it was found to have statistically significant impact on several key outcomes regarding supportive relationships.

CORE employs a holistic approach to developing and enhancing trusting and supportive relationships between youth and adults that will be lasting, particularly through their transitional years. With CORE we have learned what it takes to turn around the system's failure to help young people in care develop caring relationships with each other, sharing experiences and offering supports. The components of our CORE programming are designed to enhance youth decision-making and relationship building skills. We have found that these experiences, which are both fun filled and therapy based, empower these emerging adults to feel capable and competent in taking charge of their own lives.

Since CORE's inception, over 88% of our youth in care have maintained their placement and nearly 93% of our eligible youth have graduated from high school--dramatically higher than both local and national averages. Over 85% of those graduates have been accepted into post high school educational experiences, many in four year colleges. Again, this is significantly higher than both local and national averages. These youth have all identified adult mentors who will support them and guide them as they transition to adult living. Most of them maintain their connection with their foster family.

We do this by ensuring that we have foster families who are well trained and are committed to helping youth cope with their grief, loss and trauma. We do this by developing our staff, and by continuing to offer them opportunities to learn new ways to help young people be successful. We do this by offering CORE programming: programming that emphasizes youth empowerment, giving young people more control over the decisions that affect their lives, and acknowledging, often for the first time in their experience, that this is their life and we are there to support them. These opportunities enable youth learn about decision-making and to build lasting and healthy relationships with people who can, and want to, be there for them for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

In a case similar to the controversial "Baby Veronica" situation, another Oklahoma father is fighting to have his baby daughter returned. Baby Desirai's pre-adoptive parents have refused to turn the child over to the Absentee Shawnee tribe, despite an Oklahoma's court ruling last month in favor of the tribe, according to Oklahoma's News One 6.

The similarities to the baby Veronica are many; a father who wants custody, the involvement of a tribe, and the same attorneys - Raymond Goodwin in South Carolina also represented the Capobiancos who adopted Veronica and Paul Swain in Tulsa who also represented the Capobiancos.

For more about "Baby Desirai":

We often talk about the "adoption triad" and yet most of our attention is spent on the adopted child and the adoptive parent. There are few resources available for the birth parent who places the child for adoption and what needs they will have after the adoption is finalized. While pregnancy counseling is available through pregnancy centers and adoption agencies, what happens once the placement happens? How do birth parents - birth mothers - continue to get support for their healing from the grief and loss of placing a child for adoption?

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One place where women who have placed a child for adoption can receive ongoing support is On Your Feet Foundation (OYFF), with locations in Chicago and California.

In an article for Adoptive Families, authors Diane Landino, Susan Dusza Guerra Leksander and Susan Romer write about life for a birth mother after placement and how OYFF help birth mothers receive ongoing support. The authors write:

Birth parents remain the most under-served members of the adoption community, with little access to meaningful services, pre- or post-placement. Much research has been conducted on the health and development of adopted persons, but little attention has been devoted to birth parents. Pre-placement counseling for expectant mothers has become more common in the last decade, with many domestic agencies requiring sessions and attorneys recommending it as best practice, yet women may not be aware of or ready to explore their complex emotions at that time. And while there is more recognition that placing a child is one of the most significant, painful, and traumatic life events a woman can experience, that understanding has not yet led to comprehensive development of post-placement supports and services. It is not uncommon for women to feel that, once they leave the hospital, they are left to fend for themselves.

OYFF hopes to dispel myths about birth mothers through education and outreach - why they place and what post-placement is like for these women. Services they provide include peer suport, counseling and mentoring and educational supports. They also offer birth mother retreats where women can be part of a supportive community.

To read the rest of the story in Adoptive Famliies click here. And as National Adoption Month comes up ahead and we think about the celebration of adoption, it is worthwhile to remember that the joy of adoption is borne from loss. While everyone is celebrating adoption, remember that for the birth family all the media and news about adoption may bring up feelings of sadness and grief.

Click here for the website for On Your Feet Foundation - Northern Californa.

November is only a few weeks away and to herald the beginning of National Adpotion Month, Minnesota Adoption Resource Network (MARN) is celebrating families that have adopted Minnesota Waiting Children with its annual Circus of the Heart on November 3rd.


Funded by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Circus of the Heart has fun activities for children, youth and famlies including art projects, games, prizes, pony rides, face painting, and a petting zoo.

For more details about this event, contact Minnesota Adoption Resource Network at 612-861-7115.

Click here for the flyer.

The American Academy of Pediatrics as part of their Healthy Children series, has created a brochure for parents who have or are considering adopting a child internationally. Their brochure, "A Healthy Beginning" offers advice on things to consider prior to bringing the child to the U.S., what to expect in the first medical visit, a check list of information to bring to the first medical visit with their doctor and resources.

To download the brochure, click here.

The organization also has a lot of helpful resources about foster care and adoption. Click here for the website.


The Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition in St. Louis, Missouri got inspired by the show Extreme Makeovers and thought, why not "extreme recruitment" for youth in foster care?

Thus, Extreme Recruitment was created. In Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, a house is build in a week through the efforts of professionals and volunteers working together to build a house for a family in need. Inspired, Melanie Scheetz, Executive Director of Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition, thought professionals and volunteers could work together to quickly find permanence for childen in foster care.

The Extreme Recruitment model focuses on a 12-20 week intensive plan to place children considered "hard to place" - children with special needs, older children and youth (10-18 years), children of color and sibling groups.

So far almost 70% of the youth involved in the Extreme Recruitment program in 2012 were matched with a permanent family. If you are interested in learning more about Extreme Recruitment, you can download their Toolbox and learn more about how Extreme Recruitment is done at their website.

You can also learn more by reading this feature in Time Magazine and watch this video below.

Reuters investigation into re-homing

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[Photo by Samantha Sais for Reuters]

A few weeks ago, Reuters journalist Megan Twohey's in-depth investigative report about rehoming in adoption was big news in the adoption world, particularly for those interested in intercountry adoption. The five part series included:

For those of you who have never heard of the term "re-home" it refers to when an adoptive parent decides they cannot parent their adopted child and seeks to have the child placed within another adoptive family. Often times the "re-homing" is facilitated by an adoption agency, but unfortunately there have been times when this action is done without agency or legal oversight and the Reuters report focuses on those types of re-homing.

Many adoptive parents were angered by the report by Twohey, which focused on the use of internet forums such as Yahoo groups and facebook as places where adoptive parents sought other families who would take on their adopted child. The report focuses on the cases where such re-homed children were abused by their next adoptive parent and called for oversight and regulation. Not all families, of course, seek to "re-home" using these methods and many adoptive parents have used agencies and ensured that the family that was going to adopt or take guardianship of their adopted child had been adequately screened and supervised.

As with any family issue, re-homing is a complex story. While many people, particularly adoptive parents and adoption agencies, have been distressed by the Reuters investigation, it is nonetheless a practice that everyone involved in adoptions must know clearly and squarely where the gaps are so that children and families can be supported and practiced. Most of the families who choose to re-home have attempted to seek help and have found post-adoption supports lacking, unaccessible, or inadequate to help the family. Rehoming as a practice is not new; but the attention toward it is relative new. One aspect of this story that needs to be highlighted is that many adoption agencies did not know about this practice.

The lesson to be learned from the Reuters report is that the more we know that these issues exist, particularly unethical re-homing practices, the more responsibility adoption professionals and child welfare/adoption agencies must take in finding responses that reduce as much as possible the trauma that a re-homed child will suffer, and provide adequate support to adoptive parents. While in adoption, the saying "forever family" and "permanency" is a goal, it is sadly not always the reality. As the media hype over this story subsides, what must remain is a commitment to better prepare and support adoptive families and of utmost concern is to reduce the trauma to a child that has already experienced rejection and abandonment. Any re-home or placement must be done with the concern of the child through the transition into their next placement with care and appropriate support.

Ra'Shede Hageman, defensive tackle for the University of Minnesota Gophers football team, knows about strength and resilience - and not just on the football field. After being removed from his mother, Ra'Shede and his brother were placed in foster care. After twelve foster homes, Ra'Shede had a natural distrust for people.

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Then he met Eric and Jill - the couple who would end up his adoptive parents. The couple, both attorneys, are white. Hageman is black. Like many other transracially adopted people, Hageman had his share of identity struggles. As stated in the Star Tribune article:

Hageman wanted to fit in seamlessly with a crowd. He was self-conscious about his size and about the skin color of his adoptive family. He harbored anger over the traumatic years in the past. At a young age, he concocted lies when strangers were faced with the truth.

Over time, and with the support of his parents and family and coaches, Hageman began to feel his differences actually served to be his assets. Today Hageman is succeeding as an athlete and is looking forward to his future.

To read more about Hageman check out the featured story on the Star Tribune.

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The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adopioin has announced its list of the 100 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces in the U.S. This is the seventh annual list.

Among the criteria the foundation uses to detrmine its ranking includes adoption benefits (the amount of financial reimbursement and paid leave for families that adopt), company programs that encourage and educate potential adoptive parents among its workforce, support networks for adoptive families and adoption services provided through employee assistance programs.

Is your company or organization adoption friendly? To learn more about how to make your workplace adoption friendly, get your free Adoption Friendly Workplace Kit.

To view the full list, click here.

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Last week the Donaldson Adoption Institute released its newest policy perspective titled, "A Need To Know: Enhancing Adoption Competency Among Mental Health Professionals. The report highlights the difficulty that adoptive families face when seeking clinical therapeutic services in finding practitioners who have a deep level understanding and training in permanency and adoption. While many therapists may say they work with adoptive families, surveys have found that knowledge about permanency and adoption are at best minimal. A study by Atkinson, Gonet, Freundlich and Riley (in press) found that of 485 respondents, fewer than 25% considered that the professional they worked with was adoption competent. Alarmingly, 26% of the respondents noted that none of the professionals they worked with knew much about adoption and many stated that working with these therapists actually caused harm to the family.

Findings from the report:

  • Successful adoption is tied to good preparation of all parties prior to placement and to the availability and utilization of effective supports and other help, including counseling, afterward. Adoption-competent therapists are high on - and sometimes at the top of - the list of services that members of adoptive and birth families want and need.

  • Genetic risk and early trauma (primarily for children adopted from foster care or institutions) do not inevitably undermine development. Two key factors that facilitate their recovery are comprehensive pre-adoption preparation and education of families, along with the availability and utilization of informed mental health services.

  • Graduate education in relevant fields does not usually include adoption issues. A survey of directors of clinical training programs in marriage and family therapy, social work or counseling found only about 5-16 percent offered adoption-specific coursework. Two thirds of licensed psychologists in a national survey reported no such graduate coursework; fewer than one-third rated themselves as well or very well prepared to treat adoption issues, and 90 percent said psychologists need more adoption education.

  • The limitations of medical insurance can pose significant barriers to accessing adoption competent therapists. Most insurance doesn't provide sufficient mental health coverage to cover the complex, long-term needs of those involved, particularly children who have suffered early trauma and other adversity; and few if any carriers take into account that adoption-competent therapists may not be on their lists of covered, in-plan providers.

  • Which practitioners are adoption-competent is not always clear or easy to determine, in part because adoption counseling has not yet been identified as a professional specialty in the health care fields, with clear guidelines for training, practice and credentialing.

  • Without an appropriate process, many individuals and families will continue to be treated by professionals who are inadequately prepared to understand and help them.

In addition, the Donaldson Instiute made the following recommendations:

  • Develop Certification for Adoption Clinical Competence. People want and need to know that the professionals they are working with have the requisite knowledge, skills and experience to meet their needs. This should apply in the adoption realm as much as in any other, so a certification for adoption clinical competence should be developed.

  • Expand Adoption Training Programs across the Country. Nearly all existing programs require training in classroom settings, so the number of available professionals is restricted to those who live within commuting distance of current sites. Training needs to expand through more programs and the use of technologies such as webinars, "flip teaching" and "massive open online courses."

  • Strengthen the Clinical Components of Existing Training Programs. This can be accomplished by increasing the number of required clinical courses for mental health practitioners; offering additional clinical courses as electives; and/or offering additional clinical courses as stand-alone, post-certificate, continuing education courses. All programs also should offer some type of clinical supervision.
  • Develop Outreach Efforts to Inform Mental Health Providers about the Need for Adoption Competency and Opportunities for Enhancing their Knowledge. Broad-based outreach initiatives should be developed to increase awareness on the need for adoption-competence, to identify opportunities for training among mental health professionals, and to explain the benefits of developing this specialized knowledge.

  • Educate Insurance Providers about the Unique Nature of Adoption Issues and Advocate for Expanded Coverage. Concerted efforts must be made to educate insurance providersabout the unique clinical needs of individuals and families affected by adoption-related issues. This process will be greatly helped if the mental health field overtly recognizes the value of adoption clinical certification and supports its development.

  • Encourage Graduate Training Programs and Post-Graduate Clinical Training Centers to Include More Information about Adoption and Foster Care in their Curricula. The better grounding in these areas that professionals receive while in training, the better prepared they will be to serve the needs of adoption kinship members and to seek to expand their expertise on adoption- and trauma-related issues.

  • Encourage Research on Training Effectiveness and Outcomes. To better serve the training needs of professionals and the well-being of adoptive kinship members with whom they work, the Institute recommends that researchers examine the effectiveness of training programs in terms of knowledge gained by participants, changes in clinicians' practices as a result of training, and clients' progress and satisfaction with services.

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At the University of Minnesota we are pleased to be part of a growing network of centers offering permanency and adoption competency education through our Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate program (PACC), mentioned in the Donaldson Adoption Institute report. We also offer an elective course in our MSW program at the School of Social Work, Permanency in Child Welfare. You can learn more about our PACC program here and view professionals that have completed the PACC certificate on our PACC Professional Directory.

For the full report, you can download a pdf and learn more about the report at the Donaldson Institute website here.

Adoption and school issues

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With the start of a new school year, there are many times when adopted children may be faced with challenges. These challenges may be everything from dealing with assignments such as creating a family tree, or bringing in a baby picture to class, or science projects that involve assumed biological-relatedness (see here for an example).

For adopted and foster children with IEP's or learning disabilities, there may be special challenges as well. This blog post will hopefully offer a variety of school-related resources for adoptive and foster parents.

First, the Child Welfare Information Gateway has several resources including articles you can download on topics such as:

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There are also several fact sheets from Minnesota Adoption Resource Network including specific grade level information (scroll down to the header of School Issues/Education).

According to a study by researcher Alice Home, from the University of Ottawa School of Social Work, the major challenges for Canadian adoptive parents are finding and accessing post-adoption support and services, and getting a diagnosis and then understanding what that means for a child with special needs. Particularly challenging for parents who adopt internationally is the lack of information about the child's needs.

Home's study with 26 Candaian adoptive parents and with adoption professionals found that parents often struggle to find help, fearing that adoption agency workers will blame the parents for their problems.

Participants were videotaped and Home is in the process of publishing the findings.
The videos are available at the Adoption Council of Canada site.

Chapter 1: Working together across boundaries

Chapter 2: Stakeholder study

Chapter 3: Advocating for children with disabilities

Chapter 4: Ways forward

For more information:
HealthCanal article, "Unique study on adoptive parenting sheds light on lack of post-adoption support"
Adoption Council of Canada (AAC)

When an adoption is finalized, it is the promise of a new chapter in the lives of children and parents. And while the majority of adoptive families thrive, there are some that don't fulfill the promise of a "forever family" for a child.

The National Council for Adoption (NCFA)'s August issue of the Adoption Advocate looks at ways to support children and families when an adoption dissolution occurs.


Authors John Bergeron, Jr., PhD and Robin Pennington discuss what they have seen in their practices assisting families that dissolve an adoption. Some of the observations the author describe as typical among parents that end up dissolving an adoption include difficulty understanding a child's attachment behaviors (particularly over-pathologizing what might be "normal" attachment problems for a child with a trauma background); marital stress, difficulty not getting into control power plays with the child; and interestingly enough families with higher incomes and higher educated mothers have been found to be a factor in dissolutions. Bergeron and Pennington also point out that in their clinical experiences it is usually when the adoptive mother decides she is not able to continue the adoptive relationship that a dissolution occurs.

Although the process of dissolving an adoption varies depending on the children and parents involved, the authors reiterate that the primary focus should be on ensuring the child's needs are at front and center. These needs include:

  • The child's safety and stability
  • A truthful explanation that is sensitive and thoughtful for the child
  • Assisting the child in creating a narrative of what happened, focusing on the family's inability to meet the child's needs and that it is not the child's fault

Information on the needs of the family and future recommendations for research are also included. And for the families who may be adopting a child that has experienced a previous dissolution, the authors state,

The receiving or re-adoptive family has its own distinct set of needs that must be addressed when a dissolution has occurred. The first area of need is that of recruiting and training these families. Children in need of re-adoption have, on average, a level of greater need than the typical adopted child. In addition, they have experienced yet another major loss - relinquishment by parents they thought were their "forever family" - that will assuredly make subsequent trust and attachment more difficult for them. Families re-adopting these children need to be even more psychologically healthy, stable, and experienced than typical adoptive families. They require specialized training that will give them the knowledge and tools they need to establish and maintain a family environment of support, healing, and growth.

For the whole guide, click here.

Camp To Belong is a special summer camp. Along with swimming, hiking, and other fun summer activities, the children who attend get to participate in something many of us take for granted - they get to do these activities with their brothers and sisters who live in other foster or adoptive homes.

Camp To Belong was started by Lynn Price who herself was separated from her sister when they were placed in separate foster homes. Price wanted to create a place where children separated from siblings, through no fault of their own, could maintain their relationship even if they didn't have the opportunity to live together.

This story featuring the camp was aired a few days ago on NBC news.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Camp To Belong is currently in ten states. I have long thought Minnesota should have one as well. How would having a Camp To Belong or a similar venue for reuniting siblings separated through foster care and adoption impact how we practice permanency in our state?


This guest blog post was written by Amanda Talan.


Article: Is there a (transracial) adoption achievement gap? A national longitudinal analysis of adopted children's educational performance

A recent article published in Children and Youth Services Review by Elizabeth Raleigh and Grace Kao seeks to determine whether there are differences in educational attainment between adopted and non-adopted children. The article, "Is there a (transracial) adoption achievement gap? A national longitudinal analysis of adopted children's educational performance," also attempts to highlight potential educational distinctions between same-race and transracial adoptees. The report provides surprising results-- the study found that transracial adoptees perform better than their non-adopted counterparts (children in biological families) and that "white same race" adoptees perform significantly worse when compared to children in biological families.

Article strengths include the fact the report acknowledges that successful educational outcomes for transracial children do not diminish many of the distinctive challenges faced by this population as they age within a transracial family unit. The report includes research that highlights the challenges typically faced by older transracial adoptees, such as identity confusion.

I also found several limitations within this article. Although the article examines academic outcome "over time," the assessments are limited to kindergarten and the third grade. It would be interesting to examine differences in educational attainment at a time point when transracial adoptees are most likely to experience feelings of isolation or identity confusion. Another limitation within the article is that there were significant differences regarding the number of special needs children within each cohort. Special needs students made up 6% of transracial adoptees, 11% of children in biological families and 24% of white same race adoptees. Special needs greatly impacts educational attainment and it is very likely that this inclusion drove the study results. Another limitation of the article is that children within the biological families category were not separated by race, and there was no distinction between international and non-international adoptions within the "white same race" adoptees category.

This study defies myths that regard transracial adoptions as "not in the best interest" of potential adoptees. The article promotes transracial adoptions by reporting that these youth have better educational outcomes than children in biological families. Since I am aware of the various issues experienced by transracial adoptees as they age, I take this information with a grain of salt. Moreover, this study defies any myth that portrays white foster children as the "baseline" for foster youth comparisons, since this study determined that 24% of white adoptees had special needs.

This guest post was written by Bahjo Mahamud.

Phyllis Korkki wrote the article Filling up an Empty Nest, In the New York Times press. It was published in May 14 of 2013. This articles is written to awaken households and the our society that is never too late to adopt children and especially age should never be a factor on why you can't raise children who need a loving and caring parents.

Gawboy who is 60 along with her husband Jim who is 76 is taking care of children ranging from 8 to 19 year olds. They have always thought more retired people ought to adopt kids instead of playing gold. The article shares with us other retirees who adopted kids for many different reasons. Some parents had empty-nests who apparently didn't have their fill of child-rearing the first time, others are caring for older blood-related relative children who were unable to be cared for and others who just have the desire to give it a go. But Gawboy says, people "should guard against overly inflated expectations" that they expect kids to be grateful or that they should be grateful to have loving parents or the immediate loyalty." Because those are all wrong reasons to be adopting children.

While many retirees all adopt children for different reasons whether it is to fill up that empty nest or to do for the joy of raising children they all receive mutual benefits. Like the Gowboy's family, who live in a farm in Tower Minn., they said they get the help they need and ask all children to do 20 minutes a day of weeding in their one acre-garden as they benefit from that extra hand. They eat their fresh food from their garden, raise farm animals, and hunt and fish which is both necessary survival skills and work habits for the children. Despite the lack encouragements and support from family and friends they still have the need to do more as they live their life in different order than other retirees she said.

This article is so inspirational and motivating for all types of people to consider to adopt despite their age young or old and it think that's one of the strong strength of the this article.

A limitation is the idea that "it is easier said than done," and we all know raising children is not that easy and requires a lot, especially being financially stable. The family did not touch much on that and it would be more helpful to the readers if they talked or shared one experience at least.

I believe this article did a great job in promoting retire couples to consider adoption and have changed my thinking about the myth of older people not having the energy children require to raise children. This has being the tradition for so many years and know I believe that as long as adults are physically and emotionally fit and ready for children than they can do better job than younger adults.

You can read the article here.

Finding your baby on the subway

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This guest blog post was written by Kristin Struss.

28townies-img-blog427.jpg Image by Anthony Russo for the New York Times

Stories of how children come into people's lives never cease to amaze me. Peter Mercurio's story of how he and his partner found their son and subsequently how their son became of part of their family is a miracle onto itself. In the article, "We Found Our Son on the Subway", Mercurio tells the story of how his partner, Danny, found a baby at the Subway and how this child and the adoption process changed their lives. Even though Peter and Danny had never discussed adopting a child and their lives were not set up for bringing a child into their home, their hearts were. When the Judge asked if anyone would be willing to adopt the baby, Danny immediately said "yes." When Danny and Peter completed the adoption process they asked the Judge why she asked Danny if he was interested in adopting the baby. The Judge answered that she had a "hunch". That hunch turned out to be right and changed the lives of three people for the better. Ten year later, when Danny and Peter had the opportunity to marry, their son, Kevin, asked if they could get the same Judge that had completed the adoption. Kevin and the Judge embraced when they met and the Judge was able to see the outcome of her "hunch".

The strengths of this article are that Mercurio tells an honest story about how one morning could change three lives for the better. He talks about their experiences as a foster family and how baby Kevin changed their lives. Mercurio also honestly talks about his fears that when the Judge saw Kevin ten years later, she would somehow be disappointed in how he turned out and be disappointed in her decision.

One limitation of this article is that Mercurio's description of their experience with the foster care/adoption system seems over simplified. They found the child, became foster parents for him and then adopted him. It would have been beneficial to explain any challenges or frustrations they may have had throughout the process, especially if there were any frustrations or barriers because they are a same sex couple.

I believe this article did an outstanding job of dispelling the myth that same sex partners are unable to foster or adopt children. Danny and Peter found this child by chance; they became licensed foster care providers for him and then were able to promote permanency and stability for Kevin by adopting him.

Mercurio ends his story by an amazing summary of returning to the adoption Judge and asking her to complete his and Danny's marriage ceremony. "When we finally remembered the purpose of the visit, and Danny and I moved into position to exchange vows, I reflected on the improbable circumstances that delivered all of us to this moment. We weren't supposed to be there, two men, with a son we had never dreamed of by our side, getting married by a woman who changed and enriched our lives more than she would ever know. But there we were, thanks to a fateful discovery and a judicious hunch" (Mercurio 2013).

Celebrity adoptions

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This guest post was written by Abdifateh Ahmed.

Article: Why Are So Many Celebrities Adopting Black Babies?
Writer: Kristen Howerton
Posted: 06/14/2012 11:10 am
Journal: Huffington Post

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The article sums up why celebrities are adopting children and why higher percentages of celebrities are adopting trans-racially and specifically black children. The writer's motive in the article is not only to support and advocate for the celebrities adopting black babies, but also brings the audience attention to the current issues of racial bias in adoption preference which is very prevalent in our existing system. Black children quite often are trapped in the waiting list to find a home. The article mentions statistical evidence mentioned in the article says it all about the reality in the permanency and adoption. She mentions a significant gap among adoptive white parent who are not open to adopt black children and rather chose to adopt from other race (88% to 14%).

The writer's strength in terms of knowledge in the adoption and permanency subject is depicted in the title and the body of the article. As an audience I am attracted to the title simply because of the curiosity of wanting to answer the question, and improve my awareness of the subject. The statistical evidences and her knowledge of celebrities say it as well. She also have a drive for advocacy and very articulate in her writing. She seems to know what she is writing about.

Although, the writer is very knowledgeable and defending her stand on what she believes, I feel the anger in her voice while reading the article. I thought she should have done a little better in her approach.

Howerton, Kristen,. Why Are So Many Celebrities Adopting Black Babies?.Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 6, 2013, from


Last week I came across a news article from the Times-Picayune. The LA senate approved a bill sponsored by Patrick Jefferson (D), HB219, that would prohibit the disqualification of a prospective adoptive parent based solely on past criminal history.

HB219 would require a judge to consider the type of offense and length of time since the offense was committed. The bill is now headed for debate in the Senate.

White savior complex in international adoption

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This guest blog post was written by Salma Hussein.


I recently came across an online article titled "Outrage, sadness as Americans barred from adopting Russian children," on worldnews nbc website. The article was dated March 30th, 2013 and written by Jim Maceda who is based in London.
[Photo by NBC News]

The strength of the article is that it strives to bring various individuals who support international adoption in Russia. Having someone who is a native Russian and who has worked in orphanages for thirty years admit that Americans are more likely to take in children with special needs than native Russians was a strong point. However, just quoting her alone I saw it as being negative because it is solely her own opinion and that alone. It would have been much more powerful if the article had other individuals who thought otherwise. The article did not do a fair job of reporting both sides of the issue, it appeared to push the idea that Russia is abandoning adoption not because they wish to protect children but influenced by geopolitics.

I think one way that the article promotes myths about permanency and adoption is the whole idea of Americans going into other countries to save children. Two families are mentioned in the article the England family and the Preece family who both adopted children with special needs. From my view, the article appears to communicate that Americans are more willing to adopt children with special needs and it inhumane for the Russian government to make it difficult for Americans to continue adopting and rescue these children who are unwanted by native Russians. A child psychologist by the name of Valentina Rakova who is said to have worked in the Bryansk orphanage for 30 years is quoted supporting the notion that Americans are more likely to take in children with special needs than Russians. This is problematic because she is the only person quoted other than government officials. Yes, the government may have other motives for complicating and putting a hold on international adoption, or maybe they want to ensure Russian natives take in their orphaned children. Children are taken outside of institutions where they are labeled as yet another abandoned child, but they also lose their country of birth and culture when they are moved completely to a new country. Why the article only quoted two white families from the Midwest is puzzling, but I hope that reporters can try to be unbiased in their reporting. We cannot continue to go on writing all other countries and their special practices as being insufficient, while not critically examining our own ways using the same lens.

To read the article in full click here.

Looking at the assets of older adoptive parents

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Photo: Derek Montgomery for The New York Times

Today the New York Times published a story by reporter Phyllis Korkki about older adults who are choosing to open their homes to children instead of "retiring."

A Minnesota family, Rebecca and Jim Gawboy, are featured. Rebecca is a retired community organizer and Jim is a retired game warden. The couple are currently actively parenting 12 children.

This article challenges perceptions about the capacity of older parents when it comes to adopting. Instead of perpetuating myths about older adoptive parents, this article frames older parents as experienced, and suited to parenting children because of their wisdom and life experiences. This article also provides a warm photo gallery of the Gawboy family.

As Korkki notes,

"No organization or federal agency keeps statistics on the ages of adoptive parents, so it is hard to estimate their numbers. But executives at several adoption-related organization said they had definitely seen heightened interest among older adults. An informational Web site set up by Adoptive Families magazine has a special discussion forum for older adults with more than 500 members."

In addition to featuring older parent adoptions in a positive light, the article nicely (even if inadvertently) shows an Ojibwe family that has adopted Ojibwe children. American Indian children are disproportionately in out of home care in Minnesota (as in many other states) and in discussions about permanency there is a common misperception that American Indian families do not adopt.

To read the article about the Gawboy family, click here.

This guest blog post was written by May Borgen.

The article was written by Amanda L. Baden, Lisa M. Treweeke and Muninder K. Ahluwalia in October 2012 for the Journal of Counseling & Development. The title of the article is Reclaiming Culture: Reculturation of Transracial Adoptees. The authors coin the phrase "reculturation" because they do not believe that the current term of acculturation or enculturation accurately describe the reclamation of birth culture of individuals who have been transracially adopted whether internationally or domestically. The reason given for that is that adoptees' birth culture is less readily accessible to them as they would be for other individuals who function cross-culturally.

Among the strong pints of the article is that it gives a good clear description of the developmental process that a transracially adopted person experiences from birth and onward in developing a cultural identity. The article also describes different outcomes of the reculturation process. Included in the article are differences and similarities between transracial adoptees who have been internationally and domestically adopted. The article also provides three different approaches to reculturation as being education, experience and immersion and implications of reculturation for parenting, practice and future research. The cultural developmental process is described clearly and informatively including tables and charts.

The article does dispel myths about adoption in that it describes the expectation generally held in society that individuals belongs to their birth culture for the rest of their lives. Due to most adoptive parents in the US being White-American, the lived culture of most adoptees will be White American regardless of their birth culture. The article describes the process the transracial adoptee experiences in developing a cultural identity consisting of both their birth culture and their lived culture combined. Many times this process involves identifying with a third culture of adoptees with which they familiarize themselves and come to identify with. When transracial adoptees reclaim their culture, this entails their full immersion into their birth culture. If the adoptees become bicultural they will rather seek reculturation the country in which they already live with persons of their own ethnic background. Those who assimilate into their lived culture will not pursue connection to any greater degree with their birth culture, and those who combine culture will combine all these different ways of relating to their cultural background.

The article mentions the different circles of influence that transracial adoptees participate in as well. Parental influence is mentioned as highly important in the reculturation process of the transracial adoptee but the article does state that "we believe that the transracial adoptive parents alone cannot eliminate the trajectory that adoptees make toward reculturation". The article doe however emphasize the importance of parental understanding, empathy, self-awareness, and racial consciousness as factors likely to affect the reculturation process of the transracial adoptee.

A weakness of the article is that it does not cover the topic of implications of the reculturation process for the practice of adoption, and the education of adoptive families which would have been very helpful.

Contested adoption pits family against foster parents

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This guest blog post was written by Emma Siebold.


The article, Split the Baby: Two Sides of an Adoption Battle, was published in the Minnesota City Pages newspaper on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 and written by Olivia LeVecchia. It discusses the court battle between the Grossners and Dunnings, two families fighting for custody of two young African American girls, currently three and two years old. The two girls are the biological children of Princton Knox, the son of Dorothy Dunning. They were put into foster care with the Grossners after their births because drugs were found in their systems. The article mentions briefly their biological mother, Javille "Angel" Sutton, but does not comment on her current whereabouts and involvement in the case. The older of the two girls has been living with the Grossners since 2009 and the younger was born a year later. It was ruled by the lower court that the girls were to remain in the care of the Grossners. This decision was appealed by the Dunnings but the ruling was upheld; the case is currently being contested in the Minnesota Supreme Court.

A strength of this article is that the information is presented in a way that is easy to understand to the general population. It provides general legislative information pertaining to permanency laws such as the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) and federal and state laws regarding race and permanency decisions. This tone is appropriate because this article is featured in a public newspaper, as opposed to a scholarly journal, which may require more scholarly language. The author seems to take on a sense of neutrality when discussing the viewpoints of the foster parents and paternal grandparents. The article does not seem to side with either party. One limitation of this article, however, is that it does not include very much information about the role of the biological parents in this case. The biological mother is mentioned briefly, the author mentions she has had several other children removed from her custody due to drug addiction. The author discusses the biological father's drug addiction, noting that he is no longer using drugs and has another family. In order to present a well-rounded discussion of all the parties involved in this case, including the foster parents, paternal grandparents and child welfare system, the article should include more of a discussion of the biological parents.

The article seems to take the position that the Child Welfare system fractured. It subtly comments on how the adoption process is very slow and provides a disservice to children and families; foster, adoptive, and biological alike. On several instances the article seems to critique the slowness in finding relative placements for children, citing federal and state mandated timelines that were not followed. The article also comments on the discrepancies in the federal and state laws around race considerations and permanency. The article seems to take the position that it is not as simple an issue to eliminate race completely in permanency decisions; race and culture are inevitably intertwined.

Adoption incentive programs

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This guest post was written by Molly Lewis.


The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) posted an article to their website titled "How the Adoption Incentives Program Can Incentivize Adoptions." This article discusses a federal program called the Adoption Incentives Program, which began in 1997 under the Adoption and Safe Families Act. The author of this article believes that although there have been some successes of children finding their forever homes, trends predict that about 50% of the 100,000 children who are still waiting to be adopted will not, in fact, be adopted. The article goes on to address that the Adoption Incentive Program should be re-evaluated and the ways in which states receive these funds should be changed.

Currently, states receive funds based strictly on the number of adoptions that they have. CCAI believes that older and special needs children could be better served on a different model. CCAI also believes that states should be implementing different strategies for social welfare systems to be able to reduce the number of children living in foster care who need a permanent home. Some strategies suggested include diversifying the ways in which families are recruited, partnering with community and faith-based partners and embracing the belief that all children need and deserve a forever family.

This article addresses a huge concern that is faced by most child welfare agencies in this country. The article discusses several approaches to how the Adoption Incentive Program could reallocate funds. States and their systems should be challenged to reduce the length of time that children remain in foster care while waiting for their forever homes.

What this article doesn't address is that some for some children, in some situations, adoption might not be the best outcome. Often times, older children may not wish to be adopted. In situations like this, finding a permanent connection might be just as beneficial. I believe that states should be rewarded for their efforts on permanency in general and not only being rewarded based on the number of children who are placed in adoptive homes.
In addition, when I first read the title of this article, I believed that it would be in regards to incentives for families who would adopt a child from foster care. It is interesting that the title of this program, the Adoption Incentive Program, is about incentives for the state governments and not about incentives for families who make the decision to change their lives and impact the life of a young person who needs them.

Craiglist ad: Looking to Adopt Your Baby

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This guest blog post was written by Nina Pena.

This article voices and shares the strong desire to adopt a child and obtain a family. It gives details of the website,, and how it is allowing the solicitation of children. This is especially for parents who are trying to adopt. It explains that craigslist is a free way for birth mothers and perspective parents to communicate about possible adoption proceedings.


Furthermore, within the article is a couple, Irene and Greg, who are using this website in hopes to adopt a child and have a family someday. Irene and Greg share that they have gotten negative feedback from other people because they are using this website this is soliciting children. However, they are still using it because they have faith in that the benefits are outweighing the negatives. In addition to using the website, Greg and Irene have tried using other means to find a child including using Facebook, creating their own website and having a toll-free number. However, they still have not been able to adopt. They share their struggles with the process and so called "birth mothers" who have contacted them and then retracted their contact or arrangements to meet.

There are definite positives and negatives for using Craigslist to find children that are ready to be adopted. First, the website is a place for perspective parents and biological parents to communicate without going through an agency where it can be extremely expensive. Craigslist is also free, which is a major part of what draws people to the website in the first place. Lastly, like the article states, using Craigslist allows for perspective parents to maintain direct and personal control over the process.

Still, there are sure negatives for using craigslist as a means to find children. First, these biological mothers and families are putting up these children on the website similar to material items like books or couches. In addition, perspective parents are putting up their information and setting themselves up to be vulnerable and be taken advantage of. People, not even birth mothers, can take advantage of the fact that the perspective parents are desperate to adopt. With that individuals can play with perspective parent's emotions and even ask for outrageous items before even meeting. It sets the perspective parents up for being disappointed yet again.

The yearning to have a family and adopt a child is strong. People are willing to do whatever it takes and by any means to obtain a child. However, are we exploiting children and taking advantage of perspective parents by using craigslist? Or are we using the internet in a positive, free way to take control over the matching and adoption process?

To read the article in full, click here.

This guest post was written by Katie Johnson.

In the March/April 2013 issue of the Adoptive Families magazine Gregory Keck and Regina Kupecky wrote the article "7 Ways to Give Your Child a History." This article discusses the need of older adopted children to understand their story of placement and what it means when they are adopted and joining a home forever; several hands-on activities that parents can do with children are presented.

Keck and Kupecky outline 7 activities that can be done with children when they are adopted:

  1. The Timeline--create a timeline with the children representing life from birth to 25, use colors to represent different placements. This activity allows children to see where they have been and also reinforces the security of their current place in a family.
  2. Photographs--gather as many photographs from biological relatives, foster families, social workers, schools, and hospital as possible to compile an album for the child. This allows him/her to see him/herself at different life stages.
  3. The Lifebook--create an autobiographical book for or with your child that explains his or her life from birth and who his or her birthparents are, to reasons that the child was placed in care, the different places he or she was in care and the reasons for adoption.
  4. The Water Exercise--in this activity you use a pitcher, a glass, and water to illustrate to the child his/her different placements. You fill the glass with water to represent the length of time spent somewhere and pour the water into the pitcher. As the pitcher fills the water mixes together and you see that all of one's life-experiences make a person whole.
  5. The Family Tree--create a family tree that shows the child's birth-family as well as the new adopted family.
  6. Movie Night--a movie night can be a great way for children to process feelings and begin a discussion.
  7. Written Correspondence--a child who has been in multiple placements may never have received a letter or card in the mail, as you begin the process of adoption send mail to the child, after adoption ask former foster parents and others to send mail to the child.

This article is helpful in dispelling the myth that most adopted children are adopted as babies or that it's better to adopt babies. The authors also displayed some of the struggles a child who is adopted may go through, positively promoted the need for children to have a permanent home, and the need for adoptive parents to help the children they adopt have an integrated view of themselves and their life. I would have liked to see a greater discussion on challenges children face and activities parents can do with their children at different ages and stages after adoption. I felt this article was limited by focusing on activities to do with children when initially adopted and would have liked to see a list of resources for further activities and resources that parents could make use of.

Does Russian adoption ban hurt kids?

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This guest blog post was written by Linda Gross.

This link is to an opinion article found on CNN dated January 17th, 2013, written from the perspective of a University of Minnesota woman who, in the process of trying to adopt a girl from Russia with her husband, has negatively experienced the recent ban on adoptions imposed by Russia.

The author explains the emotional grief of waiting unknowing as to whether they will be able to adopt the 2 year old girl they have met in person and already waited many months for.

While the author brings the unique and real experience of sharing the emotional tolls many uncertainties of the adoption process can bring, international or non, there are aspects of the political and social issues both between Russia and the United States, and surrounding international adoptions in general that could be served to investigate further.

First the issue of international adoptions as a lucrative source of economic trade should be brought to the forefront of critically exploring this current event. Many of the current news articles regarding this recent ban focus on the suggestions that Russia has imposed this ban in response to a recent blacklisting by the United States towards any Russian human rights violators (Penny, 2012). While the truth of this may provide insight into the "childish" behaviors of each country, I believe other details to be more important. First, in regards to Russia's decision, if their focus is to prevent the mistreatment of their adopted children by families in the United States, I am curious as to why they are currently not a Hague-Convention country, which would work to provide more legally-supported assurances towards the safety of children against the profits sought about by middle-man adoptive agencies, in turn to assure adoptions to be in the best interest of the child (Penny, 2012). The ethical values of being a Hague Convention country, include examples such as ensuring proper efforts have been made first for the child to be adopted within their home country, and that adoptions are only processed through service providers who have been accredited at the Federal level, and receives proper documentation for each child. Second in regards to those in the United States who cry out that these children should not suffer as the result of petty international retaliation, it is worth noting, that while the United States is banned, other countries are not and international adoptions will still be regularly occurring in Russia, just not by us.

Second the societal interest in international adoptions versus adopting any of the thousands of waiting children in the United States also needs to be addressed. It should not go unsaid that the motive for seeking international adoption, though most families seek international adoptions as an act of philanthropic good-will, is also quite self-serving. While it seems taboo to mention, it must be acknowledged, as it comes at the expense of our country's own children awaiting adoption, that the preference for young white babies by middle and upper class families who can afford them is a key desire underlying at least some outrage over this recent ban. This must be acknowledged, as it plausibly jeopardizes the health and well-being of international children (see baby-farms and other international atrocities), and contributes to the continued "less-desirable" children in long-term foster care, awaiting adoption and never receiving hope of families willing to take them on. Evidence suggests this lack of adoption relates to most of these children being older than the desired age and primarily African-American and Latino.

This enters in a key ethical and moral dilemma of how a governing body could possibly impose to tighten or relax the parameters parents are allowed to set in regards to their future adopted child. Currently, I personally believe it would be impossible to impose strict guidelines that would mandate parents to "be happy with whatever child they get". Some may argue this is exactly what happens to biologically-expecting parents; however I would argue that a powerful societal value of childbirth lies in knowing that the child uniquely possesses the physical characteristics of exactly yourself and your partner. While biologically-expecting parents may deliver a child with unexpected health and mental needs, the intrinsic nature of the child being "your own" exists. If parents are unable to biologically produce a child in their likeness, or a likeness they could suffice to find equally appealing, is it unethical for them to try and achieve this during the adoption process? On a further related note given the rapidly developing field of genetics research, if made available to hone the genetics of their unborn child to possess certain physical or temperamental traits, is it unethical to do so, or is it the future of scientific advancement to genetically modify the next generations?

Regardless, it could be detrimental to the well-being of children to place them in homes of unwanting parents even if just by temperamental goodness-of-fit, let alone physical characteristics, hence the need for trial stays and the laborious process of ensuring positive connections between parents and child during current adoption processes. In the adoption process, it must be the well-being of the children which demands first priority over the desires and wish-lists of hopeful adoptive families. With that being said, I believe it is the skill and extent to which workers provide a carefully-planned and strongly-supported match between the two, that demonstrates the crux of building successful adoptions for both parties.

See Also:
Russia's Ban on US Adoption Isn't About Children's Rights
Understanding the Hague Convention from the U.S. State Department

Permanency through international adoption

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This guest post was written by Chris Murphy.


Elizabeth Bartholet wrote this article on achieving permanency through international adoption, and it was published in the Harvard Law School Journal. Elizabeth Bartholet is a professor at New York Law School. This article was developed from a lecture that Professor Bartholet gave at the Permanency for Children Conference on March 5, 2010.

Professor Bartholet is adamant that just simply providing permanency for children is not enough. She pointed out that multiple children are growing up in homes recognized as permanent, but are still suffering from abuse and/or neglect. Professor Bartholet stressed the need for all children to have early, permanent, and nurturing parenting in order to flourish.

Professor Bartholet said both nurturing and permanency can be given to children. One way is for policy around international adoption to become less strict. Professor Bartholet would like to see the restriction lessen on international adoption so all children have an opportunity to be adopted and nurtured in homes which are prepared to adopt children. Professor Bartholet argues that international adoption will help other countries in reducing costs associated with raising multiple children who are without parents. Her point is that thousands of international children are raised without parents. These children essentially end up having issues as adults such as homelessness, incarceration, and/or unemployment.

Professor Bartholet suggests all interested parties recognize the international adoption system is currently in crisis. She feels individuals need to maintain hope, work together, and fight for the goal of providing all unparented children with nurturing and permanency early in life.

Professor Bartholet said there is a push to keep children in their countries and find solutions which will assist them in staying connected to their birth family. However, Professor Bartholet said racial matching profiles for adoption should not occur. She is not saying culture and/or ethnicity isn't important. What she is saying is a child being allowed to grow up in a nurturing and permanent home from early on is crucial. Professor Bartholet also points out that the unparented children in other countries are generally hidden away in institutions or growing up on the streets.

The system of international adoption has flaws. Individuals need to come together in order to ensure children have an opportunity to be nurtured and parented from early on in childhood. This may take a change in policy and/or law. There are different rules and regulations depending on what country the international adoption is occurring. Professor Bartholet gave an example of twin boys from Guatemala who was to be adopted, at their birth, by a couple in the United States. The birth mother wanted the children adopted so badly she made a video so nobody would question her consent to adopt her children out to a new family. Delays in the international system held the boys in Guatemala until they were almost one year of age. One of the twins developed meningitis while waiting and almost died. He had delays and such that would have been rectified had he been in the United States for medical treatment. This is just one small example of the laws not being conducive to the need for children to have early nurturing and permanency in order to flourish.

Bartholet, E. (2010). Permanency Is Not Enough: Children Need the Nurturing Parents Found In International Adoption. York Law School Law Review, 781(55). You can download the pdf of this article here.

Experiencing the Joy and Grief of Fostering to Adopt

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This guest blog post was written by Tina Graber.

Saying Goodbye to the Foster Child I Fell in Love With

r-JIYER-large570.jpeg [Photo by Jiyer for Huffington Post]

The Huffington Post posted an article written by Jiyer on January 15, 2013 as part of the series "30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days". The article is written by a woman who shares her and her husband's both joyful and painful personal experience as parents in a foster to adopt, or concurrent planning program.

The article is a realistic portrayal of many families participating in foster to adopt programs across the United States. Jiyer describes the emotional ups and downs consistent with many parents who have chosen the difficult job of assisting families with reunification while at the same time preparing to adopt the child if it does not work. Concurrent planning is an important tool when considering the best interest of the child; however, it is essential to consider the experiences and struggles of the resource parents in order to support them as well.

It is important for families interested in foster to adopt to have realistic expectations before agreeing to care for a child. A common myth about concurrent planning is that parents will eventually be able to adopt the child they are fostering. Although there are many cases where the child can be adopted, that is not always the case. In reality, the goal for many foster children is reunification with their biological parents and if they are able to make the changes necessary, many children are returned home. Through Jiyer's experience she shows the emotions and struggle that many resource families go through before they are eventually able to adopt a child, who many times may not be the first child placed in their home.

It is important for resource families to be aware of the reality that they may not be able to adopt the first child placed in their home. They may experience significant grief and loss if the child is returned to the parent's care. This is why it is important, as Jiyer demonstrated, for resource families to develop a support system and coping strategies as they take on this significant role.

Many resource families will have conflicting feelings throughout the process because the roles of the job can often feel conflicting. Jiyer's words demonstrate this so well, "But I was also torn. I was rooting for Rayna [biological mother to Nina], yet I was growing so attached to Nina -- little Nina, the first child we got to hold and love, the child who came to us during peak bonding months in her life and who bonded so closely with us."

It can also be a deeply rewarding experience for foster parents to make a positive connection with a child that could potentially last a lifetime, even if they are not able to adopt. It is also possible and in fact encouraged by the Minnesota Department of Human Services that resource parents partner with birth parents to support them in parenting. Through Jiyer's words, we are able to see the power of intentional human relationships, all for the love of a child.

For more information:

For the whole 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days series, click here.

Jiyer. (2013, January 14). Saying goodbye to the foster child I feel in love with. Huffington Post. Link to article here.

Minnesota Department of Human Services. Practice guide for concurrent permanency planning.

Russians march in support of ban on adoptions in US

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This guest post was written by Shannon Johnson.

Russians march in support of ban on adoptions in US

This article was published on The Guardian website on March 2, 2013 and written by The Guardian staff. Russia recently placed a ban on adoptions of Russian children by people from the United States. This ban was put into Russian legislation due to a recent death in Texas of a 3 year old Russian adoptee named Max Shatto. There were suspicions of child maltreatment causing his death and an investigation was initiated. This death was ultimately ruled accidental by the courts, however it has not stopped Russia from banning Americans from adopting Russian children, nor has it changed the opinion of Russian citizens. The announcement of the ban and ongoing tension between Russia and the United States sparked the rally of about 12,000 people in Moscow in support of the adoption ban. In the past 20 years about 60,000 children were adopted by Americans from Russia with approximately 20 deaths of those children post-adoption in the United States. There is no information on whether this ban is time-limited or if it is permanent.

This article gives some good statistics and factual information on what has happened in Russia leading up to this ban and the event that sparked the ban to be put into law. Another positive thing about this article is that it gives a nice picture to the reader about why Russians feel so strongly about this ban and it is clear and concise; it gets straight to the facts and relevant information. There are also some limitations this article has as far as the amount of information provided by the authors in several areas. First, there is little information on the actual ban of American adoptions in Russia and all of the events that led to the community outrage. Second, there is little information given about what will happen with the 650,000 orphans in Russia and how Russia will reform their child welfare to meet the needs of these children. This article also does not discuss any of the consequences of this ban on the children, Russia or America. Overall, there is a lack of in depth information and leaves the reader asking several questions.

It seems this article is promoting myths/misconceptions about adoptions in the United States in that adopted children "get abused" and does not show the picture of most adoptions in the United States that are safe and healthy. Also, it paints a further "ugly" picture of foreign adoptions and does not help American citizens' outlook for international adoptions in the future. Finally, it does not help Russia in that it points out how many orphans are currently in institutions and makes it seem like Russia is not taking care of their children.

For a video on the impact of the ban, see the video below:

This guest post was written by Kendra Hanson.

open adoption.jpeg [Photo by LavenderLuz]

Susan M. Wolfgram's article, "Openness in Adoption: What We Know So Far - A Critical Review of the Literature" is a valuable resource for prospective adoptive parents considering open adoption. While its publication in the 2008 April edition of the journal Social Work (Volume 53, Issue 2) may not have reached the average prospective adoptive parent, the full article can now be accessed here:

The article provides a brief overview of the historical trends leading to openness in adoption, clarifies adoption related jargon, discusses developmental outcomes for adopted children in open adoptions, and presents a summary of findings from 13 empirical studies that focus on factors contributing to maintaining contact between adoptive and birth parents in open adoptions. Some of the key findings are:

  • Research supports that contact is in the child's best interests for socio-emotional development.
  • Contact results in adoptive parent empathy for the birth parents, which in turn helps to maintain ongoing contact.
  • Face-to-face meetings with birth parents before and after the adoption takes place leads to higher levels of satisfaction and comfort with the contact.
  • Adoptive parent perception of having some control over the contact situations facilitates ongoing contact.
  • Role clarity, regulation of boundaries, preparation and planning for contact, and formal written agreements for contact help adoptive parents cope with fear, give a sense of control, and promote ongoing contact while also leading to more positive perceptions about the adopted child's behaviors.
  • Contact promotes open communication and honesty with the child about the adoptive circumstances and increases access to their medical histories.

Wolfgram does an excellent job of presenting these findings in a succinct and easy to understand way that one can appreciate in comparison to the formal and jargon-laden style of many journal articles. Outside of its user-friendliness and wealth of valuable information, the article's main strength is in confronting and dispelling myths that adoptive parents may have regarding open adoption contact. The prospect of ongoing contact with the birth parents commonly brings up many fears for the adoptive parents. Some common myths are that the child will have self esteem and identity issues, will be confused about who their "real" parents are, will have poorer quality relationships with the adoptive family, and that the birth parents will intrude too much on their lives.

Wolfgram's literature review helps dispel these fears and myths by providing adoptive parents with empirical evidence that suggests otherwise. Once these fears are confronted, the adoptive parents can focus on how to best support and maintain birth parent contact, which in turn promotes the child's best interests. However, one weakness of the article is that though it thoroughly discusses fears and questions adoptive parents may have, the discussion on positive developmental outcomes is relatively sparse, and adoptive parents may need more information to feel comfortable with those conclusions. However, despite this shortcoming, the overall information presented is invaluable for adoptive parents in considering whether open adoption is right for them and if so, how to best support ongoing contact with birth parents.

ICWA and the Responsibility of Adoption Agencies

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This guest post was written by Laurie Rottach.

ICWA and the Responsibility of Adoption Agencies

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Adam Liptak's article, "Case Pits Adoptive Parents Against Tribal Rights" that was published in the New York Times on December 24, 2012 makes connections between a past Supreme Court decision from 1989 that involved the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and voluntary adoptions and the current "Baby Veronica" case that will be heard by the Supreme Court regarding the voluntary adoption of a Native American child to a white couple. In both cases, a Native American child was voluntarily placed by parents or one of the parents with a white couple for adoption. In both cases, the tribes were not notified, despite the fact that ICWA requires adoption agencies to do so*. And, in both cases, by the time the tribe found out about the intended adoption, the children had already been placed with the white parents and strong attachments had been formed. In the 1989 case, the Supreme Court ruled that the children should be returned to the tribe. In the current case, it is unknown what the ruling will be.

Unfortunately, Liptak misrepresents the real issue in this case by making the case about ICWA and the tribe versus the prospective white adoptive parents and ends up promoting the myth that Native American children would be better off with white families. He spends the majority of the article writing about the Native American biological father and the adoptive white parents in a rather biased way. When he talks about the adoptive parents, he quotes the South Carolina Supreme Court that stated that they were "ideal parents who have exhibited the ability to provide a loving family environment" and he mentions that the adoptive father works at Boeing and the adoptive mother has a doctorate in psychology. However, when Litptak mentions the biological father, he only identifies him as a member of the Cherokee Nation and as absent from the child's life. He does not mention that the father is a member of the United States military that served in Iraq and that as soon as he realized that he had mistakenly signed away his rights, he pursued legal help to reverse the action right away.

Interestingly, Liptak does not mention the adoption agency that failed to properly notify the tribe of the adoption as required by the law. If the adoption agency had done this in the first place, this case would not even exist. Baby Veronica would have found her way back to her father and her tribe and the adoptive parents would not have gotten the chance to think of her as their own child. In my mind, this case raises the issue of the ethical and legal obligations of adoption agencies rather than issues with how ICWA is being applied. The law is clear. Adoption agencies need to notify tribes regarding the adoption of Native American children.* Adoption agencies must begin to think of tribes as their clients along with children, biological parents and adoptive parents. In his article, Liptak implies that ICWA produces "heartbreak" for the adoptive family that have loved and cared for baby Veronica, but, in reality, it is not the law that produces heartbreak, but the adoption agencies that do not properly follow the law.

Edited to add: while not all states (see note below) require agency notification in private adoptions involving children who are enrolled or may be eligible for enrollment in a tribe, it could be thought of as a best practice issue. At the very least it is important for the child involved to have certain knowledge of his or her tribal affiliation (if any) as part of his or her social history.

* In many states, including Minnesota, agencies are required to notify tribes even in private placements. Not all states have this requirement. Oklahoma, the state in which Veronica was born, does require notification. For example, the Adoption Choices of Oklahoma website states: If a birthparent has Native American Indian in his or her background and names a tribe, we must notify the tribe of her intention to place the infant for adoption, and requesting that they provide us with a letter of non-intervention. As soon as we know of this situation we write to the tribe immediately, even if it's prior to delivery. Failure to ask for tribal permission can result in the tribe overruling an adoption, even if it has been finalized. It is extremely important to acquire their permission if the child is tribally affiliated.

The Baby Sehwa case

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This guest blog was written by Jill Melaas.

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Lisa Black, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, has been following a court case for the past few months involving an Evanston, Illinois couple and the country of South Korea. Christopher and Jinshil Duquet went to South Korea to adopt Baby Sehwa a few days after her birth. The child has been raised by the Duquets ever since, and now at 9-months old, the court has decided that the baby must return to South Korea.

The reporter did a good job chronicling the case and presenting the details that led to the court's involvement. Christopher and Jinshil were accused of circumventing South Korean adoption laws. The couple decided to use a private lawyer instead of a South Korean adoption agency to complete the adoption. Years earlier the couple had adopted a daughter from South Korea through an agency, but were told they were now too old under South Korean law to follow the same procedures. However, South Korean law requires that children be placed through a licensed adoption agency. The couple reported that they received bad legal advice and believed they were participating in a lawful adoption. Jinshil is a South Korea native who moved to the United States as a child and heard about Sehwa through a pastor with connections to her family. Jinshil proceeded to contact local immigration lawyers, who put her in touch with a South Korean lawyer who said he could arrange a private adoption. The Duquets claimed they did not realize there was a problem with the adoption until they returned to the United States with Sehwa and were told by officials at O'Hare International Airport that she did not have the appropriate adoption paperwork.

The Duquets were unsuccessful in attesting that, despite their error, it was in Sehwa's best interest to remain in their care. On February 28, the court sided with the South Korean government and determined that the child must be deported. Baby Sehwa returned to South Korea on March 6, where she is to be placed with a South Korean family for adoption. The Chicago Tribune article lacked further detail on how the court came to its decision.

The articles chronicling this case provide a tragic example of the complications that can arise with intercountry adoption. Intercountry adoption can become quite complex as it incorporates family law, criminal law, and immigration practices of both countries involved in the adoption process. Numerous countries have attempted to alleviate these complexities by creating a treaty with other nations that establish common provisions regarding intercountry adoption. The Hauge Convention (or is a treaty agreement that establishes safeguards and a standardized approach to guarantee that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of the child. While the United States is a signatory to the agreement, South Korea is not. If South Korea had been a signatory, and the adoption had followed the Hauge Convention's provisions, Baby Sehwa may not have been subjected to this unfortunate situation. Either way, this case illustrates the importance of obtaining advice from specialists in intercountry adoption and understanding the laws of both countries involved before proceeding with an adoption.

Are embryo adoptions the same as other adoptions?

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This guest blog post was written by Min Hae Cho.

I am interning at the Children's Home Society and Family Services. Several weeks ago I had an opportunity to join a domestic adoption case consultant meeting. During the meeting, an embryo adoption issue was brought up. A client applied for domestic infant adoption and at the same time was trying embryo adoption, which really intrigued me because I had never heard about embryo adoption before. I did know the term "embryo" but I was not able to match "embryo" with "adoption." After that, I looked up lots of websites and literature to learn about embryo adoption. The more information about embryo adoption I obtained, the more confused and complicated I feel. Still, it is difficult for me to stay grounded and focused because of too many ideas flowing in mind.

I first watched news titled "Local family among first to try open embryo adoption arrangement" by Heather Graf on KING 5 News website (KING 5, 2013). It describes that the family who adopted embryos and their adopted child all have been faring well. The news talked about Rachel and Diony Victorin's embryo adoption story. They tried IVF for four times but failed to get pregnant. At that time, they heard about embryo adoption, which made their dream come true. They got an embryo donation and nine months later gave birth to their daughter, Esther Victorin. After that, they decided on open adoption, so have been contacted by genetic family.

It is certain that embryo adoption creates an opportunity for infertile couples to have a baby from gestating a pregnancy through giving birth. Moreover, being pregnant provides the prospective adoptive mothers with the opportunity to bond with their unborn children in utero. Given that attachment is one of the most important issues in adoption, embryo adoption enables the relationships between adoptive parents and their children to begin far more smoothly and easily. The mass media is filled with these positive aspects of embryo adoption.

Despite such advantages of embryo adoption, many questions crossed my mind and made me confused. First, gestating through embryo implantation is also risk-taking. For example, there are many risks factors such as the possibility of multiple pregnancies, very low success rates in thawing embryos and transferring embryos into the woman's uterus (Moore, 2007). In addition, it is extremely costly.

Second, if the embryo adoption is not confidential, all the issues related to adoption are still there. According to Silverstein & Kaplan (1986), there are the seven core issues in adoption including loss, rejection, guilt/shame, grief, identity, intimacy, and control. In case of embryo adoption, the adoption triad members cannot avoid these issues either. They have no choice but to go through the same lifelong issues. For example, adoptive parents grieve the many losses involved in their infertility regardless of how their children were conceived. Also, adopted children might deal with the arbitrary nature of embryo adoption, which means that they were transferred to their adoptive parents because a physician chose their embryos. Even for genetic parents, the loss of a genetic child might never go away completely unless they keep their donation secret. Concealing such issues does not make it go away themselves because there might always be reminders like questions from doctors they will see about adopted children's medical history, and talks with others about who they look like. In this sense, what is better in embryo adoption than traditional adoption? Unless the adoption triad members are free from the adoption issues, it seems like that the mass media sugarcoats the reality of embryo adoption.

Third, I pondered over the purpose of adoption. The Child Welfare League of America Standards for Adoption Service (1998) states that "the primary purpose of adoption service is to help children who would not otherwise have a family life, to become members of a family that can give them the love, care, protection and opportunities essential for their healthy personal growth and development. The placement of children for adoption has as its main objective the well-being of children." Personally, I feel strange about extending the use of the term "adoption" to embryos. Specifically, when I am concerned about the number of children waiting to be adopted now. In 2011, 400,540 children were in the foster care system and approximately 25% of these children (104,236) were waiting to be adopted (The AFCARS Report, 2012). At this point, I hold that embryo adoption puts the children awaiting adoptions at a disadvantage. Also, I even feel like that embryo adoption is biased toward adoptive parents' interests rather than the child's best interests.

Last, regarding laws regulating embryo adoption, many states have been tackling this issue (Dostalik, 2010). Embryo adoption agencies in many states have used the same procedures used in traditional adoption case. Understandably, the current embryo adoption procedure leads to some legal issues such as invalidating consent to adoption given by the genetic parents.

Besides whether or not the current legal status of embryos is considered as human beings, significant and complicate practical obstacles still remain, so I think that it is premature to extend the term "adoption" to embryo donation.


  • AFCARS Report. (2012). Retrieved March 9, 2013 from this link.
  • Dostalik, M. P. (2010). Embryo "adoption"? the rhetoric, the law, and the legal consequences. Retrieved February 26, 2013 from this link.
  • KING 5. (2013). Local family among first to try open embryo adoption arrangement. (2012). Retrieved February 18, 2013 from this link.
  • Moore, A. K. (2007). Embryo adoption: the legal and moral challenges. Retrieved February 26, 2013 from this link.

This guest post was written by Brittany Kellerman.

FOSTER-1-articleLarge.jpeg [Photo: Mark Holm for the NYT]

The New York Times published an article on January 26, 2013 entitled "Focus on Preserving Heritage Can Limit Foster Care for Indians" by Dan Frosch. The article discusses the impact that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 continues to have today on Native American children and families. It highlights the fact that Native American children are highly overrepresented in child welfare systems around the country, including in Minnesota. It also points out the extreme shortage of licensed Indian foster families in particular states, such as in New Mexico, where in Bernalillo County there are 65 Indian children in state custody, but only 5 Indian foster homes. This discrepancy leads Native American children waiting in shelters for significant amounts of time while searching for relatives or native foster homes and in many cases ultimately placing the children in non-native foster homes.

While the article provides important facts around disparities that are beneficial to dispelling myths, it does not dig deep into why these disparities continue to exist. It is however quick to point to the poverty and the substance abuse endemic in American Indian communities as being the reasons for low rates of Native foster homes, while the issues of institutional racism and historical trauma are simply skimmed over.

As an example of a case where ICWA impacts the outcomes for native children, the article discusses a highly publicized case of Baby Veronica. In this case, a judge ordered a white couple to return a 27-month-old girl they raised since birth to her biological Indian father. In this case, the father was estranged from the mother and was unaware that his daughter was going to be put up for adoption. The facts of the case demonstrate that the father engaged in seeking custody as soon as he was notified of the request for adoption. The decision to return the child to her father was based upon the child's tribal status and the ruling that the birth mother tried to conceal the father's tribal affiliation.

The case of Baby Veronica, while governed by ICWA in this case due to the father's tribal affiliation, brings up questions around all fathers' parental rights that were not addressed in the article. If this case were involving a non-native father, would the child be returned to the biological father? If a biological father is willing/able to provide a loving home for the child, it only seems right to keep the child connected to their biological roots. The case of Baby Veronica will be held before the Supreme Court in April 2013 and the court will be asked to consider the constitutionality of ICWA.

In summary, ICWA has made a significant impact on the Native American population by keeping many children connected to their heritage. Clearly, Native American families continue to face significant challenges and discrimination in their interactions with child welfare agencies and cases such as Baby Veronica's demonstrate a continued need for additional protection for Native families.

For more information on the Baby Veronica case, click here.

Two sides of an adoption battle

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This guest blog post was written by Ryan Lewsander.

Right now the Minnesota Supreme Court is tasked with making a tragic choice: who will they rip two children away from, their prospective adoptive family, or their biological grandmother and extended family in Georgia? The sad drama of this case is documented compellingly in Olivia LaVecchia's City Pages article "Split the Baby: Two sides of an adoption battle" published on January 13th, 2013.


The story begins in October 2009 when Javille "Angel" Sutton gave birth to a baby girl, Princess, born with cocaine in her system. Hennepin County Child Protection Services (HCCPS) responded by placing the four-day old infant with foster parents Liv and Steven Grosser in Plymouth, Minnesota. Upon learning that her granddaughter was in the system, Dorothy Dunning, of Mississippi called HCCPS on December 2nd, 2009 and expressed that she wanted Princess with her. In April 2010, HCCPS sent Mississippi an Interstate Compact in the Placement of Children (MICPC) to approve Dorothy Dunning's home as a placement for Princess. This process was bungled, and after a year and a half HCCPS withdrew its' MICPC and told the Grosser's to move forward with their plans to adopt Princess and her baby sister, Hannah. Not long after that, Mississippi sent a completed home study of Dorothy Dunning to Minnesota, and in March 2011 HCCPS reversed itself and supported Dorothy's claim for the children in court. Now the Minnesota Supreme Court will decide the fate of the children after hearing the case this January.

Lavecchia's article does a good job of presenting the details of the timeline of the case, and the injustices done to both the Grosser family and Dorothy Dunning. The complexity of this contested adoption depicted in the article enables the reader to feel empathy for all parties in the case, as is appropriate. What's more, the article does not shy away from illuminating an important element of the dispute: race. The Grosser family is a White suburban family and Steven, the father, works as a Corporate Financial Officer. Dorothy Dunning is African-American who cleans homes professionally and whose son's crack addiction was a reason for the children's removal upon birth. The article provokes the reader to think about how race should be considered in cases of permanency. More specifically, it challenges many readers to wrestle with their prejudice that white affluent families are better caregivers for their children than poor black families, and should therefore be privileged in these kinds of disputes. A key question this article provokes is how would this case be different if Dorothy Dunning was white and middle-class and the Grosser family was black and working-class?

The article also hits on the widespread perception of permanency in child welfare as a confusing mess, and excessively bureaucratic. In this case, it appears that HCCPS made major mistakes by not searching out Dorothy Dunning as an option for the children, and by encouraging the Grosser family to adopt only oppose it three months later. Not to be outdone, Mississippi demonstrated extreme incompetence by taking a year and a half to complete a home study to approve Dorothy Dunning as a fit placement for the children. It is these kinds of mistakes that lead people to believe that the system does more harm than good for vulnerable children.

To read the article in full, click here.

Introducing student blog posts

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Starting next week, we will be posting posts from students enrolled in the Permanency in Child Welfare courses in the MSW program.

Students were asked to choose an article, either in the current media or in a peer-review journal, or other related item, related to permanency and adoption. The purpose of this assignment is to apply critical thinking skills to topics related to permanency and adoption and to educate a broader, general audience through analyzing writings about permanency and adoption in a way that is accessible.

Their analyses will include:

  • A short description of the article—who wrote it, name of publication, date of publication, topic
  • A discussion of the strengths and the limitations or weaknesses of the article
  • A discussion of the ways in which this article promotes or dispels myths about permanency or adoption
  • Links and citations

Enjoy the series!

Why race matters for the transracially adopted child

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Adoptive Families Magazine online featured an article in their Circle forum by Jane Brown, an adoptive parent well known for her workshops for adoptive families, on why race matters for a transracially adopted child.

In many ways the article was actually a lesson in why race matters for transracial adoptive parents. There are many adoptive parents who adopt a child across racial, ethnic or cultural lines who do not believe that race matters, and who believe a "colorblind" mentality is the appropriate approach.

Brown suggests that a color-blind approach may be well-intended but ultimately does not serve the child. Since society still discriminates against people of color, parents who do not prepare their children of color for such discrimination sets them up to be unprepared for future discrimination. I found it interesting that there was push-back from some parents (in the comment section). While it is understandable that white adoptive parents may feel threatened by articles about race and privilege, the current research and practice knowledge comes from listening to the lived experiences of transracial adoptees themselves, as Brown makes very clear in her articles.

As Brown writes, regardless of what white adoptive parents think their transracially adopted children experience, the reality

'is that how we, as adoptive parents, see/think/feel/assume is quite different from how THEY see/think/feel/believe. When we repeatedly and vehemently express our views TO them, we dismiss theirs, and they often end up doubting their own experiences. They tend to remain silent. They are very loyal to us, so that they do not wish to disappoint us. They feel less entitled to hold separate and different views because they are children, and we are the powerful adults. They question whether or not their views are valid--given that we tell them to think as we do. All of that, however, does not change how THEY experience race and racial differences."

You can read Brown's article, and the comments following, here.

Report on children adopted by gay and lesbian couples

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A new report by the British Association of Adoption and Fostering on children adopted by same-sex partners found that these children have same outcomes as children adopted by heterosexual parents.

"Gay, Lesbian and Heterosexual Adoptive Families: Family relationships, child adjustment and adopters' experiences" studied130 families, 40 2-parent lesbian mother-headed households, 41 2-parent gay father-headed household and 49 2-parent heterosexual couple-headed households. Factors compared across the three households included family relationships, adjustment and both parent and child well-being. Findings showed that families were more similar than different but that gay-headed fathers were less prone to depression, a finding that is welcomed considering that fewer fathers participate in research on adoptive families making the comparison group of fathers in this study an important aspect of this study.

Another interesting finding of the study was the analysis of different "pathways" to adoption among the couples. Perhaps not surprisingly gay fathers reported having the least expectation of becoming parents, while both lesbian mothers and heterosexual couples reported infertility being the reason for choosing to adopt. In addition, only one gay couple reported trying to have children biologically through a surrogate while many lesbian couples and heterosexual couples attempted IVF or other alternative reproductive technologies prior to adopting.

The study may be purchased through the BAAF site.

Photo recreation of "baby announcement" goes viral

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Among the losses that youth in foster care experience are those that most of us take for granted. For example, baby photos.

Schools and even work places often have planned activities that ask people to bring in baby photos. Sometimes it's for a "guessing game" and sometimes just to share your early life. For youth who have been in foster care or adopted from foster care or an institution, baby photos may not exist. They may have never been taken or they may have been lost during a move.

One family re-created the "baby announcement" for their 13-year old son adopted from foster care as a way to humorously and lovingly provide that milestone for a child that had lost so much.


The Higgins family posted the photo-announcement to the adoptive mom's facebook page where it quickly went viral. According to the Higgins family, it was the childrens' idea. 13-year old Latrell mentioned that he never had a birth announdement and one of his sisters jokingly suggested they re-create the event.

While most viewers have been supportive, there has been some criticism. Some adult adoptees and birth/first parents have voiced their concern that re-creating a baby announcement erases Latrell's birth family, the way amended birth certificates effectively position an adoption as a false "new" birth history. Others worried that at 13-years old, Latrell would not be prepared for such a public display of his personal situation. Some suggest an "adoption announcement" would still show the "claiming" and family integration without erasing Latrell's birth history.

The recreation of a baby announcement highlights how complex feelings about adoption can be for the many people involved.

To read more:

From the Daily Mail: "My not-so-little newborn': Mother's unlikely photo shoot of adopted son, 13, wh ohad no baby photos of his own.

The Broad Side: Missing baby photos and missing childhoods: Foster care in America

Huffington Post: Kelli Higgins, adoptive mom, creates viral birth announcement spoof.

Ressurrection Graves: Adoptive mom exploits foster child with "newborn" photo shoot.

The HuffPost Live blog aired a show on transracial adoption. Featured guests include an adult transracial adoptee, Rachel Noerdlinger, adoptive parent Mindy Smith, researcher Darron Smith and Toni Oliver from the National Association of Black Social Work (NABSW).

You can watch the episode on the HuffPost Live website or below.

[Photo of Betty with her biological father and cousin, courtesy of Loes Zuidervaart for Voice of America]

An unprecedented case involving the revocation of an adoption in Ethiopia was won by a 14-year old who wanted to have the adoption dissolved. Betty Lub was adopted by a Dutch family when she was seven years old. Lub was abused by her adoptive parents.

Lub's documents were falsified for adoption, including information about her birth parents and Lub's age. With the Ethiopian courts ruling that the adoption is revoked, Lub is able to change her name back to her Ethiopian surname. She is also attempting to have her adoption revoked in Holland.

Ethiopia has been the center of scrutiny in the past few years due to allegations of widespread fraud and illegal adoption practices.

For more information, read about Betty's story at Voice of America.

[Photo by Al Hartman, for the Salt Lake Tribune]

Terry Archane, the father whose daughter was placed for adoption without his knowledge and consent, will be able to move forward as the sole guardian for his daughter after the adoptive parents who lost custody last month decided not to appeal the ruling.

Archane's ex-wife moved from Texas to Utah to place their daughter for adoption while Archane was in South Carolina preparing for a job transfer. Archane was never informed of the placement and upon learning that the child had been placed, attempted to get custody of his daughter. The agency that facilitated the adoption refused.

The adoptive parents appealed the ruling that placed the baby with her father, but dropped the suit after considering that a prolonged custody battle would ultimately not be in the child's best interest.

More on the story from the Salt Lake Tribune.

Ireland apologizes for Magdalene laundries

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Last week, the Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, apologized to survivors of the Magdalene Laundries, the name given to the women subjected to the harsh conditions of the laundries unwed pregnant women. From 1922 to 1996, an estimated 10,000 women and girls were placed.Many of their children were placed for adoption.

Justice for Magdalenes, a peer group of Magdalene survivors, rejected the apology, in part because the Prime Minister stopped short of acknowledging the state's past involvement in institutionalizing teenaged and young women.

In 2002, the movie The Magdalene Sisters depicted the experiences of the women who were placed in the institutions.

To read the Reuters story, click here.


Lucinda Jesson, Commissioner of Minnesota Department of Human Services, appeared on KARE-11 to encourage people to consider adopting African American youth in foster care in Minnesota. Commissioner Jesson spoke of meeting one youth who, at age 17, was adopted. Commissioner Jesson also encouraged anyone interested in learning more about adoption to visit the website. During the month, Africa American youth will be featured.

To view the video clip, visit

Whose story?

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nfl_a_kaepernick01jr_576.jpg [Photo by Patrick Cummings for Associated Press]

ESPN's Rick Reilly published a commentary on ESPN's website last week about Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. Kaepernick was adopted and according to the Reilly article, is currently not interested in meeting his birth mother.

Human interest stories about our sports figures are common, and adoption stories are often quite dramatic and appealing. Reilly's own personal experience as an adoptive parent frames this article in a way that appears to be as much about Reilly's thoughts and opinons than on Kaepernick.

Whether to have contact with birth family is an incredibly personal choice, and at times Reilly comes across as judgmental and authoritative. Reilly also appears to be conflating his daughter's experience as the template for how all other adopted persons must feel and behave.

Korean adoptee author Matthew Salesses, in a response to Reilly's article, writes, "The idea that Rick Reilly has any domain here is appalling. Whether or not to contact one's birth parents is a deeply personal decision that only an adoptee can make."

For more information:
Rick Reilly's article: Kaepernick's birthmom yearns for contact
Matthew Salesses response: Colin Kaepernick's decision to meet his birth mother should be his own

What happens when adoption fails?

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Two weeks ago the City Limits newspaper published a series by Rachel Blustain on what she termed, "broken adoptions" - that is, adoption dissolutions.

adopt2.jpgPhoto by Marc Fader for City Limits.

The numbers of how many adoptions fail is a tough statistic to obtain, in part because many adoption dissolutions occur years afer an adoption has been finalized; families move, they may not seek help, and the agencies that facilitate the adoption do not always know when the adoption is dissolved. In addition, there is no centralized mechanism for obtaining adoption data.

The series began with the story, "Growing Concerns over Broken Adoptions" in which featured one young woman who was adopted at age 7, only to be abandoned and put back into the foster care system by her adoptive mother at age 13.

The difficulty in obtaining solid numbers about adoption dissolutions is the focus of the second article, "Adoption Numbers in Question." Social service agencies that serve children report that anywhere from 5 to 25% of the kids they serve involve adopted children re-entering out-of-home care.

The third article, "From an Option to a Mandate" explores what happens when adoption is the permanency emphasis without the needed post-adoption services to support the families.

In "Solutions to Broken Adoptions May Lie in "Gray" Areas," a discussion of a different conceptualization to permanency is introduced - one that is flexible, allows children to stay connected with biological family in one way or another, and focusing on the needs of the child rather than agencies, workers and parents.

Finally, the story of one child, S.D., and her attorney who advocated against her adoption, is told in "One Foster Child's Choice: Not to be Adopted." I found the most compelling statement in this piece to be the last paragraph.

When Zimmerman went to court to argue against adoption for S.D., he had no fantasy of a happily ever after. "It was not a slam dunk," he recalls. Still, Zimmerman says, when he convinced the judge to let S.D. remain in foster care for the remainder of her childhood, he felt that he had done the best he could for his client as an individual, not as a permanency statistic.

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Last week a local news organization, The City Pages, published a feature article about a contested adoption case that the Minnesota Supreme Court is reviewing. As with many of these cases, this story highlights systems issues in child welfare, the tension between biological family and foster families, racial differences, interjurisdictional placements between states and the differences in state's proceedures regarding adoption, and much more.

In "Split the baby: Two sides of an adoption battle" reporter Olivia LaVecchia's story delves into many of these issues but the main attraction, as is often the case, revolves around race. The placement of the two young sisters at the center of this story has been presented as one in which the African American paternal grandmother has been denied custody in favor of a white foster family.

Our executive director at the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare, Traci LaLiberte and I met with Ms. LaVecchia to provide background context for adoptions and child welfare practice in Minnesota and a few of Ms. LaLiberte's comments are featured in the article.

Among the issues we brought up include:

  • The pendulum swing in child welfare as the profession emphasizes relatives and kin over "new resource" adoptions, a change from the past when many thought that "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree"
  • The interjurisdictional mistakes that were made in this case
  • The MultiEthnic Placement Act and Interethnic Provisions and how that legislation differs conceptually with the Indian Child Welfare Act
  • The difference between "active efforts" and "reasonable efforts"

While both parties in this case are arguing issues regarding race - that the children need to be raised in their cultural community according to the grandmother, over the argument by the foster parents that they are the only parents these children know and that race should not trump the relationship and bond they have with the girls.

This story, as with the baby Veronica case, pits the contested adoptions as matters of race, which often becomes the story and illustrates the very divided opinions people have about race and culture in America. However, what is often not as considered is that these issues are almost always about much more than race alone - they typically involve intense differences in opinions about whether biological families are more entitled to raise children than new resource families; the issues of class is often unspoken but foster families in these legal cases are almost always white and middle class while the relatives are often from communities of color and are working class; and finally in most of these cases one or more significant practices required by law were either not done properly (in the baby Veronica case, for example, the workers did not follow the procedures of ICWA) or they were not done to the effort they should have (such as following through with the state of Mississippi in the case of the Dunnings).

Some things to think about:

  • If the relatives, the Dunnings were white, do you think they would have been more likely to receive the children?
  • If the Dunnings had lived in Minnesota instead of Mississippi, do you think the case would have been ruled as it was?
  • If the foster family, the Grossers, were African American, how do you think this case would have been resolved?
  • Can race really be taken out of it, as the attorneys argued before the Supreme Court?


The Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW) will graduate its first cohort of 39 adoption-competent mental health and child welfare workers through CASCW's Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate (PACC) program today. The graduation celebration will take place from 4 PM to 6 PM in the Minnesota Commons Room at the University of Minnesota St. Paul Student Center.

The PACC is a professional training program developed in response to community demand for an adoption-competent mental health and child welfare workforce able to serve the unique and complex clinical and practice needs for adopted individuals and their families throughout Minnesota. Through the PACC, mental health and child welfare workers are given the knowledge and skills needed to serve families and help prevent disruptions in the post-adoption period.

The PACC includes the nationally recognized Training on Adoption Competency curriculum developed by the Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.) and additional modules focusing on child welfare permanency and the Indian Child Welfare Act. The PACC emphasizes the use of 'real world' case studies, small group work, and partner interactions in order to promote critical thinking and practice application discussions among participants.

"Going through the different case studies and having discussion was most helpful and relevant, as I can use the feedback [and] ideas to help in my job in engaging families I work with." Participant Response

Graduates of the PACC will be listed in a searchable online database. Families and professionals will have access to this database in order to locate adoption-competent practitioners in their area.

There are 37 additional participants in the current (fall 2012) cohorts in Rochester and the Twin Cities that will graduate in 2014.

For more information, please visit the PACC website.

Adoption Tax Credit update

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The Adoption Tax Credit was included in the last-minute legislation passed to prevent the "fiscal cliff" but it falls short of what many had hoped for.

The tax credit was initially conceived to help support foster care adoptions. Many families who adopt from foster care are relatives, foster parents or families of modest financial means - and the tax credit will not help these families since the version that passed is not refundable for those whose tax liabilities are lower than the credit.

Thus the tax credit may end up being unavailable for those families who need it the most - modest income families who adopt special needs children from foster care.

For more about the tax credit:

Russia bans international adoption to U.S.

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To the distress and dismay of many Americans, it was announced at the end of December that Russian president Vladamir Putin signed a law banning international adoptions to the U.S. This act is being considered retaliation for the Magnitsky Act passed by U.S. Congress in response to Russia's human rights violations.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 23adoptee-graphic-articleInline.jpeg [Graphic from the New York Times].

Many are calling this a political move using children as political pawns, amid concerns about the fate of the thousands of children currently in Russian orphanages. Although the numbers of Russian children adopted by Americans have declined in recent years, last year just under 1000 children were adopted to the U.S. according to the U.S. State Department.

Although Russia named the ban after Dima Yakolov, a Russian child adopted to a Virginia family that died in their care, and state this ban is driven in part by the 19 deaths of Russian adopted children and the return of Artyem by adoptive parent Torry Hansen, the ban ends the bilateral agreement that the U.S. and Russian recently implemented that would provide for greater protection and oversight of Russian adopted children.

In reading the many news articles, op-ed articles and blog responses to the ban, I had the following thoughts:

  • While this ban is directed toward the U.S. and means that children will no longer be able to be adopted by American families, this ban is not a wholesale ban on international adoption. Russian children will still be able to be adopted by families in other countries. Some are mistakenly stating that these children will be considered "unadoptable" - they are not, they will no longer able to be adopted by Americans but they can still be adopted by others.
  • Russia has been working on improving their domestic adoption programs and while they have many issues they need to address, they are at least working on it. They are - like the U.S. - trying to figure out how to encourage their families to adopt children that are older, part of sibling sets, and who have disabilities. While the U.S. is right to be concerned about these Russian children, we should keep in mind that there are over 100,000 children waiting for adoption in the U.S. foster care system that are older, part of sibling sets and with disabilities. Globally, we ALL need to improve our domestic adoption programs.
  • Some are saying the ban on U.S. adoptions is in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Russia has ratified. That may be true, however I think it is interesting because the U.S. has not ratified the UN CRC.
  • Global adoption programs are constantly changing. In the future it might not be unexpected if other countries close their adoption programs as well.
  • Russia needs to put resources behind supporting their domestic adoption programs if they want to increase adoptions and reduce the number of children in orphanages. As with the U.S. and other countries that have large numbers of children in care, we also all need to work on the underlying issues that cause children to be in care in the first place.

To read more about the ban:

More about the internet and adoption

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On Monday, we posted about the Evan B. Donaldson report about the increase in the use of the internet and social media in adoptions. To highlight some of the personal stories about how the internet and social media have played a role in the lives of adopted individuals, adoptive parents and first/birth parents, here are some links to stories that came out over the past week.

National Public Radio - the story "Finding a child online: How the web is transforming adoption" features a couple who created their own website along with a "Letter to the Birth Parent" in an attempt to "market" themselves to a potential birth parent.

The New York Times begins its story with the ways that birth parents and adoptees have used the internet to find and connect with each other. In "Internet use in adoption cuts 2 ways, report says," the focus is more on the ways adoptees and birth/first famlies are using social media sites to search and make contact.

Adoption bill passes the Senate

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This story did not make national headlines, but the story is an important one to understand for anyone working in international adoption.

On December 7th, 2012, the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act passed the senate. The bill was sponsored by Senators Mary Landrieu, John Kerry, Dick Lugar and James Inhofe in a bipartisan effort to increase the accountability of adoption agencies facilitating international adoptions.

Currently adoption agencies who facilitate international adoptions do not have to be accredited, leading to inconsistent practices and opportunities for misuse and fraud. U.S. agencies that work with Hague countries (that is, those countries that have signed the Hague convention) must be accredited; however many small agencies work with non-Hague countries and are not accredited through the Council of Accreditation (COA) in the U.S. The new legislation will require that all adoption agenices facilitating international adoptions will need to be in compliance with the accreditation requirements necessary for working with Hague countries even if they facilitate adoptions with non-Hague countries.

The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption is an international treaty that aims to protect children involved in intercountry adoption from abduction, kidnapping, sale, exploitation and trafficking for the purpose of adoption.

For more information see Senator Landrieu's site here.

For a list of current Hague-accredited agencies, see the Department of State's website here.

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Last Thursday, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute released its newest report focused on the impact of the internet on adoption. The report describes the impact of the internet and social media as having "transformative effects - positive and negative - on how adoption is perceived, practiced and in terms of the policies and laws that are responding from, and attempting to proactively address, ethical challenges that are raised.

The report was instigated because of the lack of research on the use of the internet and social media in adoption, as well as to begin a dialogue. The Adoption Institute's key findings include:

  • Adoption is more and more about finding children for families than in finding families for children, with a growing "commodification" as supply and demand for infants "heightens competition."
  • The ability for unregulated websites to unethically facilitate adoption practices as a way to compete with brick and mortar adoption agencies raises concerns.
  • More birth parents and adoptees are using social media and other internet-related technologies to search and contact each other.
  • Recruitment for adoptive families for children with special needs has been more successful through internet technologies.
  • Prospective and adoptive families are able to find many resources and supports through internet sites.

The report also laid out several practice, policy and legal recommendations. Among them:

  • The development of a best-practice standards guide, by key organizations, experts in the field, and - though not included I would add adoptive parents, first parents and adopted individuals as well.
  • The development of training programs for adoption professionals on a number of items including:
  • Positive and negative uses of the internet and social media
  • The internet and social media as a tool for search and reunion, and how professionals can counsel those using the internet for search and reunion
  • The use of the internet for parents (both birth/first and adoptive) to obtain adoption services
  • An examination of the current policies and laws related to fraud, exploitation and other illegal activities and the internet
  • Working with internet and social media companies about issues of privacy, ethics, and conduct of users
  • An examination of current laws regarding the ability of adult adopted persons from accessing original birth information.

For more information about the key findings and to read the whole report, see the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute link here.

A webinar on engaging families around kinship care is available from the Florida's Center for the Advancement of Child Welfare Practice. This video could be helpful for practitioners looking for stragegies when working with families to provide kinship care. This video was created in 2008.

Jack Levine and Ron Morris developed this video training. They discuss differences in family structures, the development of a family engagement plan, working with families and the need for professionals to advocate for comprehensive services.

You can access the video here.

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For the past 13 years, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has invited television viewers to consider adoption through their annual holiday special, A Home for the Holidays.

This year is no difference. Scheduled for December 19, 2012, at 8 pm, the Rascal Flats, American Idol winner Phillip Phillips, Matchbox Twenty, Melissa Etheridge, and Rachel Crow (an adoptee and singer and contestant on the X Factor) will perform on the annual special.

Crow, 14, was adopted from foster care. On the show information page, Crow says, "Everything I've done has been possible because of my family. They gave me the love and support to follow my dreams."

Other presenters will include Wayne Brady, Kevin Frazier and Jillian Michaels (also a recent adoptive parent).

For more information check out the show information on Wendy's website here.


An article for The Republic and published late November highlighted the challenges that some adoptive families face that lead to a diruption or dissolution of an adoption.

The article highlighted one family whose adopted child struggled with mental health and behavioral issues so extreme, the family felt they had no other options but to "return him" to the system.

However, it is not just adoptive parents adopting from foster care who make these decisions. From famous adoptive parents like Joyce Maynard who announced this year she had dissolved the adoption of two Ethiopian adopted siblings to the case that made international news, Torry Hansen's "return" via sending her Russian born adopted child to Russia alone on a plane, adoptive parents often struggle to find quality and effective services for their children and themselves. Some parents, such as the ones in the The Republic article, "return" the child in order to get services that they could not access on their own.

With an increase in foster care adoptions in the U.S., the need for services will also need to increase in order to support these chlidren, many of whom have experienced a significant amount of abuse, neglect and trauma. With no way of tracking national disruptions and dissolutions for all adopted children, the scope of the issue is difficult to know. For the families who struggle, however, the impact of the lack of services is devastating.

The Republic article asks, "Who helps when adoptions unravel?" Another question we need to ask is "what can we do to prevent disruptions and dissolutions to begin with?"

What are your thoughts?

Sometimes videos of people sharing their experiences are the most profound. As we near the end of National Adoption Month, we have put together some resources for videos on a variety of topics related to permanency and adoption.

Adoption Learning Partners is a resource for educational resources about adoption for professionals, parents, adopted individuals and anyone connected to adoptive families. ALP YouTube playlist

Adopted, a movie about intercountry adoption by Barb Lee, comes with a helpful guide that professionals can order for use in trainings as well as several videos on their website.

The National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections has a wonderful Digital Stories from the Field series which features youth and young adult perspectives, parent perspectives, and worker perspectives among others.

Transracial adoptees speak

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Transracial adoption has always been controversial. Whether or not you agree with the practice of transracial adoption, it is important that child welfare and adoption practitioners and foster and adoptive parents understand that transracially adopted children and youth will have additional identity development needs and concerns than same-race adoptees.

Just as every adopted person feels differently about their experiences, the views of those adopted transracially differ as well.

The follow are a few videos of transracial adoptees sharing their experiences.

Struggle for Identity - this film is one of the oldest that includes transracial adoptee voices. The film shows a variety of perspectives from transracial adoptees, although viewers often react most strongly to the two more vocal adoptees featured in this clip, Michelle and John. Understanding that these adoptees are expressing their experiences is important so that adoptive parents can think ahead of time about how they will address these issues for their own children.

From the film Adopted comes these adult transracial adoptees and professionals discussing identity issues.

Rhonda Roorda, co-author with Rita Simon of the book In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories, discusses transracial adoption in this news story

Aaron Stigger, with his mom Judy, discuss transcial adoption

More youth voices

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What does it feel like to be adopted?

Check out these voices of the adoptees themselves.

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More from the Naitonal Adoption Month website.

For adopted youth - staying safe online

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Online social networking sites allow youth in foster care and adoption to connect with others who have shared their experiences. However negotiating social relationships - online ones included - can still be tricky. Youth can can be at risk, and for foster and adopted youth, issues such as who to trust, what to share, and understanding good boundaries in relationships all have online social networking implications as well in person-to-person interactions.

The National Adoption Month 2012 website by the Children's Bureau offers some great resources for youth to help them be safe while on social networking sites. Here are some great resources:

  • The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children offers an English and Spanish version of their NSTeens resource of videos and comics aimed to help tweens navigate the internet.
  • Social has a guide for safe and responsible social networking
  • Social Media Safety, created by the Wisconsin 4-H Youth Development, is a guide for youth
Resources for social workers, foster and adoptive parents and others working with foster and adopted youth:
  • The state of Oregon has created an "Internet Usage Greement for Youth In Care and Foster Parents" that might be a helfpul guide for other parents and caregivers.
  • Kids that have been adopted might use the internet to find birth family. This guide from the Child Welfare Information Gateway discusses using social media as a tool for finding birth family.
  • Dale Fitch from the University of Missouri wrote "Youth in Foster Care and Social Media: A Framework for Developing Privacy Guidelines" in the Journal of Technology in Human Services. For an article about Dr. Fitch, see this article in the Univesity of Missori News Bureau.
  • From the Foster Kids Own Story blog - Foster Care's Social Media Problem.

Adoptive family perspectives

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Today we are bringing you family perspectives.

From the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections, their series Digital Stories from the Field includes foster/adoptive family perspectives. These eleven videos provide a variety of experiences of families that have adopted children and youth from foster care.

A diverse group of perspectives are included:
LGBT adoption
kinship adoption
foster parent adoptionadopting siblings
international adoption

Social media and adoption

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Social media can be a tool for promoting adoption and it can also be tricky to manage. Adoption agencies might fear using social media because of concerns for privacy issues and unfamiliarity with the social media tools.

However, social media is being used more and more by adoptive parents and children and youth, so it is important for agencies and social workers to understand how social media works and ways to use it in beneficial ways, as well as to help guide others in using it ethically.

For National Adoption Month 2012, the Children's Bureau offers some guides for professionals to assist them in using social media as an asset for increasing permanency and adoption for children and youth waiting for adoption.

Pages include:

Adopt US Kids has a wonderful infographic on how agencies can determine which social media tools they should use to reach out to prospective families. They even have "101" guides for using Facebook and Twitter.

If your agency has been concerned about jumping in to the social media pool, these resources should help you determine the best way to begin.


Remembering that adoption is complex

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During the celebrations and hoopla that National Adoption Month brings, it can be easy to forget or dismiss the reality that adoption is not always the fairy tale ending to a child's life. A child brings with him or her a lifetime of pre-adoption history that is often very difficult and filled with trauma.

Trauma is not "cured" through a "forever family" alone. The adoptive or permanent family (and we must remember and acknowledge legal guardianship is also considered a permanent placement) that is best able to provide that supportive platform is one in which the child or youth's history, including trauma, grief and loss, is acknowledged and addressed.

Some children and youth continue to mourn and grieve at the same time as they embrace their adoption. This is, as many experts have acknowledged, a paradox - that one can understand the losses that adoption has brought as well as the gains.

This paradox is one that many children and youth understand very well. It is the adults in their lives - the social workers, the foster and adoptive parents, other family members, and society - that often has a harder time understanding or acknowledging this paradox.

So as we spend this month discussing the benefits of adoption, let us also be aware that there may be extra supports that children, youth and their adoptive or permanent families might need to stabilize and strengthen these placements.

Below are some resources for helping children and families:

Resources to help families find a therapist that understands adoption is a challenge that many adoptive parents say is critically needed. Here are some resources for finding skilled therapists that understand the core issues and loss and grief involved in adoption:

Today's National Adoption Month post is aimed at foster youth. Although adoption is often presented as being about the best interests of the child, in reality the child or youth in foster care has very little say or input about their own permanency planning. Social workers, Guardian ad litems or CASA workers, judges and foster and prospective adoptive parents often appear to be talking about your permanency plans without actually asking you what you want or how permanency is going to impact your future.


If you are a case worker, foster parent, prospective adoptive parent, GAL or CASA, and you are reading this post, you should be aware of these resources and offer them to the youth you are working with.

If you are a youth and you are reading this post, these resources might be interesting and helpful to you and you could use these as a starting point for discussion with your social workers, GAL/CASA or others in your life.

Permanency is about YOU and your future, and that is why you need to know what all the things your social workers or other people in your life are saying when they talk about permanency and adoption.

Here are some resources for you, to help you understand more about permanency and adoption:

To start, here is a video of foster youth, parents and social workers sharing their experiences

Here is a video developed for the 2011 Summit on Youth Permanency on the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation website. The youth featured in this video talk about what permanency and family means for them.

The Children's Bureau's National Adoption Month website has a page of resources dedicated just for youth in foster care. Check out the resources on their page.

Other resources:

Minnesota families celebrate adoption

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On Sunday, November 4th over 400 families participated in the Circus of the Heart, a joint effort of the MN Department of Human Services and the Minnesota Adoption Resource Network.

According to the Star Tribune, the event was created to celebrate the adoption of 540 children from foster care in 2011.

Commissioner Lucinda Jesson opened the event on Sunday, acknowledging that the state's efforts to increase foster care adoption has made a significant difference for the children in Minnesota. MN DHS spokesperson Beth Voight remarked that in the fifteen years since Circus of the Heart has been educating and celebrating foster care adoption that the numbers of children waiting for adoption has dramatically decreased from 800 in 1997 to just over 350 today.

Click here for the full story.

National Adoption Month 2012

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It's National Adoption Month time again. Since President Clinton expanded National Adoption Week to National Adoption Month in 1995, National Adoption Month has been an effort to bring attention to the children and youth in foster care in need of adoption.

Throughout this month we will be highlighting stories about foster care adoption and bring attention to helpful resources for families and professionals.

For today's post we share a message from the Children's Bureau about National Adoption Month initiative - helping states use social media as a tool for recruiting parents for children and youth in foster care.

On the Children's Bureau's National Adoption Month website you will find a host of resources. Follow along to the AdoptUSKids twitter feed, watch videos, share their widgets on Adoption in the Digital Age and make use of the many resources available for youth, parents and professionals.

Woman denied right to adopt partner's child

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A same-sex couple in Alabama lost an appeal to allow the non-biological parent to adopt her partner's child last Friday.

The couple, who were married in California in 2008, currently lives in Alabama which does not recognize same-sex marriage and does not allow the adoption because, according to the court, the woman "is not the spouse of the child's mother."

The full story is available here.

The 2012 Centennial Adoption Excellence Awards

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The Children's Bureau just released their 2012 Centennial Adoption Excellence Awards. The report is available <"">here.

Awardees include agencies, organizations and individuals that have contributed to the adoption of children and youth from foster care. The program goes back to the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. The awards were presented on october 10 in Washington, DC.

One of the individuals listed this year is Natalie Lyons, who helped coordinate the webinar on adoption competency certificate programs that we at CASCW participated in last December with the National Resource Center on Adoption. A full description of Ms. Lyons' career is included in this pdf.

Past award winners are available on the Children's Bureau site.

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A current University of Minnesota student wrote a first-person account of her experience as a Korean adoptee.

Student Leah Lancaster describes her experience as being in "No man's land" for the Minnesota Daily.

"What is distinctive about being an adoptee is that you are virtually thrown into a cultural No Man's Land," writes Lancaster. "Supposedly, you have no "roots." It becomes difficult to disentangle who you are from who you're supposed to be. You become a blank canvas for other people's expectations. Many adoptees that I know, as well as myself, have felt alienation from white culture and even more from Korean culture. We simultaneously occupy small areas of both these spaces, but find we do not belong in either. The struggle between these cultural realms is quite possibly the defining feature of the Korean adoptee experience."

For the rest of the article, click here for the Minnesota Daily site.

Webinar on the Adoption Tax Credit

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This Thursday, October 4, 2012, a webinar will be held to discuss the Adoption Tax Credit. From the webinar description:

In this webinar you will gain an understanding about the goals of our advocacy efforts, as well as the history of this credits existence, an overview of the legislative changes, the difference between a refundable credit vs. a credit applied toward tax liability, definition of special needs adoption and description of the "flat" distinction, understanding of how the credit stands for 2012 and 2013 and, description of the adoption tax credit legislation currently in Congress and what legislators intend to do during the lame duck session upon their return to Washington, D.C. after the elections. Presenters will also provide helpful advocacy tips and strategies for making your voice heard by your members of Congress, and an adoptive parent & advocate will join the presentation to share their personal experiences with webinar participants.

To register, click here.

One of the ways adoptive families are supported are through the adoption tax credit. The adoption tax credit, first enacted in 1997 as a means to help offset the costs incurred to adopt children from foster care, the tax credit has since become available for all types of adoptions. However, the tax credit is soon about to expire.

So far the tax credit has never been successfully legislated to be permanent. The tax credit has been extended several times and along with the extensions or renewals, has included changes over the years.

House Bill H.R. 4373, which has bipartisan support, aims to renew the adoption tax credit, and even more significantly make the tax credit permanent, a flat rate for special needs adoption and inclusive for all types of adoption; however with the upcoming elections it is unlikely that Congress will review it until after the elections. The Senate version is S. 3616 and like the House bill, has bipartisan support. If the propsed bills do not pass, then the credit will be reduced to $6,000 for a limited number of special needs adoptions.

For more information about the Adoption Tax credit, see the following resources:

North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC)
Save the Adoption Tax Credit (NACAC)
IRS Adoption Benefits FAQ
Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Tell your kids if they're adopted"

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued a report stating that parents should tell their children if they are adopted, and that doctors should work with adoptive parents to help them raise their adopted children.

"Children who join families through adoption can have unique medical, educational, developmental or behavioral issues, and it is important for both pediatricians and families to be aware of the psychological challenges that many adopted children experience." (Medpage Today)
The AAP contends that as adoptive parents and their children encounter these psychological challenges, that pediatricians can be a great resource.

The report also underscored the importance of using positive adoption language; for example, adoptive parents should not say their biological parents gave them up, but rather, they created "an adoption plan" for the child. Also, the AAP pointed out that by referring to biological parents as "natural" parents, the adoptive parents are implying that their family of adopted children is unnatural.

Though the AAP gave no timeline to indicate when parents should tell their children, they did state that kids do not generally recognize differences between families until age 3.

The authors of the AAP report conclude,

"it is becoming increasingly important for pediatricians to be aware of and knowledgeable about adoption...[They] play an important role in helping families deal with the differences, the losses, and the many other issues surrounding the adoption of a child."

Citation for the AAP report: Jones, V. F., & Schulte, E. E. (2012). The pediatrician's role in supporting adoptive families. Pediatrics. Advance online publication. doi:10.1542/peds.2012-2261

dtfa_logo.jpgThe Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (DTFA) issues annually a list of the top 100 best adoption-friendly workplaces, based on "the maximum amount of financial reimbursement and paid leave for employees who adopt." This list is issued each year as a way to increase public awareness of children in foster care waiting for adoption, as well as to recognize businesses that support adoptive families. In order to be considered for inclusion on the list, companies must complete the adoption benefits survey on the DTFA website.

This year's list was released earlier this week. Here are the top 10:

1. The Wendy's Company
2. Ferring Pharmaceuticals
3. RBS Citizens Financial Group
4. HanesBrands
5. Barilla America, Inc.
6. Liquidnet Holdings, Inc. (tie)
6. LSI Corporation (tie)
6. UBM (tie)
9. Boston Scientific
10. Bloomberg (tie)
10. Putnam Investments (tie)
Minnesota-based companies that made the list include General Mills (Minneapolis), which was tied with 9 other organizations for #38, and Carlson (Minnetonka), which was tied with 11 other organizations for #91.

To view the full list, visit the 2012 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces webpage.

CASCW selected by Senator Amy Klobuchar as an Angel in Adoption

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The Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW) has been selected by Senator Amy Klobuchar as one of this year's Angels in AdoptionTM for outstanding advocacy in preparing adoption-competent clinical mental health and child welfare professionals for their work with adopted children and their families. The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), which orchestrates the Angels in AdoptionTM program, will honor CASCW, along with more than 140 other Angels, at an awards ceremony and gala event on September 11 and 12 in Washington, D.C.

Established in 1999, the Angels in AdoptionTM program is CCAI's signature public awareness campaign that provides an opportunity for Congress to honor the good work of their constituents who have enriched the lives of children in foster and adoptive homes in the United States and abroad.

PACC_Logo.jpgPart of the University of Minnesota's School of Social Work, CASCW is being honored for its Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate (PACC), a professional training program that was developed in response to community demand for an adoption-competent mental health and child welfare workforce able to serve the unique and complex clinical and practice needs for adopted individuals and their families.

"Competent post-adoption support and adoption-competent mental health providers are critically needed to support and strengthen adoptive families," says JaeRan Kim, Project Coordinator at the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare. "We are proud that our Center can contribute toward ensuring that mental health and child welfare practitioners in the state of Minnesota understand the unique and often complex needs of children, youth, and families that have been impacted by foster care and adoption."

The PACC program provides mental health and child welfare professionals the knowledge and skills they need to work with individuals and families involved in permanency and adoption. This helps to prevent disruptions in the post-adoption period.

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MN Adopt is offering a webinar on September 12, 2012 on Communicating with Birthparents/Families: An Adoptive Mother's Experience. The webinar will be hosted by Terssa Markworth, MA. Terssa Markworth and her husband of 25 years have adopted waiting children from Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa and South Korea. She is currently completing her Master of Communication Studies degree program at the University of South Dakota Vermillion. Terssa enjoys speaking to civic groups, churches, professionals and other adoptive parents on how adoption has framed her family of 21 children.

From the description:

Open communication between adopted/foster kids and birthparents/families can be delicate. As caregivers to these children we want to ensure the best outcome while being sensitive to everyone involved. Join Terssa Markworth, adoptive parent of 17 as she shares her experiences from maintaining long-term communication with former foster parents to a Facebook friendship with a birthparent. Communicating with birth families has become more profound due to the internet, Facebook and cell phones. Special care must be taken when older children of sibling groups decide to search for birth parents. Terssa also discusses the approach she took when telling her adopted child about the death of a birthparent and how the "death of the dream" to later search affected the child. She shares strategies on how to effectively communicate with birth families while advocating for and supporting the needs of adopted children.

The webinar is $15 and you can register by clicking on this link. For more information on this, or other trainings, contact MN Adopt at or:

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

This morning NPRran a story, Helping Foster Kids Even After Adoption, about the types of post-adoption supports that families that adopt from foster care often need.

image001[1].jpgOne of the interviewees on this show is Debbie Riley, our partner at the Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE). CASE's Training on Adoption Competency curricuum is the basis for our Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate program.
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You can hear the podcast below, or click here to access it on the NPR site.

NPR Post-adoption support.mp3

For more information on our Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate program, click here.

browse.jpegChildren and youth that have experienced foster care, institutionalization and/or adoption often face additional struggles in school. Adoption Learning Partners and the Joint Council on International Children's Services is co-sponsoring a webinar, Adoption and Classroom Success: Beyond The Basics. The webinar will be held live Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 7:00PM Central time with a Q&A at 8:00PM. The cost of the webinar is $15.00

Presenter Heather T. Forbes will discuss how adoption experiences impact children in school.

From the webinar's description:

Circumstances prior to adoption often cause adopted children to experience school, among other things, in a different framework than other kids. Orphanage care, foster care or prenatal exposure are all events that can affect behavior as a child grows.

Heather will present tips and strategies on how to help your child be more successful at school, therefore easing some of the stress at home. Heather will cover:

  • How to smooth school-related transitions
  • Helping teachers understand what is driving a child's negative behaviors
  • How to increase your child's motivation to succeed at school

Forbes is the author of the popular Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control: A Love Based Approach to Helping Children with Severe Behaviors.

To register for the webinar, click here.

For more suggestions on how to help your adopted or fostered child prepare for and navigate school, you can also check out the fact sheets available from MN ADOPT.

Topics include:

  • Adoption-Competent School Assignments
  • Adoption-Friendly Curriculum
  • College Aid
  • Making IEPs User-Friendly
  • Planning for Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities
  • School Issues With the Youth or Teen with Attachment Issues: The Dog Ate My Homework
  • The Impact of Adoption at School: Elementary Age Youth
  • The Impact of Adoption at School: Junior and Senior High
  • The Impact of Adoption at School: Pre-K and Kindergarten

A while back I blogged about food issues among children that have experienced foster care, institutionalization and adoption. I was recently at a conference and saw this wonderful resource created by the SPOON Foundation called Adoption Nutrition: A Starter Guide for Foster and Adoptive Parents.

This guide provides helpful information and hints about common nutrient deficiencies adopted children may have, understanding feeding challenges and tips for transitioning your child's diet.

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You can request a copy of the booklet here. It's free! The website is full of information as well, so I recommend taking time to look through all the pages. This is a great resource for foster and adoptive parents, but also for adoption professionals and mental health specialists working with children and families that might be experiencing food and eating issues.

Thumbnail image for 00262697.jpgAs the recent AFCARS figures show, approximately 22% of the children in the U.S. waiting for adoption are Hispanic (of all races). According to a recent report by the Casey Latino Leadership Group, the number of children in care more than doubled over the past 20 years, and issues such as deportation laws are a factor in this increased number of Latino children in care.

More on Latino children in the child welfare system and the recruitment efforts for Latino foster and adoptive parents, are as follows.

The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) is looking for submissions for their 39th annual conference, to be held in Toronto, Ontario next August 7-10, 2013. The deadline for submissions is Tuesday, November 2, 2012.

From the NACAC website:

NACAC encourages adoptive and foster parents, child welfare professionals, adoptees, birth parents, former foster youth, researchers, therapists, and other child advocates to submit workshop and institute proposals for the 2012 conference. Three-hour institutes will take place Thursday, August 8. Workshops of 90 or 120 minutes will run from Thursday morning through Saturday.

More information along with a downloadable PDF of the call for proposals is available here.

The Children's Bureau released a new Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) report for 2011 (October 1-September 30, 2011). According to the report:

  • In 2011, there was a continued trend toward fewer childrThumbnail image for 00202032.jpgen waiting for adoption (104,236 children, down from 109,456 in 2010 and from 133,682 in 2007).
  • During the reporting period, parental rights were terminated for 61,361 children.
  • The mean age for children waiting for adoption was 8 years, and their mean age when they entered foster care was 5 years.
  • 23% of the children were in relative foster homes, and 54% were in non-relative foster homes.
  • 12% of the children were in pre-adoptive homes.
  • 9% of the children were in a group home or institution.
  • 40% of the children waiting for adoption were white, 28% Black or African American, 22% Hispanic of any race, 6% two or more races and 2% American Indian/Alaskan Native.
  • 53% of the children were boys and 47% were girls.
  • The mean time these children had been in care was 23.6 years.

Download a PDF of the report here or go to the Statistics and Research page of the ACF website.

For many children in foster care or those adopted from foster care, being separated from one or more sibling is unfortunately a common experience. Although the sibling relationship is the longest relationship any person will have to another family member, about 70% of the children in foster care also have another sibling in care. Because of many barriers, these siblings are often placed in separate homes. Some children lose contact with their siblings and never have the chance to develop a relationship.

Resources such as Camp To Belong and Camp Connect (featured in this article) are one way that child welfare professionals and adoptive and foster parents can support sibling relationships.

Camp To Belong

Camp Connect

For more information on best practices with sibling groups in foster care and adoption, the following resources may be helpful.

When adoptive parents target adopted children for abuse

Photo of two adoptive parents who targeted their adopted children for abusePhoto by Chris Wilson for the Journal Sentinel

The abuse of children who have been adopted by their adoptive parents is particularly tragic, considering that adoption is supposed to be the safe haven for children who have already experienced the traumatic dissolution of their birth families.

A recent case of the abuse of internationally adopted children born in Russia and adopted to a family in Wisconsin has increased the tensions between Russia and the U.S. when it comes to the welfare of Russian adopted children. At least 18 Russian adopted children have been murdered by their American adoptive parents and many more Russian adoptees have been abused.

According to reports, the adoptive parents in this case targeted their adopted children for abuse and included their biological children in the abuse.

Below are a selection of news reports about this case.

The University of Minnesota has some amazing scholars researching adoption. Here is a presentation by Megan Gunnar, Department Chair and Regents Professor at the Institute on Child Development here at the University of Minnesota, presenting a keynote address on the developing adolescent brains of post-institutionalized adopted children at the 2012 Rudd Adoption Conference, New Worlds of Adoption: Navigating the Teen Years.

For more presentations from this conference, visit the Rudd Adoption Research Program's YouTube page.

  • Disruption: When an adoption fails prior to finalization of the adoption.
  • Dissolution: When an adoption fails after the adoption has been finalized.

todaymoms.PNGOn Wednesday, Today Moms discussed the issue of adoption disruptions and dissolutions in an article entitled It takes more than love: What happens when adoption fails. It seems that the goal of the article was to address the negative public opinion surrounding adoptive parents whose adoptions have failed by highlighting the challenges that adoptive parents face when adopting older, traumatized children from foster care or internationally. This article reminds us that one cannot expect these children to leave their trauma at their previous home or their birth country's borders:

"'She'd sit on my lap when the nannies were around, but the minute they'd walk away, she'd spit in my face,' Sage says. 'And whenever I'd get in the shower, she'd tear the room apart. She even ripped up the documents that I had to give to INS. I came home with PTSD.'"

Sage sought therapy for her daughter and eventually discovered the little girl suffered from reactive attachment disorder, a condition where children don't establish healthy bonds with parents or caregivers and display a host of symptoms such as aggression towards peers, withdrawal or attention-seeking behavior."

The article cites disruption statistics from a literature review that was conducted by our Center in 2010 concerning adoption disruptions and dissolutions:

  • Between 6 and 11 percent of all adoptions are disrupted.
  • For kids over the age of 3, that rate ranges from 10 to 16 percent.
  • For teens, it can be as high as 24 percent, nearly 1 out of every 4 adoptions.

According to this article, adoption disruptions and dissolutions occur more frequently among older children, especially those who have had adverse childhood experiences (a given for children in foster care) and/or who have developed challenging behaviors, and those children with special needs, especially those with emotional difficulties and sexual acting out. Additionally, the article states that

"younger adoptive parents, inexperienced parents, and parents who both work outside the home are linked with higher levels of disruption. Wealthier parents and more educated mothers, in particular, are also more likely to disrupt an adoption."

So what happens to the kids?


When adoptions disrupt or dissolve, the child is likely to enter foster care. When international adoptions fail, the adoption agency also often informs the birth country of what has happened, but (according to the article) never sends the child back home. For dissolutions, the parents must go to court to end the parent-child relationship.

In any case, the experience of adoption disruption or dissolution is likely to hurt the child's emotional wellbeing. An adoption counselor in the article mentioned depression, distrust, control issues, and rigid behavior as some possible lifelong issues the child may face. Additionally, the child's ability to attach to caregivers is reduced when placements disrupt.

Preparation, preparation, preparation... And post-adoption services!

The article concludes with recommendations for adoptive parents to be fully prepared prior to adopting, and to remove the "rose-colored glasses" surrounding the act of adoption. One adoptive parent states that it is important to let go of the notion of an "ideal child" and to allow the child to adapt to the family structure and expectations.

Another important aspect of the adoption process is to continue with support services after the adoption takes place, through post-adoption support services. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar has introduced a bill during this legislative session to enhance both pre- and post-adoption support services and provide for funding for such services: S. 1318 Supporting Adoptive Families Act.

Remember, our Center offers a certificate for mental health and child welfare professionals who help children achieve permanency. Check out the Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate here.

Did you read the article? What did you think? Any experiences with adoption disruption or dissolution? Comment below!

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The Child Welfare Information Gateway has created a factsheet for adopted individuals and birth families on the search and reunion process.

This publication also includes information on hiring a professional searcher, using social media, and issues that come up in the reunion process.

The resource is free and you can download it as a PDF here, or you can go to the Child Welfare Information Gateway webpage on Searching for Birth Relatives.

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: or

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?

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,

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.

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.

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.

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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One of the practice issues that has been rarely talked about in academic, research or policy arenas that impact children that have been institutionalized or in foster care is the issue of eating behaviors.

It is quite common for children who have been neglected or for those who have experienced food insecurity, institutionalization in foreign countries or housing instability to have learned survival skills related to eating that may be difficult for foster and adoptive caregivers to manage.

Eating issues may be manifested in overeating, extreme pickiness, undereating, and hoarding. In addition, ideas about mealtimes may be very different for children who have had to learn to fight for food, were given limited options for food, or were not part of families or settings that had rules about eating (such as sitting at a table together, etc.).

Sometimes foster and adoptive caregivers end up inadvertently adding to the stress a child may have about food and mealtimes because they expect the child to understand that now food availability is no longer an issue or because meal time is expected (from the caregiver's view) to be a time of family sharing. Children that have experienced food insecurity or institutionalized meal times will not automatically understand the change, emotionally or behaviorally, once they move to a stable family setting.

Several years ago based on experiences as a case worker, I searched for research or practice guidance around this issue. At the time there was very little available. I finally wrote an article for Minnesota Adoption Resource Network (MARN) about this issue (click here for article), and I was excited to see that MN Adopt will be hosting a training on this topic on July 17, 2012.

From the training description:

Nurturing Feeding: Promoting Recovery from Eating Issues in Traumatized Children with Elizabeth Jackson, MS, RD, LD in Bloomington, MN

Children who have come from foster care or orphanages often have serious issues around found. This might take on the form of stealing or hoarding food, refusing to eat certain foods or developing a clinical eating disorder. Elizabeth Jackson provides participants a deeper look into food issues from infancy to adolescence. Topics to be discussed include:

  • Feeding during infancy and its impact on development of attachment patterns
  • Research on how trauma and neglect at all ages impact a child's eating habits and growth
  • Overview of Satter's Division of Responsibility that defines the optimal feeding relationship between adult caregivers and children of all ages
  • Treatment options for children and youth with habitual habits of hoarding and stealing food and eating disorders
Elizabeth Jackson, MS, RD, LD is an outpatient dietitian at Melrose Institute in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, a large, multidisciplinary eating disorder treatment facility with five levels of care. In January 2008, Elizabeth published her findings from years of successful group treatment of compulsive eating in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. She relocated to Minnesota in 2001 after 19 years in private practice in Michigan specializing in eating disorders and treatment of child feeding and eating issues. Elizabeth also developed curriculum and taught for eight years on eating disorders at Central Michigan University. Additionally, from 2002-2010, she was a clinical faculty member with the Ellyn Satter Institute, speaking and conducting workshops on child feeding and weight regulation throughout the U.S. and Canada.

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

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

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Dispelling myths about open adoption

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We all know that the media often sensationalizes adoption - either portraying adoption as only bubbles and sunshine without addressing loss, grief, trauma and attachment concerns or conversely, negatively focusing on those cases of extreme behaviors on the part of either adopted children and youth or adoptive parents.

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Discussions about adoption in the media, as in the Today Show clip above [topic begins at 2:15] where three panelists, the "Today's Professionals" as NBC calls them, often do a poor job of disseminating information about adoption. In a few short minutes, these three panelists promote a practice that is considerably out of touch with how adoptions are routinely practiced today. They also promote a practice that is much more about adoptive parent needs, not the child's needs.

Kathleen Silber, Associate Executive Director of the Independent Adoption Center (IAC) discusses the disservice this segment does in the current practice paradigm of advocating for open adoptions rather than closed adoptions. Kathleen shares her critique in a SF Gate article as well as on the IAC Open Adoption blog.

Kathleen states:

Well honestly, it feels like a step back into the dark ages, where closed adoption was still the norm. A lot has changed in adoption over the years. It's generally accepted knowledge now that an open adoption arrangement is not only healthier for the adoptees, but for the families as well. What's shocking about the commentary on the Today Show is actually how archaic those views are - it's hard to believe people are still advocating something that's known to not be good practice.

All three panelists - one an adoptive parent and two who are "considering" adopting in the future - promote an insecurity about "real parents" and fears of birth parents having too much influence in an adopted child's life. Yet, Nancy Snyderman, who is an adoptive parent, admits that her adopted daughter sought out her birth parents as an adult. It would have been more balanced if there had been a voice advocating for the benefits of open adoption on this panel as well. It's unfortunate that millions of people watching the Today Show will be misinformed about adoption and for those that may be considering adopting, will see closed adoption as normal and expected. Worse, they may insist on closed adoption because they have come to expect closed adoption as being better for them.

Perhaps these three professionals would benefit from the Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate program?

North American Council on Adoptable Children conference

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The North American Council on Adoptable Children will hold its 38th annual conference in Crystal City, VA on July 25-28, 2012.

This year's theme, Celebrating Families: Valuable Lessons from Children, Parents and Professionals, begins with a pre-session workshop with Dr. Bruce Perry, noted expert on child trauma. Dr. Perry is a Senior Fellow at the Child Trauma Academy and his research on integrating developmental neuroscience and child development with children who have experienced maltreatment is highly regarded.

In addition to the wonderful sessions and presentations available at the conference, our own work at the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare with our Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate will be highlighted in a presentation with all the other sites that are implementing the Training on Adoption Competency curriculum developed by the Center for Adoption Support and Education.

Our presentation description:

Building an Adoption Competent Mental Health Workforce: Moving from Development to National Replication

Join the Center for Adoption Support and Education and leaders from replication sites in California, Minnesota and North Carolina to learn about the development, implementation and evaluation of a multi-year national initiative -- Training for Adoption Competency. Site representatives will describe their experiences in implementing the training and building community-based, adoption competent clinical services. Lessons learned will be shared to help others implement evidence informed adoption competency training for mental health and child welfare professionals.

Debbie Riley, The Center for Adoption Support and Education, Maryland • Edythe Swidler, Lilliput Children's Services, California • JaeRan Kim, Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare, University of Minnesota • Janine Szymanski, Family NET of Catawba County, North Carolina

For more information about the NACAC Conference and to download the session program, click here or visit the NACAC website.

When multiple caregivers fight to adopt

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for siblings3.jpgA story by Gail Rosenblum was published today in the StarTribune that is, unfortunately, not all that uncommon a scenario in the child welfare system these days.

Tomorrow, the MN Court of Appeals will hear arguments on behalf of two families that want to raise two young girls that have been in foster care.

We often say that a child can never have too many adults in their lives who love them, but what if these adults are fighting over who gets to claim parenting rights?

This case brings up many issues that permanency workers and families struggle with when making permanency decisions. When I read this article, I had the following questions:

  • Was the grandparent given the opportunity to be the foster parent?

  • Was there bias on the part of the agency toward the extended relatives of these children? (I once had a county worker tell me, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree" regarding placing children with extended relatives)

  • Whose responsibility was it to ensure the grandparent's information was being submitted, particularly since it turns out Mississippi did not send her information to MN?

  • Why was Minnesota allowed to withdraw its request for the grandparent to adopt based on "frustration over lack of communication?" What follow up could or should the agency have had when this happened?

  • What recourse do families have when agencies fail to communicate and/or advocate on their behalf?

  • Was there bias on the part of the agency toward moving the children across state lines?

  • Was there racial bias, as the foster parents are white and the grandparent is black?

  • Was the county agency afraid of violating the MultiEthnic Placement Act/InterEthnic Provisions?

  • Have all the adults in this issue (foster parents and biological grandmother) discussed what an open adoption and/or open relationship would look like? Would the foster family, if they adopted, be willing to facilitate having the grandparent in an active role in the girl's lives?

  • Why wasn't there more effort to emphasize an open relationship that truly shows that there are never too many adults who can love a child?

For the full story, see the Star Tribune's article here.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has just released a Committee Opinion on Adoption.

This statement aims to provide a discussion about the role of and challenges for obstetrician-gynecologists in working with women seeking medical assistance related to fertility, pregnancy and childbirth.

The Committee on Ethics of the Ameican College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists make the following recommendations in their document:

  • Physicians have a responsibility to provide information about adoption to appropriate patients. The information provided should be accurate and as free as possible of personal bias and opinions.

  • A physician's primary responsibility in caring for a woman considering adoption is to her and not to the prospective adoptive parents.

  • Physicians should be aware of adoption resources in their areas and refer patients to licensed adoption agencies.

  • When physicians complete medical screening forms for prospective adoptive parents, the physician's role is to provide truthful, accurate information to screening agencies.

  • Because of ethical issues related to undue influence, competing obligations, and lack of expertise, physicians should not serve as brokers of adoptions.
For more, click here for the full statement.

Minnesota's Department of Human Services has issued a bulletin that summarizes the changes made to the adoption assistance program from the 2012 legislative session. Some of the major highlights and changes are noted below. For a more in-depth review, please read the actual bulletin.

  • All statutes and rules pertaining to adoption assistance can now be found in Chapter 259A:
    • "Unless otherwise stated, the content is largely a restatement and clarification of existing policies and procedures."
  • Eligibility requirements have been clarified in order to comply with federal regulations;
  • The age of a child is removed as a barrier to adoption;
  • Parents must be asked if they are willing to adopt a child without Adoption Assistance;
  • Parents with "barrier crimes" are no longer eligible to receive Adoption Assistance;
  • Stepparents & relatives are now excluded from Adoption Assistance (with exceptions);
  • Eligibility & reimbursements for special nonmedical expenses have changed slightly;
  • Children must be 21 (not 22) or less now in order to obtain a termination or extension of an Adoption Assistance Agreement;
  • New policies related to reimbursement of nonrecurring adoption expenses have been added, such as the ineligibility of children who are not U.S. citizens or residents and who were part of an international adoption;
  • Adoption services reimbursable by the commissioner will no longer include those involving children under guardianship of a private agency; and
  • Reimbursements may only be made for child-specific adoption placement services, which do not include recruitment services.

If you are interested in learning more about this new legislation, DHS staff will provide a VPC (virtual presence communication) training on this topic on Monday, July 23, 2012, from 9am to 12pm. Registration is through TrainLink, and handouts will be available prior to the training date.

To subscribe to future MN DHS bulletins, visit their bulletins webpage.

Dr. Hal Grotevant, formerly from the Department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota, and now Chair of the Rudd Adoption Research program at U-Mass/Amherst, was interviewed on WGBY about what adoption looks like during the adolescen tyears. He also discusses the upcoming conference on March 30, 2012.

You can view the interview below or here.

CW360-CEEDCover.gif Last week, the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare published a special edition of CW360° on using a develomental approach to child welfare practice. The publication, created in collaboration with the Center for Early Education and Development (CEED), is an incredible resource for anyone working in the areas of adoption and permanency.

Understanding child development is integral to child welfare practice, in particular for children and youth that are involved in adoption and permanency. Foster care and adoption workers, as well as foster, adoptive, and kinship/relative caregivers must understand the impact of early experiences of abuse, neglect, trauma, stress, multiple placements and institutionalization have on a child's development and how that affects children and youth's permanency outcomes.

This special issue of CW360° includes perspectives from child welfare workers, foster parents, judges, researchers, and policy experts. Topics include: higlighting innovative programs for parents and children; what foster parents need to meet the developmental needs of children in their care; influencing public policy to include child development; current research; and collaboration among child welfare, education, public health, child development and mental health arenas.

For a copy of this issue of CW360°, click here.

For past issues of CW360° including special issues on:
2009 Permanency or Aging Out: Adolescents in the Child Welfare System and 2010 Promoting Placement Stability
visit our CW360° page at the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare.

Adoption Tax Credit Awareness day

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The North American Council on Adoptable Children has created a helpful information sheet to declare today, Monday, February 13, 2012, Adoption Tax Credit Awareness Day.

The adoption tax credit was first implemented in 2003 as a tool to help adoptive parents that had adopted children with special needs from the foster care system. For more information on the adoption tax credit, NACAC has put together a host of resources available on their website to help families navigate the complicated process of filing for the tax credit.

For more information, please see the NACAC website here and download the flyer here.

What are the rights of birth fathers?

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goodbye bw.jpg

Several stories in the news lately feature the experiences of fathers fighting for custody of children placed for adoption without their consent. Birth fathers are often left out in discussions about adoption and permanency.

In one recent ruling, the Utah Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision that determined a Colorado man was not entitled to intervene in the adoption of his daughter. The court determined that the man had reasonably relied on the mother's statements to stay and give birth in Colorado, where Mr. Manzanares filed for paternity. Instead, the mother traveled to Utah and had the child there, where Manzanares had not filed for paternity.

You can read the full article here.

Adoptions in 2007 and 2008

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cover_AJ-0023A_page_1.pngThe Child Welfare Information Gateway has published a report on the number of children adopted in 2007 and 2008. For those who study adoption, this is an important update, as the last major report by the Children's Bureau looked at the numbers of children adopted in 2000-2001.

According to the report: There is no single source for the total number of children adopted in the United States, and no straightforward way to determine the total number of adoptions, even when multiple data sources are used. This report gives best estimates of the numbers of children adopted in each of the States for 2007 and 2008 from state courts, the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), and the U.S. Department of State.

Some of the findings from the report:

  • About 40% of the adoptions that occur are from public child welfare agencies (i.e. foster care adoption)

  • About 13-14% of adoptions are international adoptions

  • About 46-47% of adoptions are from private agencies.

The report is downloadable here or you can visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway page to see the table of contents or to dowload specific chapters of the report.

Weekly news round-up

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Each Friday on the Stability, Permanency and Adoption blog we will provide a selection of news from the past week that you may have missed.

Today's news round up:

An article published in Pediatrics by Jones et al (2011) assesses the impact of missing or altered birth and medical information on internationally adopted children's health care in the United States. Among the chief concerns mentioned in the report is the tendency to alter the birth certificate once the child is in the United States based on American pediatric assessments, which doesn't always allow for time for the child to "catch-up" on developmental delays that result from pre-adoptive experiences. MedPage Today describes the report here. To read the article abstract, click here.

The Arizona Daily Star published an interesting article on how family courts struggle to respond to "changing definitions of family." From the article, ""We're redefining what constitutes a family," said McGeorge School of Law professor Larry Levine, an expert on sexual orientation and the law. "It's a whole new way of thinking about this." Read the full article here.

A perennial discussion in child welfare permanency is whether children are better off in relative placements or in a foster home where they have formed attachments to their foster parents. The Tampa Bay Times published an article that discusses one family's story and the tensions between two families when case workers do not do a diligent family search for placement. Read the article here.

Weekly news round-up

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Each Friday on the Stability, Permanency and Adoption blog we will provide a selection of news from the past week that you may have missed.

Today's news round up:

A new research center in Michigan will address the needs of grandparents raising grandchildren. The National Research Center for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren is the result of a collaboration between Western Michigan University and Georgia State University. According to Linda Dannison, Chair of Western Michigan University's Family and consumer Sciences, "Having a center devoted to better understanding and influencing policy and practices in order to facilitate people's awareness will have a more positive impact on the lives of children." For more information on the center, click here or visit the center's website here.

The boy removed from his mother's care due to his obesity is being placed in relative care. The Washington Post reports that the 9-year old will be placed in his uncle's care. According to the Post article, "The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio joined the case on the boy's behalf and said he should be with his family. 'We think it's a fundamental liberty for a child to be brought up in his home among family and friends,' said the ACLU's James Hardiman." Read the story here.

The Child Welfare League of America and Lambda Legal released a practice guide for state and local child welfare agencies working with LGBTQ youth in child welfare settings. According to the article, ACYF commissioner Bryan Samuels is quoted, "These guidelines provide practical examples of practices that every child welfare agency can use to better meet the needs of the LGBTQ youth in their care." For the article, click here.

The Washington Post reported that the Virgina Board of Social Services has ruled that state-licensed adoption agencies can discriminate against LGBTQ prospective adoptive parents based solely on their sexual orientation. Read the full story here.

According to the Associated Press, the Bureau of Indian Affairs will hold a summit in South Dakota to address concerns that the state is not in compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act. The state claims the NPR report which reported the great disparities in a three-part series this past fall is inaccurate. You can read the full article here.

In New Jersey, Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D) has introduced a bill requiring adoptive parents to raise their adopted child in the faith or religion of their biological parents. From the New Jersey Jewish Standard, Marc Stern, Associate General Counsel for the American Jewish Committee stated, "It is traumatic enough to pull kids out of a home, and if you have kids who are Sabbath-observant and eat kosher food, and you put them in with the family who is up next on the DYFS list, you are adding to the trauma," he said. The bill has received some support from Jewish, Muslim, Protestant and Catholic communities.
You can read the entire article here.

Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption videos

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Last night the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption aired its 13th Annual A Home for the Holidays with host Martina McBride and guests Mary J. Blige, Justin Bieber, Gavid DeGraw, One Republic and Christina Perri. Each year this special highlights stories about foster care adoption.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has created several moving videos about its programs including the Wendy's Wonderful Kids program.

Here are some of the foundation's videos.

Resources and information on the Adoption Tax Credit

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We're making a change - our weekly news round-ups will now be on Fridays. Instead, today I'd like to highlight information and resources about the Adoption Tax Credit available to families that adopt.

As the end of 2011 fast approaches, adoptive parents may not be aware of the adoption tax credit they are eligible to claim if they finalized an adoption during the year. According to the IRS adoptive parents who finalize an adoption in 2011 may be eligible to claim up to $13,170 for qualified expenses [for more detailed information, click here]. The IRS also provides several resource guides including an Adoption Tax Credit FAQ and an instruction guide available as a downloadable pdf here.

For families that adopted prior to 2011, the tax credit policies have changed. The North American Council on Adoptable Children offers helpful guides for adoptive parents and professionals and they can be found on their website here.


The Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare is pleased to announce that we will be co-presenting a webinar for the National Resource Center for Adoption tomorrow, Wednesday December 14th at 1pm CST/ 2pm EST.

Traci LaLiberte, Executive Director of CASCW and JaeRan Kim, Coordinator of the Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate will join Christeen Borsheim, Director of Child Safety and Permanency Division at the MN Department of Human Services and Debbie Riley, CEO of the Center for Adoption Support and Education.

Meeting Description:
Adoptive parents, adopted persons and adoption researchers consistently tell us the mental health needs of adopted children and youth often go unmet, largely because there are too few adoption competent mental health professionals.

Recognizing that clinicians need quality adoption competent training, the Center for
Adoption Support and Education developed a 78 hour curriculum and case consultation process designed to provide practitioners with the knowledge and skills they need to provide quality mental health services for adopted persons, birth and kinship families, prospective adoptive parents and adoptive families.

Following a rigorous pilot test, the training is currently being replicated in three communities -- one of which is the State of Minnesota which has demonstrated stellar leadership in committing resources to ensuring that adopted children and adoptive families in both urban and rural areas of the state are served by adoption
competent clinicians. This webinar highlights the Minnesota program and the state leaders and university partners who have worked to develop, fund and fully implement this training and greatly expand the state's mental health treatment capacity.
This webinar is hosted by Natalie Lyons, Director, National Resource Center for Adoption.

To register or learn more about the webinar, click here.

Upcoming adoption conference: New Worlds of Adoption

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Save the date! The Rudd Adoption Research Program at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst Department of Psychology holds an annual conference. This year's conference, New Worlds of Adoption: Navigating the Teen Years, will be co-hosted by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

Minnesota has several connections with this year's conference. The Rudd Chair is Dr. Hal Grotevant, former faculty member of the Family Social Science program at the University of Minnesota, and this year's keynote speaker is Dr. Megan Gunnar, esteemed Regents Professor at the U of MN and Director of the Institute of Child Development. Dr. Dana Johnson of the International Adoption Clinic will also be presenting.


For a list of conference presenters, click here. The conference will be held March 30, 2012 at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst. There is still time to submit a poster, the deadline for submission is January 17, 2012. Click here for information on how to submit a poster.

Weekly news round-up

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Each Monday on the Stability, Permanency and Adoption blog we will provide a round-up of news from the past week that you may have missed. Today's news round up:

Celebration of National Adoption Day. "Twenty-three children at the Pottawattamie County Courthouse officially left foster care status Saturday - becoming members of a family on National Adoption Day." Read more here.

Children of undocumented immigrants in foster care due to parent's placement in detention centers. "In a yearlong investigation, the Applied Research Center, which publishes, found that at least 5,100 children whose parents are detained or deported are currently in foster care around the United States." Read the investigation here.

Foster-care adoptions in Oklahoma increased 64% over the past 9 years, compared to 3% nation-wide according to a new OK Department of Human Services report. The increase can be mainly attributed to the new focus at DHS on adopting children more quickly, agency spokeswoman Sheree Powell said." Read more here.

Families in S. Dakota concerned about the end of adoption tax credits. "Since 1997, the adoption tax credit has helped thousands of middle-income American families defray the high costs of adoption. In 2001, Congress extended those credits until Dec. 31, 2010, increased the initial maximum credit and indexed that maximum so it would go up because of inflation." Read more here.

Russian government upset over sentencing of American couple in the death of their adopted son. "Pennsylvania authorities said the parents had abused and neglected the boy. Expert witnesses testified that he had fetal alcohol syndrome, but it was not clear whether that played any role in his death. A jury acquitted the Cravers of murder, but concluded they were negligent and responsible for the death. They were convicted in September of involuntary manslaughter and freed pending sentencing." Read more here.

S. Korea sends most number of children for international adoption to U.S., according to 2011 Annual report. According to the statistics by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, among the total 2,475 Korean children who were adopted last year, 1,013 were adopted overseas. Despite its respectable economic status as the world's 13th largest economy, Korea is still sending 40 percent of children who are up for adoption overseas." Read more here.

Sweden issues a formal apology to its foster care alum for "having failed to provide them with a safe upbringing." "Society was responsible for making sure that you were provided with a good upbringing, but instead you were abandoned." However, according to Westerberg, the revelations of abuse and neglect from the testimonies of the foster children has appalled all of society. "And today Sweden officially admits its failure," he said." Read more here.

2011 Intercountry Adoptions report released from U.S. State Department

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The Annual Report for 2011 Intercountry Adoptions is now available through the U.S. State Department, which oversees intercountry adoptions for the United States.

Some of the interesting highlights from the report:

  • Total adoptions to the U.S. was 9,320, a decrease from 11,058 in 2010.
  • The top sending countries were China (2,589), Ethiopia (1,727), Russia (970), South Korea (736) and Ukraine (632).
  • The top receiving states were California (676), New York (549), Texas (570), Illinois (434) and Florida (398).
  • The number of outgoing adoptions (that is, children born in the U.S. and adopted to other countries) rose to 73 from 43 in 2010. Most of these children went to Canada (31 children) and the Netherlands (27 children).
  • 5 adoptions were disrupted (meaning the child was placed into the pre-adoptive home but removed prior to the finalization of the adoption) and of those, 4 involved children from India
  • 33 adoptions involving 41 children were reported dissolved after finalization occurred during 2011.

Timeline of adoption legislation

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Cross-posted on the Child Welfare Policy Blog

Tomorrow, several states and counties across the United States will finalize adoptions as part of National Adoption Day 2011, the day designated each year to bring awareness and recognition of foster care adoption in the United States (for more information about Adoption Day events in Minnesota click here).

Over the past month, two bills have been introduced to support the adoption of children and youth in foster care into adoptive homes. On Wednesday, November 17, 2011, SR 302, introduced by Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) was passed (the House version, H Res 433 was introduced by Senator Bachmann (R-MN)). Senator Landrieu's speech about the passage of the resolution is below.

In honor of National Adoption Day, the following is a list of major adoption-related legislation that have had huge impacts on the lives of adoptive families (click on each law for more information):

Launch of Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate

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On November 1, 2011, in conjunction with National Adoption Month, a press conference was held at the School of Social Work to kick-off the start of the first year of the Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate.

Guest speakers included Commissioner of the MN Department of Human Services Lucinda Jesson, CASCW Executive Director Traci LaLiberte, PACC participant Fintan Moore, and Joe Kroll, Executive Director for the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC).

Statements of support from Senator Amy Klobuchar and Debbie Riley, Executive Director of the Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.) were also presented.

Forty-two child welfare and mental health professionals are participating in the program.

For more about the press event:

CEHD News: New adoption certificate program unveiled for National Adoption Month

Minnesota Public Radio: U of MN offers new certificate program for adoption professionals

UMN News: University of Minnesota kicks off National Adoption Month with unveiling of new adoption certificate program

New adoption legislation - Every Child Deserves a Family Act

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Last Friday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced plans to introduce the Every Child Deserves A Family Act, an anti-discrimination bill that would prohibit child welfare agencies receiving federal assistance from discriminating against prospective foster or adoptive parents based solely on sexual orientation, gender identity and/or marital status. In addition, this bill would prohibit agencies from discriminating against the sexual orientation or gender identity of foster youth.

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-VT.), Patty Murray (D-WA.), Al Franken (D-MN.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) have co-sponsored the bill in the Senate, currently in review in the Congressional Budget Office. So far 76 Representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors in the bi-partisan House version, H.R. 3827, led by Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). Earlier efforts at passing this legislation, including a version of the ECDF introduced in the 111th Congress (introduced by Rep. Stark), were unsuccessful.

While many states take a "don't ask, don't tell" approach towards their acceptance of LGBT prospective adoptive parents, Mississippi, Utah, Louisiana, Michigan and N. Carolina outright prohibit same-sex couples from adopting (although individuals identifying as LGBT may be approved if adopting as a single parent). Several states prohibit the second-parent adoption of a partner's child for LGBT couples (see this map for more information on state by state comparisons).

However, even for those other states without outright legislation prohibiting the adoption by LGBT individuals or couples, agency bias in practice often results in delayed or denied placements of children into LGBT homes such as in Arizona where heterosexual married couples receive placement preference over same-sex couples. Only six states (California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey and New York) currently prohibit discrimination against LGBT prospective parents.

According to a recent Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute report, Expanding resources for children III: Research based best practices in adoption by gays and lesbians (2011):

  • Lesbians and gay men adopt at significant rates, with over 65,000 adopted and 14,000 foster children in the U.S. residing in homes headed by non-heterosexuals. Children growing up in such households show similar patterns of adjustment as those raised by heterosexuals.

  • At least 60% of U.S. adoption agencies accept non-heterosexual parental applicants, and almost 40% have knowingly placed children with them - meaning almost any lesbian, gay man, or same-sex couple can find a professional to work with them

  • Over 50% of lesbian and gay parents adopted children from the child welfare system, and 60% adopted transracially. These findings demonstrate that non-heterosexual individuals and couples are important resources for children who linger in foster care

The Family Equality Council has created a helpful web site with information about the Every Family Deserves a Family Act, as well as maps for state-by-state comparison regarding adoption legislation for LGBT individuals and couples.

LGBT state map.jpg

More links: