China Babies Adoption Research

China Babies Adoption Research
China Babies Adoption Research

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

U.S. Joins Overseas Adoption Overhaul Plan

By JANE GROSS, New York Times
Published: December 11, 2007

The United States, the world leader in international adoptions, will join more than 70 nations committed to standardizing policies, procedures and safeguards to reduce corruption in the largely unregulated adoption marketplace.

International Adoptions When the United States ratifies the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption tomorrow in the Netherlands, it will establish federal oversight of adoption policies and policies overseas.

The multilateral treaty is designed to protect children, birth parents and adoptive parents from shady practices, including hidden fees and child abduction.

Each nation names a central authority — here, the State Department — to establish ethical practices, require accreditation for the agencies handling the adoptions, maintain a registry to track complaints and create a system for decertifying agencies that do not meet the standards.

In addition, once the treaty is fully put in place in April, parents seeking a visa for an overseas adoption must demonstrate to the State Department that a child has been properly cleared for adoption, that a local placement had been considered, and that the birth parents were counseled on their decision and have signed consent forms. Prospective adoptive parents also must show they are properly trained for what could be a rocky transition.

“Americans adopt more foreign-born children than all other countries in the world combined,” said Maura Harty, the assistant secretary of state for consular affairs. “As a Hague Convention country we can — we must — require reform and transparency in some countries or adoptions to the U.S. will stop.”

A sharp departure from current practice, the provisions of the treaty could slow the process and frustrate prospective parents. But many more may be spared the broken promises and broken hearts of the current system, which includes no federal oversight of agencies working overseas. The system also has no sanctions against agencies that lure families with photos of unavailable children and encourage them to bribe foreign bureaucrats to expedite an adoption.

“Who can anticipate?” said Regina Robb, the Guatemala program director for World Links, an agency in Scranton, Pa., that has applied for accreditation. “At the end of the day, having a system in place will help, but it will largely depend on how ready a country is to assume the rules of the Hague.”

Ms. Robb predicted the worst problems for adoptions from Guatemala, which has ratified the treaty but has not developed legislation to enact it. The United States has threatened to suspend adoptions from there because of accusations of corruption. Agencies working in countries that have ratified the treaty must be accredited, a process under way in the United States.

More than 300 applications have already been filed and others will be accepted until Feb. 15, 2008, when approvals and rejections will be announced. Among the criteria are the size and qualifications of the staff, the agency’s financial resources and its policies, which must include a transparent fee structure and mandatory training for parents about the physical and emotional condition of orphans.

With a federal registry of approved agencies, families will have access to information that is currently unavailable. In the last seven years, Americans adopted almost 120,000 children from overseas, according to the State Department, which recently released preliminary data for 2007 showing a decline for the third year in a row.

Adoptions dropped from a peak in 2004, with 22,884, to 19,292 in 2007. Experts attribute the decline to more stringent eligibility in China, the most popular place for intercountry adoptions by Americans, and to on-and-off suspension of the international adoption program in Russia.

China sent 5,453 children to American families in 2007, down from 7,906 in 2005. Russia’s total dropped to 2,207, from 3,706 in 2006. Adoptions increased from Guatemala (to 4,728 from 4,135 in 2006), Ethiopia ( to 1,255 from 732) and Vietnam (up to 626 from 163). China has ratified the treaty; neither Ethiopia nor Vietnam has signed it; and Russia has signed but not ratified it.

The United States will continue to process adoptions from countries not party to the convention. But prospective parents will know if an American agency is not accredited, a potential red flag.

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For all the waiting children

Anne Hart | Sunday, December 9, 2007 at 12:30 am

The McNally family is waiting for Jun, a special needs child from China, to be ready for adoption.

Dear JT,

You don't know them yet, but your future mom and dad already call you their son.

They can't wait to meet you.

A photo of you holding a cookie sits in their den among other treasured McNally family photos. It's in a frame next to their son, Aiden, 4, and daughter, Ireland, 6, your future brother and sister.

Your mom, Monica, plans to travel to China to get you as soon as all the authorities involved in the adoption say it's OK. She and your dad, John, wait every day to receive notice that you can come home.

Monica and John completed a mountain of paperwork in order to bring you into their family. They started in April and hoped to have you here by Christmas.

But chances are you won't be home until this spring, perhaps around your third birthday.

Extraordinary parents

You won't realize this until you're much older, but your parents are extraordinary.

All parents who adopt children with special needs are.

After having two children, Monica and John wanted another child.

They know the world is full of children in need of parents. Monica sometimes went to bed with swollen eyes from crying over all the faces she saw on Internet adoption sites. All those children waiting for parents broke her heart.

She wanted to help at least one "waiting child."

Monica fell in love with you when she saw your photo on one of those sites.

She and John learned about your intestinal problems that will require one surgery, maybe two, maybe more. They don't know for certain. The medical records are vague.

Adopting a child with special needs and an unknown medical future might have stopped some couples. Not your parents. They already loved you.

They decided to take a leap of faith.

An important place

When your parents began looking into adoption, they knew they didn't want to take a healthy child away from a couple who couldn't have kids. Instead, your parents wanted to adopt "a waiting child," one who might never find parents.

Monica and John think about you so much each day. They've never touched you, smelled you or held you, but they miss you. They worry about you.

They wonder what you're doing in the orphanage, if you're cold, if your crib is comfortable, if you're getting enough hugs.

You were brought to that orphanage when you were only a few days old. It's the only home you've known after being abandoned at a police station.

Whoever left you at that police station wanted to make sure you were in a safe place where you would be found and cared for. That's what Monica says, rather than think badly of your birth mom. See what I mean about your adoptive parents being special?

Monica and John know the orphanage will always be an important place in your life. Monica sent a blanket there already, to soak up the scent. She plans to bring it back here when she comes to get you. So you will have something in your new home with the familiar scent of your first home.

She'll also take photos of the orphanage and the Henan province where you're from. Your parents don't want you to forget your roots.

Your given name, Jun, means army military, Monica says. Which means you'll fit in fine at the McNally house. Monica and John met in flight school. Both were military pilots. Today, John is a U.S. Army pilot.

Before having kids, Monica and John were stationed in South Korea for two years. They fell in love with children who lived below them. That's where the seed for adopting an Asian child was planted.

Sharing your story

Your brother and sister talk about you a lot. Ireland said she can't wait to sing you a lullaby. They make drawings for you. When a shirt is too small, Ireland says "Save it for JT." Aiden promises to share his room - and bunk beds. Clothes are already hanging in your closet for you.

Your new name, JT, stands for your given name and for John, after your father. The T is for Theodore, your future grandfather. You were born on his birthday.

Friends and relatives know how strongly your new family feels about you. They're doing what they can to help John and Monica come up with the remaining $6,000 they need out of the roughly $20,000 it costs to adopt a child from China.

Folks at St. Frances Cabrini, where Aiden and Ireland go to school, are throwing fundraisers.

Monica and friends also have wrapped presents and sold baked goods outside of OshKosh, where Monica's working to help cover the costs in a small way.

Your parents want to share your story with as many people as possible.

They hope it will encourage other parents to take that leap of faith and adopt a special-needs child.

Because every waiting child deserves a home.

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