Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Changing Face of Adoption

by Gail Jerson

According to research by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and data from the Child Welfare League of America, the number of adoptions from other countries had hovered around 20,000 per year for about a decade ending several years ago; it has been falling ever since and was around 12,000 last year. The number of domestic infant adoptions has been around 14,000 or so annually for a long time and remains there. The number of adoptions from foster care (i.e., also domestic) has been rising steadily and has been the biggest type of adoption throughout this period; last year, it was at about 60,000.

1. Reasons for decline in foreign adoptions
Foreign adoptions have been on the decline, especially from countries such as Guatemala, China and most recently, Ethiopia, which was the number two source country for children adopted by Americans, (2,513 Ethiopian children were adopted by Americans in 2010). The number of foreign children adopted by Americans fell by 13 percent last year, reaching the lowest level since 1995 due in large part to a virtual halt to adoptions from Guatemala because of corruption problems.

Ethiopia just implemented changes that could reduce the number of foreign adoptions by up to 90 percent. According to the State Department, Ethiopia's new policy calls for its Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs to process no more than five adoption cases per day — about 10 percent of the caseload it had been handling.
China has already tightened rules for adoption, barring people who are single, obese, older than 50 or who fail to meet certain benchmarks in financial, physical or psychological health, from adopting Chinese children, according to adoption agencies in the United States. China had in recent years been the No. 1 source of foreign-born children adopted by Americans.
The revised guidelines included a requirement that applicants have a body-mass index of less than 40, no criminal record, a high school diploma and be free of certain health problems like AIDS and cancer, or any psychological issues, anxiety, depression. Couples must have been married for at least two years and have had no more than two divorces between them. If either spouse was previously divorced, the couple cannot apply until they have been married for at least five years. In addition, adoptive parents must have a net worth of at least $80,000 and income of at least $10,000 per person in the household, including the prospective adoptive child.
Guatemala has suspended the adoption process since 2008 in order to create a Central Authority to process adoptions, which will make Guatemala Hague Compliant.

2. Increase in domestic adoptions
As a result of the above decrease in foreign adoptions, and the availability of more babies in this country, domestic adoptions have increased. People are choosing open instead of closed adoptions, married couples are opting for open adoptions, and there are more open-adoption agencies. Many adoption agencies report that open adoption is being embraced by pregnant women who previously might have been reluctant to consider giving up a baby if it meant no chance of contact later in life. Also Christian social workers have been conducting outreach programs throughout the country and have been suggesting adoption over abortions, thus making more babies available.

3. Why Open records?
Unrestricted open records for adult adoptees is the norm in most of the rest of the free world. Adoptees should have a right to access the records of their birth in the same manner as any other citizen of this nation. However, New York's sealed records law dates back to 1935 when Governor Herbert Lehman signed it into law, perhaps believing it was in the best interests of his three adopted children. Times and attitudes have changed. For many, the future is blind without a sight of the past. Everyone needs to know where they came from, their origins, their history, who their mothers and fathers are, and of paramount importance, potentially life-saving medical information. Denying this information is not only an injustice and a denial of a basic human right, but it is immoral and unconscionable.

4. Open Record States
Eight states have recently opened records to adoptees in years before records were sealed. States with contact preferences, such as Oregon, Alabama, New Hampshire, and Maine, have had no problems since enacting legislation to open records. Delaware, Massachusetts, and Tennessee also have opened records without incident. Kansas and Alaska never had closed records. Illinois, the most recent state to open records, has had thousands of adoptees who have gotten their records already. All adoptees in Illinois will eventually be able to get their original birth certificate/

5. Results of open records
During the last decade, more than a half-dozen very diverse states in terms of geography and politics, from Oregon to Alabama to Maine, have done what the skeptics warned against, and two states, Alaska and Kansas, never sealed these documents, as most of the country did in the last century. Guess what fallout there has been in these states. None.

Have the predictions by open-records opponents come true? Has there been a decrease in adoption and an increase in abortion, caused by pregnant women's fear that the children they surrender to adoption might find them decades later? An increase in the divorce rate for women who'd never told their husbands about the child they surrendered to adoption? Have adoptees stalked parents who don't want contact? No.

If openness had any effect, it has been to increase adoptions and decrease abortions, according to Fred Greenman, board member and legal advisor to the American Adoption Congress, who has studied adoption and abortion rates in places that allow adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates. States with open records have not seen a decline in numbers of adoption placements. There have been no verified reports of divorces caused by adoptee reunions with birth mothers or fathers. And mothers who've made clear they don't want to meet their surrendered children have not been harassed. This isn't surprising: few adoptees wish to experience rejection firsthand.

It is also true that the number of birth mothers who don't want to meet their children is tiny. Surveys show that the great majority of them welcome, even long for, contact. Even the few mothers who don't want contact with their children are better served by open adoption records. States that have granted adoptees access to their original birth certificates have built in vehicles enabling birth parents to let their children know whether and how they want to meet. No violations have been reported. In states with closed adoption records, on the other hand, parents who prefer not to have contact have no means to make their wishes known. And though it's hard for people who have been adopted in states with closed adoption records to find their families, it's not impossible.

6. Conclusion
States and countries with open records have not seen a decline in the number of adoption placements, but rather an increase. Additionally, abortion rates are not higher and are in fact lower in open records states than in states with sealed records.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

NY bill summary-bill has a contact preference

Bill Summary- A2003/S1438 An act to amend the health law and domestic

relations law in relation to enacting the bill of adoptee rights. The public health law is amended by adding a new section 4138-e

The legislature hereby states its intention to acknowledge, support and encourage the life-long health and well-being needs of adults who have been and will be adopted in the state of New York. The legislature further recognizes that the denial of access to accurate and complete medical and self-identifying data of any adopted person, known and willfully withheld by others, may result in that person succumbing to preventable disease, premature death or otherwise unhealthy life, is a violation of that person’s human rights and is contrary to the tenets of governance. As such, the provisions of this section seeks to establish considerations under the law for adopted persons equal to such considerations permitted by law to all non-adopted persons. This section does so while providing for the need of privacy for that adopted person and his or her birth and adoptive families. Allows all adoptees when they reach the age of eighteen the ability to receive a non certified copy of his or her original birth certificate provided they have proper identification and pay a nominal fee,and to receive an updated medical history form submitted to the health department by the birth parent, if available. The medical history form shall be prescribed by the Health Department.

A birth parent may at any time request a contact preference form that shall
accompany a birth certificate issued under this title. The contact preference form shall provide the following information to be completed at the option of the birth parent.

(A) I would like to be contacted

(B) I would prefer to be contacted only through an intermediary

(C) I have completed a medical history form and have filed it with the department

(D) Please do not contact me. If I decide later that I would like to be contacted, I will submit an updated contact preference form with the department.

The sealed envelope containing the contact preference form and the medical history

form may be released to the person requesting his or her own original birth

certificate under this title. The contact preference form and the medical history

form are private communications from the birth parent to the person named on the

sealedbirth certificate and no copies shall be retained by the department. Where

only a medical history form is requested the birth certificate and the contact

preferenc form shall not be sent., but may be requested at a later date.

When it shall be impossible through good-faith efforts to provide a copy of the birth

certificate (as in the case of an adopted person born outside of, but adopted within the

state of New York), the adopted person shall have the right to secure from a court of

competent jurisdiction or the adoption agency true and correct identifying information.

This act shall tack effect on the first of January next succeeding the date on which it

shall become a law, provided however, that effective immediately the commissioner of

health is directed to promulgate such rules and regulations .

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Press Conference March 6th City Hall Manhattan

Join us! Unsealed Initiative and Assemblymember David Weprin will be on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan Sunday March 6th at 12:30pm for a press conference. This press conference will bring attention to the struggle for passage of the Bill of Adoptee Rights pending in the state legislature. We are not giving up the fight! Take the 4, 5 or 6 train to Brooklyn Bridge City Hall stop.