Five Years Ago

Five years ago, she was in labor, just about to bring her baby boy into the world. Had she already made her decision? Was someone pressuring her even as she pushed, recovered?

Does she think of him today? Has she seen the words and pictures, all-too-small attempts to share his life with her?

I pray for her. I pray for him. May their questions be answered. May I do what I can to help.

This is a Public Service Announcement

If you created the crisis, you are really NOT such a hero when you deal with it. Especially if you are grumpy about it.

That is all.

Please stop and take a deep breath

Yes, there are children in Haiti who have lost their parents and families. No, no one knows for sure which ones those are yet. No, it would not be helpful to scoop them up and run off with them to another country. Atlasien has an awesome post:

Let me try another analogy. Let’s say you live with your child in a house that burns down. You’re dazed, confused, and burned. Your neighbor says, “I think I should take care of your child”. You say, “Thanks for your offer. But my child really needs me now, and I think they wouldn’t sleep well in a strange house. If you could just give us a tent and some food and some bandages so we can camp out while I get better and look into rebuilding, we’ll be OK.” Your neighbor says, “that’s too logistically complicated and I’m concerned about the security situation. I just want your child.” You say, “Thanks again for your concern and I’m grateful for any help you can give me. If you’re so worried about my child, maybe you could let both of us stay in your guestroom for a while? That way my child could be safe and would sleep well too.” Your neighbor says, “No, we have an interdiction-at-sea policy and visa restrictions will not be relaxed. Just give me your child. Actually, nevermind. I don’t even need your permission anymore. I’ll just take them.”

PEAR also has a statement from the Department of State.

If you really want to help children, support services that will help reunite them with whatever family they DO have.

Updated the Korean Adoption Irregularities Page

Just saw this very informative article from The Korea Times about the legal process for relinquishing a child in South Korea. I’ve added it to the irregularities page.

…overseas adoptions are again being preferred over domestic adoption, which is itself being preferred over family preservation.

This hierarchy is exactly the opposite of recommendations by international laws on child welfare, which state that family preservation must come first, followed by domestic adoption, and finally international adoption as a last resort.

Adoptive Parents Beware

A few days ago, I received an email from Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS) urging me to support The Foreign Adopted Children Equality Act (FACE) and Families for Orphans Act. I questioned some of the rhetoric in the email at the time and now see that I was right to have reservations. Please read Ethica’s statement on these pending pieces of legislation.

Foreign Adopted Children Equality Act (FACE Act)

introduced in the Senate as S. 1359 (Senators Landrieu and Inhofe) and in the House as H.R. 3110 (Rep. Watson and Boozman):  A bill to provide United States citizenship for children adopted from outside the United States, and for other purposes.

Ethica opposes passage of the FACE Act.  Ethica believes the FACE Act, if passed, would harm adopted persons and their birth- and adoptive families in a number of ways, including:

  • The bill is intended to eliminate the U.S. immigrant visa process, which means it eliminates the safeguards put in place to help ensure that children placed for adoption are legally in need of homes abroad
  • By conferring citizenship retroactive to birth, Ethica believes the bill creates a legal fiction and diminishes adoptees’ birth history
  • While eliminating the visa process may save adopting families a small amount of money toward the large costs of adopting, there is no guarantee that the Department of State will not charge similar or even higher fees for services it will provide under this bill.
  • The bill may create additional hurdles and costs for adopted persons in the future as they attempt to claim benefits and privileges they are otherwise entitled to in their countries of birth
  • Eligibility for adoption of a particular child is generally determined by the “competent authority” of the child’s country of origin.  The bill does not address eligibility for adoption in countries that have not designated a competent authority
  • The suitability of the adopting parent is based on the person’s ability to support the child and appropriate criminal background checks.  The bill does not address existing federal requirements for homestudies of prospective adopting parents.
  • Enacting this bill may stall adoptions in process:  It is unclear how this bill will affect provisions of the Intercountry Adoption Act (which implemented the Hague Convention).  Instead of speeding up processing by bypassing the visa system, confusion in interpretation and the development of new processing procedures, particularly for Hague countries, will likely create delays for adopting families and children.

Ethica believes that adoptees and other immigrants should be able to become President, but pursuing the right to presidency should be done in a way that does not erase personal histories.

Ethica also wholeheartedly agrees that citizenship procedures should be improved for adoptees, and believes that adoptees not covered under the Child Citizenship Act (including adopted persons who have been deported) should be conferred U.S. citizenship. However, this bill goes far beyond these measures and has the potential to hurt more than help.

Families for Orphans Act

House Bill 3070 sponsored by Congresswoman Diane Watson (D-CA) and Congressman John Boozman (R-AR)
Senate Bill 1458 sponsored by Senators Mary L Landrieu (D-LA) and James Inhofe (R-OK)

A bill to encourage the development and implementation of a comprehensive, global strategy for the preservation and reunification of families and the provision of permanent parental care for orphans, and for other purposes.

Ethica opposes passage of the Families for Orphans Act.  Here are some reasons why:

  • The Families for Orphans Act, if passed, would give the United States unilateral power to develop global child welfare strategies by providing financial incentives for other countries (including through debt and trade relief) to send their children abroad for international adoption.
  • Instead, the United States should be participating diplomatically with other nations in developing global child welfare strategies, for example, by finally ratifying the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.
  • The bill legalizes an overly broad definition of “orphan”, capturing countless numbers of children who already have loving families, potentially including, for example, children who reside in boarding schools away from their primary caregivers.
  • This bill augments existing financial incentives for countries to favor international adoption by offering additional financial incentives, including technical assistance, grants, trade, and debt relief from the United States, which may sacrifice established child welfare principles by favoring international adoption over local solutions.
  • Reunification efforts are “time-limited” which may cause original families to be unnecessarily separated from their children.
  • Conflicts exist with various definitions in the bill.  For example, long-term kinship and guardianship arrangements which are considered “permanent” care under the bill may simultaneously be considered long-term foster care arrangements, which are considered to be temporary care under the bill.
  • The bill requires “cultural norms” to be taken into account, but only to the extent consistent with the purposes of the bill.  The bill permits the United States then to essentially disregard a country’s cultural norms.

Ethica supports the strengthening of global child welfare systems.  However, we believe that this would best be accomplished by working through existing frameworks of technical assistance and aid, ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to demonstrate the commitment of the United States as a global partner in securing and upholding children’s basic rights, limiting the definition of orphans to those children truly in need of permanent caregivers with placement decisions made without the influence of money.

Ethicadoes support another current piece of legislation, Senate bill 1376, which restores certain exemptions to allow international adoption of older children in sibling groups.

Thanks to Jae Ran for the heads-up.

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Multimedia message, originally uploaded by veggiegrrl.

Vacation feet: ready to go!

Naming and Claiming

I am not crazy.  There is a name for what is happening to me: ambiguous loss.  And it is the most difficult type of loss to deal with.

In my case, I have experienced a slow accumulation of ambiguous losses, ranging from major ones such as my parents’ separation and divorce nearly 30 years ago to minor ones such as our move from one nearby community to another last year.

There is a lot of ambiguous loss floating around in adoption, on all sides of the triad, and much of it also takes the form of disenfranchised grief.

First parents,  whether in or out of reunion, face the loss of the “normal” parent/child relationship.  This can be complicated by secrecy or shame that may surround the adoptive placement.

More about first parents and ambiguous loss:

Adoptees in or out of reunion, similarly, must negotiate their dreams, hopes, and feelings in regard to their first families and, in many cases, foster families as well.  Their attempts to do so are often frustrated by a desire not to hurt their adoptive families, messages from society that they should be “grateful” for their adoptive families, and societal stigma against first parents (first mothers in particular).

More about adoptees and ambiguous loss:

Adoptive parents often come to the adoption experience through infertility and/or miscarriage, which are also types of ambiguous loss.  Though probably better supported than either first parent or adoptee losses, these challenges are often overlooked, misunderstood, or minimized by society as a whole.

The thing that really strikes me about this is how much various members of the adoption triad try to legitimize their own grief by minimizing the losses of others.  Adoptive parents may play the “just be grateful” card.  First parents question the legitimacy of adoptive parents’ losses now that they have children.  Adoptees rail against both sets of parents and overlook the pain they may have experienced (then again, what kid doesn’t?).

So here’s a plea for some gentleness, some thoughtfulness, and some consideration.  According to what I’m reading, lack of ritualized community grieving is one of the main things that makes ambiguous loss so difficult.  Can we come up with some rituals and kind words of our own,  in our little community, to help each other along the road of these difficult losses?