Halted foreign adoptions leave would-be parents in limbo | Adoption

Halted foreign adoptions leave would-be parents in limbo

From the Georgia Adoption Law Blog, posted today:Dreamstime_3789176_3

The crib in Ellen Darcy’s Boston home has sat empty for more than a year. And in suburban Washington, Laura Teresinski has prepared a nursery for a baby that may never arrive.

They and thousands of prospective parents, eager to adopt children from abroad, have found themselves in an emotional legal limbo since two of the most popular countries for international adoptions — Guatemala and Vietnam — recently halted their programs.

Now would-be mothers and fathers around the United States wonder what will become of their quest to adopt a child — a pursuit that can fray nerves, cost up to $30,000 and span several years.

Guatemala announced this month that it would conduct a case-by-case review of every pending foreign adoption case. That put on hold the adoption plans of about 2,000 American families.

The crackdown comes amid reports that some in Guatemala coerce mothers to relinquish their children for adoption — or steal the children outright and present them as orphans.

Similar accusations have arisen in Vietnam.

After the United States accused adoption agencies there of corruption and baby-selling, Vietnam said in April that it would no longer allow adoptions to the United States.

"My husband and I were absolutely devastated," Teresinski said. "Adoptive parents have put a lot of emotional energy and a lot of financial resources in the process."

Vietnam’s decision affects several hundred families.

Families in the United States adopted 4,728 children from Guatemala and 828 from Vietnam last year.

The halt in adoptions from those two nations unfolds against the backdrop of a dramatic rise in international adoptions in the United States.

The number of foreign-born children adopted by U.S. families more than tripled from 1990 to 2004, when it reached a high of 22,884, though the figure has declined slightly each year since.

n 2007, the U.S. granted visas to 19,613 children so they could join an adoptive family in the United States, according to U.S. State Department figures. About 70 percent of those children came from four countries: China, Guatemala, Russia and Ethiopia.

A few other countries have also halted foreign adoptions at various times, including Kazakhstan and Togo.

Yet the suspensions in Vietnam and Guatemala have had the biggest impact — they’re two of the 10 countries that send the most children to adoptive homes in the Unites States.

Fear of fraud stirs heartache

For Darcy, the review seems more detrimental than helpful.

Her adopted daughter, Carolina, remains in a Guatemalan foster home with three dozen other babies. Darcy worries that keeping Carolina, now 15 months old, in a foster home will harm her early development.

"She’s not getting one-on-one care by a consistent caretaker," Darcy said, adding later, "Nobody is looking at this as a violation of the kids’ human rights except for these (American) parents."

Guatemala, which until now has had little to no oversight of its foreign adoptions, has the highest per capita rate of adoption in the world.

Nearly one in 100 babies born in Guatemala wind up living with adoptive parents in the United States, according to the U.S. consulate in Guatemala.

While adoptive parents in the United States undergo rigorous screening, adoptions in Guatemala had been processed by notaries responsible for determining whether the babies were relinquished voluntarily. They also arrange foster care and handle paperwork — notaries in Latin America tend to have more legal training than notaries in the United States.

Both Guatemalan and U.S. officials fear the system leads to practices such as paying birth mothers for children or, in some instances, coercion.

Officials in both countries say gaps in regulations and the high sums of money at play — adoptions can cost up to $30,000 — may have created unintended incentives in a country where the State Department estimates that 80 percent of the population lives in poverty.

The Guatemalan government has said its review could take a month or longer. As for the American families, they can only wait.

"I think it’s overkill," said Darcy, who was matched with Carolina last March and was approved to adopt the girl last winter — typically one of the last steps before the actual adoption is complete.

"No adoptive parent wants to adopt an abducted child — a child that wasn’t voluntarily relinquished — but to keep them as hostages is unacceptable," Darcy said.

(more…)

Halted foreign adoptions leave would-be parents in limbo

Dreamstime_3789176_2 The crib in Ellen Darcy’s Boston home has sat empty for more than a year. And in suburban Washington, Laura Teresinski has prepared a nursery for a baby that may never arrive.

They and thousands of prospective parents, eager to adopt children from abroad, have found themselves in an emotional legal limbo since two of the most popular countries for international adoptions — Guatemala and Vietnam — recently halted their programs.

Now would-be mothers and fathers around the United States wonder what will become of their quest to adopt a child — a pursuit that can fray nerves, cost up to $30,000 and span several years.

Guatemala announced this month that it would conduct a case-by-case review of every pending foreign adoption case. That put on hold the adoption plans of about 2,000 American families.

The crackdown comes amid reports that some in Guatemala coerce mothers to relinquish their children for adoption — or steal the children outright and present them as orphans.

Similar accusations have arisen in Vietnam.

After the United States accused adoption agencies there of corruption and baby-selling, Vietnam said in April that it would no longer allow adoptions to the United States.

"My husband and I were absolutely devastated," Teresinski said. "Adoptive parents have put a lot of emotional energy and a lot of financial resources in the process."

Vietnam’s decision affects several hundred families.

Families in the United States adopted 4,728 children from Guatemala and 828 from Vietnam last year.

The halt in adoptions from those two nations unfolds against the backdrop of a dramatic rise in international adoptions in the United States.

The number of foreign-born children adopted by U.S. families more than tripled from 1990 to 2004, when it reached a high of 22,884, though the figure has declined slightly each year since.

n 2007, the U.S. granted visas to 19,613 children so they could join an adoptive family in the United States, according to U.S. State Department figures. About 70 percent of those children came from four countries: China, Guatemala, Russia and Ethiopia.

A few other countries have also halted foreign adoptions at various times, including Kazakhstan and Togo.

Yet the suspensions in Vietnam and Guatemala have had the biggest impact — they’re two of the 10 countries that send the most children to adoptive homes in the Unites States.

Fear of fraud stirs heartache

For Darcy, the review seems more detrimental than helpful.

Her adopted daughter, Carolina, remains in a Guatemalan foster home with three dozen other babies. Darcy worries that keeping Carolina, now 15 months old, in a foster home will harm her early development.

"She’s not getting one-on-one care by a consistent caretaker," Darcy said, adding later, "Nobody is looking at this as a violation of the kids’ human rights except for these (American) parents."

Guatemala, which until now has had little to no oversight of its foreign adoptions, has the highest per capita rate of adoption in the world.

Nearly one in 100 babies born in Guatemala wind up living with adoptive parents in the United States, according to the U.S. consulate in Guatemala.

While adoptive parents in the United States undergo rigorous screening, adoptions in Guatemala had been processed by notaries responsible for determining whether the babies were relinquished voluntarily. They also arrange foster care and handle paperwork — notaries in Latin America tend to have more legal training than notaries in the United States.

Both Guatemalan and U.S. officials fear the system leads to practices such as paying birth mothers for children or, in some instances, coercion.

Officials in both countries say gaps in regulations and the high sums of money at play — adoptions can cost up to $30,000 — may have created unintended incentives in a country where the State Department estimates that 80 percent of the population lives in poverty.

The Guatemalan government has said its review could take a month or longer. As for the American families, they can only wait.

"I think it’s overkill," said Darcy, who was matched with Carolina last March and was approved to adopt the girl last winter — typically one of the last steps before the actual adoption is complete.

"No adoptive parent wants to adopt an abducted child — a child that wasn’t voluntarily relinquished — but to keep them as hostages is unacceptable," Darcy said.

(more…)

Rush is on to adopt kids orphaned by disaster

MIANYANG, China — The children’s faces stare in somber black-and-white photos from newspapers and scribbled posters at relief camps, seeking their parents. Many will never find them.

As the first estimate of orphans — more than 4,000 — emerged Thursday from last week’s deadly earthquake, thousands of Chinese are rushing to offer their homes.

"My husband and I would really like to adopt an earthquake orphan (0-3 years old)," Wang Liqin wrote on popular website Tianya.com in a forum that was already three pages long.

The high interest is another sign of China’s tremendous post-quake outpouring of sympathy, buoyed by rising prosperity. And it’s a surprising turnabout in a country in which government red tape, poverty and traditional attitudes long combined to discourage adoption.

The new enthusiasm also means that Americans and other foreigners wanting to adopt may not have a chance. Officials estimate that the number of Chinese wanting to adopt the earthquake’s orphans may outnumber the orphans themselves.

"Every day, my ministry receives hundreds of calls," Jiang Li, China’s vice minister of civil affairs, said this week.

At the civil affairs department in Sichuan province, the heart of the disaster area, calls reached 2,000 a day, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said.

Some Chinese, reached this week by phone, said they want to adopt because they’re unable to have a child of their own. Some see a chance to have a rare second child despite China’s strict one-child policy. And some, like Wang, whose own baby didn’t survive childbirth this year, understand loss and want to help.

"We saw how fragile life can be and have been wanting to adopt a child," Wang, who works in a clothing export business in the southern city of Guangzhou, said by telephone.

Americans also want to adopt earthquake orphans, but "I think the Chinese government will start with domestic adoption first," said Joshua Zhong, co-founder and president of the U.S.-based Chinese Children Adoption International.

SOURCE: DenverPost.com in an AP story

Blogging at the Beach 2008: Day 2

Day 2 of the Georgia Family Law Institute began today with the popular and fast-moving Hot Tips From the Experts. Moderated by Shiel Edlin of Stern and Edlin of Atlanta, 10 lawyers presented 5 minute segments on various current hot topics and practical tips in divorce and family law cases.

The speakers included:

Richard Nolen of Warner, Mayoue, Bates & Nolen of Atlanta on the topic of Stick With What Works.

Stephen Steele of Marietta on Statistics of Divorce

Tina Shadix Roddenberry of Kidd & Vaughan of Atlanta on the topic of Cell Phone Tower Tracking and Integrating Third Party Discovery.

Scot Krauter of Savage, Turner, Pinson & Karsman of Savannah on Personal Injury Proceeds in Divorce.

Jonathan Levine of Levine and Smith in Atlanta on How to Seal the Deal.

Karen Brown Williams of Atlanta on How to Keep the Guardian ad Litem From Killing your Case.

Seth Harp of Columbus on Railroad retirement Benefits Division in Divorce.

Frank DeVincent of Davis, Matthews & Quigley in Atlanta on Waiver and Presentation of Attorney-Client Privilege.

Jonathan Tuggle of Warner, Mayoue, Bates and Nolen of Atlanta on the subject of Virtual Visitation.

Carol Ann Walker of Gainesville on the use of Requests for Admissions in Domestic Cases.

The next presentation was a fun, game-show style "Are You Smarter Than an Appellate Judge?" Jeanney Kutner of Atlanta took on the jeff Foxworthy role with Mary Beth Hebert of Atlanta as the contestant. Susan Hurst of Bogart and Bogart in Atlanta served as "explainer" and a panel of judges from the Georgia Court of Appeals (Chief Judge Anne Elzabeth Barnes, Judge John Ruffin, and Judge J.D. Smith) and Superior Court of Fulton County Family Division (judge Cynthia Wright, Judge Gail Tusan, and Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane), served in the stead of the "5th graders" from the show with the similar name and format.

Family_law_institute_2008_044 University of Georgia School of Law professor and dean, Paul Kurtz, took us back to law school and educated us about three particular Uniform Family Laws in Georgia: Opportunity Awaits. He discussed the Uniform Interstate Enforcement of Domestic Violence Protective Orders Act, the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act, and the Uniform Premarital Agreements Act.

The Jack Turner Award was presented to Martin Huddleston by his friend and former law parFamily_law_institute_2008_038tner, Barry McGough.

Finally, a panel consisting of Judge Jeffrey Bagley of the Superior Court of Forsyth County in Cumming, Rebecca Crumrine of Davis, Matthews & Quigley of Atlanta, Leigh Cummings of Warner, Mayoue, Bates & Nolen of Atlanta, and Paula Frederick of the Office of General Counsel of the State Bar of Georgia, all spoke on the topic of Attorney’s Fees in Domestic Relations Cases: Ethics and Practice.

Blogging at the Beach 2008: Day 1

Family_law_institute_2008_004_2 I woke up in Destin to a beautiful sunrise and walked on the beach. Registration for the 26th Annual Family Law Institute began at 7:30 at the Sandestin Beach Hilton and I greeted many of my colleagues from Atlanta and others from throughout the State of Georgia. The conference was chaired by Edward Coleman of Surrett & Coleman of Augusta, Georgia and opening remarks were also made by Kurt Kegel of Davis Matthews and Quigley in Atlanta, Chair of the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia. I was informed by Steve Harper of ICLE in Georgia that over 450 attorneys were in attendance, the largest crowd ever to attend.

Family_law_institute_2008_008 The first presentation was on Direct Examination of a Business Valuator, by attorney K. Paul Johnson of McCorkle and Johnson in Savannah, Georgia, and by attorney, certified public accountant (and several other initialed credentials), Martin Varon of Alternative Resolution Methods in Smyrna, Georgia. Paul and Martin went through the steps (and the reasons for each step) of what goes into a business evaluation, and how to present the testimony of the expert in a trial of a divorce case.

Family_law_institute_2008_012 John Mayoue of Warner, Mayoue, Bates & Nolen in Atlanta, Georgia, presented a very interesting and enlightening program on National Trends in Domestic Relations Law. Topics ranged from the Age of the Internet (focused on electronic evidence and the legal and illegal methods clients may use to obtain that evidence, free speech and First Amendment issues in divorce and custody cases (including a discussion of the YouTube divorce and restraints on speech (such as blogging about the divorce by one of the parties) in divorce cases), to Religion and Child Custody, current national trends in the area of alimony, and tracing or transmutation of separate property in equitable division of marital property assets.

Family_law_institute_2008_016 A panel of Judge J. Stephen Schuster of the Superior Court of Cobb County in Marietta, Georgia, and lawyers David Givelber and Nancy Lawler, both of Cohen, Pollock, Merlin & Small in Atlanta, took the audience through the esoteric but increasingly more important topic of challenging expert witnesses under the Daubert rule (named after one of the litigants in the case of Daubert v. Merrill Dow Pharmaceuticals)

Gainesville attorney Carol Walker was presented with the Joe Tuggle Professionalism Award by Superior Court of Hall County Judge Bonnie Oliver.

Day One’s program concluded with a panel discussion by attorney John Lyndon of Athens, Superior Court of Ocmulgee Circuit Judge Hulane George of Milledgeville, Superior Court of Pataula Circuit Judge Ronnie Joe Lane of Donalsonville, and attorney Russell Smith of Sanders and Smith of Toccoa, Georgia, on Special Issues for Small Town Practices, including such unusual property division cases as those involving ugly pigs, recusal issues and large turnouts of family members at trials and hearings.