In this Update:
- Adoption Tax Credit Extended in Tax Payer Relief Act
- Russia Bans Adoptions to the United States
- Universal Accreditation for Intercountry Adoptions in the U.S.
- Uninterrupted Scholars Act Allows Access to Foster Youth School Records
- U.S. Government Launches Action Plan on Children in Adversity
- Supreme Court of the United States to Hear Indian Child Welfare Act Case on Adoption of Indian Child
Adoption Tax Credit Extended in Tax Payer Relief Act
The adoption tax credit, which can be claimed for eligible adoption-related expenses, has helped thousands of American families offset the high cost of adoption since the credit was established in 1997. The American Taxpayer Relief Act permanently extends the adoption tax credit and income exclusion for employer paid or reimbursed adoption expenses up to $10,000 (adjusted for inflation).
- Official estimates will be released later by the IRS, but the projected maximum amount of the adoption credit for 2013 is expected to be $12,770. While the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act made the adoption tax credit refundable for FY 2011 and 2012, the credit included in this latest extension is not refundable.
For a copy of the bill see the Text of the Bill from Senate Finance Committee website (the third PDF from the link provides a summary that lists the provisions in the bill).
To learn more about the adoption tax credit, its history and application please see:
- Press Release: President Obama Signs Legislation to Permanently Extend Adoption Tax Credit
- The Columbus Dispatch: ‘Cliff’ Deal Made Adoption Tax Credit Permanent
- NPR Morning Edition 12 Days of Tax Deductions – How Adoption Tax Credit Benefits Families
- Washington Times The Red Thread Guest Blog by Kathleen Strottman – Congress: Save the Adoption Tax Credit
Russia Bans Adoptions to the United States
On December 28, 2012, President Putin signed Federal Law 18661406, known as the Yakovlev Act, prohibiting the adoption of Russian children by U.S. families effective on January 1, 2013.
- Law is named after Dima Yakovlev, adopted as Chase Harrison, who died after being left by his U.S. adoptive father in a hot car in 2007.
- Lawmakers in the Russian Duma have stated that the legislation is a direct response to the U.S. “Magnitsky Act” which is designed to address human rights violations by sanctioning a specific group of Russian officials connected to the death of a whistleblowing lawyer in a Moscow prison.
- Passage of this law has entirely halted the adoptions of an estimated 500 to 1000 children to U.S. families who were at various stages in the adoption process when the law was passed.
- State Department reports that they are aware of 565 pending adoptions: 57 cases where the adoptive family has already obtained an adoption decree from a Russian court, 234 cases where a waiting child has been officially matched with an American family, and 274 cases where State is currently unaware whether the family was officially matched with a child.
- Department of State is working with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to create a comprehensive list of these and any additional U.S. families that may have approved suitability applications to understand the full universe of transition cases that will be impacted by the ban.
Several actions have been taken by Members of Congress in response to this crisis.
- First, on December 21, 2012, Senators sent a letter to Putin asking for him to not sign the bill into law.
- Shortly thereafter, the United States Senate passed S. Res. 628 and the House is expected to introduce a similar measure shortly.
- Members have discussed taking other actions including sending a bicameral letter to President Obama, as well as asking the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. to come to Congress and brief both the House and Senate on his country’s intentions to process outstanding adoption cases.
Russia’s decision to abruptly end adoptions by the U.S. families is tragic for two reasons. First, that Russia would see fit to use their own children as political pawns, and second, that their actions did not evoke moral outrage by members of the global community. Until a child’s right to a family is properly recognized as a basic human right, such violations can continue without serious consequences for anyone other than the children themselves.
- CCAI Country Overview on Russian Adoptions–View an overview on adoptions in Russia, links to the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues’ Russia Alerts and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow’s recent statements, as well as a recent congressional letter to President Putin and other helpful resources.
- Department of State Office of Children’s Issues Russian Adoption Updates and Alerts–U.S. families in the process of adopting children from Russia should read the Office of Children’s Issues Russia Alerts and follow their instructions on reaching out to the Department of State on the status of their individual case.
- New York Times: Citing Broken System, Critics Fight Russia’s Adoption Ban
- New York Times: Russian Says Ban on U.S. Adoption Flouts Treaties
- Reuters: Children, many ill, would be victims of Russia ban on U.S. adoption
- Reuters: Russia parliament passes anti-US adoption bill
- USA Today: U.S. jolted by Russia’s proposed adoption ban
- New York Times: Putin Signs Bill That Bars U.S. Adoptions, Upending Families
- Washington Post Blog: A new cold war?
- Washington Post Guest Blog by Paul Pennington: Hope after Russia’s adoption ban: Adopting justice
- The Daily Beast: Vladimir Putin’s Adoption Ban Raises Issue of Who Will Save Russian Orphans
- UNICEF Statement by Anthony Lakeon the proposed Russian adoption ban
- CCAI Blog: US Senate Responds to Russian Law Banning Adoption of Russian Children by American Families
- St. Louis Post Dispatch: Russia shamefully uses children as political pawns
- RIANOVOST: Russians March Against US Adoption Ban
Universal Accreditation for Intercountry Adoptions in the U.S.
In 2000, The Intercountry Adoption Act required that adoption agencies assisting with an international adoption be accredited. Where the IAA fell short is that it only applied to adoptions between countries that are both parties to the Hague Convention, meaning that if an adoption is between the U.S. and a non-Hague country such as Russia or Ethiopia, the agency performing the adoption does not have to be accredited and the family involved is left without the corresponding services and protections.
- The Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 eliminates the “dual track” system, as explained in CCAI’s What Barriers Remain Report and extends the terms of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 to all adoption service providers offering or providing adoption services regardless of whether the child’s country of origin is a signatory to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption.
- The Senate version of the bill (S.3331) was passed by the House on January 1, 2013 and sent to the President for signature.
Uninterrupted Scholars Act Allows Access to Foster Youth School Records
The Uninterrupted Scholars Act amended the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). When FERPA was written in 1974, lawmakers’ intended to protect parents’ control over their children’s student records. However, because of FERPA, social workers had to obtain a court order to access the school records of a youth in foster care. This meant that youth in care, many of whom have multiple foster care placements, which resulted in school transfers, often had to retake classes or repeat grades because the child welfare agencies and schools could not effectively and efficiently communicate about an individual’s academic records. The Uninterrupted Scholars Act provides social workers access to school records in an effort to ease transitions and improve educational outcomes for foster youth.
- Associated Press: Bill to Help Foster Youths with School Records
- Huffington Post: Congress Passes Key Foster Care Education Bill
The Tennessean: Help Foster Kids Get an Education
- The Chronicle of Social Change: Post-Partisan; the Power of Foster Care Politics
- Southern California Public Radio: Rep. Karen Bass Promotes New Law to Help Foster Kids Stay in School
U.S. Government Launches Action Plan on Children in Adversity
The Action Plan is the first-ever whole-of-government strategic guidance on international assistance for children in adversity. The Plan provides a blueprint for the appropriate USG agencies to use in delivering coordinated and effective assistance to children who are vulnerable to violence, abuse, exploitation, and neglect and is governed by three core objectives:
- Build strong beginnings: The U.S. Government will help ensure that children under five not only survive, but also thrive by supporting comprehensive programs that promote sound development of children through the integration of health, nutrition, and family support.
- Put family care first: U.S. Government assistance will support and enable families to care for their children, prevent unnecessary family-child separation, and promote appropriate, protective and permanent family care.
- Protect children: The U.S. Government will facilitate the efforts of national governments and partners to prevent, respond to, and protect children from violence, exploitation, abuse, and neglect.
Within five years, the Plan calls for USG funded programs to achieve significant reductions in the number of children not meeting age-appropriate growth and developmental milestones; children living outside of family care; and children who experience violence or exploitation.
- Action Plan on Children in Adversity
- USAID Website: Action Plan on Children in Adversity Webpage
- Video: White House Launch of National Action Plan on Children in Adversity
- Children in Adversity Policy Partnership Webpage
- CCAI Blog: U.S. Government Releases Action Plan on Children in Adversity
- Foreign Policy: Making Room for Children in Adversity
- The Topeka Capital –Journal: US Gov Action Plan- Children in Adversity
Supreme Court of the United States to Hear Indian Child Welfare Act Case on Adoption of Indian Child
On January 4, 2012 the Supreme Court agreed to address a 1978 federal law underlying the adoption of American Indian children. The last time the Court reviewed a case regarding the federal Indian Child Welfare Act was 24 years ago in the 1989 Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians v. Holyfield. Since that time, state supreme courts have been split in their decisions regarding the placements of Native American children impacted by the law. The Court has agreed to hear the case of “Baby Veronica” who was adopted by a couple in South Carolina and later removed from her adoptive placement and placed with her biological father, a member of the Cherokee tribe living in Oklahoma.
- Child Welfare Information Getaway: Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)
- National Indian Child Welfare Association: Indian Child Welfare Act Compliance
- New York Times: Justices Take Case on Adoption of Indian Child
- Washington Post: Supreme Court to examine Indian Child Welfare Act requirements in adoption dispute
- Native News Network: US Supreme Court Review of Cherokee Baby Girl May Become Test of Indian Child Welfare Act
- Tulsa World: Supreme Court to hear adoption case involving Indian Child Welfare Act
- American Indian children’s welfare in question with adoptions