May is Foster Care Month! And yesterday, President Obama issued a National Foster Care Month Proclamation. This is the first time in almost two decades that the White House has issued a foster care month proclamation!
“President Obama thought it was important to celebrate the promise of the youth in foster care, and honor those who work to help them along the way. This Administration believes every child deserves a safe, loving and permanent family, and we are committed to working towards that goal.” –Mr. Joshua DuBois, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships
In his proclamation, the President highlights that there are nearly a half-million children and youth in foster care who enter the system through no fault of their own. He also celebrates the professionals and foster parents who demonstrate their dedication to children and the depth and kindness of the human heart.
Obama has shown his commitment to foster care issues by providing over $35 million last year to support foster care adoptions through the Adoption Incentives program. In addition, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided a significant increase in funding for Title IV-E adoption and foster care assistance program.
Just recently CCAI released our inaugural ‘CCAI In Focus’ report on the Adoption Tax Credit. While everyone was hastily working to click “submit” on the IRS website before 11:59pm on April 15th, we thought it would be a great idea to share some positive tax news. The federal adoption tax credit has been around for some time, but considering there have been some changes, most recently by President Obama’s health care legislation, we wanted to clarify a misconceptions and raise considerations that still remain.
This report was written primarily to serve federal policymakers, but has also proven useful to the adoption community in informing adoptive parents and advocates about this adoption incentive. The report includes the following information:
a brief overview of the adoption tax credit
a detailed legislative history
a list of adoption tax credit legislation that is currently pending on Congress
Despite that this credit has been around for 14 years, affordability of adoption continues to be an issue for some families. Adoption Fees can range from $0-$2,500 for foster care adoptions, up to $25,000 for private domestic adoptions, and upwards of $40,000 for intercountry adoptions. The below chart details data from a small sample of adoptive parents CCAI surveyed:
What is most shocking is that while the Adoption Tax Credit was initially created to encourage foster care adoptions, only 25% of all public adoptions took advantage of this incentive, whereas nearly all foreign adoptions were support by this credit. Another interesting point is that families whose intercountry adoptions fail are not able to receive this tax credit, whereas all domestic adoptions–even if the adoption never finalizes–are able to receive this credit.
There are two main policy considerations that are a result of the new provisions in President Obama’s health care legislation that was signed into law last month. This law 1) extends the Adoption Tax Credit through December 31, 2011, 2) increases the credit by $1,000 to $13,170, and 3) for the first time makes the tax credit refundable so that families who do not have tax liabilities will be able to take advantage of this incentive. Please refer to the report for more detailed information, and stay tuned for additional CCAI In Focus reports on hot topics related to adoption and foster care.
A recent Youtube video, ‘Single Ladies Devastation‘, features singer/songwriter/pastor Carlos Whittaker and his family singing along to Beyonce’s hit single. The video has gone viral because of their son’s unique reaction to the song. This Atlanta-based family adopted Losiah three years ago from South Korea. Carlos and his wife, Heather, admit to being avid bloggers who always have a camera in hand. The family was even featured on CBS’s The Early Show:
This video can be seen as a helpful lesson in parenting, or as clean and simple entertainment. Either way, it has been an undeniable hit with the YouTube-viewing public, scoring almost 3 million views in three weeks.
The Whittakers are hoping that the publicity their video has gained will also bring the issue of adoption to the forefront. As Carlos says in the interview, “…if we can have Beyonce’s Single Ladies help that, then by all means.” At a time when international adoption is surrounded by controversy, Losiah and his family definitely help to cast a positive light on the issue, and represent just one of the many success stories in the world today. To learn more about Losiah’s adoption, you can visit Carlos’s blog—or you can just take his word on it:
“As an adoptive parent you think you are going to change a child’s life, but he definitely has changed our life for the better.”
13,231. That is the number of Russian children who have found permanent, loving homes in America over the last five years. One. That is the number of adoptive parents who made the irresponsible, dare I say reprehensible, decision to return her adopted child to Russia. 800,000. That is the estimated number of Russian children who currently call an orphanage their home. As we talk about the circumstances leading up to the possible suspension of Russian-American adoptions, it is important to keep these numbers in their proper perspective. No one can condone the actions taken by Torry Hansen. Even if her allegations about her son’s mental condition are true, they do not justify her decision to forgo the plethora of options of assistance available for she and her son in the United States. She could have reached out to her adoption agency, who could have directly provided her and her son the necessary support. She could have reached out to the State of Tennessee Departments of Social Services or Mental Health. And in a State that is well known for extensive faith based and community based networks there were undoubtedly people who if asked, would have stepped forward to help this family in need. Sadly, she chose to take a different route and it is now in the hands of the Tennessee legal authorities to determine if her actions constitute a crime.
All that being said, two things we know for sure. First, suspensions of adoption are not in the overall best interests of children. Experience has shown that suspending adoptions do not lead to the legal and programmatic reforms which are used to justify them. What they do result in is children spending additional, and unnecessary years, in institutional care. Take Romania and Cambodia for examples. It has been almost ten years since both countries suspended international adoption. No significant legal reforms have been made and few, if any, efforts have been made to provide children living there with alternatives to institutionalization. The legal and social status of children in both countries remain the same. Both countries still experience high rates of child abandonment, child slavery and sexual exploitation.
The other thing we know for sure is that despite the appropriate use of best practices and protections, there will be cases such as these. Not even the perfect system can protect against all wrongdoing. What needs to exist is an international adoption system which provides for a high level of protection against corruption and abuse, and a federal and state statutes that allow for the prosecution of individuals who, despite these protections, abuse the adoption process or worse, an adopted child. In ratifying the Hague Treaty on Intercountry Adoption, the US took an important first step in providing the U.S framework for such a system. CCAI, along with Members of Congress, continue to push for improvements to the intercountry adoption system and for stronger and more explicit laws against corruption in international adoption. We have and will continue to fully support the Russian Government in their efforts to continually protect the best interests of their children. And finally, we remain committed to work with the U.S. State Department toward developing ways to quickly implement necessary protections.
In the meanwhile, as those who have experienced the many joys adoption brings, we have an obligation to speak out against the myths these types of cases can perpetuate. Older children, even those who have spent years in foster care or institutions, are not by definition, damaged goods. The bond between an adoptive parent and child is, in most every case, indistinguishable from the bond between a parent and their biological child. And regardless of how the relationship between parent and child is formed, being a parent is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, experiences a human being can have.
Be sure to check our website for resources as new information becomes available.
With the recent buzz surrounding Artyom Savelyev, the 7-year-old boy who was sent back to Russia alone on a plane by his adoptive family in the USA, and the Russian government’s subsequent threats to freeze adoptions from the country, international adoption continues to be a prominent issue in the world.
CCAI takes these issues very seriously, and we expect to release a statement regarding the current state of international adoption in Russia in the near future, so keep your eyes here and on our website for updates. For some background information and a general overview of international adoptions from Russia, you can also check out our country update page for Russia.
In the meantime, we would like to address some general concerns about international adoption, and how it is perceived in the world today. Below are some questions that we have recently received, followed by our responses:
1)Isn’t international adoption often used as a guise in child trafficking?
While the safety and protection of children is always utmost concern, a number of measures have been put in place both by the U.S. government and increasingly foreign governments to ensure the ethical adoption process. USCIS uses the Form I-604 Request for and Report on Overseas Orphan Investigation to ensure the child is an orphan. When a country is suspected of unethical adoption procedures, both the U.S. and the foreign government has the power to cease adoption processing until measures have been put in place to ensure children are not trafficked nor are birth families being coerced to give up their children.
2) Why are monies not given to the child’s birth family or a family in the child’s country of origin so that the child is not removed from their homeland? Isn’t this in the best interest of the child?
The reality is that many foreign countries lack sophisticated child welfare systems like what we have here in the U.S when we moved away from orphange-type settings in favor of foster homes in the 1970s. As a result, children in foreign countries spend years of their life in institutions. Research and common sense tells us that children do not develop emotionally or physically without the attention and human interaction that a family provides. A recent study found that Children adopted from institutional care performed worse than those raised in families on tests measuring visual memory and attention, learning visual information, and impulse control. Children living in orphanages are at risk for disease, malnutrition, or even death. This pictures speaks for themself:
3) Why are adult adoptees’ voices not heard? They are the true experts?
While we must admit that international adoption is not a perfect system, we cannot ignore the millions of orphans around the world who are forced to rock themselves on the floor because they have no mother to hold them. We do not believe that international adoption should be the first resort, rather, we believe in strengthening child welfare systems around the world to promote safe care and domestic adoption, but when domestic options are not possible, international adoption. Because, every child deserve the safety, support, and love that only a family can provide.
Yesterday, Jessica Alba appeared on ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The family featured, the Beach family, had adopted 8 children in addition to 4 biological children! Father Larry Beach said, “No matter if you’re in a travel trailer or a big house like this, we all have one calling; we’re all special to God. That’s why we search out children who otherwise wouldn’t have a home. That’s what we hope comes out of all this. There are a lot of children out there. Maybe they’re not perfect in the world’s eyes, but they deserve a home as much as any child.” So inspired by the Beaches, Alba went on to say that she plans to adopt herself. Alba is currently a mom to her 2-yr-old daughter Honor Marie with husband Cash Warren.
I wanted to highlight a couple other celebrities who have chosen adoption. When these individuals speak out and share their adoption experience, families and individuals across the country are made aware the need for adoption and are shown that all it takes is for someone to step forward and want to make a difference in the life of a child.
Recently, Katherine Heigl and husband singer Josh Kelley adopted a daughter with special needs, Naleigh, from Korea. Heigl has always known she wanted to adopt, and even approached the subject with her husband before they were engaged. Heigl’s sister, Meg, is Korean, so the choice of where to adopt from seemed obvious.
Just over a month ago, actor Willie Garson’s adoption of a 8-yr-old boy from foster care was finalized. “From the first time I met him, I said, ‘That’s my kid.” Garson met his son, Nathen, at an adoption fair in Los Angeles.
While Nathen’s story has a happy ending, Garson commented on the older teens in foster care who were at that same adoption fair. Their stories more often have a sad ending of aging out of foster care without ever being adopted. Across the country, this is true for almost 30,000 youth each year. Together, we can raise awareness about these youth, and dispel the negative myths about youth in foster care. These celebrities are helping to show Americans that we can step up and make a difference.