Update on Russian Ban on Intercountry Adoptions to the United States



Following the January 22, 2013 Russian Supreme Court Letter on Implementation of Federal Law No. 272-FZ, CCAI has continued to work closely with Members of Congress and our partners inside Russia.  In situations like these, CCAI’s priority is to ensure that the U.S. government is aware of all individuals directly impacted and have the information necessary to act on their behalf.  The following are actions that have occurred since our last update:

House Resolution 24: Expressing the deep disappointment of the House of Representatives in the enactment by the Russia Government of a law ending inter-country adoptions of Russian children by United States citizens…

  • Introduced on January 14, 2013 by Congressional Coalition on Adoption Co-Chairs Representatives Michele Bachmann and Karen Bass.
  • House Resolution 24 language matches that of Senate Resolution 628 (introduced in the 112th Congress on Dec. 30, 2012).

January 17, 2013 House Letter to President Putin  

  • Led by Representatives Chris Smith and Michael Fitzpatrick, 46 U.S. Representatives signed a letter to President Putin appealing to him for humanitarian reasons to not apply the January 1, 2013 ban of adoptions of Russian children to the United States to those several hundred adoptions already in process when the ban was enacted.
  • Noted that many of the children who are impacted by the ban on adoptions already know their U.S. adoptive families and have even recently been visited by them.
  • Encouraged President Putin to work together with the U.S. to “ensure that children are moved from institutions to family care.”

January 18, 2013 Bicameral Letter to President Putin

  • Led by Senator Blunt and CCA Co-Chairs Senators Landrieu and Inhofe and Representatives Bachmann and Bass, 72 Members of Congress signed this letter to President Putin requesting that the Russian Federation allow the processing of the pending adoptions of children already matched in 2012 to U.S. families.
  • Noted that many of these children have special needs, and “many believed they were soon going to become a part of a safe, permanent and loving family.”
  • Appealed to the spirit of the bilateral adoption agreement the two countries entered into on November 1, 2012 to provide orphaned children with safe and loving homes.

January 18, 2013 Bicameral Letter to President Obama

  • Led by Senator Blunt and CCA Co-Chairs Senators Landrieu and Inhofe and Representatives Bachmann and Bass, 73 Members of Congress signed this letter to President Obama.
  • Noted that Russia’s Ministry of Science and Education estimates over 110,000 children in Russia are living in institutions, with only 7,400 adopted by Russian families annually.
  • Appealed to President Obama to work to reverse the ban, but also to prioritize in the United States’ discussions with Russia in the coming weeks the estimated 350-500 active adoption cases with Russian children.

January 14, 2013 Russian Response Letter to December 21, 2012 Congressional Letter to President Putin

  • On January 14, Ambassador-at-Large Konstantin Dolgov – Russian Foreign Ministry’s Special Representative on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law – responded to a December 21, 2012 letter from 16 Members of Congress in an immediate response to the news of what was then a potential ban of adoptions from Russia to the United States.
  • Ambassador Dolgov’s letter stated that “[a]ccusations that Russia has violated the [U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child] by adopting the Dima Yakovlev Law are absolutely ungrounded” and are instead aimed at prioritizing domestic adoptions in Russia.  Suggesting that abuse of Russian children by American families has regularly occurred recently, and “the openly inactive attitude of competent U.S. agencies towards these issues has provoked a particular indignation and incomprehension in the public opinion, political and parliamentary circles in Russia.”  In response to appeals to the November 1, 2012 bilateral adoption agreement between the two countries, the letter states, “in practice we see that the U.S. side is actually sabotaging the provisions of the document.”  “The decision taken by the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation to ban the adoption of Russian children to the U.S. was a difficult but necessary measure provoked by a consistently non-constructive position of the U.S. federal and local authorities.”

For more information, please visit CCAI’s Russia Page on our website, see the “Russia Bans Adoptions to the United States” section of our January 15, 2013 Legislative Update,

CCAI Holiday Newsletter Available Now!

December 2012_Page_01

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s Holiday Newsletter is available here.

Highlights include:

  • National Adoption Day 2012
  • CCAI/CASA Holiday Wish List Program
  • Kathleen Strottman: All I want for Christmas is a Family for Every Child 
  • CCAI Field Visit to Columbus, Ohio

Please note the pending adoption and foster care legislation is included on pages 8-18 and upcoming events are listed on page one.

During this holiday season, we are once again reminded of the important role family plays in our lives. On behalf of all of us at CCAI, thank you for supporting us as we work to ensure that every child has their right to a family realized.

Happy Holidays!

Post-Partisan; the Power of Foster Care Politics

Note: This article originally appeared in The Chronicle of Social Change

While the nation bemoans a “gridlocked” Congress and Comedy Central’s Messrs. Stewart and Colbert aptly ridicule both Presidential candidates for a disregard of specificity on one hand and hubris on the other, I have borne witness to a very different vision of our elected leadership.

Instead of obstruction and partisanship, at least around one issue – foster care – I have seen members of Congress from both houses and sides of the aisle move at notable speed to introduce important, thoughtful legislation; respectfulness between ideologically disparate leaders; and an ability to transform the recommendations of experts in child welfare and foster youth themselves into cogent policy.

This story begins in Miami on March 31, during the second stop of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth’s National Listening Tour. Caucus co-founder Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) sits aside Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) and Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) at an enormous rectangle of tables peopled with Florida’s child welfare leaders. Mary Cagle, Director of Children’s Legal Services for Florida’s Department of Children and Family Services, describes how the Family Educational Records and Privacy Act (FERPA) – intended to protect against disclosure of student records to parties other than school officials or biological parents – creates difficulties for foster children, who are no longer in the custody of their biological parents.

Amending FERPA would allow social workers access to student records, she says, helping them make critical decisions in how to best mitigate foster children’s educational challenges and celebrate their successes.

“Education is one of the biggest indicators for the happiness of our kids, so we really want the federal government to take a look at the tension in this law,” Cagle says to the assembled members of Congress.

Two short months later, on the last day of May, National Foster Care Awareness Month, Rep. Bass and Foster Youth Caucus Co-Founders Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and Rep. Tom Marino (R-Penn.) introduced a bill that would eliminate that tension by allowing child welfare agencies direct access to the records of students in foster care, and allow for aggregate data to be used in studies intended on improving educational outcomes for students in foster care.

“This was an issue waiting to be resolved,” Rep. Bass said in an interview on the eve of the bill’s introduction, which would eventually take the name of the Uninterrupted Scholars Act. “The thought had already been put in, all we did was take advantage of the thinking and the work that was in place.”

Through the summer, foster care advocates and hill staff worked behind the scenes to elevate the issue and make sure it carried momentum through an increasingly static legislative season. As is so often the case with child welfare issues, it was a combination of expert analysis and foster youth perspective that moved the Uninterrupted Scholars Act into the Senate, increasing the likelihood it will become law before the end of this Congress.

On July 20, R.J. Sloke sat down with Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to tell the lawmaker his story of growing up in foster care. It was the last day of Sloke’s internship through theCongressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s Foster Youth Internship (FYI) Program, which places foster youth in the offices of Members of Congress.

The 2012 Foster Youth Interns immediately following their briefing on July 31, 2012.

“It felt really good,” Sloke said after a briefing in the Senate Visitor’s Center where he and 12 other of this year’s Foster Youth Interns released a report entitled “Hear Me Now” filled with their policy recommendations. “I told him about my high school situation and how the bill [Uninterrupted Scholars] would have helped me.”

According to the report he contributed to “Hear Me Now,” Sloke lived in 25 foster care placements in the five years he was care before his 18th birthday. All the bouncing through foster homes and group homes resulted in his attending a dozen different high schools.

“My caseworkers and schools failed to communicate with each other as I would transfer schools resulting in my not receiving credits to go on to the next grade,” he wrote in the report. Despite taking ninth grade three times, Sloke managed to graduate at 19.

Sloke’s story touched Blunt, who signed on as a co-sponsor of the Uninterrupted Scholars Act. On August 2nd, Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Mark Begich (D-Ala.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced the law into the Senate.

In an interview just minutes before the bill was run to the Senate floor, Sen. Landrieu, Co-Founder of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, described just how important hearing from youth like Sloke is to legislators.

“This kid, even after having to go through ninth grade three times, not because he couldn’t do the work but because the system had lost his records, now he’s gone on to graduate…. He will be a phenomenal leader in our nation but you know this is just way beyond what should be required. That is R.J.’s situation and there are thousands of other cases like it.”

Much like the House bill, Uninterrupted Scholars will: give child welfare agencies access to foster student records; allow for the use of educational records in studies related to promoting the educational success and stability of foster youth; and eliminate the need for duplicative, time-consuming notice when transferring records.

2012 Foster Youth Intern R.J. Sloke with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.). Sloke played a key role in a collective effort to maintain momentum behind the Uninterrupted Scholar’s Act.

On August 3rd, the day before Congress took its summer recess, I had a chance to sit with Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth co-chair Michele Bachmann. After explaining her experience as a foster mother to 23 foster children and five “biologicals,” Bachmann took a moment to explain the significance of having caucuses on Foster Youth in both houses.

“A lot of people think we can never talk about anything in Congress, that everything is gridlock and everything is partisan, and it isn’t at all. So both Congresswoman Bass and myself have come together. We created the Foster Youth Caucus, a bi-partisan caucus to elevate the issue of the problems and challenges that families deal with, with foster care, because we want solutions. That’s what we are about. Positive solutions to actually help the life situations for families in challenging situations.”

Representative Bachmann discusses the importance of the Uninterrupted Scholars Act. 

While Bachmann — like Landrieu had the day before — repeatedly referenced the goal of finding “forever families,” she noted the importance of Uninterrupted Scholars.

“We filed our bill in the House, now we see the Senate’s followed suit. We do have time yet in the remainder of this year to advance the cause of children in challenging circumstances that is what we are here to be about…. Our goal is to place children in forever families, but along the way, along the path of that journey we want them to have the best possible educational [opportunities], because if there is anything I learned personally as a foster mother its that our foster children needed a leg up.”

Congress will reconvene in early September, just as hundreds of thousands of American students start a new school year. If momentum carries Uninterrupted Scholars through, students in foster care may have that much needed leg up on the road to educational success.

Daniel Heimpel is the Executive Director of Fostering Media Connections and the Publisher of the Chronicle of Social Change. 

CCAI Foster Youth Interns Tell Capitol Hill: Hear Us Now!


CCAI’s Foster Youth Interns (FYI) have released a report, “Hear Me Now.” In it, the former foster youth share their personal experiences as well as policy recommendations to address child welfare issues, including:

  • Use of psychotropic medication among foster youth,
  • Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA),
  • Post-secondary education financing,
  • Juvenile justice system crossover, and
  • Human trafficking, in addition to various other foster care-related topics.

In past years, these reports have generated both local and national attention to the critical issues facing the 408,000 children currently in the United States foster care system.

“It has been my experience that the voices of foster care alumni are the ones we should be listening to more than any others. When they speak, things actually stand a chance of getting better. Not because their stories remind us of how far we have yet to go, but because their ingenuity and passion for making a difference show us just how far we can reach,” said Kathleen Strottman, Executive Director of CCAI. “Each and every day, the FYIs use their voice on behalf of those who do not have one. They reveal their scars in the hope that others won’t have these same wounds inflicted upon them.”

Since its inception in 2003, over 100 former foster youth from across the country have produced four legislative reports and have hosted nine Congressional briefings. Over 100 specific policy recommendations have been presented to federal policymakers, and at least three have been enacted into law.

Please click here to read the report:



CCAI Survey Seeks to Learn More about Family Care and Foster Care

CCAI is conducting a survey to learn more about the experiences of individuals who grow up in foster care and people who grow up in family care. Please take 3 minutes to complete the survey; the results will be used in a report that the Foster Youth Interns will present at a Congressional Briefing on July 31!



Senator DeMint Hosts October Foster Care & Adoption Conference in South Carolina

CCAI has learned in recent weeks that many individual Members of Congress are taking initiative in their states and districts to host events that spotlight adoption and foster care in October.  One such Member is Sen. Jim DeMint – a member of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption as well as CCAI’s Advisory Board.

Senator DeMint is hosting the Finding Families 2011 Adoption and Foster Care Conference on Tuesday, October 25, 2011, in Taylors, South Carolina. This event focuses on adoption issues impacting children both in South Carolina and across the United States as a whole.  Participants can elect to attend for the full day, or to select those conference class sessions that interest them most.

Class sessions will address both domestic and international adoption, medical concerns that arise, services for children with special needs, and pending legislation that affects adoptive families. Attendees will also have the chance to learn about foster parenting, as well as about financial resources that can help prospective parents with the costs of adoption. Session presenters include government officials, professors and foster care and adoption professionals.  Lunch and refreshments are provided at the cost of $10 per person.

To learn more about this conference, please visit HERE.

CCAI is excited that Senator DeMint and his staff are leading not only on Capitol Hill, but also back home in this important work, and we look forward to keeping you updated on similar events like this hosted by other Members in the coming weeks.