CCAI July newsletter and legislative update now available

CCAI’s July newsletter and legislative update is now available.

A few highlights from this month’s edition are:

  • Please join us for the Foster Youth Internship briefing and reception on Wednesday, July 27th to hear directly from former foster youth on their recommendations to improve the foster care system from a federal policy perspective.  Contact info@ for more information and to RSVP.
  • Know someone who has made the difference in the life of a child in need of a family?  Submit nominations for this year’s Angels in Adoption now at  Deadline for submissions is July 31st.
  • See pages 6-10 for a full list of foster care and adoption legislation currently pending in Congress.

Federal and state lawmakers discuss strengthening child welfare

CCAI and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) were pleased to host a policy roundtable between Members of Congress and state legislators on child welfare.  In this hour long discussion, both state and federal policymakers were given the opportunity to discuss ways in which the federal and state partnership in child welfare is working to protect children and ways in which it might be strengthened to better serve youth in the future.

Diedra Henry-Spires (Senate Finance Majority) and Becky Shipp (Senate Finance Minority) outlined what issues they expected to be on the Congressional agenda for the 112th Session and encouraged state lawmakers to provide insights on issues such as federal financing of foster care, Title IV-E Waivers, and the reauthorization of Promoting Safe and Stable Families program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.  Overall, it was a wonderful beginning to what the group hoped would be an ongoing dialogue on issues near and dear to the hearts of all in attendance.

In attendance were Sen. Mary Landrieu (LA), Rep. Karen Bass (CA), Rep. David Cicilline (RI), Rep. James Langevin (RI), State Sen. Willie Simmons (MS), State Sen. Leslie Nutting (WY), State Sen. Mark Allen (OK), State Sen. Amanda McGill (NE), State Sen. Kim David (OK), State Sen. Tom Hansen (SD), State Sen. Juan Pichardo (RI), State Rep. Tom Burch (KY), State Rep. Terie Norelli (NH), State Rep. Ken Esquibel (WY), State Rep. Mary Stuart Gile (NH), State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (IL), State Rep. Barbara Ballard (KS), State Rep. Betsy Butler (CA), and State Rep. Omeria Scott (MS).

Representatives from the offices of Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA), Sen. Dick Durbin (IL), Sen. John Barrasso (WY), Sen. John Kerry (MA), Sen. Jack Reed (RI), Sen. Frank Lautenberg (NJ), Sen. Mike Enzi (WY), Sen. Pat Roberts (KS), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Rep. Dave Camp (MI), Rep. Jim Cooper (TN), Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (WI), Rep. Dave Reichart (WA), Rep. Jason Chaffetz (UT), and Rep. Erik Paulsen (MN), and state representatives from the offices of Speaker John Perez (CA), the Executive Director of the Select Committee on Children & Youth (TN), the General Assembly’s Commission on Children (CT), the Senior Staff Attorney of the Legislative Council (WI), and the Director of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators were in also attendance.

Visit CCAI’s website to read about the conversation that took place between these federal and state legislators.

From Left: U.S. Rep. Cicilline, U.S. Rep. Langevin, U.S. Sen. Landrieu, Kathleen Strottman of CCAI, U.S. Rep. Bass
State Representative Barbara Ballard (KS)
State Senator Amanda McGill (NE)
State Representative Omeria Scott (MS)
State Representative Ken Esquibel (WY)

One year later: Lessons learned from the Russian adoption case

Tomorrow, April 9, 2011, marks the one year anniversary since news broke of the heartbreaking case of Artyem Saviliev, a 7-year-old boy whose adoptive mother returned him to Russia alone on a plane.  For months this case caught the eyes of American as well as others around the world and significantly affected how Russian officials would work with the U.S. to process intercountry adoptions.

Since then, there have been many discussions about both the joys and challenges of adoption. If heeded, honest and open conversations about the needs of adoptive parents and the children they seek to adopt can be an essential step toward the development of improved adoption policies and practice.  But if the dialogue surrounding cases like this go no further than short lived media sound bites or are used only in support of long standing debates on the merits of domestic and international adoption, this already tragic case could have an unfortunate and long standing effect on future efforts to recruit prospective adoptive parents for the millions of children still in need of the love and support.

With this in mind, CCAI took a look into what are areas of adoption law and policy that were triggered by this case and which, if strengthened, could better protect the safety and well-being of adopted children and their families.  This report outlines five areas of adoption policy that could be in need of reform as well as legislative options for addressing identified shortfalls.

Click here to read CCAI’s report highlighting policy considerations raised by this adoption case.

CCAI releases ‘What Barriers Remain for the 112th Congress’

Kathleen Strottman, CCAI’s Executive Director, authored a report highlighting what areas of reform the 112th Congress may consider addressing this legislative session.  The report discusses several issues advocates, families, and professionals alike have raised.  Visit our website or click here to read the full report.

In keeping with CCAI’s mission to not only identify instances where policies are standing in the way of children finding their forever families, but more importantly to highlight ways that policymakers might act to eliminate them, CCAI raises areas where reform is needed.  A few of the topics covered in the report include:

  • Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA):  With 30,000 youth aging out of foster care each year having never been adopted, advocates have suggested that federal policymakers begin to study the frequency and reasons for recommending APPLA as a permanency plan for a foster youth.
  • Adoption Affordability:  We also know from the National Survey of Adoptive Parents that 57% percent of adoptive parents surveyed reported being at or below 300% the federal poverty line ($67,050 for a family of four).
  • Universal Accreditation:  Where the Intercounry Adoption Act falls short is that it only applies 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.

Perspectives on this Congress’ legislative priorities

In an article from last week, CCAI’s shared in part the discussion that took place at our 112th New Congress Forum where Members of Congress addressed their legislative agendas for this year.  It was a vigorous and insightful hour-long discussion.  Perhaps the most captivating out of all of the speakers at the round table were the individuals who had direct experience with the foster care system or domestic and intercountry adoption.

Alixes Rosado bravely began with his story explaining while life on the streets was tough he felt the streets were safer and more loving than some of his foster homes.  After hearing this, Sen. Mary Landrieu expressed her interest in working to improve the foster parent recruitment processes across the nation to promote quality homes and better support foster parents.

Christina Miranda, also a former foster youth, changed schools 6 times between the age 11 and 18, and discussed the difficulties this school instability posed to her educational success.  Rep. Michele Bachmann highlighted a piece of legislation she introduced last Congress and plans to continuing working on, “School Choice for Foster Kids Act which would allow foster parents to send any foster child to his or her original school.”  To this, Sen. Landrieu said she would introduce a companion bill in the Senate to encourage the passage of this law.

Panel of individuals who shared their personal stories.

Samuel and Mildred Stewart adopted 3 children from foster care.  They stressed the need for mental health services to be provided to adopted children, as they have and continue to struggle to find services for their son.  She suggested how helpful it would be for families if parents had services, such as support groups or respite care.

International adoptive parent, Jeromy Smith, told his moving story of adopting his daughter and son from Kenya.  “Orphans struggle not only with physical poverty, but with relational poverty. Every night millions of kids—both those with empty stomachs and full stomachs—go to bed wondering if anyone, anywhere will ever love them.  Their souls ask the question, ‘Do I even matter?”  Read his full remarks here.

Nicole Dobbins, Executive Director of Voice for Adoption and former foster youth, stated, “I sometimes have to pinch myself when I say ‘executive director’ because it is hard for me to believe sometimes, when I think about where I have come from. I am delighted to share in the context of both my professional and personal capacity, if it will help push the agenda on foster care and adoption policy, because waiting children truly deserve to be at the forefront of every discussion.”  Read her full remarks here.

Executive Director of C.A.S.E., Debbie Riley shared that from her experience as both an adoptive mother and adoption  professional, “according to adoptive parents, one of the greatest post-adoption support needs is mental health services provided by someone who knows adoption.”

These speakers brought most of the room to tears with their personal stories and helped Members realize that the 112th Congress has some work ahead of them to improve foster care and adoption.  Members shared their commitment to use their position to bring about change for these children and families.

What laws keep children out of families?

To mark the beginning of 112th Congress, CCAI hosted a round table discussion to bring federal policymakers together with adoptive families and foster youth.  The goal of the discussion was for individuals with direct foster care, foster care adoption, or international adoption experience to share what policies they would enact if given the opportunity based on the successes and barriers they faced.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, Sen. James Inhofe, Rep. Michele Bachmann, and Rep. Karen Bass, the co-chairs of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, convened other Members of Congress to discuss their legislative agendas based on what they heard directly from youth and families.  Sen. Roy Blunt, Sen. Ben Cardin, and Rep. Tom Marino attended in person, along with representatives from the offices of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Tim Johnson, Sen. Chuck Grassley, Sen. Barbara Boxer, Sen. John Kerry, Rep. Jim Cooper, Rep. Dave Camp, Rep. Billy Long, and Rep. Dennis Cardoza.

Congressman Marino, an adoptive father himself, urged that children are our most precious resource, and we have an obligation to care for them.

Congresswoman Bass shared about her experience in the California state legislature and the time she spent traveling around the state talking to current and former foster youth.  One of the comments she often heard was, “I want someone to care about me who isn’t paid to do so.”

Congresswoman Bachmann commented that even after being a foster parent to over 20 adolescents herself, she is moved each time she hears the story of a foster youth.  She spoke about her legislative work on allowing children in foster care to remain in their school of origin despite moving out of the school district with each foster home move.

Senator Inhofe, an adoptive grandparent, recognized how challenging it is to navigate the intercountry adoption system.  As a U.S. Senator himeself, and his daughter, a tenured professor, they found the process complicated.  He shared his priority to remove bureacratic barriers to adoption to ensure an efficient process to place children in families.

Check back next week to see what the panel of individuals who have personal experience with these issues recommended, and learn how the Members of Congress responded.

Front: Alixes Rosado, former foster youth
L to R: Rep. Bass, Rep. Marino, Sen. Landrieu, Rep. Bachmann
L to R: Nicole Dobbins, Debbie Riley, Sen. Cardin, Lindsay Ellenbogen, Jeromy Smith