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On March 10, 2017, the Governor of South Dakota signed into law a bill that will allow the State’s adoption agencies to withhold their services from LGBTQ couples and individuals, Slate reports. South Dakota’s newly-passed bill, SB 149, gives any “child-placement agency” the right to refuse service on the basis of “sincerely held” religious beliefs or moral convictions. The State’s legislature has taken a broad approach to anti-LGBTQ discrimination, advocates say, choosing a term – “child-placement agency” – that extends to both adoption agencies and foster care agencies.
A similar measure was recently added to a bill making its way through the GOP-controlled legislative process in Georgia, where Republican lawmakers have deemed it appropriate for agencies to refuse couples if serving them would be in contrast to the organization’s “mission.”
Same-sex marriages and adoptions are now legal in Finland, PBS reports, after nearly three years of opposition from conservatives in the Nordic country, including the Christian Democrats, a far-right populist party. In February, Finnish legislators denied a petition signed by over 100,000 of the nation’s citizens who demanded the legislation’s repeal, paving the way for the new law to take effect. Finland is the last Nordic country to allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt, following on the progress made in Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
Meanwhile, advocates for LGBTQ rights in South Dakota were dealt a serious blow on March 2, 2017, when the State’s House of Representatives voted in favor of legislation that would allow state-funded adoption agencies to deny services to prospective adoptive parents on the basis of “sincerely-held” religious beliefs. While the bill’s language will need to be re-reviewed by South Dakota’s Senate, Republican State Governor Dennis Daugaard has come out in favor of the law, calling it a “proactive” step in interviews with the Aberdeen News.
Independent Adoption Center, an adoption agency with locations across the country, has abruptly closed, declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy effective January 31, 2017. The non-profit’s unexpected demise will disrupt nearly 2,000 in-progress adoptions, the Indianapolis Star reports. Based in California, Independent Adoption Center ran satelitte offices in multiple states, including Indiana, New York, Texas and Connecticut.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia’s Dima Yakovlev law, which prohibits US citizens from adopting Russian children, is discriminatory. In an opinion announced Tuesday, January 17, the Luxembourg court found unanimously that Russian authorities had violated the rights of 45 American families, whose initiated adoptions were abruptly terminated in 2013. Russia suspended adoption proceedings involving 27 children in January 2013, the Associated Foreign Press reports. Now, the country has been ordered to pay the 45 families damages. Each family will receive $3,180, along with $600 in legal costs.
New Jersey is set to unseal the birth records of around 300,000 adopted children on January 1, 2017, in line with a law signed by Governor Chris Christie two years ago. After the law takes effect, adoptees will be able to request uncertified copies of their birth certificates from New Jersey’s Office of Vital Statistics and Registries.
476 adoptees have already applied for their birth records, according to NorthJersey.com.
As National Adoption Month comes to a close, thousands of families across the country are celebrating new adoptions. On Friday, November 18, 73 children were adopted in Connecticut, the Journal Inquirer reports, representing nearly 16% of the approximately 450 adoptions approved in Connecticut courts each year. The coordinated ceremonies spanned 11 separate juvenile courts.
In August, the New York State Court of Appeals boldly redefined what it means – at least legally – to be a parent. Overturning a 1991 decision in which parents were defined as either biological or adoptive relatives, the state’s highest court held that non-biological, non-adoptive parents are allowed to seek custody if their “partner shows by clear and convincing evidence that the parties agreed to conceive a child and to raise the child together.”
The ruling came to resolve lawsuits involving lesbian parents, according to the Huffington Post. After separating from their partners, two non-biological mothers were denied the right to visitation with their children, since they had no claim to parenthood under New York’s 1991 decision. But “in light of more recently delineated legal principles,” wrote Associate Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, “the definition of ‘parent’ established by this Court 25 years ago […] has become unworkable when applied to increasingly varied familial relationships.”
The case will likely expand the rights of many prospective adoptive parents in New York, including partners in same-sex relationships who are committed to raising children they are not biologically related to.
In their new book, “Do Parents Matter?,” researchers Robert and Sarah LeVine argue that our American obsession with parenting techniques isn’t doing children much good.
Reviewing decades of research, the LeVines found that parenting styles vary drastically across cultures. In Kenya, many mothers consciously avoid making eye contact with infants, due to traditional cultural beliefs. Among Japanese parents, on the other hand, it’s common to sleep with one’s children into the elementary-school years. But broadly speaking, the researchers argue, these apparently radical differences in parenting make little difference. Across cultures, children generally grow up to lead happy, productive lives.
The upshot, according to “Do Parents Matter?”, is that American parents should stop worrying so much about whether and how their parenting choices will affect their child’s development. Parenting, the LeVines suggest, is an art, not a science.
In Massachusetts, around 2.3% of kids are raised in adoptive families. That proportion is very close to the national average. Across the country, about 2.4% of children are adopted, according to records from the 2010 US Census. But it may be much higher for transgender kids. In a new study, Boston Children’s Hospital found that 8.4% of the young people presenting to the hospital’s Gender Clinic had been adopted, or nearly four times the rate among the general population.
In an opinion delivered July 26, 2016, New Jersey’s Supreme Court has announced that birth parents must be informed of their right to appointed counsel during court proceedings, the New Jersey Law Journal reports. The decision applies to private adoption proceedings. Judges in New Jersey were already required to inform poor parents of their right to court-appointed representation for cases in which the state’s Department of Children and Family Services seeks to terminate a birth parent’s parental rights.
The opinion was written by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner for a unanimous court.
Under a new federal law, state authorities will be required to ask whether or not an adoption meets the criteria of 1978’s Indian Child Welfare Act from the start. Judges will now have to consider if a child is Native American in foster-care and adoption proceedings, and will be required to take a child’s tribal status into account before deciding if a mother or father’s parental rights should be terminated.
Native American children are removed from their homes at incredibly high rates. The Indian Child Welfare Act was written to keep tribal families together as much as possible, and gives tribes a say in where children should be placed. Native American rights advocates say the new law, which goes into effect in December, will bring much-needed clarity to situations that often become contentious, according to Native Times.
Since 2004, the rate of international adoptions, in which children living in one country are adopted by parents in another country, has dropped precipitously. Worldwide, international adoptions have declined by about 50% in the last decade. International adoptions by US parents have decreased 75%.
According to Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Bartholet, who wrote a recent opinion in the Boston Globe, the problem is that countries with high rates of institutionalized children routinely “shut down international adoption, or create barriers that restrict it to only a lucky few.” Until recently, the US Congress seemed willing to play ball, enacting legislation that restricted international adoptions.
But Bartholet says a new bill, introduced in the House of Representatives by Pennsylvania’s Tom Marino, wants to change that. H.R. 5285 would require human rights reports to include details on how many children in other countries are institutionalized or subjected to cruel, inhuman treatment. With that information, Congress “would essentially tell the State Department to stop discriminating against children through its refusal to consider the violations of human rights inherent in their unnecessary institutionalization.”
While Alabama’s Child Care Provider Inclusion Act makes no explicit reference to homosexuality, opponents say the Bill’s intentions are clear.
House Bill 158, which was voted onto Alabama’s House floor by a health committee yesterday, would allow adoption agencies within the state to refuse services based on “deeply-held religious beliefs,” including theologically-motivated opposition to LGBTQ parents. Adoption agencies that do refuse services would be protected from state sanction, under the bill, and would be shielded from losing their licenses.
In a press release, Human Rights Campaign director Ben Needham wrote, “With an estimated 5,000 children in Alabama’s foster care system, lawmakers seem focused on enshrining discrimination rather than allowing these kids the opportunity to find loving homes they all desperately need. Religious liberty is a right afforded to all religious organizations by the U.S. Constitution, but it is unacceptable for the state to allow taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars to fund discriminatory or abusive practices.”
Around 30% of the state’s adoption agencies are run by religious groups, according to the Associated Press. If passed into law, Alabama would join Mississippi and North Carolina in offering legal protection to religious organizations that turn away LGBTQ individuals. The bill may also allow adoption agencies to turn away parents who have been divorced and those who practice religions other than the one espoused by the agency.
A new report from the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention suggests that younger Americans, those between 15 and 44 years of age, increasingly support adoption by gay and lesbian adults. Reviewing survey results collected from 2002 to 2013, the newest National Health Statistics Report found that, when prompted with the statement:
“Gay or lesbian adults should have the right to adopt”
a majority of both men and women agreed. A significant disparity exists, however, based on the gender of respondents. For women:
Male respondents, on the whole, agreed less, although the proportion of males who support the rights of gay and lesbian individuals to adopt has likewise grown over time:
While the report isn’t forthcoming with explanations, Sean Massey, PhD, a professor of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies at SUNY Binghamton believes a growing familiarity with gay and lesbian individuals may be behind the shift in sentiments. Speaking with CBS News recently, Massey, who adopted with his husband in 2002, said, “We have more visibility, and more people see us as individuals who live nearby, which contributes to more favorable attitudes.”
Some adoption agencies invoke their right to religious freedom in order to refuse LGBTQ clients. Advocates for equality argue that, beyond basic ethics, the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage so every couple should be treated on an equal footing.
Utah’s state legislature has been facing a crucial vote on a bill that would ensure married gay couples are treated with the same basic respect as heterosexual couples, by changing the state’s current adoption law from reading “man and woman” to “couple or spouse.” But after a vigorous debate on Friday, February 12, 2015, the only vote that passed (8 – 3, we might add) was to postpone any actual voting. Families in Utah are still waiting for a decision, according to LGBTQ Nation.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in Nebraska are trying to protect an adoption agency’s right to refuse LGBTQ clients. The Welfare Services Preservation Act, introduced to the state’s legislature yesterday, seems to get off on the right foot. First, it states that “Nebraska has a critical need to find and retain safe, loving and supportive homes for children.” But in it’s fourth section, you’ll read:
“In order to preserve the support that child-placing agencies offer children and families, the government should not take adverse action against child-placing agencies based on their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
That’s a mixed message if we’ve ever heard one.
28 year-old Aditya Tiwari has become the youngest single parent to adopt a child with special needs in Indian history. On January 1st, Tiwari brought Binney, a one-and-a-half year old boy with Down’s Syndrome, home. You can learn more about Tiwari and his son at the India Times.
While it wouldn’t seem particularly earth-shaking here in the US, adoption of any sort is extremely difficult in India. Tiwari had been fighting since September 2014 to adopt young Binney, who has been renamed Avnish Tiwari.
Before August 1, 2015, single parents under the age of 30 weren’t allowed to adopt in India. That changed when the country’s legislature lowered the age limit to 25, but Tiwari was still faced by miles of red tape. In fact, it took the intervention of India’s Minister of Women and Child Development to make the placement official.
While India is home to an estimated 30 million orphaned children, according to The Guardian, only around 3,000 are adopted each year.
Only 292 child adoptions were finalized in 2014, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, marking the nation’s lowest adoption rate on record.
Over the last two decades, annual adoption rates have dropped by 75% in Australia, but the decline doesn’t reflect any reluctance on the part of parents to adopt. To explain the change, Christian Porter, the country’s federal social services minister, instead said that “adoption had fallen out of favor with state-based child protection agencies.”
State agencies, he told The Guardian on Thursday, are placing too much emphasis on “the notion that family reunification should occur at all or great cost.”