A Convening of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute
May 21, 2010
CCAI’s “Building a Strong Foundation for Children and Families of Haiti” convening on May 21, 2010 successfully brought together Haitian officials, United States’ and international experts from various child welfare and protection organizations to discuss the short and long-term needs of Haiti’s vulnerable children and to determine how they might individually and collectively support the Haitian government in the development of a child welfare system that preserves and protects a child’s right to a permanent and loving family. This convening provided a critically important opportunity to share, listen and learn about the most effective ways to serve Haiti’s children and families in the wake of the disaster as well as how to build a strong, sustainable child welfare system long term.
CCAI was especially honored by the participation of His Excellency Raymond Joseph, Minister Yves Cristalin, Madame Bernard Pierre, and Senator Mary Landrieu.
Please follow the links below to view video of each presenter
and their individual PowerPoint presentations.
PANEL I: The Current Situation and International Response
His Excellency Raymond Joseph, Haitian Ambassador to the United States
Gillian Huebner, Program Specialist at the USG Secretariat for Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children, United States Agency for International Development
Susan Bissell, Ph.D., Chief of Child Protection, United Nations International Children’s Fund
PANEL II: Haiti’s Child Welfare System Pre- and Post- Earthquake
Yves Cristalin, Minister of Social Affairs and Labor, Haiti
This report from the Child Rights Information Network examines intercountry adoption practices in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti and reviews the vast range of responses and the exceptional measures implemented by some countries in expediting firstly, the transfer of cases (with an adoption judgment) as well as secondly, adoptions and other procedures (without a judgment). In the context of these exceptional measures, the principal objective of this report is to identify lessons to be learned from this situation in order to prevent future harm. It is not the intention of the report to denounce a particular country, but rather to provide an objective analysis of the fast-tracking measures implemented, against the backdrop of international norms.
With this horrible tragedy almost one year behind us, the Advocate summarizes and evaluates the United States' response to the earthquake in Haiti. Adoption Advocate No. 28 also examines reactions to the event and presents lessons learned, as well as recommendations for continued U.S. support in meeting the needs of children adopted from Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake.
This bulletin from the Casey Foundation provides practical information for agencies and advocates working with this vulnerable population, with special guidance on filing federal Temporary Protective Status applications.
CCAI would like to acknowledge
for their generous support of this convening as well as the following
for their continued support of our overall mission:
Through its Congressional Resource Program (CRP), CCAI is an educational resource for information critical to adoption and foster care policy. Our forums and reports provide ideal opportunities for individuals with personal experience with adoption and foster care to communicate directly with policymakers in an effort to better serve children in need of families.
CCAI hosts events designed to supplement federal policymakers intuitive knowledge, often derived from charts, statistics and reports, with insights gained through personal interaction with those who live these issues every day. Whenever possible, CCAI partners with other research and advocacy organizations who have relevant answers to the specific questions policymakers have on the important issues. Past events have focused on foster adoptive parent recruitment and post adoption services.
Issued bimonthly, these newsletters provide information about newly released reports and research, current and upcoming events, and updates on pending foster care and adoption legislation.
CCAI invites Congressional staff to participate in educational trainings where they learn about complex issues and become better equipped to serve families and orphans. Our most recent institute was a training on intercountry adoption processing.
These alerts provide federal policymakers with up-to-the-minute information on legislation related to foster care and adoption.
'In Focus' Reports
These reports provide Member offices with basic facts and a legislative history for a specific topic to ensure policymakers understand issues affecting children. Recent reports covered the topics of the Adoption Tax Credit and Title IV-E Foster Care Waivers.
When situations arise that threaten children's basic right to a family, CCAI plays a key role in advancing letters from Members of Congress to high level officials with the power to make change. Our efforts have resulted in over 300 Members of Congress signing letters to U.S. officials and dignitaries from around the world.
Each year, CCAI assists over 1,100 families who are in the adoption process but have delayed cases due to unusual circumstances.
Post Adoption Services Briefing
May 10, 2011
The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, Voice for Adoption, North American Council on Adoptable Children, Child Welfare League of America, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, and the Center for Adoption Support and Education co-sponsored a briefing on Post Adoption Services. Special guest Senator Amy Klobuchar made remarks, followed by experts from the research and practice field who discussed the following: what are post adoption services and how are they assisting adoptive families, what are the trends related to adoption, what is the need for post adoption services, and specific ways policymakers can address this issue. Adoptive families also shared their real life experiences.
Click below for full footage of the briefing and resources that were released at the event:
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. Diedre 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.
State Representative Ballard raised the concern that while foster youth in Kansas can attend college paid for by the state as a result of being a ward of the state, they lack housing, financial support to cover living expenses, and lack the family support needed to succeed. She pointed out that when the lack of these services cause youth fail to complete their education, they go on to survive in welfare, in prison systems, and are not contributing, tax-paying members of society.
State Senator McGill noted that Nebraska is in the midst of child welfare reform which has caused her to look deeper into this important topic. She said that in doing so she has seen that many children are coming into foster care either because of their own mental and behavioral health problems or because of their parents’ mental health problems. Despite this reality, the system lacks mental health professionals with a clear understanding or these issues or how to treat them. She called on her colleagues to look into what can be done to increase both the opportunity for families to receive support services but to increase the competency of those providing them.
State Senator Simmons from Mississippi raised the need for federal funding to support extended family members who step in to provide care. He pointed out that a substantial number of children in care have family members that are willing and able to parent the child, but that they are unable to bear the financial burden that often comes with taking these children in. Rep. Karen Bass suggested that part of this problem is a lack of public awareness. She used the example that in California, where she faced opposition from lawmakers who agreed that relatives caring for children is natural, but then asked why would they require funding from the state?
State Representative Scott, also from Mississippi, stressed that one purpose for foster care should be to “break the cycle.” She said there are kids in care in Mississippi who are 13, and have a 27 year old mother and a 45 year old grandmother. For these children, kinship care is not a good option. Rep. Scott has introduced a bill to build a residential school for teenage foster youth. It is her hope that providing these young people a safe place to live and a hope for a future, they can go on to be a successful adult. Sen. Mary Landrieu responded by saying DC’s SEED School, where President Obama signed the Serve America Act in 2009, is a similar idea and that she supports the idea of using education as a way to “break the cycle” of care.
State Representative Esquibel highlighted that in Wyoming, there is a problem that natural born children are being placed in foster care when their immigrant parents are deported. He suggested looking into a pathway for citizenship for their parents instead of leaving the children without family in the foster care system.
112th New Congress Forum
March 9, 2011
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.
Visit our blog to read what the Members of Congress had to say. To read what the speakers had to say, please visit our blog, or click on their names below: Jeromy Smith, international adoptive father; Nicole Dobbins, former foster youth and foster care adoption advocate; or Christina Miranda, former foster youth. The presenters brought most of the room to tears and helped Members realize that the 112th Congress has some work ahead of them to improve the foster care and adoption systems. Members shared their commitment to use their position to bring these issues to Congress and strive to make a change.
National Prayer Breakfast
February 4, 2011
CCAI hosted a reception entitled "Faith in Action: Answering the Call to Serve the World’s Orphans” to highlight the need for the world’s 163 million orphans to find forever families and to encourage leaders and advocates to continue their work on these issues. This reception took place the evening before the National Prayer Breakfast and was attended by federal policymakers, business executives, and world leaders. Sen. Mary Landrieu and Sen. James Inhofe, the Co-chairs of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, and CCAI Advisory Board members, spoke on behalf of Congress’ adoption caucus highlighting the need for legislation to be created that will promote the well-being of children in need of families.
Intercountry Adoption Caseworker Training
December 10, 2010
On Friday, December 10th, CCAI hosted a training for Congressional staff and caseworkers who handle intercountry adoption issues. During the training, the Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provided in-depth information about the process involved in international adoption. Our goal was to better equip staffers as they serve constituent families who are in the process of adopting. Legislation that relates to immigration, intercountry adoption, and child citizenship was discussed, as well as the forms constituents need to file, and the visa processing. Congressional staff had questions ranging from how legal permanent residents are treated versus U.S. citizens when adopting internationally, to where USCIS forms must be filed, to how a disrupted adoption affects prospective adoptive parents who are seeking to adopt again. CCAI received positive feedback from Congressional staff that the training was an effective tool to educate them on these processes and unique cases. CCAI is pleased to work with the DOS and USCIS to make these trainings possible in an effort to serve adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents.
May 21, 2010
On May 21, 2010, CCAI hosted the Building a Strong Foundation for Children and Families of Haiti convening at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. The purpose of this convening was to bring together experts from various child welfare and protection organizations to discuss the short- and long-term needs of Haiti’s vulnerable children and to determine how to support the efforts of Haiti’s government as it develops an appropriate plan to meet these needs. This important convening provided the critical opportunity to share, listen and learn about the most effective ways to serve children and families in Haiti now, and how to build a strong foundation for them in the future. Many experts and friends of vulnerable children around the globe attended in support of this nation’s leaders. Seventy-two participants attended representing forty-eight organizations and nine congressional offices. We are especially grateful for the participation of His Excellency Raymond Joseph, Ambassador from Haiti; Minister Yves Cristalin, Minister of Social Affairs and Labor; and Senator Mary Landrieu. The morning session consisted of three panels who discussed a wide variety of issues spanning across several disciplines. The presenters addressed the current situation in Haiti and the international response; Haiti’s child welfare system pre- and post- earthquake; and the best practices and lessons learned in family-based care. Video of each of the presenters as well as their individual PowerPoint presentations can be found on our Haiti convening web page at CCAI’s Haiti convening web page. The afternoon was spent in an open roundtable discussion among all participants to share concerns and offer solutions. The discussion topics included: the basic building blocks of an effective child welfare system, the human rights implications of the restavek system, and how NGOs could more effectively work with the Haitian government. CCAI will continue to update Congressional staff of news and initiatives concerning Haiti’s efforts toward rebuilding their child welfare system.
Best Practices in Foster Adoptive Parent Recruitment
May 13, 2010
In continuing to celebrate National Foster Care Month, on May 13th, CCAI hosted a briefing to discuss what the federal government can be doing to improve parent recruitment for youth in foster care. Several experts on foster parent recruitment and foster care adoption addressed federal policymakers and advocates to highlight what they have learned from the field.
Guatamala 900 Families Hold May Congressional Briefing
May 6, 2010
On May 6th, the “Guatemala 900” families hosted a briefing for congressional staff,representatives at the Department of State, and a representative of the Guatemalan Embassy in D.C. on the status of their pending adoptions in Guatemala. The Guatemala 900 Executive Team made presentations and presented Power-Point materials on the current situation many waiting families are facing and the responses they have received from government authorities to date. Time was also allocated for the families who traveled to D.C. to briefly share their stories, and then a question and answer session took place. Fernando de la Cerda, Ministry Counsel from the Guatemalan Embassy spoke to the families about their cases and shared his understanding of their status. The Guatemala 900 families left the Hill feeling as though their voices were heard by their elected representatives and the Administration, and that they had gained momentum in what has been a long wait. “Our adoptive families emerged from the briefing revitalized and better equipped to advocate on behalf of the hundreds of children stuck in this horrible limbo. Since the briefing, we’re seeing new levels of activity and initiatives from Congress and the other government agencies. We look forward to real progress as a result. The Guatemala 900 is tremendously grateful to CCAI’s assistance. Their help in hosting the briefing transformed us from a bunch of frustrated and confused adoptive families into an educated and active political force.” - Colleen Crowley, Guatemala 900 Executive Team.
Congressman Albio Sires (NJ) Hosts Adoption Fraud Roundtable The Office of Congressman Albio Sires hosted a highly informative roundtable discussion on the prevention and prosecution of adoption fraud on March 30th. CCAI collaborated with the congressman’s office to identify expert presenters as well as members of the adoption community to participate in the roundtable discussion.
Expert panels presented and discussion followed. Ann Reese with Center on Adoption Policy and Anna Mary Coburn, Attorney-Advisor with USAID Office of General Council presented on the prevention of adoption fraud, along with Professor David Smolin of University of Cumberland School of Law. Kathleen Hammond, Trial Attorney with the Department of Justice’s Fraud Section, Criminal Division presented on prosecution of adoption fraud along with Julie Turner, Senior Associate with Scadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Specifically, the discussion and presentations concentrated on two proposals to help combat international adoption fraud: the possibility of accreditation for all adoption service providers in the United States as outlined in the Hague Convention, an international agreement on inter-country adoption, and how federal laws could better deter fraudulent practices and assist in the prosecution of illegal inter-country adoption. Congressman Sires is currently exploring the possibility of universal accreditation of inter-country adoption service providers. For more information on the roundtable findings and discussion, contact Hannah Izon in Congressman Sires office.
CCAI Celebrates Launch of Legatum Institute's "EACH Campaign"
March 30, 2010
On March 30, 2010 the Legatum Institute in London launched the EACH Campaign dedicated to educating and advocating for policies and systems that protect every child’s right to a family. The EACH Campaign is a global effort to mobilize all those concerned about children who have been orphaned, abandoned or otherwise separated from their parents to ensure each child’s right to a family is protected. Its goals are to increase awareness of every child’s need for family care and support, to prioritize family-based care for children without it, to highlight country specific innovations that provide a way forward, and to promote best practices for family strengthening, reunification and adoption globally.
The EACH Campaign Principles highlight that:
• EACH child should grow up in a safe and loving family
• The best interests of EACH child should determine their solution
• Preventing separation and promoting permanency should be prioritized for EACH child
• Families, societies and governments should work together to serve EACH child
The launch event featured discussions on International Child Protection/Alternative Care and Family Policy/ Adoption. Representatives from El Salvador, Georgia, Honduras, Rwanda, and Great Britain as well as a video address by Senators Mary Landrieu and James Inhofe, Co-Chairs of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, focused on the importance of commitment and cooperation to ensure a child’s right to a family is protected. The EACH Campaign will continue to bring together the many individuals, organizations and governments working on particular aspects of the problem. We all believe that through greater advocacy and more effective collaboration we can strengthen families, improve child welfare policies and institutions, reform legal frameworks for child protection, and promote familybased care that serves the needs of each child.
CCAI is proud to be a partner of the EACH Campaign, as the two organizations’ missions align with strikingly common goals, and looks forward to opportunities to collaborate on key projects to promote the building of capacity within international child welfare systems and the removal of structural and policy barriers to placing children in loving families. Please join us in supporting the campaign by using its resources to spread the word and generate more attention to these important issues globally. For fur ther informat ion on the EACH Campaign please visit www.eachcampaign.org The EACH Campaign films are available for sharing on YouTube via www.youtube.com/user/eachcampaign Support the EACH Campaign and invite others to follow them by becoming a fan on Facebook www.facebook.com/pages/EACH-Campaign/110851375608542?ref=ts or following them on Twitter www.twitter.com (@EACHCampaign).
Innovation in Action
A core part of CCAI’s mission is to bring dedicated people together with a common goal of eliminating barriers to adoption, and the CCAI Advisory Board is no different. The board is composed of Members of Congress, business leaders, child welfare experts, and longtime adoption advocates. In a meeting last summer, Representative Cooper (TN-05) expressed his concerns about inefficiencies and obsolete business practices in the child welfare system; another board member, Elmer Doty, the President and CEO of Vought Aircraft Industries, Inc., responded with an offer to lend his Six Sigma Black Belt team to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services to study their adoption processes and expedite them so that every child can belong to a loving family as soon as possible.
With the blessing of the Commissioner of Children’s Services in Tennessee, Mr. Doty deployed a team of three Six Sigma Black Belts and a project coordinator to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services to begin work. Using standard Six Sigma tools and methodologies, the team, working with the leadership of DCS, identified an area with a lot of potential for substantial improvement: across the state, there is a significant regional variance in the process of finalizing adoptions as well as the timeliness of adoptions for children who are in full guardianship with a family identified. What has resulted is a thorough, fact-based examination of the key processes of finalizing these adoptions, and finding ways to reduce the variance across regions. The team expects to implement recommendations this month and begin tracking data over the coming year. Tennessee is in many ways a model site for a study like this, because it has made such tremendous gains over the past several years. If successful, the study will demonstrate what improvements can be made in any agency to improve outcomes for children and families.
Letters Urge the Kyrgyz Republic to Unite Children with Families
February 1, 2010
On February 1st, Members of Congress signed letters to the Kyrgyz Republic’s Prime Minister Dani yar Usenov and President Kurmanbek Bakiyev urging that they work to finalize the adoptions of the Kyrgyz orphans that 65 U.S. families were in the process of adopting when the Kyrgyz Republic halted intercountry adoption processing over a year ago. The congressional letters served as cover letters to a letter that these 65 U.S. adoptive families – along with National Council for Adoption and Joint Council on International Children’s Services – signed requesting that the adoptions of the children they have been matched with resume processing and be completed as soon as possible.
Senator Bob Casey (PA) coordinated the Senate cover letter, signed by 19 Senators; and Representative Michele Bachmann (MN) organized the House cover letter, signed by 31 Representatives. “These children deserve to be united with families who will show them love, protect them, and ensure their proper development,” the House letter stated. All three letters were delivered together by representatives from the U.S. adoptive families on a visit to the Kyrgyz Republic on February 5, 2010. CCAI will continue to work with congressional offices and keep staff informed of any news regarding adoptions from the Kyrgyz Republic.
CCAI Responds to Haitan Earthquake
January 12, 2010
On January 12th, 2010, Haiti experienced a devastating 7.0 earthquake. Within a day, CCAI began receiving inquiries from U.S. adoptive families and Congressional offices as to the status of the adoptions of the more than 1000 orphans U.S. families had been matched with prior to the quake. On Friday, January 15th, CCAI hosted its quarterly briefing with officials from the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues and the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices. Almost the entire 1½ hour briefing was dedicated to the subject of these adoptions out of Haiti.
Throughout the following month, CCAI has worked closely with these U.S. Departments to keep Congressional staff updated to the latest breaking news on these adoptions and the congressional response to the earthquake generally. Our homepage offers a link to information on Haitian adoptions where Congressional staff and adoptive families can find official updates from the U.S. Departments as well as Congressional letters signed on this topic. CCAI also created a Frequently Asked Questions document for Congressional staff to refer to and forward as they receive questions from constituents – whether adoptive parents or not. CCAI continues to work with Members of Congress to address the issues remaining in the pre-matched adoptions of Haitian orphans, as well as the questions surrounding the plight of those children who remain in an extremely vulnerable state in Haiti after the quake. We exist to be a resource to Congressional offices and will continue to update Congressional staff of news and initiatives as information becomes available.
CCAI Hosts Recess Institute
December 11, 2009
On December 11, 2010, CCAI hosted its first “Recess Institute” – a specialized training for congressional staff that work on adoption issues. Representatives from the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues and the Department of Homeland Security’s International Operations Office prepared training materials and presentations for the day-long training on intercountry adoption and CCAI coordinated logistical details to make the event a success. Twenty-three offices participated, including state and district staff members who flew to Washington, D.C. to attend the training at the Capitol Visitors Center. Trainees were provided with a binder prepared specifically for congressional staff and filled with information and guidance on intercountry adoptions. CCAI received positive reviews from staff who attended, and plans to coordinate with the Departments of State and Homeland Security in the future to offer this and similar trainings to Congressional staff.
CASA Santa's Wish List Program a Success!
December 7-11, 2009
Again this year, CCAI partnered with CASA of DC to find Congressional offices to fill the wish lists of over 50 children. Armed with the wish list as their guide for the child's interests and sizes, Congressional staff purchased gifts with their own personal resources and dropped the gifts at CCAI for distribution to the children. This program is important because over 2,000 children in DC alone have been removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect. For some, this will be the first holiday they spend apart from their families. The goal of this program is to ease the stress of this major transition.
CCAI would like to thank the following offices for their unparalleled generosity: Senators Kent Conrad, Dick Durbin, Michael Enzi, John Kerry, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Jay Rockefeller, Arlen Specter, Mark Udall, George Voinovich; Representatives Tammy Baldwin, Dave Camp, Michael Capuano, John Conyers, Dennis Cardoza, Peter DeFazio, Bill Foster, Scott Garrett, Kay Granger, Jim Langevin, Jim Matheson, Gary Miller, Jim Oberstar, Ron Paul, Linda Sanchez, Todd Tiahrt, Peter Welch, Rob Wittman, C.W. Bill Young.
Using Yesterday to Shape Tomorrow: FYI Interns Host Congressional Briefing
July 23, 2009
On July 23, the 2009 Foster Youth Internship (FYI) Program culminated in a Congressional briefing in which the FYIs presented their recommendations for improving Foster Care. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), congressional staff, members of the adoption and foster care community, and members of the press were in attendance. The report - Using Yesterday to Shape Tomorrow: Uniting 500,000 Foster Youth Voices for One Mission - was designed to take its readers on a journey through the lives of youth in care. The FYIs drew from their experiences to present a clearer picture of what life is like for the children currently living in U.S. foster care. The report is divided into three sections: Relationships, Health and Education, and Youth Voices. Each section represents the challenges that the FYIs saw facing youth in care. They included a need for mentoring, support for foster and adoptive families, more comprehensive health coverage, regulated attorney and caseworker caseloads, and a voice in the courts.
At the briefing, the FYIs presented their report and recommendations, followed by a Q&A time with the audience. They fielded questions on their education in foster care, what makes a good foster parent, how this experience has changed their life, and their views on being adopted. Several staffers who had an opportunity to work with the FYIs throughout the summer expressed their appreciation for the FYIs willingness to share their stories. Senator Landrieu expressed her appreciation to the Congressional offices and committees that provided the FYIs with the opportunity to intern on the Hill and expressed gratitude to the FYIs for the difference that they had made this summer. Kathleen Strottman, executive director of CCAI, reflected on what she had learned from the FYIs. She said, “There are a lot of things that amaze me about these young leaders. I am amazed by the amount of great adversity they have come through to get to where they are today. I am amazed by their unyielding capacity to love and care for one another. And I am amazed that after all they have experienced that they somehow still have the courage and the conviction to want to affect change on behalf of others.” At the end of the briefing, the FYIs were given a standing ovation by the 130 briefing attendees. To view an electronic version of the report visit, clickhere. Footage of the briefing is available here!
CCAI Foster Youth Interns Participate in Congressional Roundtable
July 16, 2009
On Thursday, July 16, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, and the National Foster Care Coalition hosted a panel discussion on teen pregnancy prevention among foster youth. Senator Mary Landrieu, Rep. Joseph Crowley and a panel of experts and advocates on the issue, including Amy Dworsky, a senior researcher at the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall participated in the discussion. According to Dworsky, an author of the noted Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth report, one-third of girls in foster care have given birth to a child by age 19. “We should be concerned,” she said. Dworsky, after presenting her research, noted the significant positive impact that extending foster care to age 21 has had on reducing pregnancies among foster youth in states where it is done. One of the subjects discussed by the panel was the need for increased training of foster parents and child welfare workers on how to approach sex education with foster children. Panelist Susan Badeau, who has been a foster parent to more than 75 children, discussed the importance of being open and honest about the topics. CCAI Foster Youth Interns Miranda Sheffield and Alixes Rosado were also members of the panel. They each shared parts of their personal stories of becoming parents while in foster care as the panel discussion ensued.
Post-Adoption Services Briefing Includes CCAI Foster Youth Interns
July 16, 2009
On July 16 Voice for Adoption organized a Congressional briefing on the importance of post-adoptions services that allowed Congressional staff the opportunity to hear from a panel with firsthand knowledge of the need for these services to be federally funded. Following opening remarks by CCAI Foster Youth Intern and adoptee, Crystal Lipek, the panel was introduced. It included adoptive parent Kelly Harrington, adoptee Serena Pickle, adoptive parent Paula Pickle, Casey Center for Effective Child Welfare Practice Director Sarah Greenblatt and Executive Director of The Center for Adoption Support & Education Debbie Riley. Harrington discussed her experience as the adoptive parent of a son with special needs and the loss of services she experienced immediately after adopting him from foster care. “One by one the therapists called to say they could no longer come,” she said. Serena Pickle shared her story next. After experiencing 14 foster home placements by age 4, she finally found a foster family that wanted to adopt her. The adoptive family had to move from Tennessee to Colorado just so that they could receive the services that Serena needed and would no longer have received in their home state. Serena’s mother, Paula Pickle, now runs a post-adoption resources organization in Colorado. She stated that 62% of adoptive families have just minimal needs, and those with more needs are sometimes forced to place children back into the system when they see no other option for receiving the services their children require. “We can’t place the burden on these families,” she said. Greenblatt, with 30 years of experience in social work, said that providing for the continuation of medical and therapeutic services after adoption is “necessary to help break the logjam of adoptions” from the foster care system. “These services are only provided on a patchwork basis throughout the country,” she added. Riley offered a startling statistic: 8-18% of finalized special needs adoptions end up dissolving, very often because necessary services are not available or are too expensive. “We need to act now to create a funding stream for post-adoption services,” she urged.
Kyrgyz Officials Discuss Adoption Ban
May 29, 2009
On May 29, government officials from the Kyrgyz Republic met with representatives of the sixty - five American families whose adoptions have been delayed since February, when the Kyrgyz government announced that it would not be processing adoptions until new adoption legislation is implemented. Representatives from more than twenty Congressional offices also joined the Kyrgyz officials. Several parents discussed their challenges as adoptive parents of children who remain in Kyrgyz orphanages. The Kyrgyz officials, national parliament members Gulnara Derbisheva and Damira Niazalieva, and child protection expert Ekatrina Khoroshman of the Prime Minister’s office, said they would try to make sure that the adoptions are completed “as soon as possible.” The Kyrgyz officials were greatly encouraged by the strong congressional support for the waiting families that was demonstrated in the meeting. During the meeting, the officials answered questions from Congressional staff. They encouraged the staff to continue to raise the visibility of these families’ cases and to stay in communication with the Kyrgyz government. Sixteen members came together to write a follow-up letter thanking the officials for their dedication to the issue. “We very much appreciate your willingness to do whatever is necessary to see that these cases are given appropriate and timely consideration.”
CCAI Joins Rosie O’Donnell and Lifetime Television in Hosting Congressional Screening of Foster Care Movie “America”
May 6, 2009
On Wednesday, May 6, CCAI hosted Rosie O’Donnell and Lifetime Television on Capitol Hill for a Congressional Screening of the Lifetime Original Movie America produced by and starring Rosie O’Donnell.
“Based on E.R. Frank’s book of the same name, the film takes viewers on the emotional journey of seventeen-year-old America as he navigates the United States foster care system. O’Donnell leads the cast as a therapist who gives America the support to deal with his troubled past and find the courage to survive against all odds.”
The day’s events included:
A morning press conference attended by Rosie O’Donnell, Senator Mary Landrieu, Representative Joseph Crowley, and several alumni of CCAI’s Foster Youth Internship (FYI) Program. The press conference called attention to that evening’s Screening of the movie America as well as the need for Congress to act quickly to pass the Foster Care Mentoring Act (S.986), which outlines a wide variety of strategies for recruiting young men and women to serve as mentors to youth in foster care.
Several exclusive press interviews with Rosie O’Donnell and Senator Mary Landrieu including Newsweek Magazine, Greta Van Sustren of Fox News (click here for the transcript of the interview and to find a link to the video), and Norah O’Donnell of MSNBC.
A luncheon attended by Rosie O’Donnell, Daryl McDaniels (Run DMC), Senator Mary Landrieu, Senator Olympia Snowe, Representative Jim McDermott and five former foster youth from CCAI’s FYI Program.
A screening of the Lifetime Original Movie America starring Rosie O’Donnell in the Capital Visitor Center’s North Theater. A question & answer session with the audience and Rosie O’Donnell.
CCAI commends actress Rosie O’Donnell and Lifetime Television for their commitment to using media and film to raise awareness of the needs of children in foster care across the United States, and looks forward to continuing to partner with them on behalf of children in need of homes.
Members Urge Reform in Romania
May 5, 2009
With the help of CCAI, twenty-one Members of Congress signed a letter to Romania’s newly elected Foreign Minister to urge reform of current law in order to allow intercountry adoption and “more fully promote and support permanent parental care for children.” The letter makes note of Romania’s own startling estimate that 86,000 children are currently in state care in the country. Romania banned intercountry adoption in 2001. “We continue to support your goal of developing a reformed system for international adoption,” the letter said, “but the delay in reform should not occur at the expense of the children already matched with adoptive families in the United States or elsewhere.” The letter was delivered to the Foreign Minister during his meeting with Secretary Clinton that week.
CCAI was pleased to join the Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS) in facilitating meetings between Members of Congress and a delegation from Vietnam invited to the US by the Joint Council on International Children’s Services. The delegation was led by Vietnam’s Vice Minister of Justice and comprised of seven other officials and legislative experts each with authorities related to Vietnam’s international adoption laws and policies.
During their visit, the Vietnamese delegation met with the US Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Office of Children’s Issues regarding the possibility of a new Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to facilitate adoptions from Vietnam while it works toward becoming party to the Hague Convention. The delegation also attending working sessions with the Departments of State and Health and Human Services on implementation of the Hague Convention and were appreciative of this training, requesting continued technical assistance on this subject in the future. The delegation also participated an afternoon tea hosted by Senator Mary Landrieu and attended by staff from Senators Durbin, Feingold, Mendoza and Kerry, and Congressman Boozman’s offices, followed by a separate meeting with Congressman Bill Delahunt. The Senator and office representatives shared their continued support of efforts to reestablish intercountry adoptions with Vietnam and a new MOA while anticipating future Hague implementation. These Congressional offices are representative of the 149 Members who signed the July 7, 2008 letter to Secretary Rice in support of a new MOA with Vietnam.
Additionally, CCAI hosted a meeting between the delegation and several US families who are still trying to complete pending adoptions in Vietnam. The delegation stated they would review the families’ requests after returning to Vietnam. As a result of the visit, the Vice Minister of Justice agreed to create a team of Vietnamese and US experts to work toward a new MOA and Hague implementation, as well as extended an invitation to US experts to travel to Vietnam in May to continue these dialogues.
Members, Seymour Discuss Reform
March 31, 2009
2004 National Angel in Adoption™ award recipient Jane Seymour joined Members of Congress and CCAI Board of Directors and staff for a discussion on ways that public figures might work together to improve outcomes foster and orphaned youth. As part of the discussion, CCA Members, Senator Landrieu, Congressman Cooper, Congressman McDermott and Congressman Pomeroy, and Ms. Seymour discussed a wide variety of specific opportunities to increase public awareness of the needs of children in need of safe, loving, and permanent families. increasing mentoring opportunities was one specific solution proposed by the group. Statistics show that at-risk adolescents in foster care who are connected with non-parent mentors have more positive outcomes later as adults in both health and educational achievement. A large part of the dialogue was centered on ways that they as public figures might contribute to national efforts to encourage more individuals to consider mentoring, fostering, or adopting these children. In 2004, Jane Seymour was selected as a National Angel in Adoption™ because of her extensive child welfare work in the U.S. and abroad. Ms. Seymour’s insight into the effective use of film and media to raise awareness and generate action on behalf of foster and orphaned youth is indispensable to the work of the CCA and CCAI. CCAI looks forward to translating the ideas generated as a part of this event into action.
Each year as Congress re-convenes, they face a host of urgent business and new challenges. This year more than ever, Congress came into session facing unprecedented economic challenges, budget short falls and intense media scrutiny of their agendas and priorities. In the midst of these pressures, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Members and their staff gathered in the U.S. Capitol to discuss their priorities for the 111th Congress regarding children in need of permanent families around the world. Senator Evan Bayh, Senator Ben Cardin, Senator James Inhofe, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Representative Michelle Bachmann, Representative Jim Cooper, Representative Jim McDermott, and Representative Earl Pomeroy joined in the conversation led by CCA Co-chair, Senator Mary Landrieu. Members and their staff presented their individual priorities and related work to address policy barriers facing children in need of homes. Special guest, Josh Dubois, Director of the office of White House faith based initiatives, greeted members and reiterated the Obama Administration’s commitment to work with Congress on foster care, adoption, orphans issues.
CCAI Hosts Reception for Delegations to National Prayer Breakfast
February 4, 2009
This February, government leaders and concerned citizens from around the globe gathered in Washington for the National Prayer Breakfast. CCA members Senator Sam Brownback, Senator James Inhofe, Senator Mark Pryor, and Senator Mary Landrieu invited Natioanl Prayer Breakfast participants to the Hill for a receiption and conversation on how government and faith communities can better cooperate to serve the needs of orphaned children. Senator Sam Brownback was one of several members who greeted attendees and invited their participation with Congressional efforts regarding orphans and vulnerable children. The evening’s most inspiring speaker may have been Zagita Marie Repart, 7-year-old granddaughter of Senator Inhofe. Zagita was adopted from Ethiopia, and spoke eloquently of what the new family means to her and her support of her grandfather's advocacy for Africa's orphans and vulnerable children.