Foster child's death gets attention of lawmakers
Michelle Cole and Susan Goldsmith
SALEM -- State leaders promised Monday to write legislation that would better protect Oregon foster children sent to live with relatives in other countries.
"We simply cannot risk the life of a single child who is in the care and custody of Oregon. We will act this session to protect foster children adopted internationally," said House Speaker Dave Hunt, D-Gladstone.
Read Adrianna's story and add your comment or ask a question of the reporters.
Hunt and Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, issued a joint statement in response to a series by The Oregonian that described how child welfare authorities failed to protect 4-year-old Adrianna Romero Cram.
The legislative leaders said they have asked the Judiciary and Human Services committees to write the new laws.
More than 200 readers also contacted the newspaper in response to the report.
Adrianna, taken into foster care when she was 1 year old, was sent by the state to live with relatives in Omealca, Mexico, in July 2004. She was still under the state's jurisdiction when she was murdered in June 2005. Her aunt and uncle, selected by Oregon authorities to adopt the little girl, were convicted of aggravated murder.
Adrianna's teachers in Mexico told The Oregonian that they'd tried to find help for the bruised and battered girl but couldn't get local child welfare workers to act. Their efforts are detailed in Mexican court records.
"We can no longer count on authorities in other countries to take care of Oregon's children. Lives are at stake," said Courtney.
In an interview Monday, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski said "much more can be done" to ensure that the children the state sends out of the country to live with relatives are safe.
"This whole idea of international adoption is something we probably never thought about 30 years ago. It's a reflection of the global world in which we live in," the Democratic governor said. "We have to recognize that this is going to occur more often."
The Oregon Department of Human Services has placed 27 children for adoption outside the country since October 1999.
Last week, as The Oregonian prepared to publish Adrianna's story, the agency announced a moratorium on international adoptions from state foster care while it confers with the U.S. State Department about what Oregon needs to do to meet the requirements of The Hague Adoption Convention.
The Hague treaty, which took effect last year, is intended to protect children from abuse or exploitation.
Kulongoski said a temporary halt to out-of-country adoptions is the right thing for the state to do. The governor said his office called the White House last week to notify federal authorities of the state's moratorium, which could last 60 days or more.
State lawmakers said Monday that they will draft legislation to bring Oregon into compliance with The Hague treaty.
A second bill would ensure that child welfare workers thoroughly review a home and family before placing a child outside the United States and require regular reports once he or she is there.
Rep. Carolyn Tomei, D-Milwaukie, chairwoman of the House Human Services Committee, said state law should require that a child welfare agency in another country see a child every 30 days, just as state workers are required to do.
And, Tomei said, "when there's a problem that they let us know immediately."