Kill the bill: the Families for Orphans Act and the fraudulent ideology of permanency

Two months ago, we published an article about the Families for Orphans Act 2009, a piece of legislation co-authored by the Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS), a trade association for adoption service providers. We do believe in the power of repetition and in the need to oppose this bill, so today we will again pay attention to this attempt to institutionalize federal promotion of inter-country adoption practices on behalf of adoption service providers.

The Families for Orphans Act is the result of a lobbying effort of the so called  Families for Orphans Coalition, of which JCICS is the self-proclaimed leader, claiming to have written this specific bill. The proposed legislation is every adoption agency's pipe dream, unfortunately it is at the expense of children and vulnerable families.

The language of the bill is strongly embedded in the strictly American notion of permanency, which finds its roots in several studies of foster care children in the mid-1970's.

Faced with an explosive growth of children in foster care, researchers studied the effects of long-term foster care versus the effects of adoption from foster care and decided that on average adoption from foster care has better outcomes than long-term foster care. Based on these finding the notion of permanency was developed.

Policy makers, confronted with the explosive growth of children in foster care, sought means to cut the ever growing cost of child welfare programs. The findings that children in foster care fared worse on average than those being adopted, helped create the idea that foster care, which was defined as temporary, was worse than measures that were considered permanent.

Thus the child welfare system itself was declared evil, and getting children out of the system became the ultimate goal. As a result the notion of care landed on the back burner. The only possible care was seen as outside of the system, never within the system.

It's not hard to see why this ideology is so popular with law makers. When the child welfare system is defined as incapable of providing care, no responsibility has to be taken for the welfare of children.

Permanency is defined in two direction, either a child is reunited with its original family, or parental rights are being removed and a child is being made available for adoption. This bipolar approach to child placement negates all circumstances where children are better off in long term foster care, or where they fare best in an institutional setting.

Mark Twain was not entirely off the mark when he claimed:  "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."  The use of the research into the outcome of child placement measures is a perfect example of that. The keyword often missed in the debate about permanency is "average".

It may be true that on average children being adopted from foster care fare better than those that stay in long-term foster care, but that doesn't mean it is true for all children. There are children that cannot live with their parents, but do better when ties with their original family are being maintained. There are children for whom a family-style living arrangement is not in their best interest. There are children for whom informal placement within their family is the best possible solution.

Neglecting the fact adoption only works better on average, has created a rigid ideology in which an artificial preference ladder has been created in which adoption is always better than foster care, which in turn is always better than institutionalization.

This same line of reasoning has been applied to the results of the Bucharest Early Intervention Project. The research performed in this study shows that children in foster care on average fare better than children in institutions. Children in institutions on average show a developmental delay compared to children in high quality foster care.

This particularly study has in the past years been used and abused to great extent to further the cause of inter-country adoption. Dana Johnson , one of the participants in the study has even become a board member of JCICS. In a recently leaked document of the JCICS, the presence of Dana Johnson on their board was mentioned as something that lends the trade organization for adoption service providers some credibility.

The permanency ideology, furthered by inappropriate interpretation of scientific research, has created a one-size-fits-all solution, where tailor-made solutions should be provided. Instead of determining the needs of each child, case by case, family reunification is tried and when that fails, adoption is the default solution.

Family reunification and family preservation, while part of the permanency ideology, are in the context of foster care in the United States, underutilized. Ever since permanency was formalized in the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, budget cuts have gutted family preservation programs, while more and more money has been put into adoption. This is partially due to the cost effectiveness of family preservation programs. The less a program costs, the less money can be spent on lobbying for its existence. Wasteful programs have therefore more longevity than effective programs.

Another reason for the under-utilization of family preservation is fear of repeated abuse. If a child gets abused after being reunited with its original family, the press will vilify authorities. As a result, It is much safer for decision makers to remove a child permanently, even at the risk of abuse in foster care or adoptive families. If re-abuse happens post-placement, it is seen as a separate case, one that could not be prevented, while abuse after reunification is seen in the context of the original removal, hence could and should have been prevented.

To further eliminate the significance of family preservation, child welfare workers have developed the principle of concurrent planning, where the family preservation route is tried, while at the same time making all adoption preparations. Since adoption is the automatic fall back scenario, any failure to preserve a family results in adoption. So it's not unlikely organizations will cash in the money for family preservation, while at the same time go full steam ahead towards adoption. What concurrent planning really does is put two separate flows of money in the hands of one organization, which benefits most when a child is eventually being adopted.

The Families for Orphans Act tries to further formalize the fraudulent permanency ideology in federal legislation, by enabling the State Department with the tools to coerce other countries into adopting America's bipolar obsession called permanency. The proposed law requests the creation of an Office for Orphan Policy Diplomacy and Development, which has a coordinating, monitoring and advisory task. The proposed law also authorizes the President to provide assistance, including trade and debt relief, to foreign countries that buy into the permanency ideology. That provision can and should be interpreted as paying foreign countries to make children available for the inter-country adoption market.

Despite all sorts of lip-service to family preservation/reunification and domestic adoption, all members of the Families for Orphan Coalition have stakes in inter-country adoption. There certainly is extra money to be made by playing along with concurrent planning, but most of the income can be made through inter-country adoption. So the Families for Orphans Act, while claiming to be working in the interest of children in Third World countries, is effectively a law to guarantee an influx of children for the inter-country adoption market.

From a business perspective the act makes perfect sense. Over the years countries have closed their borders time and again in response to corrupt inter-country adoption practices, costing the adoption providers millions of dollars. The Families for Orphans Act allows the United States to legally bribe sending countries to keep their borders open, or to legally bribe sending countries to reopen their borders for inter-country adoption. From a business perspective this is much needed. The number of children placed through Inter-country adoption is dwindling fast, and many adoption agencies are facing bankruptcy, just like their trade association JCICS.

From a moral perspective the Families for Orphans Act of 2009 is an abomination that should be killed. The act redefines "orphans" in such a way that many more children will be deemed adoptable than now is the case. A child placed in a foreign foster care system is defined an orphan, for whom an adoption plan should be made. A sick child, being at a hospital is defined an orphan, for whom an adoption plan should be made. A child living with other family members without legal formalization is an orphan, for whom an adoption plan should be made. A child living with its parents at a shelter is an orphan, for whom an adoption plan should be made.

The act should be called: Orphans for Agencies Act of 2009, that would better reflect the true intention behind this legislation. It creates extra orphans and helps to keep the gravy train running through financial coercion of sending countries.

Actions speak louder than words, so we would like to help bringing this bill to its grave. Readers of this post can make a small contribution to this cause by casting a vote against the Families for Orphans Act of 2009, using this widget from


JCICS co authored this bill?

I must be missing something here. If this bill passes, it will benefit the trade association that JCICS has spoken for --the Adoption Industry. In turn JCICS could benefit and become stronger from this. JCICS is looking for ways to clean up their image and credibility in hopes of keeping their doors open.
In light of the announcement JCICS made to their participating paid member association they need some money and fast.
That letter was a thinly disgused plea for more money and raising of their members dues. I would think most the members are going to think twice about membership with JCICS, if they are strapped financially and are not able to get any of the image or bills passed what is the point of this members only trade association? Not sure where being a JCICS member has benefited Adoption Agencies at all.

JCICS co authored this bill!!!

You are not missing anything. JCICS is the primary author of the Orphans for Agencies Act Families for Orphans Act and promotes the vehicle through the Families for Orphans Coalition, which consists of the following organizations:

The legislation is pushed in the Senate by Mary Landrieu, super star of the  Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Please read The Families for Orphans Act 2009 and the inter-country adoption agenda for a full exposé of the incestuous relations between law makers and the Family for Orphans Coalition.

JCICS is in panic mode and so are many adoption agencies, especially in the light of the following press release:

Foreign adoptions by Americans fall in FY 2009


NEW YORK — The number of foreign children adopted by Americans plunged by 27 percent in the 2009 fiscal year, reaching the lowest level since 1996 and prompting adoption advocates to urge Congress to help reverse the trend.

Big declines were recorded for all three countries that provided the most adopted children in 2008. In China and Russia, government officials have been trying to promote domestic adoptions. In Guatemala, a once-bustling but highly corrupt international adoption industry was shut down while reforms are implemented.

Figures for the 2009 fiscal year, released by the State Department on Thursday, showed 12,753 adoptions from abroad, down from 17,438 in 2008 and nearly 45 percent lower than the all-time peak of 22,884 in 2004.

Orphans for Agencies Act 2009

Here is a longer version of the AP article, in which the federal government is asked to pass the  Orphans for Agencies Act Families for Orphans Act.

Adoptions of foreign children by Americans drop to lowest level since 1996

Associated Press
NEW YORK — The number of foreign children adopted by Americans plunged more than a quarter in the past year, reaching the lowest level since 1996 and leading adoption advocates to urge Congress to help reverse the trend.

Big declines were recorded for all three countries that provided the most adopted children in the previous fiscal year. In China and Russia, government officials have been trying to promote domestic adoptions, while in Guatemala, a once-bustling but highly corrupt international adoption industry was shut down while reforms are implemented.

Figures for fiscal year 2009, released by the State Department on Thursday, showed 12,753 adoptions from abroad, down from 17,438 in 2008 — a dip of 27 percent and nearly 45 percent lower than the all-time peak of 22,884 in 2004.

The last time there were fewer foreign adoptions to the U.S. was in 1996, when there were 11,340.

China was the No. 1 source country in 2009 — but U.S. adoptions from there dropped to 3,001, compared with 3,909 in 2008. China has been steadily cutting back the numbers of healthy, well-adjusted orphans being made available for adoptions; a majority of Chinese children now available to U.S. adoptive families have special physical or emotional needs.

Guatemala was the No. 1 source country in 2008, with 4,123 adoptions by Americans. But the number sank to 756 for 2009, virtually all of them in the final few months before the Central American country's adoption industry was shut down while authorities drafted reforms. It's not known when adoptions to the U.S. will resume.

The biggest increase came from Ethiopia — 2,277 adoptions in fiscal 2009, compared with 1,725 in 2008.


Russia was No. 4 in the new listing with 1,586 adoptions, a 15 percent drop.

Adoptions from Vietnam — where the industry, like Guatemala's, has been plagued by corruption allegations — dropped from 751 to 481. The bilateral U.S.-Vietnam adoption agreement expired in September and has not been renewed.

Chuck Johnson, chief operating officer of the National Council for Adoption, said the new figures dismayed him and other advocates of international adoption.

"This drop is not a result of fewer orphans or less interest from American families in adopting children from other countries," he said. "All of us are very discouraged because we see the suffering taking place. We don't know how to fix it without the U.S. government coming alongside."

According to Johnson, the State Department considers its current adoption mandate to be assisting U.S. citizens with foreign adoption procedures and monitoring the integrity of foreign countries' adoption industries.

Johnson said he would like the mandate expanded to give the department explicit authority to encourage more international adoptions, and he suggested a first step could be made if Congress passed a proposed bill called the Families for Orphans Act.

Johnson also said all parties who have tolerated corrupt adoption practices bore some of the blame for the dwindling numbers.

"People in the practice of adoption worldwide have made ethical blunders that have cast a shadow over intercountry adoptions," he said. "It's highlighted how difficult it is for some of these countries to adequately supervise the adoption process, and led some countries to decide it's just not worth the effort."

Thomas DiFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children's Services, predicted the numbers for fiscal 2010 would be even lower — down to about 9,800 — if adoptions from Vietnam remained suspended by the U.S. government and China continued to cut back.

DiFilipo said he'd like to see the State Department become a more active promoter of international adoption.

"One of their primary functions is to help potential adoptive parents, when their focus should be on children in need of adoptive families," DiFilipo said. "The Families for Orphans Act would fill that void."

Adoptions of Chinese children by Americans peaked in fiscal 2005 at 7,906 and have fallen steadily since then. Some U.S. families have been waiting roughly four years for their adoption applications to be completed.

At Great Wall China Adoption, based in Austin, Texas, spokeswoman Kelly Ayoub said the agency placed nearly 1,000 children from China in 2005 and would probably place only one-fifth of that number this year.

"Of course families are frustrated by the wait," she said in an e-mail. "Families that are being matched right now have waited 45 months — an investment of time that no one expected."

Like some other agencies, Great Wall China is branching out geographically — advising families to consider Ethiopia, Rwanda, Mexico and the Philippines, among other places.

Among the Americans engaged in a long wait for an adoption from China is Steve Curtis of Millburn, N.J. He and his wife applied in October 2007 to adopt a second child as a sister to Amelia, whom they adopted from China the previous year.

"Unfortunately, we are STILL waiting, with no end in sight," Curtis said in an e-mail last week. "We're thinking of throwing in the towel but are keeping the faith."

JCICS authored bill - article about 13 yr. low foreign adoptions

JCICS- article sounds more like a sad campaign to gain national support for this bill.
I resent this bill even being presented at a time when our country has other issues pressing: unemployment, recession, national healthcare that STINKS!, etc.,
This is such small potatoes in the scheme of things.

EACH, Equality for Adoptive Children - legislature

There are many Adoption groups popping up under the Non-profit status to introduce more adoption bills to congress.

joined at the hip

The organization deceptively called Equality for Adopted Children (EACH), is not an adoption group that just popped up, but a lobby group formed to influence policy making. EACH is based in Washington DC on Massachusetts Ave NE, only a two minute walk away from the headquarters of the  Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute(CCAI).

CCAI, the organizers of the Angel in Adoption AwardTM, is of itself already a lobbying group, but  unique in its kind, consisting mainly of members of congress. Given the indisputable standing adoption has in American society, it is no wonder that half of the Senators and more than one hundred Representatives are member of CCAI.

The relationship between EACH and CCAI are not merely geographic. J. McLane Layton, founder of EACH is a former staffer of Sen. Don Nickles, himself a prominent member of the CCAI, while being in congress. Don Nickles is also a board member of EACH.Ms. Layton is not only founder and president of EACH, she is also a member of the  Special Advisory Board for CCAI.

Both Kerry Hasenbalg, former executive director of CCAI and current executive director Kathleen Strottman are board member of EACH too. Ms Strottmann is a former staffer of  Sen. Mary Landrieu, CCAI's super star, and responsible for the introduction of nearly all legislation related to adoption in the last decade. Ms. Hasenbalg's husband is executive director of Shaohannah's Hope.

and JCICS is trying to fix international adoptions?

This is crazy insane, trying to push through a pseudo bill for the rights of orphans - it is a thinly disgused marketing ploy for more inventory for the international adoption agencies.

At a time when the US cannot straighten out the issues in the US domestic adoptions? This story is sad but not unique.

Here are some novel ideas for any lawmaker trying to pass that bill:
a)How about we make ALL adoption agencies in the USA have American children available too?
b) that no American taxpayer get adoption tax credits unless they have adopted American children.
c) That the USCIS RAISE the I-800 Application fee to offset some of the children's healthcare issues surrounding adoption?

Permanency and the UN Guidelines

There are more initiatives to get the PERMANENCY/Adoption principle worldwide acceptance.

SOS Children's Villages in their position on Haiti states the following:

"Children are consistently one of the most vulnerable groups in emergency situations. The Guidelines for the alternative care of children, welcomed by the United Nations in November 2009, provide a framework for working with children in emergencies which should be observed by all relief actors in Haiti.Children separated from their mother or/and father might be accompanied by another relative and maybe being cared for by aunts, uncles, or older siblings."

These new “UN Guidelines for children without parental care”, seem to want to change the interpretation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Adoption= permanency….these guidelines are full of the word permanency. The UN Convention on the right of the child doesn´t even contain the word “permanency”. The UN Convention is about CONTINUITY IN UPBRINGING (language, culture, religion).

Adoption proponents do not consider foster Care, community based care, as “permanent”. Only adoption is the perfect solution.

See how the Guidelines make adoption a first option:
160. Should family reintegration prove impossible within an appropriate period or be deemed contrary to the child’s best interests, stable and definitive solutions, such as kafala of Islamic law or adoption, should be envisaged; failing this, other long-term options should be considered, such as foster care or appropriate residential care, including group homes and other supervised living arrangements.

Then combine these Guidelines with The Hague Convention and you get:

1. Adoption
2. Intercountry adoption
3. foster care, appropriate residential care, including group homes and other supervised living arrangements

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