Convinced You Can’t Afford Adoption? 6 Ways to Offset Adoption Costs

How Can I Afford to Adopt a Child?

There are several ways to offset the cost of adopting a child.  Whether you adopt an infant or you adopt from public foster care, assistance is available to help families like yours afford the cost of adoption. We’ve outlined some of the ways to make adoption more affordable. Check them out!

1. Choose an Adoption Agency with Sliding Scale Fees

Adoption agency fees vary widely.  Adoption agencies with sliding scale fees charge families based on their income. Choosing an adoption agency with sliding scale fees helps ensure you’re not paying more than you can afford in total adoption placement fees.

2. Adoption Assistance Programs Through Your Employer

Does your employer offer adoption assistance? You might be surprised. Many employers offer assistance to adoptive families.  Here are some examples of adoption-friendly workplaces who are helping their employers afford the cost of adoption:

In addition to offering generous reimbursement packages that help offset the costs of adopting a child, many companies offer paid parental leave to help new adoptive families bond.  The law firm Latham & Watkins, LLP offers at least 22 weeks of paid leave to adoptive parents. Like paid maternity leave packages, parental leave packages for adoptive families are becoming more common.

Read more about the most adoption-friendly workplaces in the United States.

To find out if your employer offers adoption assistance, contact your benefits department.

3. Adoption Loans

Adoption have become a popular way to offset or cover the cost of adoption.  Despite being financially secure, some families find the upfront cost of adopting is too high.  Here is how many families are borrowing money to finance an adoption:

  • Home equity loans: Some families choose to open a home equity loan in order to finance an adoption. This option provides access to a low-interest line of credit with tax-deductible interest.
  • Personal Loans: There are many companies that offer fixed-interest loans for the purpose of adoption. Some families select this option in order to avoid payments from becoming more expensive than anticipated.
  • Credit Cards: While most financial planners advise against paying for large purchases with credit cards, some families who qualify for reimbursements through their employers choose to pay for adoption-related expenses with a credit card because they know they will be able to quickly pay off the balance.

4. The Adoption Tax Credit

The 2018 Adoption Tax Credit is $13,810 per child.  In order to be eligible for the tax credit, you must have a federal tax liability, and you have 5 years to use the full amount of the credit.  There are limitations on gross income for claiming the full amount of the Adoption Tax Credit, so it is important to discuss filing for this credit with your tax professional.

5. Crowdfunding an Adoption

More families are turning to fundraising platforms like GoFundMe to raise money to finance their adoption plans.  While this method of peer-to-peer fundraising (known as “crowdfunding”) is appealing and often generates substantial income for hopeful adoptive parents, we encourage parents to be thoughtful about this approach.

This type of fundraising can expose very personal details of a child’s life, asking donors to provide financial support based on trauma or loss the child experienced before they found a family.  While this type of adoption funding is well-intentioned, we encourage families considering crowdfunding platforms to think about how they will discuss these fundraisers with their child as they grow older.  If you decide to move forward with adoption crowdfunding to finance your adoption, we encourage you to be mindful of the information you share online about your adoption plan, your agency and the child you plan to adopt.

6. Subsidies from Local Government Agencies

If you adopt a child with special needs from foster care, you may be eligible to receive a subsidy to help offset the costs of providing long term care for your child.  The amount of your adoption subsidy will vary depending on the jurisdiction you adopt from and the needs of your child.  Adoption subsidies are intended to ensure costs of caring for special needs children are not an undue burned on adoptive families and that your adopted child is able to receive the care he or she needs.  If you decide to adopt a child from foster care, your adoption agency or social worker can help you navigate the process of receiving an adoption subsidy.

Need more information about the cost of adoption? Contact us today!


Single Parent Adoption 101

Single Parent Adoption – Can You Adopt as a Single Parent?

single parent adoption

Single parent adoption has become more popular over the past 3 decades. Within the adoption community, single parent adoption can mean several things.  In most states, single parent adoption is defined as an unmarried individual petitioning a court to be the legal parent of a child.  Single parent adoption is legal in all 50 states.  In some cases, single parent adoption is more complicated.

How can I adopt as a single parent?

Both single moms and single dads can adopt in several ways. Domestic infant adoption, or the adoption of infants born within the United States by a parent living in the United States is a common way for single parents to adopt. Single parents can also adopt from public foster care systems.  Some countries permit international adoption by single parents.  If you are considering international adoption as a single parent, it is important to work with a Hague-accredited adoption agency to help you navigate the adoption process to ensure you choose a country that permits single parent adoption.

Important considerations in single parent adoption

Like most single parents growing families, it is important to consider many things before growing your family through adoption. Having a strong network of friends and family who can provide support to you as you begin your parenting journey will help you adjust to the joys and challenges of parenting.  Financial considerations are also important to take into account. Most single parents only have one source of income. Discussing your family’s financial health prior to adoption, and ensuring that you are prepared to raise a child is a good idea.  Additionally, discussion your adoption plan with your employer will help you plan for the time you spend away from work when your new baby or child comes home.

Despite the increasing number of children raised in single-parent households today, the public perception that it takes two parents to raise a well-adjusted child can be stressful for those considering single parent adoption. Many single adoptive parents find it helpful to connect with other single parent households in order to foster a level of understanding a support surrounding their family structure.

Resources for single parent adoption

Flying Solo As a Single Parent (On-Demand Video Training)

Adopting and raising a child as a single parent has become more common and widely accepted over the last decade.  Yet, it can be a complex and challenging endeavor that requires careful thought and preparation.  Singles who are contemplating adoption often have many questions, and possibly even concerns about the process.  They may be filled with anticipation and excitement, or they may be unsure if parenting on their own is the right choice.  This seminar will cover BOTH the process of single parent adoption as well as the joys and challenges after a child is home.  Some of the issues addressed include going it alone, answering questions from nosy outsiders, helping the child make sense of his/her family, dating as a single adoptive parent, and the heightened sensitivity your adopted child has regarding loss and change.

Apply to Adopt as a Single Parent 

Complete our online adoption application and begin your single parent adoption journey!


LGBTQ Adoption 101

Adoption for LGBTQ Couples: Navigating the LGBTQ Adoption Process

LGBTQ adoption

Over the past several decades, more same LGBT couples are choosing adoption to grow their families.  The United States Census reports that between 2 and 3.7 million children under the age of 18 have an LGBTQ parent, that same-sex parents are more than 6 times as likely to become foster parents and more than 4 times more likely to pursue adoption as a path to parenthood.   So how can adoption professionals and LGBTQ families navigate the adoption process thoughtfully?

Choosing the type of adoption that’s right for your family

When it’s time to decide what kind of adoption is right for your family, LGBTQ couples have a lot to consider.  There are three main types of adoption to pursue: domestic infant adoption, international adoption, and foster care adoption. Let’s explore all three.

Domestic Infant Adoption for LGBTQ Families

In the United States, LGBTQ couples may pursue domestic infant adoptions in all 50 states.  However, some states have recently passed faith-based adoption legislation which makes adoption more challenging for LGBTQ individuals.  If you are considering a domestic infant adoption, it is important to choose an adoption agency or professional who is welcoming to LGBTQ families and understands the legal framework in your state.

International Adoption for LGBTQ Families

Once considered the most convenient type of adoption available to American families, international adoptions have become more complex in recent years.  Adoption agencies completing international adoptions are bound by the Hague Adoption Convention, which guides adoption ethics and principles. Under these conventions, agencies must respect laws and standards put into place by the countries in which children are born. For LGBTQ couples pursuing international adoption, this can present unique challenges.  LGBTQ couples and individuals interested in pursuing an international adoption should inquire with their placement agency about specific country restrictions related to LGBTQ adoption because guidelines vary greatly. Adoptions Together welcomes to opportunity to complete international home studies for LGBTQ couples and individuals if you meet inter-country eligibility requirements.

Foster Care Adoption for LGBTQ Families

Adopting from foster care has many benefits.  It is one of the most affordable ways to adopt a child, and local departments of social services make adoption through foster care readily accessible for families from all backgrounds.  LGBTQ families may adopt children from foster care as long as they pass the required home study and training.  At Adoptions Together, we work with dozens of LGBTQ couples each year who choose adoption from foster care to expand their families.

Choosing an LGBTQ-Friendly Adoption Agency

Choosing an agency with a proven track record is important for any family pursuing adoption. For LGBTQ couples who want to adopt, finding an LGBTQ-friendly adoption agency is paramount.  Since its inception, Adoptions Together has served on the advisory board of the Human Rights Campaign’s All Children, All Families project, which connects LGBTQ families with agencies seeking to provide comprehensive adoption services to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender adoptive families.  As a Gold Seal-recognized agency, we are well-prepared to serve all families, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender with compassionate adoption service.

To find an All Children, All Families approved agency near you, visit the HRC’s website.


How Much Does Adoption Really Cost?

How Much Does It REALLY Cost to Adopt?

 

how much does it cost to adopt an infant

 

How much does it cost to adopt? We get this question more than most, so don’t be embarrassed if you’re asking it, too. The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. Today, adoptive families are as diverse as others.  So let’s talk about the bottom line: how much does it REALLY cost to adopt?

The Type of Adoption You Choose Will Determine How Much You Pay

When you decide to grow your family through adoption, you have to decide what kind of adoption is right for you.  There are several different kinds of adoption to pursue.  You can choose domestic infant adoption, which connects adoptive families with infants born in the United States.  You can pursue a foster-to-adopt program through your local Department of Social Services, which helps families interested in adopting children living in foster care.  Or, you can choose to adopt internationally.  All of these choices are different, and costs related to each will vary.

Domestic Infant Adoption

The average cost of a domestic infant adoption in 2016 was about $28,000.  The cost of domestic infant adoption will vary depending on many factors unique to your adoption and family situation, including things like whether you choose to pay for birthparent expenses, whether you elect to work with a licensed non-profit adoption agency or an adoption facilitator, and how far you need to travel during your adoption journey.  The cost of your adoption should include your home study and most of your legal fees, but this might vary as well.

Adoptions Together charges fees for domestic infant placements on a sliding scale based on your family’s income.  To learn more about the cost of adopting an infant, click here.

Foster Care Adoption

Foster care adoption connects children living in public foster care systems with families hoping to expand through adoption.  There are two ways to adopt from foster care: by pursuing foster-to-adopt services through a local Department of Social Services (DSS), or by working directly with a licensed agency that provides foster care adoption services. In each case, the cost will vary. For families that choose to pursue foster-to-adopt services through a local DSS, most adoption-related costs will be covered by the jurisdiction the adoptive child lives in.  This makes foster-to-adopt one of the most cost-effective means of pursuing adoption.  If a family wishes to pursue foster care adoption while working with a licensed, private agency, many costs will be underwritten by local jurisdictions, but some fees must be paid by the adoptive family.

Some families choose to pursue foster-to-adopt because of the cost benefits, however, children living in foster-to-adopt scenarios are often still working with courts to be reunified with their families of origin and the process to adopt a child through foster-to-adopt programs can be long and emotional.  Some families find that working with a private agency to pursue foster care adoption is more direct, despite the slightly increased costs.

You can learn more about the cost of foster care adoption here.

International Adoption

The cost of international adoption varies widely by country, and is the most expensive type of adoption for families. Once considered the most convenient type of adoption by timeline, international adoption has become more complex in recent years. Today, international adoptions can cost as much as $40,000.  If you are interested in pursuing an international adoption, it is important to work with an agency that is Hague Accredited and one that can connect you with a Primary Provider to serve as your representative in the country from which you hope to adopt.

To learn more about international adoption, click here.

The Adoption Tax Credit

The Adoption Tax Credit is a federal tax credit for families who adopt a child or children.  It is designed to offset adoption costs in the form of a tax credit.  The current credit is $13,810 per child adopted in 2018.  To learn more about the Adoption Tax Credit and whether you qualify, head to the IRS website.

Working with an Agency vs. Facilitator

Once you’ve done some research about the cost of adopting, it’s time to make some important decisions about who to work with.  A licensed adoption agency is legally required to provide services outlined by the state you live in, and reports to multiple bureaus to maintain accreditation.  While many adoption facilitators provide quality services to families hoping to grow through adoption, they are not bound by the same licensing guidelines.  As a licensed adoption agency, we highly recommend researching the licensed agencies in your area to make an informed decision about this major decision before you begin to grow your family.  An adoption agency should respond to your needs, make you feel safe, and provide lifelong support to you as your family expands.


Kinship Care: Is It for You?

grandparents walking with two young children Kinship Care

As you think about your pregnancy options, have you considered kinship care, or family placement?

Many expecting parents prefer to place their child in the care of someone they already know. While only you can decide what’s right for your family, we’re here to help you explore this option.

Kinship Care — More Than Free Babysitting

The tradition of relatives helping raise a child has been around much longer than child welfare agencies. Kinship arrangements mean more than having an extra pair of hands to help with diaper changes or grocery trips, however. State and federal laws recognize kinship care as an official type of foster care.

Ever since the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, relatives are the first to be given the choice of raising children whose parents cannot be the primary caregivers. As of September 2016, 32 percent of children in the foster care system were placed in foster homes with relatives.

What some expecting parents don’t realize is that they can explore the option of kinship care before their baby is born, similar to the adoption process.

All in the Family

Like adoption, kinship care can take many forms. Although the kinship care model typically means literal “kin” or family, it also can include a close friend who cares for your child.

In some arrangements, the birth parents maintain legal custody of their child, with the kinship foster parents assuming physical custody and day-to-day parenting responsibilities. This type of agreement allows birth parents to still make decisions concerning their child. In other arrangements, kinship parents receive both legal and physical custody of the child.

Kinship care is a common type of adoption for teenage birth parents. Often, it starts out as a temporary arrangement and becomes permanent if the relative chooses to adopt the child.

Because some kinship arrangements start out informally, kinship parents don’t always receive the same recognition or support as other adoptive or foster parents. The needs and demands of kinship parenting are just as real, however. We encourage kinship parents to seek counseling and support services from experts who can help them care for themselves and their loved ones. Kinship caregivers may also find assistance through national resources and state programs like the DC Child and Family Services Agency’s Grandparent Subsidy Program.

Family Matters

Families can be complicated and messy, and they come with their own set of challenges. Similarly, placement of a child within a family comes with many special considerations.

One of the most unique parts of kinship care is that the child’s kinship parent also has a personal connection with the birth parent. This can be comforting for older children entering kinship care, since they are going to live with someone they already know.

On the other hand, these same ties can make it difficult for kinship caregivers to “own” the role of parent from the start. While it takes time, it is important for kinship parents to model stability around roles, routines and a sense of home to the children in their care.

Another hurdle that kinship parents might not expect is the foster care system and its many policies and requirements — many have only the experience of raising their own children to guide them. And when kinship parents are the child’s grandparents, just the thought of raising a child in today’s era may be overwhelming.

Support from experts and other families bonded by this unique type of arrangement can help kinship parents provide a stable home for the children they already know and love. If you’re thinking about placing your child permanently or temporarily with a relative and want to chat with a counselor, contact us anytime via email, text message, phone or by chatting with us online.


Use PACE to Help Adopted Children Feel Safe and Supported

This post was written by the Director of FamilyWorks Together, Alisha Wolf, LGSW, MPH.  Alisha oversees the counseling, training, education, and special projects teams at Adoptions Together & FamilyWorks Together.  She received her bachelors from Skidmore College in English and Spanish and her Masters in Social Work and Maternal and Child Health from UNC Chapel Hill.  During her graduate studies, Alisha focused on issues surrounding adoption, foster care, and early childhood mental health.

As a follow-up to my blog post about playfulness, I wanted to explain in more depth each part of the PACE model: Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy.

PACE is a way of thinking, feeling and interacting with a child that helps the child feel safe. Children with a trauma history have learned that the world is an unpredictable and dangerous place. The adults caring for these children can send messages of safety by utilizing PACE.

PACE is based on how parents connect with infants, and the model holds true for connecting to children of all ages. Creating safety gives your child the opportunity to explore the world, their family and themselves.

Below are ways you can use PACE to make your child feel safe and supported, and in turn, help maintain your relationship:

Playfulness

Read my Playfulness blog post to learn how to bring out your sillies this week—even when it’s hard!

Acceptance

The Acceptance component of PACE asks parents to accept their child’s thoughts, feelings and choices. It does not mean accepting bad behavior, but instead accepting the fundamental characteristics and traits that make your child unique and special. Acceptance can help your child’s self-confidence and understand that bad behavior does not equate to a bad self.

For example, if your child says they do not like where they live, accept that the feeling is valid and then challenge it with follow-up questions like, “Why do you say that?”

Curiosity

Showing your child that you want to get to know them and are interested in their thoughts and feelings is critical. It may be difficult to have discussions with your child in instances when you do not understand their behavior (i.e., they may not want to go to school that day), but asking questions to ascertain what they are thinking and feeling will help build and maintain trust. Combined with the concept of Acceptance, Curiosity can ensure your child feels heard and understood in a judgement-free zone.

Empathy

Empathy with all children is important. However, showing Empathy to a child who has a history of trauma is necessary to build a strong relationship. One way to practice empathy is to put yourself in your child’s shoes and try to imagine the world from their point of view, then act and speak to them with that in mind.

How have you incorporated the PACE model in your parenting? What advice would you give to new parents who want to start practicing this model of parenting? Let me know in the comments!


Inspiration is in the Heart of the Beholder: An Adoptee’s Work Exploring Her Identity

This post was written by Laura X. Williams, an international transracial adoptee, who was adopted from Yiwu, China at 7 months old. Laura researches adoption and is the Special Programs Coordinator for 2018 Holt Adoptee Summer camp. She will be speaking at Adoptions Together’s annual conference, Voices of Transracial Adoptees on April 21, 2018.

 

Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” –Fred Rogers

Mister Rogers always puts the struggle in perspective for me. Did you know his sister was adopted? As the movie theaters and nostalgic adults prepare for the release of Won’t You Be My Neighbor? on June 8th, I have been doing some deep thinking around the meaning of community, belonging, and what neighborhood looks like for internationally adopted, transracial adoptees.

Run-down on who I am and how I know what I know: I am an adoptee from Yiwu, China, adopted when I was 7-months old in 1995. My family’s labour pains began in the Hangzhou airport, the plane was the delivery canal through which I was rebirthed into my forever world, the Newark air-port solidified my delivery. “Welcome!” said America, “You are now the proud daughter of two Jersey born-and-raised white parents.”  We stayed in New Jersey for 19 years since then and have always had a cat around. Now, I’m 5-foot 5-inches college graduate who has made it her mission in life to foster collaborative adoption reform in the name of a more livable world for all.

What inspires you?

What initially inspired me or what inspires me to do what I do on a daily basis?

Pursuing the inquiry of adoption occurred to me as an innate, almost atavistic curiosity once society enlisted me into a future of higher education. Growing up being different in ways I had not chosen for myself, never felt troublesome. It just was. This was partly my attitude and partly my parents extremely proactive attempts to connect me with Chinese people in the United States. The spheres of Chinese dance, Families with Children from China, Chinese school, Also Known As, Inc., Chinatown NYC all became the interwoven fibers of who I was becoming. My parents tell me they would high-five ‘behind-the-scenes’ when I voiced a difficult adoption question:  “why was I given up?” “where are my birth parents?”, “what is wrong with me?”  They were just so happy I felt comfortable enough from a young age to talk to them about adoption things. It inspired my subconscious.

I’ve always wanted to help people. Once I learned to fold fortune tellers, I went on an 8-year-old’s campaign selling them for money I intended to send to my orphanage (update: the campaign didn’t last past my family during Thanksgiving dinner). I understood there were people somewhere (China) who somehow (orphanage) sustained me for the first 5,110 hours of my life. But is and has been a process for me to hold them in my heart as human instead of just a concept out in space. I may never meet them or be able to directly thank them for my salvation who felt me when I couldn’t feel myself? I need to understand myself, for something deep within me sings a melody of transgression. And I never wanted to land in a meaningless desk job. So, I used the tool around me of education to struggle through the lack of choice, disconnection because of it, and  a humanizing gratitude while meeting other adoptees who may be seeking the same social validation I was looking for.

Now what?

I remember in high school, sitting under dimmed spotlights, behind a microphone, in front of an audience of my first-generation Asian-American peers to tell them, “Tonight we heard raw stories of our strength and courage as Asian-Americans. I feel so connected to both the Asian-American community and the Adoptee community, I draw on the strength of both communities. I am double supported and feel empowered because I am of both.” I recurrently have to check my privilege.  When identity exploration informs each element of how we live our lives, and when part of that identity is a big question mark, no wonder it gets complex fast.

My mentor who is a transnational, transracial adoptee herself gives a great metaphor “It’s like, Bill Nye loves touching the slimy bacteria for science, while other people would rather not. It is the same in our pursuit of understanding adoption, some people would rather not go there while others like us, like to sit in the muck.” There’s something about complex “muck” of adoption that attracts people like me to interrogate and encourage myself to create meaning in our complex web of inter-connected relationships. I think we are all in a constant state of love- having to adjust our worldviews in order to love the most. That constant adjustment is my survival, my sustenance.

When I feel drained by the amount of intellectual and emotional energy I exert as an adoptee working in adoption, talking with other Chinese adoptees reminds me I am doing meaningful work. Giving the gift of validation for someone ungrounded is only the beginning of a deeper exchange. I’ve come to believe, no matter how micro a conversation may be, in the grand scheme of things, it holds the power to transform our social world. Even if it just transforms you.

Mister Rogers inspires me, my friendships guide me, my presence grounds me and I look forward to spreading the love in the neighborhood!

 


The Opioid Crisis and the Child Welfare System: Launching a Response in the Face of a Landslide

The Rise of Opioid Use in the United States

 

Since the turn of the millennium, the number of overdose deaths in the United States attributed to opioid addiction have more than quintupled.   Individuals across the country facing opioid addiction struggle with access to safe treatment, support systems, and post-treatment care to successfully transition into sober living.  As the opioid epidemic surges, child welfare agencies face the overwhelming challenge of coping with some of its most vulnerable victims: children impacted by opioid use.

 

 

Child Welfare Agencies Across the Nation Struggle in the Face of the Opioid Epidemic

As the number of individuals struggling with addiction across the nation rises, so increases the demand on public foster care systems whose purpose is to provide temporary safe haven to children whose families cannot safely care for them.  When a parent is charged with a drug-related offence and incarcerated or ordered to enter a treatment program, children are often placed with a foster family during this time.

Foster care systems in states like Indiana are seeing a surge in the number of opioid related case entries over the past few years.   “We’ve gone from having 2,500 children in care, three years ago, to having 5,500 kids in care. It has just exploded our systems,” says Indiana juvenile court judge Marilyn Moore, who oversees cases in Indianapolis.  In Florida, the number of children living in foster care has tripled due to opioid related deaths.  In Philadelphia, systems are responding to the crisis by allowing foster care providers to apply for waivers that allow them to care for more than the state-mandated number of children per-home.  From 2014 to 2016, capacity waivers went up nearly 50%. More foster kids mean more stress on those foster families.

The Opioid Crisis is Disproportionately Impacting Women

As the scientific community continues to gather and analyze data related to opioid use across the United States, another fact is becoming clear: the use of opioid drugs is disproportionately impacting women.  Overdose deaths attributed to prescription pain relievers among women increased more than 400% from 1999 to 2010, compared to 237% among men.  Heroin overdose deaths among women have tripled in the last few years. From 2010 through 2013, female heroin overdoses increased from 0.4 to 1.2 per 100,000.

The number of opioid-related deaths among women is growing at an alarming rate.

So why is this data concerning for child welfare agencies? As the number of women struggling with opioid substance use rises, the number of infants born with prenatal exposure is also increasing.  Between 2000 to 2009, prenatal opioid exposure increased from 1.19 to 5.63 per 1,000 hospital births.  A few of the major barriers limiting access to prenatal substance abuse counseling and care include stigma surrounding substance use and pregnancy, risk of punishment related to prenatal substance abuse, and a lack of access to comprehensive, specialized treatment programs designed to care for pregnant women struggling with substance abuse disorders.

How Can We Effectively Handle the Burdens of this Epidemic?

  1. Remember that addiction is a disease. Individuals struggling with substance abuse challenges can be effectively treated by mental health professionals and deserve compassion and respect from their communities. Remaining focused on treatment and recovery is an ethical imperative for child welfare professionals and part of laying the foundation for community healing.
  2. As child welfare agencies struggle to respond to the burdens of the opioid epidemic, systems must dedicate resources to recovery-based programs with the goal of healing, not punishment. The more families fractured by addiction, the more challenging the work for systems designed to create healthy futures for children. By investing in the health of parents, we invest in the health of future generations.
  3. The disproportionate ways in which opioid abuse effects women across the United States directly impacts infants and children in our communities. Removing stigmas associated with prenatal substance abuse treatment, offering options for pregnant women to enter treatment programs without the risk of punishment, and expanding access to comprehensive substance abuse treatment programs that specialize in prenatal and postnatal exposure is a first step in removing barriers to keeping families together in the face of substance abuse challenges.
  4. In particular, child placement agencies must face the opioid crisis using a multi-pronged approach. First, by building and maintaining a network of community partners to act as a strong referral sources for clients who are struggling with substance abuse disorders, placement agencies can ensure that clients have access to treatment when they are ready.  Next, by communicating to your community that your placement plans include a strong referral network to treatment programs, your agency can help to ensure women and families struggling with substance abuse are able to access treatment. Additionally, by educating your teams to remain judgement-free in the face of challenging substance abuse issues across the country, we can signal that our doors are open to women and families who need our assistance during some of their most difficult times.  Finally, educating potential adoptive and resource families about the realities of parenting infants and children born with prenatal exposure ensures that we are continuing to build a qualified, loving pool of families for infants and children impacted by the opioid crisis.

If you or a client you work with is currently pregnant and struggling with opioid addiction and would like to discuss this with one of our counselors, please contact us confidentially: https://www.adoptionstogether.org/pregnant/speak-to-a-counselor/


Using Faith to Discriminate: Why Faith Based Adoption Laws Matter for All Adoptive and Foster Families

This week, Adoptions Together fielded calls from several LGBTQ families interested in pursuing adoption who expressed concern about recent discriminatory legislative efforts in Georgia. In this post, we focus on the broad impact of faith based adoption laws and how they affect all families.  This post was written by Adoptions Together Marketing Specialist, Samantha Musgrave.

Samantha Musgrave

What’s Happening in Georgia?

Recently, the Georgia Senate passed Senate Bill 375, which would give private and public adoption and foster care agencies license to discriminate against couples based on their religious beliefs.  Known as the “Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act”, proponents of the bill claim it would allow more agencies to act in the interests of children, broadening opportunities for kids living in foster care to achieve permanency in stable homes.  Opponents of the bill point out that enacting such legislation closes the door on qualified parents whose faith doesn’t align with child welfare agencies and their employees, preventing them from serving as adoptive resources for children in need of families.

The Rise of Faith-Based Adoption Legislation

 

The total number of states allowed to discriminate against families based on religious beliefs comes in at seven (North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas).  Since the United States legalized same-sex marriage on the federal level in 2015, five states have passed laws allowing public and private adoption or foster care agencies to refuse services to clients based on their religious beliefs.  Alarmingly, Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, and Michigan have all passed faith-based legislation permitting agencies to refuse services to children in addition to potential adoptive families.  If we include Georgia, the first few months of 2018 could see Americans in eight states facing faith-based adoption legislation that targets families based on religious grounds.

 

Who Is Being Targeted by Faith-Based Adoption Legislation?

That’s a good question without a simple answer- the easy answer is that children waiting to be adopted by qualified families are the largest victims of faith-based legislation.  Nearly 118,000 children are waiting to be adopted from public foster care systems across the United States today.  Faith-based legislation allows both public and private agencies to reject potential adoptive and foster parents based on their religious beliefs.  The most common targets of faith-based legislation are LGBTQ individuals, like Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin whose application to foster refugee children through Catholic Charities in Texas was rejected due to their sexual orientation.  The result is that more children wait for longer periods of time to achieve stability in permanent families.

However, the Human Rights Campaign points out that faith-based legislation can be used to target families from all backgrounds.  In its brief “Disregarding the Best Interests of the Child: License to Discriminate in Child Welfare Agencies”, the HRC points out that, “Parents can be rejected because the agency has an objection to them for any reason, including interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection.”  This should be of concern for all families interested in growing through adoption or foster care.

Why is this a Concern for Ethical Child Welfare Professionals?

Simply put, children waiting for permanency need more qualified adoptive parents. Faith-based legislation does not achieve this- it does the opposite.  By working with all families, regardless of their religion, marital status, or sexual orientation, agencies grow permanency opportunities for children who desperately need them.  Research shows that LGBTQ youth in particular are over-represented in the foster care system, making them a vulnerable target for maltreatment and discrimination.  Faith-based laws that allow agencies to mistreat populations designed to protect them at the top level is a failure of systems by its very definition.

More than two million LGBTQ couples, individuals and families across the United States are interested in serving as family resources for children through adoption and foster care.  LGBTQ families are currently raising more than 3% of children living in foster care across the country.  The American Academy of Pediatrics supports full access to adoption and foster care rights for same-sex couples as part of promoting growth of stable and healthy families for all children.

 What Can You Do to Discourage the Passage of Faith-Based Adoption Laws?

1. Contact your elected representatives to voice concern for the growing trend of this discrimatory practice designed to target families and provide vulnerable children with less stable futures. Your voice is valuable. Find your elected representative here. Find your Senator here.

2. Support organizations like the Human Rights Campaign whose mission it is to protect the rights of families and children like yours who desire to grow through adoption.

3. If you’re considering adoption, choose an agency whose mission it is to provide services to all families, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Discrimination serves no one and limits our ability to make progress toward healthy futures for all families and children.  To find an agency that serves LGBTQ families as part of its mission, use the HRC’s All Children, All Families map.


Acquiring U.S. Citizenship for Internationally Adopted Children

Acquiring U.S. Citizenship for Internationally Adopted Children

 

The foreword of this post was written by Dawn Musgrave, Associate Director and General Counsel of Adoptions Together & FamilyWorks Together. Dawn represents the agency in adoption cases and oversees its business operations, including finance, human resources and information technology systems.  Dawn is an active advocate for the rights of children, particularly those impacted by the public child welfare system, and frequently consults with policy makers on matters relevant to families and children.

Foreword
by Dawn Musgrave, Associate Director and General Counsel

Over the last few months, I’ve received several calls from parents who adopted their children internationally more than a decade ago and need guidance on how to obtain proof of their child’s U.S. citizenship.  In a few cases, the child wants to sign up for military service and their Russian birth certificate is raising eyebrows with military personnel.  In other cases, parents are finding they need additional proof of citizenship so their child can obtain a driver’s license.  Yet other parents are concerned about proving their child’s citizenship in light of increased government and media attention on immigration and deportation.

Regardless of the reason, the place I turn for answers is in a blog post written several years ago by Irene Jordan, LCSW-C, who ran our international and home study services departments for many years.  Although Irene passed away in 2016, her knowledge and experience in these matters continues to guide families through this complicated issue.  Given the increased attention on citizenship, this seems like a good time to re-post Irene’s blog about international adoption and citizenship.

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U.S. Citizenship for Internationally Adopted Children
By: Irene Jordan, LCSW-C
Director of International Adoption and Home Study Services (1994 to 2015)
Adoptions Together

 I recently got a call from a frantic adoptive parent: “I took my son to the MVA to apply for a learner’s permit. They said he has to have proof of U.S. citizenship. They told me that his Maryland birth certificate is not proof of citizenship, since he was born overseas.  I’m not even sure if my son is a U.S. citizen!  Help! What do I do?”

Such calls are not unusual.  Whether or not your internationally-adopted child is a U.S. citizen depends on a number of factors.  Even if your child is a U.S. citizen, you may not yet have proof of citizenship.  It is crucial to ensure both that your child has U.S. citizenship, and also that he/she has proof of that citizenship.

  • Is my child a U.S. citizen?

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows certain foreign-born children adopted by U. S. citizens to automatically acquire U. S. citizenship when they enter the United States.  In order to automatically become a U.S. citizen, the child must meet the following requirements of the Child Citizenship Act:  have at least one adoptive parent who is a U.S. citizen; be under 18 years of age; live in the legal and physical custody of the adoptive parent; and the adoption was finalized in the foreign country under the laws of the foreign country and of U.S. Immigration.

The Child Citizenship Act took effect on February 27, 2001. Adoptees who met these requirements on that date automatically became U.S. citizens.  Adoptees who were 18 years of age or older on that date did not acquire American citizenship from the Child Citizenship Act. In addition children whose adoptions were not finalized in the foreign country under the laws of the foreign country and of U.S. immigration did not automatically acquire American citizenship from the Child Citizenship Act.

  • My child meets the other criteria. How do I know if my child’s adoption was finalized in the foreign country under the laws of the foreign country and of U.S. Immigration?

The last requirement for the child to qualify for automatic citizenship under the Child Citizenship Act is that the adoption must have been finalized in the foreign country under the laws of the foreign country and of U.S. Immigration.  If the adoption overseas was final under the laws of the foreign country, and of U. S. Immigration, your child will have entered the U. S. with an IR-3 immigration visa. Children with an IR-3 visas automatically become U.S. citizens when they enter the U.S.

Adoptions from Russia, China, Guatemala, Latvia, Lithuania, Vietnam and Azerbaijan are all finalized in the foreign country.  However the Child Citizenship Act also requires that the adoption was finalized under U. S. Immigration regulations. Those regulations require that the child be visited by the sole adoptive parent (in the case of a single parent) or by both adoptive parents before the adoption was finalized. Adoptive parents are required by the foreign adoption laws in Russia, Lithuania, and Azerbaijan to visit the child before completing the adoption. Therefore if you adopted from one of those countries, your child should have entered the U.S. on an IR-3 visa, and is a U. S. Citizen.

Adoptions from China, Guatemala, Latvia and Vietnam do not require both parents to see the child before the adoption was finalized.  If the sole adoptive parent or both parents did not see the child before the adoption was finalized, then the child will have entered the U. S. on an IR-4 visa, and is not a U.S. citizen until the adoption is finalized in the U.S.  Children with IR-4 visas obtain a Resident Alien card (sometimes referred to as a “green card”.) Please note that many of the children from these countries were visited by the sole adoptive parent or by both parents before the adoption.  Those children entered the U.S. on an IR-3 visa, and are therefore U.S. citizens.

Adoptions from Korea are not finalized overseas.    Families adopting a child from Korea need to finalize the adoption in the U.S. so that the child will meet the requirements for U.S. citizenship.

If your child entered the U.S. on an IR-4 visa, the adoption should be finalized in the United States under your state’s regulations. Your child acquires citizenship in the U.S. when the adoption is full and final in the U.S.  The adoption decree and the birth certificate from your state, however, do not serve as proof of citizenship.

  • What documentation do I need to serve as proof of my child’s citizenship?

There are 2 forms of proof of citizenship: a U.S. Passport and a Certificate of Citizenship.

Beginning in January 2004, USCIS has issued Certificates of Citizenship automatically to children who qualify as citizens under the Child Citizenship Act.

If your child entered the U.S. before January 2004 on an IR-3 visa, you can apply for a Certificate of Citizenship by filing the N-600 application. You can also apply for a U.S. passport as proof of citizenship.

If your child entered the U.S. on an IR-4 visa or an IH-4 visa, you can apply for a Certificate of Citizenship by filing the N-600 application after you have finalized the adoption in the U.S. You can also apply for a U.S. passport as proof of citizenship after you have finalized the adoption in the U.S.

  • How do I apply for a certificate of citizenship?

If your child entered the U.S. on an IR-4 visa and the adoption has been finalized in the United States, you can apply for a certificate of citizenship by submitting Form N-600 Application.  Information and the form can be obtained through the USCIS website.  This site also provides the fee information and the address to which to send the form.

With your application, you will send a copy of the adoption decree from the court in your state.  You will need to submit 2 photos of your child. The filing fee should be paid by certified check or money order. Send copies of the required documents, unless specifically asked to send originals after your application has been reviewed. It is recommended that the application be submitted through a delivery service that can be tracked, such as Federal Express or UPS.

If your child entered the U.S. on an IR-3 visa before January 2004, you can apply for a Certificate of Citizenship by submitting Form N-600 Application as above. You will not need an adoption decree from the court in your state.

  • How do I obtain a U.S. passport for my child?

If your child entered the U.S. on an IR-3 visa, then you can apply for a U.S. passport at any time. If your child entered the U.S. on an IR-4 visa and the adoption has been finalized in the United States, you can apply for a U.S. passport.  You and your child will need to go in person to a passport office or satellite location. A list of locations nationwide that accept passport applications can be obtained through the Department of State website.

You will need to send a certified copy of the final adoption decree (with translation if the decree is not in English). You will also need to send the child’s foreign passport, showing the immigration stamp in the passport, or the child’s permanent resident card (“green card”).  The foreign passport will be returned with the child’s new U.S. passport. You will also need to send proof of identity of the American citizen parent(s).  Submit these documents with the passport application, passport photos of the child, and fees. The forms and full instructions can be obtained through the Department of State website here.

  • What if my child was adopted under the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions? Is she a U.S. citizen?

A child whose adoption was finalized in the foreign country under the Hague Convention (including recent adoptions from China) will receive an IH-3 visa, and will automatically be a U.S. citizen. The requirement that the sole or both parents visit the child before the adoption is finalized has been eliminated under the Hague Convention.  A certificate of citizenship will be issued and mailed to you automatically by USCIS.

  • My daughter was over age 18 at the time that the Child Citizenship Act took effect on February 27, 2001. Is she a citizen?

If your daughter was over 18 at the time that the Child Citizenship Act took effect, it is possible that she is not a U.S. citizen. Although legislation has been proposed to retroactively give citizenship to foreign adoptees who turned 18 before the Child Citizenship Act took effect, this legislation has not yet been passed. Therefore it is very important to determine if she is a citizen and for her to apply for naturalization if she is not a U.S. citizen.  She may have a Permanent Resident Card, giving her the immigration status of a lawful permanent resident. The Permanent Resident Card may have expired, but the Lawful Permanent Resident status does not expire unless she travels outside the U.S. for more than 6 months.

Check to see if you have a Certificate of Citizenship or a Certificate of Naturalization for her.  If not, your daughter should apply for naturalization in order to gain citizenship.  It is strongly recommended that she do this in order to avoid any risk of deportation or any potential denial of the application for naturalization.  The Application for Naturalization, form N-400, is available on the USCIS website.  If you need an attorney to assist you with immigration issues, check the website of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

For additional information about the citizenship status of adult adopted persons, check the Guide to U.S. Citizenship for Adult International Adoptees at the Ethica.