KQED Perspective, LandfillHarmonic, and annual report on adoption numbers

It’s Friday, and I’m posting links to a radio piece about childhood mental illness, a movie trailer about a music-making community in Paraguay, and an article about the ever-falling rates of international adoption from data released this week from the State Department.  

The first is a KQED-FM Perspectives about erasing the stigma of mental illness in children, written by my friend and fellow writer, Dorothy O’Donnell. Here are the first few paragraphs, but the entire piece warrants a listen:

My daughter was six when she was diagnosed with pediatric bipolar disorder. I was shocked, but also relieved. And so was she.

Her history of erratic, sometimes frightening behavior started in preschool. By kindergarten, she’d earned some less-than-flattering labels. The weird girl. The bad girl. The crazy girl.

The worst part was she believed them. When I tucked her in at night, she’d cry and say she didn’t belong on this planet.

Getting a diagnosis was like being handed a map after being lost in the wilderness. My daughter is 10 now. With treatment, the differences between her and her peers aren’t as obvious. She loves Taylor Swift and fashion. She has friends and slumber parties.

I try to be open about her condition and encourage her to do the same, just like I would if she had allergies or asthma. I want to empower her and help erase the stigma attached to mental illness.

The second is a link to an upcoming documentary, “Landfill Harmonic,” about a community in Paraguay whose children play instruments made from recycled trash. Seeing the joy of creativity expressed on the faces of the young musicians made me almost cry.  My father sent me this link, which makes it feel extra special. Thank you, Dad!

In the third, the New York Times confirms we already know, U.S. Adoptions from Abroad at Their Lowest Level in Years:

The number of international adoptions is expected to fall even further in the current fiscal year as a result of Russia’s decision to curtail all adoptions to the United States. The Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, approved the ban on adoptions in late December as part of a broader law retaliating against the United States for its efforts to punish Russian officials accused of human rights violations.

“I’m not sure what the future holds for intercountry adoptions from Russia to the United States,” Ambassador Susan Jacobs, the State Department’s special adviser for children’s issues, said in an interview on Thursday.

The number of international adoptions has declined every year since 2004. Homeland Security officials, who process petitions for international adoption, say that stricter standards intended to combat corruption have also played a role. Some homeland security officials have questioned the State Department’s decision to prohibit new adoptions from countries like Guatemala, Vietnam and Cambodia in recent years. They argue that the United States should continue to process adoption cases while working to reform the adoption programs in those countries, which have been dogged in the past by allegations of corruption.

But Ms. Jacobs said, “For us the right number is the number we can process ethically, safely and transparently.”

***

 Homeland Security officials declined to comment on the newly released adoption figures. But a senior official at the department said last year that she believed that the nation’s position had left thousands of vulnerable orphans stranded in institutions overseas.

The official, Whitney Reitz, who was then in charge of children’s affairs and parole policy at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, said at the time, in a speech at a conference on adoption, that while some might believe it is best not to allow adoptions from certain countries, “when I think personally about the individual children in these countries who need families and who are stuck in institutions, it really doesn’t look like such a great outcome to me.”

State Department officials maintain that ensuring a transparent, legal process is more important than the number of foreign orphans who are adopted. China, Ethiopia, Russia, South Korea and Ukraine remain the top feeder countries to the United States, according to the report, which is released annually.

Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, said in a telephone interview on Thursday that the government must do more to prevent children from growing up in orphanages.

Senator Landrieu, co-chairwoman of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, described the decline in international adoptions as “tragic.” She said the State Department had “failed to put the resources or personnel in place to help countries” meet the stricter standards required by countries that have signed The Hague convention on intercountry adoption. The treaty, which took effect for the United States in 2008, establishes accreditation requirements for adoption agencies and protections against child trafficking.

Finally, the FY 2012 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption/January 2013. One statistic stood out for me: In Table 5, “Convention Country of Origin: South Africa” and in the next column “Median Fees: $160,217.” (That dollar amount can’t possibly be correct, can it?)

Have a great weekend! ~

 

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2 Responses to “KQED Perspective, LandfillHarmonic, and annual report on adoption numbers”

  1. Beth says:

    The other thing that I noticed in the report was the average time to completion. Wasn’t the Hague supposed to ensure that children were really in need of a family before referral and that then the time from referral to homecoming should be relatively short? Most of these average time frames were well over a year.

  2. Jessica says:

    Excellent point. It’s very frustrating to know that during the waiting time, children live in a holding pattern, often in institutional care.

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