From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sun Nov 22 2009 - 07:12:52 EST
Briefing by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele
Bond on National Adoption Day
Office of the Spokesman
November 22, 2009
MR. TONER: Good afternoon. It’s my great pleasure to introduce Deputy
Assistant Secretary Michele Bond, who has been our Deputy Assistant
Secretary of the Directorate for Overseas Citizens Services since July 2007.
Previously, she was the Director of the Office of Policy Coordination and
Public Outreach in the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, and
she’s also served as the managing director of the Office of Overseas
Citizens Services, so she brings a wealth of experience to her job.
And today, in light of National Adoption Day tomorrow, we thought it a good
opportunity to have her come down and give us an update on some of the
activities of our embassies vis-à-vis adoption services. So with that, I’ll
introduce Deputy Assistant Secretary Bond. Thank you.
MS. BOND: Thank you very much. Good afternoon. As the Deputy Assistant
Secretary for Overseas Citizens Services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs,
I am really happy to be here this afternoon to celebrate the fact that
November is National Adoption Month. There are hundreds of Department of
State employees who adoptive parents, foster parents, or adult adoptees. So
this is an important and personal issue for State Department staff.
More officially, the Department is the U.S. central authority for The Hague
Convention on Inter-Country Adoption, and is deeply committed to promoting
and facilitating adoption as a permanent, loving alternative for children
who cannot remain in their birth families.
As mentioned, tomorrow, November 21, is National Adoption Day. The day is
being marked around the United States at courthouses where hundreds of
children in foster care will have their adoptions finalized. Many U.S.
embassies around the world are also celebrating National Adoption Month
through their own outreach activities that emphasize the importance that the
United States attaches to adoption and especially to inter-country adoption.
Here at the State Department, we continue to work with other countries to
develop and implement standards and procedures to help ensure that as many
children as possible can find permanent, loving homes. We believe that
inter-country adoption can be an important option for children in need, and
that every child deserves a loving home.
In April 2008, the United States joined more than 75 other nations as a
party to The Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoption. It’s a fundamental
tenant of the convention that when a child cannot be reintegrated into his
or her birth family, the first option should be adoption by a family in that
child’s country of origin. When that domestic adoption in the child’s
country of origin is not possible, then inter-country adoption opens another
opportunity for a child to find the loving home that he or she deserves.
The United States is committed to ensuring that all inter-country adoptions
to the United States or from the United States protect each child’s
fundamental rights and prevent the abduction, sale, or trafficking of
children. We also encourage all countries to take the necessary steps to
join and implement The Hague Inter-Country Adoption Convention. Since the
convention entered into force for the United States, nearly 900 children
have been adopted both into and out of the United States in accordance with
Hague Convention procedures. Several thousand additional children have been
adopted under non-Hague procedures because their cases had begun before The
Hague went into force for us.
Several Hague partners have contacted our office here at the Department to
discuss the interest of their citizens in adopting waiting children in U.S.
foster care, an option we strongly endorse for those who have not found
permanent homes in the United States. In Fiscal Year 2009, almost 13,000
foreign-born children were adopted by U.S. Citizen families. More than
70,000 domestic adoptions were completed in the United States during the
same period. Adoption is more common in the United States than in any other
country, and we adopt more foreign-born children than the rest of the world
combined. Those are facts that we can all be proud of.
No matter where or in what circumstances children are born, they deserve the
opportunity to grow up in a loving family. The Department of State is proud
to be part of National Adoption Month and to add our own recognition and
thanks to all of the families that have opened their hearts and homes
through adoption. Thank you.
QUESTION: Charley Keyes from CNN. You and I have talked in the past. What
are some of the remaining problem countries in regard to U.S. adoptions? I
know that the United States has voiced concerns in the past about China. Can
you just bring us up to date on that?
MS. BOND: All right, yes. To talk about China, which I would not call a
problem country as far as adoptions are concerned, but I certainly can talk
about that a little bit – in Fiscal Year 2009, just over 3,000 children were
adopted from China to the United States. China --
QUESTION: Is that the largest number among –
MS. BOND: No, that’s down a little bit from – oh, you mean the largest among
all – I think it probably was the largest for that year, yeah.
QUESTION: So the largest among all countries?
MS. BOND: That’s right. China is a party to The Hague Adoption Convention
and has been for some time, and so all adoptions now starting between China
and the United States have to be under Hague procedures. The U.S. Consulate
in Guangzhou estimates that it takes about 38 months to complete an adoption
absent special circumstances. It is possible to complete an adoption more
rapidly if the child who is being adopted has been identified as a special
Normally, the children, when they are adopted, are not 38 months old or
older. It takes that long for the adopting family to complete the
arrangements, but that doesn’t mean that the child they’re adopting was
already born at the time they began the procedure. A growing number of the
children now available for inter-country adoption from China are being
adopted through what’s called the Waiting Child Program. They are kids who
are older or they have special needs. And many American families are now
pursuing this option.
QUESTION: Is the United States satisfied, though, that the incidents in
China where some public officials were arrested for dealing in illegally
obtained infants, that that’s been resolved to the United States
MS. BOND: Well, what we see is that the Chinese who have taken it very
seriously are investigating, are proceeding to file charges and prosecute.
The situations where we get very concerned around the world are when we can
see that there’s clear evidence of a problem, and the country where it’s
occurring is not taking that problem seriously – not investigating, not
prosecuting. That would be a matter of concern, and that’s not the case in
QUESTION: Where might it be the case?
MS. BOND: Well, for example, in September of 2008, we allowed a bilateral
agreement with Vietnam to expire because of our own concerns that there were
very clear evidence of corruption and of bad paperwork, of falsification of
children’s identities and backgrounds in order to make them available for
adoption. And we couldn’t resolve the questions that were raised without the
cooperation of Vietnamese officials, and we weren’t getting that
QUESTION: And where does that stand – sorry, just one more – where does that
stand now with Vietnam?
MS. BOND: At present, Vietnam has drafted a new adoption law that is being
considered by their parliament. We’ve had an opportunity to talk to them and
still have another – other countries that adopt from Vietnam. There’s a lot
of interest in working with Vietnam to improve their procedures. And so what
we see right now in Vietnam is the government moving in a very good
direction, and doing so very seriously. It will, however, be quite some time
before Vietnam has and has implemented a new and good adoption program.
I think you were first and then --
QUESTION: Thank you. Is there a different category as far as the adoption
program concerned from India to the U.S., or are there any cases of –
because I heard in the past that the – it is very difficult – somebody to
bring – as far as adoption is concerned. Or is there some kind of criteria,
how old one should be for adoption?
MS. BOND: The question has to do with adoptions from India. And we are
working very closely with the Indian authorities to make sure that those
adoptions that occur are taking place in full conformity with our law and
Indian law. I think some of the problems that have come up have been when
American citizens of Indian origin adopt in India, and without realizing
that they shouldn’t, they sometimes adopt as Indian citizens instead of as
Americans as foreigners.
And they – that procedure is different from the procedures for foreign
citizens adopting Indian children. And because of various steps that they
take, none of them meant to be wrong, they can sometimes find themselves in
a situation where it’s very hard to process the paperwork for the child to
come to the United States. So we’ve been working with Indian authorities to
try to make sure that courts know that they can’t process as a local
domestic adoption a situation where the child is intending to come to the
United States and live here.
QUESTION: But as far as somebody in the U.S., whether it’s a U.S. Citizen or
green card holder, it’s the same rules or it’s only U.S. Citizen can --
MS. BOND: You have to be a United States Citizen to adopt a foreign-born
child and bring that child to the United States and --
QUESTION: And finally – and – I’m sorry --
MS. BOND: No, fine.
QUESTION: Finally, any age limit, how old one should be to – for adoption?
MS. BOND: Well, those rules are set by individual countries, and I don’t
know offhand, although I can – I would like to take this opportunity to
refer you to our excellent website, adoption.state.gov, which gives a great
deal of information, including country-specific information of the type that
you were asking.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. BOND: You had one in --
QUESTION: Yeah. Which countries do you see the sharpest increase in children
ready for adoption? Is it related to conflict or poverty such as Zimbabwe?
MS. BOND: Well, the – one country that I could point to that had a sharp
increase this year is Ethiopia, where the numbers that – it was up about 30
percent, and let me just – the – it was just over 2,200 children who were
adopted this year from Ethiopia. That is not related to conflict. By and
large, conflict is not one of the issues that tends to lead to a spike in
adoptions, because children may be separated from their families but haven’t
necessarily permanently lost those families as a result of population
So we are watching adoptions and examining the situation in Ethiopia very
carefully, because it’s a very serious concern when you – if you see the
number of adoptions start to increase sharply, you want to be sure that the
infrastructure if that country is equipped to monitor and carefully vet
every one of those cases. Rapid growth isn’t necessarily a good thing.
QUESTION: You are mentioning experiences from other continents. How is the
experience here in the Western Hemisphere between Latin American countries
and the U.S.?
MS. BOND: When the United States joined The Hague Convention in April 2008,
that made us a Hague partner for quite a few countries which prefer to limit
their adoption interchanges with fellow – to fellow Hague countries. So
there are some countries where we – American are now eligible to adopt that
they might not have been before. And developing those contacts and those
relationships is not something, again, that happens overnight. But I think
that we may see a shift in some countries of more interest in looking for
homes for children in the United States if they haven’t been able to have
them adopted locally.
More generally, we have Guatemala, which is a country in which new adoptions
cannot begin at this point. Guatemala is a Hague country and they are
working to establish Hague-compliant procedures --
QUESTION: In Mexico?
MS. BOND: Mexico is a country where there are surprisingly few adoptions to
the United States, and that is – it’s surprising in the sense that we have –
we share such a long border. But there is a pretty strong reluctance in
Mexico to allow children to be adopted by foreign families, even Mexican
American families. And so by and large, the majority of the adoptions that
we see are intra-family adoptions, not adoptions by people who are unrelated
to the child.
QUESTION: On Ethiopia, you’re not entirely clear what’s causing the spike of
MS. BOND: Well, I think what’s causing the spike of adoptions is that there
are, first of all, many children in the country who are homeless and/or
living in institutions and need homes. And there are people who are working
to try to identify those children and match them with people in the United
States and in other countries who are interested in adoption. Our concern
about it is that you can easily find yourself in a situation where it’s
difficult to tell the difference between children who genuinely don’t have a
family and those who have been documented to look like they don’t.
And unless you have the host government with – well equipped to investigate
itself, to document, to lock in the identity of these children, then it can
be very hard to prevent the missed documentation of children, and situations
where, for example, birth parents are coerced or persuaded to relinquish
their children for money or not, but – when it’s something that they
wouldn’t have considered doing if someone hadn’t been pressuring them to do
it. Obviously, that’s not something that we want.
QUESTION: So there are some suspicions maybe that there’s a racket going on
MS. BOND: It’s something that the Ethiopian Government is carefully looking
at and so are we and so is every other government whose citizens are
adopting there. Ukraine, as it happens, is another country where we saw a 30
percent increase in adoptions last year. In the case of Ukraine, however,
that’s not – it’s not something that we see as a trend. The numbers tend to
go up and down a bit. So it can be hard to know whether you’re definitely
seeing a movement in one direction or the other.
QUESTION: Let me just follow on quickly, if you don’t mind, please. What we
want to know clearly, not just from one particular country (inaudible),
let’s say from around the globe. As far as criteria for – like it’s a
conflict or poverty or what causes or brings those children for adoption
basically to the U.S.? Is it the regional conflicts? You are saying
(inaudible) or elsewhere, war or homeless or the parents are dying and that
– I mean, what are the major causes of the adoption of people (inaudible) of
people, or children coming here?
MS. BOND: All right. The question is what are the typical reasons that
children are placed for inter-country adoption. And when you talk about
countries around the world, including the United States, which also has
children that are adopted by foreign families and leave here to go and live
in a foreign country --
QUESTION: Yeah. I’m sorry, let’s say India or let’s say sometimes they say –
they seek asylum. What’s the difference between asylums or other adoption
for children, let’s say? Are there children also in that category or for --
MS. BOND: Okay. Let me get to that question in a moment, if I may. The
reasons that children are available for adoption by foreign citizens vary in
different countries. In China, typically the reason has been that there were
children, little girls, who were born and placed for adoption by families
who were hoping that they might have a son.
And the fact is that – there was a reference in one question to age
requirements and other requirements being imposed on adopting parents – the
number of children available for adoption in China has diminished. And the
number of people who are interested in adopting in China is much higher than
the number of children that are – that need homes. And that’s one reason
that the Chinese Government imposed the changes and the requirements for
adopting parents. They were simply trying to reduce the pool of all
well-qualified people who were applying to adopt. They had many more than
they could vet and many more than they needed.
In some other countries, the children are in care because of local poverty.
But what’s important is that in some countries, children may be placed in
institutions by their families because the families know that’s a place
where the children will be fed and cared for and educated. And there are
countries where the families then anticipate that the children will return
home when they’re a little bit older, maybe 10 or 12, old enough to
contribute to the family and help their parents.
And so that’s one of the things that we have to be on guard against. The
fact that a child is in an orphanage and has been there for some time
doesn’t make him an orphan in the sense – well, in any sense, he’s not a
child who needs a home. He has a family.
I think – I hope that that’s helpful in terms of the --
QUESTION: Yeah, only about asylum, if – if you had any case of the child or
somebody had asked asylum for a child rather than adoption.
MS. BOND: The question is about whether children also come into the United
States as asylees, as people who are seeking asylum from our government as
opposed to adoption. Getting asylum is a very different sort of process. And
in order to apply for asylum, a person has to show that he is facing some
sort of persecution or threat in his own country. Typically, unaccompanied
children would not be likely to apply for asylum. That would be rare.
MR. TONER: We have time for just one more question.
QUESTION: Can I just ask very quickly for you to speak in a little more
detail about your comment that some other countries are approaching the
United States about adopting American children? Who are those countries and
how many American kids are adopted overseas?
MS. BOND: Since we joined The Hague, so since April of 2008, there are 71
American children who have been adopted by foreign families. Thirty-seven of
those were adopted under The Hague, so that means that they were adopted to
Hague partner countries and the adoption began after April 1, 2008 – the
work on it, because as you know, it takes months to complete these things.
So we’re still at a stage where the majority of outgoing adoptions are
non-Hague, but we anticipate that they’re going to be primarily Hague.
The typical countries – Canada, Western Europe, Australia, countries that
are our Hague partners and where local adoption opportunities are very
limited, they’re very – relatively few children available for adoption. To
their credit, several of the governments that have approached us have said
that they are particularly interested in identifying waiting children in
foster care as candidates for adoption by their citizens. They are not
trying to compete for healthy newborn infants.
MR. TONER: Thank you very much, I appreciate it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
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