Tuesday, November 11, 2014

National Adoption Month


Happy National Adoption Month!

In case you didn’t know, November is National Adoption Awareness Month! The first major effort to raise awareness of adoption was in 1976 in Massachusetts. It started as just as a week but then, in 1990, it became a month long celebration.
               
During this month, the nation, states, and communities celebrate this positive way to build families.  There are many events planned throughout the month such as judicial ceremonies, dinner recognitions and banquets.  The Loudoun Chapter of the Virginia Women Attorneys Association and the Loudoun County Department of Family Services sponsors National Adoption Day here in Loudoun where families who are formed through adoption are recognized each year.  I am proud to co-chair this recognition ceremony. It is such a joyous and remarkable celebration seeing how these families have been formed. Many times, the children has been through a long and difficult journey of abandonment, abuse or neglect.  The foster parents have worked with social workers and counselors to bring healing and wholeness.  Then, as the legal process is complete and the foster parents adopt the child during the National Adoption Day ceremony, it brings tears to the eyes of the professionals in the courtroom to see the formation of a forever family after years of struggle.  

Other adoptive families at Loudoun Adoption Day have different stories.  The adoption could be that of a stepparent who has acted as the real parent for many years.  It is a joyous moment to see the big smile on the child's face as that reality is recognized by the law and the child receives the same last name as the rest of the family.

Even if you haven't adopted, you can celebrate National Adoption Month in November.  It doesn't have to be elaborate-- it could be something simple such as renting a DVD that portrays adoption in a positive light. Some suggestions from Adoptive Families Magazine are: Meet the Robinsons, The Tigger Movie, Despicable Me, Moonrise Kingdom or, as the holidays are approaching, Elf.

Adoption is such a a wonderful way to build a family and we all know people who have adopted or been adopted. It should be honored, acknowledged, and celebrated. Every adoption has its own special and unique story. 









Drafted by Brittany Alness, staff member of the Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC.
Disclaimer
This blog and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this blog are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2014.

Monday, July 21, 2014

"Re-Homing" of adopted children is Child Abandonment

There has been lots of attention on this topic from Reuters articleThe article highlights several disturbing situations where desperate adoptive parents who have had serious problems with their newly adopted children have placed the children without legal safeguards with predators.  The new families were not properly screened, no legal procedures were followed, and the children were unknowingly placed into dangerous situations. Although the article seems to imply that this practice is widespread based on unproven statistics, it does raise serious concerns which should be addressed. 

I am a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA). AAAA has formed a working group to address this issue.

It is critical to use the correct terminology to describe the break-up of a family and the transfer of a child to a second family. The current popular term of "re-homing" is a misnomer. It has recently been used by the media to describe the transfer of adopted children from the guardianship of their parents without the approval of the courts or public child welfare agencies, and with a negative connotation. However, "re-homing" could include the successful transfer of a child to a second family if all proper safeguards, procedures, or approvals have been obtained. The accurate term to describe this situation where a child, either adopted or biological, is placed at risk by his or her parents, and as defined by state welfare agencies throughout the country, is "child abandonment" which is fully addressed under existing laws in every state.


For consistency and accuracy when dealing with these issues, "re-homing" should not be used, and the following terminology should be employed:
Adoption Disruption - this occurs when an intervening event prevents an adoption from being finalized.
Adoption Dissolution - this occurs when events cause an adoption after it is finalized to dissolve.
Child Abandonment - this occurs as defined under existing state law, and which may include placing a child at risk by transferring the child to another family without employing the proper safeguards, or going through the appropriate legal process.

A Senate hearing to investigate child abandonment was held on July 8, 2014.  AAAA has prepared draft testimony in connection with this hearing.  Here is a summary of our proposed remarks:



(Draft) Testimony of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA)

.........A recent survey of AAAA Fellows revealed that the frequency of post-adoption dissolution – cases in which parents conclude they are unable to successfully raise an adopted child – is extremely low when compared to the total number of adoptions. Nevertheless, making sure that the child or children in such cases are protected and are placed with secondary families in a secure and permanent home is essential. Involvement by AAAA Fellows has gone a long way to help achieve this goal.

The term “re-homing,” more commonly used by pet owners seeking new homes for their animals, has recently been used to describe the transfer of adopted children from the guardianship of their parents without the approval of the courts or public child welfare agencies, and with a negative connotation. A more accurate term to describe these situations where a child, either adopted or biological, is placed at risk by his or her parents, is “child abandonment.”

Recent media attention on post-adoption child abandonment has prompted AAAA to establish a committee of experts to consider the issue as well as  what potential legislative opportunities might exist to address it. While no state or federal law specifically prohibits parents from seeking to place their child or children with a new family, the AAAA committee of experts on the topic has found that if it is not done appropriately and with proper safeguards, these actions can be equated to child abandonment, which is fully addressed under existing laws in every state.

The correct lens by which to judge any proposed policy or legislation which attempts to curtail child abandonment, whether of a biological child or of an adopted child, must always be the best interests of the child. While certain concrete steps can be taken to address this issue, AAAA cautions against new and broad federal regulation. Such measures have the potential to stifle legitimate independent, non-agency adoption, thereby making adoption unaffordable for many loving families, and to eliminate many appropriate placements of children by state agencies from foster care through the internet and other public domains.........

We must protect adopted children but we have to be careful not to overregulate. Overregulation might lead to a decline in placing children into appropriate homes.













Drafted by Brittany Alness, staff member of the Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC.
Disclaimer
This blog and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this blog are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2014.









Monday, April 28, 2014

FAQs about Adoption Facilitators

Question: What is a Facilitator?

Answer: A facilitator is a person or organization whose only task is to make an introduction between  expectant parents and adoptive parents, in exchange for a large, nonrefundable fee paid in advance.

Question: Are facilitators regulated?

Answer: In some states they are, but in most states, facilitators are prohibited.

***Note: Expectant parents considering adoption as well as prospective adoptive parents should exercise GREAT CAUTION, as it can be difficult to determine whether an entity is licensed as an adoption agency or acting solely as a facilitator.

Question: Are adoptions arranged by facilitators successful?

Answer: Adoptions arranged by facilitators often fail for many different reasons.  Facilitators do not have the training, skill, or experience to ensure a safe and legal outcome.

Question: What if they (facilitators) say they are experts?

Answer: While they do often present themselves as "adoption experts", they are typically unsupervised and unregulated, and may have little to no experience providing adoption services.  They are not required to adhere to set standards in terms of education or best practices in most states, and thus have little accountability when it comes to providing pre-adoption training and counseling or post-adoption services.

***Note: The essential services that goes along with the adoption process are best provided by experienced, licensed adoption professionals who will promise to partner for the long-term success of a family and help meet the often unpredictable, long-term needs of children. 

Question: If we are to exercise great caution, then why are facilitators so popular and easy to find?

Answer: There are many different reasons as to why prospective adoptive families and expectant parents are using facilitators. A facilitator can expand the pool of potential expectant parents who can be matched with an adoptive family, which is attractive to adoptive families and pulls them in.  Also, in some cases it is difficult for older and/or "nontraditional" families to meet the criteria established by local licensed agencies for being matched with an expectant family; this may lead them to choose a facilitator who will help them locate out-of-state expectant parents. 
             
Some expectant parents considering adoption choose to work with a facilitator out of desire for privacy.  Sometimes their prenatal and/or adoption-related expenses cannot be fully compensated according to the law of their state. Simply, people go to facilitators because they do not understand the difference between a facilitator and an agency, and do not know that they are legally entitled to more comprehensive services. 

Question: Why is there so much advertising for facilitators and very little for agencies?

Answer: This is one of the biggest risks, because they are so easily available. Facilitators typically have enormous advertising budgets and pay top dollar for search engine optimization.  As a result, an expectant parent or adoptive parent often finds a facilitator by performing a basic search online, before consulting with a licensed agency or experienced adoption attorney.
              
Many nonprofit adoption agencies are struggling to find the resources for search engine optimization and online advertising, as they cannot compromise the quality of services provided to adoptive parents and birth parents, and are reluctant to raise fees to cover rising costs.


***RECOMMENDATIONS***

~Better enforcement of existing laws
                               
 If a state such as California permits facilitators to operate, we would suggest strict enforcement of licensing and training requirements as well as advertising disclosure restrictions.  If the state prohibits facilitators from operating, especially if this is accomplished through close monitoring of fees paid, more rigorous enforcement by the state Attorneys General and stricter oversight by ICPC offices would significantly limit the activities of facilitators in those states.

~Advertising disclosure laws
                             
We recommend both state and federal laws mandating that print and Internet advertising by facilitators disclose both the state(s) where the entity is located and whether they are licensed to operate in the state where the advertising appears.  This would give prospective adoptive parents and expectant parents more information to decide whether to work with a particular entity.  It would also ensure that individual state standards are met.

~Research and die diligence on the part of adoptive parents
                             Prospective adoptive parents should check with state licensing to determine whether an agency or entity is a licensed child-placing agency.  If it is an out-of-state entity, the adoptive parents should check with state licensing where the entity is located, and be certain that it has the ability to provide or arrange for all the services necessary for an ethical and successful adoption.  Some adoptive parents will still choose to work with facilitators to expand their search for an expectant mother, but they must be aware of the risks and benefits involved.

~Full Compliance with the ICPC
                                 
The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) aims to safeguard children placed for adoption across state lines, with requirements for sending agencies and the receiving state's ICPC office administrator.  Children can only be placed across state lines after the receiving state has determined that it does not violate their best interests.  Prospective parents adopting a child from another state must ensure that their agency is capable of meeting and fully complying with all ICPC requirements.

~Expectant parents must know their rights
                                  
Expectant parents should be aware that they will typically receive a higher level of service from an agency that has a physical presence in their state.  Local agencies can provide in-person, ongoing options counseling from a social worker with knowledge of resources in the community, and can also ensure that the expectant parents' emotional, legal, and medical needs are met before they are called upon to select adoptive parents or make an adoption plan.  Expectant parents may also be more likely to receive the information agreed upon about the child after the placement if an agency is used, and will now who to turn to if they need post-placement counseling.  If expectant parents choose to work with a facilitator instead, they should request a higher level of service and expect in-person counseling by a licensed child-placing agency working with the facilitator.  They should have the opportunity to meet with an attorney in their state as well as the laws in the state where the adoptive parents reside.  They should also have the opportunity to meet potential adoptive families before they select a family to parent their child.

~Improved oversight of adoption fees
                                    
State laws should require full disclosure of all fees paid by an adoptive family for an adoption placement.  There should be full oversight of these fees mandated by the state Attorney General's Office.  State laws for limits on fees should also be enforced, and states with no limits should review their laws.

This post is an excerpt from Adoption Advocate No. 70: The Role of Facilitators in Adoption, Published April 2014 by Karen S. Law, Esq. and Teresa M. McDonough, ACSW, Nicole Callahan, Editor, Chuck Johnson, Editor: https://www.adoptioncouncil.org/publications/adoption-advocate-no-70.html










Drafted by Brittany Alness, staff member of the Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC.
Disclaimer
This web site and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this blog are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2014.






Monday, January 27, 2014

2014 updated tax credit to make adoption affordable

Making Adoption Affordable


Federal Tax Credit


There is help available.  The federal Adoption Tax Credit provides up to $13,190 for qualifying expenses paid to adopt an eligible child in 2014.  The credit is indexed for inflation and will increase annually.  Eligible expenses include adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, traveling expenses (including amounts spent for meals and lodging) and other expenses directly related to your adoption.  There is an income limit for this credit.  See www.irs.gov, for the forms and additional information.                      


Corporate Matching Gifts


Further, many large employers offer adoption assistance.  See htttp://benefits.adoption.com/ for a list of employers.  Those payments may qualify for exclusion from your income for tax purposes in addition to the federal tax credit.  You may exclude up to $13,190 from your income in 2014.  So, for example, if your employer offers adoption assistance payments of $5,000 and your total adoption related expenses were $18,190, you could claim $13,190 as a tax credit AND exclude $5,000 from your income.  However, if your total expenses were $13,190, you could not take the credit and the exclusion-the same expenses cannot be counted twice.  The income limits for the tax credit also apply to the exclusion.













Drafted by Brittany Alness, staff member of the Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC.
Disclaimer
This web site and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this web-site are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2013.