Special Advisor for Children's Issues Ambassador Susan Jacobs gave a press briefing at the State Department today on international adoption-related issues. Ambassador Jacobs said, "...During this month, the U.S. Government calls attention to the thousands of children in foster care in the United States and the millions of children around the world who are in need of a loving and permanent family.
"Last year alone, Americans adopted over 100,000 children domestically and about 11,000 children from overseas. This is a testament to the generosity of the American people. The U.S. government is committed to promoting stability for children. We support the desire of American families to provide for children in need of a permanent family through adoption.
"We reaffirmed our commitment to children when we joined The Hague Convention about two years ago. This is The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation and Respect of Intercountry Adoption, usually referred to as The Hague. The State Department serves as the central authority for the Convention and there are now about 80 countries who are parties to it. It has ushered in a new era of responsibility, accountability, and increased safeguards in intercountry adoptions. Encouraging all countries to join the Convention will help protect adopted children, birth families, and adoptive families from fraud and abusive practices and will help ensure the transparency and integrity of the adoption process. We also continue to seek ways to improve safeguards in cases not subject to the Convention.
"Our work on behalf of children through intercountry adoption requires strong, collaborative partnerships between the United States, foreign governments, and nongovernmental organizations. I'm delighted to report that today, to celebrate National Adoption Month, Ireland and Kazakhstan have joined The Hague Convention and we look forward to working with them, and we encourage other countries to also join.
"One of the countries that we are working with is Ethiopia. The number of adoptions from Ethiopia continues to increase and it now ranks second in the world behind China in the number of children who are adopted from Ethiopia to the United States. At the beginning of September, I was pleased to accompany Senator Mary Landrieu and U.S. Agency for International Development Special Advisor for Orphans and Vulnerable Children Gary Newton to Ethiopia. We visited orphanages, child care centers, and other organizations and met with government leaders. One of the results already of this visit is greater cooperation between the United States, other countries that adopt from Ethiopia, and nongovernmental organizations as we work with the Government of Ethiopia to help them improve their child welfare system and to make sure that adoptions are transparent and honest.
"The United States joined a number of other countries -- in fact, all the countries that were then doing adoptions in Nepal, in suspending any new adoption cases based on abandonment. We recognize the heartache experienced by parents whose cases have not yet been processed, and they are waiting for the completion of their investigations. We are especially mindful of the effects that any delay in an investigation may have in the life of a child, and for prospective adoption parents who are looking for a conclusion to their case and the ability to bring their child home.
"However, investigations are necessary to ensure that the children sought for adoption are indeed orphans and eligible for inter-country adoption. A joint U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and State Department team traveled to Nepal in an effort to determine how to address the existing cases. Officials at our Embassy in Kathmandu are making every effort to expedite these cases.
"After the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the Departments of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and State coordinated efforts to ensure the safety and welfare of orphans who are in the process of being adopted by American families. Through the extraordinary commitment of the United States government in Haiti, their personnel in Haiti and here in the United States, we united over 1,000 children with their adoptive families. During the crisis, 12 children were also brought from Haiti to the United States who had not previously been matched with families here. Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and State have been working closely with the Government of Haiti to ensure the welfare of children and respect for Haitian laws and procedures. A delegation from the three agencies traveled to Haiti about four weeks ago to work with the Haitian Government to resolve these cases.
"...In about two weeks, I will be in New York where we, along with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, will celebrate the attainment of U.S. citizenship by recently adopted children, and this is an event to which I'm really looking forward. One of my goals has always been to preside over a naturalization ceremony, so this is a very, very big deal. Together, we will also be meeting with adoption service providers to answer any questions that they might have, and I will also be meeting with various nongovernmental organizations that help educate and advocate for ethical adoption practices to help vulnerable children.
"We applaud the efforts of the many governmental and private organizations that work tirelessly to find permanent homes for children. Our partnerships and work together can help ensure that every child in need is raised in a loving, permanent family. And for additional information about adoptions, I will be here to answer your questions, but you can also go to our website, adoption.state.gov. Thank you very much."
You can read the full transcript, including the Q&A session, here.