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18
Mar

New ICWA Guidelines from BIA

By Annie

When the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was passed in 1978, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) drafted guidelines for best practices to accompany the law. In adoption cases, adoption practitioners and attorneys seek to balance those guidelines with each state’s adoption laws and the individual rights of an intending birth parent.

After the Baby Veronica Supreme Court verdict in summer 2013 (see below for related articles) – which left many in the Native American community unhappy – the BIA decided to revisit their ICWA guidelines and released revisions last month.

The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA), a national organization of attorneys who specialize in adoption, shared their disappointment in the new guidelines via a press release (view the PDF or excerpt below):

“Several months ago, the Department of Interior through the Bureau of Indian Affairs advised our Academy and other interested child welfare groups that there would be an opportunity to provide comments and feedback to any proposed revisions to the BIA’s federal ICWA guidelines. However, in what appears to be a purposeful effort to bypass input from our Academy, the public, and other child-focused organizations, the BIA recently published amended guidelines and made them effective immediately.

As distinguished professionals in the field of adoption and foster care, we and many other groups who work in the courts and the child welfare system are appalled by this surprise publication. The federal government’s unwillingness to hear from those groups who have been in the field for many years working directly with those families and children who will be negatively impacted by these guidelines is alarming. 

As a nonprofit organization comprised of child welfare experts, we are committed to the ethical practice of adoption law. It is our mission to support and advocate for the rights of families and to consider the interest of all parties, especially children. Sadly, there are entire sections of the newly published BIA guidelines that completely disregard the best interest of children.

We are shocked by the process by which these guidelines were promulgated and published, and the blatant failure to provide legal protections for children, especially children who are in the foster care system. For example, cases involving the removal of a child from his or her placement (even if the child will suffer serious harm), the court is directed not to consider attachment or bonding issues. The new guidelines also state that the “best interest of the child” is not a consideration, thus treating them as possessions as opposed to human beings with rights of their own.

As long-time protectors of the best interest of children, the Academy is stunned by the lack of due process in formulating these new guidelines. While the guidelines are only recommendations and do not have the authority of federal enacted law or federal regulations, if these guidelines are given weight by the courts and child welfare agencies, children will most definitely be hurt.

We are committed to ensuring that every child has the best chance for a positive and fair outcome in the judicial system. We urge the Department of Interior to reevaluate how these guidelines were drafted and issued, and allow the Academy and other organizations who work in the field with families and children to be involved in the process.”

American Adoptions is committed to following ICWA legal procedures in all of our adoptions and provides ongoing training for our staff members via ICWA and adoption experts. Of the adoptions at our agency, only about 5 percent involve a child with Native American heritage. Additionally, each time an adoptive family is presented with an adoption opportunity with a birth mother, they will be briefed on the financial, legal and birth father situation of the adoption, including any details related to ICWA. Please contact us at 1-800-ADOPTION with any questions on this topic.

Related Posts:

17
Mar

Choosing to Be Gender Specific in Your Adoption Plan

By Annie

Baby shower cupcakesWhen pursuing adoption, it is important for you to examine just how flexible you are regarding potential adoption situations and how long you are willing to wait for “the call.”

Once a couple is activated, the adoption process is largely out of their hands as they wait for a birth mother to select them. However, there are three main areas in which a couple can impact their wait: their Adoption Planning Questionnaire (APQ), adoption budget and adoptive family profile.

One important aspect of the APQ is the decision of whether or not to be gender specific within your adoption plan. If this choice is important to your family, our Gender-Specific Option gives you the opportunity to select the preference of adopting a baby girl or baby boy.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that if you do choose to be gender specific, you will likely wait longer to find an adoption situation.

Here’s why: The best chance an adoptive family has at minimizing their adoption wait times is by being as flexible as possible with their adoption plan and APQ. The more situations with prospective birth mothers that you are open to, the more chances our Adoption Specialists have of showing your Adoptive Family Profile to them.

By choosing to be gender specific, you are effectively removing:

  • half of prospective birth mothers who are pregnant with a child of the gender you do not wish to be considered for.
  • many more prospective birth mothers who either haven’t yet found out the gender of the baby or do not plan to find out the gender of the baby.

Presuming all other aspects of your APQ are equal, an adoptive family who is not gender specific will almost always find an adoption situation with a birth mother sooner than a gender-specific family simply because their profile will be shown to a greater number of prospective birth mothers.

There are two more concepts to understand about choosing our Gender-Specific Option:

  • We often have more families interested in adopting a baby girl than a baby boy. Therefore, families who are gender specific for a girl may wait longer than those hoping to adopt a boy.
  • Because gender-specific families often experience longer wait times, the amount of advertising required to find a birth mother increases, so a family should anticipate the need for a larger overall adoption budget.

It is up to your family to decide if our Gender-Specific Option is right for your family. And remember, if you begin your adoption plan as gender specific, you may always choose later to open your APQ to both genders to increase your exposure to prospective birth mothers.

An Adoption Specialist can speak to you more about how exclusively adopting a baby girl or boy can affect your wait times. Contact an Adoption Specialist today at 1-800-ADOPTION to find out more about our Gender-Specific Option or to request free adoption information.

10
Mar

Recognizing Social Work Month!

By Annie

Staff Collage SmallerEach March is recognized as Social Work Month. The National Association of Social Workers’ goal during Social Work Month and throughout 2015 will be to “educate the public about how social workers and the association have brought about major positive social changes, improved the lives of individuals and families, and will continue to do so in the future.”

Our American Adoptions’ Adoption Specialists are each Licensed Social Workers or Professional Counselors. These men and women work tirelessly to support and educate our birth parents and adoptive family clients. Their commitment, experience and heart are some of the things that make American Adoptions special!

You can learn more about our amazing staff by visiting our website or here as we continue to add more posts to the “about our staff” section of the blog!

3
Mar

Reminders for Waiting Families

By Annie

Send Us your Tax Forms

All families currently working with American Adoptions and waiting for an adoption placement are reminded to send us the front page of their 1040 Tax Form for 2014. We need this updated information each year. For more information, contact our home study department (homestudy@americanadoptions.com) at 1-800-ADOPTION.

Don’t Forget to Add Updates to Your 2015 Calendar

When going through and marking birthdays, anniversaries and other important dates on your 2015 calendar, don’t forget to add a reminder to update your home study and supporting documents, as well.

American Adoptions requires home studies to be current within one calendar year. Although our agency will alert you when your home study is approaching expiration via email reminders, home study updates are the responsibility of the adoptive family.

Families are also required to update their home study whenever there is a major life change – such as a change in employment, residence or household members.

Home study updates are the responsibility of the adoptive family, so each family should carefully note when their home study is to expire. The importance of updates cannot be understated. If an expectant mother chooses you, but your home study or other supporting information is out-of-date, it can seriously compromise or even prevent you from completing the adoption.

In addition to your home study update, there are three supporting documents which require yearly renewal:

  • Background Clearances- Your background clearances, such as your child abuse, FBI and criminal clearance must be updated annually.
  • Physician Health Reports- Like background clearances, your physician health reports also must be updated annually.
  • Tax Return- A copy of your tax return must be updated each year.

If you do not know when your home study or supporting documents will expire, simply contact our agency, and we will be happy to assist you.

14
Feb

Happy Valentine’s Day

By Annie

Happy Valentine’s Day from the American Adoptions Family to yours. We hope you’re feeling loved today!

Vday Quote Cropped

4
Feb

Q&A with Executive Director Shawn Kane

By Annie

ShawnSmallWe want to bring you, our readers, into the day-to-day of our agency by sharing more about the people you get to work with through each phase of the process! To kick it off, we sat down with Shawn Kane, the agency’s Executive Director who just celebrated a huge milestone in his service to our agency. Read on to learn more about his job at American Adoptions!

What is your name and position?

Shawn Kane, Executive Director

How long have you been working for American Adoptions?

15 years! Since January of 2000.

What are your tasks at American Adoptions?

My job responsibilities are to develop and maintain the vision and mission for the agency.  As such, I oversee client services and staff training and development. I also seek business opportunities and strategic alliances with other agencies and organizations, helping to create a strong professional network for American Adoptions.  Via the Board of Directors, I implement policies, objectives and an annual operational budget. Day to day, I oversee the business interests of the agency so that our social work staff can focus on providing our clients with the best services.

What does a typical work day look like?

Lots of meetings with staff and departments on helping to improve our services

How has adoption impacted your life personally?

I’m an adoptive father. My wife, Amy, and I have one biological son, Harper. But after facing secondary infertility, we adopted Claire in 2012. We can’t imagine our lives without our children or our lives without adoption. We’ve also been blessed to have an ongoing relationship with Claire’s birth mother. Learn more about our adoption story in the video below.

What is your favorite part of working for American Adoptions?

The constant change and challenges that completed adoptions on a national level provides.

What is your favorite time of year at American Adoptions?

Holidays because of all of the updates from the families and watching the kids grow up each year.

How many adoptions have you been a part of?

AA has completed about 4,000 adoptions since 1991. I have been on staff since 2000, so I have probably been around for many of them – I would guess 3,500 of them.

What has been your biggest accomplishment in your position?

This one is really hard. But I think I’m proudest to help with managing the growth of the agency while maintaining a good reputation nationally, expanding and improving services and hiring the best adoption staff around.

 

29
Jan

Tips for Activating Families

By Annie

Hispanic couple at home with babyThis can be a busy time of year for our agency as families start the adoption process and everything that goes with that – their APQ, Adoptive Family Print Profile, Video Profile, Home Study, etc.

Below are links to articles that can help to answer questions you might have about all the different moving parts of your adoption plan:

Contact your Adoptive Family Specialist or Coordinator for more information. Our incredible staff members are here to help!

15
Jan

What are “Available Situations” for Adoption?

By Annie

American Adoptions works with families of all types, budgets, etc., but there are still times when our agency is unable to match a prospective birth mother with one of our current active families.

The reasons for this are varied and can be due to the living expenses needs of the birth mother, the social or medical history of the birth parents or even because the birth parents are seeking a family meeting a specific criteria. Please watch the video below where Adoption Specialist Kathie shares more about these adoption situations, including:

  • What is the Adoption Resource Center?
  • Where do these Available Situations come from?
  • What requirements are needed to pursue an Adoption Situation?
  • What information will the adoptive family receive about the birth parents?
  • We are ready to pursue an Adoption Situation – what’s next?

Visit our Available Situations webpage to see if you are interested in any of the current situations that we have been unable to match with any of our active families.

American Adoptions urges all adoptive families currently working with our agency to periodically check the Available Situations page and contact our agency if they would like their profile to be shown for a specific situation. Our Available Situations are an excellent opportunity for waiting families, even those with whom we have not yet worked with.

However, it’s important to note that in order to be considered for an Available Situation, all families must have a current, approved home study and some form of profile we can show the birth mother so she can learn more about you. Click here to view our Available Situations.

14
Jan

Visit Our Adoption Forum to Connect with Others

By Annie

The American Adoptions forum gives adoptive families the opportunity to connect with fellow waiting couples as well as families who have been in your shoes and are now adoptive parents. You can share your excitement and joys and seek support from others who are also on their own adoption journey!

Connecting with others who are going through (or have gone through) similar experiences can be helpful for anyone at any stage of the adoption process. It’s comforting to know you aren’t alone. Many people utilize adoption forums such as ours to share positive information and provide each other with meaningful connections and support.

But like anything on the internet, it is important to know exactly where and who information is coming from. We monitor our forum to make sure that inaccurate information is addressed. Negative comments about any adoption agency or organization, solicitations to adopt and advertisements for adoption professionals are not tolerated and will be removed. Feel free to call your Adoption Specialist to seek clarity about something.

Our adoption forum hopes to provide an online community for birth parents, waiting families, adoptees and anyone with an interest in adoption to meet and interact with others who have been touched by adoption.

Registration is free and easy. Visit our adoption forum today!

7
Jan

Adoption Tax Credit 2014 [Infographic]

By Annie

Now that 2014 has come to a close, many families will begin to prepare their finances for tax season. As you do, don’t forget to look into the Federal Adoption Tax Credit.

For 2014, the maximum adoption tax credit is $13,190 for all qualifying adoption expenses. The adoption credit is not refundable, which means that only those individuals with tax liability (taxes owed) will benefit. The credit will remain flat for special needs adoptions (those involving children who are deemed hard to place by a child welfare agency), allowing those families to claim the maximum credit regardless of expenses.

The adoption tax credit income limit is based on modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) and is recalculated each year. In January 2013, the Federal Adoption Tax Credit was made permanent, although the credit could change or be eliminated in the event of future tax code reform. See the infographic at the bottom of the post for more information.

If your family also lives in a state that offers an adoption tax credit (amounts vary by state), they may receive credit for additional expenses as well.

Read more about the Adoption Tax Credit, qualifying expenses and how employer reimbursements could affect your tax credit status on our website. And follow the American Adoptions’ blog for any new updates on the adoption tax credit.

Haven’t Yet Finalized Your Adoption Placement?

Learn How to Seek the Adoption Tax Credit Before Finalization

Every year, adoptive families ask if they can file taxes without their child’s social security number, which is typically received after the adoption is finalized.

Your adoption attorney should apply for a SSN along with the final amended birth certificate after the finalization court hearing. If you do not have these items yet, you or your accountant and/or tax representative can apply for a temporary tax identification number for the baby. You can file your taxes with that number. Here is a link to Form W-7A for information about obtaining a temporary tax ID number. You can also search the IRS website for Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number information.

For more information on the adoption tax credit and exclusion, visit www.irs.gov. American Adoptions recommends that you contact a local accountant or qualified tax professional for more specific information for your family.

Adoption Tax Credit - smaller

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