MODERATOR: First of all, I would like to welcome you to the Foreign Press Center here in Washington. And we’re going to be joined by our colleagues at the Foreign Press Center in New York. Today’s on-the-record briefing is with Deputy Assistant Secretary for Overseas Citizen Services Michele Bond, and it will be on intercountry adoptions by Americans.
Even though we have a small group here today, I would like to remind you, when we have questions, if you would introduce yourself and the media outlet that you represent, because it helps us when we’re doing the transcript to identify who asked the question and it makes the transcripts a lot easier.
I’m not going to take up any more of your time. I’m going to turn the floor over to Deputy Assistant Secretary Michelle Bond.MS. BOND:
Thank you very much, and welcome to all of you. I’m very pleased that you took the time to come in this morning to talk about this subject, and it’s a pleasure to meet all of you.
I would just mention my father worked for almost 30 years as a foreign correspondent in the United States, and so I know the kind of work that you do and how important it is in terms of explaining to your fellow citizens back home what’s going on in the United States. So it’s a real pleasure for me to meet each of you here.
My thought this morning is that I would speak for about perhaps 10 minutes on – touching on a few subjects related to intercountry adoption. And then I’d be very happy to take your questions, if that’s all right with you as a way to proceed. So I’ll talk a little bit about The Hague Adoption Convention. I know that some of you represent countries that are fellow members with us in that Convention, and some of you represent countries that are not. And then a bit about the earthquake in Haiti and the program that was established for orphans in waiting there.
So, this is a subject that excites a sustained interest in the United States. As some of you may know, the United States adopts more foreign-born children than the rest of the world combined. And some people, because the stories about foreign-born children being adopted by Americans are very often in the press, some people, I think, are surprised to learn that there are about four times as many American children adopted by Americans as foreign children. So although that tends not to get as much attention and it’s not, in a way, as exotic and dramatic a story as adopting a child and bringing that child from a foreign country, it is nevertheless true that there are well over 80,000 American children who are adopted every year by American citizens. That’s an important point to remember, I think.
The – last year, there were almost 13,000 foreign-born children who were adopted by American citizens and came to the United States. They came from 105 countries, so it’s a very broad picture, when we look at where the children come from. There were also 26 American children last year who were adopted by foreign families and left the United States and joined those families overseas. So it has been true for a long time and continues to be true that ours is a country where the adoptions are coming in and also going out. Those children in last year’s instance joined families in five different countries, and I can say a little bit more about that later.
We as a nation and as a government very strongly support adoption as an appropriate solution for a child who needs a family, and we support intercountry adoption as a very good outcome for a child for whom a family cannot be found in that child’s own country. So the first choice is always that a child should, if possible, grow up in the family where he or she was born, or perhaps with extended family members. If that’s not possible, then to grow up in a loving family in their own country. And if it’s not possible to find a family within the child’s native country, then for that child to have the opportunity to be adopted by a loving family in another country. That’s a policy that we have long strongly supported and that is the idea behind The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, that idea of, they call it, subsidiary – that first find a solution for the child within the family, within the country, or in the broader world.
The Hague Convention preamble says that a child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding. And so I would stress that we do believe that the last thing that should ever happen to a child is to grow up in an institution. No institution, however well managed and well run, can take the place of parents and the kind of very focused devotion that they give to children as they’re raising them. And that’s what we believe should be the outcome for every child in the world, if possible, to be growing up in a loving and permanent and stable family.
We support The Hague Convention because it protects children. It provides a structure. It provides advice and support to the member countries to work with the child welfare systems in each country to promote better lives for the children who are in state care, for whatever reason. We very much support the Convention’s premise that children and families benefit from transparent and ethical practices in adoption. That’s very important. the Hague Adoption Convention provides internationally recognized and agreed principles and standards which are specifically designed to protect the interests of the children, of their birth families, and of the adopting families. The Convention works differently, to some degree, in each country, based on the local laws and the local practices. But it does provide a framework and guiding principles within which we all work to operate.
There are some countries who have approached us and proposed bilateral agreements on adoption, and I would say that we do feel very strongly that a better approach is to work together as partners within the multilateral Hague Convention. As members ourselves, we are very proud to be members, we are very active members, and we have been greatly helped along the way by the ideas and the support and the recommendations of our partners within the Convention. So, we hope we’ve been helpful to other countries and we know that we have received good advice and good support from them.
If you are a member of the Convention, each country that belongs has a central authority when it’s – within its government, and that central authority works with the central authorities of every other partner nation. My office includes the Office of Children’s Issues, and that is the U.S. central authority. We work very, very closely with our fellow central authorities. We are responsible for coordinating and monitoring our country’s intercountry adoption policies, particularly insofar as they relate to adoptions to and from partner countries within the Convention.
We work as well very closely with other federal agencies of the U.S. Government and with each of the 50 states because in the United States, adoption is not a federal function. It’s something that the states manage themselves and are responsible for themselves. And so if, for example, an American child is being adopted by a foreign family, that all takes place at the State Level, Oklahoma or Wisconsin or wherever the child is from. All of the approvals take place. But if the child is going to a Hague partner country, we do now have a role just in confirming that the procedures that were followed are ones that are – that match the requirements of the Convention, and we do issue a certificate that confirms that the child’s adoption was appropriately arranged.
So, another thing that’s extremely important part of our job is to keep adopting families and the service providers, the agencies that assist them, well informed and accurately informed about laws, changes in laws, procedures, especially in foreign countries. They can keep up pretty well themselves with what’s happening within the United States with respect to adoption, but they look to us for assistance in terms of providing information on what might be happening in other countries around the world.
So, we also provide accreditation to the adoption agencies who work in Hague partner countries. So again, this is something where there would not normally be a federal role. If an American adoption agency is working in a country that is not a Hague partner, there is no federal role in terms of oversight of that agency’s work. But if it’s a Hague country, then we do have a role, and we are able to step in and take action if it’s reported and confirmed that that agency is operating in a way that is unethical or is not in conformance with local law or U.S. law. And that’s another reason why we so strongly advocate for The Hague Convention because that is a very valuable tool. Most agencies are hardworking, ethical, very, very good organizations. But knowing they could lose not only on the right to work in the particular country but in any other Hague country if they lost their accreditation is a very valuable tool for making sure that they cross every T and dot every I when they’re doing their work.
We also have children that are adopted by American families and come to the United States from non-Convention countries, and the procedure in that case may be a little bit different because it’s not necessarily following Hague rules. But because we wouldn’t want to exclude the possibility of a child finding a loving family just because that child happens to be growing up in a non-Convention country, we do have adoptions with countries that are not Convention partners, too. And we – as we work with each of those countries, we do repeatedly talk to them about the merits, as we see them, of adjusting their own procedures and seriously considering joining The Hague Convention and benefiting from those – the advantages of being in there.
There are some countries – and this is completely normal – where intercountry adoption is controversial and is seen as – seen skeptically by the local citizens. And that, I think, is most true in cases where not enough has been done in the local country to explain exactly what intercountry adoption is and the kinds of children that are deemed eligible and appropriate candidates for adoption. I would say again it’s very important always for people to understand that the children who are offered to foreign families are children for whom an effort has already been made to find a local family that they could become the daughter or son of. The foreign families are and should be the last choice, as it were, for searching for a family for a child.
In many countries, there are multiple authorities and jurisdictions, and this is true here in the United States. I mentioned that the states as well as the federal government have a role to play. And so part of what we do, too, is to try to put out good information to help people navigate exactly what it is that they need to do, either if they’re adopting in the United States or adopting abroad, to be sure that they get it right and they complete their adoption appropriately.
I mentioned that there are outgoing adoptions, and so I’ll just mentioned that in the most recent cases, the American children have been adopted by families in Canada, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. And the children themselves came from Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, and California. The numbers at the moment are not significantly large numbers of outgoing adoptions. However, we have been in touch with several partner countries in The Hague Convention who have expressed interest in adopting children, who are awaiting children in foster care in the United States, children who are available for adoption, are of course hoping to be adopted, and there are a number of Hague partner countries that have said that they would like the opportunity to provide information about those children to their citizens. And we hope that we will see growing numbers of children who may be placed with foreign families if they’re not going to be placed with American families. There are currently over 100,000 children in foster care in the United States who are eligible for adoption. So there are, sadly, plenty of children available for American and foreign families to adopt.
And finally, to say a few words about what has happened in the last few weeks in Haiti. When that earthquake struck, there were a number of children who were in the process of waiting to be adopted by American families. And normally, it’s not possible for a child who hasn’t been adopted yet – in other words, the adoption is not full and final, according to the local law – well, that child then remains where he is, in an orphanage waiting for the process to be completed. And when the adoption is final, then we can issue a visa and the child comes to the United States. What we considered when the earthquake struck, because it was so incredibly devastating, was the question of is there something that could be done for children whose adoption is not final, but they’ve progressed far enough in the process that we know who the child is and we know who the adopting parents are; would it be possible, perhaps, to bring those children to the United States, to safety?
We were not the only country that had this idea. The Netherlands and Canada and some other countries also approached Haiti with the idea of could we consider on an exceptional basis making arrangements for those children. And we did put together a plan rather quickly, and it was quick but it was very carefully conceived because the idea was that this is not intended for any child in Haiti; it was – it’s specifically for children that, before the earthquake, were already matched with an American family and very clearly identified as orphans, known to be orphans, and the Haitian Government as well as the United States Government had been involved in that process. We were very pleased that the Haitian Government agreed promptly to this idea. And to date, just over 800 children have traveled to the United States to join their families. There will be work to be done --QUESTION:
How many? Sorry.MS. BOND:
Over 800, and there are more to come, we believe. I don’t know how many. There are a few hundred more whose cases are being examined and reviewed. In each case, for each child, our government officials had to take a look at what documents there were to show that this really was a child who had been matched before the earthquake and that the parents had been screened. As you may know, if you’re going to adopt a foreign child, you have to be – you get fingerprinted, there’s an FBI check, there’s a home study where someone comes and looks at where you live and interviews you and your spouse, if you’re married, about your own background, your experience growing up, your parenting style, the strength of your marriage, your medical history. It’s a very, very thorough examination that adopting parents undergo before they’re approved to adopt. So in this Haiti program, all of the parents had to have already been through that screening before the child could be eligible to come to the United States.
I think I’ll stop here because I want to leave plenty of time for your questions, and I look forward to hearing what those may be.
Concerning Haiti – MS. BOND:
May I just ask you to identify --QUESTION:
Yes, sure. My name is Heba el-Koudsy. I’m a journalist, Egyptian journalist for al-Masry al-Youm newspaper in Egypt. MS. BOND:
I want first to concentrate on the Haiti issue because 10 people was arrested there and eight of them was released.MS. BOND:
How do you manage this problem, protecting people who are trying to adopt children from Haiti? What’s the situation?MS. BOND:
The case of the people who were arrested and – under suspicion of trying to remove children from the country illegally and, as you say, eight of those people have now been released and two are still in the country, and the investigation is perhaps getting close to its end. This phenomenon reflects the fact that when there is a disaster – and this isn’t true just of Haiti; we saw it following the tsunami and under other circumstances where there’s just a big and very destructive disaster – it’s a natural and a good thing that human beings see what happened and their response is, how can I help? What could I do? And some people respond by saying I’m looking at the TV, I can see there are children in desperate circumstances, I know that I live in a good home, I could help one of those children, I could give a good home to one of those children. And many, many Americans and people – other people around the world, too, had that response watching the TV stories.
The fact is that although that’s a very commendable response, it is not the best response for the children because what we have found, again in the tsunami and in other disasters, is that most of the children who appear to be quite alone immediately after a disaster have been separated from their families but that doesn’t mean they don’t have families. And their relatives are looking for them. And even if they are very young children, if they’re younger than three, they probably aren’t going to know mommy’s name, they’re not going to know the street where they lived, they’re not going to be – they may not know their own name. They’re not going to be able to assist very much in returning – getting them returned to their families.
But there is, sadly, a good deal of expertise now in UNICEF and in other organizations in identifying such children and finding their families. Sometimes DNA is used, sometimes other information, but what’s key to this is not removing the children from the area where their families are going to come looking for them. And so, although some people think the right thing to do is to gather children up and take them someplace where everything will be cleaner and better, the best thing for the children really is for them to remain where they are, to be cared for appropriately there while the work of trying to find their families goes forward. So although folks who were thinking of rescuing children had the best possible intentions, in fact that is not the right thing to do and it’s not something that our government supports or recommends. And we agree with the Haitian Government’s statement that its priority right now is to return children to their families, to identify them and find their family members and not, at this time, to focus on accepting new adoption applications.
But again, I would stress that the children who have come to the United States recently were all orphans before the earthquake. These are not children who may have lost parents during the earthquake. And that was very, very carefully delineated as part of our program. QUESTION:
And what is the situation? They were – these people, these 10 folks were working illegally, not under any federal or any American agency? MS. BOND:
Yeah, my understanding is that they were entirely a private effort to try to help children that they believed needed their help, but that kind of private effort is in fact not wise and is not what we would want our citizens to be doing. Even in an emergency, it’s important to do things carefully and methodically and not to just brush the rules aside and scoop up the children and take them away.
I have questions, two questions about Russia – MS. BOND:
May I ask you to – sorry.QUESTION:
I’m Maria Tabak from the Russian news agency, RIA Novosti. And as I understand it, the situation with Russia is quite complicated because Russia is not a member of Hague Convention. And so what are the prospective of negotiations with Russia in terms of kid adoption? Because as I understand, there are quite many Russian children who are getting adopted in the United States.
And also another question is that we know that, I think, I believe 15 children died in the United States after being adopted. So what are the control procedures between Russia and the United States because adoption goes by several agencies. And some of them, they don’t governmental license of Russia. So how all these things are going to be – MS. BOND:
Those are good questions. I was lucky enough to live and work in Moscow for two years, and my responsibility while I was there was for adoptions. I was in charge of the immigrant visa unit. And of course the children, when they are adopted, they get an immigrant visa to come to the United States. So I met – in the course of that time, we approved about 10,000 adoptions. At the time that I was working in Moscow, our embassy there was responsible for adoptions from eight countries, not only from Russia but also Kazakhstan and some other countries in the region. So, although the majority of the children were Russian, they weren’t all Russian.
I would want to say that we have very, very close and good working relationships with the officials in Russia who are responsible for adoptions, and I have a great deal of respect for the thoroughness and the very good job that is done there in terms of being sure that all available information about each child is in the file, and that efforts are made in the case of an abandoned child to identify who the parents might be and so forth. As you say, there are many children who have been adopted to the United States. And overwhelmingly, those children are thriving and are the beloved sons and daughters of the American families they have joined.
One thing I would also note is that the children who have come here from Russia or from any other country, one of the things that the adopting families prioritize is to make sure that those children are able to maintain their ties and their identity as Russians as well as Americans. So, children in the United States who are adopted don’t grow up unaware that they are adopted. It’s not a secret. And they are encouraged to be proud of being Russian American or Chinese American or whatever it might be. And many of the parents make it a practice to get together with other families that also have children originally from Russia to encourage the children to study Russian as the – when they’re in school and to know everything about their own heritage. And we believe that’s a really important part. It’s part of what brings our countries together, in a way, having citizens who group up with links to both countries.
Your question was rather general, so I’m not sure exactly what you were driving at about -- QUESTION:
Well, first of all, it’s how America – United States and Russia are going to overcome this problem with these different conventions, that Russia is part of UN Convention. MS. BOND:
Right. Well, Russia has signed The Hague Convention, although it has not been ratified.QUESTION:
Ratified, yes.MS. BOND:
Right. And was true for our country, too. It took almost 10 years from the time we signed to when we ratified because we had to make extensive changes to our laws and our practice because there had been no federal role in adoption beforehand. And so I’m not discouraged by the fact that Russia is taking some time to consider what steps would need to be taken to become a full partner.
You referred to the agencies, some of which are not licensed. We have no way under U.S. law to regulate the overseas operations of American agencies unless they are working in a Hague partner country. And so we were not able to regulate the agencies that work in Russia. We do often recommend to countries that are not Hague partners that they consider using Hague accreditation as a standard that they require.
So, for example, a country could say we will only allow an American agency to work in our country if it is accredited to work in Hague countries. That way, you know that that agency has been through a very careful examination by us. And it doesn’t cost anything. The other government doesn’t have to go out and investigate the American agency. If it’s on the list of Hague accredited countries – agencies, then you know that it’s met the standards for that. So even in advance of becoming a Hague partner, we think it could be very valuable for Russia to simply state that it will only allow agencies from the United States or any other Hague country to operate if they have that accreditation. We think that that would be very valuable.
The 15 cases that you refer to were terrible tragedies, each one of them. No child should ever be hurt, and certainly never killed, by a parent in – and, as you probably know, in every case those situations led to criminal trials. And most of the parents who were found responsible for the deaths are serving extended jail terms.
So the children, when they come to the United States, are – receive exactly the same level of protection from social services and from the police and the justice system that my children or any other child in the United States would get. So there’s no distinction made between children who happen to be adopted and children who happen to be born to American citizens. They acquire U.S. citizenship on arrival. However, it’s not necessary to be a U.S. citizen in the United States to be someone who is eligible to receive the protection that we give to children in the United States, so any child in the United States receives the same protection.
We will continue to work with the Russian Government to try to make absolutely sure that every placement of a child with a family is a good one and that the child will be safe and carefully and lovingly raised in that adoptive family. QUESTION:
(Inaudible) how many Russian kids were adopted for (inaudible)?MS. BOND:
I would have to get the exact number. Let me just see if I have it here. Yes, I do have – oh, I see, it’s by region. Sorry. I think what I have are the numbers just for the last year.QUESTION:
Oh, okay. MS. BOND:
And that was 1,586.QUESTION:
One thousand five hundred – MS. BOND:
Eighty-six. And that’s for the fiscal year 2009. So it’s from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2009. We can certainly get you the number of how many have been adopted in the last 10 years and so forth. I would also mention that we are very, very happy to see that the numbers of adoptions within Russia are increasing. And we strongly support that and would be happy to do whatever we can because we have so much experience with adoption in the United States, with preparing people to be good parents and supporting them after they adopt the children with the challenges that come in adopting a child who has spent some amount of time in an institution. We would welcome the opportunity to work with any country to address whatever challenges there are and to encourage more local citizens to adopt. QUESTION:
Deputy Assistant Secretary Bond, you asked me to remind you at 12:30 of the time. MS. BOND:
So I’m reminding you of the time. MS. BOND:
Well, all right.QUESTION:
I still have some questions. MS. BOND:
Oh. All right. Well, let me just offer our colleague in New York a chance to ask a question. QUESTION:
Yes. Neeme Raud, Estonian TV. Could you tell us what exactly changed after the United States became part of The Hague Convention. What – you mentioned that the laws had to be rewritten and all that. And another question is, you mentioned also countries that are not really supporting these intercountry adoptions. Could you bring some examples? And what are the worries? Thank you. MS. BOND:
All right. Welcome. What changed for us, primarily, is that the – in addition to adoptions proceeding as – in some ways as they had before, now there is a federal role. So now, if the adoption is taking place between the United States and a Hague partner, the adoption agency that’s handling the case must be accredited through my office and must maintain its accreditation. And there are certain steps in the process that follow a specific order, if it’s a Hague adoption, that wouldn’t necessarily have been followed before. And part of that, for example, is if a child is identified by the other government as being an orphan and as being an orphan that is – that they think could benefit from a foreign adoption, they provide that information to our government and we have the opportunity to confirm that that child would be eligible for a U.S. visa if the adoption takes place. And then they go forward. Having confirmed that, they present the child to a foreign family and the adoption can proceed according to the local law.
That’s an important change because we did occasionally have situations where an American family might adopt a foreign child and then we were not able to give that child a visa because the circumstances of the adoption did not match U.S. law. An example of how that might happen would be, suppose you’re living in a foreign country or an American living in a foreign country and you know someone who says, “My daughter’s having a baby, she’s 16 years old, she’s not married. We’re looking for a good home for that baby. What do you think?” And the Americans say, “Well, you know, we were actually thinking of adopting, hoping to adopt.” So they work it out personally, privately; they make all the arrangements.
We actually don’t permit that circumstance, a child adopted under those circumstances to receive a visa to come to the United States. Our law requires that the child has to go through a process where disinterested officials make the determination that the child is an orphan and make the match with an adopting child. And the reason that we require that is that it’s one of the safeguards in our law to ensure that children are not sold, that someone doesn’t come along and say, “Hey, I’ll give you some money for that baby.”
So under the Hague process, we’re able to protect people from the heartbreak of going forward with an adoption which then they find they’re not able to bring the child to the United States, because it has violated a U.S. law.
In terms of the question of how about people who or countries where adoptions are viewed skeptically. I don’t know that I would single out a specific country, but I would only say that if you read the press about the subject of intercountry adoption, one of the subjects that often comes up is the question of whether foreigners having an interest in adoption can somehow affect the adoption situation in a foreign country simply by expressing interest, simply by the fact that they are in the picture. Is it possible that we can inadvertently lead people to abandon or relinquish their children for adoption who otherwise might not have done it? Do people have the idea, “Ah, I’ll put my child out for adoption and that child will grow up rich in the United States.” That’s not what we want. We want children to be adopted only because they have a family that can’t care for them, not for any other reason.
And so that’s the kind of situation where – that I was thinking of, where there are people who may believe that children are being inappropriately adopted by foreigners. And I wanted to stress how important it is for our government to work with other governments to be sure that doesn’t happen – that it doesn’t happen inadvertently, that it doesn’t happen for any reason.
Yes. I have here in your (inaudible) that you have Tunisia, Egypt, and United Arab Emirates, and Turkey, which are Islamic countries, and adoption is not allowed in Islamic countries. How do you deal with all this – how do you deal with Islamic countries who don’t have this adoption (inaudible) and don’t allow it? MS. BOND:
Well, I can’t say absolutely for sure in each case. I’m looking – for example, in the case of Tunisia, there was one adoption and I’m not spotting some of those other countries. United Arab – there were -- QUESTION:
One adoption in Tunisia, and two in Egypt – MS. BOND:
Right. In most cases -- QUESTION:
One Turkey and one in UAE. MS. BOND:
Right. There are a couple of things that are possible explanations that I’ll just put out there without being able to speak specifically to these cases. Normally if the adoption is one that involves a Muslim child, you would find that that is, in fact, an adoption within the family, and that it may be, for example, that a child has been orphaned but he has an uncle who’s an American citizen. And so typically that’s what we see because, as you say, adoption is not part of the tradition. And indeed, the tradition is that children are cared for within the family in a Muslim country, normally.
In terms of the adoptions from Egypt, again we’d have to look at it specifically, but they may well have been Christian children rather than Muslim children who were adopted from Egypt. QUESTION:
Actually, concerning Egypt, there was that accident that two American people were trying to adopt two Christian orphans in Egypt but it turned out to be a legal case and with a big court case, and the people who tried to adopt these Christian children were imprisoned.MS. BOND:
Right. I’m familiar with that. And that’s the kind of situation, again, that we do our best to work with our partner countries, whether or not they are Hague partners, to prevent. We depend on the other government to do most of the investigating to make sure that children who are identified for adoption are truly orphans and are truly eligible to be adopted under their law. And our part of the job is to be sure that the adopting parents are very carefully screened and to, as far as possible, to verify that the information we’re given about the child is accurate.
So exerting due diligence in these cases and looking, not just accepting a birth certificate that’s handed to us but trying to confirm that the information is true and that no fraud is taking place, that’s a very important part of our job in terms of handling these cases. We can’t do it alone. We must have the cooperation of the other government, because if the other government is part of the fraud, let’s say, then it’s very hard for us to know what’s true and what’s false. But if we have a good partner in the other government, then to a very great degree we are able to avoid any kind of fraud.
I would say, for example, when I worked in Russia, once in a while – the files were very good, very clear, and very well resourced, very accurate. Once in a while, we would see something in a child’s file that we had never seen before. And we’d say that’s odd, never seen that. And we would call the Russian Government office that was responsible and we would say, “We have a child here and this” – let’s be clear; this is a child who has been adopted now – under Russian law is already the child of the American family that’s standing in our waiting room, but we would call the Russian office and say we don’t understand, in this file, why this statement occurs or why the judge said this or whatever. And they were on it right away. They would call the judge or call the orphanage or call wherever the question lay and ask the question and straighten it out and then get back to us and say, okay, here’s the explanation.
But we were absolutely partners with the government in making sure that every case was a good one. There was never any question of us trying – of saying oh, well, let’s just let it go. We take it very seriously that things have to be done right. This protects the children. The last thing you want is for people to think that they can slip bad cases by. That’s what we want to prevent. QUESTION:
Deputy Assistant Secretary, would you like to end the formal part now and then maybe take a few individual questions afterwards or continue?MS. BOND:
Are we about out of questions? What do you all think? I’m – we could take maybe -- QUESTION:
I have one more question.MS. BOND:
So one more and one more, and then we stop; is that okay? QUESTION:
I just want to ask about Egypt, part of (inaudible) and (inaudible) has mentioned that the regulation of the Convention provide important protection for both children and parents. So I’m very concerned about these people who – these Americans, particularly in Egypt’s case, that they tried to adopt a Christian child and they faced prison. What kind of protection did you provide them, or what did you do specifically in this case?MS. BOND:
Egypt is not a Hague partner, but we would be thrilled to see Egypt join The Hague Convention. And my – I hope that that’s something that’s being studied, recognizing that adoption is not as common in a Muslim country as it might be in some other country. But to the extent that Egyptian law might match the Hague, that would be a great thing.
Well, again, as I said, we try to work with each other government in each case, whatever government it is, for a particular child to be sure that the child who is being adopted is really an orphan, and that if, for example, the birth parent has relinquished that child, that there was no coercion, there was no payment, there was no inducement to relinquish the child for adoption. And we try to be sure that the people who are adopting are decent, good people who are well prepared to be good parents. There are criminals out there, and that’s why it’s so important for governments to work diligently to establish processes that keep the criminals out, and work together to make sure that those processes operate as they should.
Yes. I wonder when next round of negotiations with Russian partners, because as I understand it, it’s an ongoing process (inaudible) was the chief person in Russia. And these issues, he was (inaudible) maybe a month ago. So when is next time?MS. BOND:
I know he was here and I missed seeing him because I was – it was all Haiti all the time at that particular time, and so other people did meet with him. We are in – to a great degree, we are in ongoing discussions. There are issues that the Russian Government has raised, concerns that they have raised, and we are working very hard to address and assist those concerns.
To briefly give you one example, when a Russian child is adopted, there is a requirement under Russian law that the adopting parents send a report periodically back to Russia, describing how the child is doing. The Russian Government came to us with a list of situations where they said we have not received the reports on these children, and so we sent out messages to those families, to the extent that we could, to the extent that there were addresses and so forth, to say we’ve been informed that, according to their records, the Russian Government has not received the report as required on your child. We gave instructions on what they should do, where they should send those reports.
We heard from some families, many of whom said, “We did send the report and we’ll send it again. If their records indicate that they didn’t receive it, then we’ll send it again.” In some cases, the families even said, “We sent the report and we received an acknowledgement that it had been received.” But, you know, I mean, things can happen in a big bureaucracy. Someone didn’t check a box that it’s been received, so again, the family said, “We’ll send it again.” Like all parents, these families are very proud of the kids. They are happy to report back on how they’re doing and send pictures and send school reports and so forth.
So it’s not a matter of unwillingness, but sometimes it may be a matter of people not being as conscientious as they should. And so that’s an example of how our governments are trying to work together to address concerns that might be raised about how the process is working.QUESTION:
So all of them send those reports? MS. BOND:
I hope so. QUESTION:
Yeah. (Laughter.)MS. BOND:
But they were sending what directly to the Russian Government, and we don’t receive a copy. We don’t see it. And – but we’ll do is to go back then to your government after a time and say, “Okay, how are we doing? We hope the list is very much shorter now, of reports that are not received. Let’s see where we stand. Let’s see what we can do next.” So --QUESTION:
Thank you. QUESTION:
Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with our journalists today, and so – MS. BOND:
-- with this, we will conclude our briefing. MS. BOND:
# # #