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Oregon DHS Develops Policy and Procedures for International Relative Placement Adoptions

Beth EnglanderBeth Englander
Adoption and Guardianship State Program Manager, Oregon Department of
Human Service Children, Adults and Families Division

Summary: The Oregon legislature, child advocates and the Department of Human Services are taking action to give foster children adopted by relatives living in other countries the same expectation for safety and permanency as their peers placed in Oregon and other states.

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In order to ensure that Oregon foster children are well-prepared for transition into adoptions subject to the Hague Convention and the Intercountry Adoption Act (IAA), the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) is focused on building policies and procedures that ensure the same standards for safety, permanency and well-being apply to intercountry adoptions and domestic adoptions. These efforts are supported by passage of two laws in the 2009 Oregon Legislature.

The new Oregon legislation requires DHS implementation of policy and procedures for Hague convention adoptions that also address IAA requirements for state agencies. The legislation is fully effective as of June 2010 and requires that DHS  Adoption and Guardianship Program staff will address issues including reasonable efforts and search requirements for convention placements, child citizenship determination and consistency in placement selection practices.

New policies and procedures will also require conclusion of a formal supervision agreement between DHS and the receiving country’s central authority. A hallmark of the legislation is the expectation that DHS will enter into relationships with foreign central authorities (as specified by the convention) that can promote the safety of children entering international adoptions. This includes developing collaborative approaches that support the adoptive placement of Oregon foster children in other countries and with families in the US when the child’s adoption is subject to the convention. DHS has particularly found that engagement of the consulate is critical to ensuring the safety and well-being of children.

DHS makes international adoption placements only with relatives. This practice will continue under the convention and IAA. The department believes that the new policies and procedures will improve identification, study and selection of relatives living in other countries, including of US citizens living abroad.

Concomitant with support for the selection of relatives, caseworkers will be expected to improve practices associated with preparing children to transition to their new homes. Some youngsters enter foster care after coming to this country with their parents. If their parents’ rights are relinquished or involuntarily terminated and the children are adopted by relatives, they should be comfortable with the culture to which they return. This is doubly important for youngsters born in the US who will be placed with foreign relatives.

To this end, caseworkers are encouraged to begin building cultural connections and relationships for children as early as possible through phone contacts, cultural experiences, school and library resources and language tutoring. Caseworkers also ask relatives for their “life story book” so that children can see pictures of their new families, homes and community sites important to children. Children’s current caretakers are asked to help facilitate these extra activities in order to support a smoother transition.

Finally, the department recognizes that it is equally imperative to provide policy-to-practice training for caseworkers and supervisors and provide consulting resources in the Adoption and Guardianship Program Office. A draft curriculum is pending and is expected to be delivered statewide in the spring. Through a shared conversation and ensuing enactment of requirements for policy, procedure, and training, the Oregon legislature, child advocates, and the Department of

Human Services are taking action to give foster children adopted by relatives living in other countries the same expectation for safety and permanency as their peers placed in Oregon and other states.

 

Editor’s Note: Before working with Oregon DHS, Beth Englander served as director of the national Child Welfare Monitoring Project with ICF International and child welfare administrator for the state of Florida.

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