Families Across Borders | law, policy, news and views

CRC Committee Reports on the Vatican and Children’s Rights

As a Contracting State to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Vatican appeared before the Committee on the Rights of the Child during its 65th session in January 2014 to report on its progress in implementing the treaty.  The Committee’s  Concluding Observations and Recommendations, posted online on February 5, have drawn wide attention for its strongly worded criticisms.  See, for example, Laurie Goodstein, Nick Cumming-Bruce, and Jim Yardley, U.N. Panel Criticizes the Vatican Over Sexual Abuse, NY Times (Feb. 5, 2014), and Lizzie Davies and Henry McDonald, UN denounces Vatican over child abuse and demands immediate action, Guardian (5 Feb. 2014). Although the history of clerical sexual abuse garnered the biggest headlines, the CRC report also addressed issues regarding discrimination against non-marital children, the financial and identity rights of children born to Catholic priests, corporal punishment, and the forcible removal of babies from their mothers in Spain and the Magdalene laundries in Ireland.

Three New Countries Join the Hague Adoption Convention

Croatia, Haiti and Serbia joined the Hague Adoption Convention in December 2013.  It will come into effect in all three countries on April 1, 2014, bringing the number of Contracting States to 93. The Hague Conference announcement is available here.

The US State Department is currently assessing whether it will be able to certify Convention adoptions from Haiti after March 31; see this statement posted on  January 16. There has been no similar notice posted to date for either Serbia or Croatia.

Japan Joins the Abduction Convention

Japan deposited its instrument of ratification for the Hague Child Abduction Convention on Friday, January 24, 2014 and became the 91st contracting state.  The Convention will enter into force for Japan on April 1. The announcement from the Hague Conference is posted here, and a press release from the US Embassy in Japan welcoming the news is available here.

US Supreme Court hears new Hague Abduction Case

The Supreme Court heard arguments on December 11  in Lozano v. Alvarez, a case raising issues regarding “equitable tolling” under Article 12 of the Hague Child Abduction Convention. (For background, please see our previous post.) The Court makes available both an audio recording of the oral arguments  and the transcript.

An analysis of the arguments by Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog is available here.  SCOTUSblog also has links to the briefs filed in the case , including amicus briefs filed by the United States and by the Mexican Association for Abducted and Missing Children, the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (IAML), Reunite International Child Abduction, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, A Child Is Missing, Inc., and the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment & Appeals Project (DV LEAP).

“Rehoming” Children after Adoption?

Reuters has published a five-part investigative report by Megan Twohey called “The Child Exchange: Inside America’s Underground Market for Adopted Children.” The first installment,  titled “Americans use the Internet to Abandon Children Adopted from Overseas” (September 9, 2013), describes a process in which adoptive parents and others advertise unwanted children in Yahoo and Facebook groups “and then pass them to strangers with little or no government scrutiny, sometimes illegally.”

Reuters analyzed more than 5ooo items posted over a five-year period on one Internet message board, finding that, on average, a child was advertised there for ”private rehoming” once a week. “Most of the children ranged in age from 6 to 14 and had been adopted from abroad – from countries such as Russia and China, Ethiopia and Ukraine. The youngest was 10 months old.” Custody is transferred informally, sometimes with the assistance of facilitators “whose activities can be naïve, reckless or illegal,” with the parents turning the child over to the new “parents” by means of a power of attorney.

Reports were also broadcast on NBC, and the story was picked up on many blogs including The Dish, the Daily Dot, and the NY Times Motherlode blog. Some responses to the Reuters series have focused on the need to provide adoptive parents with supportive services after intercountry adoption; see also this response from Holt International Children’s Services.  The U.S. State Department posted a response to the Reuters story on its intercountry adoption web site on September 18. Both Holt and the State Department pointed to the Universal Accreditation Act that will come into effect in 2014, which will require that all intercountry adoption service providers in the United States must be Hague -accredited.

NOTE: US Citizenship and Immigration Services has posted a policy memorandum which eases the process through which an adopted child, who does not have U.S. citizenship or LPR status, may self-petition for immigration classification in cases of abuse.

US Supreme Court takes another Hague Abduction Case

At the end of its term last week, the U.S. Supreme court granted review in Lozano v. Alvarez to consider the issue of “equitable tolling” in cases under Article 12 of the Hague Child Abduction Convention. The opinion from the Second Circuit, which refused to permit tolling, is at 697 F.3d 41 (2d Cir. 2012).) The Court did not accept cert on the second issue raised by the petitioners: whether a child can be “settled” in the United States, within the meaning of the Convention, when the parent and child do not have a legal immigration status or pending application for residence.

For more information, see the Court’s docket page for Lozano and the SCOTUS blog page for the case.

UPDATE: Oral arguments in Lozano have been set for Wednesday, December 11, 2013; briefs are posted on the SCOTUS page linked here.

UCCJEA Amendments Proposed for International Cases

At its annual meeting in July, the Uniform Law Commission will take up proposed amendments to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), designed to assist the United States in implementation of the 1996 Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children. The Annual Meeting Draft is available now from the ULC web site.

Japan votes to ratify Child Abduction Convention

With a unanimous vote today in the upper house of the Diet, Japan’s parliament has agreed to ratification of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.  News outlets reporting the developments in Japan include the BBC,  Wall Street JournalJapan TimesJapan Daily Press, and the Christian Science Monitor. Blog posts include this one from the Daily Beast.

Personal Update

With several posts today, we’re catching up on news from the past few months. I had a very interesting spring semester living and working in the U.K., as Director of the London Law Consortium, a study abroad program for US law students.  Keeping up with the blog fell by the wayside, however, when I broke my right arm just after arriving in London.   The biggest news story of my year came a week after I returned, when our daughter was married on a beautiful spring morning.  Here’s a look at our newly-expanded family!   – Ann Estin

Latin America also moving to permit same-sex marriage

In recent weeks, both Uruguay and Brazil have moved toward joining Argentina and Mexico and other nations in which same-sex marriage is possible.  Uruguay enacted legislation in April; see Zack Ford, Uruguay Becomes  12th Country to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage (Think Progress, April 11, 2013). In Brazil, a ruling in May (which can still be appealed) held that notaries cannot refuse to perform same-sex marriages. See Simon Romero, Brazilian Court Council Removes a Barrier to Same-Sex Marriage (NY Times May 14, 2013).  For commentary on this trend, see Hector Carrillo, How Latin Culture Got More Gay (NY Times May 16, 2013).