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.
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.
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.
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 Journal, Japan Times, Japan Daily Press, and the Christian Science Monitor. Blog posts include this one from the Daily Beast.
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
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).
The Office of the Head of International Family Justice for England and Wales has released its Annual Report for 2012. Since its establishment in 2005, the Office, headed by the Right Honorable Lord Justice Mathew Thorpe:
has functioned as a centre of expertise and helpdesk for general enquiries in the field of international family law for the judiciary and practitioners in this jurisdiction and overseas. Its main role is to support and facilitate cross-border judicial collaboration and direct judicial communication and to enhance the expertise necessary for handling the large numbers of cases relating to aspects of private international law.
In 2012, the Office fielded 253 requests for assistance, primarily from judges (28%), academics (23%), and practicing barristers and solicitors (33%).
See also Rapid Rise in Global Family Disputes (BBC May 1, 2013)
The French Parliament approved legislation to allow same-sex marriage on April 23, 2013. See Scott Sayare, Amid Much Tumult, France Approves ‘Marriage for All’ (NY Times April 2013).
As expected, the legislation was challenged in the French Conseil Constitutionnel, but that challenge was rejected on May 17, and President François Hollande signed the legislation into law on May 18. The first marriages under the new law are expected by the end of May. See Steven Erlanger, Hollande Signs French Gay Marriage Law (NY Times May 18, 2013).
See also the post by Gilles Cuniberti, discussing the ruling of the Conseil Constitutionnel, on ConflictofLaws.net.
The US Supreme Court decided its second case under the Hague Child Abduction Convention on February 19, with its ruling in Chafin v. Chafin 568 U.S. ___, 133 S.Ct. 1017 (2013). The case resolved a split among the circuits of the federal Court of Appeals, but the Court had an easy time deciding the central issue, ruling unanimously that the return of a child under the Convention does not moot an appeal of the trial court’s return order, as long as there is something at stake for the party seeking to appeal. The slip opinion from the Supreme Court is here; coverage in the SCOTUS blog is here; and coverage on Conflictoflaws.net is here.
Lots of news this Spring from the Hague Conference., which announced in March that Cristophe Bernasconi will be the new Secretary General when Hans Van Loon retires at the end of June. The year began with news that Queen Elizabeth II was honoring William Duncan, who stepped down as Deputy Secretary General in 2012, with an appointment to the Order of St. Michael and St. George, for his work in international law, particularly international child protection.
As of January 1, 2013, the 2007 Family Maintenance Convention has entered into force, and is now in effect between Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Norway. Swaziland joined the Hague Adoption Convention in March, bringing the total number of contracting states to 90.