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'Keys of paradise': state department celebrates National Adoption Month.

November 2006 marked the 30th anniversary of National Adoption Month, a time each year to recognize the importance of adoption and conduct pro-adoption outreach. In the United States, many family courts set aside a specific day in November to finalize hundreds of adoptions. The Bureau of Consular Affairs, the Employee Relations Office, the Family Liaison Office and numerous consular sections around the world celebrated with special outreach events, panel discussions and ceremonies.

Guangzhou Tradition

By Akunna E. Cook

On November 17, families arriving for their adoption oath-taking ceremony at the U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou--the Department's largest orphan visa-processing post--were met with a celebration. In the presence of invited guests, including Chinese government officials and the consulate general's panel physician, Consul General Robert Goldberg administered the oath to 60 families preparing to take their newly adopted children home to the United States.

While American parents are always happy to see the U.S. flag in the consular waiting room, there were few dry eyes during the ceremony as families celebrated the end of their long journey. Guangzhou had also purchased new children's furniture and toys for the visa waiting room, allowing older siblings accompanying their parents to the visa interview to stay occupied while they waited. Guangzhou is planning to make the swearing-in ceremony a new annual tradition.

The author is a consular officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou.

Lilongwe Forum

By Mitchell Moss

Malawi may not be the first country that comes to mind in discussions about intercountry adoption--at least not until the high-profile case in October 2006 of a 13-month-old Malawian boy who went to live with a well-known American pop singer and her family in the United Kingdom. That case made front-page news around the world and generated a great deal of talk about adoption in Malawi.

On November 22, U.S. Ambassador Alan Eastham hosted a National Adoption Month forum at the U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe titled "Finding Families for Children," which highlighted the nebulous state of Malawian law and regulations governing adoption and allowed U.S. government officials to explain American views of intercountry adoption and its benefits for children in need. The Malawian government had approved only 20 legal adoptions in 2006, although it is estimated that the small country has more than 1 million orphans.

Malawian government and human rights officials participated in a panel discussion, while Mark and Beth Pelletier of the local Centers for Disease Control office gave a moving account of how they had adopted their daughter from Kenya and are now adopting a second child from Ethiopia.

The author is a public affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe.

Kyiv Media Program

By Landon Taylor and Erik Black

On November 28, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv hosted a program on Family and Child Welfare for the Ukrainian press. Journalists from Ukraine's largest TV stations and newspapers attended the two-hour program that included presentations by Assistant Secretary of Consular Affairs Maura Harty (by DVC), the deputy chief of mission and consul general, the country director from Holt International's Ukraine program, as well as representatives from Ukraine's government ministries responsible for child welfare and adoptions.

The program emphasized the U.S. commitment to be a partner with Ukraine in addressing the challenges of child welfare issues and the need to facilitate a fair and transparent adoption process. It also stressed the same "Families for Children" message emphasized in Lilongwe and elsewhere. Ludmyla Balym, deputy director of the Ukrainian State Department for Adoption and Protection of the Rights of the Child, spoke about the importance the Ukrainian government is now placing on child protection and welfare.

She stressed that domestic adoptions are the top priority for Ukraine now, but noted that when it is impossible to place a child into a Ukrainian adopting family, intercountry adoption is the next best solution for an orphan. Participants also screened new public service announcements promoting domestic adoptions in Ukraine.

Mr. Taylor is the consul general and Mr. Black a vice consul at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.

Moscow Overview

By Constance Anderson

Immigrant Visa Unit Chief Connie Anderson, joined by Locally Employed Staff colleagues and a local Department of Homeland Security officer, led a well-received brown-bag discussion on November 15 with approximately 25 other embassy personnel about adoptions in Russia.

Anderson and her team presented an overview of the situation of Russian orphans as well as the U.S. process for allowing foreign-born orphans to immigrate to the United States. Brown-bag participants who were themselves internationally adoptive parents shared their own stories and insights.

The author is the immigrant visa unit chief at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Department Guides

The Bureau of Consular Affairs' Office of Children's Issues, which has primary responsibility within the State Department for intercountry adoption matters, premiered its "Guide for Prospective Adoptive Parents" (http://travel.state.gov/pdf/ Prospective_Adoptive_Parents_Guide.pdf), which explains how adoption processing will work when the United States ratifies the Hague Adoption Convention. On a parallel track, the Family Liaison Office issued its revised "Intercountry Adoption Guidelines for the Foreign Service Family" (www.state.gov/documents/ organization/77317.pdf).

Both are available online from www.state.gov. The two offices joined forces on November 29 to present a two-hour discussion session on this same topic as part of the Bureau of Human Resources Office of Employee Relations' Work/Life Program series. A Work/Life presenter gave an overview of adoptions in general, after which a panel of three officers from Consular Affairs' Office of Overseas Citizens Services, who are also internationally adoptive parents, shared their experiences and offered insights for the 40 Department attendees.

The event included a lively question-and-answer period and was recorded on audio tape. The audio file, transcript and handout materials from the session are available to all State Department families worldwide by contacting Nyda Budig in Consular Affairs at budign@state.gov or Mary Jean Dixon in Employee Relations at dixonmj2@state.gov.

Christopher Lamora is the chief of the Intercountry Adoption Unit in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. Nyda Budig is the public outreach coordinator in the Hague Adoption Convention Implementation Unit.
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Author:Lamora, Christopher; Budig, Nyda
Publication:State Magazine
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Words:1033
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