Oregon welfare officials to resume adoptions of foster children to families outside U.S.
By Amy Reifenrath, The Oregonian
April 17, 2009, 8:59PMSALEM — Child welfare officials testifying before two legislative committees Friday said the state will resume international adoptions after May 8.
Five children from state foster care were slated to go to Mexico to be raised by relatives when the state announced a 60-day moratorium on international adoptions in March.
Read The Oregonian’s series about the death of Adrianna Cram that spurred action in the Oregon Legislature at oregonlive.com/special
The moratorium came days before The Oregonian published a two-day series describing how child welfare authorities in Oregon and in Mexico failed to protect 4-year-old Adrianna Romero Cram.
Born in Hillsboro and taken into foster care when she was 1 year old, Adrianna was sent by the state to live with relatives in Omealca, Mexico, in July 2004. She was still in Oregon’s legal custody when she was abused for months and then murdered in June 2005. Her aunt and uncle, selected by Oregon authorities to adopt the girl, were convicted of aggravated murder.
Adrianna’s teachers in Mexico told The Oregonian that they had tried to find help for the bruised and battered girl but couldn’t get local child welfare workers to act. Meanwhile, child welfare workers in Oregon relied on phone calls with the girl’s abusers and sporadic updates from Mexican authorities to find out how the girl was faring.
Legislators held hearings Friday on two bills drafted in response to Adrianna’s death.
“I want to make sure that this can’t happen again to the extent we can do that,” said Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem.
Senate Bill 10 would require the state Department of Human Services to meet requirements established under The Hague Convention on Protection of Children. The international treaty, which took effect last year, is intended to protect children from abuse or exploitation.
A companion measure, House Bill 3471, would require specific adoption agreements spelling out the responsibilities of child welfare officials on both sides of the border to ensure that a child is safe. Those agreements would include extensive background interviews and require training for relatives in other countries before they take in a child from Oregon foster care. Once the child is placed, the agreement would require regular checks and written reports to Oregon officials until the adoption is final.
If these agreements are spelled out in Oregon law, then state child welfare workers would not place a child in another country without them, said Erinn Kelley-Siel, who heads the state Children, Adults and Families Division.
From 1999 through 2008, the state has placed 27 children in foster care for adoption with families outside the United States. If children cannot be returned to their parents, Kelley-Siel said, the state tries to place them for adoption with relatives in Oregon or elsewhere.
Eight children from Oregon foster care have been sent to live with relatives in Mexico since Adrianna’s death. Beth Englander, Oregon adoption program manager, said state officials recently checked and confirmed “that they’re all safe and happy.”
But legislators also heard pleas Friday from Adrianna’s biological mother and grandmother, who testified that the state should not send children to other countries.
“It’s deceptive and dishonest” for the state to promise that a child will be safe when they know they can’t keep that promise, said Tausha Cram, Adrianna’s mother. “I can’t let my daughter’s death be in vain.”
Cram lost her parental rights due to neglect and drug abuse.
Senate Bill 10 is being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. House Bill 3471 is in the House Human Services Committee. Both panels could vote on the bills as soon as next week.
— Michelle Cole; firstname.lastname@example.org