Archive for March, 2012

A Home for Artyom

I was happy to read this follow-up article from NPR about Artyom Savelyev. As many of you remember, in 2010 Artyom was sent back to Russia by his American adoptive mother, Torry-Ann Hansen, who put him on a plane alone bearing a note that said he had severe psychological problems and she no longer wished to parent him (if you don’t remember, you can read more about it here). I think about Artyom often when I’m counseling prospective adoptive parents, and have always hoped that he had found his way to a loving family that could help him sort out his emotions rather than making him feel unlovable.

It seems from the article that Artyom has found just such a family, in one of Russia’s “Children’s Villages,” where orphans and children who have been removed from their parents’ care due to abuse or neglect live together with foster parents in a family setting. The children go to regular schools and daycares, so it seems the main difference between the villages and American foster care is that the foster families live together in one designated neighborhood. I was heartened to see that Artyom’s foster mother really seems to “get it” about children who have been through trauma and loss. Unlike his adoptive mother, who reacted with horror and rejection to Artyom, the foster mother says “All our children have psychological problems — not psychiatric disorders, but psychological problems — because they were torn away from their mothers.” There appears to be good support in place for the children’s special needs there. I’d be most interested in learning what kind of support services are in place there, and how the United States might learn from them how to better prepare and support adoptive parents in dealing with children’s emotional and psychological issues.

I was also very happy to learn that important changes have been made to Russia’s adoption agreement with the United States. I was especially glad that the adoption treaty now includes the exchange of more information with prospective adoptive parents so they are prepared for the issues they might face in adopting children who have been through profound trauma. Proper counseling and education of adoptive parents is a critical need, and I believe it could have prevented Artyom’s heartbreaking experience.

I’m curious what my readers think of the “Children’s Villages” described in the article. Are these a great way to provide supportive family settings for children in need, or does it make vulnerable children feel more “different” from their peers? I’m also interested in hearing from those of you have adopted from Russia or attempted to do so. Chime in using the comments or email me at evaughan (at) vaughanfirm (dot) com.

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

Legal Issues Abound in Assisted Reproduction


When it comes to technology, very often our technology evolves too fast for our laws to keep up. Nowhere is this more true than in assisted reproduction technology. In vitro fertilization, surrogacy, embryo implantation, and similar developments are just a few examples of technologies that can sometimes stump the lawyers in the room.

A good example is the question, now before the United States Supreme Court, of whether a baby conceived after the father’s death can be considered a “survivor” for the purposes of getting Social Security benefits. In this case, Karen and Robert Capato had only been married for a few months when they learned that Robert had esophageal cancer. He donated sperm at a fertility clinic, fearing that chemotherapy for the cancer might leave him unable to father children. Sadly, it later became clear that his cancer was terminal, and the couple made a plan for Karen to use those sperm to have more children after his death. Karen conceived twins via in vitro fertilization, and they were born about a year after their father’s death.

The Social Security Administration has denied the twins survivors’ benefits, arguing that children conceived after their father’s death are not entitled to benefits because “they were brought into being by a surviving parent with the knowledge that the deceased biological parent will not be able to contribute wages for their support.” The Administration also argues that it follows state law regarding survivorship, and that Florida, where the Capatos live, does not recognize posthumously-conceived children unless they are specifically mentioned in the will of the deceased.

A federal appeals court sided with the Capatos, holding that since the children were undoubtedly Mr. Capato’s biological children, that it was clear that they were his children within the meaning of the Social Security Law. The court noted that in this case “medical-scientific technology has advanced faster than the regulatory process.” I should say so! The case is now on appeal before the Supreme Court.

What do you think about this issue?

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

Charlize Theron Adopts

Hollywood is rarely lacking in adoption news to report on my blog (thanks, guys!). The latest is actress Charlize Theron, who has adopted a little boy, Jackson, domestically. The adoption is no surprise to Theron’s fans — she has said for years in interviews that marriage was not necessarily on her priority list, but being a mother was.

I’m hoping that Theron has learned a lot about adoption since 2010, when she said in an interview that “There are so many unwanted children on this earth and it’s our job to care for them. And if we don’t, we’re doing the world a disservice.” I hope and expect that Theron received adoption counseling during the process and learned that birth mothers do not place their children for adoption because they are unwanted. I also imagine she is quickly falling in love with that baby and finding that adoption is not some sort of civic duty, but a way to enrich your life and that of the child by becoming a family, just like having children biologically.

One interesting note about Theron’s adoption is that celebrity singles seem to have no trouble adopting (see also Kristin Davis and Sandra Bullock. Beyond the simple fact of having more money than the rest of us, do you think that celebrity helps single people adopt more easily? If so, is that good or bad? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, or email me at evaughan (at) vaughanfirm (dot) com.

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

What would you ask?

Plans are coming along well for my adoption seminar scheduled for March 24th at 10:00 a.m. and we already have several registrations. I’ve been asking those who register what they’re interested in learning about and whether they have any burning questions they’d like the speakers to address. Here are a few examples:

Spring 2012 Adoption Seminar (and it’s Free!)

It’s been quiet around here lately, but it’s because we’ve been hatching big plans!

If you or someone you know live in Northern Virginia and are thinking of adopting a child, mark your calendar for March 24th at 10:00 a.m.! The Vaughan Firm will be presenting our free adoption seminar in Herndon, Virginia. If you aren’t sure where to begin your adoption journey, this is the place for you! Adoption attorney Elizabeth Vaughan will speak about the different types of adoption, the time and cost of each, the home study process, and much more. You will also hear from an adoptive family and a birth mother about their experiences throughout the adoption process. There will be resources to take home with you, and lots and lots of opportunities to ask questions.

Because we are aiming for a small group where everyone has the opportunity to have their questions answered, space is limited. Register today by clicking here, or by email at info (at) vaughanfirm (dot) com. See you there!

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

Book Review: The Adoptive and Foster Parent Guide

As someone who works with adoptive and foster families, it has always astonished and frustrated me that there wasn’t a good resource for these families for dealing with their children’s issues of trauma and loss at home. It would have to be professionally written and evidence-based, but also accessible and easy for busy parents to read. I’m thrilled that now such a resource exists in Carol Lozier’s new book, The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide.

You may remember Carol from this interview that I did with her in 2010. She is a clinical social worker (MSW, LCSW) with over 20 years’ experience working with children and families, with a focus on adoption and foster care issues. Carol obviously knows the value of a good therapist in working with children who have experienced trauma, but she also realized that 99 percent of the issues that families struggle with arise at home, not in the therapist’s office. Parents need tools that they can use at home, in the moment, when behaviors related to trauma and loss arise. This book provides them with exactly those tools.

The book is organized “magazine style,” making it easy to dip in at any point in the book and learn what you need to know if you don’t have time to read it cover to cover. It teaches parents how to distinguish normal bumps in the road of childhood from issues related to past trauma. It goes over the psychology of attachment in terms that are easy to understand. Most importantly, it gives parents strategies that they can use immediately and every day with their children to open up the lines of communication and help heal the emotional scars of trauma and loss. While there are many books that teach parents to make children feel secure and talk about adoption in a respectful way, Lozier gives parents the tools of a therapist to get to the heart of the matter and help heal the wounds of the past. The scripts, exercises, games, and tips in the book fill the need that so many adoptive and foster parents express when they lament, “sometimes I just don’t know what to do.” Speaking of parents who feel overwhelmed, Lozier also includes a chapter on self-care for parents and caregivers, providing an important reminder that we can’t care for children if we don’t first care for ourselves.

The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide fills a need in the adoption community, and I believe it will change many adoptive and foster families for the better.

The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide is available at the Forever Families website.

Got a book for me to read? Check out my book review policy.

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

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