Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bloggers Unite to Confront AP

This is an important issue in the blogosphere and if you are a blogger you should take notice. The Associated Press has issued take-down notices for several blog posts that quoted their articles (even though credit was given and it was directly quoted.) They are unconcerned with fair use and are looking to charge up to $12.50 per word for bloggers who quote their articles! Please read more about this and sign the petition.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Reply from Embassy...

Dear Mr. and Mrs. De Lorenzo,

First of all, many thanks for your recent letters. As I mentioned before, your situation and similar cases, being of course very sad and regrettable, is a source of valuable information for the Embassy in our efforts to identify and eliminate weak points of the adoption process.

I would like to note, however, that you seem to misunderstand some of our messages.

The Embassy is working on the “adoption reform” at our end i.e. in the US. That is to say – we are trying to make sure that prospective parents have easy and transparent access to proper information on the adoption process, that the US adoption agencies allow no unscrupulous practices in their work with Kazakhstan and serve their clients in an effective manner, and that the Embassy itself is an effective body serving the best interests of, first and foremost, our kids and their parents.
There are our colleagues, professionally dealing with adoption issues, children protection and anticorruption struggle, who are doing their best to make the adoption process on the ground, ie in Kazakhstan (which is fairly good today, I will give you some examples below) even better.
My email related to your blog was also misunderstood, I believe I should have better explained my thoughts. From your letters we understood that you had a very negative experience in Kazakhstan and you of course would like to share your impressions with other parents-to-be. That is your inalienable right, of course, and my letter was not in any way related to that issue. What disappointed me personally was your reference to our efforts as “lip service”. We have just started the improvement process and all its results are yet to be seen and I believe it is at least unfair to refer to it at this initial stage as nothing more than words.

Besides, thank you for your questions below. Some of them are quite reasonable, whereas some of your messages look like an attempt to put additional pressure on us. We made it very clear in the news bulletin that we will not yield to any kind of pressure and will keep on improving the process according to our own vision. It was my personal intention to explain to you our efforts as your letter was the only critical response to the news bulletin, however we will carry on improving the adoption process in the best interests of children and parents, with or without your support. The government and its agencies, which deal with adoption on a day-to-day basis, understand all the challenges and problems, and see opportunities for improvement much better than any external observer.

Yesterday you mentioned that you had no confirmation of the receipt of your letter from our office, yes we never waste time on just confirming the receipt of letters – we WORK on them and then get back to senders with results in hand. Those who prefer to check if their correspondence is delivered, just send us emails themselves and we confirm it that way.

As far as your particular case is concerned we hope to receive info from Kazakhstan quite soon, and then we will set up a meeting when Ambassador’s schedule permits. If you can send us copies of your court papers, please do so. The more info we have in hand, the better.

Just to show you that adoption in Kazakhstan can be a pleasant experience, and it usually is, let me use just a couple of extracts from the emails that we started receiving from American parents after the release of the bulletin (no names, of course).

“My wife and I have tremendous respect for the adoption system in Kazakhstan, it is truly unique in its emphasis on ensuring a healthy transition for the child, as well as significant gratitude for the caregivers who looked after our daughter in the first two years of her life… We would appreciate any opportunity to give back to the country we have come to love and feel grateful to”.

“If it wasn't for Kazakhstan, I wouldn't have my much-loved daughter. Once I traveled to Kazakhstan, the coordinator …was great. After my glowing experience with the agency, coordinator and country, … have decided to adopt from Kazakhstan”

Best regards as ever,


Our Letter to the Embassy

June 27, 2008

Dear Mr. Zhanbolat Ussenov:

In your recent e-mail you requested our support for the efforts being made toward a more transparent adoption process in Kazakhstan. While we applaud the Kazakhstan government for these beginning steps in limiting the corruption in the adoption process, we feel it has come too late to help the adoption of our sons. However, we are committed to our goal in educating prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) and being a catalyst for the end of corruption within the Kazakhstan adoption process. In an effort to demonstrate our support I have created a new blog titled KIN: Kazakhstan Information Network at It is our hope that this blog will provide prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) with clear, concise, and factual information about the adoption process in Kazakhstan from a neutral party.

Our continued support is contingent upon a face to face meeting in the very near future. We hope to communicate positive news during upcoming media interviews regarding the efforts being taken by the Kazakhstan government to protect the rights of all members of the adoption triad. Some questions that we have after reading the press release are:

What monitoring procedures does the Kazakhstan government have in place for weeding out greedy orphanage directors who play God with innocent children’s lives?

Where is the transparency of the steps in the adoption process? Are PAPs made aware of the waiting period where family members can come back to take the child from unsuspecting adoptive parents?

What process does the government have to ensure that PAPs won’t be asked to pay “extra fees” and that type of corruption will be eliminated?
Where or what is the process of monitoring the orphanages so our children are not left homeless and helpless in the orphanages?

Is there a process to investigate individual adoptions to look at unique situations that would allow for an appeal process to complete adoptions where money has been paid to these orphanage directors who refuse to allow the adoption to complete?
Is there a process to ensure that no government officials are financially tied to unscrupulous agencies from any country? What are the punishments for those found to be profiting from failed or false adoptions?

Is the Kazakhstan government willing to post a list of agencies that they have found to use unscrupulous procedures in adoption? What is the mechanism for preventing these agencies from working again in country?

Is the Kazakhstan government willing to speak to those PAPs who have paid money to people in Kazakhstan but had to leave their children behind? Are they willing to help us complete these adoptions which are in the best interest of the children and their future?

We are aware that there are changes needed in the United States to move toward a centralized system, but the current system in Kazakhstan doesn’t appear to be in the best interest of the children. We are glad to hear of changes being made to the current Laws on Family and Marriage and are interested in hearing about the proposed changes.

We also believe that the Kazakhstan government misunderstands how the current adoption process in Kazakhstan provides fertile ground for the exploitation of children and corruption on both sides.

Joe and I look forward to meeting with the Ambassador in Washington, D.C. and hope that we can have these questions answered or assist in the proper reform of the adoption process in Kazakhstan. Please be aware that this communication will be posted on our blogs as we have a loyal following of PAPs and parents who have completed adoptions in Kazakhstan who share our concerns.

Yours truly,
Dawn and Joe De Lorenzo

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bravo Dawn and Jeff Jarema!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Kazakhstan Government Paying LIP SERVICE

This recent bulletin issued by the Kazak government enrages me. Here it is and I respond to the points that I have a major contention with:

Special Issue No 7, June 20, 2008
Information Note on International Adoption from Kazakhstan

The Government of Kazakhstan is committed to monitoring the process of international adoption in Kazakhstan as well as keeping a close eye on the living conditions of adopted Kazakh children abroad. How about monitoring their own orphanages where there are greedy orphanage directors playing God with innocent children's lives?

Kazakhstan considers adoption to be one of the best forms of tutelage for children who for any reason lack parental care, although the priority is given to biological parents or, in their absence, to child's relatives. If a child cannot be adopted by its relatives, adoption by Kazakhstan citizens is the next preferred option. And if that is also not possible, only then can a Kazakh child be adopted by foreign families. As the economic well-being in Kazakhstan continues to grow, the number of domestic adoptions in the country is increasing, whereas the number of international adoptions is falling correspondingly. Since the Marriage and Family Code was enacted in 1999, 30,184 children have been adopted in Kazakhstan; of that number 23,012 children have been adopted by Kazakhstan citizens, 6,791 by foreign citizens and 281 by relatives from abroad. The United States is by far the most popular destination for adopted children from Kazakhstan (in 2000-2007 American families adopted more than 5,000 Kazakh kids, with highest number of US adoptions in2004). In 2007 Embassy of Kazakhstan to the US registered 515 American families intending to adopt Kazakh children.

The Consular Section of the Embassy of Kazakhstan closely monitors the international adoption in Kazakhstan by US citizens as well as the living conditions of Kazakh kids. The step-by-step process of international adoption in Kazakhstan is briefly as follows: Future parents wishing to adopt a Kazakh child contract with a duly licensed agency to collect all the required documents and prepare a dossier which should be submitted to the Consular Section of the Embassy of Kazakhstan. Having checked and verified all the documents (which takes up to one month) the Embassy sends the dossier to the Foreign Ministry where the processing procedures also last for about a month. Afterwards, the dossier goes to the Education Ministry which, after another month-long procedure, passes it to proper regional agencies (Education Departments and orphanages) and their review of the dossier takes up to one month. Having received a positive feedback from the regional agencies the Embassy issues a special visa for parents-to-be (visa category – private, purpose of travel – adoption). Such a visa can be issued only by invitation of Kazakhstan's Education Ministry or a regional Education Department. Traveling to Kazakhstan for adoption purposes with any other kind of visa (e.g. tourist, business) is strictly prohibited. All in all, processing of a dossier in proper Kazakh agencies can take up to 5 months.

In Kazakhstan, prospective adoptive parents must personally choose their future child and spend at least two weeks with him/her to get to know each other closer and learn the child's personality and habits. The final decision on adoption of a child is then taken by a Kazakh court based on the application submitted by the prospective parents. Adoption cases are considered by courts on an ad hoc basis in accordance with Kazakhstan's civil procedural law. After a proper court order is issued, a registrar's office and migration police issue the adoption and birth certificates and a Kazakh passport for the adopted child. This is quite an understatement of the exact process in country. There is NO mention of the waiting period after the court approves the adoption - the period of time when your child can be ripped away from you!

Fees payable to Kazakh agencies in the course of the adoption process are as follows: The Consular Section of the Embassy charges up to $180 per dossier for consular registration (issuing a certificate to confirm registration, attesting translation and documents in the dossier). State agencies in Kazakhstan charge no fee for dossier processing. Without the extra "fees" I doubt ANY paperwork would be processed - everyone in the adoption process there is in it for the money and knows that American parents will pay whatever is asked to have their child! There could be some expenses for issuing the power of attorney for the parents' representative in Kazakhstan; consular fee for a new passport for the adopted child as well as the registration fee at the Consular Department of the Foreign Ministry (all in all, about 12,000 tenges or $100). Besides, there are also some legal expenses related to court proceedings, which are quite reasonable. Parents may make a voluntary financial donation to the orphanage if they choose to do so.

One of the main principles of adoption in Kazakhstan is the protection of the rights and interests of both adopted children and adopting parents. Sorry, but this is TOTAL BS in my opinion. They could have cared less about us - and if they cared so much for our sons they wouldn't be rotting away in orphanages! Kazakhstan recognizes the important role played in the adoption process by such facilitators as duly licensed adoption agencies, but firmly believes that these agencies have no right to make commercial profit through the genuinely noble and humane process of adoption. If they care so much they would have looked at our unique situation/circumstances and helped us get our sons! And what about the scum orphanage directors who take money?

According to Kazakh legislation, to adopt a child, foreign citizens are allowed to work with a representative (coordinator) in Kazakhstan, whose rights and obligations are defined by Kazakh laws.Our review of the current system of adoption of Kazakh children by American citizens has revealed a number of problems which may lead to violation of the humane principles of adoption. One of the main reasons for such a situation is that, unlike in other countries, in the United States there is no single authorized government agency which would oversee the entire process of adoption, including the control over annual reports on the living conditions of adopted children. They have a centralized system, but it is NOT set up with the best interests of the children in mind! The people who work within this system are pond scum who profit through coercion.

The main players on this field are numerous duly licensed private (not-for-profit) US adoption agencies. Usually, American citizens wishing to adopt Kazakh children refer to such adoption agencies for assistance and sign contracts with them. The Embassy has found out that in many cases parents pay upfront 50 percent of the overall agency fee only for preliminary consultations on a Kazakh adoption (in average, overall fees could be more than$25,000) and the most part of the sum is non-refundable. We have learned about some cases of unscrupulous behavior by some agencies. For example, there have been situations where parents had to collect and prepare all the necessary documents themselves and the agencies simply provided them with the list of documents for a dossier which is posted and easily accessible on the website of the Embassy of Kazakhstan. Ummm - this is what ALL the agencies do! I do not know of any agency that completes the paperwork for you unless it is for an additional fee.

It seems also that some adoption agencies are trying to make undue commercial profits by dealing with such routine matters as consular registration, documents translation and processing, and sometimes agencies even try to gain benefits from changing the region in Kazakhstan where a child is going to be adopted from. For instance, one agency put in its contract a $840 charge for consular registration with the Embassy of Kazakhstan, whereas the Consular Section of the Embassy charges no more than $180 for the registration (the Embassy does not charge American Parents any other fees). Besides, the contract says that the "family understands that fees related to the adoption process abroad might be changed and are out of Agency's control. Therefore, the Agency does not take responsibility for such changes and is not liable for additional expenses." Such a provision makes it possible for the agency to charge extra fees for alleged "fast-tracking" of adoption process in Kazakhstan. Kazak officials are also profiting from these extra fees!

Analysis of documents submitted by various agencies showed that some of them deliberately concealed invalid data and ill-validated documents in dossiers to speed up registration with the Consular Section of the Embassy. For instance, one dossier contained a forged copy of doctor's license; there were other forged documents. Some agencies even tried to use unethical methods to "fast-track" registration with the Consular Section. We also have learned that some agencies made attempts to "monopolize" the international adoption for US citizens in Kazakhstan and even threatened other agencies that if they did not start working under their aegis, these agencies' activity in Kazakhstan would be blocked through their coordinators on the ground. This points to the fact that there are corrupt people WITHIN the Kaz system profiting from unscrupulous American agencies.

We believe that the reason for all the above shortcomings and violations is the lack of transparency in the activity of a number of US adoption agencies as well as in the lack of knowledge by American parents about the adoption procedures in Kazakhstan, related fees and other expenses. So, no fault lies within their own country? Therefore, it seems that adoption of Kazakh kids by American parents may have become a source of undue commercial profits for some unscrupulous agents, who abuse the humane principles of adoption enshrined in The Hague Convention and Kazakh legislation.

Yet another negative aspect of the issue is that it mars Kazakhstan's image as some agencies use the parents' lack of knowledge to present adoption in Kazakhstan as a protracted and inefficient process full of red-tape and corruption; and request additional expenses on behalf of parents to "overcome" these obstacles. This is the statement that outraged me the most! They had the opportunity to assist our family and the didn't! THERE IS CORRUPTION and there is red-tape and corruption in their system! They could have and should have helped to rectify our situation rather than say "Oh well, you'll have to start all over again" or "just pick another child."

In other words, some agencies and their coordinators in Kazakhstan abuse parents' willingness to pay "any price" to adopt a child as soon as possible, and make undue profits. It is worth repeating here once again that there are no major fees to be paid to Kazakh government ministries or agencies in the process of adoption (except for the above consular and registration fees at the Embassy and the Foreign Ministry as well as minimal legal expenses). Therefore, the Embassy has begun considering certain measures to optimize and refine its work with US adoption agencies. These measures are aimed at protecting the rights and interests of Kazakh children and their adopting parents in the US as well as at maximizing the transparency of the adoption process and eliminating loopholes for making undue profits through the noble process of adoption. Great for PAPs in the future, but what about the ones already screwed and the children already left behind and doomed to a life of poverty, drug and alcohol abuse and prostitution?

In particular, we believe that these measures will help to optimize the number of US adoption agencies willing and able to work efficiently on behalf of American parents to adopt Kazakh kids. The main criteria for us to evaluate the agencies will be their ability to supply the Embassy with transparent information on the rules and procedures of their work with adopting parents, fees and tariffs involved, as well as their commitment to send to the Embassy regular post-adoption reports on adopted children until they reach the age of 18 as required by Kazakh law. We would like to emphasize that until the above complex work is completed the Embassy will continue as normal receiving and processing adoption documents from all agencies except for those that have seriously violated ethical norms. They should announce these agencies so the poor PAPs dealing with them now know they are screwed!

Authorities in Kazakhstan are also taking relevant steps to ensure transparency in the work of coordinators on the ground who represent the interests of American parents in the country and serve as their liaison with Kazakh government agencies involved in the adoption process. Efforts are being taken to create a databank of such coordinators. We would also like to announce that the Parliament of Kazakhstan is currently considering joining and ratifying the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. Kazakhstan is also drafting a new Family and Marriage Code which will also cover the issue of proper accreditation of foreign adoption agencies' branches in Kazakhstan. All these efforts will contribute to providing greater transparency, fairness and order in Kazakhstan's cooperation with foreign partners (including the US) on international adoption.

Our efforts are also aimed at eliminating the unacceptable and often unscrupulous practice of "fast-tracking" documents in various Kazakh agencies. We recognize that the adoption process is not swift but this is justified by the high responsibility of adoption decisions. We hope for understanding on behalf of parents and adoption agencies. As a matter of principle, the Embassy has briefed the US State Department, through Deputy Assistant Secretary for Overseas Citizens Service Ms. Michele Bond and Consular Affairs Bureau representative Mr. Gerry Fuller, as well as the Joint Council on International Children's Services on the situation around the adoption of Kazakh kids by American families. We are glad that a friendly dialogue and mutual understanding have been established with our American counterparts over this complicated issue. Interestingly, a number of agencies reacted to our efforts in a peculiar way. The Embassy has a copy of an email message that has been circulated by an agency to other agencies and parents stating that the Embassy is groundlessly stonewalling the process of adoption. The message was written in the form of an unambiguous instruction calling for maximum pressure on the Embassy through a wave of complaints to various US institutions, including US Embassy in Kazakhstan, Senators and Congressmen representing the districts where parents and their agents reside. The Embassy would like to point out that it won't yield to any kind of pressure and firmly intends to implement its plans on streamlining and improving the process of adoption in Kazakhstan by American parents.

The Embassy is fully open, however, to holding a face-to-face meeting with adopting parents and adoption agencies to jointly look for ways of providing maximum convenience for parents and full transparency of the adoption process. Ummm, we reached out to them at least a dozen times and they didn't even bother to return our calls or respond to our e-mails and letters! I can only conclude that this is lip service.

The Embassy would also welcome the creation of an association of American parents who have adopted kids from Kazakhstan. Such an association could be instrumental in assisting American parents to find better ways of building relations with their Kazakh kids during the post-adoption period and in many other ways. In its next Information Note on international adoption the Embassy will provide more information on adoption procedures as well as offer some practical advice on cooperation with US adoption agencies working in Kazakhstan and with their coordinators on the ground. We will also offer a set of transparent criteria for adoption agencies which will lay the basis for optimizing the list of most preferred agencies that could be recommended to all American parents intending to adopt children from Kazakhstan.