January 17, 2007
Child Has Three Parents
"Last week, a 5-year-old Ontario boy became a member of a larger family. An appeals court ruled that he has three parents: a father and two mothers.
The boy, who like other members of the family cannot be identified under a court order, has been raised by his biological mother and her partner; the partner was given parental status by the Ontario Court of Appeal last week. The boy’s father has also been involved in his upbringing since birth.
The court decision affirming the partner’s parental rights, which overturned a 2003 trial court ruling, is the latest of a series of legal actions expanding the rights of same-sex couples in Canada. Like those earlier rulings, this one was swiftly criticized by some religious and family groups for undermining traditional definitions of marriage." By Ian Austen, N.Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 1-17-07 NVS)
Mother Awarded $15 Million
"Joel Steinberg, the disbarred lawyer who served 17 years in prison for killing his illegally adopted daughter, must pay $15 million to the girl's birth mother, an appeals court ruled Tuesday.
The appeals court affirmed a lower court decision to award Michele Launders $5 million for 6-year-old Lisa Steinberg's pain and suffering, $5 million for pain and suffering ''as a battered child'' and $5 million in punitive damages.
Joel Steinberg argued the award was excessive and should be reduced because Lisa died relatively quickly, after ''at most eight hours of pain and suffering.''" By Associate Press, N.Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 1-17-07 NVS)
French Baby Boom
"It's almost a ''bebe'' boom: France had more babies in 2006 than in any year in the last quarter-century, capping a decade of rising fertility that has bucked Europe's graying trend, the state statistics agency said Tuesday.
The government trumpeted the figures as a victory for family-friendly policies such as cheap day care and generous parental leave -- many of which were launched under Socialists like presidential candidate Segolene Royal, who was family minister in the early 1990s, and have continued to grow under today's conservative government.
France had 830,000 new babies last year, the highest annual total since 1981, the Insee statistics agency said. That brought France's population to 63.4 million people as of Jan. 1, up from 62.9 million a year earlier." Associate Press, N. Y. Times, Link to Article (last visited 1-17-07 NVS)
January 16, 2007
New York Urged to Reform Family Court
"Nixzmary Brown was just 7 when she died, one year ago this month in Brooklyn, an apparent victim of brutality at home and neglect by the child welfare system. Since then, the city has added staff, upgraded training and addressed faults in the Administration for Children’s Services. Large problems still need fixing, however, and none so urgently as the city’s Family Court, which state neglect has left in something between chaos and despair.
Incredibly, the court has only 47 judges, a number determined by the state and unchanged since 1991. That is not enough for the court to oversee cases like Nixzmary’s as closely as it should. State legislators should increase the number of judges right away, and Gov. Eliot Spitzer should put the Family Court high on his judicial reform agenda." Editorial, N. Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 1-16-07 NVS)
More Women Live Without a Spouse Than With A Spouse
"For what experts say is probably the first time, more American women are living without a husband than with one, according to a New York Times analysis of census results. In 2005, 51 percent of women said they were living without a spouse, up from 35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000.
Coupled with the fact that in 2005 married couples became a minority of all American households for the first time, the trend could ultimately shape social and workplace policies, including the ways government and employers distribute benefits.
Several factors are driving the statistical shift. At one end of the age spectrum, women are marrying later or living with unmarried partners more often and for longer periods. At the other end, women are living longer as widows and, after a divorce, are more likely than men to delay remarriage, sometimes delighting in their newfound freedom." By Sam Roberts, N. Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 1-16-07 NVS)
January 15, 2007
Domestic Violence Among Refugee and Immigrant Women
"An Ethiopian-born physician works to prevent domestic violence among refugee and immigrant women in Boston. If you want to help these women escape abusive relationships, she says, you need to understand the old country's ways, as well as the new." By Meqdes Mesfin, National Public Radio Link to Listen (last visited 1-15-07 NVS)
Child Brides in Ethiopia
"In the northern highlands of Ethiopia, there's a saying: The world is producing more children, but the land is not expanding. That's leading to a collision between the old world and a new one that is challenging age-old social customs about marriage and the rights of women and children.
The government is backing a series of new family-planning policies, including a ban on the practice of marrying girls while they're still children. In the village of Yinsa, Ethiopia, some women are indifferent to the change. Others are welcoming it." By Brenda Wilson, National Public Radio Link to Listen
Words of a Former Child Soldier
"Sometimes I feel that living in New York City, having a good family and friends, and just being alive is a dream, that perhaps this second life of mine isn’t really happening. Whenever I speak at the United Nations, Unicef or elsewhere to raise awareness of the continual and rampant recruitment of children in wars around the world, I come to realize that I still do not fully understand how I could have possibly survived the civil war in my country, Sierra Leone. Most of my friends, after meeting the woman whom I think of as my new mother, a Brooklyn-born white Jewish-American, assume that I was either adopted at a very young age or that my mother married an African man. They would never imagine that I was 17 when I came to live with her and that I had been a child soldier and participated in one of the most brutal wars in recent history." By Ishmael Beah, N.Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 1-15-07 NVS)
International Adoption Host Programs Suspended?
"During the two weeks that Marino and Debbie Prozzo welcomed a Ukrainian orphan in their home, they fell head over heels for a 7-year-old child they may never be able to adopt. While the Prozzos were giving Alona Malyovana her first bubble bath, teaching her to use the remote control, and buying her a pink velvet dress trimmed in bunny fur, the chaotic system of adoption in Ukraine was growing more chaotic. The director of Ukraine’s new Department for Adoptions resigned, leaving the fate of the nation’s 90,000 orphans in limbo. A new application process required foreign families to quickly update security clearances and other time-sensitive information. Prospective parents anxiously scanned the State Department’s Web site and bulletins from the embassy in Kiev for clarification of rules and rumors.
Hosting programs, like the one that brought Alona to an American family this Christmas, showcase older children, generally from orphanages in former Soviet bloc nations. The programs have long been hailed as an effective marketing tool by adoption experts, who say 8 of 10 families would not adopt these children without a trial run. In the largely unregulated world of international adoptions, these programs often lead to happily-ever-after, but sometimes end painfully. Ukraine and Russia place formidable obstacles in the path of parents, among them inaccurate information about children’s availability and health status. Multiple families can wind up competing for the same child. And children themselves know they are auditioning for what the industry calls their “forever families.” Then there is an entrenched system of favors — requests for cash or gifts from facilitators, translators, judges and others who handle the mechanics of adoption overseas.
Conditions in both countries have grown so unsettled, some agencies have suspended hosting programs, and the debate is growing about the ratio of risk to reward. Do the many success stories for older orphans make up for the heartbreak when adoption is thwarted?" By Jane Gross, N.Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 1-15-07 NVS)