North Carolina upholds second-parent adoption!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Nancy Pollikof, Beyond (Striaght and Gay) Marriage

The South is the region with the worst laws in the country for gay and lesbian parents. Well today add North Carolina to the list of states that approve second-parent adoption.

Today’s decision from the North Carolina Court of Appeals came in the case of Boseman v. Jarrell. Pretty straightforward facts: Julia Boseman and Melissa Jarrell had been together four years when, in 2002, Melissa gave birth to a child, conceived through donor insemination and planned for by both of them. The child called Melissa “Mommy” and Julia “Mom.” The couple filed for a second-parent adoption, which was granted in 2005. As is common given state adoption statutes, the couple asked the court to waive the statutory provision that an adoption terminates the biological mother’s parental rights. The court ruled that it had the power to do that, and the adoption decree specifically reads that it does not terminate Melissa’s parental rights.

So far so good.

But the next year the couple split up, Melissa limited Julia’s time with the child, and, in 2007, Julia filed an action for joint custody. Melissa then tried to get the court (in a different county from the court that granted the adoption) to rule that the adoption decree was void. The opinion released today holds that the adoption decree was not void. If it was an error to grant an adoption without severing Melissa’s parental rights, that had to be raised on an appeal from the adoption decree; it could not be raised in a subsequent proceeding.

There’s lots of good language in the opinion about why the adoption was a good thing, but the court’s failure to rule definitively that a court can waive the provision terminating a biological parent’s rights does leave the door open for some trial court judge in the state to rule that the law does not permit such waiver. What is clear, however, is that if a trial judge DOES grant a second-parent adoption, that adoption is valid and cannot later be challenged by anyone.

The court also makes clear that it would have ruled the same way had the parties been an unmarried different-sex couple. “While [the adoption code] does not specifically address same-sex adoptions,” the court wrote, “these statutes do make clear that a wide range of adoptions are contemplated and permitted, so long as they protect the minor’s ‘needs, interests, and rights.'”

The North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys, the National Association of Social Workers, the North Carolina Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and the North Carolina Foster and Adoptive Parents Association filed a friend of the court brief in support of upholding the adoption.

Parenting and Food: Eat Your Peas. Or Don’t. Whatever

August 30, 2009., New York Times

The boy sneaks food. I’ve seen him. His appetite is formidable, and he knowingly eats more than he should or must, to the steady concern and occasional consternation of his parents.

Sometimes they keep count: “How many pretzels?” Sometimes they vainly suggest an apple instead. Often they look away, not wanting to aggravate an eating-related anxiety that they can already sense in him on the cusp of adolescence.

The girl treats food warily. Edging into adulthood, she worries about what too many French fries — what any French fries — could do to her, and monitors her waistline even though her own parents have never exhorted her to. Does she monitor it too closely and joylessly? Can parents prevent that? They wonder. So do I.

Neither of these children, with whom I interact occasionally, comes close to being a statistic or case study. He isn’t obese; she isn’t anorexic.

But they represent a larger group of young people between those widely publicized (and much more complicated) extremes. And they speak to a subtler parental challenge: how to coach children away from unhealthy eating without sowing panic; how to make them conscious of their intake without making them too self-conscious about its consequences.

Over recent years, worry about what and how much children eat has intensified, in part because of the regular references to childhood obesity as an epidemic. And right now, as children head back to school, where they graze beyond the gaze of parents, potentially dangerous eating habits are getting fresh attention.

School cafeterias and vending areas have become ground zero in the battle against overweight and poorly nourished children; from coast to coast this fall, students will encounter fewer sugary soft drinks, fewer fried foods, class birthday parties without cupcakes and class bake sales with calorie-reduced brownies.

That may help. But it’s just one piece of a puzzle that health experts and concerned parents are still sorting out. Conflicting information about the fiercest culprits in child weight gain abounds. Beyond genes, which obviously play a fundamental role, is soda pop a major factor? What about too little sleep?

There are hundreds of studies and thousands of opinions, and Tom Baranowski, a professor of pediatric nutrition at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, says they’re inconclusive. He has reviewed research suggesting that there are viral prompts for childhood obesity and research suggesting that children fond of fruits and vegetables aren’t any less heavy than those mad for Mountain Dew.

Dr. Baranowski’s verdict? “A lot more work needs to be done.”

Diet, it seems, is a dirty word. A Stanford University study found that a father’s projected attention to and remarks about a daughter’s weight may increase her risk of eating disorders. A University of Minnesota study found that children whose parents encouraged diets were significantly more likely to remain overweight than those whose parents didn’t.

Cynthia M. Bulik, the director of the University of North Carolina Eating Disorders Program, explained that “diet” implies deprivation, “and deprivation goes into that whole mindset that, ‘I deserve something when this is over, and this is short term.’ And it can’t be. It’s got to roll right into a lifestyle.”

Those words ring true for me. As a fat boy who ate expansively and compulsively, I went on the first of many strict diets at age 8 — and thereby commenced decades of untenable regimens and compensatory pig-outs, of binging and purging.

But my outsize hunger seemed flat-out chromosomal, and my insecurity about it predated those early weight-loss schemes. Should my parents have forbidden them? What’s the best course for today’s parent, in a society where fast-food come-ons drown out Alice Waters, and models no thicker than swizzle sticks still rule fashion magazines?

“We get nutrition advice, but that’s not the same as eating advice,” said Rebecca Saidenberg, a Manhattan mother of a 16-year-old girl, referring to child-rearing tips. She said that as her daughter went through puberty, she worked particularly hard to encourage healthy habits — balanced meals, restrained portions — in the hopes of minimizing the chances of a weight problem that might follow her daughter through life.

At the same time, Ms. Saidenberg wanted to push back against “a trend of treating food like medicine.”

“I don’t like that,” she said. “There are a lot of psychological pleasures that come from sitting at a table and enjoying a meal.” She doesn’t want her daughter deprived of those.

So she didn’t despair when the teenager recently returned from a summer trip to Italy during which, it was clear, the joys of gelato were fully explored. But she did get herself and her daughter a membership at a local gym, where they go together.

In my conversations with Ms. Saidenberg and other parents, I was struck by just how much thought they had given to coaxing their children toward sensible eating and away from extreme indulgence or self-denial. They clearly saw that as a parental responsibility akin to giving a child a first-rate education.

But their prescriptions and beliefs diverged, illustrating the elusiveness of a ready consensus about what’s most effective.

Joan Yamini, a mother of one in Austin, Tex., said it was important not to have unhealthy foods around the house, but Andrew Segal, a father of three in Glen Ridge, N.J., said that children who can’t find cookies, ice cream and similar snacks at home can always find them elsewhere — and probably will.

Every parent fretted over the right language to use with children.

Janis Azarela, a mother of three in Sudbury, Mass., recalled the upset her husband caused a few weeks ago when he questioned their 16-year-old daughter’s decision to eat ice cream immediately following a three-mile run.

“He asked because she’d just worked so hard to run and be healthy — why not make a healthier choice?” Ms. Azarela recalled. “And she said, ‘Dad, are you calling me fat?’ ” The teenager abandoned the ice cream, stomped out of the kitchen and didn’t speak to him for a good long while.

Ms. Azarela said that her daughter is, in fact, slim, and gravitates naturally toward less fattening foods. Her 7-year-old son, on the other hand, has the fiercest sweet tooth in the brood. A budding problem? Time will tell, and meanwhile she has vowed to “keep reintroducing foods, because palates change so quickly.”

That’s consistent with advice from diet and nutrition experts, who agree, for the most part, on a few prudent strategies.

They say parents can and should encourage sensible eating and vigorous physical activity by engaging in both themselves; children are likely to imitate those behaviors.

Whether parents allow junk food or not, they should make sure healthier alternatives are even more available — and should promote them. They should also make time for family dinners, the nutritional content of which they can monitor more carefully than they can a quick meal in an economical restaurant.

And by actually involving children in the shopping for, and cooking of, meals, some parents have successfully given them a consciousness about food — and a way to think about it — that guards against an abuse or disregard of it. When it comes to overeaters who clearly thrill to that gluttony, it’s vital for parents to try to find some replacement activity — a hobby, say — that affords similar emotional gratification.

“Food lights some people up more than it lights other people up,” Dr. Bulik said. “We’re not born the same.”

I see that in the boy and girl. If they were merely emulating their parents, he’d be the measured eater and she the exultant one. That the opposite is true underscores the mysteries of appetite — and the tricky task parents face in trying to regulate it.

Frank Bruni is the author of a new memoir, “Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater.”

Uruguay becoming first Latin American country to legalize gay adoption

August 28, 12:04 PMSouth America Policy ExaminerSylvia Longmire

In yet another bold move by Uruguay’s socialist government, lawmakers voted yesterday to allow adoptions by gay and lesbian couples. The measure, which was approved 40-13, still needs to pass through the senate, a move considered a formality since it was already approved there on a first reading.

The senate was due to vote on the measure before September 15, the end of a legislative period that was brought forward ahead of presidential elections in October.

This is the third such legal action taken by the Uruguayan government in the last two years to extend more rights to homosexuals. In December 2007, the Congress legalized civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. In May of this year, Tabare Vazquez, the first leftist president in Uruguayan history, opened access for homosexuals to military schools.

As expected, the Roman Catholic Church is less than excited about these legal actions.

According to Agence France Presse, The archbishop of Montevideo, Nicolas Cotugno, said before the vote that it would be a “serious error to accept the adoption of children by homosexual couples. It’s not about religion, philosophy or sociology. It’s something which is mainly about the respect of human nature itself.”

Uruguay is usually a country whose actions manage to stay out of the headlines, probably because Vazquez isn’t nearly as vocal as his leftist contemporaries in Latin America. One might think that other socialist leaders might share this liberal attitude towards gay rights, but it’s not clear how presidents like Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, and Bolivia’s Evo Morales feel about gay rights.

The biggest cultural issue standing in the way of any progression in the gay rights movement in Latin America is machismo, and an inherent aversion to homosexuality in the Hispanic culture. However, The Economist reports that homosexuality is accepted more widely than it used to be:

“Latin Americans are surprisingly tolerant of homosexuality—within limits. Though they may face taunts and violence, men in particular can sometimes lead openly, even flamboyantly, gay lives as long as they conform to certain stereotypes (such as working as hairdressers). Those who prefer to be discreet usually benefit from Catholic society’s widespread ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ tolerance of private foibles. It is when they start challenging norms and agitating for legal rights that the trouble typically starts.”

Civil unions have been legalized in some states in Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil, but probably no one can say that it’s a widespread movement with broad acceptance. Machismo still dominates in Latin America, which will make any progress in gay rights slower than in other regions.

Top ten questions to ask before signing up with an IVF clinic, law office, or agency as a surrogate

issue1Attorney Theresa M. Erickson recommends:

1. Contact a Reproductive Lawyer or IVF Clinic for recommendations – the lawyers and the doctors are the licensed professionals in this field, as are the psychologists, and they can often give good advice on where to begin your journey. You might also find a lawyer you want to work with when it becomes time to sign and review agreements with Intended Parents.

2. What if the lawyer or clinic has their own agency for matching surrogates with parents? Well, I myself own an agency, so I can speak clearly to the potential conflicts of interest that can arise between you and the agency or the clinic; however, here are a few things to remember:

a. Doctors and lawyers are licensed professionals who have licenses that they have worked hard to obtain and maintain. At least in my office, surrogates always get their own attorneys, their own psychologist, and their own support separate from me. But remember, doctors are not lawyers just as lawyers are not doctors – it is that simple.

b. If an IVF physician has an agency, how is their money held for their surrogates? It is unlikely that they are licensed and bonded escrow holders, and they are not attorneys whose clients are protected by the state bar’s client security fund, so ask that question. Physicians do not have the same protections as the attorney’s trust account does.

c. With an IVF Physician, what happens at 12 weeks when you are released to your OB physician? Do they have the staff to do that, and who is that? How does the clinic still handle and facilitate your arrangement, if at all? Make sure you are being supported all the way to the end, not just until the pregnancy reaches the first trimester.

d. Now, as for your health and physical well being, the other issue that some have is the conflict of interest that a doctor has with his patient, the surrogate, and his patient, the Intended Parents. Again, as it has to do with your health and well-being, make certain that you get independent legal representation and ask questions. It is your body and your health, so you must be diligent in making certain that you are being protected too. Many, many IVF Physicians are wonderful, caring doctors, but you must ask questions to ensure you are being protected. Also, ask what their success rates are and how long they have been practicing IVF?

3. Agencies – yes, they are unregulated, unlicensed, etc. – but, speak with them too – better yet, meet with them in their office and meet the staff. Some are very reputable. Ask a reproductive lawyer or IVF clinic for recommendations. Then, call and interview them. Ask them the following:

a. Are they a match making service only, or do they provide support throughout the entire process through delivery and beyond?

b. How are their surrogates and donors funds held? Make certain that they are held by an escrow company or by an attorney.

c. What type of support do they provide? Get specifics. What type of staff do they have and how many people are there for you in the office?

d. Do they have parents waiting? If not, how long will you have to wait? Remember, promises of being matched immediately are empty, as each case if different. Also, ask how many matches they do per year and per month.

e. How long have they been in business? Can you speak with other surrogates?

f. Agencies are not medical providers, but the reputable ones know what they are doing and are instrumental in helping you select a physician, psychologist, etc., as well as helping you get answers when the medical aspect is unclear. Don’t think that you will be left with inadequate medical care if you go through an agency.

g. Reputable agencies are insured against Errors & Omissions Insurance. Ask if they carry it.

h. Does the agency have surrogate support group meetings and/or annual parties? These are always alot of fun, and there are usually prizes for the winners of contests. This is also a great way to meet other women like yourself who are going through many of the same things.

Movement toward adoption by gay couples in Louisiana has momentum but little enthusiasm

There’s a movement in Louisiana that may help gay couples adopt children. The Louisiana Commission on Marriage and Family has been approached about adoption equality for gay couples.

The AP reports:

The idea, made in a presentation Thursday by the Forum for Equality Louisiana, was greeted with little enthusiasm from commission members in a state that has a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Louisiana currently allows married couples or a single person to adopt a child. If a single person adopts a child and is in a relationship – whether heterosexual or homosexual – the partner in that relationship has no legal parental rights to the child.

Kenny Tucker, chairman of Forum for Equality Louisiana, says the group would like to see unmarried couples able to adopt children. Rep. Frank Hoffmann, a member of the marriage and family commission, says he doubts that idea would gain traction with state lawmakers.

PTSD and Preemies – For Parents on NICU, Trauma May Last

August 25, 2009 – New York Times



Kim Roscoe’s son, Jaxon, was born three months early, weighing two and a half pounds. But for nine days he did exceedingly well in the neonatal intensive care unit, and Ms. Roscoe felt little different from the other new mothers.

Her nightmare started on Day 10.

“I had left him late the night before, in my arms, tiny but perfect,” said Ms. Roscoe, now 30, of Monterey, Calif. But when she returned to the NICU the next day, Jaxon was in respiratory and kidney failure, and his body had swollen beyond recognition.

“He was hooked up to ventilators, his skin was turning black, the alarms kept dinging over and over,” Ms. Roscoe recalled.

Jaxon is 16 months old now, and home with his family. But he was in the NICU for 186 days, and his days and weeks were punctuated by near-death episodes.

During the six-month ordeal, Ms. Roscoe had constant nightmares. She slept with her shoes on, expecting a call from the hospital at any moment. She became angry at the world, and so jumpy she thought a supermarket scanner was one of Jaxon’s monitors going off. Her husband, Scott, immersed himself in projects, took care of their daughter, Logan, now 6, and held things together emotionally.

About three months after her son’s birth, Ms. Roscoe asked to see a psychiatrist. She was given a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, or P.T.S.D. — a mental illness more often associated with surviving war, car accidents and assaults, but now being recognized in parents of premature infants in prolonged intensive care.

A new study from Stanford University School of Medicine, published in the journal Psychosomatics, followed 18 such parents, both men and women. After four months, three had diagnoses of P.T.S.D. and seven were considered at high risk for the disorder.

In another study, researchers from Duke University interviewed parents six months after their baby’s due date and scored them on three post-traumatic stress symptoms: avoidance, hyperarousal, and flashbacks or nightmares. Of the 30 parents, 29 had two or three of the symptoms, and 16 had all three.

“The NICU was very much like a war zone, with the alarms, the noises, and death and sickness,” Ms. Roscoe said. “You don’t know who’s going to die and who will go home healthy.”

Experts say parents of NICU infants experience multiple traumas, beginning with the early delivery, which is often unexpected.

“The second trauma is seeing their own infant having traumatic medical procedures and life-threatening events, and also witnessing other infants going through similar experiences,” said the author of the Stanford study, Dr. Richard J. Shaw, an associate professor of child psychiatry at Stanford and the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

“And third, they often are given serial bad news,” he continued. “The bad news keeps coming. It’s different from a car accident or an assault or rape, where you get a single trauma and it’s over and you have to deal with it. With a preemie, every time you see your baby the experience comes up again.”

Abby Schrader and her partner, Sharon Eble, delivered twins at 23 weeks. Both girls, born at 1 pound 5 ounces each, were having continuous near-death events. “We were constantly being asked whether we wanted to remove support,” said Ms. Schrader, of Philadelphia.

Eighteen days after the girls’ birth, the couple did withdraw support from one baby, whose health had badly deteriorated. The surviving twin, Hallie, now 3, was in the NICU for 121 days and continued to have medical problems once home. “From the moment of their birth, and still to this day, we feel like we’re triaging everything and just hanging on,” Ms. Schrader said.

The Stanford study found that although none of the fathers experienced acute stress symptoms while their child was in the NICU, they actually had higher rates of post-traumatic stress than the mothers when they were followed up later. “At four months, 33 percent of fathers and 9 percent of mothers had P.T.S.D.,” Dr. Shaw said.

It may be that cultural roles compel the men to keep a brave front during the trauma to support their partners, Dr. Shaw said, adding, “But three months later, when the mothers have recovered, that’s when the fathers are allowed to fall apart.”

The post-traumatic stress may take the form of nightmares or flashbacks. Sufferers may feel panic every time a beeper goes off in the intensive care unit, or they may avoid the trauma by not visiting the unit or by emotionally distancing themselves from their child. Over time, they may develop depression, anxiety, insomnia, numbness, anger and aggression. These symptoms, of course, can impair their abilities as parents.

Several studies have shown that the risk of P.T.S.D. was not related to how tiny or sick the child was or how long the stay in the NICU. “It had to do with the parents’ coping style,” Dr. Shaw said. “There were some who were more resilient and others more vulnerable.”

In one study of rural African-Americans, those who were at greater risk of post-traumatic stress reported more problems in their daily lives, like financial trouble or lack of a partner, said the study’s author, Diane Holditch-Davis, a professor at Duke University School of Nursing. One of the biggest problems for these parents is coping after they finally leave the NICU.

“It may be several months later when they’re ready to process what they experienced, but at that point, family and friends don’t want to talk about it anymore,” Dr. Holditch-Davis said.

Ms. Schrader, in Philadelphia, felt a similar isolation in dealing with her surviving daughter’s health problems. “We got the sense that people just didn’t want to hear about it anymore,” she said.

Experts say parents who are at risk for post-traumatic stress should be identified ahead of time and given help to prepare them for dealing with the initial trauma. But many hospitals are focused on saving the infants, not the emotional crises of the parents.

“Some hospitals have really great programs, and in some, it’s really very sad,” said Liza Cooper, director of the March of Dimes NICU Family Support program, which offers psychological support to parents in 74 hospitals nationwide. Even though most units have social workers, she went on, “there’s really no one there to support the parents, provide group activities or education.”

Vicki Forman did not realize that she was suffering from post-traumatic stress until about four years after the premature birth of her twins, when she began researching her book “This Lovely Life” (Mariner Books, 2009), about her experience in the NICU and raising her surviving son with multiple disabilities.

“What the parent is going through is more or less dismissed because what you’re contending with are the health issues of your child,” she said. “Occasionally a social worker will say, ‘Are you taking care of yourself?’ but never, ‘This is a traumatic experience you endured and you need to pay attention to these symptoms.’ ”

Some hospitals pair parents of premature babies in intensive care with those who have been through the experience. One study found that 16 weeks after childbirth, mothers who were matched with NICU veterans had less anxiety and depression, and felt they had more social support, than mothers in a control group.

In addition to the family support program, the March of Dimes runs an online support community called “The most critical piece is to help prepare someone so they know what to expect and don’t fall into a world of frightening unknowns,” said Ms. Cooper, from the March of Dimes.

Untreated P.T.S.D. can have lingering effects on the child. During the NICU stay, for instance, traumatized parents may find it hard to hold or even look at their child, and that can profoundly affect the baby’s attachment to the mother. Later, mothers might experience “vulnerable child syndrome,” in which they become so anxious that a minor medical event sends them into a panic. Normal, everyday risks can seem life-threatening; children can learn to gain unhealthy attention from physical complaints.

In her book, Ms. Forman wrote: “From the moment my twins were born, I saw potential for tragedy wherever I turned. It would be years before I stopped thinking that way.”

In Monterey, Kim Roscoe is coping with a similar anxiety now, 16 months after Jaxon’s birth. “I still freak out if he has a runny nose,” she said. “And when he gets a fever, I’m back in the NICU.”

Australian MP opposes same-sex adoption

By 365gay Newswire
08.06.2009 4:00pm EDT

(Australia) Dorothy Pratt, an Australian Member of Parliament and independent, said that homosexuality was not a normal part of life after disagreeing with plans to legalize gay adoption reports the Pink News.

“I must say I was very pleased there was no allowance in this bill for homosexual couples to adopt a child,” she said.

Pratt, an MP for the Nanango district of Queensland, expressed her opposition to gay adoption and said that she believes a child should be raised by one mother and one father so it can have “a balanced view.”

“I feel very strongly about that particular thought that . . . I’m not saying they aren’t loving people, I’m not saying they wouldn’t be fabulous parents, but I am saying that in my opinion a child deserves a mother and a father if possible and that whether you regard homosexual activity as a normal part of life or not, I don’t,” she said.

Other Queensland parliament MPs, such as Christine Smith, spoke out in support for same-sex adoption.

“I acknowledge people have very strong and opposing views on the sensitive issue of same sex adoption,” said Smith. “I believe that same sex couples should be assessed by the same standards as any other couple on their suitability to adopt.”

Prior to the controversy surrounding Pratt, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced last week that he would not do away with the country’s anti-gay marriage laws.

Must Know Facts for Intended Parents Using Surrogates

issue2My husband and I have learned SO MUCH through the process of our surrogacy experience and I hope that you can benefit from our lessons/mistakes/education.  First, every surrogacy agency, ibncluding our’s – Circle Surrogacy, will play down the costs.  There are numerous hidden costs that are not on their cost lists, such as personal travel, car rental, hotel, gifts…  We are due in September and we have spent over $145,000.00!

Second, make sure you know whether your surrogate has her own health insurance.  Ours does not and it has cost us almost $25,000.00 in extra fees.  Our agency said that we might have to wait “a verry long time” if we did not choose the surrogate that we currently have.  She is great and I love her, but if I had known then what I know now, we would have chosen someone else.

Make sure that your agency tells you EXACTLY what the legal situation is in the state where your child will be born in regards to the amendment of the birth certificate after the non-bio parent goes through the second parent adoption process.  Our agency found us a local attorney in North Carolina who did not know exactly how this would work.  He finally discovered that in North Carolina, there is no gender nuetral birth certificate document, so I will be listed as my son’s mother.  We also has to sue our donor, our carrier and our carrier’s husband AND WE ALL HAD TO APPEAR IN COURT IN NORTH CAROLINA.  Our donor and carrier were served with a summons without being forewarned and, as the intended parents, we are footing the bill for all of this.

I have tried to have a positive outlook, keeping my eye on the prize, so to speak.  I know that when we meet our son, all of the worries will diminish; however, I wish that someone had shared with me the details of what would be required, both financially and legally.