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Foreign Adoptions by Americans Reach Lowest Mark Since 1982

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A graph on foreign adoptions by Americans from 2008. Levels have dropped since this. (AP)

A graph on foreign adoptions by Americans from 2008. Levels have dropped since this. (AP)

DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — The number of foreign children adopted by U.S. parents dropped by 9 percent last year to the lowest level since 1982, according to new State Department figures.

The department’s report for the 2014 fiscal year shows 6,441 adoptions from abroad, down from 7,094 in 2013 and about 74 percent below the high of 22,884 in 2004. The number has fallen every year since then — a trend that has dismayed many adoption advocates in the U.S.

Trish Maskew, chief of the State Department’s Adoption Division, said it was difficult to predict when the number of foreign adoptions might start to rise again after so many years of decline.

“We’re trying to identify places where there’s potential, and work with them to see if we can improve the process,” Maskew said. “It would be great to be as powerful as some people think we are.”

As usual, China accounted for the most children adopted in the U.S., but its total of 2,040 was down more than 10 percent from 2013 and far below the peak of 7,903 in 2005. Since then, China has expanded its domestic adoption program and sought to curtail the rate of child abandonment.

Ethiopia was second at 716, a sharp drop over a two-year period from 1,568 adoptions in 2012. Ethiopian authorities have been trying to place more abandoned children with relatives or foster families, and have intensified scrutiny of orphanages to ensure that children placed for adoption are not part of any improper scheme.

The next three countries on the list showed increases — 521 children adopted from Ukraine, up from 438 in 2013; 464 adopted from Haiti, up from 388; and 370 from South Korea, up from 138.

Russia had been No. 3 on the list in 2012, with 748 of its children adopted by Americans, but that number dropped to 250 for 2013 and to just two in 2014 as an adoption ban imposed by Russia took effect. The ban served as retaliation for a U.S. law targeting alleged Russian human-rights violators.

The last time there were fewer foreign adoptions to the U.S. overall was in 1982, when, according to U.S. immigration figures, there were 5,749 adoptions from abroad.

Chuck Johnson, CEO of the National Council of Adoption and a critic of State Department adoption policy, said the department has worked hard to make international adoption more transparent and ethical, but has failed to advocate forcefully for adoption as a viable option for many of the world’s orphans.

“I want to prevent every instance of fraud,” Johnson wrote in an email. “But it appears that the Department of State has taken the view that we can’t help even eligible children on the often unsubstantiated fear that a child might be trafficked.”

Concerns about corruption, child-trafficking and baby-selling have prompted the United States to suspend adoptions from several countries in recent years, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Guatemala and Nepal.

The Cambodian government has expressed interest in resuming international adoptions, but U.S. officials say more improvements are needed in Cambodia’s child-protection policies.

Maskew said some adoptions are expected to be completed soon from Vietnam under a new, limited program involving children with special needs.

She said Guatemalan and U.S. officials were trying to complete the last batch of adoption cases — about 14 — that were pending when adoptions from Guatemala were suspended in 2007. Guatemala was once a top source of adopted children for U.S. couples, with more than 4,000 babies adopted each year.

Maskew said it was unclear when Guatemala would be ready to start processing new foreign adoption cases.

The State Department reported that 92 American children were adopted by residents of foreign countries last year — 46 of them went to Canada and 27 to the Netherlands.

___

Online:

State Department: http://travel.state.gov/content/adoptionsabroad/en.html

___

David Crary can be reached at http://twitter.com/CraryAP

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Urban Farm in East Oakland Teaches Youth Healthy Living, Strengthens Community Ties

Located at 1001 83rd Ave., it is a beautiful, positive space and experience for so many families in this area who are oftentimes cut off from nature and too fearful to allow their children to play outside. 

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 Acta Non Verba students stand by their harvest at the farm in East Oakland. Acta Non Verba Facebook photo.

Hidden within a dirty, violent, densely populated urban food desert stands an oasis for the fearful parents and bored youth of East Oakland. 

Alarmed by Oakland’s high school dropout rate and FBI ranking as the 6th most dangerous city in the U.S, Oakland mother and Navy veteran Kelly Carlisle decided to expand her urban farming from her balcony to a bigger plot of land. There she could fulfill her desire to teach children, youth and even adults about farming, food and nutrition using her skills as a Master Gardener. The added benefit would be a community whose ties became stronger. 

Carlisle was connected to Tassafaronga Recreation Center in East Oakland whose leadership wanted to create a farm on the land behind the center and so Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project (ANV) was born. 

Located at 1001 83rd Ave., it is a beautiful, positive space and experience for so many families in this area who are oftentimes cut off from nature and too fearful to allow their children to play outside. 

Families from the surrounding neighborhoods and greater community can benefit from a myriad of programs that the organization offers such as childcare, camping, instruction on farming, cooking and nutrition. 

The mission of (ANV) cannot be better summarized than by the people who have dedicated their lives to this cause, and according to their website, it is:

“Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project (ANV) elevates life in Oakland and beyond by challenging oppressive dynamics and environments through urban farming. Founded and led mainly by women of color from the surrounding neighborhood and larger community, ANV creates a safe and creative outdoor space for children, youth, and families in East Oakland, CA. ANV engages and strengthens young people’s understanding of nutrition, food production, and healthy living as well as strengthens their ties to the community.”

This program begins with the youth at the planning stage, plotting the land, planting the seeds, cultivating the produce, and ends with the youth marketing it to customers and making the sales. The children get to experience every part of the process of farm-to-table nutrition, teaching them valuable skills and lessons that will help them as they grow into adulthood.  

Over the years ANV has taught hundreds of children these life skills which help make community ties with the help of sponsors, donors and volunteers. Visit the ANV website if you are interested in signing your children up for camp, childcare or any of the other programs offered.

If you are looking for a worthy organization to offer your time and/or money, please consider an investment in our urban youth through Acta Non Verba. 

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Telehealth Increases Access to Care for Medi-Cal Patients – Let’s Keep It OPINION

Telehealth may not make for a good Norman Rockwell painting, but it does make for good medicine. It’s an improvement, a step forward that helps us get healthier and close gaps in care.

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Nearly a century ago, a Norman Rockwell painting titled “Doctor and Doll” was published on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post, a popular American cultural magazine.

It depicted an older gentleman wearing a suit, doctor bag at his feet, pressing a stethoscope to the chest of a little girl’s toy doll. A cluttered desk and worn chair sit atop a forgettable rug. It’s an old image of health care in America. A country doctor caring for his neighbors via a “house call.”

Of course, we know it was not that simple. Healthcare was rudimentary compared to today’s standards – that is if you had access to care at all. Average life expectancy reflected that. If you were born white in 1929 you would be lucky to reach your 60s. If you were Black, you weren’t likely to reach your 50s.

While things are far from perfect, at least they have improved. Healthy lifestyles and modern medicine have made living into your 80s commonplace. Significant racial disparities remain, but the gap is closing. And the number of people with health coverage has never been higher.  But while Medi-Cal (the state sponsored coverage for people who have low-incomes) now covers nearly 14 million people, many still lack appropriate access to care.

Access to care is a complex issue, but sometimes it’s as simple as geography. Taking an hours-long bus ride across town to visit the doctor isn’t practical for most people. Add lost wages, a lack of childcare, and the fact that you don’t feel good, and it’s downright impossible.

Solutions available in employer-based health insurance for years, like virtual care through an app or over the telephone, haven’t been an option for people on Medi-Cal.

Until the pandemic.

When the federal and state governments declared emergency last Spring, federally qualified health centers like WellSpace Health were able to provide care virtually via telephone and video, a practice that had been prohibited previously.

Virtual care is wildly successful. Over the past two weeks, 5,015 patients accessed care remotely rather than visiting our health centers. Half of primary care visits and 85% of behavioral health visits were virtual. According to a statewide survey of community health centers, which serve 1 in 5 Californians, there has been a 75% decrease in no-show rates since the implementation of telehealth. A study conducted by the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network reported a significant number of patients from communities of color engaging in telehealth and having a high level of patient satisfaction.

As an internal medicine doctor and the chief medical officer WellSpace Health, it makes sense. Technology has given us the ability to conduct a modern day “house call.” We can go to the patient and break down significant barriers to care. If the patient requires a hands-on assessment or treatment, we can take that step. But frequently, especially in behavioral health, hands-on care is not necessary.

Our ability to provide virtual care under the emergency order will expire soon. Permanent authorization will require action by the Legislature and the governor through the budget process. Assembly Bill (AB) 32 by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D- Winters) provides the template for action.

In this budget cycle, the governor must take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address inequality in our health care delivery system. By adopting the provisions of AB 32 into the FY21-22 final budget, it will guarantee that all Medi-Cal beneficiaries – regardless of where they seek care – can use all telehealth modalities, including telephonic care, indefinitely.

Telehealth may not make for a good Norman Rockwell painting, but it does make for good medicine. It’s an improvement, a step forward that helps us get healthier and close gaps in care.

It even brings back the house call.

Dr. Janine Bera is the chief medical officer for WellSpace Health and chair of the California Primary Care Association Telehealth Clinical Task Force.

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California Unemployment System Backlogged With Over 200,000 Claims

Many Californians are still waiting for the state’s Employment Development Department (EDD) to clear their backlog of claims, with the department’s data page showing over 221,000 claims are pending past 21 days as of June 12.

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California EDD

California may be reopening beginning June 15, but for many unemployed workers, the economic struggle caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is nowhere near ending.

Many Californians are still waiting for the state’s Employment Development Department (EDD) to clear their backlog of claims, with the department’s data page showing over 221,000 claims are pending past 21 days as of June 12.

On May 28, Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson) hosted a press conference featuring constituents from his district who are seeking immediate help from EDD. Three constituents spoke about their struggles while trying to get their unemployment benefits. They experienced extremely long wait times while calling EDD and faced difficulties trying to verify their identity or correct claim amounts with the department.

The difficulties with EDD that the speakers expressed in their stories mirrored complaints the department’s service and call centers have been reporting since the pandemic began last year.

Roneisha Williams, a Gipson constituent, is waiting on an appeal after receiving an incorrect benefit amount. She described her experience communicating with EDD representatives over the phone as “confusing.”

She said that she received conflicting information from the EDD and representatives asked her for a different set of documents each time she called.

“When you call and speak with someone regarding the solution, you’re not given the same information. You can call one representative and they’ll tell you to submit a documentation. You submit that documentation. You call to confirm that it has been received. The other representative will tell you that not only you weren’t supposed to submit that documentation, but really you need to go to this step, and we need to see this documentation.”

Williams also spoke about her difficulties going through the identity verification process with the third-party company ID.me.

EDD launched the ID.me verification process in October 2020 as part of an effort to crack down on fraud. The department also suspended 1.4 million accounts last December and made some claimants verify their identities.

Since then, unemployed Californians directed to ID.me have faced delays and technical issues. Willams also expressed concern for less technologically-savvy claimants who may have to use ID.me.

“Having to contact a third party to qualify for your unemployment benefits is very stressful, especially when they do not have any human contact customer service available. With the ID.me verification, everything is done through your phone. So that in itself is very isolating. I know how to work technology but what about the constituents that aren’t familiar with it. What about the constituents that don’t have a high-powered or accurate camera on their phone to send a copy of their ID?” Williams said.

Roger Lozoya, a pipeline welder who also lives in Gipson’s district, lost his job five months ago and has had no income since. He said his identity was stolen and used to receive EDD benefits. So, when he tried to get benefits, the EDD told him that he owed them money.

Lozoya said, “I’m a welder, and I’m blessed to have a career that I worked hard to get. I pay a lot of taxes and I pay into EDD. The only thing they constantly do to me is call me a liar — that I’m stealing from them. They told me I owe them $69,000. How do I owe $69,000? At the time they were saying that I was claiming it, I was working.”

In the months without income, Lozoya said that he has sold his possessions, including his work truck and tools, to support his family.

During the press conference, Gipson called on the EDD to take measures to get through the claims backlog. He also urged the EDD to extend working hours and keep phone lines open during evenings and weekends.

Gipson also mentioned the state audits of EDD and suggested that implementing the recommendations of the State Auditor would likely help address the backlog.

“We absolutely have to do everything we can to make sure that the people who need this help the most get the help that they’re seeking to put food on the table, clothes their children’s back and also a roof over the head,” said Gipson.

In response to a California Black Media request for comment, EDD Media Services said, “We understand how challenging this pandemic has been for millions of people. Since April 2020, EDD call centers are — and have been open 12 hours a day, seven days a week — which includes evenings and weekends, among many other efforts to continually work to improve the customer experience. EDD offers useful self-help information including a 24-hour self-help line 1-866-333-4606, AskEDD and an online chatbot answering frequently asked questions, a YouTube channel with helpful videos, and many articles on at EDD.ca.gov. The call center can be reached 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. seven days a week at 1-800-300-5616.“

EDD also shared the actions that the department has taken to improve the customer experience, including, “improving the online help text to clearly explain what is required by the bi-weekly certification questions to help claimants avoid delays, deploying document upload, including a mobile-friendly version, to help claimants save time over mail, launching a new feature that allows a caller to hold their place “in line” when contacting the call center until the EDD calls the claimant back, [and] continuing to monitor customer areas of confusion and trending issues and addressing them with improved public information.”

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