CAP Law Reform Projects

Prevention & Protection 

Prevention & Protection Brainstorming Workshop

In May 2012, CAP convened the P& P Workshop.  The P&P Workshop took as a given that too many children, of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, are subject to maltreatment, and that the child welfare field should place more emphasis on preventing maltreatment and protecting vulnerable children. The goal was to have a relatively small group of child welfare leaders and related professionals think together about what might be the most promising directions for future policies and programs.  We looked for promising new ideas, and also for existing good ideas that have not been given an adequate try.  We urged participants to think creatively and boldly, but also to have as a goal producing some “take-away ideas” capable of early implementation.  For more -- including materials, participants, and the agenda -- click here

Race and the Child Welfare System

Race and Child Welfare Conference & Scholarship

In January 2011, CAP hosted a major conference entitled: “Race & Child Welfare: Disproportionality, Disparity, Discrimination: Re-Assessing the Facts, Re-Thinking the Policy Options.”  Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago was the Affiliate Sponsor.  The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the National Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) were participating organizations.  The conference built on the momentum created by Bartholet’s recent article exploring the racial disproportionality movement in child welfare: "The Racial Disproportionality Movement in Child Welfare: False Facts and Dangerous Directions," 51 Ariz. L. Rev. 871 (2009).  Click here to view that article.  The conference examined the facts around race and child welfare and provided a range of policy options.  The hope is the conference will provide a turning point, refocusing the debate from the misperception that social worker bias is the problem in our child welfare system and instead draw attention to the real underlying problems that produce maltreatment and the related appropriate directions for future research and policy.  Conference participants included an array of influential experts in the field from the legal and judicial arenas, child services organizations, and academia.  For more on the conference -- including conference-related materials, video recordings, and press coverage -- click here.

Intersection between Parental Substance Abuse & Child Maltreatment

Convening on Drug-Exposed Newborns and Related Policies

The intersection between parental substance abuse and child maltreatment is key to policy reform in the child welfare area.  CAP Faculty Director Elizabeth Bartholet has addressed it in her book Nobody's Children, and CAP has had many course, conference and special events devoted to understanding the issues and to assessing some of the most promising reform initiatives in the field, including a review of the most recent research.  While some of these models have seemed promising, research to date shows that some models are not being implemented as originally designed, and the research to date, while not definitive, is not especially encouraging.  Continued work is needed.  In December 2009, we brought to HLS a diverse small group of experts -- including physicians who treat infant exposed newborns, a head assistant district attorney who prosecutes alleged abusers, and staff from the Massachusetts child protective agency who create internal department policy –  to explore the issue and develop plans for reform.

International Adoption Issues

Today international adoption (IA) is in crisis, with numbers down significantly in the last four years for the first time after six decades of a steady rise in numbers.  IA is needed just as much as always – research shows that it provides an excellent option for homeless children worldwide.  However powerful forces which include UNICEF and our own State Department have joined with others to close down IA in many countries and to add to the restrictions that make it a limited option for children in other countries.  As explained in more detail below, CAP has played a significant role over the years trying to change the terms of the debate on IA.  

CAP has organized course panels, conferences and special events to educate students and policy-makers about the issues.  In January 2008, we convened a “Workshop” at HLS for representatives of UNICEF, State, and many other of the highest level policy players.  That same year, CAP drafted policy statements on IA now adopted in some form by several organizations including the American Bar Association.  In 2009, CAP Faculty Director Elizabeth Bartholet testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Support of International Adoption.  Additionally, we have partnered with the Center for Adoption Policy to create the "ACT for Adoption" newsletter to mobilize support for IA.  We have co-sponsored conferences on IA with the Center for Adoption Policy.  Bartholet has written two leading law review and various popular articles on IA.  To view those articles, click here.  

Act for Adoption Newsletter

ACT for Adoption is a coalition of persons who support adoption, both domestic and international, as an option for providing good homes for children without parents.  Through our listserv, we mobilize support for adoption policy reform by communicating with key policy-makers, including in the White House, Congress, government agencies, and non-profit organizations, as well as by educating the media and various stakeholders. If you sign-up for the ACT for Adoption listserv, you will periodically receive an email from us with updates on important developments and occasional suggestions for action.  

The ACT for Adoption listserv is run by the Harvard Law School Child Advocacy Program and the Center for Adoption Policy.

To Subscribe:

  • Click here to subscribe to ACTforAdoption.
  • An email message from your account will automatically appear, filled out with the relevant information.  Simply send that email.  Do not add any additional text.
  • You will then be added to our ACT for Adoption listserv.
  • If you have any problems subscribing, email ACTforAdoption.

To Unsubscribe:

  • Email ACTforAdoption with “Remove from ACTforAdoption listserv” in the subject heading.
  • CAP will send you a confirmation email, when we have removed you from the list.

CHIFF Legislation

Senators Mary Landrieu and Roy Blunt introduced S.1530 and Representatives Kay Granger and Karen Bass have introduced a similar bill in Congress (H.R.3323) to transform U.S. Government policy into a positive force for enabling children to grow up in the families they need.  Called Children in Families First or CHIFF, the bill embraces international adoption as one of the best options for unparented children, and  creates new agencies within our government whose mandate will be to act affirmatively to help nations throughout the world move children out of institutions and into nurturing permanent families.  

CHIFF needs your support!  While it has already garnered an impressive list of Republican and Democratic co-sponsors, we must expand the group in both the Senate and the House, and let others in Congress know that support is widespread.  Click here for a letter you can adapt to your own purposes.

Click here for a letter to Secretary of State Kerry calling for change in DOS policies re international adoption, signed by CAP and other child advocacy organizations, and here for the related press release.

Harvard & Boston College Law School Faculty Members’ signed a Letter of Support for CHIFF Core Principles.  Click here for that letter, and here for a related press release.  

Click here for The  Boston College Chronicle article featuring former HLS S.J.D. student and current Boston College Law Assistant Professor Paulo Barrozo's work engaging other law school faculty members to support CHIFF.

Russian Shutdown of International Adoption

The European Court granted CAP's request to file an amicus brief in a case challenging the Russian shutdown of international adoption to the U.S.  Click here and here for more.  CAP filed that brief:

European Court of Human Rights, A.H. and Others v. Russia & Other 22 Applications, Application no.6033/13. Brief filed 4/14/14 by HLS CAP as Third Party Intervener in case involving Russian shutdown of international adoptions to U.S. Click here to read brief.

Response to Crisis in Haiti

CAP Faculty Director Elizabeth Bartholet appeared on the New York Times' Room for Debate blog: "Put Children's Safety First" (Feb. 1, 2010).  Click here for a link to the article.  Click here for the PDF version.

CAP Faculty Director Elizabeth Bartholet appeared on French television to discuss the adoption situation for the children of Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake (Jan. 21, 2010).  Click here to watch.

CAP Faculty Director Elizabeth Bartholet and Assistant Prof. of Law at Boston College Law School Paulo Barrozo wrote a piece for NPR's website: "Amid Disaster, Haitian Orphans Find Homes" (Jan. 21, 2010).  Click here for a link to the article. Click here for the PDF version.

Legal and Medical Experts to Testify Before Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Support of International Adoption 

For full details about the hearing, including the press release, written testimony,  recording of the hearing, and written response to the questions by the commissioners, click here

Campaign to Support Child Rights and International Adoption - May 2009

CAP launched a Campaign to enlist endorsements for the International Adoption Policy Statement and Supporting Report.  The following organizations have endorsed that Statement:

  • The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, May 2008
  • Harvard Law School Child Advocacy Program, May 2008
  • The Center for Adoption Policy, June 2008
  • National Council for Adoption, April 2009
  • University of San Diego Children's Advocacy Institute, May 2009
  • University of San Francisco - School of Law Child Advocacy Clinic, May 2009
  • Both Ends Burning, May 2010

Also in support of the Campaign on Child Rights is the American Bar Association Recommendation on International Adoption, adopted by House of Delegates August 11, 2008, and Supporting Report.  For more about the Campaign, click here.  

Press on International Adoption

"Fostering abuse" interview with Oksana Boyko on RT TV World's Apart on Nov 27, 2013.  Click here to view the interview.

Response to Donaldson Institute's Call to Amend MEPA

CAP Faculty Director Elizabeth Bartholet traveled to Washington D.C. to deliver remarks at a Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute Briefing on June 10, 2008. Prof. Bartholet responded to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute's call to amend the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA). The full text of Prof. Bartholet's remarks, where she explains why the current formulation of MEPA which prohibits using race as a factor in placement decisions is the right approach, can be downloaded here: Response to Donaldson Institute Report.

First CAP Amicus Brief Filed

In November 2007, CAP filed its first amicus brief, in a case asking the NY Court of Appeals to grant review of a decision below which created deeply problematic standards limiting the State's ability to intervene to protect children against abuse and neglect. CAP's brief supports the state child protection agency, the Saratoga County Department of Social Services, and was written by CAP Faculty Director Elizabeth Bartholet with the help of CAP students Julianne Johnston and Grace Spulak.

Last modified: June 30, 2015

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