Weekly Roundup

Rampant Human Rights Violations of Children Internationally

On October 31, 2017, the United Security Council met to discuss their deep concern for international abuse of children. The Council said that it is “gravely concerned by the scale and severity” of human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law committed against children in some countries, including terrorism, mass abductions, and sexual slavery, which can cause displacement and affect access to education and healthcare services. You can read more about the Council meeting here. Attached was a report that chronicles the high number of child casualties in Afghanistan. Additionally, 50 children have already been killed in Jamaica this calendar year and you can read more about that here. These human rights violations don’t just stop with homicide, as lack of access to education is another disheartening disparity. You can read about the President of Tanzania banning pregnant girls from school here.

Surrogate Mother wins Custody Battle for Biological Son

In Perris, California, surrogate Jessica Allen gave birth to two healthy children she believed to be twins. It turned out that one of those babies was actually her biological child. This happened as a result of what is called superfetation, and it occurs when a woman continues to ovulate after becoming pregnant, resulting in two babies with different gestational ages and, in this case, two different sets of genetic parents. This only happens in 1 in several million pregnancies. Allen reported that after a complicated process, she and her husband Wardell Jasper got custody of their son in February. You can read more about this medical marvel and custody battle here.

States in the U.S. Seek to End Child Marriage

Though many U.S. officials are critical of child marriage abroad, we are guilty of allowing the exact same practice right in our own backyard. In 25 states in the United States there are no minimum age requirements to wed, while in the others, the age requirement ranges from 13-17 years old. Child marriage correlates with domestic violence, psychiatric disorders, dropping out of high-school, poverty and financial instability, and early stress that leads to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. That is exactly why Human Rights Watch has launched a campaign to support a bill that could potentially end child marriage in Florida. As it stands now, pregnant girls in Florida can get married at any age if a judge approves it. You can learn more about child marriage in the U.S. here.

Weekly Roundup

Abbott signs House Bill 3859 into law

Governor Abbott recently signed a House bill that allows religious adoption agencies to reject applications from same-sex couples. Proponents of the bill argue that it will help to keep adoption agencies from leaving the state, but opponents believe this will make the foster care crisis even worse by excluding not only same-sex couples but also members of certain non-Christian religions. Sarah Kate Ellis, the president of GLAAD, said, “As a mother, it saddens me that a child can now be denied the chance to live with a loving family in Texas.” This law means that children in Texas now have fewer options for getting adopted, and these organizations have more opportunities to discriminate against the LGBTQIA community. Read more here.

Michelle Carter found guilty in texting assisted-suicide case

Michelle Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on June 16, 2017 after sending numerous text messages to her boyfriend encouraging his death by suicide back in 2014. Massachusetts, the state where Carter lives, does not have a law on the books against assisted suicide. Yet, Carter now faces up to 20 years in prison. This verdict potentially sets a dangerous precedent for words alone constituting murder charges. “This is a killing in which the murder weapon was words, and that is an incredibly broad view of causation and an incredibly broad view of the manslaughter laws in Massachusetts and creates serious concerns about expanding criminal law without doing so through the legislature,” ACLU Massachusetts’ legal director Matthew Segal told Newsweek Friday. This could have dangerous implications for children and teens, as they primarily use text messaging for communication. Read more here.

Children dying in hot cars and not all states have laws to protect them

An average of 37 kids die in the United States each year from vehicular heat stroke. According to NoHeatStroke.org, Texas had the most such deaths from 1998 to 2015, with 100. Florida had 72 deaths, California had 44, Arizona had 30 and North Carolina had 24. 12 children have died so far this year alone, including a 5-year-old boy in Arkansas who passed away after being left in a day-care van (Read about it here). Only 19 states have active laws that make it illegal to leave a child alone in a vehicle. Given that children are especially at risk to vehicular heat stroke due to their biology, it is puzzling that not every state has laws protecting them in place. Read more here. An especially bright 10-year-old boy has an invention on GoFundMe to protect children from car related deaths, click here to read about his product and donate.

Baby Veronica Returned to Adoptive Parents

From Randi Kaye and Leslie Bentz at CNN.

The 4-year-old girl at the center of a lengthy, high-profile custody dispute between her Native American father and her adoptive parents has been returned to the couple, an attorney for the biological father said Monday.

Earlier in the day, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Dusten Brown, the girl’s father, must return the girl, named Veronica, to Matt and Melanie Capobianco, who live in South Carolina.

The Capobiancos adopted Veronica at birth in 2009 and have been involved in a custody battle since then with Brown, who lives in Oklahoma.

According to an earlier written statement from the family after the court announcement, their “long legal nightmare” is over.

“Matt and Melanie cannot wait to bring Veronica home and begin the healing process as a reunited family,” the statement said.

Brown is a registered member of the Cherokee tribe and invoked the Indian Child Welfare Act to gain custody of Veronica.

His attorney, Clark Brewster, said Brown handed Veronica over Monday night.

The Cherokee Nation Attorney General also issued a statement late Monday night in response to the news, praising Brown for the “peaceful and dignified” transfer of Veronica to her adoptive parents, and saying the 4-year-old would “always be a Cherokee citizen.”

“Although this is not something any parent should ever have to do, we could not be more proud of the dignity and courage with which [Brown] carried himself,” the statement read.

A family court judge had ruled in Brown’s favor in late 2011, and he took his daughter to Oklahoma. The Capobiancos had fought since to have Veronica returned, arguing federal law does not define an unwed biological father as a parent.

In June, a divided U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Capobiancos, who are white, but Brown had refused to hand over the child.

The little girl at the center of the recent U.S. Supreme Court case is finally back with her adoptive parents after over 2 years of litigation. The Supreme Court had ordered for the biological father to return the girl to her adoptive parents, but he had refused to. This case could potentially change the future of Indian Child Welfare Act cases. Hopefully the future for baby Veronica will be less litigious.

Photo courtesy of Britannica Blog.