- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 11, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) | Advocates of international adoption are furious over a new federal policy related to tuberculosis testing that could disrupt plans for families adopting children from China and Ethiopia.

The policy already has forced one distraught couple from Virginia, Jay Scruggs and Candace Litchford, to leave China without the daughter they had spent two weeks bonding with.

“That was a cruel thing to put a 4-year-old child through,” Mrs. Litchford said in a telephone interview Monday. “How is she supposed to trust us now?”

The anger stems from a directive issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2007 intended to minimize the number of immigrants entering the U.S. with tuberculosis resistant to multiple drugs.

Earlier this year, the CDC announced that immigrants over the age of 2 from Ethiopia and China, a country that for the past decade has been the leading source of foreign adoptions for American parents, would be subject to the new protocols. The policy applies to all immigrants, including children adopted abroad by U.S. citizens.

Adoption advocates say the required testing procedures - and treatment in the case of positive tests - could cause delays ranging from several weeks to 12 months for obtaining a visa to bring adopted children back to the U.S.

Several major adoption organizations are circulating a petition asking the CDC to exempt adopted children from the requirements. The groups contend that the risk of TB transmission is minimal for infected children under 12 and contend that adopted children, unlike some adult immigrants, are virtually assured of obtaining top-level health care as soon as they reach the U.S.

Chuck Johnson, chief operating officer of the National Council for Adoption, expressed fear that some children adopted by Americans would, because of the new delays, die in their homelands for lack of state-of-the-art medical care they might have received in the U.S.

“Some of these bureaucrats are going to have to answer for that,” he said.

Mr. Johnson and his allies are trying to mobilize congressional support for exempting adopted children from the policy. They are gathering testimonials from medical experts to back the contention that children, in contrast to adults, are extremely unlikely to transmit TB.

The CDC defends the policy as medically necessary.

“We agree it’s a rare circumstance that children can transmit TB, but the reality is it can happen,” said CDC spokesman Glen Nowak.

He also said the CDC did not have the legal authority to exempt children being adopted by U.S. families from rules applying to other immigrants.

As for Mr. Scruggs and Mrs. Litchford, Mr. Nowak said, “We appreciate that this is frustrating. … We are doing what we can to make this go as fast as possible.”

The policy does not apply to children under 2.

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