US bill seeks to boost foreign adoptions
Dozens of lawmakers in Congress from both parties have united behind a bill that supporters say addresses a heart-rending issue beyond politics.
Washington: Dozens of lawmakers in Congress from both parties have united behind a bill that supporters say addresses a heart-rending issue beyond politics: the millions of foreign children languishing in orphanages or otherwise at risk because they have no immediate family.
The bill would encourage more adoptions of foreign orphans, which have declined steadily in recent years, and it reflects impatience with current policies overseen by the State Department.
"Every child needs and deserves to grow up in a family," says the bill`s chief advocate, Sen. Mary Landrieu. "While our foreign policy has done much to keep children alive and healthy, it has not prioritized this basic human right."
The Children in Families First Act would create a bureau in the State Department assigned to work with non-governmental organizations and foreign countries to minimize the number of children without families through family preservation and reunification, kinship care, and domestic and international adoption.
However, there is sentiment in the Obama administration that some key provisions of the bill are not needed.
"I think we`ve been pretty successful recently," said Susan Jacobs, the State Department`s special adviser on children`s issues. "We are proud of the work that we do to protect everyone involved in the adoption process — the birth families, the adopting families and of course the children."
There`s no firm global count of children in orphanages, but they number in the millions. In Russia, which has banned adoptions by Americans, there are more than 650,000 children not in parental custody.
In Kyrgyzstan, where foreign adoptions were disrupted for years due to corruption and political problems, orphanages are often ill-equipped. In Haiti, where recovery from the 2010 earthquake has been slow, inspectors recently checked more than 700 orphanages and said only 36 percent met minimum standards.
The Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoption establishes ethical standards for international adoptions, which it says are an acceptable option after efforts have been made to have a child adopted in his or her home country.
The US entered into the agreement in 2008 with strong support from adoption advocates who hoped it would curtail fraud and corruption, and then lead to a boom in legitimate adoptions.
Instead, the decrease in foreign adoption by Americans, which started in 2005, has continued. There were 8,668 such adoptions in 2012, down from 22,991 in 2004.