Friday, March 5, 2010

Letter to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Opposing the Families for Orphans Act

Last month, PEAR joined in with Global Action for Children in voicing our opposition to the Families for Orphans Act. The Senate version act is currently sitting in the Committee on Foreign Relations. Below is the letter sent to Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Committee and Senator Richard Lugar , Ranking Member.

February 22, 2010

The Honorable John Kerry
U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
218 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Richard Lugar
Ranking Member
U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
306 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Kerry and Ranking Senator Lugar,

We are writing in strong opposition to the Families for Orphans Act, S. 1458 and are dismayed that its supporters are using the tragedy in Haiti as cause for moving forward this counter-productive legislation.

We object to the bill for the specific following reasons:

  1. Instead of building on the success of offices that are already working for children worldwide, the bill needlessly duplicates the Orphans Assistance Act (PL 109-95) in some areas and conflicts with the mandate in others to the detriment of children and their families. The Families for Orphans Act calls for the establishment of a separate Office of Orphan Policy, Diplomacy and Development within the State Department. Establishing such an office would be entirely duplicative, not to mention harmful to the successful on-going coordination between U.S. government agencies supporting orphans and vulnerable children and adoption in Haiti.
  2. The Department of State (DOS), Bureau of Consular Affairs, already has statutory authority to handle all child welfare matters that involve intercountry adoption of orphans from Haiti or elsewhere. This existing authority has taken efforts to fast-track adoptions from Haiti that were already in the pipeline and in the past few weeks has issued approximately 900 visas to pre-identified orphans eligible for adoption and in the adoption process —three times the typical number of visas issued annually to children for adoption from Haiti.

    Adding an additional office in the State Department would harm rather than help children in Haiti and elsewhere. The redundancy would confuse and duplicate efforts as well as drain precious funding and resources. A more effective route would be to fund the existing PL 109-95 Secretariat (Orphans and Vulnerable Children office) which is currently, despite being unfunded, doing a heroic job of coordinating all U.S. agency efforts in Haiti on behalf of Orphans and Vulnerable Children.

  3. The bill would impose expensive and impossible-to-achieve requirements on poor countries. This not only burdens already over-burdened countries with red tape, it puts the future of working programs already in place like child survival, maternal health and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in jeopardy. The Families for Orphans Act mandates a biennial census of children without permanent parental care for all member countries of the United Nations including the United States. Not only would such a census be literally impossible for countries to comply with, it would cost billions of dollars to even attempt—billions that could be used to actually assist families to care for their children.

Further, according to this legislation, if countries failed to comply with these untenable requirements, the development assistance they receive from the United States, some of which supports the very children this bill purports to assist, might be cut off.

We are all motivated to assist orphans and vulnerable children in crisis in Haiti and around the world and thank you for your dedication to these too-often overlooked kids. Yet this bill is not the solution they need. We are worried that it is being rushed through Congress without enough public discussion regarding how it will impact longstanding U.S. global programs that are already in place to help these children and their communities grow.

Therefore, we strongly urge you to decline to consider this ill-conceived bill and instead fully fund existing mechanisms, such as the Orphans Assistance Act, that are doing good work on behalf of orphans and vulnerable children around the world.


American Adoption Congress
The Episcopal Church
Global Action for Children
Global AIDS Alliance
Mothers Acting Up
Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church & Society

Victor Groza
Grace F. Brody Professor of Parent-Child Studies
Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, OH

Karen Smith Rotabi, PhD, LMSW, MPH

Richmond, VA

cc: Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Senator Russell D. Feingold, Senator Barbara Boxer, Senator Robert Menendez, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Senator Robert P. Casey, Senator Jim Webb, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Senator Edward E. Kaufman, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Bob Corker, Senator Johnny Isakson, Senator James E. Risch, Senator Jim DeMint, Senator John Barrasso, Senator Roger F. Wicker and Senator James M. Inhofe

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

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