The “Children in Families First Act of 2013” (http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/s1530), sponsored by Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, begins with the assumption that “The people of the United States recognize and believe that children must grow up in permanent, safe, and nurturing families in order to develop and thrive.” Unfortunately, that underlying assumption by the Senator and her co-sponsors is not supported by the changes proposed to adoption law and regulation in the act itself.
Senator Landrieu makes many authoritative-sounding assertions that lack any evidentiary support in social literature and studies. For example, while neglect in an institutional setting should certainly be avoided, there is nothing that shows that long-term foster care arrangements with area foster families is detrimental to child development, and the ability of a child to thus remain in their native culture can and should be seen as a significant advantage.
The goal of the bill is to “realign the United States Government’s current operational system for assisting orphans and vulnerable children, and processing intercountry adoptions.” Thus, the primary goal of the bill is not to seek to improve the domestic adoption program inside the United States, but to impose United States goals and desires upon the rest of the world. The bill, for example, will require each sending country to annually report to the United States Department of Homeland Security how many children are “living without families,” to what extent “family permanence solutions are being utilized,” and other detailed reporting requirements. It is not clear why other countries would or should feel obliged to provide this information, but the bill seems to assume that such reporting can be accomplished by legislative fiat.
Although the subsidiarity principle (placing children domestically as a first priority) is recognized by the authors of the bill, under this legislation both in- and out-of-country options would be considered simultaneously, with preference given for whichever method results in the quickest adoption. Thus, under the terms of this act, if an infant child could be adopted within a month through international adoption and six months through domestic adoption, the act gives preference to the international adoption. This, in effect, negates any deference to the subsidiarity principle as codified in the Hague Agreement.
The underlying assumption among those in the adoption industry, including the authors and supporters of this bill, is that the collapse in international adoptions in recent years is due to increased administrative and regulatory burdens on sending countries, adoption agencies, and potential adoptive families. The conventional wisdom is that there are millions of orphans that could find permanent homes if the governments of the world would just get out of the way. The “Children in Families First Act of 2013” thus seeks to convert the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from a participant in the international adoption arena to its overseer.
But the facts are that the decline in international adoptions has been the result not of increased regulations and oversight, but adoption scandals in the sending countries themselves. China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Guatemala, Ethiopia, and nearly every other large program collapsed or is collapsing under the weight of baby-buying and other unethical practices. The “Children in Families First Act of 2013” does not address this reality, and imposes no new safeguards to make the world’s international adoption program more secure, transparent or ethical.
As concerned parents of adoptive children from around the globe, PEAR feels passionately that steps must be taken to improve the transparency and ethical standards of the world’s adoption programs. We support changing the U.S. definition of child trafficking, for example, to include trafficking for purposes of adoption. But the “Children in Families First Act of 2013” does little to increase the reliability and transparency of the international adoption programs in the world.
For additional information on the Act, see: http://www.adoptionbirthmothers.com/children-in-families-first-chiff/
Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.