' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Senate bill encourages more international adoption

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Senate bill encourages more international adoption

Sen. Mary Landrieu
Foreign adoptions have plummeted from just over 23,000 in 2004 to just under 9,000 in 2012, as foreign countries and the U. S. State Department have responded to wide-spread corruption. Gathering its forces, the adoption industry has turned to its long-time champion, adoptive mom and wife of an adoptee Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu. She introduced the deceptively-named Children in Families First Act of 2013 (CHIFF) "to strengthen intercountry adoption...and ensure it becomes a viable and fully developed option for providing families for children in need."* Among other provisions, the bill (S. 1530) would condition child welfare assistance to foreign countries on whether they allowed Americans to adopt children from these countries.

S. 1530 would create two new bureaucracies within the State Department: the Bureau of Vulnerable Children and Family Security (VCFS) and the Center for Excellence for Children in Adversity. VCFS, to be headed by a "Senior Coordinator for Permanence," would be responsible for "the development and implementation in foreign countries of child welfare laws...supporting and enabling families to care for children through family preservation, reunification, and support of kinship care, guardianship, and domestic and international adoption."(Emphasis added).**

Your kids, that is
The U. S. overthrows the governments of other countries when it doesn't like what they are doing--too cozy with Russia, for example --but take over their child welfare programs? Apparently so. With Coordinator for Permanence at command, Uncle Sam plans to re-write the laws of other countries, allowing their children to be adopted in the good ole' US of A.

Subduing opposition through force may be a little much, so the bill offers a carrot. A second bureaucracy, the Center for Excellence for Children in Adversity, to be directed by the "Children in Adversity Coordinator," would work with VCFS to "ensure that United States foreign assistance and development programs are focused on the following objectives: ...Supporting and enabling families to care for children through...intercountry adoption." (Emphasis added)***

The bill authorizes funding through the U. S. Agency for International Development to "international, nongovernmental, or faith-based organizations" to reduce the percentage of children living in institutions through among other things intercountry adoptions.****  In other words U. S. tax-dollars would go to cash-strapped adoption agencies to place foreign children in American homes. The bill establishes a "priority country demonstration program...over a period of 5 years in at least six countries." To be selected, a country must express willingness to support the full complement of permanence solutions including intercountry adoption.***** The six unlucky countries will be selected soon. This is almost certainly guarantees that unscrupulous adoption facilitators are going to emerge in these countries to make sure that their orphanages are stocked with children "available" for adoption.


According to Kathryn Joyce in The Child Catchers and others who have documented international adoption, intercountry adoptions actually increase the number of children living in institutions "Children who were not unparented or homeless before end up becoming institutionalized as a direct result of orphanages setting up shop in poor areas," Joyce writes. The adoption industry helps create these institutions, often funded in large part by grateful adoptive parents. Increasing intercountry adoptions runs the risk that children will be placed in unsafe homes where they may be killed, abused, or dumped into another unsafe home, as the recent series of stories on "re-homing" has shown us. It also diverts money which could be used to help children remain within their families.

Before FMF is besieged with comments from those who adopted foreign children, let us again emphasize that intercountry adoption does nothing to reduce the percentage of children living in institutions. As they go out the front door, more come in through the back. A recent piece in The Atlantic documented cases of children kidnapped in China and sold to agencies, who then placed the children with American families, telling that the children had been abandoned. That's what we think of when we at FMF see that cute little Asian girl, no more than three, with her American-born mother at Starbucks. Or the friend of a friend who showed up with an absolutely beautiful four-year-old from India.

This is not the first time Sen. Landrieu has tried hooking foreign aid to making children available for adoption. In the wake of the Haitian earthquake in 2009 Sen. Landrieu introduced the Families for Orphans Act which would have offered "developmental aid to countries that help provide permanent parental care for orphans, including international adoption." Sen. Landrieu and her co-sponsor, Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, "argued that such an office could have facilitated tens of thousands of additional adoptive placements from Haiti--and beyond." Fortunately saner voices prevailed, and the only children brought from Haiti were those already "in the pipeline."

FMF does not know, of course, how many countries will change their laws to permit foreigners to take their children in exchange for dollars; we do know that with enough money (and enough is a relative term in a poor country) foreign politicians are likely to bend to Uncle Sam's will. In fact, bribes to officials in countries like Guatemala is what caused the spike in intercountry adoptions, increasing from about 7,000 in 1990 to the high of 23,000 in 2004 before falling to 9,000, as officials responded to critics who began publicizing rampant corruption.

Louisiana child waiting permanence
What is also infuriating about all this is that the U. S., with over 400,000 children in foster care, 4,255 of them in Louisiana alone, is hardly a model of rectitude on child welfare. One hundred thousand American children are waiting to be adopted, over a thousand in Louisiana, Sen. Landrieu's home state. More than a quarter of all Louisiana's children live in poverty, a number greater than the national average. Almost 400,000 Louisiana families are receiving food stamps, a program many in Congress want to cut. (Because of the government shut down, Head Start and Women, Infants, and Children programs are not in operation.) Louisiana opted out of the Medicaid expansion portion of the Affordable Care Act, continuing to insure that thousands of children will not have access to health care. Without supports for families, more children are likely to go into foster care.

Senate Bill 1530 needs to be killed. Since business in Washington is at a standstill, and this bill is not
likely to be taken up this year, it will be reintroduced next year, most likely early in the session. In this case, a robust list of complaints distributed to the folks who have the authority to start or stop legislation could have a great deal to do with stopping this from happening. If you care about halting the corruption in international adoptions, stopping this bill is one way to take action. Write (a letter is better than an email) to your senators and ask her or him to oppose this devious, family-destroying legislation.--jane
Here's a list of players and a history of the attempt to condition aid on allowing intercountry adoption  from Pound Pup Legacy Stop the Children Families First Act of 2013 .We also encourage you to "like" Pound Puppy Legacy's Facebook page

For the address of your senators, go to Senate Contact Information. It's always best to include the number of the bill near the beginning of the letter: S1530.

See also:
New National Adoption Bill Proposed: CHIFF  Musing of the Lame
Why CHIFF Will (and should) Fail
PEAR Statement on the Proposed "Children in Families First Act"
Life Imitates Art: Mary Landrieu calls Pavel Astakhov an ass; Then files bill to speed up International adoption The Daily Bastardette

(For profiles of Louisiana kids waiting permanent homes, see the Louisiana Department of Children & Families website.)

S. 1530
*Bill summary
**Title I, Sec. 101 (a)(1)(B)
***Title III, Sec. 301(a)(3)(B)
****Sec. 301(a)(6)
*****Sec. 301(c).

Child Welfare Information Gateway, Foster Care Statistics
Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services
National Center for Children in Poverty
ACH Child Welfare Outcomes 2004-2007; 
Profiles of Louisiana children waiting adoption
Louisiana to have winners, losers under the Affordable Care Act
Kidnapped and Sold: Inside the Dark World of Child Trafficking in China

FROM FMF (partial list)
'Re-homing' Dumping Unwanted Adopted Kids
The Child Catchers exposes the stench of international adoption--and domestic adoption too
International Adoption Advocates fight back against decline in adoptions 
Guatemalan Army Stole Kids for Adoption 
Corruption in International Adoption? Highly Over-rated.  
Kidnapping and Corruption in Chinese Adoptions 
Adoptive Parents Decry UNICEF's Humanitarian Position about Adopting Overseas 
The Baby Sellers portrays the dark side of international adoption

Outer Search Inner Journey
A memoir from someone who was internatioanally adopted: Peter Dodds writes of the dislocation of being separated from family of origin and ancestral homeland in Germany. Peter grows up alienated in a family and culture he doesn't understand. He returns to Germany believing happiness will come when finding his German family and reclaiming ethnic identity. But his hopes are crushed as his search twists into a desperate struggle to escape a labyrinth of total despair. Set against the backdrop of the Cold War, this is the story of a man's spiritual transformation where the protagonist must ultimately confront himself.

The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption
“Joyce broadens the understanding of adoption's conundrums, not only within the United States, but also internationally, with deep investigations of children from Liberia, Ethiopia, Korea, Rwanda, Haiti and China…Groundbreaking investigative and explanatory reporting.”--Kirkus Reviews
Today no one should adopt internationally without reading this book first. 


  1. I'm from Louisiana and can't stand this arrogant witch. Just enough stupid people in my state to keep voting her in, though :( No surprise to me she would support this BS.

  2. I am an internationally adopted child (now an adult) and this infuriates me. The U.S. should worry about it's own children and leave other countries children alone. My international adoption has left me bitter and resentful. My adopters were petty, corporal, judgmental people that only cared about themselves. Convenient that they took me away from my country. made it a lot easier to abuse me.

  3. A fine post about CHIFF on Light of Day Stories blog:


    It is well worth the read.



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