Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ethica calls for action on International Adoption Bills

International Adoption — Ethica’s Positions on Pending Legislation

Three bills were recently introduced in Congress relating to international adoption. Links to the bills and Ethica’s position on each of them are below.

Ethica urges you to read these bills in their entirety. Do you share Ethica’s concerns about these bills? It’s important that Committee members hear YOUR voice. Contact info for each of the bills is below.

To reach your Representative or Senator, go to the House or Senate websites and locate your member by zip code or state. To find your zip+4 zip code, go to the US Postal Service website.

Senate Bill 1376

sponsored by Sen Amy Klobuchar (MN), Senator Durbin (IL), Senator Feingold (WI), Sen Inhofe (OK), and Sen Landrieu (LA): A bill to restore immunization and sibling age exemptions for children adopted by United States citizens under the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption to allow their admission to the United States.

Ethica supports the passage of this bill.

  • Ethica believes the immunization waiver was intended in original legislation but was left out by oversight.
  • Ethica believes that the health risks a child faces by the current immunization requirements are greater than the public health risk that such a requirement serves to protect.
  • The previous guidelines requiring parents to vaccinate upon return to the US provided a safe, medically supportive protocol without public health implications for the 12 years it was enacted. This is still the protocol used for non-Hague adoptions.
  • This immigrant class is the only class that does not contain a vaccine exemption option.
  • Ethica supports the sibling age exemption increase to age 18 for children who are part of qualified sibling groups adopted within the same family as is the case for non-Hague adoptions. We believe this, too, was an unintended oversight in amending Immigration and Nationality Act. Ethica believes that siblings should remain together whenever possible.

This bill will be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. To contact them to voice your opinion on this bill, call 202-224-7703 (Democrats) or 202-224-5225 (Republicans).

To find members of the committee who would be happy to hear your opinion:

House Bill 3070 Families for Orphans Act

sponsored by Congresswoman Diane Watson (D-CA) and Congressman John Boozman (R-AR): A bill to encourage the development and implementation of a comprehensive, global strategy for the preservation and reunification of families and the provision of permanent parental care for orphans, and for other purposes.

Ethica opposes passage of the Families for Orphans Act. Here are some reasons why:

  • The Families for Orphans Act, if passed, would give the United States unilateral power to develop global child welfare strategies by providing financial incentives for other countries (including through debt and trade relief) to send their children abroad for international adoption.
  • Instead, the United States should be participating diplomatically with other nations in developing global child welfare strategies, for example, by finally ratifying the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.
  • The bill legalizes an overly broad definition of “orphan”, capturing countless numbers of children who already have loving families, potentially including, for example, children who reside in boarding schools away from their primary caregivers.
  • This bill augments existing financial incentives for countries to favor international adoption by offering additional financial incentives, including technical assistance, grants, trade, and debt relief from the United States, which may sacrifice established child welfare principles by favoring international adoption over local solutions.
  • Reunification efforts are “time-limited” which may cause original families to be unnecessarily separated from their children.
  • Conflicts exist with various definitions in the bill. For example, long-term kinship and guardianship arrangements which are considered “permanent” care under the bill may simultaneously be considered long-term foster care arrangements, which are considered to be temporary care under the bill.
  • The bill requires “cultural norms” to be taken into account, but only to the extent consistent with the purposes of the bill. The bill permits the United States then to essentially disregard a country’s cultural norms.

Ethica supports the strengthening of global child welfare systems. However, we believe that this would best be accomplished by working through existing frameworks of technical assistance and aid, ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to demonstrate the commitment of the United States as a global partner in securing and upholding children’s basic rights, limiting the definition of orphans to those children truly in need of permanent caregivers with placement decisions made without the influence of money.

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs will first debate this bill. They can be reached at the following location for your feedback:

Phone: (202) 225-5021
Members on the Committee who are also available to hear your opinions:

Foreign Adopted Children Equality Act (FACE Act)

introduced in the Senate as S. 1359 (Senators Landrieu and Inhofe) and in the House as H.R. 3110 (Rep. Watson and Boozman): A bill to provide United States citizenship for children adopted from outside the United States, and for other purposes.

Ethica opposes passage of the FACE Act. Ethica believes the FACE Act, if passed, would harm adopted persons and their birth- and adoptive families in a number of ways, including:

  • The bill is intended to eliminate the U.S. immigrant visa process, which means it eliminates the safeguards put in place to help ensure that children placed for adoption are legally in need of homes abroad
  • By conferring citizenship retroactive to birth, Ethica believes the bill creates a legal fiction and diminishes adoptees’ birth history
  • While eliminating the visa process may save adopting families a small amount of money toward the large costs of adopting, there is no guarantee that the Department of State will not charge similar or even higher fees for services it will provide under this bill.
  • The bill may create additional hurdles and costs for adopted persons in the future as they attempt to claim benefits and privileges they are otherwise entitled to in their countries of birth
  • Eligibility for adoption of a particular child is generally determined by the “competent authority” of the child’s country of origin. The bill does not address eligibility for adoption in countries that have not designated a competent authority
  • The suitability of the adopting parent is based on the person’s ability to support the child and appropriate criminal background checks. The bill does not address existing federal requirements for homestudies of prospective adopting parents.
  • Enacting this bill may stall adoptions in process: It is unclear how this bill will affect provisions of the Intercountry Adoption Act (which implemented the Hague Convention). Instead of speeding up processing by bypassing the visa system, confusion in interpretation and the development of new processing procedures, particularly for Hague countries, will likely create delays for adopting families and children.

Ethica believes that adoptees and other immigrants should be able to become President, but pursuing the right to presidency should be done in a way that does not erase personal histories.

Ethica also wholeheartedly agrees that citizenship procedures should be improved for adoptees, and believes that adoptees not covered under the Child Citizenship Act (including adopted persons who have been deported) should be conferred U.S. citizenship. However, this bill goes far beyond these measures and has the potential to hurt more than help.

This bill is being considered in two committees in the House of Representatives and one committee in the U.S. Senate:

In the House:

House Committee on Foreign Affairs:
Phone: (202) 225-5021
Members on the Committee who are also available to hear your opinions:

House Judiciary Committee:
Phone: 202-225-3951
Find members of the committee who would be happy to hear your opinions:

In the Senate:

Senate Judiciary Committee:
Phone: 202-224-7703 (Democrats) or 202-224-5225 (Republicans)
To find members of the committee who would be happy to hear your opinion:

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