(Photo: Mary Landrieu's office)
WASHINGTON – Children in Families First (CHIFF) was introduced Thursday in the U.S. Senate to address many of the problems that has led to a steady decline in the inter-country adoption of orphans. The bill has the support of many pro-adoption advocacy groups, including Saddleback Church, Christian Alliance for Orphans, Joint Council on International Children's Services, and Both Ends Burning Campaign.
Despite the fact that there are about 200 million orphans in the world today, international adoptions to the United States have dropped 62 percent in the last nine years.
The reasons for the decline involve a complicated set of problems that has involved the United Nations and the U.S. State Department. (For more information, The Christian Post published a series of articles about the problem last year, which you can read here, here, here and here.)
CHIFF will seek to eliminate the problems in the State Department by moving some of the Department's authority to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and streamlining the international adoption process.
The legislation has five Democratic sponsors – Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Jean Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) – and five Republican sponsors – Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
"There is no substitute for a permanent, loving family, and while our foreign policy has done much to keep children alive and healthy, it has not prioritized this basic human right," Landrieu, the sponsor of the bill, said at a Thursday press conference.
CHIFF has three main parts. First, it would specify that family is a "key element" of U.S. foreign policy for children by prioritizing family preservation and reunification, and adoption, both international and domestic.
Second, it would move some of the international adoption responsibilities from the State Department to USCIS, and move the State Department's Office of Children's Issues, Adoption Division, from the Bureau of Consular Affairs to its own bureau in the human rights secretariat. Plus, most of the operational responsibilities for intercountry adoption, which are currently shared by both State and USCIS, would be simplified and consolidated within USCIS.
And third, it would establish a Center of Excellence with USAID that would be dedicated to implementing the 2012 National Action Plan on Children in Adversity.
Tom DiFilipo, president and CEO of the Joint Council on International Children's Services, praised the bill and argued that U.S. foreign policy has done too little to prioritize the needs of children.
"Every U.S. President for the past 60 years is quoted stressing the importance of family," he said in a press release. "Yet U.S. foreign policy and programs do little to represent the priority Americans place on our children and our families. This is indefensible and needs to change. The American public would be outraged to learn that their government is not aggressively demonstrating the importance of a safe, strong and loving family for every child. We vigorously support CHIFF because it says that family life for all children is not a catch phrase, it is the policy of the United States."
Landrieu was joined at the press conference by Blunt and Klobuchar. A companion bill will be introduced later in the House of Representatives.