(Photo: The Christian Post/Napp Nazworth)
WASHINGTON – About 500 people, representing 37 states, gathered Friday in Washington, D.C., for the "Step Forward for Orphans March." The marchers had firsthand experience with the brokenness of the international adoption system. Some came with the children they struggled to adopt, others marched with photos of the children they have adopted, or want to adopt but are unable to due to political barriers put in the way.
"Today the process is so restrictive, and so bureaucratic and so broken, we are really actually prohibiting families and kids from coming together. It's nuts," Craig Juntunen, president and founder of Both Ends Burning, told The Christian Post as he was marching.
The march, he explained, is the beginning of the "unstuck social movement" which will "form the social and political will to get kids out of orphanages and into families."
Both Ends Burning sponsored the march and other events this past week. The march marks the end of the "Stuck" bus tour. "Stuck" is a documentary that explains the brokenness of the international adoption system by following the struggles of three families that ran into difficulties when they tried to adopt. The film can be downloaded at stuckdocumentary.com.
Juntunen told the marchers that Both Ends Burning plans to open an office in Washington, D.C., in the next year, and to build a 50 state organization to promote adoption as a solution for kids without a family.
"We've got to create a transformation of our societal priorities," Juntunen explained. "We've got to make family a crux and a core value, and once family does become that and we recognize the significance of a family for every child, we can be motivated to get to work, to change policy, to change procedure, and ultimately find a more sensible, streamlined, and consolidated approach that is going to open a path for kids to get into families."
Albert and Robin Sarkees were marching for their son, Mika, who they have not been able to bring home from Guatemala after adoptions were closed in that country. Mika will be 6 years old next month. Mika is still in Guatemala, Robin Sarkees told The Christian Post, because of "illegal government acts to keep him from coming to the U.S." They currently have appeals in Guatemala and are waiting on a court decision.
Becky Gerig, whose adoption story was profiled last year by The Christian Post, was also at the march. Gerig said she hopes that lawmakers will understand that the issue is "not about policy, it's about humans."
A bill will be introduced by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), called "Children and Families First," Gerig explained. She is hopeful that the bill, once passed, "will help things in the international adoption community, keep out corruption, and make the process less bureaucratic and more logical."
Conservative author and radio talk show personality Laura Ingraham spoke at the end of the march. Ingraham is herself an adoptive parent, and knows firsthand about the difficulties in the international adoption system. She has a daughter from Guatemala and two sons from Russia.
Ingraham promised the marchers that fixing the international adoption system will be her highest priority and she will "try to be the best ambassador I can be."
"I promise you this today ... that I will do everything in my power ... to break this logjam internationally and make it easier for people," she said.
The system needs appropriate safeguards and background checks, she added, but it needs to be done in a way that will "make it easier for people to have the families they deserve, they want, and that will serve the children, serve them beautifully, compassionately, charitably and lovely."