On November 23rd, many across our nation will celebrate National Adoption Day. And there is much to celebrate about this family institution that has made us a better and stronger society.
Virtually every American has been touched in some way by adoptions that give babies and children a second chance to live happy, safe and productive lives. They have also provided a second chance for millions of parents who cannot have biological children to nonetheless have kids of their own to love and cherish unconditionally.
As a nation, we may remain divided on many issues, but virtually everyone agrees that more adoptions in America are a worthwhile and unifying goal. But even as we celebrate the miracle of adoptions, we must also highlight the challenges associated with them that must be overcome.
Today in America, there are over 4,500 children in foster care on the verge of finalizing adoptions, as well as over 102,000 children waiting to be matched with a responsible, loving family.
While the vast majority of prospective foster and adoptive parents are well intentioned and eager to love these children, sadly, there are those who seek to exploit our children. For example, in Florida, 70 percent of child trafficking victims were part of the child welfare system, according to the FBI.
Human trafficking is a horrific crime that's happening everywhere around the world, including our own communities and maybe even neighborhoods. We must do more to aggressively fight this crime in all its forms, but especially as it relates to the most vulnerable among us - our children.
In the coming weeks, I will introduce legislation to specifically combat child trafficking in America's child welfare systems. Adoptions and foster care should be a lifeline to a better future, not a path to hell as trafficked children.
Beyond our shores, we have additional challenges and barriers regarding adoptions.
Many American families have been caught in the bureaucratic paralysis and corruption that exists in other nations' adoption systems. This has left kids stuck in institutional care, even though a loving family eagerly awaits the chance to welcome them into their homes. In response, the U.S. must use its diplomatic and economic power to encourage other nations to remove such undue impediments to adoptions.
Sadly, other nations such as Russia have taken their adoption policies to an extreme. Under President Vladimir Putin, adoptions of Russian orphans by American parents are currently banned - a casualty of geopolitics that shows that government's cold-hearted willingness to use children as political pawns.
The reality is that over the last decade, tens of thousands of loving American couples have adopted Russian orphans, providing unconditional love, support and a quality of life otherwise unimaginable in Russia's crowded orphanages. In addition to helping thousands of families and children realize their dreams, these international adoptions had also brought our two nations' people closer together and served as a symbol of our growing friendship in the post-Cold War era.
Now, this adoption ban has left thousands of American families - who were already in the process of adopting and had already fallen in love with children - in limbo. And it is depriving thousands of Russian orphans the chance at a better life. The U.S. must do everything we can to encourage Russia - and other nations considering similar policies - to put the best interests of their children first.
As we consider these and other adoption-related challenges, I remain committed to helping more families and children find their way to each other through this great institution. And I remain inspired and guided by my faith, which reminds us that "God places the lonely in families" (Psalm 68:5) and "not only for that nation, but to bring together and unite all the children of God scattered around the world." (John11:52)