Legislation PROmoting the child's human right to family:
This new legislation is simple.
It requires no new resources, and no new office. It creates no new sanctions, and allows the Department of State the same discretion it has traditionally enjoyed in preparing the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
It simply requires the Department of State to stop discriminating against millions of children worldwide by refusing to count as a human rights violation the deliberate denial of family life through their unnecessary institutionalization and the related barriers to adoption.
While simple, this legislation would nonetheless be of enormous significance. It is designed to transform the current debate over whether unparented children should continue to be condemned to institutions whose destructive effects have been demonstrated by all the leading social and medical science, or should instead be allowed to find permanent families through adoption.
Adoption gives children the permanent, nurturing, and legally stable parents they need. However, few countries with large populations of unparented children have a robust domestic adoption tradition, and many countries impose severe restrictions on or altogether prohibit international adoption. This deliberately denies millions of children in need their human right to grow up in nurturing homes.
These restrictive adoption policies have resulted in the precipitous decline by over 75 percent in the number of adoptions into the United States since 2004, and by over 50 percent in the number of international adoptions worldwide. This represents the deliberate and unnecessary denial to well over 20,000 children per year of their most fundamental human right — other than life itself — the right to grow up with nurturing parents.
This legislation would help shift the U.S. position so that instead of undermining the child's right to family, we would take a leading role in advocating for that right on behalf of this desperately vulnerable population.
This bill calls for changes to the Department of State’s Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices so that they include violations of unparented children’s rights, specifically the unnecessary holding of children in institutions and associated denial of timely access to domestic and international adoption.
On May 18, 2017, S.1177 was introduced in the Senate by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), and on May 24, 2017, similar legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), H.R.2643, who has been joined by co-sponsors Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), Rep. Daniel M. Donovan, Jr. (R-NY), F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and Rep. Todd Rosita (R-IN). The legislation amends the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 “to require the annual human rights reports to include information on the institutionalization of children and the subjection of children to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, unnecessary detention, and denial of the right to life, liberty, and the security of persons.”
The following are Op-Eds and articles expressing support for the this legislation:
- US Can Save Children by Upholding International Adoption Rights, Op-Ed by Elizabeth Bartholet and Paulo Barrozo, The Boston Globe, May 24, 2016.
- Vulnerable Children Are Counting on Us But Are We Counting Them?, Op-Ed by Rabbi Susan Silverman, New York Observer, June 21, 2016.
- Groundbreaking Human Rights of Children Bill Introduced in Congress, Op-Ed by Elizabeth Bartholet and Paulo Barrozo, Washington Examiner, July 16, 2016.
- Re-Aligning U.S. State Department Policy to Support Child Rights to Family, Op-Ed by Elizabeth Bartholet and Chuck Johnson, The Chronicle of Social Change, January 19, 2017.
- Advocating for the Child’s Human Right to Family, by Elizabeth Bartholet, Adoption Advocate, No. 109, July 2017.
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