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UNICEF's Dirty Little Secret

orphanThere are hundreds of millions of little ones around the world who live in orphanages, on the streets, or in refugee camps. Some of these children are available for international adoption by families in the United States. However, UNICEF’s policy favoring domestic adoptions over inter-country adoptions leave most orphans with no hope in cultures that are either not adoption-oriented or left to families too poor to take on the additional mouths. The effect of the UNICEF policy leaves many of these children to perish rather than adopted internationally.

The U.S. State Department effectively relinquished its policy role on international child welfare to UNICEF and consequently international adoptions in the U.S. are down from 22,991 in 2004 to 8,668 in 2012, a 60% decrease. This decrease is an abysmal failure under the treaty signed by the U.S. in 2008 titled “Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoption” in order to increase international adoptions.

International adoption indeed has been plagued with corruption and trafficking around the world and serious effort must continue to protect children. One of the greatest moral failures of our time is the evil perpetrated on vulnerable children (in and out of orphanages) and is only eclipsed by our inability to protect them. However, the answer is not to abdicate our role to the UN, as we have, and institute adoption bans against Cambodia and others but rather to lead by focusing on international child welfare. The UN’s policy through UNICEF that international adoption is a last resort is diametrically opposed to our goal under the treaty to increase international adoption. The best interest of the child should be the only priority and if international adoption is available it must always be considered.

UNICEF is radical and well-funded. In Ethiopia they actually occupy space in the office where licensing occurs for international adoption agencies and routinely interferes with the licensing of these agencies. It is outrageous where qualified law abiding operators are shut out and turned away from helping abandoned children.

A bipartisan group of legislators, including Michele Bachmann (R-MN), answered the call to fix this problem in a bill titled Children in Families First Act (CHIFF). The legislation, co-authored by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), has 45 co-sponsors in the House and 20 in the Senate. The bill transcends politics, values the family, makes government smarter not bigger, and encourages more adoptions of foreign orphans on the premise that every child needs and deserves to grow up in a family.

Specifically, the bill (1) fills the gap in leadership by establishing a hub within the State Department focused on international child welfare, (2) streamlines the adoption process through the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), and (3) increases protection for children and families. The bill proposes an annual budget of $60 million paid for from a reallocation of existing foreign aid.

The bill is not yet law and needs the support of those who agree with the urgent need to change course. Learn more about CHIFF at http://childreninfamiliesfirst.org/ and find a way to join the effort. My wife and I, caught in the maze of international adoption, understand the challenges children and families face. We and they ask you to raise your voices – today!

Marc Little_2Marc Little is the author of The Prodigal Republican: Faith and Politics. His web site is The Prodigal Republican.

Photo credit: Up121 (Creative Commons)

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