J. McLane Layton, founder and President of EACH, knew since she was a 19-year-old college student that she would one day be an adoptive parent. She was deeply moved by a story of orphaned siblings who fought to avoid being placed into separate homes. After graduating from law school, McLane met her future husband Rusty, and they proceeded to build their lives and respective careers, but the story of the siblings always remained close to her heart. Nine years later, Rusty and McLane became aware of three siblings in an orphanage overseas who were in need of a loving home. The Laytons were now able to realize their longtime dream of adopting a sibling set.
It was during the adoption process that McLane began her quest for equal citizenship rights for internationally adopted children. In 1995, as she was going through the adoption process, she discovered that her children would not be automatic U.S. citizens even though both she and Rusty were U.S. citizens. “Every time I would sit down to fill out my children’s naturalization paperwork, I would get offended,” she recalls. It was not right that her children needed to be naturalized. They were not immigrants, but children of American citizens! Right then and there McLane decided the law needed to be changed so that her children and other foreign adopted children of American citizens would be granted automatic U.S. citizenship. It would be her mission to ensure that all internationally adopted children would have all the same rights that are awarded to children born to US citizens who are stationed or living abroad.
Her many years of experience in federal service and in the legislative arena made it possible for McLane to tap into her passion and use her legislative and legal expertise to impact the lives of adopted children and adoptive families. As Legislative Counsel to U.S. Senator Don Nickles, McLane was instrumental in researching precedent and drafting legislation for several initiatives that are important for adoptive children and families. McLane authored the Child Citizenship Act, which was passed through both houses of Congress and became law on October 30, 2000. She also wrote several other bills that remain in the legislative process and bills that she hopes, through EACH, to see come to fruition. Among those are the Natural Born Citizen Act and ICARE, the Inter-Country Adoption Reform Act.
Through the years, McLane has advocated for many families facing obstacles in the adoption process. She has been very successful in expediting the sometimes very lengthy process of uniting adopted children with their families in the U.S. Her vision is to continue this work through EACH, and her ultimate goal is to eliminate the label of immigrant, as it applies to foreign adopted children of American citizens and to make sure that all the laws of our land apply equally to adopted and biological children of Americans.
McLane and Rusty proceeded to have 2 more children and are now a bustling family of 7 living in Virginia.
Read more about McLane’s career and accomplishments:
November 2006 to present: Founder and President of Equality for Adopted Children, an organization that advocates on behalf of adopted children and their families. Also, Partner in the government relations firm of Tongour, Simpson, Holsclaw and Cooney
January 2005 – October 2006: Director of the Office of External Affairs, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
October 1990 – January 2005: Legislative Counsel for Energy and Environment, Office of U.S. Senator Don Nickles
April 1990 – September 1990: White House Fellow, Office of the Counsel to the President
January 1984 – October 1990: Attorney Advisor, Solicitor’s Office, U.S. Department of the Interior
May 1982 – February 1983: Legal Intern, Counsel’s Office, Southwestern Power Administration
Accomplishments in the Adoption Arena:
- Child Citizenship Act of 2000 - Developed and wrote this law which provides automatic U.S. citizenship to foreign adopted children while serving as Legislative Counsel to U.S. Senator Don Nickles.
- One of the lead Senate staffers who helped negotiate the terms of the Humanitarian Initiative in Cambodia with the White House, INS and the Department of State after INS placed a moratorium on American adoptions from Cambodia. Under the Humanitarian Initiative, over 450 families were able to complete their Cambodian adoption after the moratorium was put in place.
- Obtained Humanitarian Parole for a Kosovo refugee who was adopted by an American military family in Germany shortly after her 16th birthday. Because she was adopted after the age of 16, she could not enter the U.S. as an immediate family member when her father was transferred back to the United States. Once she entered on humanitarian parole, Ms. Layton wrote a private relief bill to provide citizenship status to this adopted child. The bill was introduced by Senator Nickles, passed by Congress and enacted into law.
- Participated in the Senate negotiations on the Safe and Secure Families Act that passed Congress and became law in 1997.
- Helped two separate American families complete their adoptions in Romania after Romania shut down adoptions of Romanian children to Americans.
- Worked with Citizens and Immigration Services (CIS) and a group of families adopting HIV positive children to dramatically reduce the waiting time for receiving a waiver for these adopted children to enter the U.S. The waiting time for the waiver to be processed was decreased from three months to a week.
- Traveled with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) to China, Romania and Russia to promote adoption and ethical adoption practices. Ms. Layton is also a member of the Special Advisory Board for CCAI.