Ethica's statement regarding Families for Orphans Act of 2009
Families for Orphans Act
House Bill 3070 sponsored by Congresswoman Diane Watson (D-CA) and Congressman John Boozman (R-AR)
Senate Bill 1458 sponsored by Senators Mary L Landrieu (D-LA) and James Inhofe (R-OK)
A bill to encourage the development and implementation of a comprehensive, global strategy for the preservation and reunification of families and the provision of permanent parental care for orphans, and for other purposes.
Ethica opposes passage of the Families for Orphans Act. Here are some reasons why:
- The Families for Orphans Act, if passed, would give the United States unilateral power to develop global child welfare strategies by providing financial incentives for other countries (including through debt and trade relief) to send their children abroad for international adoption.
- Instead, the United States should be participating diplomatically with other nations in developing global child welfare strategies, for example, by finally ratifying the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.
- The bill legalizes an overly broad definition of “orphan”, capturing countless numbers of children who already have loving families, potentially including, for example, children who reside in boarding schools away from their primary caregivers.
- This bill augments existing financial incentives for countries to favor international adoption by offering additional financial incentives, including technical assistance, grants, trade, and debt relief from the United States, which may sacrifice established child welfare principles by favoring international adoption over local solutions.
- Reunification efforts are “time-limited” which may cause original families to be unnecessarily separated from their children.
- Conflicts exist with various definitions in the bill. For example, long-term kinship and guardianship arrangements which are considered “permanent” care under the bill may simultaneously be considered long-term foster care arrangements, which are considered to be temporary care under the bill.
- The bill requires “cultural norms” to be taken into account, but only to the extent consistent with the purposes of the bill. The bill permits the United States then to essentially disregard a country’s cultural norms.
Ethica supports the strengthening of global child welfare systems. However, we believe that this would best be accomplished by working through existing frameworks of technical assistance and aid, ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to demonstrate the commitment of the United States as a global partner in securing and upholding children’s basic rights, limiting the definition of orphans to those children truly in need of permanent caregivers with placement decisions made without the influence of money.
The House Committee on Foreign Affairs will first debate this bill. They can be reached at the following location for your feedback: