Embraced in Congress, adoption crosses lines

Date: 2001-02-25

By Cory Reiss,
The Gadsden Times

WASHINGTON — Capitol Hill is full of competing ideas about how to better the lives of children and plenty of political wars have been fought over them.

But one children’s issue - adoption - has become popular turf for members of Congress across the political spectrum. The diverse 150 members of the Coalition on Adoption believe helping children find homes is a positive cause for everyone but many members also believe adoption fits their
agendas on more visible issues such as abortion, taxes,  race relations and immigration.

"There’s a lot of things converging here," said Rep. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who introduced a bill in the House this month to make permanent and double to $10,000 an adoption tax credit.

The bill pulled adoption into the debate over tax cuts, but ifs not likely to draw much controversy. 'The bill has attracted Republicans. who want more
tax cuts, and Democrats, who want smaller targeted cuts.

Coalition member Rep. Karen Thurman. D-Fl., pointed out that the bill. which President Clinton vetoed last year as part of a larger tax package includes more help for parents who adopt children with special needs.

"It's not a big part of the deal in terms of dollars and cents but it may end up being the largest part of the deal in terms of Heart." House Majority Leader Richard Armey said at a recent press conference on the bill.

T'he deal he was talking about is the Republican plan for at least $1.6 trillion In tax cuts.

"Some people are against tax credits. but on this issue it’s difficult to oppose it," DeMint said in an interview.

Sen. Mary Landrieu a Louisiana Democrat who is one of the coalition's leaders and the mother of two adopted children. believes the adoption coalition is the most diverse caucus in Congress.

Abortion is another example.

"We can sit on the sidelines and throw grenades at each other about whether we're going to have laws against abortion," said DeMint, a coalition member who opposes abortion. "If you're looking at it [rom a pro-choice position. adoption is a wonderful choice. If you're looking at it from a pro-life
position. it’s the choice of life."

DeMint sees adoption as a way to bolster the anti-abortion position in Congress by creating a "culture of adoption".

The coalition is full of abortion supporters who stand side by side with DeMint on adoption. They show they are for choice and children both.

"Adoption is very positive for both groups Landrieu said. "It’s not just about getting kids into this world. It's about caring for them when they get here."

Since the coalition was formed in 1985, Congress has passed laws making it easier to adopt foreign children, altering immigration law. Members have championed legislation that prevented federally funded state agencies from refusing to allow interracial adoptions.

Reforms of court and foster care systems also have resulted from adoption legislation ".lt ls one of those issues that truly cuts across ali of the lines  said Patrick Purtill, president of the National Council for Adoption.

Many members of Congress have experience with adoption. All four co-chairmen of the Coalition - Landrieu, Sen. Larry Craig. R-Idaho. Rep. James Oberstar D·Mlnn. and Rep. Anne Northup, R-Ky - have adopted children.

Congress has tackled financial barriers to adoption and increasingly has addressed international obstacles.

Jeff Emerson. a top aisle to Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus and a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., confronted the financial issues in 1999 when he and his wife wanted a child but couldn't have one.

Told that adopting an infant in this country could take several years and as much as $25.000, they joined the growing number of couples who look overseas "We couldn't afford it, anti plus we didn't want to wait that long." Emerson said.

Bachus. who is helping to champion the tax credit bill. joined the adoption coalition while watching the Ernersons grapple with their adoption problems. The couple adopted Wyatt, who will be 2 next month, in Russia on a much speedier and less expensive track.

Children such as Wyatt have made international adoption a foreign policy subject and a diplomatic Icebreaker.

Congress passed a bill last year that will pave the way for the United States to join an international accord that would ease adoptions across borders. And four Russian officials want to meet with congressmen about adoption issues during an upcoming visit to the United States, said Kerry Marks, the
coalitions staff person.

As more children are brought here, America's ties to the world become stronger, she said. "There’s this connection now" she said.

"They’re little ambassadors"

The adoption tax credit, which is currently $5.000 and will expire this yeas is meant to encourage adoptions here and abroad.

The tax credit expansion. which would cost at least $4.9 billion over 10 years, apparently isn't in the presidents tax-cut package and would add to its size.

But this bill isn't likely to be attacked as Congress gears up for a light over taxes.

"Adoption is one of the few issues that people can find a lot of common ground," Laudrieu said.

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