In-Depth: Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to remove obstacles for American families pursuing overseas adoption:
“Millions of children at home and abroad are in need of a loving home, and families all across the globe are eager to provide them with the care and support they deserve. The Intercountry Adoption Information Act will help bring families together by ensuring parents pursuing overseas adoption, like the Romano family, have access to the information required to navigate the international adoption landscape, and ultimately, to bring their children home.”
Original cosponsor Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) adds:
“Whether adopting at home or abroad, families looking to provide loving homes to children in need should have access to the information required to navigate the process successfully. I am proud to join Rep. Collins in introducing the Intercountry Adoption Information Act so families who chose to pursue overseas adoptions are aware of how changing international adoption laws might affect them.”
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), the sponsor of this bill’s Senate companion, says:
“Far too often, American families trying to adopt a child abroad face difficulties navigating the intercountry adoption process. That is why I am proud to reintroduce this bill, which will bring to light the detrimental barriers that thwart adoptions and require the State Department to share the ways they are working to remove these barriers. I hope the Senate will quickly pass this commonsense legislation so we can better equip families with the tools needed to welcome a child into their home.”
In comments when this bill was introduced in the House in the 115th Congress, then-House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) spoke about the need for this bill:
“Sadly, international adoptions do not always go as planned. Over the years, I have met with countless families who were matched with a child, bonded with that child and financially supported that child, only to have their child’s adoption stalled – or worse, stopped completely – due to policy changes in the child’s birth country. This is devastating for the families involved. With the passage of this legislation, families could see not only how many children are being adopted by American families from certain countries, and how long those adoption proceedings are taking, but if the country has recently changed its laws or policies that could make adoption more difficult or shut it down completely.”
Mark and Pam Romano — a couple in northeast Georgia — were in the process of adopting two brothers from Russia in 2012 when the country stopped all adoptions to the U.S. With this experience in mind, Pam says:
“Willing, loving families in the United States and elsewhere long to have the chance to make the sacrifices necessary to extend their tender care to a child, or children, they themselves did not give birth to. I think I speak for every family in the process of adopting, or even considering adoption: Change is long overdue. Transparency and accountability are vital to any program that seeks to benefit the welfare of children. Accurate, honest information is power in its purest form. My family and I are greatly appreciative of Congressman Collins’ ongoing efforts to raise awareness regarding the multitude of intercountry adoption concerns. We continue to pray that ‘the least of these’ would lead the greatest amongst us to a world of positive change.”
This bill passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee by a voice vote with the support of six bipartisan House cosponsors, including three Democrats and three Republicans. Its Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), has six bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including three Democrats and three Republicans in the current Congress.
Last Congress, this bill passed the House by a voice vote with the support of eight bipartisan House cosponsors, including four Democrats and four Republicans. A Senate companion bill, sponsored by Sen. Burr, had six bipartisan Senate cosponsors (three Democrats and three Republicans) and didn’t see committee action.
Of Note: Russia and Ethiopia have established barriers to adoption to the U.S. In September 2014, Congolese President Joseph Kabila suspended exit permits for over 1,000 children already adopted by international couples, mainly from the U.S. and France. Those adoptions had already been approved by the Congolese courts, and the children had been issued passports from their destination countries, but couldn’t leave the Congo without the exit visas. This forced families to spend thousands of dollars and navigate foreign courts to bring their adopted children home. Additionally, many of the children had serious medical issues, and over 25 died while waiting for their adoptions to be resolved.
In Russia’s case, the country was one of the top three “sending” countries supplying adoptable children to the U.S. for most of the period from the mid-nineties to 2012. However, in late 2012, in retaliation for the Magnitsky Act (a US law that imposed sanctions on Russian officials accused of human rights violations), Russia barred U.S. families from adopting Russian children. However, at the same time, there’d also been growing concern in Russia about how Russian children were being treated in the U.S. In July 2012 (before the ban), Russia’s children’s rights commissioner protested a church-run home for “troubled” adoptees in Montana which he described as “a trash can for unwanted children.”
The Russian law banning adoptions by U.S. parents is the Dima Yakovlev Law, after a Russian toddler who died of heatstroke after his adoptive father left him in a car in Purcellville, Virginia for nine hours. Similarly, in 2010, a U.S. nurse sent her adoptive seven-year-old son back to Russia by himself, claiming that she couldn’t care for him due to his “mental problems.” When the Dima law was passed at the end of 2012, hundreds of American families’ in-process adoptions were halted in their tracks.
In 2011, Ethiopia also briefly suspended its adoption program over concerns that children were being offered for adoption by poor people who didn’t understand Western adoption practices.
On the other side, the U.S. halted most adoptions from a number of countries, including Cambodia, Nepal, and Vietnam, over concerns about corruption and baby-buying.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / fstop123)