The article below was posted by the National Council For Adoption on July 1, 2017. We are reaching out to ask for your support of the proposed legislation that would “transform the understanding of the rights of unparented children”.
“This legislation provides an important opportunity to take a giant step in the direction of honoring the child’s right to family, and the related right to adoption both domestic and international.”
“International adoption has dropped precipitously since 2004, with the numbers down by over three-quarters for adoptions into the U.S., and down by over half worldwide. This means tens of thousands of children every year deliberately denied the nurturing homes they need.”
Important legislation has recently been introduced in Congress designed to transform the understanding of the rights of unparented children and relatedly of international adoption.1 This legislation amends the law governing the U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) annual reports on human rights violations. It requires that DOS consider for inclusion in future reports the violation of unparented children’s rights involved in shutting down international adoption and thus condemning children to ongoing institutionalization. For more information about this legislation, see http://cap.law.harvard.edu/current-legislation/.
All those who believe in children’s rights to family, all those who decry the restrictions on international adoption that have denied many tens of thousands of children the nurturing parents they need, should devote their best efforts to supporting this proposed legislation. It represents an extraordinary opportunity to transform the understanding of child rights in ways that are essential to transforming policy – policy that has been enormously destructive of child rights and interests.
The Basic Idea: Changing the Ideological Framework for Child Rights and International Adoption
On a pragmatic level, this proposed legislation simply requires the DOS to do what it should have been doing all along. Existing legislation requires the publication of annual reports which list countries responsible for serious human rights violations, violations involving all humans including children. Past annual reports have occasionally cited countries for violations of certain child rights but only a select few, and have never included the very serious violations involved in deliberately confining children into institutions, denying them the nurturing homes available through international adoption. This makes no sense from a child human rights perspective. The annual reports regularly include violations of adult rights based on unfair institutionalization as well as on harmful institutional conditions – rights directly comparable to the unnecessary institutionalization of innocent children. Children’s right to parenting is perhaps their most fundamental right, short of their right to life itself. Institutions have been definitively shown to impose devastating harm to children’s physical, emotional and mental development, destroying their life potential and their ability to enjoy all other human rights. The current institutionalization of some 10–14 million children is the greatest human rights disaster involving children in the world today. The fact that it is deliberate manmade policy that denies children available adoptive homes makes this disaster especially shameful.
This legislation would simply require that DOS stop engaging in an extreme form of discrimination against children by refusing to consider for inclusion in the annual reports the most serious human rights violations involving children in today’s world. It would leave DOS with discretion to decide which violations of unparented child rights were serious enough to warrant inclusion. It would require no new bureaucracy and no new resources.
On a theoretical level, this proposed legislation would be transformative. It would treat child rights as of equivalent value as adult rights. This principle is at the heart of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but is regularly ignored in the discourse surrounding unparented children and international adoption. This legislation would also prioritize the child’s right to parenting over other rights less central to child well-being which are today regularly given priority. This legislation would make this new vision of child rights and international adoption the official policy of the DOS and of the United States. It would represent a huge step forward in changing international discourse and related policy.