Amid partisan conflict in Congress, dozens of lawmakers from both parties — including staunch liberals and conservatives — have united behind a bill that supporters say addresses a heart-rending issue beyond politics: the millions of foreign children languishing in orphanages or otherwise at risk because they have no immediate family.
The bill would encourage more adoptions of foreign orphans, which have declined steadily in recent years, and reflects impatience with current policies overseen by the State Department.
“Every child needs and deserves to grow up in a family,” says the bill’s chief advocate, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. “While our foreign policy has done much to keep children alive and healthy, it has not prioritized this basic human right.”
Titled the Children in Families First Act, the measure has been introduced in slightly different forms in both the Senate and House. Its co-sponsors range from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a hero of the Democratic left, to Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., a favorite of tea party conservatives.
“It’s not a slam dunk, but it is very possible,” Landrieu said of the bill’s chances. “We need voices from all parts of the political spectrum to make a change that many of us think is extremely important.”
As of mid-December, the twin measures had 32 co-sponsors in the House and 17 in the Senate.
Landrieu, mother of two adopted children, hopes to keep building support for the bill with the goal of clearing committees in both chambers by spring.
Under the legislation, the processing of international adoption cases would be assigned to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, while the U.S. Agency for International Development would become home to a center dedicated to implementing a 2012 plan to assist children in adversity.
There’s no firm global count of children in orphanages, but they number in the millions.
In Russia — which has banned adoptions by Americans — there are more than 650,000 children not in parental custody.