New National Adoption Bill Proposed: Children In Families First – CHIFF

"Food and Shelter do not help children, parents do"

Why I will NOT Support 240 Million Dollars in Federal Tax Money Going to Increase International Adoption

I have just finished reading through all the information provided on the proposed “Children in Families First ” Act or it’s cute little acronym “CHIFF”  including the entire proposed 73 page bill itself. And while I give a nod to the carefully worded language and the stories used as examples that do not empathize  international adoption exclusively, I have to say, I don’t buy it one bit.

My interpretation of CHIFF is that it an  well received effort to appeal on two fronts: the Christian based Orphan movement which has taken a strong hold in this country and as a reaction to international adoption scandals and accusations of child trafficking that have resulted in the Russian Adoption Ban and the media coverage over the deaths of internationally adoptee children. The fact that this legislation has been unveiled on the heels of the Reuters investigation on the blight of adoptees “re-homed” is, again, my opinion, not a coincidence. Plus, I must register my absolute disgust again at the now expect “dismissal” of any accusations or questions about the issue of corruption and child trafficking in internal adoption. Once again we hear the directive to “not to lose perspective and get misled because a few tragic cases go badly.”

What is the REAL Purpose of CHIFF?

The international supply of children available for adoption supply has dried out!

“For nine straight years, international adoptions to the U.S. have plummeted, by over 62%. U.S. adoptions have declined far faster than adoption to other countries.”

Well, they say so themselves on their handy dandy info graphic:

  • THE PROBLEM: 62% decrease in international adoption to the US 2005-2012
  • THE ACT: Reinvigorates intercountry adoption
  • REDIRECTS current US government resources towards extending Kafala ( the Muslim version of adoption) and adoption

And while the “options” for the “unparented” children are consistently stated as “family reunification, kinship, domestic or international adoption,” when reading all the materials and the bill itself, it is obvious that most of the effort is going towards ONE adoption.

THAT options gets special attention, and more use.

Just to prove my point; I took the entire bill and put it in a word document. Then I used my nice find/replace tool and told it to look for the word “adoption” and replace it with the word poop. I also looked for “reunification” and “kinship”.

In the Proposed  Children In Families First Bill, the word “reunification” is used all of 9 times. “Kinship” is used 13 times, while adoption is used a whopping 160 times.

CHIFF is about adoption first!

Yes, this CHIFF bill is about increasing the numbers of children adopted internationally in the United States.

“The sad reality is that number of children internationally adopted by US Citizens is not declining because of a lack of need.  It is declining because international adoption has wrongly been forced off the table of appropriate permanency options for children.  CHIFF would change that.”

Does CHIFF Take into Account ALL the Rights of a Child?

Now if that is not clear enough, let’s look at the CHIFF Messaging bullet points.

First there is a lot of stress on  how “every child has a human right to a family

Now I can’t help but to find it somewhat hypocritical  that the US government is stressing on that one “right” of children internationally, while we are still one of the only countries in the UN, along with Somalia and South Sudan,  that has not ratified the “Convention on the Rights of the Child“.

One would think that perhaps it might make more sense to acknowledge ALL the “rights of a child”, but unfortunately due to certain provisions in the UN Convention, we cannot, specifically Articles 7 to 10 that call for:

  • A Child’s right to have access to their name from birth
  • A Child’s right  to their original identity and documentation or restoration of such
  • A Child’s right to not be removed or separated  from their original parents
  • A Child’s right to be reunified with said original parents

If the USA was to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, then the current practice of sealing a child’s original birth certificate upon the finalization of their adopting would be in direct conflict of the Convention. The act of discrimination that is currently legal in the US when we deny the adult adoptee access to their original birth certificate would HAVE TO CHANGE and the current lobby efforts of the adoption agencies and adoption attorneys and professionals do not want to see that happen. In addition, the needless separation of families for adoption based on the needs of adults and for the benefit of the adoption industry would also have good cause to be called into question, thus putting the 13 billion dollar adoption industry at risk.

And that really seems to also be in conflict with what CHIFF is setting out to do.

Somehow it is more convenient to select this ONE “right” of children and focus on that! The one that does NOT get in the way of the adoption industry, but rather can be used as tool to help the adoption industry! They have decided to focus on this one clear “right” of children  because it works for them:

“American law regarding helping the world’s children needs to change so that it’s built on the simple human truth that children need families.”

Ok that’s fine. I have said it before; I am not a mean or polarized person. I understand that yes, children do need families, but does it all have to be about adoption? Do we have to use adoption by the “better” Americans to save children? Apparently, yes:

“International adoption is protection for children who need it. It protects them by giving them permanent, safe, nurturing families of their own.”

OK, but only if they really really need it right? We not looking at paper orphans or more Madonnalina buy the baby routines? I mean, we can’t be saying that international adoption by Americans is the best fix at all times, right? I mean what about the other countries where they don’t have the same support systems as we do?  What about the countries where having a child in an mission run orphanage or school IS considered a good thing for then the child gets education, food and medicine? I means, we can’t be forcing our American ideas of a two parent home on the rest of the world could we? Wait, “other culturally-acceptable forms of care” that do NOT “result in appropriate, protective, and permanent family care” are not considered good enough?

IS CHIFF Trying to Force American “Family Values” on All the Children of the World?

“The purposes of this Act are to support the core American value that families are the bedrock of any society”

Hate to say it, folks, but that’s the way I am reading this. Per page 4, line 22 of the Bill text:

“Preference should be given to options that optimize child best interests, which generally means options which provide children with fully protected legal status and parents with full legal status as parents, including full parental rights and responsibilities. The principle of subsidiary, which gives preference to in-country solutions, should be implemented within the context of a concurrent planning strategy, exploring in- and out-of-country options simultaneously. If an in-country placement serving the child’s best interest and providing appropriate, protective, and permanent care is not quickly available, and such an international home is available, the child should be placed in that international home without delay.”

So if your kid is in a safe missionary school while you work your war torn rice fields and you don’t think that it will be safe enough to bring your child permanently home for two years, but an America couple wants little Natiki now, CHIFF has decided that they are going to put 120 million towards getting Natiki to the USA. It’s international Dusten Brown time.

Is CHIFF a Tool to Get Around the Hague Convention?

I can’t help but to think carefully in regards to Arcticle3 of the UN Convention #3 that states:

“States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, in the number and suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision.”

Yet, then CHIFF comes right out and states the follow:

“The U.S. Government has effectively relinquished its policy role on international child welfare to UNICEF.”

UNICEF that has been deemed as the competent authorities on protecting children worldwide. UNICEF that was a major player in the passing of the Hague. I am guessing this is pretty much a dis on the Hague Convention which has made international adopting so much “harder” in recent years. I mean, we pretty much saw Guatemala dry up as a sending country post Hague.

Now I am NOT an expert on international adoptions’ by any means, and I will admit that my understanding of the full ramifications of the Hague Conventional are remedial at best, but it was MY understanding that as a country that has signed the Hague, we really cannot do business anymore with sending countries that are NOT Hague compliant? So how come there is a lot of wording in this CHIFF bill that sound like this “definitions of eligible child for Convention adoptions and non-Convention adoptions“?

I mean I think we are seeing  Hague loophole here? Tell me if I am wrong but..

“NON-CONVENTION COUNTRIES.—The Secretary of Homeland Security may accept the filing of petitions on behalf of children living in non-Convention countries in the absence of a final adoption decree. (c) COOPERATION WITH FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS.—The Secretary of Homeland Security may interact directly with the central authority of a Convention country or a competent authority of a non-Convention country, as appropriate— (1) to facilitate the processing of intercountry adoption cases, including making habitual residence determinations relevant to children and prospective adoptive parents in adoption proceedings; and (2) to negotiate, in coordination with the Department of State, and to implement bilateral agreements with respect to intercountry adoptions.”

Sounds to me like CHIFF wants to  give Homeland security the ability to negotiate adoptions with non Hague compliant countries as they see fit? If you look into page 48 down of the Children in Families First text, it get’ all rather scary looking with what CHIFF gives the ‘‘SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY’’ the ability to do.

Why is the Secretary of Homeland Security in the Adoption Business??

I have to say, this makes me really wonder.. how come HOMELAND SECURITY is dealing with ADOPTION??? Can I get a WTF here? Like aren’t they supposed to be doing likes listening for suicide bombers and hunting out terrorists? Like I know we got Bin Laden, but it’s not like they should really have all this extra time on their hands? IS somehow the thought process that we bring the nice Muslims kids to the USA and feed them Big Macs so they will love us and not want to blow up NYC ever again? I hate to say it but.. if they got angry at the US for occupying their countries then they might not be so damn happy if we start taking their children!!!! Not for nothing, but.. just sayin!

CHIFF – Betting on the Numbers, Appealing to the Orphan Churches

I had a feeling that the number’s look fishy. The CHIFF “one page draft”  begins to tug at our heartstrigs with “The Problem: Every day, all over the world, more children find themselves living without families – on the streets, in orphanages, in refugee camps. By some estimates, there are now 200 million orphans in the world.”

I referred back to my already dog-eared copy Kathryn Joyce’s The Child Catchers to make sure I was right, and I was.

“Everyone in the evangelical-dom knows about the orphan crisis and the significance of 143 million….”143 million is old news,” proclaimed Johnny Carr, national director of the Church Partnerships for Bethany Christian Services , in 2010, continuing, “163 million is the new number.” Soon a new figure would upstage Carr’s tally; 210 million orphans.” [ Child Catcher’s page 62]

And here I will paraphrase what is wrong with saying there are over 200 million “orphans”  by “some estimates”:

  • 143 million was taken from the UN’s tally of orphaned and vulnerable children including children who lost one parent and most likely still live with their immediate or extended family
  • Only 10 percent or 17.8 million are “double orphans” meaning they really lost both parents, but many still live with extended family.
  • Then there are the many children that live in orphanages, but are still connected to their families, who use the institutions as boarding schools.
  • A Save the Children report stated that 80% of children living in orphanages world wide have living family members.

And here we have a US policy based on a completely inaccurate and fear mongering figure as its prime sales pitch? Not a good thing! On top of that, CHIFF “creates consequences in that government must demonstrate efforts to find families for unparented children to avoid the sanctions.” Sanctions? Such as we come in and TAKE your children to America?? And then, let’s get to the funding itself.

As Always in Adoption Follow the Money

  “The Children in Adversity Coordinator, acting through nongovernmental organizations (including faith-based and community based organizations)…. provide grants to, and enter into contracts and cooperative agreements with, nongovernmental organizations (including faith based organizations)….. to increase the percentage of children living within appropriate, permanent, safe, and protective family care, through family preservation and reunification, and through kinship care, guardianship, and domestic and intercountry adoption, and to reduce the percentage of children living in institutions; …with a focus on low- and middle-income countries …are authorized to be appropriated $30,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2014 through 2018…. for contributions to the activities of international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and faith-based organizations for assistance to or on behalf of children in adversity who are outside the United States.”

That’s in the final part of the actual bill text. Page 71 , 72 and 73 of the 73 page CHIFF bill.

What I read is: we have moved 240 million dollars! There is the 30 Million a year to carry out Title I (Establishment of Bureau of Vulnerable Children and Family Security in the Department of State  for accreditation of adoption service providers and Immigration Services for adoption-related case processing) and then there is an additional  30 million a year to carry out Section 301(Establishment of a USAID Center for Excellence for Children in Adversity) and we can give it already established adoption agencies that help bring kids to the USA that have families here that want them. We will streamline the adoption process and bypass Hague because it is hurting the US based adoption agencies and too many of them are closing because it’s getting too hard to save the orphans with all these rules.

Now of course, the wording on CHIFF has been carefully created so it doesn’t look like this money is going to cost us anything:

“CHIFF is not about asking the American people to pay more.  Rather, it’s about reallocating a small portion of the $2 billion the USG already spends on assistance programs for children internationally.  So, in that sense, it won’t cost the American taxpayer anything.”

But 240 million dollars is coming from somewhere, right? It’s coming form other USAID programs that do stuff to help children.  Like the 240 Million dollars will come from the budgets that helps fund these partnership organizations:

240 mil in funding lost to CHIFF

They are the organizations that feed and clothed and give medicine and medical care and education and other important stuff, like, you know, drinking water, to these kids. But they don;t give them FAMILIES.. so it’s PK to cut their budgets that FEED kids in order to do things like give adoption grants to pastors because the $1,000 given to pastor to adopt will do way more than the Pneumonia Medicine for 200 children in Africa.

What’s missing from this list? Bethany Christian Services! Don’t worry. If CHIFF passes.. and I am sure it will with great fanfare and much back patting, Bethany will be on this soon enough and the numbers of international adoptions to the USA will be on the rise. But if you were so inclined, as I will be, to beat this dead horse, these are the people to write to. I am ASHAMED that Kristen Gillbrand and Elizabeth Warren are on the list.

Sponsors and Co-Sponsors of the Children in Families First Act of 2013

Bother these folks too:

That’s the purpose of Children In Families First – CHIFF; keep the American adoption agencies in business and the international adoption pipeline flowing.

Now someone remind me again WHY we CANNOT have a NATIONAL Adoptee Rights Bill or a NATIONAL Infant Adoption Reform Act??

ETA: happy to say that our friends at Pound Pup Legacy have also written about why the CHIFF bill is awful and have started the StopCHIFF page on Facebook!

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About the Author

Claudia Corrigan DArcy
Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine,, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.

5 Comments on "New National Adoption Bill Proposed: Children In Families First – CHIFF"

  1. Caroline Collins | September 23, 2013 at 10:54 am |

    Ugh … Kay Granger is involved. Every single time I write to her about any issue I get a form letter back with some politely worded version of STFU you liberal-socialism leaning scum.

  2. Fantastic breakdown, Claudia. Do you mind if I re-blog (or whatever it’s called).
    I just knew it was too good to be true when I seen the news come out about this proposed bill. I will be writing the sponsors and co-sponsors of the bill.
    I have read that one of the other reasons the UN Convention of the Rights of a Child will have difficulty passing is because it does not permit children to be executed, which we do in the US. By children they mean anyone under 18 years old.
    I was researching this a while back and found a subcommittee hearing on parental rights and why we didn’t need a constitutional amendment to protect them. That led me to Martin Guggenheim, whom you probably know about. Because of the books he has written about the rights of children and how the “best interests of the child” is often equated to the “best interests of adults”, I contacted him to get his opinion on amended birth certificates. I prefaced my email with our own adoption situation just to explain why I was interested. He actually answered! I was very surprised to say the least, but he did not address the open records issue only our own situation. I was disappointed that he didn’t, but I wasn’t inclined to send a response as he may have avoided the question on purpose. Anyway, I saw that he was one of the lawyers who filed an amicus brief on Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl which affirmed the SC Supreme Courts decision. I would guess his opinion about this bill would be close to yours.
    Thanks for all of your work!

  3. Sigh…of course it is about adoption as the solution.

    Was there anything in the bill about post-adoption services? You know as an alternative to underground rehoming?

    For the record I think the number of children being adopted from IA these days is higher from Non-Hague countries than Hague countries. Ethiopia, Uganda, DRC are the current favorite go-to places and none of them are Hague signatories.

    I found it funny that at Ireland stopped adoptions from Florida in 2011 because they didn’t met Hague criteria (yes, I know they have started back up again)…but it begs the question of why the US does not mandate Hague criteria for adoptions within the US…other countries require it from their internal adoptions…

  4. Didn’t Kathryn write about this in her book? I could have sworn I had seen references to legislation along these lines. Either way, she will probably end up writing an article about this law.

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