On April 18 Sanford Law Review Online published The Children in Families First Act: Overlooking International Law and the Best Interests of the Child. The author, Nila Bala currently a Yale Public Interest Fellow. deconstructs CHIFF in accessible language, articulating the tension between the US adoption industry, evangelicals, and other special interest proponents and best interest of the child doctrine and international law. CHIFF comes up sadly short on both.
Bala begins her essay discussing international adoption fraud and corruption, re-homing, and the lack of post-adoption services in the US–all points that CHIFF fails to address dismissing them as “anomalies; ” that is, gets in the way of supporters personal and professional adoption mythology.
Then to the heart of the problem with CHIFF:
Still, scholars, legislators, and families are clamoring to relax international adoption procedures, without regard for ensuring there are safeguards to protect children. Introduced by Senator Mary L. Landrieu, CHIFF’s goal is to reinvigorate international adoption, given that “[f]or nine straight years, international adoptions to the U.S. have plummeted, by over 62%.” The bill was introduced in the Senate the week of September 16, 2013, and in the House on October 24, 2013. Senator Landrieu’s office reports that CHIFF will move forward in committee this spring and still anticipates passage in 2014.Advertised as a bill to make sure every child has a safe, loving family, CHIFF has gained strong academic and bipartisan support. CHIFF hopes to reappropriate about sixty million dollars per year to establish the new Bureau of Vulnerable Children and Family Security in the State Department and to establish a USAID Center for Excellence for Children in Adversity.
If millions of dollars are pumped into incentivizing intercountry adoptions, it is reasonable to expect that fraud may increase as well. Unfortunately, the bill glosses over the very real concerns of child trafficking, fraud, and corruption. Instead, CHIFF weakens our commitment to the Hague Convention. Currently, adoptions from countries that have signed the Hague Convention are favored and have a number of benefits. For example, these adoptions guarantee accredited adoption service providers, an adoption services contract, a requirement of ten hours of parent education, and the preparation of medical records for the child by authorities in the country of origin. Furthermore, non-Hague Convention adoptions are only permitted if it can be verified that the child is an orphan.
The Hague Convention and the IAA were early attempts at regulating intercountry adoptions. As a result, they can understandably be described as bureaucratic and overly demanding at times. But while CHIFF has noble goals, it too readily puts aside our international law obligations. By attempting to erase the distinctions between a Hague Convention adoption and a non-Hague Convention adoption, CHIFF is in danger of eliminating important adoption protections that the Hague Convention has been instrumental in encouraging. Additionally, CHIFF adopts a “full steam ahead” approach to intercountry adoption, when instead, reasonable caution should be exercised to prevent the tragic adoption failures we have seen before. CHIFF’s goal of providing every child a home is a worthy one, and with appropriate safeguards, it is a goal that can truly be achieved.
There’s a “comment” section at the bottom for scholarly responses of about 3000 words. I seriously doubt that any CHIFFster can comply with the specs. Calling domestic adoptees and transracial and transnational adoptees racists, anti-semities, and adoption haters who oppose CHIFF doesn’t count.
Bala’s essay belongs in the library of everyone working to STOPChiff.
If CHIFF has tried to shut you up, tell us your story!
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Thanks for this article. I am an adoptive dad, and am working to understand CHIFF and what it all means. I want to be a good dad, a good example to my kids and an informed advocate for adoptees and adoptive families. Also, thanks for the Ohio-specific stuff here and at the Bastard Nation. Keep up the good work!