by Kelly Ensslin
For the first time in the six years I have hope that things are about to change for the world’s children living without families. U.S. foreign policy may soon prioritize permanent families thanks to landmark legislation that will alter the way our government approaches international child welfare. The bill is called Children In Families First (CHIFF), and it has broad bi-partisan support in both the House and Senate, as well as from academia, the legal profession, the faith-based community, the adoption community, international assistance organizations, and many others.
However, CHIFF is not without its detractors. Although these folks are few in number, they are loud and angry. They’ve taken to Twitter, posted blogs, and apparently bought “likes” on Facebook to make their presence seem more substantial and impressive. I’ve listened to what they have to say, and I think I understand why they can’t or won’t support CHIFF. The objections essentially boil down to this:
“I don’t support CHIFF because I (or someone I know) wasn’t included in the drafting of the legislation or the working group.” Most legislation doesn’t get written by a committee of the general public. So unless you have some expertise to offer, you probably don’t belong at the table. If you or the person you know has something of value to contribute, the Working Group remains open to new voices. CHIFF is not yet law and will most certainly undergo changes on its way. That said, I believe the drafters of CHIFF did a remarkable job of working with child welfare experts and adoption stakeholders to ensure that the language accomplishes the objectives of the bill. Those of us who weren’t included at the start found our way to the team by asking to be included. That’s how I found my spot – I asked.
“CHIFF doesn’t include the perspective of adult adoptees. They were silenced in this process, and they do not support it.” Adult adoptees are not a single voice. And the fact is CHIFF is widely supported by a number of adult adoptees and groups representing their interests. The CHIFF working group has adult adoptee members whose voices are heard in every conversation. It is fair to say that adult adoptees who oppose the basic goals of CHIFF, including international adoption, have not been involved. That only makes sense. It’s a silly argument to object to not being included in something you don’t agree with in the first place.
“What about our foster and domestic adoption system? CHIFF doesn’t do anything to address the shortcomings of this system.” You’re spot on here. It sure doesn’t. And that’s because CHIFF is a bill focused on FOREIGN POLICY. CHIFF is a bill about international child welfare, so it’s not so surprising that it doesn’t address domestic issues. Many of the people who support CHIFF are involved in all kinds of efforts to improve our domestic foster care and adoption systems. There’s plenty of room for all the good work, and no single bill will address everything. We need to stay focused on what CHIFF is about and how it solves those problems.
“Re-homing and abuse of adopted children is a real problem. Until we have this problem under control, we should not move forward with CHIFF.” We agree that re-homing and abuse is a real problem. BUT, fortunately it affects a very very small percentage of adopted children, internationally or otherwise. We all want to build a better system for post-placement services and education, one that protects all adopted children and ensures their safety, but that’s not what CHIFF is about. We should not relegate hundreds of thousands of children to life in institutions while we do this. Institutionalization IS also child abuse, and when there is a way to provide permanency for those children it should be pursued. That’s what CHIFF is about. Again, it just doesn’t make sense to criticize CHIFF for the issues it doesn’t tackle.
CHIFF detractors haven’t offered any constructive alternatives or solutions, at least not that I have seen. They don’t have any ideas as far as I can tell, other than just trying to block CHIFF. It’s so much easier to take potshots at other people’s efforts to make a difference than to do something real yourself. It’s so much easier to talk hyperbole and outrage than it is to gather information, analyze, and chart a path forward. Its also much easier to pontificate on what would be a perfect solution, than to do the best we can to help the children that are waiting to be rescued from institutional care RIGHT NOW!
We can’t keep waiting for the problem to fix itself, or for a solution that fixes all problems to appear. That isn’t realistic and too many children need and deserve meaningful change NOW. Please join me in supporting CHIFF. Let your members of Congress know that you believe every child has a basic human right to a family by signing this petition.