A congressional bill proposed in September seeks to increase the welfare of children worldwide by creating U.S. programs and policies that seek to minimize the number of orphaned children living without families.
Senator Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana and adoptive mother of two, is the primary advocate for the bill, called the Children in Family First Act (CHIFF), which proposes the following:
1) The formation of a new bureau in the Department of State that would focus on working with both foreign countries and NGOs to minimize the number of children worldwide living without families. The bureau would be focused on international child welfare and would work to ensure that orphaned children obtain families, either through preserving/reunifying existing families or through adoption– kinship, domestic, or international. This bureau, which would act as the authority but not the executor on such issues, would be formed by moving the current Office of Children’s Issues, Adoption Division, out of the Bureau of Consular Affairs and into the Department of State.
2) The assignment of International Adoption cases to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which according to the official website for the bill, would “streamline, simplify, and consolidate responsibility” for processing these adoptions. The USCIS would also become responsible for accrediting adoption service providers.
3) The establishment of a “Center of Excellence” within United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that would be dedicated to implementation of the 2012 National Action Plan on Children in Adversity and would allow for the implementation of a “demonstration program” in “target countries.”
According to an article released by the Associated Press, the bill’s proposals would redirect approximately $60 million already allocated to foreign aid, incurring no additional cost to taxpayers. The funds would be divided equally between funding the new USAID Center for Excellence and the new bureau in the Department of State.
The bill has garnered bipartisan support, with 32 representatives and 17 senators from both major political parties stepping forward to sponsor the bill. Supporters believe that the bill, if passed, will enable millions of orphans worldwide to be removed from the streets or orphanages where they currently live and placed with families– either through reunion with their birth families or through placement in an adoptive family–where they will have a better chance at reaching their own highest potential.