There are well over 10 million children living in institutions and more than 60 million children living on the streets today. Adding to the sad reality of what these grim statistics mean, the ability for loving and available families to adopt vulnerable and at-risk children continues to become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, due to discriminatory and restrictive policies that human rights advocates claim are responsible for systematically shutting down international adoption. International or intercountry adoption has historically been one of the best solutions to this worldwide crises, offering children the most fundamental human right other than life itself: the right to grow up with nurturing parents.

The rights to family and related parenting are rights guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and many other international human rights treaties as are the right to travel, the right not to be wrongfully subject to institutionalization, and the right not to be subject to degrading and destructive institutional conditions, according to the Coalition for the Human Rights of Unparented Children. The Coalition has made it their mission to advocate for children’s most fundamental need and most basic human right:

“To grow up in loving, nurturing families, with committed parents capable of providing unconditional love on an ongoing basis.”

The Coalition states that despite overwhelming proof that social science and early brain development science demonstrate the vital importance of parenting and the destructive impact of its denial, the United States Department of State (DOS) continues to implement policies making it increasingly difficult and expensive for American families to adopt these vulnerable children. The DOS recently released its FY 2018 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoptions, which showed that American families adopted only 4,059 children through international adoption between October 1, 2017, through September 30, 2018—a decline of more than 13% from the previous year and a staggering 82% decline since 2004. Per the Coalition, this represents the deliberate and unnecessary denial to at least 19,000 children per year of their most fundamental human right—other than life itself—the right to grow up with nurturing parents.

Percentages and politics aside, what this means is that millions of children are unparented, unprotected, and unable to experience true parental care, leading to unnecessary institutionalism and exposure to the very real dangers of life on the streets including homelessness, starvation, lack of healthcare, lack of education, sex trafficking, gang violence, and a life of crime.

Members of Congress have drafted legislation to require the DOS to revise its practices so that its Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices includes violations of unparented children’s rights, particularly the unnecessary holding of children in institutions and related denial of timely access to domestic and international adoption.

The Coalition is calling on Congress to support Senate bill S.1177/House bill H.R.2643, which calls for simple, yet significant changes to the DOS’s Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices so that they include violations of unparented children’s rights, specifically the unnecessary holding of children in institutions and associated denial of timely access to domestic and international adoption.

They are asking the United States government “To stop discriminating against millions of children worldwide by refusing to count as a human rights violation the deliberate denial of family life through their unnecessary institutionalization and the related barriers to adoption,” including the refusal to place children in available adoptive homes as a human rights violation in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The Coalition states that this change would require no new funding and no creation of new positions or offices.

According to its website, this community of dedicated human rights advocates who believe every child around the world has an inherent right to a family is comprised of a broad coalition of child experts and organizations. Members include the ABBA Fund, America World Adoption, Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys, Center for Adoption Policy, Children of All Nations, Christian Alliance for Orphans, Harvard Law School Child Advocacy Program, Love Grows Kids, Mary Ann Glendon, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, National Council For Adoption, Paulo Barrozo, Associate Professor of Law, Boston College Law School, RainbowKids Adoption Advocacy, Saddleback Church Orphan Care Initiative, and the University of Pennsylvania Field Center for Children’s Research, Policy, and Practice.

The Coalition requests that concerned families sign a petition which will give a voice to the millions of unparented children around the world in support of this new legislation and in the hopes that “This action will help establish every child’s right to a family as a tenet of United States foreign policy and bring increased attention to the kids who are in desperate need of families. It should help to build momentum towards the reform we need.”

For more information and to receive updates on this proposed legislation, go to this link.