Americans should adopt Americans first

by Jim Longworth

Since the late 18 th century, America has been known as the world’s melting pot, so called because families immigrated here to seek a better life in a new home. Somewhere along the way, though, it became fashionable for Anglo- Americans to import their own multinational, multiracial families.

In recent times, for example, Angelina Jolie and other celebrities have been seen as humanitarians for their efforts to rescue at-risk children from Third World countries, as well as from more developed nations such as Russia.

It’s not surprising then, that advocates of foreign adoption, like Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, willingly supported the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption because the treaty would, according to the Associated Press, “establish ethical standards for international adoption.” But the Hague treaty had the opposite effect on foreign adoptions from what Landrieu and others had anticipated. Commenting to the AP last week, Sen. Landrieu said, “When I helped to pass this treaty, it was everyone’s hope that the number [of foreign adoptions] would go up…. Instead, it’s down by 60 percent.” Landrieu is correct.

In 2004, Americans adopted 22,991 foreign children, but by 2012, that number had dropped to 8,668.

A Nov. 17, 2011 report by NPR’s Alan Greenblatt revealed the decline of foreign adoptions was due primarily to corruption, longer wait times, and closing of adoption centers. South Korea, China, Ethiopia, Guatemala and Russia have all scaled back on the number of children available for foreign adoption, while Romania has halted such adoptions altogether.

But Greenblatt also proffered another reason for the decline in adoptions: “There seems to be a consensus within international child welfare circles that orphans should be kept with their own families or communities, and adopted domestically.”

No matter the reasons for the decline in foreign adoptions, Sen. Landrieu decided that congressional action was needed to ensure the health and safety of orphans in other countries. And so, in September of last year, Landrieu introduced the Children in Families First Act, which has since garnered a modicum of bipartisan support in both chambers. Primarily the bill would encourage more Americans to adopt foreign children, but Landrieu also wants to create a new bureau inside the State Department that will focus exclusively on international child welfare. However, many in Congress as well as officials in the State Department aren’t too excited about creating more government bureaucracy.

Senator Landrieu’s efforts are noble and commendable, but they are neither fair nor practical. As a mother of two adopted children, she is blinded by her own compassion for foreign orphans, and that’s okay for her. But legislation driven by that blind compassion may not be best for our nation as a whole. Depending upon which source you cite, there are currently about 3 million orphans in the United States. How, then, in good conscience can any American adopt a Russian or Ethiopian child, when 3 million children need homes right here in America?

I am reminded of a line from the film The American President in which an overzealous politician is described as “someone who claims to love America, but clearly can’t stand Americans.” The analogous reference is harsh and not directed at any of the 200,000 American parents who have given good homes to foreign orphans over the past 15 years.

But going forward, the last thing we need is a new law and a new bureaucracy that favors international orphans over their American counterparts. If such a government structure is put into place, then we are relegating our own American-born orphans to permanent second-class status, and signaling to them that they must continue to take a back seat to foreign kids when it comes to placement.

For now, we should accept the standards that have been established, respect the wishes of governments that want to curtail the export levels of children in their respective countries, and allocate whatever resources we can here in America to placing our own orphans in good homes.

Sen. Landrieu herself said it best:

“Every child needs and deserves to grow up in a family.”

There are three million American orphans who couldn’t agree with her more. !

JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11am on WMYV (cable channel 15).