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Committee Approves International Adoption Bill

A bill (S. 682) designed to implement a treaty on international adoption was approved, by voice vote, on April 13 by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A similar bill (H.R. 2909) was approved by the House International Relations Committee on March 22 (see The Source, 3/24/00, p. 4).

According to federal statistics, Americans adopted 15,774 children from abroad in 1998. Most of those children were from orphanages and institutions in Russia, China, Korea, and Central and South American countries. However, in many cases, adoptive parents are inadequately prepared for the challenges of adopting such children.

Under The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, agencies that arrange international adoptions would be required to provide full health records to parents, basic instruction for dealing with previously institutionalized children, and preparation of parents for potential health issues, such as fetal alcohol syndrome often found in babies from Russia and the former Soviet Union.

Hearings on the issue were held last year in both committees (see The Source, 10/8/99, p. 6; 10/22/99, p. 5). The hearings pertained to S. 682, sponsored by Foreign Relations Committee Chair Jesse Helms (R-NC), and H.R. 2909, sponsored by International Relations Committee Chair Benjamin Gilman (R-NY).

Both measures would implement the treaty. Sixty-six nations began negotiations in 1991 and completed the treaty in 1993. Since then, it has been signed and ratified by 35 countries, but not ratified, by 12 others—including the United States.

The key provisions of both bills would:

  • place central authority for enforcing the treaty with the Department of State’s (DOS) Bureau of Consular Affairs;
  • require the DOS and the Immigration and Naturalization Service to develop a system for tracking all international adoptees entering and departing the U.S.;
  • allow nonprofit organizations to review and accredit participating U.S. adoption agencies; and
  • designate the DOS to monitor and accredit adoption agencies from countries other than the U.S.
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