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December 26, 2013

Bill seeks to boost foreign adoptions

NORMAN — Amid partisan conflict in Congress, dozens of lawmakers from both parties — including staunch liberals and conservatives — have united behind a bill that supporters say addresses a heart-rending issue beyond politics: the millions of foreign children languishing in orphanages or otherwise at risk because they have no immediate family.

The bill would encourage more adoptions of foreign orphans, which have declined steadily in recent years, and reflects impatience with current policies overseen by the State Department.

“Every child needs and deserves to grow up in a family,” says the bill’s chief advocate, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. “While our foreign policy has done much to keep children alive and healthy, it has not prioritized this basic human right.”

Titled the Children in Families First Act, the measure has been introduced in slightly different forms in both the Senate and House. Its co-sponsors range from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a hero of the Democratic left, to Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., a favorite of tea party conservatives.

“It’s not a slam dunk, but it is very possible,” Landrieu said of the bill’s chances. “We need voices from all parts of the political spectrum to make a change that many of us think is extremely important.”

As of mid-December, the twin measures had 32 co-sponsors in the House and 17 in the Senate.

Landrieu, mother of two adopted children, hopes to keep building support for the bill with the goal of clearing committees in both chambers by spring.

However, some House Republicans are skeptical about creating more bureaucracy, and there is sentiment in the Obama administration that some key provisions of the bill are not needed.

“I think we’ve been pretty successful recently,” said Susan Jacobs, the State Department’s special adviser on children’s issues. “We are proud of the work that we do to protect everyone involved in the adoption process — the birth families, the adopting families and of course the children.”

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