Senate Passes Adoption Legislation Before Holiday Break

This month, the U.S. Senate passed two pieces of legislation aimed at helping children, particularly those who have been adopted and those who are waiting to be connected with permanent families of their own.

In a rare unanimous move, the Senate passed both the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act and a resolution supporting the goals of National Adoption Day and National Adoption Month.

First introduced in June of this year by Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., Co-Chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, together with Senators John Kerry, D-Mass., Dick Lugar, at the time, R-Ind., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 will for the first time standardize the accreditation process for all adoption service providers (ASPs) operating in the United States.

This is important because in recent years these agencies have come under scrutiny -- and occasionally attack -- for their varying standards and requirements. Having a more uniform operating procedure should allay fears many child advocates have had about inconsistencies and also give adoptive parents greater assurances that adoptions will be more transparent.

This legislation requires that all ASPs, whether working on adoptions from countries that are party to the Hague Adoption Convention or not, must comply with the accreditation requirements in place for ASPs working with Hague countries.

"I am proud that so many of my colleagues recognize the great importance of the issues surrounding adoption and foster care both domestically and internationally. Over the past 15 years we have succeeded in increasing the number of children adopted domestically. This resolution continues our critical work to raise awareness and find forever families for children not just in the United States, but around the globe," Sen. Landrieu said. "The universal accreditation requirement will help ensure the highest possible quality of service for U.S. families seeking to adopt internationally."

Additionally, Senators Landrieu and Inhofe passed Senate Resolution 595 in early December. This bill expresses support for the goals of National Adoption Day and National Adoption Month by promoting awareness of the more than 100,000 children in the United States and the millions around the world who are waiting to be connected with families.

Back in November these co-chairs first introduced this legislation.

The fact that the Senate passed this so quickly, within weeks, is encouraging. Sure, this could be seen as just another easy feel-good measure, but the hope is that the bill will be less a paper proclamation and more an urgent call to action.

In wake of the horrific shootings in Connecticut last week and in the face of serious negotiations over the so-called fiscal cliff, this news may seem minor. And in many ways it is. However, for children without families this signals the beginning--a small beginning, but a beginning nonetheless -- of the recognition they so sorely need. And it just may do something even more important: bring them into the fold of loving family in the new year.