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The Boston Globe


Bipartisan bill seeks to boost foreign adoptions

NEW YORK — 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.

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‘‘Every child needs and deserves to grow up in a family,’’ said the bill’s chief advocate, Senator Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat. ‘‘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 Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a hero of the Democratic left, to Representative Michele Bachmann, a Republican of Minnesota and 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.’’

As of mid-December, the 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.

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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.’’

Landrieu thinks differently, contending the government has been remiss in failing to establish an office that focuses on international child welfare. The bill would create a new bureau in the State Department assigned to work with nongovernmental organizations and foreign countries to minimize the number of children without families — through family preservation and reunification, kinship care, and domestic and international adoption.

Under the legislation, the processing of international adoption cases would be assigned to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, while the US Agency for International Development would become home to a center dedicated to implementing a 2012 plan to help kids in adversity.

There’s no firm global count of children in orphanages, but they number in the millions. In Russia — which has banned adoptions by Americans — there are more than 650,000 children not in parental custody.

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