Adoptive Family Relief Actby Representative Christopher H. Smith
Posted on 2015-10-06
SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of S.
1300, the Adoptive Family Relief Act. This bill seeks to remove
obstacles for immigrant visas to be issued to adopted children from
other countries. It eliminates fees for such visas.
Clearly, the challenge of caring for orphans due to crises worldwide is increasing. Rather than frustrate, however, or undermine the compassion and the love of American families who seek to adopt, this legislation modestly seeks to remove some of those barriers and some of those obstacles.
I would point out to my colleagues that I have held of number of hearings on adoption in my subcommittee, the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations. At one of those hearings several months ago, one of our witnesses made a very keen observation that there are more than 50 million children orphaned on the continent of Africa; and if you put that number in perspective, that would make that number of children, if they were in a single country, the fourth largest country in all of Africa after Nigeria, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
One remedy, of course, for this crisis is intercountry adoption, which sometimes brings children from Africa to our shores to provide them with loving homes. Of course, this is only a partial remedy. Many do find a place to live, a home with family members, but many others are left to fend for themselves.
This legislation recognizes that countries' policies do matter. Look at the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Currently, there are more than 400 American families who have successfully adopted children from the DRC. However, due to the DRC Government's suspension of exit permits, which was implemented beginning in September of 2013, many of these families have been unable to bring their adopted children home to the United States. About a dozen of those children have paid with their lives, dying in the country before they could receive medical attention. Others are in dire need of medical aid which, again, this legislation would help, at least, in terms of the families to give them a bridge for the financial burdens they face.
I would point out that at one of my hearings, one of the witnesses really, in a very powerful way, said--and her name was Jovana Jones, an adoptive parent--``As adoptive parents, we spend years preparing, and it is imperative that our children come home immediately. We have done our part. Our families have done all we can, and we are at our limit.'' And then she said: ``Our arms are open now, and our homes are ready to receive them today. We pray that our government mirrors our dedication and acts now so that our children come home soon.'' This is a very important piece of legislation that hopefully will facilitate the adoption and, at least, help those parents who are putting their money on the line; and it allows them to facilitate that adoption, to just hang in there until they can get their children.