Taking Washington

There has been a lot of discussion recently about adoption change - ah, it does my heart good to hear everyone share their ideas for fixing what's broke about adoption. And there is so, so much to fix.

I'm often surprised, though, that I seldom - practically never, really - see mention of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption as a vehicle for re-educating our legislators. CCA is a group of U.S. Senators and Representatives who support the CCA mission and the activities of its non-profit arm, the CCAI (Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute):
The Congressional Coalition on Adoption (CCA) was created in 1985 as a bicameral, bipartisan caucus of members of Congress dedicated to improving adoption policy and practice, and to focusing public attention on the advantages of adoption. In 2001, the CCA’s active co-chairs created the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) to more effectively raise Congressional and public awareness about the issue of adoption. Senator Larry Craig, Senator Mary Landrieu, Congressmen Jim Oberstar, and Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite currently serve as both the co-chairs of the CCA and the Congressional directors of CCAI.

To that end, CCAI serves as an informational and educational resource to policymakers as they seek to draft positive adoption, foster care and other adoption-related legislation and to meet their constituents' needs. By organizing congressional briefings, leadership training programs and educational trips, CCAI educates members of Congress and their staff about current domestic and international adoption-related matters.

CCA sponsors and supports adoption-related legislation, both good and bad. Take a look at the CCAI's education page - do you see anything that focuses on the kind of change that reform-minded adoption bloggers talk about every day? With the adoption tax credit at the top of the page, I don't. I think this group of legislators is primed and ready to be given a dose of adoption reality. Why, they're a virtual club of adoption-focused Federal legislators "dedicated to improving adoption policy and practice, and to focusing public attention on the advantages of adoption." Despite the paradoxical mission, they're almost too good to be true. Why, then, aren't we descending on them like a flock of vultures?

I've mentioned the CCA as a logical target for adoption reform efforts, oh, about a gazillion times whenever an opportunity has arisen. The response has been underwhelming. Why, I don't know, because with some organization and effort, the CCA could very well be the catalyst for change on a scope we can hardly imagine. I also don't think it would be beyond the ability of the average reform-minded individual (read "people like me") to get the ball rolling. You'd need:

  • A leader: An organization or individual willing to commit to the long haul
  • A message: What change is needed?
  • A plan: How will we achieve it?
  • Volunteers: People willing to work
  • Supporters: People who publicly support the cause

Some Hill staffers to grease the skids and a few super-dedicated volunteers willing to work the CCA system and to lobby wouldn't hurt, either.

Clearly, this kind of long-term reform initiative is no slam-dunk. Any effort to remove our country's adoption blinders is going to take time and money and willingness to roll up our sleeves. It will take getting the issue onto the radar screen and convincing the mainstream and legislators that serious injustices exist. It will take patience while the inevitable investigations take place, and the tenacity to stay with the issue when interest in it wanes. And it will also take endless behind-the-scenes planning and coalition-building to keep the adoption reform front united, for it most definitely isn't now. At best, it's a collection of people and organizations who know something's wrong, but who don't necessarily agree on the way to fix it.

But if the work is done, don't doubt for a minute that it couldn't get results. Skeptical? Check out how the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed.

I believe there's a groundswell of opinion forming that, once organized, can make adoption reform a reality. A lot of what's needed to jump-start the effort already exists - individuals, established organizations, loosely-organized groups, and online forums are already thinking and talking and planning. The spark that's missing is the leader, the voice or organization behind which we all can rally, one that's able to unify the diversity of perspectives that contribute to adoption reform, and willing to become a recognizable and respected presence in the adoption reform community. That kind of leader CAN engage the CCA, CAN educate its members, and CAN enlighten them to the need for reform.

In my opinion, the best way to find that leader is to listen to the people. So speak out, share your thoughts. Finding that leader is the first step toward making adoption reform a reality. And if we can find him or her or it, will you contribute by committing your time, rolling up your sleeves and opening up your wallet?

Because that's what it will take. And I'm so in.

Comments

Kohana said…
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I keep asking people how we can make a substantive change to adoption policy and practice and no one has a straight answer for me, bejond exercising personal integrity. I didn't know about the CCA. Great info!
Mom2One said…
I didn't know about the CCA either. Thanks, Margie.
Lizard said…
Oh, Margie! Bless your heart! I confess when I consider the CCA, I automatically consider them hopeless. Experience has given me that perspective.

The CCA has been both self-serving - literally, if you look at how many of the members have adopted - and industry-serving, if you look at their ties to the NCFA.

I have written to them several times over the past 6 years. Their blinders are so big and immovable that they tell me they don't understand what I am talking about.

They're all about costs and how to get kids and absolutely nothing about ethics. The kid's mothers and families do not seem to exist in their minds, nor even the kids themselves as human beings.

If anyone can crack their cold hard exterior, even just to get them to broaden their perspective, it would be a miracle.

But. Miracles DO happen. I have been beaten down too many times. Maybe someone more optimistic like you could make some headway.
tina said…
I'm definitely in! Thank you for this information Margie. We have to chip away at the machine. I think adoption reform should begin with us Amoms. If it comes from us, then the fears of others will melt away. Anyway, thank you again.

Tina
Lizard said…
Ok, here's something you will need to consider: The CCA says "The United States strongly supports the [Hague] Convention's stated goal: "to establish safeguards to ensure that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of the child and with respect for his or her fundamental rights as recognized in international law."

The U.S has refused to sign the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. As I understand it, this is part of why we have not become a Hague nation.

To push for the U.S. to sign the U.N. Convention would be another angle from which to come at adoption reform, because the adoption industry in general would be in violation of many of the points in the U.N. Convention.

(see: http://www.unicef.org/crc/ )
Margie said…
Julie, you are absolutely right. Jenna posted about that here:

http://thechroniclesofmunchkinland.wordpress.com/2007/01/19/unethical-agency-speak-up/

When you think of how many unethical adoption agencies there are (and there are quite a few), the picture becomes very clear. Hague Convention would put unethical agencies out of business? Who then might be lobbying hard against it?

And my guess is that the CCA get lobbied by them too. I think a neat little exercise would be to get ahold of the CCA's "Angels in Adoption" awardee list for the past few years and see how many suspect agencies or individuals associated with those agencies have been recognized. The awardees are nominated locally through their Senators and Representatives - how easy it would be for a happy a-family to nominate one of these agencies, who then obtain an aura of respectability with the CCA, and finally are able to use that to further their own ends.

That's why I think it's absolutely CRITICAL for a cross-plane coalition of organizations and individuals to be created that can start lobbying at the CCA level. Without that kind of focused education, CCA is going to continue down the path they're on - which is going nowhere reform.
Lizard said…
CCAI "Angels in Adoption" 1999-2006"

http://www.ccainstitute.org/membersonly/members/Angel_in_Adoption_list_1999-2006.pdf
Margie said…
Hey, thanks, Julie! This will make for some interesting lunchtime research tomorrow ;)
Lizard said…
P.s. Here is a link to the list of CCA members (keep in mind the CCAI is an entity that ASSISTS the CCA - they are seperate entities)

http://www.holtintl.org/coalition.shtml
Lizard said…
Happy to help, Margie. Truly.
Margie said…
Thanks again, Julie. And re the CCAI, you are correct. They're the non-profit wing, and they are the ones who coordinat the Angels in Adoption event each year. Beyond that, I'm not sure what they do, but it doesn't look like reform. I've had some direct experience with them during the 2003 KAAN conference in DC, and do know that they're an important inroad to CCA, so working them is key, too.
THIS IS EXCELLENT! thank you so much for posting this up, i'm am learning alot from your blog! thank you!

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