Throughout my time in the U.S. Senate, I have met many Kentucky families whose greatest joy is to open their hearts and their homes to children through international adoption. Americans have adopted more children both internationally and domestically than the citizens of all other countries combined. I have had the privilege of working with many of these families to fight for the children’s safe reunion with their adopted parents in Kentucky.
A rise in complications and regulations in many foreign countries in recent years has led to a decline in international adoptions. While this decline is a reality, I have learned that—to no surprise—Kentuckians remain committed to helping children all over the world, and I am proud to assist them in these efforts.
As a father of three daughters, I recognize the importance of raising children in a safe and loving home. It’s no surprise that raising children in a healthy and stable environment can increase the likelihood that they will lead healthy, prosperous, productive lives. The impact of successful adoptions, therefore, benefits not only the child and the family, but society as a whole.
That’s why, as Kentucky’s senior senator, I’ve been proud to support several legislative measures to encourage adoption throughout my career. In 2000, I supported the Intercountry Adoption Act to establish a central adoption authority in the U.S. State Department and an adoption accreditation program to implement uniform standards and procedures for international adoptions.
In 2001, I worked to protect tax incentives for adoptive families, voting to expand the tax credit for adoption expenses from $5,000 to $10,000. In 2010, I helped craft bipartisan tax relief legislation that included an extension of the adoption tax credit through 2011, and in 2012, I negotiated bipartisan legislation that saw the adoption tax credit extended permanently.
This year, I was proud to cosponsor the Accuracy for Adoptees Act, a bipartisan bill signed into law that will make it easier for Kentucky families to assimilate their adopted children in the U.S. by streamlining the issuance of government identification documents to adopted children.
In addition to these legislative measures, I’ve also had the opportunity to aid many Kentucky families who wish to adopt overseas in seeing their dreams fulfilled. For instance, seven years ago, one Kentucky family—the Whites from Lexington—asked for my assistance with the stalled adoption of their son Quinten from Guatemala.
I was happy to relay our shared concerns to the State Department, the Guatemalan Ambassador to the U.S., the U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala, and two adoption agencies in Guatemala. I also raised the adoption issue in person with the president of Guatemala. And after seven long years, I was pleased to see this Kentucky family successfully united with their son this year.
I’ve also been advocating for Kentucky families seeking to adopt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). I’m deeply troubled by the DRC’s recent decision to suspend the issuance of exit permits for adopted Congolese children, which has prevented them from leaving the country with their adoptive parents. Kentucky is among the states with the highest number of families whose adopted children are stuck in the DRC—this ban has prevented more than 20 Kentucky families from uniting.
To aid these Kentucky families, I met personally with the DRC Ambassador to the U.S. to express my concerns, and I asked President Obama by letter to raise the issue with the DRC president at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. I also introduced a resolution in the U.S. Senate calling for the lifting of the DRC’s exit permit suspension, and I personally raised the issue with Secretary of State John Kerry.
Though much work remains, I’m very pleased that my efforts recently helped the Berry family of Whitesburg be united with their little girl, Kona Martine. Because of Kona’s medically fragile status—meaning that the life of the little girl was threatened without American medical care—the DRC granted Kona’s exit permit for humanitarian reasons, and she came to Kentucky to join her family earlier this month.
Since 1999, Kentucky has completed more than 4,000 international adoptions. It is heartwarming moments like the arrival of Quinten and Kona Martine that make my efforts to help these families so rewarding. As long as I am Kentucky’s senator, I will continue to aid Kentucky’s adoptive families in whatever way I can. If you or a Kentuckian you know is having difficulty with an international adoption case, please contact my office in Louisville at (502) 582-6304.