CHIFF Brings Conservatives and Liberals Together: Children Belong in Families


Father Son AdoptionThis past Wednesday afternoon, the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) hosted a webinar to discuss the reforms proposed by the Children in Families First (CHIFF) Act. Present on the call were Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Congressman Trent Franks (R- AZ), leaders within a bipartisan coalition that is unified by the belief that children need families.

CHIFF is a holistic and preventative approach to international child welfare that ensures systems are in place to help children remain in their family of birth, be reunited with family, or be adopted locally or internationally. CHIFF, supported by a bipartisan coalition of Members of Congress and child welfare organizations, redirects current U.S. government resources that are not being utilized to their full potential towards strengthening, uniting, and creating families, realigns foreign aid with American familial values, and supports intercountry adoption as a protection for children.

CHIFF would establish a bureau in the U.S. Department of State, the Bureau of Vulnerable Children & Family Security, to become the foreign policy and diplomatic hub on international child welfare. This Bureau would be tasked with building international capacity to implement effective child welfare systems, with particular focus on family preservation and reunification, and kinship, domestic, and intercountry adoption. CHIFF would also streamline, simplify and consolidate responsibility for the processing of all intercountry adoption cases and the accreditation of adoption service providers by placing these functions under the direction of the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Senator Landrieu introduced CHIFF into the Senate on September 19, 2013, and Congressman Franks is a cosponsor of CHIFF. Both Senator Landrieu and Congressman Franks emphasized that the guiding tenant of CHIFF is that American law ought to be reflective of the simple human truth that children need families. Currently, across the globe, millions of children are growing up in institutions, outside of the support and security of families. Recent scientific research has indicated that the conditions of growing up in an institution can lead to developmental damage in children. On the call, Senator Landrieu passionately spoke to the plight of the orphan, stating orphans are powerless, voiceless, and lost:

 “If somebody in this world doesn’t stand up in an effective way and advocate for [the orphan], there’s no hope.” 

Senator Landrieu has stated she is brokenhearted that seemingly, at every level, local, state, federal, the basic fact that children need families is pushed aside. She described CHIFF as identifying the “North Star” for children without families; it promotes the ideal that children belong in families, whether that is through relatives, neighbors, domestic adoption or international adoption. CHIFF would make this “North Star” the foreign policy and law of the U.S.


She noted that both liberals and conservatives have come to the conclusion, at least as it relates to the U.S. Department of State, that the U.S. is not organized or resourced correctly to help the children in the world in need of families. Senator Landrieu believes the U.S. must “lead the view when it comes to advocating on behalf of children.” Senator Landrieu stated that though the U.S. is doing a decent job of making sure that children outside of families can survive, the U.S. is not doing a good job getting children in need into families where they can thrive, commenting that while the government may do some things well, it does not raise children well.

Congressman Franks laughingly responded to Senator Landrieu that it was the first time he had ever listened to a Democratic Senator speak and was in agreement with everything said. Congressman Franks stated that CHIFF is an international child welfare bill focused on getting a growing number of children growing up outside of families into a family and that it is not an international adoption bill; though he commented that, in some cases, international adoption may the only option for children. Senator Landrieu added to the point, explaining that some children have no hope in their own countries of domestic adoption, particularly children with special needs.

Congressman Franks explained the U.S. government is spending hundreds of millions on government programs to help vulnerable children. However, he feels that by failing to put family first we fall short of the goal.

According to Congressman Franks, the best way to keep children safe from child trafficking, healthy, and in school, is through families “who will love them more than any government program.” 

Congressman Franks stated that CHIFF uses our resources wisely by making family-based care for orphans a priority for funding that is already being spent on vulnerable children. Said Congressman Franks, if CHIFF is signed into law, it will catalyze a realignment of the world where family will be “sewn into human DNA.”

Senator Mary Landrieu expressed disappointment that CHIFF, a bipartisan bill that reflects the American societal belief that children belong in families, does not have 400 cosponsors. We at MLJ Adoptions have been reaching out to our Senators and U.S. Representatives asking them to cosponsor CHIFF. We encourage you to also reach out to your Members of Congress and ask that they do the same. Please visit our Advocacy Page to find out how you can make a difference for children in need.

To learn more about how you can advocate on behalf of CHIFF, please visit our Advocacy page here.

Liane Steffes, JD is an adoption attorney and serves as MLJ Adoptions’ Chief of Staff. Ms. Steffes earned her Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law and was admitted to the Indiana Bar in 2013. She is thankful for the opportunity to serve children in need of loving, permanent, and secure families.