Friday, March 28, 2014

Children in Families First (CHIFF)

 March 28, 2014
The Honorable Elizabeth Warren
United States Senate
317 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C., 20510-2105
Dear Senator Warren,

I write to you today as a voter in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a licensed psychologist and health care provider, and a professional with over twenty-five years of working with children, adolescents, and adults who have experienced disrupted attachments with their primary care givers. I write to encourage you to reconsider your support for Children in Families First (CHIFF) S. 1530/H.R. 3323. I’d also like to encourage you to hold public hearings in which both inter-country adoptees as well as adoption professionals are able to voice their experiences, opinions, and needs for a bill that fully supports adoptee rights
I find this bill fails the needs of adoptees in many ways. 
  • Substantial criticism exists noting that the coalitions of individuals and groups supporting this bill represent the needs and rights of adoptive parents, not the needs and rights of of inter-country adoptees. 
  • This bill is advertised as one that supports maintaining families. A content analysis of the bill demonstrates the word reunification being used nine times, kinship being used thirteen times, and adoption being used 160 times. This bill is not about supporting families in foreign countries: it is about ensuring the supply of children available for adoption in the United States. 
  • This bill is in conflict with the UN convention for the rights of a child. Notably, there is no provision for: (1) A child’s right to have access to their name from birth, (2) a child’s right to their original identity and documentation or restoration of such, (3) a child’s right not to be removed or separated from their original parents, (4), a child’s right to be reunified with said original parents.
  • The United States is one of three countries that have failed to sign on to the United Nations Convention for the Rights of a Child. The other UN member countries who have not signed on: Somalia and South Sudan. 
  • This bill is not supported by Secretary of State John Kerry. 
  • The bill assumes that closing orphanages and group homes in foreign countries will help support children who are in need. In reality, closing orphanages and group homes often force children onto streets making them vulnerable to sex trafficking and child trafficking along with risking return to unsafe homes, poverty and homelessness. 
  • Research has demonstrated that the outcomes for children in foreign orphanages can rival the outcomes of US foster care and inter-country adoption. We need a bill that supports countries developing their own best practices: not a bill that supports countries continuing a pipeline of inter country adoption to satisfy the demands of the American adoption industry. 
  • Many who lobby you to support CHIFF point out the children that are in need in foreign countries. Supporters of CHIFF fail to note the 400,000 children languishing in the American foster care system. 
  • The vast majority of groups supporting and lobbying for the passage of CHIFF are anti-gay hate groups. These organizations specifically prohibit same-sex families from adopting children, and would prohibit same sex couples or individuals in Massachusetts from adopting children. Moreover, what is the impact these agencies have on the children they place into families who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. How are you ensuring LGBT inter-country adoptees are being protected? 
  • Significant questions remain about child trafficking issues associated with inter-country adoptions that are not addressed in S. 1530/H.R. 3323.
  • Significant questions remain about the controversial and repugnant practice of “rehoming” children when the adoption fails. Many of this “rehomed” children are inter-country adoptees. 

I ask that you take the time to review these points, consider the balance between the needs of children and the needs of parents wishing to adopt, and reconsider your support of this flawed bill. Most importantly, I ask that you consider the impact S. 1540/H.R. 3323 has on LGBT children in that offers no support and protection for adoptees that are delivered into the hands of hateful anti-gay groups. That’s not the Massachusetts way. 


Jason Evan Mihalko, Psy.D.
c: The Honorable Ed Markey

The Honorable Niki Tsongas


  1. you have a typo "A content analysis..." not "An content analysis..."

  2. Dr. Mihalko,

    Thank you for writing this. I am the mother of a daughter adopted in China and I am not a supporter of CHIFF. It's very difficult to counter this bill, because it sounds so great. Who doesn't want kids out of institutions and into families? You have made the case beautifully.

    Maureen Topper
    Colorado Springs, CO

    1. Thanks for stopping in, Maureen. I think the architects of the bill were very smart in that they positioned it, as you noted, in a way that to be anti-CHIFF is to be portrayed as anti-children or anti-adoption. In reality, the steering committee supporting CHIFF actively squelches and represses the voices of adult adoptees. It's reprehensible to avoid contact with the very audience that this bill is supposed to support--adoptees. The bill is nothing more than a wolf hiding in sheep's clothing: it supports the interest of some adoptive parents and their needs.

      Keep up the good fight! I hope you've had the time to contact your Senators and Representatives from Colorado. Personal letters and phone calls to your representatives in Washington end up being very powerful tools of activism.

    2. Just looking at the facebook page second chance adoption where children are being re homed like unwanted pets shows how this is wrong. Evangelical people are adopting high numbers of special needs children and because they are using religion instead of medicine are abusing them even killing them look at Hana Williams murdered by her "family"

    3. For me, religion isn't the problem: using religion to make decisions for people who aren't followers of that religion is greatly problematic. My biggest complaint is when faith is used as cover to obscure people who develop policies for child welfare based on personal need: not what is in the best interest of a child.

  3. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

    1. Thanks, Anonymous. I'm glad this post gave something important to you.