U.S. Has Not
Ratified the UNCRC
The Hague Convention on International Adoption, the key governing treaty in international adoption, is built on concepts articulated and agreed to in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC, which was adopted in 1989, is widely considered to be one of the world’s fundamental human rights treaties. The United States helped negotiate the CRC and signed it in 1995—but has not fully ratified it. Of all UN party nations, only two—the U.S. and Somalia—have not ratified the CRC. All told, as of June 2010, the CRC has been ratified by 193 countries.
In 2002, the United States did ratify two CRC Optional Protocols: The Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography, and The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.
Various explanations have been offered as to why the United States has not yet fully ratified the CRC. At one time, one source of opposition was the CRC’s ban on the death penalty for crimes committed by minors. That’s no longer relevant, as in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roper v. Simmons that applying the death penalty to minors was cruel and unusual punishment, citing the CRC.
Some American conservatives oppose the CRC because they believe it undermines parental rights and, like all international treaties, weakens U.S. sovereignty by subjecting Americans to foreign oversight. The George W. Bush administration did not support the treaty. The Heritage Foundation’s backgrounder on U.N. human rights treaties states that “The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child includes numerous provisions that would distance children from their parents' oversight, infringing on parental rights and authority in their child's education and upbringing.”
Some key opposition comes from the Christian right, especially home schoolers, who are behind ParentalRights.org, a group whose Parental Rights Amendment is sponsored by 7 senators and 136 Congressional representatives. On its website, the group argues that “If ratified, the UN-CRC would radically alter the flow of power in the United States, taking away the authority of parents to decide matters pertaining to the lives of their children, and giving that power away to the United Nations. An 18-member international panel would decide what is best for American children and, hence, for America's future.” Its president, Michael Farris, says that, "Whether you ground your kids for smoking marijuana, whether you take them to church, whether you let them go to junior prom, all of those things . . . will be the government's decision. It will affect every parent who's told their children to do the dishes." Prominent conservative Grover Norquist is on the organization’s board.
Since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, however, supporters have renewed their push for ratification of the treaty, profoundly disagreeing with those in opposition and citing language from the treaty that they say strongly supports the rights of parents and families. The website of the Campaign for U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child lists scores of ad hoc organizational partners, ranging from the American Academy of Pediatrics to World Vision’s Child Sex Tourism Prevention Project. The Campaign argues that the CRC promotes the role of the family, advocating for parents and family in nineteen separate provisions. For instance, the preamble includes this statement: “the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding.” Article 5 states that governments should respect the rights, responsibilities, and duties of parents to raise their children.
A number of child welfare organizations and religious groups support the treaty as especially protective of poor and needy children in less developed countries. Generally, supporters of international human rights treaties support ratifying the CRC; Senate backers include Sens. Barbara Boxer, John Kerry, and Bernie Sanders.
NOTE: This page from the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism website offers documentation of and background about serious irregularities in international adoption. For the systemic analysis of corruption in international adoption, please read “The Lie We Love,” Foreign Policy magazine, Nov./Dec. 2008, and visit our webpages dedicated to international adoption. For ideas about fairer policy solutions, please read “The Baby Business,” Democracy Journal, Summer 2010.
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Last page update: February 24, 2011