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.