Nicholas Kristof's Offer

Monday, January 6, 2014

In his column in yesterday's NY Times, Nicholas Kristof invited readers to suggest neglected issues for coverage in 2014 and post them on his blog (nytimes.com/ontheground), so I did. Here is my submission:

Every child should have the right to grow up in a family, an opportunity to thrive rather than just survive. One might expect that this sentiment would enjoy widespread support and one would be wrong.

I applaud you for raising the question of neglected topics. There is no more neglected topic than the fate of 143,000,000 orphans around the world. These children have no voice; they epitomize the word "neglected".

Those of us in the field of international child welfare believe that the cause of the orphan is among the most compelling of our time. Yet we have been unable to raise public awareness and elevate the global orphan crisis as a priority issue in Washington.

Perhaps the biggest barrier to confronting this crisis are the misguided policies of our own Department of State. Interestingly enough, legislation has been proposed by courageous Congressional leaders (co-sponsored by a bipartisan coalition) to make changes that would result in our government being an advocate for, rather than a barrier against, the rights of children to grow up in families.

Our government is not the only barrier. We witnessed this a year ago in Russia when the orphans of that country were used as political pawns in a game of chess with the U.S. Who were the losers in that game? Children who are still stuck in orphanages when good, caring parents were poised to adopt them.

While Russia's shutdown of international adoption was the most overt move of its kind, it's really become the norm as nationalism trumps what's in the best interest of children almost everywhere.

My hope is that those working against the right of a child to grow up in a family are exposed in 2014, that public awareness of this global tragedy becomes outrage, and that the outrage produces real change on behalf of millions of children who today are without hope.

(It appears that you can go onto Kristof's blog and there is a readers' choice tab. Perhaps if enough people choose this topic, he'll investigate it and write about it.)