Members of the law and justice committee,*

Thank you for the opportunity to be here. My name is Katy Faust and I’m the founder of the children’s rights organization Them Before Us. I am the former Assistant Director of Chinese Children Adoption International, the largest Chinese Adoption agency in the world, and I am an adoptive mother myself.

I would like to highlight how the Uniform Parentage Act violates child rights by contrasting it with adoption best practices.

In both cases- adoption and donor-conception- children lose a relationship with one or both biological parents, the two people to whom they have a natural right. (1) While adoption functions as an institution to meet the needs of children; third-party reproduction and surrogacy functions as a market to meet the desires of adults.

1. The right to the child’s best interests as a primary consideration. (2,3) In adoption the child is the client and their “best interests” meant that some “intended parents” were turned away. Our agency had a saying, “we exist to find every child loving parents, not to give a child to every adult.”

In the fertility industry, the adults are the client. The goal is to provide them a baby, literally, at any cost. As a result, and clearly illustrated in this bill, “best interest of the child” is rarely considered, if at all.

2. The right to not be separated from his or her parents against their will. (4)  Adoption is a last resort (5), sought only when all avenues of keeping the child with their birth parents have been exhausted, because social workers acknowledge that separation from one’s birth parent is deeply painful and results in lifelong loss. Adoptive parents seek to mend that loss. Many agencies require training which helps parents support their child as they grieve.

The children affected by SB 6037 will also be separated from one or both biological parents. But the source of that loss isn’t tragic circumstance, it was willfully chosen by the very adults who are raising them. As a result, donor-conceived children often feel that they cannot be honest about their feelings of loss. (6)

3. The right to safe placements. (7,8) In adoption, social workers never casually place a child with a biological stranger(s) because living with unrelated adults increases the risk that children will experience abuse, neglect, and abandonment.(9) While we all know heroic step-parents, the statistics reveal that neither a romantic relationship with one’s biological parent nor an “intent” to parent mitigates that risk to children. As a result, adoption professionals have developed lengthy processes of screening, training and supervising “intended” parents.

Not so in SB 6037. This bill grants state-sanctioned parental authority to unrelated adults based simply on their “intent” to parent. While adoptive parents must rightly undergo background checks, references, home studies, parent training, and post-placement supervision, SB 6037 requires none of these, despite the fact that any/all of the “intended” parents may be unrelated to the child. Granting an adult parental rights simply based on “intent” is the most dangerous portion of this bill.

4. The right to be born free- not bought and sold. (10) Adoption professionals understand the moral dangers when adults who want children are working with vulnerable birth mothers. In those scenarios, it’s all too easy to move from adoption into baby buying. Preventing the trafficking of children in the name of adoption lead the US to sign the Hague Adoption Convention in 1994.(11) To prevent a market in children, the Hague specifically prohibiting payment directly to the birth mother in return for relinquishing her child. (12)

SB 6037 spurns that critical safeguard. This bill will institutionalize commercial surrogacy, even genetic surrogacy, where the mother can be directly paid to surrender her child. In many cases the only difference between the child trafficking the Hague sought to prevent and an enforceable Washington Surrogacy contract would be… timing. If the surrogacy contract is signed prior to conception, it’s “helping someone build a family.” If it’s signed after conception it’s child trafficking. To the child, the timing of the contract makes little difference.

5. The right to preserved kinship bonds. (13)  The adoption world is embracing “open” adoption because social workers have observed that children benefit from as many connections with their biological family as possible. Priority is given to adoptive homes that can take sibling groups so as not to separate children from their brothers and sisters.

The fertility industry on the other hand, favors “anonymous” gametes to produce children, intentionally cutting them off from half or all of their extended family. Donor conceived children often have tens to hundreds of half-siblings scattered across the globe.

Time constraints prevent me from addressing the ways that a child’s right to accurate birth records (14), identity preservation (15), and right to not be taken abroad illegally (16) are threatened by the Uniform Parentage Act. But my hope is that when considering any legislation that impacts children, their rights and “best interest” will be at the forefront of your minds. If that is that case, then SB 6037 will be roundly rejected.

Thank you for your time.

 

Footnotes:

  1. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Articles 7-10, 18
  2. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 3 “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interest of the child shall be a primary consideration.”
  3. Hague Convention on Protections of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, Preamble. “…to ensure that intercountry adoptions are made in the best interest of the child and with respect to his or her fundamental rights.”
  4. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 9
  5. Hague Convention on Protections of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, Preamble.  “Each state should take, as a matter of priority, appropriate measures to enable the child to remain in the care of his or her family of origin.”
  6. My Daddy’s Name is Donor, p.7 “53% of donor conceived children agree “I have worried that if I try to get more information about or have a relationship with my sperm donor, my mother and/or father who raised me would feel angry or hurt.””
  7. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 25
  8. Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, Articles 5(a), 15
  9. Biology Matters, ThemBeforeUs.com (studies on outcomes for children re: biological and unrelated cohabiting adults)
  10. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 21 (d), 35
  11. Preamble: “Convinced of the necessity of to take measures to ensure that intercountry adoptions are made in the best interest of the child and with respect for his or her fundamental rights, and to prevent the abduction, the sale of, or traffick in children”
  12. Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, Article 16, 32
  13. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 8, 9 (3)
  14. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 7
  15. Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, Article 9
  16. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 11

* Oral testimony was limited to 2 minutes.  Katy’s comments can be viewed here at minute 1:45:45.

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