By BOB VON STERNBERG
Pivoting off the continuing humanitarian catastrophe in Haiti, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is pushing legislation that would streamline the often-thorny bureaucratic process of international adoptions by American families.
Klobuchar planned to hold a meeting Sunday with parents who have adopted children from other countries, including Haiti, to promote the bills.
The proposed changes in federal law, she said, would make the adoption process more "family-friendly."
Although only parts of the three bills before Congress directly apply to Haitian orphans that American families are in the process of adopting, Klobuchar said she hopes that the bureaucratic tangle will shine a light on the difficulties of international adoption.
"If you can find a silver lining in what's happened [in Haiti], it will be this chance to improve the child protection system in all countries," she said.
Klobuchar, Al Franken and several other senators have been working to help several hundred American families whose planned adoptions of Haitian orphans were upended by last month's earthquake.
One of the bills would create a division in the State Department that would closely monitor the child protection and adoption procedures and provide financial assistance to nations that meet standards of parental care.
Although the department already has a primary role in regulating foreign adoptions, "the system is so fragmented, we need point people in the State Department," Klobuchar said.
The other bills would clarify and streamline adoption regulations and eliminate a financial penalty that currently hits some adoptive parents.
Minnesota is a longtime leader in international adoptions, with the nation's highest per capita rate of international adoptions.
That fact, Klobuchar said, along with her experience with child protection cases as Hennepin County attorney, has motivated her to become one of the leading advocates in Congress for international adoption reform.
"From my days as a prosecutor, I know how important it is for kids to have a home," she said. "It's what's best for kids and what's best for our society. Adoption doesn't just change the life of a child -- it changes the life of a family forever."