Covering Louisiana

Mar 12, 2013 1:20 PM by AP

Sen. Landrieu introduces adoption documentary

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu spent Monday in her home state promoting a documentary film about international adoption.

Landrieu, the mother of two adopted children and the wife of a man who was adopted from overseas, says many American families are willing to open their hearts and homes to children needing families all over the world, but the international adoption system "is broken and failing."

Landrieu introduced the film, "Stuck," in the New Orleans suburb of Harahan on Monday night. She said the film is about overseas children who are "stuck in orphanages, stuck in a system that doesn't work."

The film is narrated by Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actress Mariska Hargitay and produced by Craig Juntunen. It's on a 60-city tour that began last month and is scheduled to finish in May.

Landrieu said that while Americans adopt some 50,000 children domestically each year, the number of international adoptions is far lower - and dropping.

Landrieu, who is featured in the film, previewed it last summer to members of Congress. She serves as the Senate co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption.

She says that while domestic adoption is handled at the local and state level "as it should be," international adoption is not as streamlined and needs stronger partnerships with such U.S. agencies as the Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

"Every child deserves to grow up in a family, and we in the United States need to do more to make this happen," she said.

Both of Landrieu's children were adopted domestically. Her husband was adopted at the age of 5 from Ireland, and her sister adopted a child from Russia, she said.

"I'm very familiar with the process," Landrieu said. "My whole family has been built through adoption."

Juntunen, who with his wife has three adopted children from Haiti, says some Americans are under the impression that international adoption is on the rise, when in fact it's rapidly declining. Some countries, such as Russia, no longer allow U.S. adoptions - partly over fears of corruption or baby-selling scandals.

"It's excuses, and it's cruel," Landrieu said. "We believe children should stay with their birth families whenever possible, but when children are abused or abandoned or the family disintegrates around them, that child should not go wanting for a family."

Landrieu and Juntunen say they are hopeful the documentary will help put some pressure on U.S. officials to be more supportive of international adoption. In each city on the tour, supporters are working to collect signatures urging President Barack Obama to make international adoption a priority.

The film is being promoted as a "love story of a different kind" that celebrates the human spirit and loyalty and devotion that bonds parents and children as families.

"Kids are kids, whether they are in Houston or Haiti," Juntunen said.

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