WASHINGTON – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) today were joined by ten of their Senate colleagues in introducing the International Children with Disabilities Protection Act, new legislation to bolster U.S. support for children with disabilities, helping improve the capacity of local disabilities rights organizations and families of children with disabilities around the world to advocate for necessary reforms.
The bipartisan effort specifically authorizes $10 million each year for five years for the creation and establishment of an ‘‘International Children with Disabilities Protection Program,” a grant program within the State Department to empower organizations of persons with disabilities. In addition to creating the first U.S. program focused on helping global efforts to combat stigma and discrimination against children with disabilities, the legislation reinforces U.S. policy to protect against the unnecessary institutionalization of children with disabilities and to help promote the development of laws and policies that support the full inclusion of children with disabilities in families.
“I am proud to be joined by my colleagues in introducing our International Children with Disabilities Protection Act to address gaps in the United States’ assistance for the more than 240 million children with disabilities worldwide,” Chairman Menendez said. “Children with disabilities are among the most vulnerable in society—frequently denied the choice to live with their loved ones, to receive an education, and to engage and thrive in their communities. By shoring up our resources to amplify the voices and bolster the work of those fighting for the rights of children with disabilities around the world —particularly families of children with disabilities— this legislation represents a significant step forward in advancing disability rights and achieving lasting reform.”
“Children with disabilities deserve a place in society where they are respected, loved and treated with basic human dignity,” said Senator Moran. “This legislation helps protect the most vulnerable children around the globe and gives them opportunities to succeed by helping keep children out of harmful institutions and supporting their families.”
Joining Senators Menendez and Moran in cosponsoring the legislation are Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
“Across the world, millions of children with disabilities are left behind, often in institutions with little care” said Senator Durbin. “This critical legislation will establish a program within the State Department to help ensure that the United States, in partnership with NGOs, supports children with disabilities around the world so they can grow up in a loving environment. No child should fear their future, and I’m glad to help advance this important, bipartisan legislation.”
“Whether it be educational barriers exacerbated by COVID-19, children with severe disabilities abandoned during the Ukraine crisis, or other scenarios – recent events, both domestic and abroad, have created greater awareness of the inequities facing the disability community. Addressing the unique needs of an individual with a disability can be a challenge, but every child deserves access to quality care, education, and the brightest future possible,” said Senator Murkowski. “In Alaska, we have much to do to improve services for families and children affected by intellectual and developmental disabilities. My hope is that my colleagues will rally behind this legislation, emphasizing to children with disabilities, and their families, that Congress recognizes and supports their needs.”
“Children with disabilities deserve special services specific to their needs,” said Senator Tillis. “This bipartisan legislation authorizes necessary funds for these programs and requires transparency around these expenditures, and is a step in the right direction for our children around the world.”
“Every child with a disability should be able to fully participate in society without fear of discrimination,” said Senator Kaine. “I’m proud to support this bipartisan effort that would support children with disabilities and empower families, disability rights groups, and policymakers to strengthen legal protections for them.”
“The International Children with Disabilities Protection Act sends a clear message: we live in a global community where it is everyone’s responsibility to help ensure all children are seen as important and valued members of our world,” Senator Duckworth said. “I’m proud to help introduce a bill that would push the U.S. forward in helping folks with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities advocate for common-sense policy reforms and the respect and tools they need and deserve.”
“All children, everywhere, are our collective future, and we must do everything we can to ensure no one is left behind,” said Senator Merkley. “We have the means to establish programs to support children with disabilities both at home and abroad, and should strive to be a global leader in creating and growing disability rights organizations. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this bill passed, as I continue to advocate for necessary reforms in the U.S. and beyond.”
Click HERE for a copy of the legislation.
Click HERE for a one-page summary of the bill.
The International Children with Disabilities Protection Act is also supported by dozens of leading disability rights organizations.
“This bill supports disability activists and families working in their own countries to ensure that every child with a disability can live and grow up with a family. A relatively small investment by the United States in supporting advocacy will have a big impact on protecting millions of children with disabilities at-risk of losing their families,” said Eric Rosenthal, Executive Director of Disability Rights International (DRI).
“The International Children with Disabilities Protection Act provides support to activists working in their own countries to make the legal and policy changes needed to create alternatives to institutionalization and support families to keep their children at home, at home, with access to the help they need to thrive,” said Julie Ward, Senior Executive Officer, Public Policy, The Arc of the United States.
“When my son was just diagnosed with autism 29 years ago, his physician recommended institutionalizing him at just two years old. Today, with community-based supports, he lives in his own home, is employed, and is also regularly involved in the community through Church activities and his hobbies. If we had acted on the physician’s recommendation, then his life would be vastly different and we’re not sure he would have survived into adulthood. All children deserve to grow up with the love and support of their families and community. Please support the International Children with Disabilities Protection Act,” said Isabel Hodge, Executive Director, US International Council on Disabilities.