WASHINGTON – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) today were joined by nine of their Senate colleagues in re-introducing the International Children with Disabilities Protection Act, legislation to bolster U.S. support for children with disabilities and improve local disabilities rights organizations and families’ capacities to advocate for critical policy and legislative reforms worldwide.
The bipartisan effort would authorize $10 million annually for five years for an ‘‘International Children with Disabilities Protection Program,” a State Department grant program that would empower organizations advocating for 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 bolsters U.S. policy to protect against the unnecessary institutionalization of children with disabilities and 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 to reintroduce this critical legislation to strengthen our nation’s global assistance for the more than 240 million children with disabilities worldwide,” Chairman Menendez said. “In far too many countries, children with disabilities face persistent discrimination and blatant assaults on their rights, often denied the opportunity to receive an education, to engage and thrive in their communities, and to choose to live with their loved ones. It is time for the United States to redouble our efforts to empower and amplify the voices of people with disabilities and their families— the most important and effective advocates—and I am committed to continue fighting for this effort to do just that.”
“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 were Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
“Children with disabilities, all around the world, deserve to grow up in a loving, inclusive environment,” said Senator Durbin. “The International Children with Disabilities Protection Act would establish a program within the State Department to help ensure that the United States, in partnership with NGOs, advances that important goal.”
“Over 240 million children worldwide navigate their lives with disabilities, and we must do everything in our power to ensure that they are not left behind,” said Senator Blackburn. “This bipartisan legislation helps equip these children and their families with the support they need and deserve.”
“Disabilities should not mean children are cut off from educational, social and economic opportunities, but in too many countries that is the reality. We choose to show the world there is a better way,” said Senator Cardin. “Our bipartisan bill will support global efforts to create common-sense disability policy reforms that would allow children everywhere to fully participate in society.”
“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,” said Senator Duckworth. “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.”
Leading disability rights organizations also expressed their support for the bipartisan legislation.
“This critical legislation addresses a gap in international funding for a population at-risk and often overlooked: children with disabilities. We must make sure that no family is forced to give up a child with a disability who they love. A small investment by the United States in supporting advocacy by families and people with disabilities will have a big impact on protecting millions of children with disabilities around the world,” said Eric Rosenthal, Founder and Executive Director of Disability Rights International.
“As I travel internationally for work, as a professional and a parent, I am deeply troubled by the status of children with disabilities I encounter, recognizing that these children have similar potential as my child but lack the voice, policies, services, and support for them to realize it. I am therefore here today to support the programs incorporated into this bill,” said Leo Hosh, Associate Vice President for Child Protection and Education at World Vision.
“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 with access to the help they need to thrive,” said Julie Ward, Senior Executive Officer, Public Policy, The Arc of the United States.
Find a copy of the legislation HERE.