An Interview with Katy Faust
Katy Faust is the founder and director of the children's rights organization Them Before Us (thembeforeus.com), which exists to advance social policies that encourage adults to actively respect the rights of children, rather than expecting children to sacrifice their fundamental rights for the sake of adult desires.
Since its formation in 2018, Them Before Us has taken the children's rights message around the world by speaking to legislators, fellow advocates, and influencers and by publishing Them Before Us: Why We Need a Global Children's Rights Movement (2021), which has been translated into multiple languages. Katy spoke to us about the mission of her organization and what it really means to put "them" before "us."
How did Them Before Us start?
It was actually the second attempt to start a children's rights organization. I was connected to the first iteration—the International Children's Rights Institute—which was spearheaded by several academics. When the institute lost steam, we decided on a more practical approach, with a dual focus on changing hearts and changing laws.
There are hundreds of organizations, thank God, advocating for children's right to life. But children have rights on this side of the womb as well—chief among them is their right to be known, loved, and raised by their mothers and fathers. Looking at every marriage and family issue from the lens of children's right to their parents produces the correct policy decisions, and personal decisions, every time.
What does "Them Before Us" mean?
We wanted to work on all questions related to children's rights in the family, so we didn't want our name to reflect only one area. We also wanted to build a coalition that went beyond conservative versus progressive, or Christian versus secular. The thing that tied it all together was the idea that in every issue, children should come before adults. And that anyone who was willing to defend them was one of us. Four years later, that's exactly what we've got. An international army of adults—atheists, gay men, Catholics, Czechs, stay-at-home-moms, Muslims, victims of divorce and their children—all advocating for children's rights before adults' desires.
Why does the world need a children's rights movement?
Because, as we say in our book, threats to children's rights are worldwide. In most Western countries, marriage rates are rapidly dropping while cohabitation is on the rise, and globally, the divorce rate more than doubled between 1970 and 2008. Polygamy is also on the rise across Europe, the moral acceptance of polygamous relationships is climbing in the United States, and powerful foreign organizations, the United Nations included, lobby to redefine marriage across the globe, often against the will of a targeted country's citizenry. Also, the money-hungry fertility industry preys on countries with the cheapest "wombs for hire" to realize the maximum profit for on-demand, "designer" babies, and regulation-free fertility clinics operate internationally, trafficking across borders in sperm, eggs, embryos, and live babies.
If the forces seeking to destroy the family and commodify children cross international borders, so must our movement.
How do you respond when people say, "You're just an anti-LGBT organization"?
We have people at every level of our organization that the world would call LGBT. In addition, some of our fiercest supporters and donors identify as gay or lesbian. They understand that advocating for children's rights to their mothers and fathers isn't anti-gay; it's pro-child.
But it is true that when we lobby against scrubbing the words "mother" and "father" from parenthood laws, or when we campaign against on-demand, designer babies via surrogacy legislation, we are often up against powerful, well-funded LGBT groups. If repeating basic human facts like "kids need moms and dads" and "children should not be bought and sold" makes us anti-LGBT, then it's their movement which is on the wrong side of history, not ours.
And then you'd have to explain how our efforts to help roll back no-fault divorce in Texas or to encourage the Albanian parliament to prioritize married couples over single adults in adoption are anti-gay, as those policies have nothing to do with the LGBT crowd. If you consider the whole range of our advocacy, it looks a lot like we expect all adults—single, married, gay, and straight—to uphold the rights of children. Which is exactly how it ought to be.
Why is there no "right" to have children?
Adults have a right to any child they father or give birth to—very few would dispute that. All adults care about which baby they go home with from the hospital; they feel like there's something special about that baby—and they are correct.
Well, guess what? The baby also cares about which adults it goes home with from the hospital. The two adults responsible for its existence maximize its chance to thrive, to be safe and loved, and to receive a secure biological identity. The two biological parents also automatically grant the perfect parental gender balance in the home. Because of this unlike-anything-else connection, natural lawyers (and the most widely ratified treaty in the world—the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) assert that children have a right to those two adults.
But no adult has a right to someone else's child. We know this from the mountains of paperwork that both parties undergo during an adoption to legally detach children from their biological parents and reattach them to biological strangers. But we also know it because a "right" to children who aren't biologically yours simply means that the children have to lose their actual right to their parents so the adults' "right" can be satisfied. An adult's "right" to children presumes that children are objects to be cut and pasted into any and every adult arrangement.
But children are not objects of rights. They are subjects of rights. Children are not items that are owed to adults who want them. They are vulnerable people whose rights must be protected and respected. Unfortunately, in our modern world, which glamorizes "modern families," adults' desires—namely, their sexual desires and sexual identities—are primary, which often means that children's rights are ignored. Note that "modern families" require child loss. The child must lose someone to whom it has a natural right in order to be in that "modern family." That's backward. It should be the adults who are building their families around children's rights, rather than insisting children sacrifice for them.
What kind of opposition do you regularly face, and how do you respond?
Truthfully, we don't get a lot of opposition from those who are willing to engage our message.
I recently flew home from Pierre, South Dakota, where I spoke with close to thirty policy makers, journalists, and representatives from various organizations about how surrogacy harms children. Many didn't know much or mistakenly believed that surrogacy was pro-life or that it was just the same as adoption. I won't say we won all of them, but you could see the lightbulb go on, even for those who had supported surrogacy in the past.
Once you explain that only 7 percent of lab-created babies (a surrogacy essential) are born alive, you win the pro-lifers. Once you detail how #BigFertility violates every "best interest of the child" adoption statute, everyone else takes note as well. And when you share the stories of kids created through this commodifying industry, you've lit a fire in everyone.
There are those who refuse to engage the arguments honestly—mainly on social media—and we get all the typical (flimsy) attacks. There have also been some serious threats over the years.
What is your greatest triumph so far?
Probably the hearts and minds we've changed. The most common feedback I've gotten after people have subscribed to our page, read our book, or heard an interview is, "I've never considered the child's perspective before." Now, my inbox is full of articles where adults are breaking up their marriages because things are "so hard," and incidentally both have found hot new love interests, and our follower remarks, "They hardly mention the kids at all!" Or messages sharing the profile of a single man who has "struggled" to have a family but now after multiple "failed" adoptions (where the mother decided to keep her baby), he is finally a dad through surrogacy, and our fan exclaims, "This article is literally all about what the dad wants! Nothing about how this baby needs a mom." Once you understand the rights, needs, and longings of children, you can't unsee it.
Tell me about your recent book.
Quite frankly, it's amazing. For several reasons.
First, because there's nothing else like it. There are oodles of books, videos, and articles on all the topics we address—marriage, surrogacy, adoption, sperm/egg donation, same-sex parenting, polygamy, transgender parents, divorce—from the adult's perspective. There are few to none on most of these topics from the kid's perspective.
Second, while we do cull the best social science, what you can't find anywhere else are many of the hundred-plus stories we share of children who grew up in these "modern families." If you're of the opinion that "love makes a family" and "if the adults are happy, the kids will be happy," I dare you to read their stories. You. Will. Be. Changed.
Third, it's so well-written. And I can say that unapologetically because while I dig for the quotes and do the research, my co-author, Stacy Manning, brings the literary magic. In the midst of weighty, personal, and contentious topics—e.g., why gender is not a social construct—she lightens the load with humor.
In what areas have you noticed that people need the most education about children's rights?
Probably the importance of biology to the parent-child relationship. Likely as a protective reflex on behalf of the wonderful adoptive and stepparents that many of us know, there's a lot of defensiveness when you make the (well-supported) claim that children have a right to their biological parents. That's why we spend all of chapter two detailing the research on biological parents being the safest, most connected to, most invested in, and most protective of children. They're also the only adults who furnish something that children crave—their biological identities. Once you understand the critical role biology plays in child well-being, all these other questions fall into place.
What are your main goals for the future?
It's hard to know because I don't tend to choose our expansion. Our expansion chooses us! But in the immediate future, we'll help propose aggressive pro-child legislation in select U.S. states (I'm sick of playing defense!); fortify our staff to respond to the overwhelming requests we receive for help, interviews, and legislative work; and expand our relationships with cultural influencers who crave child-centric answers to these novel and damaging family trends.Katie Breckenridge
is External Affairs Liaison and contributing writer for the children’s rights organization Them Before Us. She has a master’s degree in Mental Health and Wellness and is working toward graduate certificates in Trauma-Informed Practice and Catholic Bioethics. She seeks to spread truth regarding the consequences of dismantling the foundational familial structure.Get Salvo in your inbox! This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #61, Summer 2022 Copyright © 2023 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo61/them-before-us