Pin It
Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

International Adoption is Never That Simple

By
Adoption-is-not-simple/ © thuyling - Fotolia.com

A few months ago, InCultureParent asked a group of adoptive parents to provide a list of “Adoption Do’s and Don’ts”— a set of requests based on some of the negative and positive interactions we adoptive parents have had with well-meaning friends, family and general passersby. We came up with advice like:

• Don’t assume adoption was my second, third or final choice.

• Do ask me genuine questions about the about the process; it’s a complex one and I’m happy to share.

• Do ask me about my child’s heritage but not about his “real parents”; I’m his real parent.

• Don’t say to me, “You did it the easy way.” It’s all hard, whether you had your child biologically or adopted.

Since drafting this list, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the complexity of adoption, particularly international adoption. There is a lot of debate over whether international adoption is “right” or “wrong.” I have become increasingly frustrated with the way in which the very complex issue of international adoption has been reduced to an overly simplistic question of right vs. wrong. One result of this over-simplification is the children who need help have become the victims of international adoption policies.

Some argue that international adoption creates a “market” for unethical adoptions. The argument goes something like this: the fact that people are willing to pay for international adoptions leads desperate and unethical people to take advantage of families when they are most vulnerable. By ending (or significantly curtailing) international adoption, the trafficking of children can be limited. Some oppose international adoption because it takes children out of their country of origin, depriving them of a connection to their culture. These are valid arguments, but they are only salient in a utopian world. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a world where poverty is a reality and biological parents must make difficult choices about their ability to care for their children.

In the real world, there are orphans and, in many cases, it is very unlikely that parents in the orphans’ country of origin will adopt them. So, if we cannot assure that parents living in their country of origin will adopt them, then what’s the next best thing? Is it better to work to connect children with permanent families who may not be in their country of origin or is it better to keep children in their country of origin, knowing that doing so may result in these children living in orphanages for most (or all) of their childhood?

The answers to these questions are complicated, and they deserve a response much more thoughtful than an unequivocal “yes” or “no.” Like many things in society today, when we oversimplify international adoption, we aren’t looking at the issue in its entirety. We aren’t doing justice to the people involved who are making difficult—often heart-wrenching— decisions about children.

So, what is the answer? How do we protect all children’s rights—that is, their right to not be victims of human trafficking and their right to a permanent family? I wish I knew the answer, but I don’t. I do know what the answer is not: orphans who are matched with adoptive parents should not be prevented from coming home to permanent families. This is what is happening right now in Vietnam and Kyrgyzstan. In Vietnam, 16 children who were approved for adoption over three years ago wait in an orphanage (an orphanage that was once a prison) as their cases are processed. Processing is a euphemism for bureaucracy. So, these little victims of bureaucracy wait, as do their adoptive parents, many of whom have been prevented from contacting their children.

A friend of mine, Kelly Ensslin, is an adoption attorney for many of the families waiting for their children to come home. Her assessment of the situation sums it up best: “The current system is damaging children. A family is every child’s most basic human right. Our current system of adoption stands between kids joining families.” Policymakers should spend their time developing a system that unites families, and not supporting a system that unnecessarily keeps families apart.

© 2011, Kelley O’Brien. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


Breastfeeding Around the World

In photos and figures

6 Favorite Children’s Books about Ramadan

Our top picks for Muslim and non-Muslim kids alike

The West's Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep

How the West sleeps is different from the rest

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Kelley O'Brien lives in Carrboro, North Carolina with her husband David, their son Jin, adopted in January 2009 from South Korea, and two cats. She is working hard to balance her career with raising a happy and healthy child.

Leave us a comment!









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!



A Children's Book for Raising Global Citizens

Every life is a story. It’s easier to understand someone when you know their story.

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!
Unfortunately, the school and community are no longer there. The farm is being sold and there are tentative plans for a new iteration to be set up in Costa Ric...
From How I Moved to Thailand with my Family on Less than $1000
HI! I love your website! Just read your review of books that teach about culture and food! I can't wait to try some of the recipes you've share...
From Armenian Recipe: Apricot Tart
Please, refrain from using "western /western society" for anglosaxon countries. Western can be Mexico and Spain as well, anything on the west side of the world is western ...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
We've tried to make use of, but It doesn't works by any mean...
From African Parenting: The Sane Way to Raise Children
I'm back. Sorry, I stopped caring for this magazine for a while and forgot to discuss the meat of the matter. This article, as well as the linked article from 2011, fails to discuss cultural norms ...
From What Confused Me Most about Brits
Fascinating. I have been to Germany and met this guy who was soo rude! This article explains everything!! Since all Germans are so terribly rude it should come as no surprise that I should have met ...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
@ Josep. How could you possibly comment on how Germans treat people if you have never even been there? A three-day stay in Berlin and a one day stop-over in Frankfurt was enough for me to see the ut...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
I am trying to find a Sikh triangular Nishan Sahib flag and haven't found one. Do you know where I can find on...
From Vaisakhi Craft: Make a Flag
I have tried to buy a Sikh triagular Nishan Sahib flag and had no luck. Do you know where I can find on...
From Vaisakhi Craft: Make a Flag

More Becoming Us: Adoption