Now that you have all had the opportunity to read the anonymous comment and accompanying news article, I see that many of you already have responded at length to it...and I am glad to see the dialogue beginning. For those of you who have yet to read it, go back to my last post. I will be using this as fodder for discussion over the course of this week...there is enough there to fill a month of posts. So, let me begin.
Overall, as I finished reading the comment, I had to pause to think, to catch my breath at the truths contained therein as well as the over-reaching case made against international adoption. There were many generalizations and not nearly as many specific statistics to back up certain claims as I would like to have read, and yet as with many stereotypes...for that is what I ultimately and surprisingly found this to be, a stereotype of international adoptive parents and their children's birth circumstances...there is some fact to start with.
To say I was disturbed immediately is an understatement, and yet I did not immediately react, electing instead to let this all marinate a bit as I began the process of trying to see this from all possible angles. I felt my hackles rise as at first I wanted to jump to a defensive position, and then the longer I sat with my thoughts the more my posturing was deflated.
Let's take it from the beginning, shall we?
Before I get into commenting on the actual article, I would like to make it clear that there are really two individuals to comment upon...the author of the article referenced, as well as the Anonymous poster to the blog of the comment, whom I assume was not the author.
In reading the article included in the comment as well as the accompanying comments not attributable to E.J. Graff, there is an obvious bias from Anonymous towards domestic adoption over international adoption...so Anonymous is approaching this this with a specific agenda in mind. When you enter into something with a preconceived notion and a biased point of view, you tend to overlook the valid arguments in favor of the opposition's perspective. The comment from Anonymous at the beginning of the posted comment was:
Many children are stolen from their birth mothers and later adopted. This is why most countries are closing down their adoptions and adoption agencies are closing down.
Please read the Foreign Policy report on International Adoption.
and consider that there are 113,000 AMERICAN children in US Foster Care that are paper ready for adoption www.adoptuskids.org
http://www.foreignp olicy.com/ story/cms. php?story_ id=4508&print=1
Now, on to our first topic. Anonymous wrote "...consider that there are 113,000 AMERICAN children in US Foster Care that are paper ready for adoption...". It is true that there are thousands of children available for adoption here in the United States. No one who has adopted internationally has ever denied that, nor have we been able to escape the intrusive and accusing comments of strangers who dare to assume they have the right to make assessments of our personal family planning decisions as they pass us in the aisles of Walmart or approach us at our children's school functions.
What many fail to take into consideration is the foster care system within the United States is cumbersome, unwieldy, and in and of itself creates more damaged souls than perhaps the original reason for termination of parental rights ever did. In the past year I have spoken with no less than 4 domestic Human Services adoptive parents who say unequivocally that they would never again adopt a child within the system, and had they known in the beginning how troublesome and challenging the whole process would be they would never have started...and this is from parents who are quite happy with the children they ended up with. Their problem was not with the children, it was with how the process overwhelmed them and depleted them emotionally.
Let us take Anonymous' figure of 113,000 children available as accurate, and I have no reason not to believe that to be true other than standard statistical variation from year to year. Of those 113,000 that are "paper ready" as was stated, how many do not have moderate to severe special needs? One evening spent scanning through the photolistings of domestically available children and it is enough to scare off any prospective adoptive parent. As a matter of fact, I spent months scanning domestic adoption photolisting before ever even considering adopting from another country. I couldn't move past my own fear of the ABC lists of diagnosis that appeared with each child. Many, many of these children are irreparably damaged. Some are not, some can definitely heal, but they will require commitments far beyond what most parents will willingly accept, or feel equipped to handle...especially many first time parents.
I know not all kids in foster care are in such dire straights, and I have to wonder if the liability concerns of the system itself are not such that the desire to protect a county from a law suit causes them to list any and every possible issue the child might have, knowing that if they do not and a child ends up harming someone a law suit will ensue. While it is understandable to want full disclosure, the sword cuts both ways and if "CYA" is the battle cry of the average Social Worker and/or if children are being misdiagnosed or medicated due to behavioral issues that will allow them to be calm in a foster care home with parents who are not willing to put in the necessary loving time and commitment to get to the bottom of emotional struggles, or if diagnosis' are not accurate, then the person harmed in all of this "protective effort" is the child themselves.
More children are not placed in homes in the United States from foster care for the above reasons, but also due to "perfect scenario selection". Social Workers limit the number of possible adoptive homes with their own personal biases...they "think" a child would be best as the youngest in a family, the "think" a child would be best adopted by a family of the same race or background, they "think" a child should be in any number of specific scenarios and they often refuse to consider any and all prospective families because of their own preconceived notion of what best suits that child. It is one thing to look out for a child's best interest, it is another altogether to play God and make assumptions on what is a good fit strictly based upon your own "ideal" image of a family for a kid. We all have known of wonderful relationships in all walks of life which at first appear to be quite a mismatch and ultimately prove to be very fulfilling to all involved.
There ARE the obstacles of biological family interference and the havoc it can wreck upon the heart of not only the adoptive parents, but the child as well. To blindly act as if this is not a factor is being very naive. If our government truly wants those 113,000 children to find homes, my suggestion would be to talk to prospective adoptive parents and find out why they are choosing not to adopt through the system, find out what has and has not worked for those who have already adopted...and then don't ignore what you learn but instead implement strategies to improve how the system works. If this were a business, you would do market research and then target your sales strategies towards the consumers to lure them in, not turn them off. While no one wants to equate adoption and foster care to a business, one can take a business model and apply it to a certain degree. Yes, it should be child centered, yes the child's best welfare should be taken into account, but if your current system is not luring enough parents in for those kids then something is wrong. This is no an impossible problem to fix, but it takes someone willing to admit that the adoptive parents' hearts and needs should be taken into account as well and currently that is last on the list. That doesn't seem like the best way to increase domestic foster to adopt adoptions to me.
The Lie We Love
By E. J. Graff
After a quick google search, I learned that E.J. Graff is senior researcher at Brandeis University's Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, where she directs the Gender & Justice Project. She is a resident scholar at the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center. As a journalist and author, her work has appeared in such venues as The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, Columbia Journalism Review, Good Housekeeping, The Nation, The New Republic, and in more than a dozen anthologies. She collaborated on former Massachusetts Lt. Governor Evelyn Murphy's book Getting Even: Why Women Don't Get Paid Like Men--and What To Do About It (Simon & Schuster, 2005). Her first book, What Is Marriage For? The Strange Social History of Our Most Intimate Institution, has been widely cited in legal journals, reprinted for academic use, entered as courtroom exhibits, and quoted by government policymaking bodies. If you'd like to learn more about her you can see her "LinkedIn" page at: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/6/394/658
Before I go into discussion of the article itself, I want to make one thing clear to all who will read this...my statements should in no way be considered an attack on Ms. Graff where we might disagree, and as I write and process all of this I might very well find at the conclusion that we agree in more areas than we actually disagree. She is obviously a well respected researcher and author who is entitled to her opinion and has made a living trying to back those opinions up with hard facts. I am not a well educated person, heck I am not educated at all, so my opinions and thoughts on this subject can not be backed up by anything more than my own life experiences and those of the folks I have come in contact with in the international adoption community over the past 9 years. I have no facts, instead I have emotions, rumors, and our singular perspective and experiences to back up my statements here, so you can take it all with a grain of salt. I readily and eagerly defer to Ms. Graff on all researched items and statistics that may or may not be provided. Unlike "Anonymous", Ms. Graff puts her opinions out there for the public to dissect and she does so with her name attached, and for that I have great respect regardless of whether we agree or disagree.
Ms. Graff writes:
Foreign adoption seems like the perfect solution to a heartbreaking imbalance: Poor countries have babies in need of homes, and rich countries have homes in need of babies. Unfortunately, those little orphaned bundles of joy may not be orphans at all.
ALEXANDER MARTINEZ/AFP/ Getty ImagesWho's your mommy?: Parents might never know if their adopted child is truly an orphan.
Web Extra: For a photographic tour of the global baby trade, visit: ForeignPolicy. com/extras/adoption.
We all know the story of international adoption: Millions of infants and toddlers have been abandoned or orphaned—placed on the side of a road or on the doorstep of a church, or left parentless due to AIDS, destitution, or war. These little ones find themselves forgotten, living in crowded orphanages or ending up on the streets, facing an uncertain future of misery and neglect. But, if they are lucky, adoring new moms and dads from faraway lands whisk them away for a chance at a better life. Unfortunately, this story is largely fiction.
Let's take one of the first statements and examine it: "Parents might never know if their adopted child is truly an orphan". I want to clarify what we are all meaning when we use the term "orphan". It is an absolute fact that I think none of us would deny that most children available for adoption are not "truly an orphan". When I say that, I mean that they have one or both parents living, they have no been orphaned by the death of both of their parents. They most often are considered "social orphans", they have been abandoned for a number of reasons such as poverty, medical needs, out-of-wedlock pregnancies who still see that as shameful, and other reasons as well. The one exception to my comment is countries within Africa (yes, I DO know it is a continent and not a country itself...hahahaha! Had to throw in that for a little comic relief!) where the AIDS epidemic as reported widely in the media has orphaned tens of thousands of children, or where war torn countries have thousands of parentless children. But when we speak of former Soviet Unions countries, China, and others it is more common to find "social orphans" rather than "true orphans". It actually is quite similar to the circumstances of most children here in the United States, the difference being in the kind of state care being provided for the child...foster care versus institutional care.
Now, to take that bold statement as it stands, whether we adoptive parents want to admit it or not, it is 100% true. We are given documents by coordinators and agencies, documents written in foreign languages with translations attached, most often there is almost no history accompanying our child, and we are often provided with conflicting verbal reports of why the child was placed in an institution nor is there much birth parent history provided at all. How can we know if the scant information we are able to piece together is true? How can we ever know what our child's beginnings really were? Can we trust the documents we are given? Are they accurate? Was there no effort to deceive but was there merely no information available as is often the case?
The fact is, we as the adoptive parents are at the mercy of those within the system (no different than with domestic adoptions), we have to place some level of trust in those we are working with that every effort was made to obtain accurate information to pass on to us, that those involved are not only in it for the money, but actually care for the children they are placing. And again, just as in the US, sometimes that is true and others it is not.
Let's move on to another statement in the paragraph above:
"But, if they are lucky, adoring new moms and dads from faraway lands whisk them away for a chance at a better life. Unfortunately, this story is largely fiction."
How can I argue with the identification of me or any of us as "adoring new moms"? What I do ask, is that while the tone of this is a bit condescending, what WOULD you like us to be, if not "adoring"? Shouldn't EVERY new mom adore her child, regardless of how they came to her? Isn't the goal to create relationships that are alive with love and commitment?
I do tend to feel a bit uncomfortable with the "whisk them away for a chance at a better life" statement as it touches the heart of what I have long said and yet found myself on the losing side of conversations with other adoptive parents about. My children are not getting a better life because they are coming to America. If they had been born into families who could have lovingly cared for them in their birth countries, that would have been the best for them regardless of the relative wealth and opportunity that is available to them as citizens of the United States. I do not see material wealth as "opportunity" or even "better". But I DO see having loving parents (or parent if a single person) as something that every child deserves and THAT is what gives them the chance for a better life. Being a number in an institution is in no way, shape or form better than being loved and cared for within the warm embrace of a family. Period. Argue away on that one all you want, but I will not waver on that point.
"Unfortunately, this story is largely fiction." Graff writes.
Ok, this one I admit to having a real problem with. "Largely fiction?", as in almost all adoptions of children are invalid and never should have occurred or that social orphans OR true orphans do not exist in huge numbers throughout the world? Ummm...that one I am not buying without some hard core statistics. If it had been worded "Unfortunately, this story is OFTEN fiction" I would not hesitate to agree.
That is enough for one night, I will resume tomorrow and hope I see tons of comments as you all digest this, roll it around a bit, and share your thoughts. I encourage everyone to read the comments section and to add your own, for this thought provoking subject is definitely one that touches all of our lives, and is one not often broached in public adoption forums. It is too "touchy", and it raises far too many fears that none of us want to address. Tucking them away is much easier, but really doesn't help much to evaluate the truth of such issues and work to change the circumstances if necessary. As I write, I will try not to comment on each sentence, as that will be far too boring for all of you, but for myself it seemed that so many statements brought up a strong reaction for me so it might be hard to summarize and not act as if I am involved in a one on one conversation with Ms. Graff.