After a church break and leaf raking party, let's get back to the task at hand, shall we? We will begin where we left off:
"Westerners have been sold the myth of a world orphan crisis. We are told that millions of children are waiting for their “forever families” to rescue them from lives of abandonment and abuse. But many of the infants and toddlers being adopted by Western parents today are not orphans at all. Yes, hundreds of thousands of children around the world do need loving homes. But more often than not, the neediest children are sick, disabled, traumatized, or older than 5. They are not the healthy babies that, quite understandably, most Westerners hope to adopt. There are simply not enough healthy, adoptable infants to meet Western demand—and there’s too much Western money in search of children. As a result, many international adoption agencies work not to find homes for needy children but to find children for Western homes. "
Let's look at these bold yet somewhat contradictory statements.."Westerners have been sold the myth of a world orphan crisis. We are told that millions of children are waiting for their 'forever families'..." and then 2 sentences later we read "Yes, hundreds of thousands of children around the world do need loving homes.". Hmmm...I don't know about you, but is that double speak? How can we be sold a "myth" if it is admitted in the article itself that there is truth to this "myth"?
As we read further it becomes apparent that the author's true concern is that Western parents want infants, not older children who are available in far larger numbers than the "healthy, adoptable infants" she refers to. It is very true that orphanages throughout the world are stacked ceiling high with older or special needs children, and it is also true that many adoptive parents are looking for a healthy infant for many valid reasons. I do agree as well that this supply and demand circumstance causes an imbalance and that Ms. Graff's statement that "As a result, many international adoption agencies work not to find homes for needy children but to find children for Western homes.".
While I know many would argue with this statement, I happen to find it to be unequivocally true. Having called no less than 7 agencies myself within the past 2 years to locate one willing to work with us on an adoption of older children which would require some legwork prior to the completion of the adoption, it became quite clear within 2 minutes of the phone call that all but the one we ultimately went with were immediately disinterested once they realized this was not going to be a quick, easy infant "in and out" adoption. The unwillingness to even speak with us about our particular and unique circumstance spoke volumes to me about how upside down the adoption arena can be, and that many (note I do NOT say "all") agencies do view it as Ms. Graff said...as finding children for Western homes. I will also say that the agency who heard my plea, Pearl S. Buck Foundation, is a long time advocate for children via international adoption and much like another long time well respected agency,Holt, it was quickly obvious to me that they were in it to help children find homes, not the other way around.
But there is one thing missing from Ms. Graff's attempt to present international infant adoption in a less than flattering light. Having adopted both infants as well as an older special needs child with 2 older children on the way, I feel as qualified to speak to this as any other parent in our shoes. I ask only this rhetorical question, what do you think happens to those infant children...healthy or special needs...who do not get adopted in their "prime" infant months? They become those older children languishing in orphanages! The healthier infants soon become "special needs" due to lack of stimulation and one on one contact, and believe me that can happen sooner than anyone would dare think.
However, that said, I have a hard time disagreeing with the fact that there IS too much Western money in search of children. Sadly, greed is a powerful motivator and when large sums of money are on the table for a healthy infant, there always have been and always will be people willing to go to great lengths to profit from the infertility of one person and the unwanted pregnancy of another.
But whose fault is this really? Is it the fault of the adoptive parent, that they are willing to pay exorbitant sums of money for a child? Is it their fault when they ask over and over where "country fees" go to and there is no real answer other than "Orphanage support"? Here is where I walk a slippery slope, I know in stating what we ALL have felt at one time or another but hesitate to ever say very openly. We fear that if we question too loudly, we will end up empty handed.
So, what do we do? Do we simply not adopt children internationally because fees can not always be justified? Or because we are uncertain where a child came from? If we were looking for ironclad evidence, I personally wouldn't have any of our own children home...nor would most adoptive parents. You see, it is not we who created the "culture of secrecy" surrounding adoptions, both domestically and internationally. If there was more transparency, more willingness on the part of birth mothers to provide more information upon relinquishment, then there would be far more traceable evidence and fewer instances of corruption. Unfortunately, many birth mothers are living in societies where the shame and stigma of relinquishment or unwed parenthood cause them to look for a way to extricate themselves from their circumstance with as little attention as possible.
"Since the mid-1990s, the number of international adoptions each year has nearly doubled, from 22,200 in 1995 to just under 40,000 in 2006. At its peak, in 2004, more than 45,000 children from developing countries were adopted by foreigners. Americans bring home more of these children than any other nationality—more than half the global total in recent years. Where do these babies come from? As international adoptions have flourished, so has evidence that babies in many countries are being systematically bought, coerced, and stolen away from their birth families. Nearly half the 40 countries listed by the U.S. State Department as the top sources for international adoption over the past 15 years—places such as Belarus, Brazil, Ethiopia, Honduras, Peru, and Romania—have at least temporarily halted adoptions or been prevented from sending children to the United States because of serious concerns about corruption and kidnapping. And yet when a country is closed due to corruption, many adoption agencies simply transfer their clients’ hopes to the next “hot” country. That country abruptly experiences a spike in infants and toddlers adopted overseas—until it too is forced to shut its doors. "
Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge that I do agree that there is corruption in international adoption. There, I said it. There is no way any thinking adoptive parent would dare say otherwise, and we all have read the widely publicized reports about "baby selling" from certain countries, which I think I speak for just about every adoptive parent when I say none of us wants to "buy a baby" in the sense as is being conveyed in this article. We realize there are problems with the systems and the lack of regulation within various countries leads to further abuses and to victimization of all parties involved...the birth parents, the child as well as the adoptive parent. But lets look at the hard facts of the above statements painted with such a broad, and yet misleading stroke.
Ms Graff writes: "Nearly half the 40 countries listed by the U.S. State Department as the top sources for international adoption over the past 15 years—places such as Belarus, Brazil, Ethiopia, Honduras, Peru, and Romania—have at least temporarily halted adoptions or been prevented from sending children to the United States because of serious concerns about corruption and kidnapping."
Does anyone see something amiss here? As I read the list of these countries used as her prime examples for this argument, I see the LOWEST placing countries in terms of numbers. Where is Russia? Where is China? Where is Kazakhstan? Where is Korea? Since our author is using statistics over the past 15 years to make her claim, let's see where the numbers really sit. If we take 2002 there were 21,100 children adopted internationally by US citizens. Following is the adoption statistics for the countries listed by Ms. Graff
Now let's look at the top 5 sending countries during that period not mentioned by Ms. Graff during that same time frame (2002) as having issues regarding kidnapping or corruption complaints:
South Korea: 1713
As I add up the figures, the countries listed by her as problematic I see that she is talking about 487 adoptions in 2002 from concerned countries versus 14,615 adoptions from countries that were not listed in her statement as being involved in accusations of kidnapping and corruption. While I hesitate to include Guatemala in the figures as it is indeed a country which in later years was found to have corruption issues, it is obvious that the vast majority of international adoptions are from countries where the adoption practices are relatively stable, where sadly there is a surplus of orphaned children residing mostly within institutional care settings, and where the process runs smoothly and adoptive parents can rest in the certainty that they are not adopting a child who was "stolen" or who was not truly "orphaned". While I doubt any of the three of our sons are orphans in the truest definition, they were unwanted, neglected, unloved and in desperate need of a loving home...I also lay my head on my pillow at night with no doubts at all that I am parenting a child that was stolen. Kenny's 8 years in institutional care with not a single visitor (with photos for proof over his childhood) as well as his own words attest to that, and I rest easy knowing full well that both Matthew and Joshua would have had the same fate had they not been adopted as infants.
"And yet when a country is closed due to corruption, many adoption agencies simply transfer their clients’ hopes to the next “hot” country."
True, true...some countries DO become the next "hot" country, the one where perhaps an adoptive family can move in quickly and take advantage of lower fees due to the lack of experience of an agency, or can perhaps receive the referral of a healthier child of their choice before other parents "discover" it and jump on the bandwagon. Quite frankly, if this hadn't happened to us with Kyrgyzstan, our family would be finished with 2 children as we did not have the funds to go back to Kazakhstan, doors kept closing in other countries, and when we first learned about Kyrgyzstan and jumped on it. There is nothing wrong with this, regardless of what the tone of this statement implies. We were one of the much earlier families adopting from Kazakhstan as well when we brought Matthew home, with a much shorter travel time and much lower fees compared with today. Could we have found ourselves subject to a corrupt system which over time has proven to be relatively safe and predictable (as far as IA adoptions go)? Sure!
Here is where the IA parent research comes into play. The truth is, that any well read adoptive parent can get a pretty decent idea of countries to stay away from...rumors fly on the internet and just as one can save themselves the heartache of using a dishonest agency one can avoid going to a less well established country if that is ones choice. If you adopt from Russia, China, Korea, Kazakhstan, or Kyrgyzstan you can pretty much rest assured your child was not stolen. Not surprisingly, in the case of Russia, China and Korea these are the countries with the longest history and the highest number of adopted children coming into the US. In the case of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan they follow closely with the Russian system due to their roots and again, once can rest fairly easy about children adopted from there. Can kidnapping happen even in these countries? Sure it can...but the odds are far, far lower despite the outcry of this article of the supply and demand creating this circumstance.
I guess, as in all things, it is Buyer Beware...even in country selection. It was the comment I made in my published letter to the editor at Reader's Digest when speaking about corrupt adoption agencies. It took only about 5 minutes of online research to determine that one of the agencies which was the subject of their article was not one we wanted to risk working with. If one does their research about countries by participating in online country specific discussion groups it also doesn't take long to get a feel for how things are going, what problems are arising, etc. What it DOES take is a willingness to walk away if you feel things are not on the "up and up", it takes an honest heart to move beyond your own desires for what appears to be a simple adoption and recognize that it might actually be YOU who IS taking advantage of a less than ethical situation and you have the choice to turn a blind eye or not. Of course, few adoptive parents would ever admit that they might do that...and therein lies the problem. Pretend "ignorance" is not an excuse, relying solely on your agency for ANYTHING...information, etc. is laziness on the part of the adoptive parent. We have been blessed to work with agencies who have quickly and willingly answered any and all questions we approached them with, including rumors from the internet about country issues, etc. There was no hesitance to address anything, and there was no attempt to tell us we should not look to outside sources for information. One of the first signs you have an unethical agency, in my opinion, is that they insist you remain uninvolved in online forums and chats, that you trust ONLY what you hear from them and they get angry if you broach a subject with them. Silence allows corruption, and that has been proven over and over again over the past 10 years to me as I have followed the news stories and recognized agencies who appear within them.
Well, I am done for the day...my brain is fried as I consider all of this from so many different angles and carefully read all of your comments. I hope this is proving to be an interesting joint discussion for all of you, and I hope that everyone goes back and reads the well thought out comments posted in response to what I am writing and what Ms. Graff wrote.
I will talk to you all tomorrow!