This morning I was once again going through my blog logs, and I noticed that a site called Rally Ethics for Orphans & At-Risk Minors had linked to me. It turns out that I'm not only on this site's blog roll, but my series on the costs of special-needs adoption was also mentioned in one of their posts.
I'm flattered, and I'd like to give this blog a shout-out, because I think they have some valuable things to say. Now it's important to point out that I do not agree with everything this blogger says but there is one thing upon which we absolutely agree:
The adoption system, both domestic and international, is desperately broken.
Ever since I started blogging back in 2006 on my now-defunct blog, Navigating the Maze, I haven't been a big fan of International adoption. Now I won't go so far as to condemn people who have done it, but it's just that I've always felt that children within our own country deserve priority.
So this morning, when I was trying to think of something to write about, and discovered the Rally site, I thought that I should share why I think International adoptions are a bad idea.
No Guarantees - As with the domestic adoption system, there are no guarantees when one adopts from overseas. However, when one adopts from a foreign country (which usually includes an assortment of legal, cultural and linguistic barriers) there is even less assurance that a child has been treated well. Although some countries are known for their caring orphanages, others are not, which makes the likelihood of adopting a mentally and physically healthy child even smaller.
Family and Medical History Less Available - In the United States, most children who come into the foster care system have some type of history. There are case files, interviews with parents, and medical records that are provided. When one adopts from overseas, the family and medical history may be incomplete or non-existent. If one doesn't speak or read a child's language, important medical information may be missed, even if it is provided, due to poor or incomplete translations. A domestic adoption (even if mostly closed) offers some possibility for continued exchange of important medical and family information.
Expense/No Financial Support - Adopting from overseas is expensive. Parenting children is expensive, and parenting special-needs children is even more so. Many children, especially older or special-needs kids, require a lot of help, which falls upon the adoptive family to provide. If a family adopts from the domestic foster care system, financial help can be available. Many special-needs children are automatically covered by some form of adoption assistance, which often includes state-sponsored medical insurance. Although coverage under this system isn't perfect, it's better than nothing. Although many adoptive families go into the process at a time when they are financially secure, that can change. Having a little extra help, even if it is from the government, can sometimes be a life-saver.
Loss - All adoptions create loss, but International ones create even bigger losses. Although a child might be disconnected from his or her family and culture with a domestic adoption, at least some things remain the same. The child remains in his or her country, and a possibility of contact with birth family members still exists. With an International adoption, that is rare. Children lose not only their birth family, their culture, their religion, and their language, they lose everything that was once familiar to them. Not only do they lose everything, the possibility of finding their birth families later is very small.
Even when families are reunited, the end result isn't always happy. Sometimes linguistic and cultural divides make it impossible for the adult child to make a happy homecoming. If you haven't seen it, check out the movie Daughter from Danang. It's an absolutely wrenching tale of a half-American Vietnamese child who was sent to the United States to be adopted. Her adoption wasn't happy, and her reunion with her birth family was not, either.
Charity Begins at Home - Although I absolutely agree that we should help those less fortunate, I think the reality is that charity must begin at home. Especially during these difficult times where our country is in financial turmoil, we need to take care of our own people first. Yes, it's laudable to help children in need overseas, but we need to help our own kids first. We have hundreds of thousands of children trapped in our domestic foster care system, and those are the kids who need help first. Although one can certainly argue that many of those children shouldn't be there at all, the ones who are legitimately there need our help, first.
Loss of Resources - On an individual level, perhaps adopting a single child from overseas makes no difference to the foreign land. But, when these adoptions are multiplied by the thousands, the country loses a valuable resource -- people. These children are the country's future, and when they are sent overseas, their skills, talents and brains are lost forever.
And, certainly in the case of China, adoption has contributed to a huge gender imbalance. Although it's not fair to blame adoption for the problem, as China's one child policy and preference for boys created it, certainly adoption has contributed to the problem. After all, the majority of the children adopted from China are girls, and it provided a convenient way for Chinese mothers to dispose of their unwanted children.
Child Trafficking - The last, and probably most serious, problem with overseas adoption is that there's no way to be certain the child is legally free. Guatemala, for example, has been investigated for this sort of corruption. If you adopt a child from another country, how can you be absolutely sure that he really is an orphan, and wasn't stolen from his mother?
If you can't be sure that a child is truly an orphan, even if he's currently housed in abysmal conditions, are you doing the right thing by "saving" him? I'm not so sure. As long as he remains in his home country, there is a chance he will be found by his biological parents. If he is sent to the United States, that chance all but disappears.
And finally, how do we know that these children are really "better off" being ripped from their roots? If a child is loved by his mother, even if he lives in appalling conditions, isn't that better than being raised by strangers?
Today Is A Gift
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