Issue #17, Summer 2010
U.S. couples adopting from abroad often think they're helping vulnerable children. The reality is more complex--and poorly regulated.
…the fact is that for decades, international adoption has been a Wild West, all but free of meaningful law, regulation, or oversight….Western adoption agencies, seeking to satisfy demand, have poured millions of dollars of adoption fees into underdeveloped countries….too often, induc[ing] the unscrupulous to take children away from families that loved and would have raised them to adulthood.
Corruption skips from one unprepared country to another–until that country gets wise, changes its laws, and corrupt adoptions shift to the to the next unprepared nation.
American perception and policy about orphans have been distorted by a fundamental myth. Many people believe that millions of healthy babies need Western homes, lest they wither in institutions or die on the streets. This myth is perpetuated, to some extent, by UNICEF’s misleading estimate that the world includes 163 million orphans. It’s not so. Most of UNICEF’s "orphans" are "single" orphans, having lost just one parent; others live with extended family. Most children in need of international adoption are older than five, sick, disabled, or otherwise traumatized. Many Westerners find it counterintuitive, even impossible, that the world isn’t filled with healthy babies needing Western families. It’s certainly true that millions of children are in desperate straits in benighted parts of the world: stacked up in brutal institutions in former Soviet bloc countries; roaming the streets in African cities; scavenging from Latin American trash heaps; enslaved in gravel pits in South Asia. Some of these children do need new homes abroad–because their families have failed, their health needs are extreme, their communities have cast them out, or because of unusual conditions like China’s one-child policy or the Communist legacy of institutionalization (in which workers were encouraged to let their children be raised by the state, in what proved to be horrific institutions). Quite understandably, fewer Westerners are prepared to take in the older, ill, or more challenging children. And so they put their names down for the healthy babies they believe are available.
International adoption shouldn’t be a way of finding children for families; it should be a way of finding families for children. The Hague Convention offers tools to prevent, police, and prosecute crime and corruption related to international adoption. But children and their families need more than police and prosecutors; they need the teachers, nurses, and social workers who help prevent them from falling into danger in the first place.
Tens of millions of children and their families, in desperate straits in their home countries, need and deserve assistance so that they can thrive in place. Defrauded birth families from Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, Guatemala, and Ethiopia may never see their children again. But surely the United States can work harder to see that such losses don’t strike other families.
Full article here; also see experts reactions ot this article here.www.brandeis.edu/investigate/gender/adoption/expertsrespond.html