Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Journey Aboard the Latest Babylift

The New Yorker, (the magazine known for its satirical cartoons) May 10, 2010 contains an article, The Last Babylift: Adopting a child in Haiti by author and New Yorker staff writer John Seabrook as he documents his ride aboard a military transport - just like the ones used to in the Vietnam babylift - to bring his new daughter home from Haiti after the earthquake, while along the way rubbing elbows with Tom DiFilipo of the Joint Council on International Children's Services - the international NCFA.

The journalist/researcher in Seabrook seems to battle with the "pushing fifty" wanna-be second time father of one son Seabrook as he delineates the history of international adoption beginning with the Holts themselves, and follows his own voyage into it via Holt International.
In recent years, many families have embarked on international adoption not for humanitarian or religious reasons but out of a more utilitarian calculus of supply and demand. Since the seventies, the supply of healthy infants available through domestic adoption has contracted sharply....Also, domestic birth mothers often change their minds about giving up their children...
Seabrook shares with readers how he considered "the identity issues a black child with white parents might face growing up in the U.S., and decided it was better to grow up in a family than in an orphanage" while being not unaware that "the gross inequities at the heart of the enterprise had become harder to justify" and  of the intent the Hague to try to place children domestically "first with relatives or through local adoptions."

He has read "acutely painful" books such as "The Language of Blood" by Trenka which he calls "bitter" and is aware that some international adoptees are less than happy with the 'choices' made for and about their lives. His professional persona is aware of child trafficking, kidnapping and falsified DNA tests in Guatemala, "baby buying", "corruption" and that "by the time [he and his wife] decided to adopt, in the spring of 2007" adoption had blossomed into "a multibillion dollar industry." 

But none of that can deter this man on a mission, like a paratrooper jumping beyond enemy lines.

Journalist Seabrook is also keenly aware that the UN, Unicef, Save the Children "emphasize improving social conditions within sending countries, rather than facilitating international adoption."

But he is also aware of the backlash from people such as Senator Mary Landrieu who has threatened to cut off UNICEF'S funding unless it changes its position on adoption which you can read about in all its glorious meanness here and he uses a highly over-exaggerated figure of 163 million "orphans" while his inner battle continues, pondering:
"The difficult issue is what constitutes 'forced relinquishment.' Is a mother who cannot afford to feed her child forced into relinquishment by poverty? If so, aren't all international adoptions of social orphans morally indefensible."

One can just about see the desperatly sweet little angel on his shoulder whispering in his ear as he and his wife "wrestled with the moral issue of adopting from a poor country." But it is the animated evil devil that provides justifications that are no less astounding than a sociopath with multiple personality disorder.:
"One can argue that no decision made in the straits of crushing poverty can be truly free, but shouldn't a woman, regardless of her circumstances, have the right to choose what she thinks is best for herself and he family?"
By that "logic" mothers and fathers who sell their children into prostitution re merely exercising their "right" to choose.

On a lesser level, this dichotomy and inner turmoil allow him to use the term social orphan and not be aware that the figure he uses represents 90% half or social orphans and lament that "international adoptions is dwindling because no one can agree on what constitutes an ethical adoption" as he carries away his prize?

And in the end, carry off the child he had prepared to adopt before the earthquake hit, of course he does, even as he bristles at the word "rescue." Because in the end he admits:
"In International adoption, a buffer of distance, language, culture, and class exists between the adoptive parents and the birth parents [who he didn't have 'time" to meet"] and, to be honest, that was one of the things I liked."
And so, after reading all he could and knowing what he knows as a reporter, he did it anyhow to fill his one "need."  Are we supposed to applaud him for his honesty, as is the expectations of caught adulterers who make public displays of their "remorse?" of having been found out?

No, this goes beyond sheer justification and beyond entitlement created by being "matched" with a specific child years before that child could be approved for adoption out of her country...all the way to pass me the medal of honor for making a well-thought out, albeit difficult decsion! And, in fact, along with the medal, be sure to add a sympathetic at-a-boy pat on the back for this gallant hero who managed to get across the finish line like an entrant in the special oly,mics. And let's be there to shore him up to withstand negativity all his daughter's life, as people are aware that she was adopted from Haiti in 2010, post earthquake....and the endles snumber of time he will have to assure people her adoption had been planned in advance of that tragic event and that makes it Ok.

The article is entitled "The Last Babylift: Adopting a child in Haiti."  One can only hope it is the last...

UPDATE from Seabrook's blog post on the same topic:
The people who support international adoption—and many of the most vocal supporters are adoptive parents themselves—are rarely upfront about the sometimes dubious, and often tragic circumstances by which children become available for adoption. It is, for example, a more or less open secret that people who adopt from former Soviet satellites are often asked to turn up with a suitcase full of cash in order to claim their baby. Even when the transaction is above board, it is still a transaction; wealthy, powerful people are getting children from poor, powerless people—it never happens the other way around.
E.J. Graff called him on his false statistics on the number of orphans and Tara Zahra, Assistant Professor of History, University of Chicago wrote:
The child-welfare organizations cited by Seabrook—the United Nations, the Save the Children Fund, and the International Social Service—came together as early as 1957 to create guidelines for ethical international adoption practices. They based these guidelines on their own perceived missteps during and after the war. European children, they concluded, had been too quickly placed with families in the United States for the sake of material advantages. In many cases, they believed, the children’s own parents did not fully understand the significance of relinquishing their parental rights.


Anonymous said...

ok... after reading your blog, I want to respond - I read Seabrook's other article "The Dilemmas of International Adoption" and when I commented they didn't publish it (It wasn't that bad! Scarcastic yes, but... well here ) As the (CA) Governor has said... I'll be back

Von said...


Mirah Riben said...


Thanks for the link. Did you register and login?

Anonymous said...

“We had never thought of ourselves as Rose’s saviors. We wanted a child, and Rose needed a family: it seemed like a fair trade.” Once AGAIN, Seabrook talks about adoption as a business transaction, a transfer of product… The terms he uses (“Korea was the first of the “sending” nations (a term borrowed from global import-export economics),” “obtaining children”, “dispatching orphans” to the U.S., “a major supplier of adoptive children”, the U.S. is the largest of the receiving countries) are so depreciating of human life!
Why does the NewYorker continue to give him space? Adoption is first and foremost about Loss. A Mother looses her child, and a child looses its connection to history. If only someone in power would see the LOSS, then ‘adoption’ would truly be about the best interests of the child.
And… he throws the word “orphan” around like it’s holy water. What makes these children “orphans” is Adoption – very few of them (us) are Orphans before they are adopted. Even when he writes about Ayida, he doesn’t see the tearing apart of lives. Even though he writes, “No one told Rose’s mother that we were leaving,” he ends his story with the fairly tail ending, “we spent our final night together as a family of three. By noon the next day, there were four of us.”

Mirah Riben said...

"Why does the NewYorker continue to give him space?"

1. Controversy sells

2. Adoptive and prospective adopters are where the $$ is!

Adoption itself, and all spin-off sales (books, magazines, etc.) are geared to the one and only paying client sin adoption.

That's why!

Mirah Riben said...

PS I don't think he think of himself as her savior. He thought of HER as filling his HIS need, and I think that is true of the majority of adopters. If they thought about saving the child then they might have to really consider what is in her best interest....and they'd have to think of all the kids they are NOT saving...

No, "the child" in adoption is there to meet THEIR needs, not the other way around, and dumped when they do not love THEM.

They pay for her as a "fix" for their empty arms syndrome...or in this case, for the want of a GIRL child.

RussiaToday Apr 29, 2010 on Russian Adoption Freeze

Russi Today: America television Interview 4/16/10 Regarding the Return of Artyem, 7, to Russia alone

RT: Russia-America TV Interview 3/10

Korean Birthmothers Protest to End Adoption

Motherhood, Adoption, Surrender, & Loss

Who Am I?

Bitter Winds

Adoption and Truth Video

Adoption Truth

Birthparents Never Forget