What if every adoption agency transformed itself into primarily family preservation agencies that provided networks, resources, and services to help families stay together. Oh wait, that's crazy talk--you can't make much money that way. They would truly have to be nonprofit organizations that relied mainly on donations, fundraising, grants, etc. Oops. And families here wouldn't be able to have the sweet little "international" child they've always wanted and/or be the exemplary, trendy, progressive multi-cultural, multi-ethnic family they've always dreamed of. Oh wait, you mean they could adopt a child out of the foster care system here in the States? Oh, wait, you mean they want a baby or at least a toddler, and they want it to happen asap. I see. Oh, and they hear foster children in the U.S. have issues but kids adopted internationally are a lot more grateful and less problematic. Oh, I see.
[Side note: I am learning more and more that adoption and foster care in America are less than ideal, to say the least, riddled with their own injustices, disparities, and inequities. But that's a whole other topic better addressed by those who live it: The Declassified Adoptee, Real Daughter, or Life of Mom...After Loss to Adoption, I Was a Foster Kid or To Tell Truth-Please Stand Up]
Look, I know not all adoptive parents that adopt internationally think this way--and not all AP's seek after a baby or toddler-aged child. But, a lot do. I know not all adoptive parents view children in foster care in this condescending way, but enough do. And I know there are some adoptive parents that adopt older children or children with "special needs." I realize that, I do.
But that's not what I'm here to talk about, because the adoption world doesn't need more praise and justification. Adoptive parents don't need another adoptee singing their praises or telling them everything they're doing right. They don't need more pats on the back or handshakes or flattery.
They, and the general public, need a reality check--a willingness to face and acknowledge the disparities, discrepancies, the injustices, inequities, etc. that carry the thriving adoption industry.
No matter how you rationalize it in your mind to deny the truth, it will nonetheless remain the truth--that, yes, there is a relationship between adoption and child abandonment. Some AP's have convinced themselves that the two are not connected--and yes, you have to convince yourself of this, because the connection is otherwise obvious and undeniable ("If you build it, they will come").
And before you assume that I'm oversimplifying matters, understand that as an adoptee caught between two lives, two families, two worlds, I can't afford to indulge in simplistic thinking--which means, YES, I realize it's complicated. I realize that social, political, cultural, and economic factors ALL play a role in the root causes that lead to child abandonment. But I'm not okay with folks using these factors as an excuse to say things like, "Well, we don't live in a perfect world, so international adoption is necessary," aka, that's just the way it is, and you can't change it.
Look these mothers in the face and tell them that. Look my Omma in the face and tell her you'd rather have given thousands of dollars to adopt me than to help build the social, cultural, political, and economic networks, resources, reforms, and services she needed to keep me and care for me.
Change can happen, but not with apathy and indifference, not with excuse-making and rationalization, not with a mentality of entitlement that deems some more worthy than others based on perceived standards of wealth.
There are people and organizations (Child's i Foundation/Malaika House, KUMSN, River Kids, Rileys in Uganda to name a few) that refuse to submit to the status quo of excuses and rationalizations that produce nothing but stalemate and compromise--and as a result, they're making a real difference to help families stay together. But the world desperately needs more.
And I'm not the only one who gets this. There are actually adoptive parents who get this, too--who don't put up a wall or get defensive or self-justifying--because they have been willing to see and admit to their part, their role in perpetuating a system that favors the rich over the poor. They're not afraid to admit to their initial ignorance and do something about it. They don't need constant praise and adulation because they get that this isn't about them. They get that they're not heroes.
Look, I realize adoptees' experiences run the gamut, and so also do the experiences of original mothers and adoptive parents. But that doesn't mean we ignore the truths deemed ugly in favor of the ones deemed pretty. The pretty ones receive plenty of positive attention and support. They're not in danger of being neglected and ignored.
Family preservation gets an aphid's share of the resources and attention while international adoption receives the lion's share.
If we all want adoption to truly be ethical, we all have to be willing to not only face the realities but also to do something to change them, whether that something is small or large doesn't matter as much as having the willingness to do it honestly.
The counter I hear most often is that we need to do something about the children currently in institutional care [duh]. First, read the preceding paragraphs again--meaning, get the idea that preventing children from ending up in institutions is doing something about it, and even better is preventing the development of and reliance on institutional care all together by establishing strong family preservation programs instead.
Second, that "something" is always assumed to be international adoption. It's true, there are children in institutions this very moment. But how about giving kinship care precedence--how about tracking extended family and attempting to resettle children with kin in their own countries? When that isn't possible, then how about developing the support and resources to establish local adoptions within the community?
You see, there are alternatives to international adoption, and they're even better in the long-term for the children, families, communities and nations as a whole. Rather than taking away their talents and gifts from their home countries and taking their home countries and origins away from them, why not help these children and communities to thrive locally?--so that international adoption can one day be a rare if not wholly diminished practice understood for what it truly is--a well-meaning but misguided and misinformed practice that has led to thousands upon thousands of children being uprooted and transplanted from those who have not to those who have...
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As a related side note, how many of you would watch this video or the one featured below, and say to yourselves, these children would have been so much better off if they had been adopted to America rather than remaining in Uganda--because in America they could live in a big house with nice floors and pretty windows and have nice things and receive a higher education and so forth and so forth?
Now I'm not saying the situations in the videos are perfection, but they're progress and a step in the right direction...and at least these children were not shipped off like a novel commodity to live among a foreign people in a foreign land...
If you're going to say "love is enough," then let it be so not only when referring to adoptive families but certainly when referring to the original families--rather than the double standard that so often prevails...that is, love is enough when adoptive parents adopt but not when an original mother facing poverty, shame, and ostracism wants to keep her child...