Keep International Adoption Open?

Is the best solution to the worldwide orphan crisis adoption? Many people in government institutions as well as many NGOs think not. There is a growing number of activists, non-profit organizations, and policy-makers who strongly believe that it is in the best interest of the children to try to keep them with their families in their country of origin. Obviously, this thinking is a utopian ideal, that anybody with half a brain would agree with. But in the real world, providing enough money to the countries, governments, and organizations that could implement these lofty goals is impossible.

There needs to be a way to make both ways happen: 1. Do whatever is humanly possible to support the families, their children, and institutions that can build schools and feed, clothe, and house the people where they currently live. Everybody can agree that once a person is fed, feels safe, and is offered a chance to go to school, their life is forever transformed. However, 2. Sometimes, in certain places, in various social and economic times–like this one–the next best solution is to do whatever is humanly possible to make sure that the children are fed, housed, clothed and educated in a loving and safe environment; and sometimes this means adoption.

Most everybody in the international adoption community knows how corrupt the system has gotten. Adoption programs are slowing or shutting down, as orphanages and adoption agencies are being accused of terrible crimes. In the wake of this mass cleansing that, God-willing, will result in a transparent system where money is not the driving force, the children will one day grow up in the place where they were born with the people who share their DNA. Until then, there is work to be done. And, even if not at a pace that appeals to everyone, it is being done.

The following interview excerpt of Kathleen Strottman, Executive Director of  Congressional Coalition On Adoption Institution, was published by author Erin Siegal, and posted on September 19, 2011.

There are a lot of similarities between the situation in Guatemala and Ethiopia.  First, you have a country where a large number of families and children are at risk due to things such as poverty, disease, and social inequalities. Second, you have governments that are under resourced and pulled in several different directions. Thirdly, you have a lot of interest from Western countries in international adoption.  What happened in Guatemala and might also end up happening in Ethiopia is that the number of international adoptions grew before the host governments had an opportunity to put in place a system to manage these adoptions. What is frustrating though is that this dramatic increase is not a surprise, its happened in other places and will happen anywhere there is a large number of children living outside of parental care.

What is also frustrating is that the pattern usually is to suspend international adoption, put a bunch of restrictions on who can run orphanages and when international adoption can be used and that is it. Not much is done to address why children were and are in orphanages in the first place or promote other forms of alternative family based care (kinship, guardianship, foster care, domestic adoption).

… in my view, we will live in an ideal world when no child ever is abandoned or separated from the family to which they were born.  Recognizing that may not be possible in the near future, we must collectively agree that the basic right to a family is as important to a child’s development as education, food, shelter and health care and support systems that protect and provide for that right.  That is not the case in most countries.

During our adoption process, my husband and I were told various lies that were not, we later found out, as devastating as many stories we have heard. In many cases completing an adoption of a child born in another country, whether she is a “half” orphan, or “true” orphan, is not easy. It takes money to discover a living family member, and, in the case of rural-living people, flown to the city where court hearings take place. This is just one of dozens of obvious obstacles that have created a system filled with seemingly easy money for adults in need of making a living.

Though it is ridiculously easy for me to see how the once-noble idea of adoption has become so clogged with immorality, it truly is not in the best interest of the children to–no pun intended–abandon them in this time of great need.

If you are a waiting parent, do not give up. If you are in a position of power, look inside of yourself and do the right thing. If you are one of those in dire need of a way to make a living, think of the children. Ask for guidance. Be still. Stay still. An answer will come. One that serves the greater good. This, I must believe, is possible.

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