I have to say, right up front, that I think that everyone involved has the best of intentions. But I have some serious qualms. I can maybe understand the kids whose adoptions were already finalized being taken to their new homes ahead of schedule. But the ones whose adoptions were in process, and now the paperwork is lost? It seems to me that when paperwork is lost, that should be a reason to slow down a process to make sure everything is in order, instead of speeding it up.
And the kids who were supposedly abandoned? How can you call it abandonment when a country is in chaos, officials are finding it challenging to distribute aid because it's so hard to get around, the city has literally collapsed, and people have very limited ways of communicating? How can you know if a child has been abandoned or if the family is frantically looking for them and has not yet found them?
The whole thing makes me uncomfortable. Then, a few days ago, a group called Adoptees of Color released a statement that articulated everything about this situation that makes me uncomfortable.
But it also went well beyond my feelings on the matter, and touched on aspects of all international adoptions, aspects that I had thought about in the past, but not in that framework. Frankly, the statement gave me huge reservations about international adoption in general.
I've mentioned before that Torsten and I have seriously considered adopting, and are still considering it. I lived in Senegal for five months and have an interest in Africa, so my first thought was that we might like to adopt an African child. And as I said before, I wouldn't want to cut any child off from the culture where it was born and try to force it to assimilate completely to our lifestyles here.
But this statement had some really forceful language about international adoption, and it's coming from a group of adoptees of color--basically a group of people who come from the same situation that any child we adopted from Africa would be raised in. And the statement isn't just talking about Haiti.
Some especially striking quotes:
"We resist the racist, colonialist mentality that positions the Western nuclear family as superior to other conceptions of family, and we seek to challenge those who abuse the phrase 'Every child deserves a family' to rethink how this phrase is used to justify the removal of children from Haiti for the fulfillment of their own needs and desires. Western and Northern desire for ownership of Haitian children directly contributes to the destruction of existing family and community structures in Haiti. This individualistic desire is supported by the historical and global anti-African sentiment which negates the validity of black mothers and fathers and condones the separation of black children from their families, cultures, and countries of origin."Well. Those are some strong words, right there. And I'm not saying I disagree with them. I absolutely think they're valid, and certainly those who have gone through this experience themselves can speak about it and what it means and how it affects them in a way that outsiders cannot.
"We bear testimony to the ways in which the intercountry adoption industry has profited from and reinforced neo-liberal structural adjustment policies, aid dependency, population control policies, unsustainable development, corruption, and child trafficking."
"Our adoptions from Vietnam, South Korea, Guatemala and many other countries are no different from what is happening to the children of Haiti today. Like us, these 'disaster orphans' will grow into adulthood and begin to grasp the magnitude of the abuse, fraud, negligence, suffering, and deprivation of human rights involved in their displacements."
"We have learned first-hand that adoption (domestic or intercountry) itself as a process forces children to negate their true feelings of grief, anger, pain or loss, and to assimilate to meet the desires and expectations of strangers."
And I would hope that in our family, at least some of these things wouldn't hold true. We aren't saying that our conception of family is better; we're saying it's also good. A potential future adopted child of ours would never be expected to deny their true feelings and emotions about their history and their family. But certainly, there's a broader culture and framework to all this that anyone who adopts internationally has to buy into, at least to a certain extent.
Frankly, reading this statement made me not want to adopt a child, ever, and certainly not internationally. It has definitely given me reservations that I didn't have before. It seems that the whole adoption experience is fraught with landmines. And I can only imagine how hurt and sad I would feel as the parent of one of these children to read these strong words written about their experience, and to know that they felt this way.
And I don't know if there's a way to stop it. Perhaps I'm over-thinking this, but this has certainly opened my eyes to a whole new dimension of international adoption, all international adoption, and probably some (or all) domestic adoptions as well.
I've always felt that conceiving a child is a somewhat selfish, though completely justifiable (I do plan on doing it myself, after all) act when there are so many children in the world who need homes. But of course adoption is never easy. It's not simple, it's not quick, it's not cheap, and there are all these moral questions and complicated emotional issues to address.
I guess it always seemed to me that adoption was a good thing to do, not that it is noble and selfless (as, after all, you are fulfilling your own desire to parent a child, or multiple children), but that it benefits everyone involved. And now I'm not so sure about that.
I am thinking, though, that if we do adopt a child, it will be through the U.S. foster system. We've both been thinking that for awhile, and this statement certainly makes me lean more in that direction. Not that that process would be without its own issues and concerns, because of course it would. But right now it's looking like the most palatable option to me.
Or maybe I'm just running away from the problem. One new perspective and I give up on the whole thing? Is that what's happening? I really don't know.