I wrote about Stuck last week, the documentary about the need to increase intercountry adoption. I have mixed feelings about publicizing it further. However, as an adoptive parent, I feel compelled to speak out against it. I’m not against adoption–I’m against creating a culture of adoption. We can do so much better than that, and help so many more children, without adopting them.
“Stuck” has done well in gaining momentum and attention: heartwarming stories about orphans have long been popular.
The problem is that the stories are often not true.
First, as in this example about Cambodia, many “orphans” involved in international adoption are not in fact orphans. Another example is Haiti. Many children in Russian orphanages are not orphans.
Children around the globe who are called orphans by adoption agencies in fact have family (or village or community) members who could care for them, and keep them in their country of origin, with their language, culture, history, culture–and maybe even family.
Second, adoption is only one alternative, though it’s the one that evokes a warm response (or desire to rescue) and fuels the marketing fire of Both Ends Burning. There’s a much bigger picture here, if we let the smoke clear.
Many children could stay in their home country if aid or training were available to alleviate the crush of Third World poverty. The amount of money to keep children with their families is dramatically less than international adoption fees, which range from $20,000 to $50,000–to adopt ONE child. Imagine if even 10% of that went to training or a kickstart small business micro loan. Many more children and families would be helped.
Slowly, more programs are emerging to address this, and also to “re-settle” children with family members. One example is here, in Uganda. Mark and Keren Riley are doing amazing things there, perhaps most importantly creating a model that can be replicated by other countries.
Another viable alternative is sponsorship programs, which would allow (many more) children to stay with their families.
All of this requires a re-framing of thinking about adoption and child welfare services, especially by adoptive parents. We may be in the best position to advocate for fewer children to be adopted. This is not because we don’t love our children. I love my children more than I can say. It’s because we adoptive parents are in a unique and powerful position to argue for family preservation first, for children to be raised in their family of origin whenever possible. If you value family, it’s the only position you can take.