Attacking Those Who Care for Vulnerable Children

Who would attack the work of a pediatric nurse practitioner who has lived among the poorest of the poor in rural Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who adopted twin Congolese girls whose mother died in childbirth, and whose organization works to keep emaciated children alive, with the hope of reuniting them with their families, rather than promoting international adoption?

International adoption–with its confluence of money, children, and inequity–can evoke terrible egotism and emotions. Adoption is of course a wonderful, valuable option for children who genuinely need families. But we have to create adoption policy with ears wide open not only to the experiences of adoptive parents, but also those of adopted people and first/birth parents.

In terms of international adoption, we need to listen as well to the voices of those in the countries from which children are adopted. Holly Mulford has on-the-ground experience in Congo. She’s the nurse practitioner I mention above. She recently wrote a powerful blog post mourning the deaths of babies who had entered the care of her organization Reeds of Hope (an allusion to Moses and the bulrushes). You can (and should) read her thoughtful post “Can family preservation programs and international adoption coexist at the same time?” here.


Holly dared to say out loud what is an unspoken, unpopular truth in child welfare: International adoption is far easier to raise money for, and is a far more popular cause, than family preservation is.

Prospective adoptive parents are willing to raise large amounts of money, in the range of $25,000 to $40,000, to adopt one child. (Many times, the US government then reimburses them for those expenses, including airfare and hotels, via a tax credit. Read my thoughts about the tax credit here.)

International family preservation, in contrast,  is not a warm, fuzzy, or sexy issue. Strangers gave some $80,000 via  a Humans of New York story about a family hoping to adopt a child from Ethiopia. Would they have done the same if the issue was reunification of families in a poor country?

No, they would not. Despite that, many people deeply involved with keeping children not only alive but with their families continue to soldier on, working alongside some of the poorest people in the world, believing that poverty (as huge and overwhelming a problem as it is) should not be a reason for a mother or father to lose a child forever.  Imagine how $80,000 could help desperately poor families keep their children in a country such as the DRC.

According to Holly,

“Family support and reunification isn’t well understood by most traditional aid organizations, and it can be complicated. It requires a deep commitment to family preservation and the inherent dignity of all families in DRC. It demands deep respect for Congolese fathers and their families.

It is much easier to fundraise for adoptions than for family support and reunification work (following the alternative care model) — despite it being the right decision for most of the children.”

Who would turn these words into an attack? A Florida attorney who is an ardent supporter of the Children in Families First bill, and who is the legal adoptive parent of a child from the DRC, which has suspended adoptions due to fraud and corruption. Her post is here.

Then consider donating to Reeds of Hope, to further their valuable work keeping children alive, and families together.








5 thoughts on “Attacking Those Who Care for Vulnerable Children

  1. Holly is honest and straightforward. The fact of the matter is that there are more good works needing to be done than there is money. Service to the poor always requires funding from the more fortunate. Sadly, many donate not where the money will have the biggest impact but to the cause of those they an most easily identify with (in this case, financially starve but childless Westerners who seek a child for adoption).

  2. Thank you for this! Holly is so brave for speaking out and Katie Jay is really does appear to have adopted an (ugh) ends-justifies-means approach to international adoption.

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