Children Are Not Meant To Be Convenient

Print This Post

4 Responses

  1. Rhiannon says:

    I think it is a thorny issue. Malawi, by requiring an 18 month residency for adoptive parents, is essentially eliminating the possibility of international adoption for their million+ HIV orphans. It is of course their sovereign right to restrict the adoption of their children this way, but you have to ask, to what purpose? Malawi is a severely impoverished nation, with most of the population barely eking out an existence. They can't possibly care for a million+ orphans, and according to many sources they don't. Foreign aid does. Is it a fear that foreign aid will no longer flow into Malawi if they allow foreign adoptions? Of course, international adoption can't help a million+ orphans either, but I think it should be an available option for finding adult-headed homes for these children.

    http://www.newsshopper.co.uk/news/983662.let_malawi_orphans_come_to_uk/
    http://www.stanford.edu/dept/publicpolicy/programs/Honors_Theses/Theses_2005/Zimmerman.pdf
    http://adoptingtheolderchild.com/2008/12/20/research-african-orphan-crisis-and-international-adoption-archival/

  2. With all respect, Tatiana, I think you are not representing the story fairly.

    It’s not about who’s view is fair. I think I’m fair and your fairness has merit too. So let’s look at it a different way. You said:

    Predictably, this is generating two species of asshattery. Species one: the sentiment that all international adoption is the product of the accessory-seeking whims of flighty rich white people. Species two: the sentiment that this is a terrible decision, because of course the child would have a “better life” with Madonna.

    I’m species # 2, though I wouldn’t say terrible decision but rather unwise. “Seoul” and you did an excellent job defending your opinion.

    The premise you describe and “Seoul’s” superb defense that an 18 month residency would benefit Madonna’s son, David, is hard to beat. Yet from the standpoint of how one ought to adopt and what’s “best” for the child (subjective), or how one must “prove” dedication to that child seems trivial in relation to the fact that someone wants to care for that child. Simply in virtue of desire, to want and to be wanted – for an orphan, does more good by default than the legalities created by a sovereign who hasn’t quite proved their own dedication to its citizens and children.

    My premise rests on the arrogance of the sovereign nation (Malawi) to feel mighty authority ¬– in its current condition – and use its sovereignty irresponsibly. The judge (and so sorry I can’t locate the link now) stated that Malawi has the right to protect its children otherwise anyone could go in and take them and catagorized that as an attempt to avoid potential “child trafficing”. Good point other than the fact that adoption is simply another form of consumerism that takes advantage of willing, loving and caring potential parents by making them pay for the one child in a sea of orphans and infringes restrictions that create unnecessary hardship for everyone. Is the right issue even being debated?!

    The rich getting the poor kids is not based on a kind of "holier than thou" materialism, though a good point, Ken. The rich simply have more opportunity. That's what's justifiably unfair but when the rich offer their riches, why the fuss? Adoption is based on love and that should have no boundaries in race, color, religion or nationality. With 2 million orphaned kids, why any restriction at all in terms of residency? Should not the restriction be to have the means and willingness to offer a healthy home for a child? Who exactly is banging on Malawi’s door seeking adoption that it’s such a problem to give Madonna Mercy? Kids ought to be given away to competent families who want to adopt them and love them rather than making a commodity of sufferage, selling helpless human children to those who can afford them.

    Absolutely Madonna can fulfill the residency but let’s get honest here: Malawi isn’t exactly on the map for its greatness. If it weren’t for Madonna, Malawi wouldn’t have the exposure it has now for the aid it gets. She co-founded “Raising Malawi” and without that, who would really care?

    Malawi is just another poverty stricken place with children abused because its society hasn’t gone far enough up the latter in means of creating proper basics such as education, food or healthcare. Madonna paid her dues in other ways to the community by creating a documentary, I Am Because We Are and awareness to the growing problem which brings in aid to children, even if minimal. She deserves the exception as would anyone else who invested as much time, money and energy to a sovereign nation that can’t make ends meet on its own.

    I agree children aren’t meant to be convenient but why make it harder when it doesn’t have to be? Children shouldn’t have to be purchased in the first place. Love if nothing else ought to be free. I commend that you are a father of internationally adopted children. But if you went above call and duty out of the graciousness of your heart for a country and children you know you could help that other people don't give a damn about and then got turned down for a residency exemption that seems currently vague in definition, I gather you might be insulted too.

    Madonna may be eccentric but she’s an accomplished woman who gives back to the world in the way she chooses. Her money and her right. Money affords her the luxury of asking for what others might not even think about. There’s nothing wrong with that. We’d all like to have what we want easier than legalities allow and there’s nothing wrong with trying if it’s a sensible request, as Madonna’s was. The problem rests on the system and not Madonna’s desires.

    I do enjoy your blog very much even though we see differently on this issue. Keep up the good work.

    Tatiana

  3. Ken says:

    Welcome, Tatiana.

    But if you went above call and duty out of the graciousness of your heart for a country and children you know you could help that other people don’t give a damn about and then got turned down for a residency exemption that seems currently vague in definition, I gather you might be insulted too.

    This is towards the end of what you said, but I'm going to address it first, because it is central. A great many people, meaning very well, say this sort of thing to adoptive parents, not realizing that for most of us it sets our teeth on edge. Very, very few adoptive parents adopt out of graciousness or nobility or heroism. We adopt because we want to experience the joys of being parents and have children as part of our lives. We see ourselves as the blessed and lucky ones in the equation, not the kids. And most of us bristle at any suggestion that we are saviors or heroes. That's because such sentiments are a path towards terribly dysfunctional relationships with our children — a relationship in which the child is pressured to feel he or she owes us some sort of debt of gratitude for "rescuing" him or her from his or her birth culture. That's a prescription for misery and resentment for the child and hubris for the parent. Very few adoptive parents are comfortable with people calling them noble — and those who are comfortable are viewed with great suspicion by the rest of us.

    And in fact, I did need to deal with a number of vague restrictions for South Korea and China. I endured them because I think that each nation should be able to regulate in the way it sees fit the way it allows its children to be adopted.

    . The judge (and so sorry I can’t locate the link now) stated that Malawi has the right to protect its children otherwise anyone could go in and take them and catagorized that as an attempt to avoid potential “child trafficing”. Good point other than the fact that adoption is simply another form of consumerism that takes advantage of willing, loving and caring potential parents by making them pay for the one child in a sea of orphans and infringes restrictions that create unnecessary hardship for everyone. Is the right issue even being debated?!

    In fact, child trafficking is a huge problem — and as a rule of thumb the poorer the country the greater the problem it is. The problem has reached a point that in countries where international adoption is legal but badly regulated, children are literally stolen from their parents to sell. That's the natural consequence of an unregulated "consumerist" approach to children — and to the attitude that children should go to whomever can afford to pay the most for them.

    Responsible adoptive parents don't pay for children — they carefully research to choose reputable, established non-profit agencies, where their fees will go not to "buy a child" but to pay for things like orphanages, health care for mothers and children, and schools. Our agency, for example, charges quite a lot, but that money does not generate profits — it goes to support private child and maternal welfare systems in the countries where the agency works, the first goal of which is to enable mothers to keep the children, the second goal of which is to place children with family, the third goal of which is to place children in birth culture adoptive families, and the last resort of which is to place children for international adoption. It's terribly inefficient if you want to treat children as commodities. But if you want to avoid the effects of treating kids like commodities, it is optimal.

    The more impoverished the country — and the more corruption it experiences — the more strict adoption rules have to be to avoid open trafficking in children, with all of its nasty effects (stealing children from parents, ostensible charities set up to deceive parents into releasing children, etc.). Malawi's residency requirement may seem strict, but is probably an excellent way of slowing down trafficking to the extent it is enforced.

    Adoption is based on love and that should have no boundaries in race, color, religion or nationality. With 2 million orphaned kids, why any restriction at all in terms of residency? Should not the restriction be to have the means and willingness to offer a healthy home for a child?

    Everyone would prefer if every child had a real home. But race is an issue in most societies, and it's wrong to pretend that it is not. You could bring an African child to America — or to Britain — and pretend that the child will be treated the same as a white child, but the truth is that people of different ethnic backgrounds have different experiences in our societies. Adoption restrictions are not devised to require a specific groupthink ideology about race. But they are, generally, crafted to ensure that adoptive parents have thought about race and are open to discussions of it. The first internationally adopted children to come to this country — who were Korean — were brought to nearly all-white Midwestern towns and raised under the pretense that they were no different than white Lutheran kids born in Minnesota. But society did not treat them the same, and the prevailing attitude that their differences (and the different way society treated them) ought to be ignored by their families caused many of them a great deal of trauma. Hence most responsible international adoption programs work to assure that parents are comfortable talking about racial issues, thinking about the type of experiences their kids will probably have in their community, and dealing with kids' anxieties as they occur.

    Here's the other thing about each child deserving a home — a Western family of modest means lives in luxury compared to perhaps 85% of the children in the world. A concept of "best interest of the child" that focuses overly on material wealth — or even on Western concepts of the nuclear family — inevitably leads to an attitude that children are better off with Westerners and should be transferred to Westerners to the extent possible. Long-term that's not good for anyone.

    I do enjoy your blog very much even though we see differently on this issue.

    Likewise.

  4. And because you see yourselves as the “blessed and lucky ones in the equation, not the kids” then you possess exactly that altruistic quality unconditional love demands yet few comply. It seems there’s a stigma here on the heroism aspect but I’m not trying to make Madonna or others into heroes but rather just someone to admire. The reasoning for that is I would never adopt a child and I do love children. It takes a rare person to adopt rather than have biological children, even with the aid of technological advances.

    The point isn’t to look at oneself as the savior to another. It’s looking at oneself as the savior *of oneself*; meaning, if adoptive parents do it because of the joy and desire to experience parenthood it’s logical to understand that it is in fact the children who “save” the adoptive parents. So it works hand in hand; the child and parents save each other.

    The way others view adoptive parents is out of admiration, or at least, that’s my view. If that sets a cringe up one’s spine that it seems like a personal issue, respectfully, because there is also a joy in being admired. It means one is doing something good, something others find positive example in and the world can use more positive examples of unconditional love.

    There’s also nothing wrong with nobility either – from an outsider’s view – so long as such noble nature doesn’t get to one’s head. Nobility simply sets one apart from the crowd and as having the qualities above, adoptive parents are set apart from the crowd. I think such words are better taken with a grain of salt. :-)

    As to your other points, many are true. It’s always society that’s the problem.