[T]he article contained a quote that I feel personifies the entire problem in China:That's not necessarily an attitude limited to China, is it? We frequently hear the same thing in the U.S. about domestic adoption -- the child would be better off with adoptive parents than with a young, poor, single mother. That's the meme used to convince American expectant mothers to relinquish their children. And we saw in the recent reports from Ethiopia that that line is equally effective on poor mothers there.
"They're better off with their adoptive parents than their birth parents," argued Wu Benhua, director of Zhenyuan's civil affairs bureau.
To understand the problems found in China's international adoption program, one must understand the racial and economic prejudice that exists in China. Whether it is orphanages offering incentives to buy babies, or Family Planning abusing families by taking unregistered children, the subtext to all of these activities is that most in China's government feel that these birth families are unable to provide a "prosperous and happy future" to their children. A prominent theme in Chinese culture is the belief that if anything can be done to improve a child's future, it should be done. It is this belief that motivates parents to leave their children with grandparents while they work; it is this belief that motivates families to sell their children to orphanages that promise that their child will be adopted by a rich foreign family; and it is this belief that allows a Family Planning official to steal a child from her birth family in order to adopt her internationally.
Brian calls this attitude a "root of the problem" that leads to corruption in China, the kind of no-big-deal response that allows a government to downplay corruption. I was struck by that attitude in the recently released Unicef report on child trafficking in East and Southeast Asia, expressed in the question from some in charge of combatting trafficking, "Is illegal adoption into loving families exploitative?" Uh. Yes. (Look at that "illegal" part.)
Oftentimes, the assumption that children from China, Ethiopia, India, Guatemala, wherever in the developing world, are better off with white, middle-class, Western, Christian adoptive parents, comes from a toxic mix of classism, racism, misinterpreted conversion theology, and/or xenophobia. That classism is glaringly clear in the statements of the Zhenyuan officials. And yes, a Chinese person can have an internalized racial hatred for all things Chinese. And we saw in the story about "harvesting" children in Ehiopia the emphasis on adoption as a Christian mission, making it not life-saving, but soul-saving, as the objective of adoption.
Make no mistake about it -- children are better off with their biological parents. Adoption is a last resort, a response to a crisis where it is impossible for children to remain with their biological parents. Thinking of adoption any other way is simply wrong. Thinking of adoption in any other way leads to involuntary relinquishments, fraud, coercion and corruption.