Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Adoptive Parents as "Victims" of the Earthquake

Trenchant observation from Korean adoptee at Outlandish Remarks about media focus on American adoptive parents as victims of the Haitian earthquake:

Sifting through the adoption-related news media from the past week, I’ve encountered a deluge of stories about the devastating impact of the Haitian
earthquake on, um, straight middle-class white people in the U.S., Canada, and
Western Europe.

My inbox is infested with melodramatic stories of good straight middle-class Christian white people who’ve bonded with “their” Haitian children through pictures, orphanage visits, and on religious missions. The Washington Post announced, “Prospective parents grow more worried about Haiti’s orphans,” and the The LA Times declared, “Children are safe, but US parents’ adoption dreams are buried in rubble of Haiti earthquake.”

“Heart-wrenching,” “excruciating,” “tragic,” “anxious,” and “fearful.” These are the terms used to frame white adoptive couples’ emotional experience of the disaster.
That focus on adoptive parent victimhood is affirmed in an interview with Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary Michelle Bond about citizen services in Haiti following the earthquake:

QUESTION: What about children awaiting adoption by U.S. families?

DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOND: I mentioned that American citizens who have been affected by the earthquake are our top priority. Well, American citizens who are waiting to complete the adoptions of children in Haiti are included in those who are top priority.

Amazing how her answer switched the focus from the children to the victimized parents; amazing that people whose dreams have been crushed under rubble are equated to people who have just been crushed under rubble . . . .

I have a great deal of sympathy for adoptive parents who have already adopted or who have already been matched with children in Haiti. I can't imagine how difficult it is to be in their shoes. But it is hard to think that their plight makes them victims of the earthquake -- their chidlren, yes, but adoptive parents, no.

I don't mean to make this blog all Haiti, all the time, but not only is Haiti the most extraordinary humanitarian crisis in at least a decade, with 200,000 people dead and 1.5 million homeless, it is also the biggest international adoption story in the news right now.

I wish it weren't an adoption story; I'm very concerned that the focus on adoption is diverting resources and attention from other vulnerable populations in Haiti -- the sick and injured, the elderly (click only if you have a strong stomach), pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, ALL children whose parents are no better at finding food, water and shelter than the extant orphanages there. And I'm concerned that the call for adoption as a relief mission will destroy families and further traumatize already traumatized children. As I've said before, the issue for children "in the pipeline" is a bit different, but these cries for expatriating orphans is going far beyond those already adopted by U.S. citizens or those already matched with U.S. citizens. A recent New York Times article mentions that among the 53 "orphans" brought to the U.S. through the efforts of Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell are 7 who have not been adopted or matched. On Twitter, I got this message today: "300 Haitian kids arriving in #Indiana, looking for host families (1mo min, possible #adoption opp) Can you help?" (The latest tweets now say that prospective adoptive families have been found for all 300 kids, so no need for temporary foster homes.)(Newest news, no Haitian orphans heading to Indiana -- wonder how much in donations the charity that floated this one made?)

So despite the measured approach promised by CIS and the Department of State, with only children already adopted or matched for adoption being promised entry visas, children are already arriving in the U.S. to fuel the hopes of prospective adoptive parents, without any check on whether these children are orphans. After all, as the New York Times article notes, being in an orphanage does not make one an orphan, and not all orphanages are reputable:

It normally takes three years to adopt a child from Haiti, because of a lengthy process required under Haitian law. The Haitian government has had reason to be
cautious; there are about 200 orphanages in Haiti, but United Nations officials say not all are legitimate. Some are fronts for traffickers who buy children from their parents and sell them to couples in other countries. “In orphanages in Haiti there are an awful lot of children who are not orphans,” said Christopher de Bono, a Unicef spokesman.
Please consider the real victims of the Haiti earthquakes (another earthquake hit that country today), and donate to organizations that will help all the desperate people of Haiti. Click here for a list of organizations offering aid in Haiti.


Anonymous said...

GREAT post! Thank you for it!!!

t~ said...

That was a great post that really gave me a different perspective to think about. My heart breaks for the children that have encountered this traumatic about PTSD...

On a completely different note, my neighbor is one of many who have sat in a hanger in Miami night and day since Monday waiting for clearance from the Haitian government to land their plane full of tents, water, food, medical supplies and they have been put off for no good reason. It's aggrevating to see all these doctors donate their time to help and the gov't act as if it's not needed. One of the planes actually got to Port Au Prince & had to return to Miami because they were 4 minutes late for landing. I believe they were all to make by this evening...finally.

Wendy said...

Excellent post. Many times people do not think beyond the photos and innocent faces. Of course we all want to help, but mass transport of children who are not "in the system" is not the solution.