I want to say a few things about the debate over international adoption . . . . It’s an unsatisfying debate, not because the issues aren’t important—they’re enormous—but because both sides are often less than frank about their interests. The people who support international adoption—and many of the most vocal supporters are adoptive parents themselves—are rarely upfront about the sometimes dubious, and often tragic circumstances by which children become available for adoption. It is, for example, a more or less open secret that people who adopt from former Soviet satellites are often asked to turn up with a suitcase full of cash in order to claim their baby. Even when the transaction is above board, it is still a transaction; wealthy, powerful people are getting children from poor, powerless people—it never happens the other way around. There’s a tendency in adoption literature to frame the event as a blessing, even as a miracle, but, of course, it only looks that way from one side. Adoption advocates need to do a better job of representing the other side.Reactions? You can hear more from Seabrook in this podcast, and on Wednesday in a live chat (to which you can submit advance questions).
Although no one will go on record saying they oppose international adoption, a lot of organizations are contributing indirectly to its demise, by pursuing policies that make it much harder to adopt from abroad. Sometimes these policies are pursued by children’s welfare organizations such as UNICEF and Save the Children, whose primary goal is to end child trafficking. That goal would be easier to achieve if international adoption didn’t exist. No one says that, either: instead they talk about promoting domestic adoption within the nations that send children. But the institution of adoption is nowhere near as well established in most countries around the world as it is in the U.S. and Europe, and the adoption of special-needs children, and children of other races, is even rarer. So, in practical terms, what you get is children spending much longer periods in orphanages and foster homes, where conditions are often inadequate, and sometimes abusive.
Still hoping for change
2 months ago