Thursday, June 17, 2010

Reunions, Birth Parents, & Money in International Adoption

At South Asia Wired, a woman who has adopted from India talks about cases of corruption in Indian adoption, and comments on the Indian family seeking a DNA test to prove that a Dutch child adopted from India is in fact their kidnapped child (I blogged about the case here):
The Indian couple say they understand that it may not be in his best interest to go back with them if it’s eventually proved that he’s their son. He’s a Dutch kid, attached to the only parents he remembers and can’t suddenly be expected to live in an Indian slum.

They just want to see him. And to keep in contact.

It’s indeed an incredibly generous and loving gesture on their part. But here come the what if’s again. And they were formulated for me very early on by the deputy director of the agency I got my daughter to explain why she categorically refused to give me any information about my daughter’s biological family.

“What happens when she’s 15 and maybe she finds her biological parents” the lady said to me. “And these people just see this girl who’s dressed very nicely and looks like she has a lot of money, and they start demanding that she gives them money because they’re poor and she’s their child. I’ve seen it happen before, and believe me, it’s very traumatic for the child to be put in that position.”
So the adoptive mom wonders if the Indian family is interested in a DNA test because they see the child as a cash cow.  And her adoption agency refuses to give information they have about her daughter's birth parents for fear that it will traumatize the child in the future to meet them and discover that they see her as a cash cow (and what happens when that child discovers that the information was available and her parents refused to fight for it?). 

Yes, it would be hurtful if the birth parents seem only interested in financial support from the child.  But that's an issue that can be dealt with before any meeting.  I think the adoptive parents and minor child (once the adoptee is an adult, the adoptive parents fall out of the decision-making) need to think about what they want to do about financial assistance for poor birth parents before meeting them.  And there needs to be an exploration of the birth parent's culture -- expectations of financial assistance will be driven by cultural understanding of adoption (in the culture, is the adopted-out child still viewed as the family's child?), of family dynamics (what is the obligation of children toward their parents in the culture?), and of social obligations of rich to poor.  That cultural understanding can help in shifting perceptions so that birth parents aren't viewed as avaricious schemers.

I've known adoptive families who do not want to offer money for fear of incentivizing adoption placement by other poor parents in the neighborhood.  I've known adoptive families who want to give financial help, particularly if their child has siblings living with the birth parents.  I've heard of birth families who are insulted by the offer of money; I've heard of birth families thankful for the offer.  And yes, I've heard of birth families in poor sending countries who see dollar signs when their child finds them.

But it certainly isn't the agency's call whether to share birth family information for fear of something that may never happen, or if it happens, may not be quite as traumatic or unacceptable to the adopted child as the agency thinks.



Tina said...

I'd say you about nailed it. There are a lot of people who will want to come down on one or the other side ideologically. the Birth parents would NEVER do such a thing or Oh this is ALWAYs what happens. The truth is each situation will develop on its own and the agency is the the one party in all of this that - in my opinion - has no rights. In the case of an adult adoptee their will should rule. For minors its more tricky but a unilateral decision not to DNA test is not fair or wise.

Mei Ling said...

In a lot of Eastern cultures, it would be OFFENSIVE to expect your own biological (reunited) child to support you financially.

Wendy said...

It is is NO way the agency's decision. The relationship between both sets of parents and the child is just that--theirs. When the child becomes an adult, it is their choice to make. This seems just another way to control the flow of information, continue with scare tactics, and perpetuate myths. As you know the majority of China AP's seem to buy into it all--not all their fault really as there is an ENTIRE industry of books, clothing, jewelry, "educational" materials, and now, even so-called experts to weigh in.

Allow families to have truth and then let them work it out themselves by making their own decisions.

jael said...

Mei ling - and in plenty it would be completely acceptable. It depends on the individuals, far more than culture. The same "risk" exists in the west, with adoptees who go to find birth parents who are very poor.

re the birth parents/money thing:

I don't think it's an agency decision, but having already experienced the sense of rejection of adoption, and - possibly - the idea that 'I was paid for', I do think it's something to be very aware of. (how's that for not coming down on one side or the other?)

Payday loans said...

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Anonymous said...

If I recall correctly, several years ago PBS had a special which dealt with a girl adopted from Vietnam who returned and met her birth family. In this special I recall how devastated she was as her birth family expected her to support them. Although that is not all families, we know it happens.

I for one am concerned about a family that "says" they will not force the child back to India and only want to reconnect. How does anyone know for sure that this is their true intentions? People say the right things to get what they want without any intention of following that path.

Am I suspicious, YES. However, I agree that every case is different. We don't have a crystal ball to determine what the true intentions of the family are, or if it truly is in the best interest of this child. I can only hope that all involved do what they believe is best for this child.