Saturday, July 24, 2010

What's Wrong With This Ad?

This ad has appeared in the last few issues of Adoptive Families magazine, and I've found it irritating each time I've seen it.  Why?

1.  Can you spell commodification?

"WACAP delivers" is a slogan that turns a child into a package to be delivered.  We deliver the goods. Sure, the fine print under the heading says we're delivering SERVICES, not children, but the big print and the visual is pure objectification.  And the last line of the ad -- "Adoptions from China, Ethiopia, India, Kazakhstan, Korea, Russia, Thailand, and the U.S." -- continues the one-stop-shopping catalog theme.  And each time I see the ad, I can't help but remember that WACAP was the agency that brought Artyom to Torry Ann Hansen; she seems to have taken the delivery theme to heart when she returned her package to Moscow.

2.  Adoption = labor & delivery?

"Delivering" children is what pregnant women do, right?  So what WACAP does is the equivilent of childbirth -- adopting is the equivalent of childbirth.  The slogon subtly reinforces the "same-as" narrative of adoption. Adoption is the "same as" giving birth to a child.  What a comforting meme for prospective adoptive parents;  you won't have to worry about any pesky adoption issues, because parenting an adopted child is the same as parenting a child born to you.  No wonder adoptive parents are sometimes ashamed to thell their agency about problems or seek post-adoption services.

3.  Or is it take-out?

"WACAP delivers" reminds me of those people who talk about their biological children as "home-grown" and their children adopted from China as "take-out." Paula, adopted from Korea, had some trenchant words to say about this usage at her blog, Heart, Mind & Seoul:

Maybe it's just me, but there's something about that term that seems a bit off. Perhaps it's the visual that pops into my head of a sign advertising "Homegrown Tomatoes For Sale!" (it also makes me wonder if my "homegrown" daughter should call me Farmer Mom) and the way it strongly suggests - at least to me - that the said child is some kind of commodity. I guess I don't see it so much as a term of endearment as I do a description - for a product. And what about the kids that aren't "homegrown" - what does that make them (including me and my son)? Foreign goods? High-end imported products custom made in Korea?
No, Paula, it isn't just you who finds that terminology "a bit off."

4.  Is that a guarantee?

The slogan sounds to me like you're guaranteed a child, WACAP will deliver you a child.  What does that say about screening prospective adoptive parents?  No one gets screened out?  I know, I know, they only deliver SERVICES.  But is that what the headline and visual suggest?  They've skirted the legalities, but the ad suggests a different kind of guaranteed delivery that's designed to draw in prospective adoptive parents.

I don't have any particular problem with WACAP.  I was even looking at them as a potential agency for a special needs adoption from China just before China pulled the plug on singles adopting. So there's no ax to grind with this particular agency. The ad just illustrates so much of the bad stuff in the way adoption is practiced today.

I emailed my thoughts on the ad to WACAP when I first saw it (I was nicer than I am in this post!).  I received no response. And the ad keeps running . . . .


윤선 said...

Yup, because we adoptees are nothing but commodities that can be bought, sold and shipped in boxes, just as you would any other thing. 9_9

Dawn said...

One day I think (hope) even people who know nothing about adoption will look at something like this and be HORRIFIED because this is horrifying and yet there it is in Adoptive Families. AF has a responsibility, too. Maybe that's who we need to write to.

Bukimom said...

I agree that there is something unsettling about this ad, and I think your analysis is spot-on, Malinda.

But it is making me wonder something. Why are those people who adopt out of a sense of generosity/helping a child in need the ones so often villified here on this blog, while those who are "building a family" are seen as the good adopters? To me, it would seem that this ad would appeal more to the second group, those who are trying to complete their own perfect family vision through adoption.

Anonymous said...


Buying a child to "build a family" or out of "charity" is disgusting either way.

Adoptees are not mortar of which to bond you to your spouse. We are also not charity cases who want self-centered, egotistical, delusional, and just plain needy people to adopt us because they feel sorry for us.

This ad shows exactly what the adoption industry thinks of us: commodities to be promptly processed and delivered once the order is placed by people who are "paper pregnant". ((BARF))

Anonymous said...

It seems like one way or another any motive for adoption is going to get squashed. I am curious, anon and others what is the correct motive to adopt? We are starting the adoption process because we would love to have another child in our family and feel called by the Lord to proceed with adoption. We have the desire and resources to adopt a sn child and to give them the love and medical care that they will need that they would not be able to get in an orphanage. We don't see ourselves as heros or "amazing" or as "saviors". We are just doing what we feel led to do.

I see your point on the add but would like to note: We are using WACAP and we spent an entire weekend in training learning about many of the issues that go along with adoption. They strongly encouraged attending support groups and calling your social worker with issues that need to be addressed. They would never advocate sending a child back on a plane!

It is sad that this is not a perfect world but I am happy to serve a sovereign God who is at work in ways that I cannot comprehend. Who can make all things work for the good to those who love Him.

All glory be to God!


Sandy said...

So many Ads like this make me think of:

Georgia Tann - The Baby Thief and responsible for sealing records and her advertisements in newspapers to get your wife a baby for christmas...


The Orphan Trains where the kids were lined up on the train station for viewing in each town they passed through with flyers put up in advance. Siblings torn apart never to reconnect or even say goodbye. Farm labor was hard to come by and adoption was seen as the solution and completed on the spot...come pick out the one you want.

Adoption seems to be going backwards into what it used to be and that makes me very very sad and scared for the next generation.

And unfortunately with globablization the reach is even wider.

Bukimom said...

Anonymous, most of the adopters I know are not self-centered, egotistical, delusional or needy people. I'm sure there are some who fit into this category, and they shouldn't be adopting.

Jerri said...

I have a "friend" who posted to her facebook that they were considering surrogacy so she did not have to go through pregnancy again. I have no idea if she was serious, but the whole concept of posting that kind of statement has me dumbfounded!

Amanda said...

I completely agree.

This ad promotes the egocentricity (and ethnocentricity) of the prospective adoptive family. This ad promotes a child coming to THEM to build THEIR family--not a family being found for the best interest of a child in need.

Children first, adults last. That's what TRUE parenting is about.

Lorraine Dusky said...

It is so refreshing to come to your page--as a women who surrendered a child to adoption--and find that we agree on so much. If you think you find that ad disgusting and distasteful, imagine the reaction I'm having!

thanks again.
Lorraine from

Birth Mother, First Mother Forum

Amanda said...

Anon, there are both right and wrong reasons to adopt a child just as their are right and wrong reasons to conceive a child.

In my opinion, the one, and only, reason there should be to adopt a child is to provide love and nurture to a child who is truly abandoned or truly orphaned, when all other options that might be more preferable (e.g. kinship adoption etc.) have been exhausted.

I believe we should also work towards improving the sentiments against the poor and unwed mothers worldwide so that countries that need to will start to provide better support for their poor families instead of using orphanages to manage dependency--and thus reducing the amount of families and cultures separated by stigma and poverty.

Anonymous said...

WACAP has been using this ad for a long time and it bothers me every time I see it. My 8 yr old daughter from China knows that it cost a lot of money to adopt her younger sister from India, and has extrapolated that to herself and will say things about when I "bought" her, or when we "bought" her sister. She is very upset about her little sister, who is a very difficult child, and has asked me repeatedly to take her back to the orphanage - but then she cuts herself off and says that is not a good return on my investment! If she knew that I had found her sister from WACAP's photolisting booklet, aye caramba... I already do feel like I went shopping in a catalog and found the item that I liked the best and placed my order....