Saturday, October 9, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

From the American Anthropological Association, this article, Out of the Mouths of Babes: Children, International Adoption and Disaster Relief:
International adoption, a practice that arose as a temporary form of disaster relief, has sprawled into a global institution that arguably breeds disasters of its own and sustains inequalities. Just when it seemed the dust was settling following the January quakes that crippled the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, this August media reports surfaced profiling the ramifications of the Obama administration’s emergency baby lifts.

Under the humanitarian parole program, which suspends visa requirements in times of emergency, since January around 1,150 Haitian orphans immigrated to the US. Not surprisingly, because these adoptions were arranged with alarming speed, there were failures to check whether children were in significant danger, whether they were legitimate orphans, or even whether their proposed adoptive parents were fully committed to their care.

Not only have these failures left Haitian children in US foster care limbo, and unnecessarily displaced others never actually in harm’s way, but they hint at ways in which good intentions are often undermined by the cultural and structural variability of adoptions and orphanages in different countries and communities. While lawyers, adoptive parents, and governments have called for systemic reform to international adoption, what role (if any) should anthropologists play in such disaster prevention and rehabilitation?
The article concludes, "Hence, what seems to be missing from the debates about international adoption today is precisely the kind of contextual, cultural knowledge anthropology is known for, which could give life to children’s experiences, voices, dependencies, kinship cultures, and family systems."

I'm looking forward to hearing more from this author -- according to her bio she has been doing work in my daughters' home province:
Erin Raffety is a PhD candidate in anthropology at Princeton University. Her research considers the intersection between traditional practices of Chinese kinship and fostering with modern, global processes of international adoption. Her fieldwork studies Chinese foster families Nanning, Guangxi Autonomous region. Additional research interests include the anthropology of childhood, socialism and post-socialism, and the state and reproduction.


Sandy said...

I read the article yesterday and was encouraged and excited.

Von said...

Surprise, surprise!!
Good post! Let's hear more.

Reena said...

Thank you for sharing! Please continue to post more articles and research by this author! Our youngest daughter was in a foster family living in Tianjin. Her foster family indicated they could not adopt her because they already had one school-aged child. They also indicated that at age 14, children living in a foster family must return to the orphanage and start working.

Seems like big things are happening in China in terms of humanitarian issues rising to the global forefront.

Erin said...

Hi All,
Thanks for your comments and encouragement. I'm just beginning my research here in Guangxi, and I'm learning so much about local forms of foster care and adoption. I have a new article on Adoption and Anthropology that just came out in the spring issue of the Adoption Mosaic's Adoption Constellation, that I'd be happy to pass on if you're interested. I'd also love to hear more about your experiences in Guangxi or with foster care, etc. You can contact me at
Thanks for connecting with my research, and I look forward to connecting with you!
Best, Erin