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.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."
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?
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.