UNICEF claims that international adoption robs children of their heritage and culture. The organization’s has staked out a firm position: children must be given to birth parents, regardless of the circumstance. In lieu of that, children should go to extended family. Next, to his or her “community.” Finally, domestic adoption should be explored. Inter-country adoption is “one of a range of options” according to UNCEF and should be turned to as a last resort. The organization goes so far as to claim that international adoption must be “subsidiary” to in-country adoption, at all costs.It's not just UNICEF that says that -- the subsidiarity principle has been a staple of international adoption forever, and is ensconced in the Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoption, a document so main-stream that it's been signed by 83 nations, including the United States. If you have a problem with the domestic-adoption-before-international-adoption idea, your problem is with the Hague Convention, not with UNICEF!
UNICEF declares that inter-country adoption “is not as a good as being raised in their families of origin but better than staying in orphanages.” That would make sense if the world was a perfect place and this Polly Anna viewpoint had any basis in reality. But that’s not the world, nor is it the reality of millions of orphans around the world. Shared DNA does not make for the best families, contrary to UNICEF’s claims. Children wind up eligible for adoption for myriad reasons, ranging from poverty to abuse to neglect.Huh? What is outrageous about saying that adoption is not as good as being raised in their families of origin?! Of course it's not! The best possible thing for my daughters would have been for their birth parents to have raised them, if they had been able. That's been the "best possible thing" for the vast majority of people on this earth in the past, in the present and in the future! I was raised by my family of origin, my parents were raised by their biological parents, and their parents were raised by their biological parents, and their parents' parents were raised by their biologican parents, and so on and so on and so on. . . . And would you like to know how many of those people were raised in poverty? An awful lot! There are 13.3 million children living in poverty in the U.S. Should they all be removed from their families of origin to be raised in "stable" adoptive families? Of course not -- we mean children in poverty in OTHER countries! Well, there are 1 billion children living in poverty around the world. Should they all be placed for adoption in Western countries?
And UNICEF says that adoption is better than orphanages -- how is that a block-adoption-at-any-cost position?
In some cases, UNICEF’s positions border on racist. In a position paper on inter-country adoption the organization states, that every effort should be made to keep a child “within his ethnic group.” Huh? Some vague notion about cultural ties should trump the basic human rights of children? For what end UNICEF does not say.Actually, culture IS a basic human right of children. The U.N. Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child all recognize this. So if you want to argue otherwise, your problem isn't with UNICEF, it's with the entire world!
There’s a disconnect between UNICEF’s position and the welfare of children. Somewhere along the way the behemoth organization lost track of advocating for children and began abstracting the issue.Oh, come now! You're being quite disingenuous here, aren't you?! YOU, Ms. Adoptive Parent, are a "stakeholder" in intercountry adoption, aren't you? Don't you want UNICEF to consider your interests?! Seems to be what this whole article is about -- YOUR interests over any other stakeholder!
You can even hear it in the language used in the organization’s Innocenti Digest entitled “Impact of International Legal Standards and the Safeguards of The Best interest of the Child in Domestic and Intercountry Adoption,” where “different stakeholders” in intercountry adoption are mentioned. Stakeholders? What about the children?
Aren't the COUNTRIES offering to send their children abroad for adoption important stakeholders in inter-country adoption whose interests should be considered? Or do you advocate ignoring their interests and simply invading and taking children to "better" adoptive homes? I think not!
And if you're not interested in reading someone else's cherry-picked assessment of that UNICEF document, read the whole thing and decide for yourself if it shows that UNICEF doesn't care about the children.
To promote its agenda, UNICEF points out that abuses have taken place with inter-country adoptions. They are right. They have. Just as they have and do with domestic adoptions, which UNICEF advocates. The Hague Convention was developed to provide guidelines for inter-country adoption with the hope of reducing abuses of the system and reducing the risk for child trafficking and profiteering from orphans. This issue so often raised by UNICEF is a canard. C’mon. Who isn’t against corruption and abuse?A canard? Abuse, including child trafficking and profiteering, is a canard? I don't think the author knows the meaning of the word canard: "a false or unfounded report or story; especially: a fabricated report; a groundless rumor or belief." She just conceded that abuses happen, so UNICEF also saying so is the OPPOSITE of a canard!
And if she thinks the Hague Convention has solved the problem of corruption in international adoption, she hasn't been paying attention. First thing on her reading list should be the article by David Smolin that I posted earlier in the week. Professor Smolin makes a compelling case, supported by evidence, that the Hague Convention has not fulfilled its promise to end corrupt practices in intercountry adoption.
What’s so disappointing about UNICEF’s position is that for years the organization has been a leader in child welfare around the world. The work that they do to help feed and immunize children is unimpeachable. And perhaps this is the problem. The organization’s success in this area has jaundiced UNICEF’s view on adoption.That's a pretty damning charge. Proof, please? If I were to say, "Adoption agencies don't really care about the welfare of the children, they just want to keep them healthy enough to be adopted so they can make a boatload of money," wouldn't you insist on proof? You certainly should. So I can demand proof when others declare, "Child welfare organizations don't want kids adopted so they can get boatloads of donations to take care of the poor orphans."
Arbitrary national borders on a map have become a greater priority to UNICEF than the complicated issues of placing children with safe, loving families wherever those families may be.You know, "arbitrary" national borders certainly seem important to us when we're trying to keep people from crossing ours; they only become unimportant when we're interested in crossing others' borders.
UNICEF has repeatedly stated that it prefers the expansion of social welfare programs for poor families within countries, so that children can stay in kinship groups. The practical outcome has been that unparented children are being denied the best homes so that UNICEF can score cheap points in the international arena about the insufficient aid poor countries receive. The pawns here are the children.Again, proof that UNICEF is trying to score cheap points and doesn't really care about children? Again, wouldn't you demand proof if I said, "Agencies and adoptive parents in the West don't want aid to families in poor countries because they want to have unfettered access to adopt children of poor people; they don't care about the plight of poor people, they just want to take their children?"
That's the only damning thing in this paragraph, throwing unsupported accusations about UNICEF's motivations. Arguing that we should provide more aid for poor families is actually a good thing, I think. Keeping children with their "kinship groups" (known as "families" when we're talking about our own, but talked about in tribal terms when we talk about "the other") is a good thing. Not allowing poverty to be the thing that tears families apart is a good thing. Saying that no child should lose his or her family because of poverty is a good thing. Kids don't really care about having "the BEST homes;" they care about having their family.
You know, it's quite possible to think rich countries should aid poor countries in order to keep families together, and IN THE MEANTIME, believe international adoption is appropriate in some cases. That seems to be UNICEF's position.
Harvard Law School’s Elizabeth Bartholet, an adoptive parent herself and a well-regarded child advocate, has publicly stated that “international adoption is under siege,” largely because of UNICEF’s unrelenting assault on inter-country adoption.Bartholet's position on international law and international human rights is not in the mainstream; it is decidedly fringe. Bartholet has even argued that baby buying is no different from surrogacy -- if we allow one, we should allow the other. After all, what's the difference between eggs carried by a surrogate and children already born to other people?!
In Batholet’s paper International Adoption: The Human Rights Position she writes, “Preferences for what UNICEF calls permanent family or foster care [in country] are dangerous. UNICEF’s argument is that such care could preserve children’s birth and national heritage links. But foster care doesn’t exist as a meaningful option in most sending countries – unparented children are instead relegated to orphanages. UNICEF wants foster care expanded, but denying children adoptive homes now because in the future foster care might exist is unfair to existing children.”
Yes, UNICEF wants foster care expanded so children can be taken care of in-country, wants domestic adoption expanded, so children can be taken care of in-country. So does the Hague Convention. But it also recognizes that when that isn't possible, international adoption is appropriate. And that's what UNICEF says, too!
The influence of UNICEF on the world community cannot be overstated. It has used its reputation as a leader in children welfare to lobby countries, including the United States, to reduce the number of inter-country adoptions. The results have had dire consequences for children around the world. International adoptions have plummeted and most countries are now closed to American parents.I think adoptive parents and agencies overstate UNICEF's influence in this area. There are way too many much more powerful actors in the international adoption arena.UNICEF is a popular bogeyman, but where's the PROOF that UNICEF has caused the reduction in international adoption? Correlation is not causation. As Professor Smolin says in his excellent article:
The current decline in intercountry adoption, and the recurrent shutdowns or slowdowns of intercountry adoption in many sending countries, are not caused primarily by pre-existing ideological opposition to moving orphans outside of their countries of origin. The primary problem is not ideological disagreement about intercountry adoption, but rather regulatory failure leading to recurrent child laundering scandals and other destructive practices. Recurrent child laundering scandals reveal intercountry adoption systems driven by a combination of profit-seeking and rich-nation demand for children. Sustaining the legitimacy of intercountry adoption under conditions of recurrent child laundering scandals is vain, as the claim to operate for the good of orphaned children is fatally undermined in systems whose “orphans” are frequently purchased or stolen children. Thus, preventing child laundering and related abuses needs to move to the center of the intercountry adoption agenda, rather than remaining a largely peripheral concern.The causes of the decline in international adoption are so clearly about corruption -- that's what's caused shutdowns in Guatemala, Vietnam, Cambodia -- and the special case of China. China was such a large actor, and I think we can all agree that UNICEF has little influence with the Chinese government! For China it is changing attitudes about girls and better economic position for many in China. That isn't UNICEF's fault, too, is it?!
The dark and highly influential shadow that UNICEF has cast on intercountry adoption has left millions of children around the world stranded, without homes and without hope.This is part of the either-or discussion of international adoption. It's either international adoption or orphanages. It's either international adoption or death. And how many "millions of children around the world stranded, without homes and hope" are we talking about, anyway?
UNICEF's figure that there are 132 million orphans is popular to bandy about, usually by the same people who hate everything they think UNICEF stands for! But that figure defines orphans as children who have lost ONE or both parents. When you really start to dig down, you learn that only 13 million have lost both parents. And the vast majority of those 13 million children are living with the surviving parent, grandparents or extended family (you know, the same thing that would happen with our children if one parent should die.)
If you're looking at it as international adoption or orphanage, there are about 2 million children in orphanages, and not all of them are orphans. They're there because poor families need help taking care of their children. So the alternatives are not what the author here suggests -- international adoption or a slow lingering death in an orphanage.
And before blowing off better aid to poor families and expanded foster care, you might want to check out this report, Families, Not Orphanages, which argues -- with supporting evidence -- that change is possible.
If you're interested in really finding out what UNICEF's position is, instead of assuming that whatever this author wants to say is true, you might want to look at what UNICEF actually says:
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which guides UNICEF’s work, clearly states that every child has the right to grow up in a family environment, to know and be cared for by her or his own family, whenever possible. Recognising this, and the value and importance of families in children’s lives, families needing assistance to care for their children have a right to receive it. When, despite this assistance, a child’s family is unavailable, unable or unwilling to care for her/him, then appropriate and stable family-based solutions should be sought to enable the child to grow up in a loving, caring and supportive environment.So you disagree with UNICEF's position on adoption? I don't. Disagreeing with UNICEF's stated position is tantamount to saying, "Get out of my way, I'm entitled to adopt!"
Inter-country adoption is among the range of stable care options. For individual children who cannot be cared for in a family setting in their country of origin, inter-country adoption may be the best permanent solution.
UNICEF supports inter-country adoption, when pursued in conformity with the standards and principles of the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoptions – already ratified by more than 80 countries.