Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nature v. Nurture Debate to Adoptees

From the Independent, Who Made Me What I Am?, by an adult adoptee:
Last week, as I sat in a queue at a petrol station wondering why everyone in front of me seemed to be moving in slow motion, I realised I can no longer deny my husband's claims that I'm impatient. Perhaps it's in my nature, I pondered. My dad twitches at the very sight of a queue.

The "nature versus nurture" debate is never far from your mind when you're adopted. Most children spend their childhoods (and sometimes their adulthoods) being told they have their dad's brains, their mum's sociability and/or a whole host of other traits, but adopted people often stop to wonder where they get their characteristics from and how different they might be if they'd grown up with their birth parents.

My natural parents were teenagers when I was born and in 1970, that generally meant one thing: adoption. My adoptive parents were always open about it and from early on, I felt it explained why I loved my mum, dad and brother but I didn't feel like them

* * *

It's not that I expected families to be clones. But I noticed that even in other homes where personalities were poles apart, there was a way of being that made them identifiable as a family. Ours had this feeling of four random people thrown together – which, I suppose when you have no shared DNA, is exactly what it is.

* * *

No prizes, then, for guessing where I sat in the nature/nurture debate during my twenties. In fact, I began to feel something of an authority on the subject when it came up in social conversation. For most people, I explained, it's an abstract concept, impossible to pick apart. For me, it was both real and tested.

But then things changed. Friends increasingly pointed out that, unlike many of them, I'd always been quite responsible with money. I realised I had exactly the same attitude to working, spending and saving as my parents – far more so than in my birth family. In fact, when I stopped to think about it, a lot of my values were the same as theirs. When I went away for weekends with my mum, I noticed how easily we would chat on most issues – because, I realised, we had a similar outlook on many things. My mum, meanwhile, has always said I'm like my dad, who died two years ago. "I don't think so," was always my stock response, wondering what planet she was on, but I've come to see that I do have many of his principles, traits and aspirations.
The author does a good job exploring the gray areas;  not surprising, nature v. nurture isn't really an either/or thing, including references to experts as well as explorations of her own life.

Love and Legislation: The International Politics of Inter-country Adoption

That's a title of this post from the Carnegie Council, self-dubbed "The Voice for Ethics in International Affairs."  Wow, I was excited to see it -- finally! an organization touting ethics in international affairs was going to tackle international adoption!  I couldn't wait to read it.  And then comes the first paragraph:
Probably not since the first wave of inter-country adoptions took place in the aftermath of the Korean War has there been so much attention focused upon the very personal decision of taking a child from one country, and placing him/her permanently within a family in another. Between 1999 and 2010, 224,615 children—often girls, and most aged two and under—were adopted into the United States,1 whilst overall, Sweden, Ireland, and Spain lead the field in terms of inter-country adoptions per 100,00 inhabitants in each country (10.18, 9.45 and 7.79 respectively).
Umm.  Are you seeing the same thing I am?  IA as a "very personal decision," not as something systemic taking place on the international stage. And the only personal decision about taking a child is the adoptive parents'. So just how adoptive-parent-centric is this piece going to be? The next sentence helps us there: the very bland, "taking a child from one country, and placing him/her permanenty within a family in another."  Is it just me, or are we ignoring what might cause a child to be taken from one country -- HER country?  Is it just me, or is there no family she loses in HER country?

OK, I won't judge from the first paragraph.  Let's keep reading:
In an increasingly celebrity-obsessed culture, inter-country adoption can appear to demonstrate the very worst of what wealth and fame can bring—the ability to treat children as commodities, "buying" them to create not only the family that you desire, but the one that publicly appears to elevate the adopter to some form of "saintly" status. It may also appear to imply neo-colonialism, with the common assumption that inter-country adoption implies that a child is "saved" from a poor country by bringing it up in a rich one.
Well, that's more like it!  those are some ethical issues worth discussing -- the commodification of children, the wealthy white world adopting brown babies from poor countries.  But then we find out it isn't any of those things!
Behind such appearances, however, is the real story of inter-country adoption—and it is a story that demonstrates a number of things that are of significance not only to each family touched by adoption, but also to the wider discourse of international affairs, and to the ethical dilemmas that surround it. In an era supposedly characterized by a desire for pluralism, multi-culturalism, and hybridity, the many dilemmas of inter-country adoption demonstrate how far we have come, but also how far we still have to go.
OK, I'll accept a discussion of "things that are of significance not only to each family touched by adoption, but also to the wider discourse of international affairs, and to the ethical dilemmas that surround it."  But guess what?  No such discussion ever comes.  What comes next is a discussion of children who will never be adopted -- ok, that sounds good, since ethics in adoption should care about the orphans left behind, right?
Although the number of inter-country adoptions is certainly large, the figures should be seen in proportion. UNICEF estimates suggest that there are around 140 million children who have lost at least one parent, whether as a result of poverty, conflict, or disease. The greatest proportion of these children live in Africa, whilst the largest numbers of orphans are in Asia.

For the vast majority of these children, adoption is not an option, whether because it is unnecessary—they may still be being cared for within their families, whether by their surviving parent or by extended family; because it is unlikely—some children may be seen as "unadoptable" for a variety of reasons, such as age, disability, or HIV status; or because it is impossible, for example in societies where there is no history of adoption or where the societal infrastructure cannot support it. Where it works, however, it seems that inter-country adoption can actually help to change the culture of adoption in the adoptees' native country, so that in the longer term more children are cared for within their own communities. In China, for example, there is now evidence that as the number of inter-country adoptions has increased so has the number of Chinese families willing to consider domestic adoption.
NOTHING about doing anything to help unadoptable orphans, to help partial orphans cared for by family members.  We just have to think international adoption is a good thing because it has spurred some domestic adoption in some countries.  Great.

Then we have a long and nothing new discussion of the Hague Convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, about how the objectives of these treaties is to ensure ethics in adoption. We can nut it down to 2 points:  1. the Hague is a good idea; 2. but lots of ethical adoptions happen without the Hague. Well, that really touts the value of the Hague, doesn't it?!

And then the rest of the post is the sadly familiar critiques of UNICEF:
The debate surrounding inter-country adoption is not made any clearer by the somewhat negative tone that some of the most powerful intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (NGO's) that advocate for children assume in their views.
Sigh. So much promise, so much potential for an organization dedicated to international ethics to address the many real ethical issues in adoption.  And they blew it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Between Power and Weakness: U.S. v. Guatemala

An essay at Huffington Post by Jacob Wheeler, author of Between Light and Shadow: A Guatemalan Girl's Journey Through Adoption, reacting to the court order that American adoptive parent return their adopted child to the mother from whom she was kidnapped:
Judge Hernandez has given the Monahans 60 days to hand over the girl, and threatened to call the international police agency Interpol if they do not. And that's where the linear story ends. The Monahans' intentions are unknown, but if you honestly think that a judge in small and powerless Guatemala can successfully order a family in the mighty United States to relinquish their child, then you haven't studied the grotesquely one-sided history of U.S.-Guatemala relations.

It was we yanquis who executed a coup d'etat in 1954 to remove democratically-elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz; used the beautiful countryside as our own banana republic during the Cold War; armed and trained its right-wing military during the brutal, 36-year civil war to further our own foreign policy goals; and forced the CAFTA free trade deal down the throats of Guatemala City's powers-that-be last decade.

The most recent chapter in the unequal relationship between the United States and Guatemala is about international adoption. Last decade, Guatemala became the largest "sending country" in the world for adopted children. Nearly 20,000 Guatemalan children were adopted by American families between 2004 and 2008, and a full 1 percent of all babies born in 2007 in "the land of eternal spring" were relinquished by their birth mothers and adopted abroad.
In the essay, he recounts an episode from his book, when a child adopted at 7 from Guatemala returns at 14 to meet her birth family.  He says he was reminded of the episode by the story of Anyeli/Karen Abigail, ordered by the Guatemalan court to be returned to her biological family:
Of course the girl will return to the United States with Judy on Thursday... The match today here in this jungle in Central America was not going to be fair. In fact, it was fixed to begin with. Two poor Guatemalan boys with no money, no resources, and no valuable passports never really stood a chance against a middle-class white woman from the United States when it came to fighting over the 14-year-old girl they all love and need so badly. At the end of this week Guatemala's most valuable natural resources, its children, will still be leaving the country on airplanes for El Norte, and this particular case will be no different. At the end of the month, Guatemala's role will still be one of subservience to the United States of America.
To the extent that he is prognosticating the fate of Anyeli/Karen Abigail, all I have to say is that I'm afraid he's probably right.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It's Planned Parenthood's Fault

What isn't these days, right?  But I'm referencing a blog post at Family Research Council blaming Planned Parenthood for the "decrease in the number of birth moms."  The American Independent does a good job of debunking these frequently-trotted out myths:
A Monday blog entry posted by Family Research Council Action references a media account of how adoption is changing due to technology, but FRCA omits the portion about technology and instead attempts to make the leap that a lack of birth mothers is due to abortion services, and specifically due the presence of Planned Parenthood.

The FRC report, authored by Nick Frase, links to a news report in the Merrillville, Ind.-based Post-Tribune that discusses how the Internet has changed adoptions, but pulls only five paragraphs from an interview with the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Gary in which the charity expressed its hope that a legislative effort to defund Planned Parenthood would have brought more birth mothers.
… However, shortly after the state Legislature adjourned, Planned Parenthood of Indiana successfully sought a preliminary injunction barring much of the law from being enforced. The state is appealing.
“We have not seen an increase [in birth mothers] with that yet,” Kavanaugh said. “Hopefully in the near future we will.” …
The FRC blog includes a section in which the Catholic Charities are described as “one of the largest child placing agencies in northwest Indiana,” but cuts the sentence directly below that states “usually, the not-for-profit has placed 10 babies by now, and averages between 10 and 15 placements a year … This year, they’ve had one as of mid-July.”
And, later in the same news report linked by FRCA, Tina Sanchez-Wright, founder and director of Adoptions and Family Support Network, is interviewed and provides a completely different perspective for what is happening with adoptions in Indiana and throughout the nation.
… “What I’m seeing compared to adoption 10 years ago is I don’t know if there’s been a decrease in birth moms so much as they are finding their own families. They aren’t going through agencies anymore,” Sanchez-Wright said. … Before the Internet, Sanchez-Wright believes more birth moms relied on agencies because they didn’t know where to turn. Now some of her families are receiving calls from moms out of state.
“Adoption is more out in the open. People talk about it and know more about it. They know someone who did it or is adopted,” Sanchez-Wright said. “So people, and with the Internet, they are very savvy about getting the help they need or finding a family. We’re seeing more of that.” …
Frase, writing on behalf of FRC Action, paints a horrible picture of a multitude of families “anxiously” waiting to adopt children. The families, he says, are not only “thwarted by Planned Parenthood,” but to “make matters worse, they’re using their tax dollars to do it.”
In a press release distributed by the Indiana Department of Child Services on Aug. 9, the state agency notes that there are no shortages of children waiting on adoptive parents.
… The [photography] exhibit, called the Heart Gallery, is an initiative of the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS). Its mission is to raise awareness about the approximately 250 Hoosier children currently in foster care still in need of a forever home.
… On any given day, over 400,000 children in America live in foster care due to abuse and neglect. Every year, approximately 30,000 young people leave the foster care system without lifelong families-most at age 18. On their own, these young adults must navigate a weakened economy offering fewer jobs and less support for vital services such as housing. They need and deserve caring adults who love and support them . . .
I've posted before about the false link between abortion and adoption. And the myth goes on. . . .

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Genes Trump Lifestyle in Coronary Disease

Well, here's a good argument for knowing your biological family:
It has long been known that hereditary factors play a role in coronary heart disease. However, it has been unclear whether the increased risk is transferred through the genes or through an unhealthy lifestyle in the family. A new study from the Center for Primary Health Care Research in Sweden, published in the American Heart Journal, shows that genes appear to be most important.

The researchers, led by Professor Kristina Sundquist, studied people who had been adopted and compared them with both their biological and their adoptive parents. The Swedish multi-generation register and the in-patient care register were used to follow 80,214 adopted men and women. They were all born in 1932 or later and developed coronary heart disease between 1973 and 2008. Using the registers, the researchers also studied the adoptive parents and biological parents over the same period.
The risk of coronary heart disease in adopted individuals who had at least one biological parent with coronary heart disease was 40-60% higher than that of a control group. There was no increased risk in individuals whose adoptive parents suffered from coronary heart disease, not even if both adoptive parents had the disease.

"The results of our studies suggest that the risk of coronary heart disease is not transferred via an unhealthy lifestyle in the family, but rather via the genes," says Kristina Sundquist, a professor at the Center for Primary Health Care Research in Malmö, Sweden.
All those "I don't know" answers that adoptees have to put on family medical history forms can be dangerous -- a strong argument for opening adoption records.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen!

OK, I bet this is something we can all chime in on -- what were your never-gonna-happen parenting moments that rapidly fell by the wayside?
I can give you two examples, my first and my latest.  First, I never understood why parents would let their little ones wear an unsnapped onesie.  I mean, how hard could it be to just finish up the diaper job and snap the sucker?!  Well, that one brought me to my knees before ever leaving China with Zoe.  After wrestling a diaper onto her wiggly butt, I was too worn out to care that she was wandering around with that ridiculous-looking hang-down of an unsnapped onesie!  She had the diaper on so she wouldn't pee on the floor, and beyond that, who cared?!

My latest example:  graphic novels.  Yes, glorified comic books.  Oh, how I've reacted with scorn to parents buying their kids graphic novels instead of REAL books!  Now, Zoe has a complete obsession with graphic novels -- Amelia Rules, Ellie McDoodle, Smile, Amulet. . . . I can't buy 'em fast enough to keep her in reading material! (In fact, I could use some suggestions of graphic nevels appropriate for the pre-teen set).

I'm sure there are tons of other pride-goeth-before-the-fall parenting moments I'm not remembering, too.  How about you?  What was your first and latest parenting absolute that collapsed on you?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Transracial Adoption Research -- Nothing New

Everyone and their brother has been forwarding, tweeting and facebook-posting this recent article, Trans-Racial Adoption:  Research Shows Postitive Outcomes Despite Challenges.  Good news, right?!  Well, good.  But not exactly news.  The first research study they mention, from Feigelman & Silverman, was published in 1993, almost 20 years ago.  And to figure that out, you have to do some digging. 

The next study mention is one by Dong Soo Kim.  I don't know what study is referred to -- I''m assuming it's not his 1976 thesis, because that REALLY wouldn't be news!

The rest of the article is personal experiences related by an adoptive parent and by the executive director of an adoption placement agency working in foster-to-adopt.  Yes, he happens to be a transracial adoptee, but he doesn't say very much about his own personal experience of transracial adoption, except to say that he does think the adoption community should focus on finding same-race placements (not exactly a ringing endorsement of trans-racial placement!).

So while I was initially happy to see this article, it really isn't all that.  Nothing new here at all.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Made in China = POS

OK, I've gone on record before as disliking the "Made in China" reference to China adoptees:
[I] have long had a strong dislike for the "Made in China, Loved in America" slogan, beloved of many adoptive parents (click here to read a whole slew of them defending the shirt). In a previous post about the book titled, Made in China, I described the slogan thus: "very high yuck factor in terms of objectification/ commodification, with the added assumption that no one loved these girls in China."
Now I have another reason to dislike the slogan as applied.  Zoe was recounting the experience of her friend, M., also adopted from China.  At school, M.'s friends told her that "Made in China" means "Piece of Junk (the kid version of "Piece of "Sh*t," I suppose).  Zoe definitely took it personally -- she was brainstorming what she would say if someone said it to her, and all of her responses started with, "Well, I was made in China. . . ."

So with "Made in China" being equated with shoddy workmanship, we have another reason to avoid that phrase in reference to children adopted from China.  And it's a pretty widespread sentiment, isn't it?  There's even a Facebook page dedicated to it. . . .

Returning a Child to Get Him the Help He Needs

From the Seattle Times:
Deb and Doug Carlsons' adopted sons have trashed bedrooms, stolen credit cards and threatened to kill them. One drew a disturbing picture of beheading the southwest Florida couple and throwing a party.
When the Carlsons adopted the now teenage boys from foster care in 2007, they were handed a slim file with few details except the two suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. No one told the empty nesters the boys had severe mental health issues and had bounced among foster homes. Now teenagers, the boys are living in separate therapeutic group homes.

Therapists say one son needs to be in a supervised residential facility, which the state government no longer will pay for unless the Carlsons restore custody to the state.

"We love him and he's part of our family. To have to make such a difficult decision to get him the care he needs is ludicrous. It sends a horrible message to him," said 55-year-old Deb Carlson. "You really feel like once you sign on the dotted line you're on your own. You're totally abandoned by the state."
So who's to blame -- plenty to go around, huh? The adoptive parents? The agencies who fail to train them? The state, who fails to offer post-adoption services?

Monday, August 22, 2011

TIME: Baby-Selling Scam Focuses Attention on Surrogacy

TIME publishes more on the San Diego baby-selling ring:
Court documents lay out a plan that Erickson and Chambers came up with six years ago, before including Neiman in 2008: the women would arrange for surrogates to fly to Ukraine to be impregnated with donor embryos. When the surrogates were about 12 weeks along, the babies would be offered to prospective parents. Once a couple was found, Erickson would file a document in a California court, fraudulently claiming that the surrogacy agreement was in place from the start.

The scam was discovered when one of the surrogates, who was nearly six months pregnant, got nervous that she hadn't yet been officially paired with adoptive parents. She called an attorney, who called the FBI.

* * *

Prospective parents approached by the defendants were told that the surrogates' previously arranged agreements had fallen apart. They learned that they could enter into a new agreement with the surrogate for between $100,000 to $150,000, which is on the upper end of typical surrogacy costs. It sounded like a tempting proposition, offering couples “a surrogate well into her pregnancy, after the greatest risk of miscarriage had passed,” according to the L.A. Times. “It would even be possible to choose the sex of a child. In addition, the babies were white — a condition set by many U.S. couples that makes it difficult for them to adopt.”
This quote from law professor and blogger Julie Shapiro explains why this story is so abhorrent:
“Creating babies on purpose for specific people is seen as less risky because you know where that child is going if it all plays out well,” says Julie Shapiro, a law professor at Seattle University who blogs regularly about how the law defines the concept of family. “The idea that we create children and then essentially shop them around is morally quite different and unacceptable, and I think that's why the order matters so much.”

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Malta: Unborn Baby Trafficking

I posted about the Philippines side of the equation here, and now here is the Malta side of it:
The police, Department for Social Welfare Standards and Aġenzija Appoġġ are looking into the case of unborn child trafficking reported in the international media in the past days, the Education, Employment and Family Ministry said yesterday.

Their reaction came after this newspaper yesterday reported that an expectant Filipino mother was reportedly sponsored to come to Malta with the intent of having her baby adopted. This is considered to be a form of human trafficking and is understood to have been reported by Maltese authorities.

* * *

The ministry said that when the Department for Social Welfare Standards and Aġenzija Appoġġ were informed about the case, they immediately reported it to the ministry and the police for investigation.

Police action was taken against the woman for giving false information in an official document that enabled her to enter Malta.

When this case came to light, the DSWS immediately alerted its counterpart in the Philippines about the case.

The DSWS, as the local central authority, is responsible to regulate inter-country adoptions. Malta has signed and ratified the convention on the protection of children and cooperation in respect of inter-country adoptions.

The Ministry noted that the convention makes it clear that for a child to be adopted in a foreign country, the sending country, in this case the Philippines, has to approve the adoption. Discussions on this particular adoption are still in progress.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Father "never going to give up" seeking custody of adopted-out daughter

From the Today Show, the case of the Virginia father whose child was adopted in Utah without his consent. Adam Pertman of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute also interviewed.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Trafficking in Unborn Babies

No, I'm not talking about the San Diego baby-selling ring, though it would be an apt title for that egregious episode.  This is out of the Philippines, from the Philippine Daily Inquirer:
Pregnant Filipino women have been recruited to travel overseas legally as tourists then sell their newborns to waiting adoptive parents, the Department of Social Welfare and Development said on Wednesday.

Social Welfare Undersecretary Alicia Bala disclosed the newest form of child trafficking at the 11th Global Consultation on Child Welfare Services in Makati City.

Bala said that two cases had so far been reported—one in Austria two years ago and another in Malta last year.

Speaking about the latest case in Malta, Bala said: “The mother who’s pregnant [was] sponsored to go to that place with the intent of having the child adopted.”

“This is a form of trafficking… Our attention was called by Malta authorities,” she told reporters.

The mother has returned to the country but her child is now undergoing procedure for adoptive parents to keep the baby in custody.

“This is just one instance but, who knows, there may be other cases that are not brought to our attention. It is a prearranged plan of giving birth there, then they give the baby up. They don’t keep the baby because there is already that intention to have the baby adopted abroad,” Bala said.

As the mothers are able to exit the country legally, such cases are hard to detect unless reported by the receiving country, Bala said.

“You can’t stop anyone from traveling. There’s no reason for immigration agents to be suspicious about why a pregnant woman is going overseas. Maybe there’s a facilitator here,” Bala said.
Not the first time I've heard of prospective birth mothers as portable incubators -- see here and here. It's easier to smuggle pregnant women than helpless infants, and it's easier to do a domestic adoption by moving the potential birth mother in-country than to do an international adoption.

The Exotification Factor in Transracial Adoption

From an adult adoptee at the Huffington Post:
In an August 15, 2011, story for The Atlanta Post, "Unraveling the Black Adoption Myths in America," reporter H. Fields Grenee writes: "Adoption. At first glance it's just another word in the dictionary. But its power is vested in the weight of the word -- conjuring images of abandonment, cherished blessings, adamant secrecy and self discovery."

To whom, I wonder, is "adoption" just another word? And when exactly does the weight of the word come into play with its power of "conjuring up images of abandonment, cherished blessings, adamant secrecy and self discovery"? As an adoptee, I can tell you that the emotions described therein are neither conjured nor imagined -- they are real and they are heavy.

While there are certainly many feel-good stories about successful, long-awaited adoptions, as well as happy birth reunion stories, such as the recent story in which Facebook reunited a birth mother with the child she gave up 63 years ago, there tends to be little focus on the plain and often uneasy facts of adoption, particularly when race is involved.

To wit: Nobody talks about the exotification factor of interracial adoption -- particularly among white fathers and their brown-skinned or non-white daughters.

* * *

I was 19 years old when the news broke that Woody Allen had left Mia Farrow for her adopted Korean daughter Soon-Yi Previn in 1992. I didn't think too much of it, except "eeewwwww," like everyone else. My birth mother had a sharply different take. "Sound familiar?" she said with a sort of casual cruelty to me one afternoon. "Like how?" I asked. "You and (your [white adoptive] father) are not all that different in your dynamic."

The shock of her insinuation, the shame I felt in the complicity she implied, the heinously unfair assessment of my father -- I was devastated. In one moment, the safety and ease I felt as my father's daughter changed forever.

Revisiting the memory, which feels less now like a memory and more like an old emotional injury that aches when it rains, puts into sharp relief the unasked questions surrounding the rampant adoption of the international Other, which is a popular trend among celebrities right now. Will people question Brad Pitt's relationship with Zahara when she gets older and turns into the gorgeous, statuesque young black woman she is sure to become? Is Woody Allen alone in his lust for a girl-child whom he didn't biologically father? Did he feel less like Previn's father because she is Korean? Think about it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Adoption or Abduction?

The print edition of Arise Magazine asked, "Should non-Africans be allowed to adopt African children? This controversial question kicks off ARISE Magazine’s new thought-provoking new feature, The Big Question, in issue 13." On-line, they publish more of the answer given by "British/Ethiopian/Eritrean poet, writer and performer Lemn Sissay. Having experienced what it’s like to be an African child adopted by non-African parents, he had a lot to say on the matter."  It's a fascinating read;  here's a snippet:
Having an African baby is often a sign to non-African adopters of their philanthropic, political, familial or religious credentials. The African child is a badge of honour displaying their commitment to philanthropy, politics or religion. They feel that by extricating a child from Africa and showing them the light of their way signifies their own righteousness.

* * *

In many ‘adoptions’ the child is saving the parents because it is they who desperately need a child and not just because of infertility. They need it to fulfil who they are – as do most parents who conceive naturally. If they are not colonising the country then in this way they colonise a person. A child who has been taken from their country will in the future ask, ‘Why am I here?’ or else live in fear of asking that question. The answer, ‘We saved you from the dark bad continent and its dark, bad, needy, poor people and tyrannical governments’, will not do.

Good Morning America on Baby-Selling Ring

Good Morning America addresses the recent baby-selling scandal.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

China: Adoption measures to be tightened

According to China Daily:
The government is toughening rules to tackle the scourge of child trafficking, including making orphanages the only institutions that can offer abandoned children for adoption, an official said.

"Illegal adoption", whereby adults can adopt without official registration, will also be targeted.

Enhancing the role of orphanages in the adoption process will better protect the rights of children and curb trafficking, Ji Gang, director of the domestic adoption department of the China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA), told China Daily.

The draft of the rules, due to be introduced by the end of the year, will force adults to go through official channels and reduce the demand for abducted children, he added.

The Registration Measures for the Adoption of Children by Chinese Citizens has been in place since 1999. It stipulates that a citizen can adopt a child from sources other than an orphanage if the applicant does not have any offspring and meets certain requirements in terms of age, health and financial status.

As a result, children have been adopted through various routes, such as hospitals and friends.

This was a system that allowed certain people to profit from adoptions.

According to the revised rules, to be worked out jointly by the Ministry of Civil Affairs and CCCWA, all abandoned infants and young children should be sent to orphanages for adoption, Ji said.
The rules are clearly directed at domestic adoption, not international adoption.  But it will also test China's commitment to domestic adoption over international adoption, I think.  With these rules in effect, I would think more children will end up in orphanages, rather than siphoned off into domestic adoption, both legal and illegal.  With more children in the orphanages, will the orphanages prefer the hard currency that international adoption brings?

Unraveling Black Adoption Myths

From the Atlanta Post:
Adoption. At first glance it’s just another word in the dictionary. But its power is vested in the weight of the word – conjuring images of abandonment, cherished blessings, adamant secrecy and self discovery.

For African Americans adoption has yet another layer of imagery. Families being torn apart by drug use, poverty, homelessness and even death. At any given moment there are 500,000 children in foster care across the United States with 26% being African American according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010 statistics.

This statistic gives pause to Gloria King, executive director of the Oakland, Calf, based Black Adoption and Placement Resource Center. Founded in 1983 BAPRC was among the first “specialty” agencies to distill the myths surrounding adoption eligibility criteria that kept countless prospective parents from applying.

“We have been very successful in promoting African American children being adopted and bringing the message to the community about families of color being needed to adopt,” says King of BAPRC that serves 11 counties in Califoria. “Targeted recruitment has always been a part of our mission, but let me make it clear – we do not discriminate. We have always served bi-racial families, same gender loving families, couples and singles as part of our outreach efforts.”

King explained that the origin of modern adoption was not conceived with minorities in mind. It was designed for children who had been orphaned due to war; during theThe Civil War children would be placed up on boxes so they could be looked over by potential parents, hence the term “put up” for adoption.

* * *
Although the number of minorities adopting is low, federal government figures show that half of all minority adoptions are by single, black women between the ages of 30 and 50. Furthermore, these women are more likely to adopt older children and sibling groups.

In fact at BAPRC the number of singles applying to adopt is split equally among males and females. King contends that anyone who really understands the selfless job of parenting and is willing to provide a “forever space for a child” that meets their needs should strongly consider adoption because you don’t have to be Ozzie and Harriet.

“We like to show families that are single or older in our advertisements. Showing people in these rolls, especially in the African American community help people start to consider adoption,” she said, “and when they do, they say, oh yes, I can do that – and they step up.”
I've posted before about barriers to African-Americans adopting, so I was pleased to read about the efforts of this agency.

Monday, August 15, 2011

"I changed my mind about transracial adoption. . . I think"

That's the title of a piece at the Stir, by a black woman:
I’ve never really believed that interracial adoption was a good thing, specifically when it comes to black children. It’s always been, to me, one of those situations born of necessity — but because there are so many black kids who need stability, and there are so many white folks prepared to adopt, it seemed sinister to begrudge the babies a home, even if the parents at the head of it don’t look anything like them.

My concern has been that these children will grow up not identifying with their heritage. They’ll know what sports they like and what hobbies they enjoy and what cereal they love, but they won’t see themselves through the lens of the black experience. That can be dangerous, especially for boys who need to prepare themselves for life as black men in America.

No matter who their parents are, they’re still subject to the same discriminations and dangers as the ones growing up with their biological moms and dads.

After all, black is black is black in a tense situation with the police or in a job interview.

Teaching kids about themselves from a racial and ethnic standpoint is a parent’s responsibility. I wrote about how mothers and fathers embarking on the journey to adopt a child from another culture should be required to take classes about that child’s heritage, and folks tried to rip me a new one (hey, what else is new?)
Then after a white friend, Michelle, tells her she's adopting, and might adopt transracially, the author changes her mind:
What I like about Michelle is that she asks questions. I wish more white folks did. If she doesn’t understand something about us, she doesn’t assume. She breaks out in the most random inquiries. “How does Kwanzaa work?” she blurted the other day. “I always wanted to know.” So I explained, she nodded, and we moved on. I usually hate playing the Ambassador to Blackness. I did it when I was in high school and I’ve done it at some jobs. But for some reason, I don’t mind breaking it down to her because she means well.

I think that curiosity and willingness to learn will empower her to be a mother to a black child, if that’s how the good Lord wills it. My hope is that there are more Michelles out there who will take an active interest in making sure their son or daughter’s every need is met, including knowing their heritage.

Little Girl Found

From the Financial Times, reporter and adoptive mother Patti Waldmeir finds an abandoned baby on the streets of Shanghai:
One might easily see such a thing in a Shanghai alleyway and think nothing of it: a bundle of fabric tied up with a rope. Except that this particular bundle was screaming.

I could not tell at first if the squalling child was male or female, but I knew exactly what it was doing there: a desperate mother had swaddled her newborn infant in several layers of clothing and left it alone in the winter darkness – so that it could have a chance to live.

For me, it was an all-too-familiar story: my own two daughters were abandoned at birth, left alone in a Chinese street to the mercy of strangers. But that was more than a decade ago – a decade in which China has become a powerful force in markets from natural resources to sports cars, from luxury goods to aircraft carriers. In a China of diamond iPads and gold-plated limousines were babies still ending up in anonymous alleyways?
She tracks the baby from hospital to police station to orphanage, with side trips into personal reflection on her daughters' stories.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

". . . and then we send them back to their parents."

Mass was interesting today;  we had a guest priest from India who spoke about a special project in Bangladesh that he was soliciting funds for.  Part of the project was an orphanage -- at least he called it an orphanage.

He talked about the abject poverty in this area of Bangladesh, and then he said that at the orphanage children were fed and clothed and educated. And then, after ten years there, "we send them back to their parents."

I've posted before about the fact that not all kids in orphanages are orphans, that poor families in poor countries use orphanages as temporary placement for their children when they cannot support or educate them.  It was interesting to hear confirmation of that outside the adoption world.

Zoe got it immediately -- after mass, she said, "that doesn't sound like an orphanage, it sounds like a boarding school." 

One-Child Policy Good for Chinese Girls?

From Yahoo News:
Tsinghua University freshman Mia Wang has confidence to spare.

Asked what her home city of Benxi in China's far northeastern tip is famous for, she flashes a cool smile and says: "Producing excellence. Like me."

A Communist Youth League member at one of China's top science universities, she boasts enviable skills in calligraphy, piano, flute and pingpong.

Such gifted young women are increasingly common in China's cities and make up the most educated generation of women in Chinese history. Never have so many been in college or graduate school, and never has their ratio to male students been more balanced.

To thank for this, experts say, is three decades of steady Chinese economic growth, heavy government spending on education and a third, surprising, factor: the one-child policy.

* * *

Since 1979, China's family planning rules have barred nearly all urban families from having a second child in a bid to stem population growth. With no male heir competing for resources, parents have spent more on their daughters' education and well-being, a groundbreaking shift after centuries of discrimination.

"They've basically gotten everything that used to only go to the boys," said Vanessa Fong, a Harvard University professor and expert on China's family planning policy.

* * *

Crediting the one-child policy with improving the lives of women is jarring, given its history and how it's harmed women in other ways. Facing pressure to stay under population quotas, overzealous family planning officials have resorted to forced sterilizations and late-term abortions, sometimes within weeks of delivery, although such practices are illegal.

The birth limits are also often criticized for encouraging sex-selective abortions in a son-favoring society. Chinese traditionally prefer boys because they carry on the family name and are considered better earners.

* * *

Wang's birth in the spring of 1992 triggered a family rift that persists to this day. She was a disappointment to her father's parents, who already had one granddaughter from their eldest son. They had hoped for a boy.

"Everyone around us had this attitude that boys were valuable, girls were less," Gao Mingxiang, Wang's paternal grandmother, said by way of explanation — but not apology.

Small and stooped, Gao perched on the edge of her farmhouse "kang," a heated brick platform that in northern Chinese homes serves as couch, bed and work area. She wore three sweaters, quilted pants and slippers.

Her granddaughter, tall and graceful and dressed in Ugg boots and a sparkly blue top, sat next to her listening, a sour expression on her face. She wasn't shy about showing her lingering bitterness or her eagerness to leave. She agreed to the visit to please her father but refused to stay overnight — despite a four-hour drive each way.

* * *

But Wang's mother, Zheng Hong, did not understand. She grew up 300 kilometers (185 miles) away in the steel-factory town of Benxi with two elder sisters and went to vocational college for manufacturing. She lowers her voice to a whisper as she recalls the sting of her in-law's rejection when her daughter was born.

"I sort of limited my contact with them after that," Zheng said. "I remember feeling very angry and wronged by them. I decided then that I was going to raise my daughter to be even more outstanding than the boys."

They named her Qihua, a pairing of the characters for chess and art — a constant reminder of her parents' hope that she be both clever and artistic.

* * *

While strides have been made in reaching gender parity in education, other inequalities remain. Women remain woefully underrepresented in government, have higher suicide rates than males, often face domestic violence and workplace discrimination and by law must retire at a younger age than men.

It remains to be seen whether the new generation of degree-wielding women can alter the balance outside the classroom.

Some, like Wang, are already changing perceptions about what women can achieve. When she dropped by her grandmother's house this spring, the local village chief came by to see her. She was a local celebrity: the first village descendent in memory to make it into Tsinghua University.

"Women today, they can go out and do anything," her grandmother said. "They can do big things."

Saturday, August 13, 2011

America's Korean Adoptees, Parts 3 & 4

I shared parts 1 & 2 of this series last year, now you can read part 3 & part 4.  Here's a snippet from part 3, Dating Inside and Out:
Growing up feeling more white than Asian, our attractions naturally leaned towards the cute boys we saw around us. It makes sense for a cultural whiteness to carry over in this way, but in doing so, it carries over all the same consequences of identity uncertainty. The same way many adoptees see themselves as just like everyone else, and wish-and often automatically expect-to be perceived that way, plenty of adoptees struggle to have members of the opposite sex like them for who they are, and not for their appearance.

"I wish I could wear a sign above my head," Rachel said, "that reads, 'I do not know kung fu, I don't eat fish, I don't know how to make sushi, I'm not a horrible driver, I have sex but I'm not a sex slave, I'm not submissive, I failed math, I don't speak any Asian language, please get to know me for me.'"

In college, I was casually seeing a guy that I thought was pretty into me too, and my being Asian never even occurred to me as a potential reason for his attraction... until I read an interview about Asian fetishes in the inaugural issue of my school's sex magazine. In the article, he openly admitted to having one. It was a jarring experience, instantly casting into doubt every moment of attraction between us-because I thought he had just, as Rachel put it, been getting to know me for me.
And consider this from part 4, Return to the Motherland:
Not every adoptee chooses to return to his birth country for a visit, but such trips have become increasingly common in recent years. For many it's an undeniable rite of passage—one that's often difficult. Kathleen, a 24-year-old adoptee from upstate New York, described her trip back to Korea as "not a vacation. It feels like work.” Mark said, “It’s an intense experience” no matter how prepared you think you are. The first trip back for an adoptee is so much more than taking an east Asian sabbatical: it’s a point of no return. The decision to brave the journey is a choice to consciously confront the reality of your dual existence: an acknowledgment that despite your thoroughly American upbringing, this completely different world is somehow still tied to you.

“I came from this place. I spent the first six months of my life in this country, with these people, in these hospitals, eating this food,” Kathleen said of the realization she had during her trip. Eleana Kim, an aassistant professor of anthropology at the University of Rochester and author of Adopted Territory: Transnational Korean Adoptees and the Politics of Belonging, said that as an adoptee back in Korea for the first time, you often wonder “whether or not the people you’re passing on the street could be your relatives.” It can be, she said, “really destabilizing” to experience such a shock to “a life and an identity that was [previously] not questioned.”

At its best, the trip can help an adoptee piece together parts of a cultural identity that they may have felt was missing.
All four parts are important reads, don't miss them!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Adult Adoption in Japan

At Freakanomics, Why Adult Adoption is Key to the Success of Japanese Family Firms:
What happens when the heir to a family business isn’t up to the job? Not great things, apparently. But the Japanese have a solution: adult adoption. Rather than hand the firm to a less-than-worthy blood heir, Japanese families often adopt an adult to take over.

* * *

America and Japan have the highest rates of adoption in the world – with one big difference. While the vast majority of adoptees in the U.S. are children, they account for just 2% of adoptions in Japan. The other 98% are males around 25 to 30. Mehrotra believes this is the key to one of Japan’s unique differences. Across the developed world, family firms under-perform professionally-run businesses. But in Japan, it’s the opposite. Japan’s strongest companies are led by scions, many of them adopted. “If you compare the performance under different kinds of heirs, blood heirs versus adopted heirs, the superior performance of second-generation managed firms is pretty much entirely attributable to the adopted heir firms.”

Mehrotra explains that adopting a scion is similar to a hostile takeover. Blood heirs are under the constant pressure of knowing that if they under-perform, they’ll be replaced.

New Disney Show Stars Debbie Ryan as Nanny to Adopted Kids

My kids are big Debbie Ryan fans since they like Suite Life with Zack and Cody.  When I saw the commercial for the new show, Jessie, I thought the group of kids looked "diverse," and wondered if there was going to be an international adoption theme.  According to this report, there is:
In the premiere episode “New York, New Nanny,” Jessie (Ryan) accepts a job as a nanny and moves in with the Ross Family - high-flying couple Christina (Christina Moore), a former supermodel turned business mogul, and Morgan (Charles Esten), a famous movie director, their four kids and beloved 7-foot Asian Water Monitor Lizard.

While Jessie’s new big city life is full of opportunity and excitement, she quickly discovers how much she relies on the support and advice of the kids in her care — 13-year-old Emma (Peyton List), the biological child of the bunch, 10-year-old Indian adoptee Ravi (Karan Brar), 12-year-old American adoptee Luke (Boyce) and seven-year-old African adoptee Zuri (Skai Jackson).
Premiering Sept. 30. It'll be interesting to see how the show handles the adoption aspect. . . .

Thursday, August 11, 2011

More on the San Diego Baby-$elling Ring

This article at SignOn San Diego gives a bit more information about the baby-selling ring I posted about here
In the community of parents who have their children through surrogates and egg donation, Theresa Erickson was a star.

The well-known attorney with a practice in Poway is one of a small number of lawyers in California to specialize in reproductive law. She promoted her work on television and radio shows, online, and in newspaper and magazine articles.

“She was just incredibly visible,” said Pam Madsen, a New York-based fertility coach who described Erickson as a colleague and acquaintance. “She projected success.”

So it came as a shock to her supporters and others in the fertility community when Erickson pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to a conspiracy charge in what was described as a baby-selling scheme. Federal prosecutors in San Diego said Erickson and others sold a dozen unborn babies to prospective parents for $100,000 each.

* * *

According to prosecutors, Erickson and others solicited women to travel to the Ukraine — where medical costs are much lower — to be implanted with embryos on the promise that they would be paid $38,000 to $45,000 for each full-term pregnancy.

If the women reached the second trimester of their pregnancies, the babies were offered to prospective parents who were led to believe that the original “intended parents” had backed out.

California law allows a woman who plans to carry a baby for someone else to enter a surrogate arrangement before she becomes pregnant, not after. Doctors in the United States are unlikely to transfer an embryo without legal documents naming the intended parents.

Prosecutors said Erickson submitted documents in San Diego Superior Court falsely representing that the babies resulted from legitimate surrogate agreements, so that the new parents’ names could be listed on the birth certificates.

San Marcos lawyer Stephanie Caballero, whose clients include intended parents, donors and surrogates, said Erickson has always been highly focused on her work.

“Most of the people and colleagues I know are shocked, appalled and saddened by this,” Caballero said. “It’s not a good moment for surrogacy.”

Tom Pinkerton, a reproductive law attorney, said he has known Erickson for at least a decade and has long considered her a dedicated and compassionate advocate for surrogate issues.

Pinkerton, who with his wife, Darlene, owns A Perfect Match in La Mesa, which links up infertile families with surrogates and egg donors, said he is also puzzled by why Erickson or anyone in the business would run this risk when the financial advantage is not that great.

“It’s hard for me to understand what happened, and if it happened, what the advantage was,” Pinkerton said. “Even it was $100,000 — if that’s what it actually was — that’s not far off from what parents pay anyway.”

* * *

Erickson, who is married and has children, has also hosted the weekly “The Surrogacy Lawyer Radio Show” and written two books, “Assisted Reproduction: The Complete Guide to Having a Baby with the Help of a Third Party” and “Surrogacy and Embryo, Sperm & Egg Donation: What Were You Thinking?”

Madsen, who has been in the fertility industry for more than 20 years and appeared on Erickson’s radio show, said she heard rumors that the FBI was investigating Erickson but didn’t trust them.

“I have heard whispers about her for years, that she is overly aggressive in her ambition, or that she was involved in things that she shouldn’t be involved in,” Madsen wrote in an online blog. “But those were whispers — mostly from her competitors and others in the field of reproductive law.”

Investigators were tipped to the scheme by another reproductive law attorney and a woman who agreed to carry a baby for someone else, prosecutors said. Also charged in the case were Hilary Neiman, 32, a lawyer from Chevy Chase, Md., and Carla Chambers, 51, a “gestational carrier” who solicited women to carry babies for other people.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Baby=Selling Ring Busted in San Diego

From the FBI's website, a guilty plea by a surrogacy attorney who used gestational surrogates to "create an inventory" of babies offered to prospective parents who were told other parents had backed out of the surrogacy arrangement -- and then the attorney lied to the courts to avoid having to have the prospective parents adopt the infants, all to the tune of $100,000 per:
United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy announced today that Theresa Erickson entered a guilty plea before United States Magistrate Judge William McCurine, Jr., in which she admitted to being part of a baby-selling ring that deceived the Superior Court of California and prospective parents for unborn babies. According to court records, Erickson (an internationally renowned California attorney specializing in reproductive law) fraudulently submitted false declarations and pleadings to the California Superior Court in San Diego, in order to obtain pre-birth judgments establishing parental rights for Intended Parents (“IPs”). California law forbids the sale of parental rights to babies and children but permits surrogacy arrangements if the women expecting to carry the babies, Gestational Carriers (“GCs”), and the IPs enter into an agreement prior to an embryonic transfer. If the GC and IPs do not reach an agreement before the GC receives the embryonic transfer, the GC cannot transfer parental rights except through a formal adoption procedure.

In her guilty plea, Erickson admitted that she and her conspirators used GCs to create an inventory of unborn babies that they would sell for over $100,000 each. They accomplished this by paying women to become implanted with embryos in overseas clinics. If the women (now GCs) sustained their pregnancies into the second trimester, the conspirators offered the babies to prospective parents by falsely representing that the unborn babies were the result of legitimate surrogacy arrangements, but that the original IPs had backed out. In pleading guilty, Erickson also admitted that she prepared and filed with the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego, declarations and pleadings that falsely represented that the unborn babies were the products of legitimate surrogacy agreements.

E.J. Graff: The Makeni Children

From E.J. Graff, author of the excellent article, the Lie We Love, the story of 29 children from Makeni, Sierra Leone, who were adopted to the United States in 1998 without their parents' consent, in three blog entries at Slate's DoubleX blog, here, here and here.  The Sierra Leone story isn't new (I've posted about it here and here and here), but E.J. Graff does her usual thorough job of piecing together pieces of the story from various sources.  In the last blog post she asks the important question, How Flawed Is the International Adoption Process?  She concludes:
It is impossible to know exactly how many international adoptions are similarly tainted. The underlying problem is that the developing world does not have as many young children who need families as the West has families who want a young child. Many Westerners have heard that there is a massive worldwide orphan crisis involving upwards of 160 million children—and they have responded to this news with a generous desire to give needy children new homes. But the 160 million figure is deceptive; most of those children live with families, as Camryn Mosley once lived with her elder sister. More to the point, there's too much Western money in search of children. Adoption agencies send comparatively enormous sums money to desperately poor countries without adequate oversight. In country after country, that money has motivated unscrupulous people to "find" adoptable children through methods fair and foul.

* * *

[Graff gives two categories that tend to make international adoption particularly risky.] The first category: poor countries that suddenly become popular adoption sources, quickly doubling and tripling the numbers of children going abroad—an increase that outpaces what a given country's shaky regulatory system can effectively oversee. In the past 15 years, "sending" countries whose adoption numbers suddenly rose and whose adoptions were then found to be riddled with "irregularities," as the State Department diplomatically phrases it, have included Cambodia, Guatemala, Ethiopia, India, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Nepal, Romania, Samoa, and Vietnam. Tens of thousands of children have come west or north from these locales—and during the peak period of adoption from each country, a significant number of those adoptions may have involved fraud, according to a number of government, journalistic, and NGO investigations listed on the pages linked above.

The second risky category involves countries where conflict or disaster has bred chaos. Such places tend to be doubly problematic, because at precisely the moment when Westerners' desire to save children from danger grows especially strong, the national government's ability to oversee and regulate adoption becomes especially weak.
And as Graff notes, Sierra Leone in 1998 fell into both of these categories.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Turtles and Chinese Babies

Yes, I said turtles.

Tonight's dinner conversation from Zoe:  I feel sorry for baby turtles.  They're like Chinese babies.  The mama abandons them and they have to get to the ocean all by themselves and there isn't even anyone to find them and help them like people find Chinese babies and take them to the orphanage.

Whew.  Lots to unpack there.  And this was triggered by a video we saw about baby turtles at the Sea Life Aquarium we visited three weeks ago, which is apparently how long she's been brooding about this. . . .

Monday, August 8, 2011

Back to School Links, a Beginning

I CANNOT believe that my kids start school on Wednesday!  We had orientation for the new second-grader tonight and have orientation for the new fifth-grader tomorrow.  They learned today that they got the teachers they really wanted, so they're already happy about the start of a new year.

So it's that time of year, when I start to post back-to-school links about adoption, race & racism, bullying and the like. To make it easy for you (and me!) here are links to some of last year's posts with collections of links. . . .

Back to School Adoption Resources

Adoption in School -- Samples, Handouts & Downloadables

Back to School: Resources on Bullying and Racism

I'll be looking for more links in the next few days; share your favorites in the comments to help me out!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sacrificing Children for Catholic Identity

From the National Catholic Reporter, an interesting take from the former director of Catholic Charities' San Francisco office:
For almost 10 years as the executive director of San Francisco Catholic Charities, I was directly involved in efforts to manage the tension between what our church teaches in the area of sexuality, and how we carried out our mission to serve the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized.

We dealt with many challenges, but the most complex, significant and painful issue was same-sex adoption.

Catholic Charities provides a broad range of services to all in need regardless of their faith. Following the 1906 earthquake, finding adoptive homes for orphans was our first program.

For the last 40 years the focus of the Catholic Charities adoption program had been finding suitable placements for foster care children. In recent years we averaged 25 adoptions per year. Few same-sex couples applied, but when they did, we were pleased to work with them if they met the criteria.

We knew that of the 80,000 children in the California foster care system, half were waiting to be adopted. We also knew that the largest cohort of potential adoptive parents for these children were committed same-sex couples who wanted to create family. In the last five years of the program we had placed 136 children, 5 of them in the homes of gay and lesbian couples.
He describes how that policy of working with gay and lesbian couples changed over the years, and then concludes as follows:
As the recession hit, the Catholic Charities budget deficit forced some painful choices. I retired at the end of 2008, the collaboration with Family Builders ended in 2009, and based on a poorly conceived, disrespectful and harshly written Roman policy, San Francisco Catholic Charities joined Boston, New York, Chicago, Washington and other dioceses abandoning a hundred-year tradition and thousands of needy children.

In a speech at the National Catholic Social Workers Conference, Archbishop Charles Chaput pushed the party line on Catholic identity, urging that Catholic social services must be "explicitly Catholic." I believe Catholic Charities manifests its Catholicism far better by using Mathew 25 as a guide rather than a destructive, irresponsible and un-Christ like Vatican promulgation.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Another Article on the Child Confiscations in China

The New York Times reports more on the child confiscations we've already heard about, though this episode is new to me:
Xiong Chao escaped that fate. Villagers say he was the last baby that officials tried to snatch, and one of the few returned home.

Now, six years later, his 63-year-old grandmother, Dai Yulin, patiently scrawls blue and white chalk numerals on her concrete wall hoping — in vain — that Chao will learn them.

“He has been to primary school for a whole year,” she said, “and he still cannot recognize one and two.”

Nearby is the tiny, dark room where, she said, she tried and failed in September 2006 to hide Chao from family planning officials. He was 8 months old, her son’s second child. Officials demanded nearly $1,000, then took him away when she could not pay.

His mother, Du Chunhua, rushed to the family planning office to protest.

There, as she struggled with two officials on the second-floor balcony, she said, the baby slipped from her grasp and fell more than 10 feet, to the pavement below.

Later, she said, as the baby lay in a coma in the hospital, his forehead permanently misshapen, officials offered a deal: they would forget about the fine as long as the family covered the medical bills for Chao.

Also, they said, the Xiongs could keep him.
Makes me feel more than a little sick.  And then there's this charming quote from an adoption agency that placed children from the local orphanage:
The scandal also has renewed questions about whether Americans and other foreigners have adopted Chinese children who were falsely depicted as abandoned or orphaned. At least one American adoption agency organized adoptions from the government-run Shaoyang orphanage.

Lillian Zhang, the director of China Adoption With Love, based in Boston, said by telephone last month that the agency had found adoptive parents in 2006 for six Shaoyang children — all girls, all renamed Shao, after the city. The Chinese authorities certified in each case that the child was eligible for adoption, she said, and her agency cannot now independently investigate their backgrounds without a specific request backed by evidence.

“I’m an adoption agency, not a policeman,” Ms. Zhang said.

Legal Effect of Guatemalan Court Order?

A commenter asked my opinion of the legal effect of the Guatemalan court's order that a kidnapped child be returned by her American adoptive parents.  International law is not my specialty, but I've put the query out to some people I know who are experts, and will let you know what I find out.  In the meantime, this AP article touches on it:
If U.S. authorities intervene to return the child, now 6, as the Guatemalan court has asked, it would be a first for any international adoption case, experts say.

* * *

The U.S. State Department referred all questions about the court ruling to the Justice Department, which would not comment on the case.

* * *

U.S. officials might simply try to ignore the order, said David Smolin, a law professor at the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama, and an expert in international adoption.

Chuck Johnson, president and CEO of the Virginia-based National Council For Adoption, said he has never heard of the U.S. carrying out a foreign court order to return adopted children to their home country.

But the leading advocate in the Guatemala case said the U.S. government is obligated under international treaties to return victims of human trafficking or irregular adoptions that have occurred within five years.

The girl left the country on Dec. 9, 2008, according to court records.

"We're within the margin of time," said Norma Cruz, director of the Survivors Foundation, a human rights group that filed the court case for Rodriguez. "We don't have to contact the (adoption) family. The judge's order says authorities have to find the child, wherever she is."
I do know this much -- the presence or absence of applicable treaties will make a difference here, but it's not the only thing that would make a difference.  The doctrine of international comity does obligate (somewhat) countries to accept court decrees and government acts from other countries.  That's why a U.S. court will accept a foreign decree of adoption, why I don't have to "re-adopt" my children adopted in China and why my parents, married in France, didn't have to "re-marry" in the U.S.

But international comity is not absolute;  the U.S. can refuse to honor a foreign court's judgment if the judgment is "repugnant" to the public policy of the U.S.  A treaty, if applicable, won't allow the U.S. to reject a foreign court's judgment, though.  I'm interested in the quote from the Guatemalan advocate: "the U.S. government is obligated under international treaties to return victims of human trafficking or irregular adoptions."  The U.S. doesn't consider irregular adoptions to be human trafficking, even when the illegal adoption involves kidnapping,so that's going to be a hard sell.

So this is far from over; the Guatemalan court order is only a tiny first step toward return of the child.  And that tiny step might be as far as it ever goes.  Makes the vision from the article of the biiological mother planning her daughter' bedroom really poignant. Might not need those dolls for a 6-year-old, could be rock star posters for a 13-year-old, or an elegant bedroom for an adult whose come to meet her mother for the first time. . . .

Friday, August 5, 2011

"You seem very anti-adoption at times"

Says a commenter (anonymous, of course!) to this post:
I'm having difficulity understanding why you have two daughters that are adopted from China. You seem very anti-adoption at times.
Either/or. For or against.  Black or white. Guess what?  It's all so much more complicated than that.  If you don't want to deal with complexity in adoption, this probably isn't the right blog for you.

It's pretty funny to be labeled "anti-adoption" when what you're doing is criticizing CHILD TRAFFICKING.  When you're criticizing UNETHICAL ADOPTION. When you're railing against CORRUPTION in international adoption. When you're recognizing that adoption brings GRIEF, PAIN AND LOSS for adoptees and birth families.  When you actually accept the law of the land -- the Hague Convention on adoption -- that says that international adoption is a LAST RESORT.

If that's anti-adoption, then I guess I'm anti-adoption.  Who knew?!

And then the "how can you be anti-adoption if you've adopted" thing?  It's that "if you're not for us, you're against us" crap, I guess. Having "benefitted" from adoption, how DARE you criticize the institution in any way?!

Again, I say, it's more complicated than that.  Yes, I've adopted and it has brought me immeasurable joy.  And it has brought my children loss, pain and grief, as well as joy.  It has brought their birth families loss, pain and grief.  And when corruption and child trafficking enter the picture, adoption brings everyone involved even more loss, pain and grief. The only joy then is in the black hearts of corrupt officials and child traffickers.

And when adoptive parents ignore the hard truth that their experience of adoption is not the same experience as their adopted children and their birth families, when they ignore the hard truths about corruption and trafficking, they are doing damage not just to their children, but to the institution of adoption as well.
Frankly, it's going to be the over-reaching of the "pro-adoption" folks that bring an end to international adoption, not anything the so-called "anti-adoption" folks do. Haven't you noticed the pattern?  A country opens to international adoption. . . just a trickle at first.  Then it's push, push, push for more, more, more adoptions from that country.  Now the trickle is a flood of money as more and more and more adoptive parents flock to the country.  And the money brings corruption. . . .  And the country shuts down to international adoption. . . . Wash. Rinse. Repeat.  "Pro-adoption?"  Really workin' out for you, huh?

Label me however you want.  I'll keep blogging about the difficult, complicated, fraught-with ambiguities,  world of adoption.  There are lots of other blogs out there that won't dish up hard truths to make you uncomfortable.

Crazy Camp Week!

After posting all about Chinese Language Camp and Tulsa Heritage Camp, I bet you think all we do is heritage/adoption camps all summer long!  Couldn't be further from the truth. . . .

This week I lived the phrase, "I met myself coming and going!"  In a stroke of real idiocy I signed two girls up for three camps this week.  Maya did an all-day music camp, and Zoe did a morning math camp and afternoon tennis camp.  Our schedule went something like this:  drop Maya off at music camp at 9 a.m., take Zoe at 10 a.m. to math camp, pick up Zoe at noon, take Zoe to tennis camp at 1:30, pick her up at 3,  pick up Maya at music camp at 5, come home and collapse!

Maya loved music camp, where they practiced to put on the musical, Life of the Party: the Story of Mary and Martha (what did you expect, Rent?! It was at St. Stephen's Presbyterian Church!). Not only did Maya have a great time, but I think it was really good for her to have something to do that didn't involve Zoe (and vice versa for that matter).

Zoe's morning math camp has been fun, too.  She especially likes that they get to play chess.  One of her best friends is also doing the camp, which is a real bonus.  And her reward for doing math camp was tennis camp! 

It was a beginner camp, since she's never played before.  She loved it, and wants to continue.  How we're going to manage that with everything else we do during the school year, I have no idea.  But we'll work on it. Looks like it's shaping up to be a crazy year. . . .

Well, at least camping season is over -- the girls actually start school NEXT WEEK.  Talk about crazy!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

"Just what is the first resort?"

I've posted before about the tendency of adoptive and prospective adoptive parents to blame any downturn in international adoption on UNICEF.  Interesting timing, in light of the latest revelations about trafficking in Guatemalan adoption, the Washington Post's egregious Red Thread blog continues that blame game this week:
When I speak to people outside the adoption community, many are incredulous that UNICEF, the very organization that provides so much aid to children worldwide,is behind restricting inter-country adoption. On the surface it just doesn’t make sense.

To fully understand what is happening, why countries around the world – from Guatemala to Vietnam to Kyrgyzstan -- are under enormous pressure to reinvent, reduce and, in some cases, end their inter-country adoption programs, you must understand the “why” behind the “what.”

When pressed for reasons why the U.S. Department of State (DoS) and UNICEF they actively engage in closing inter-country adoption programs, the very first response from both entities is that they are protecting children. They say they are working towards an adoption system that works against child trafficking. That goal is laudable.

The safety of children, of course, is paramount and must be the cornerstone of any adoption program. I have yet to meet an adoptive family that believes otherwise. The good news is we all agree. So where’s the problem?

Ultimately UNICEF, and to a lesser extent the Department of State, are opposed to inter-country adoption, calling it a “last resort” for children. Just what is the first resort?
Just what is the first resort?  Really?!  That's a slam dunk -- not stealing children from loving parents for one.  Not creating international adoption programs poisoned by money motives for another.  And how about the obvious one -- working to KEEP FAMILIES TOGETHER. 

I'm not going to repeat everything I said in the previous post I referenced above, but I want to point out one thing -- the utter disdain this adoptive parent has for family.  Oh, yes, she is pro-adoptive-family, that "last resort" she thinks should be a "first resort."  But natural families? They're merely an impediment to adoption!  How DARE they be a "first resort?"  How DARE anyone think that adoption isn't just as good as -- nay, BETTER THAN -- giving birth! 

How dare UNICEF think that children should remain with their biological parents?!  Never mind that that is the way it's worked since Adam and Eve gave birth to Cain and Abel, or since the first humans oozed up from the primordial slime.  Never mind that I was raised by my biological parents who were raised by their biological parents who were raised by their biological parents who were raised by their biological parents. . . .

As an adoptive parent it's pretty easy to get soooo focused on adoption that you forget it really isn't the norm.  You hang out with other adoptive parents, you read blogs of other adoptive parents, you read books by other adoptive parents.  Suddenly, it seems like everyone in the world has adopted.  It's like the cartoon in the front of the first edition of Adam Pertman's Adoption Nation (I'm doing this from memory, so not a direct quote!):  there's a couple talking with another couple with a very obviously pregnant wife, and the first couple says, "Oh, I'm so sorry you couldn't adopt!"  Funny, huh, completely reversing that "so sorry you couldn't get pregnant" thing that adoptive parents sometimes suffer through.

That's what this adoptive parent is doing -- so focused on adoption she can't even SEE that adoption isn't a first resort for children. In this adoptive parent's view, the entire biological basis of family is turned on its head.  Suddenly, adoption is normal, the natural order of things, not a last resort. Adoption should be the "first resort" for children?!  Give me a break.

A Thought Experiment

One of my favorite tools in my teaching arsenal is the hypothetical.  It's not like I invented it -- it's a standard technique in law school teaching.  We read real cases with real facts, and then I start the "what if" game -- what if this fact was different? what if that fact was different?

So let's try it with these ideas often floated when a family adopts a child who was kidnapped, some of which you'll find in the comments to my post about the Guatemalan case:
". . . the only parents she's ever known. . . ."

" . . . kidnappers can't be rewarded. . . ."

". . . but the APs didn't do anything wrong. . . ."

". . . best interest of the child. . . ."
Consider this:  In a fit of temporary insanity, a woman kidnaps her cousin's newborn daughter and then sets fire to the nursery.  When the fire is finally extinguished, investigators conclude it was an accidental fire and that the newborn's body had been completely incinerated in the fire. The cousin moves away, and passes off the baby as her own.  Her husband has been deployed in the military for the past six months, so he has no idea the child is not his and his wife's.

The mother never believes her daughter died in the fire.  Seven years later, when visiting her distant cousin for the first time in seven years, she comes to believe that her cousin's child is actually her child.  DNA testing proves her right.

The cousin has been an exemplary mother and the child has thrived in her care.  The child loves whom she has believed for seven years to be her mother and father.  The prosecution, believing the cousin was insane at the time of the crime, and no longer insane, chooses not to prosecute, so she will not go to jail.

So, should the child be returned to her biological mother who is a stranger to her?  Should she remain with the only parents she has ever known?  Shouldn't her biological mother want her to remain with the cousin since she will be traumatized by losing the only family she has ever known?

If the insanity defense doesn't persuade you that the cousin isn't blameworthy, what about the cousin's husband, the child's "only father she's ever known?"  He had no idea "his" child was not his child.  He has decided to divorce his wife so he can raise his daughter alone, without the influence of a kidnapper in their lives.  Should the child remain with him?  He did nothing wrong, after all. . . . And does wrong-doing by the parents matter, if the test is best interest of the child?

This hypo is, of course, based on a real situation, modified somewhat for my nefarious purposes!

So how do you solve this conundrum?  If you were the judge, who would you say gets custody of this child? What if it was the real situation (kidnapping, fire, no temporary insanity, kidnapper likely to be jailed, nothing about an ignorant husband), without my modifications?  Do my modifications make a difference? Does this change your initial impressions (if any!) in the Guatemalan case? Are you thinking now you'd love to go to law school?  Or are you now happy that you never even considered it?!