Here’s what matters most: Aronson told the adoption lobby that adoption is not the solution for the world’s needy children. She asks:
Why did we create such a marvelous bureaucracy to improve international adoption practices and not pour some of that money into the welfare of mothers in these countries?Substitute “families” for “mothers”—some of those children are living with grandmothers, sisters, or cousins—and that’s the right question. Although UNICEF is often quoted as saying that there are 163 million orphans today, few people understand that the vast majority of those have lost only one parent—and most of the rest are living with extended families. In much of Asia and Africa, when children are living in institutions, it’s not because their parents are dead; rather, it’s because their families are too poor to keep them alive, or have no childcare during the long days of bringing in the harvest. What we might call “orphanages” are usually child-welfare centers, places for the families to be certain that children are fed, housed, and educated.
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But here’s what Aronson overlooks: The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, the “marvelous bureaucracy” of which she speaks and that was created to respond to growing reports of adoption-related fraud, coercion, and kidnapping, doesn’t merely put in place regulations to oversee adoption agencies. It also requires that its signatory countries create a healthy social- welfare infrastructure that assesses what kinds of help families might need to care for their children—and if those families are abusive or incapable, finds the right kind of homes. The Hague Permanent Bureau sends teams to evaluate and improve that infrastructure. So does UNICEF—which is, you may be surprised to know, hated by a large part of the adoption community. So do UNAIDS, PEPFAR, USAID, and a variety of dedicated nonprofits and NGOs—none of which work on adoption. Many different actors are working to help families keep their children home. Needless to say, none are adequate.
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