Sunday, December 23, 2012

Culture, Christmas & Adoption

Somehow, in all the years I've watched Miracle on 34th Street, I've managed to miss this scene until this year, where a Dutch girl comes to see Macy's Santa.  The mother explains that she's newly adopted, having spent time at an orphanage in Rotterdam.  The point of the scene is that Santa can converse with her in her native language, thus proving to doubting Susan that he is the real Santa.

But what I see is the importance of language and culture in transcultural adoption.  Look at how somber the little girl is while waiting to talk to Santa, and then look how her face lights up when he can actually talk to her in the language she knows! This isn't about the miracle of Santa Clause to me, it's about the importance of culture. . . .

According to the trivia section of IMDB, "In the untranslated dialogue with the Dutch girl, Santa Claus asks the child what she wants for Christmas the girl says she wants nothing, telling Santa she got her gift by being adopted by her new mother." Sweet, yes.  But it doesn't change the optics about how important culture is, nor is the importance of culture inconsistent with  the girl's happiness with being adopted.  It's possible to both mourn the loss of culture and love one's adopted family. 

So this 1947 movie got right something we sometimes forget today -- international adoption involves both loss and gain.  And adoptive parents do the right thing when they try to keep their kids connected -- even in imperfect, incomplete ways -- with their birth cultures (No, I don't believe there's anything I can do to ensure that my children will truly experience their birth cultures living with me in America, but I also think I can do things that recognize and honor their birth cultures). 

Holidays, including Christmas, can be a great time to bring a touch of your child's birth culture into your home.  Consider these past posts:

 Christmas and Adoption
A Touch of China Christmas Tree
A Touch of China Christmas Tree II

Monday, December 10, 2012

Unmarried Fathers v. Married Fathers

This story out of Utah sounds like just another adoption story where the biological father of a child is ignored in the adoption process:
A legal tug-of-war is playing out in Utah between adoptive parents and the father of a 21-month-old girl.

A Utah judge recently ordered the adoptive parents to give the child to the biological father, Terry Achane of South Carolina, said his lawyer, Scott Wiser.

The adoptive parents, Jared and Kristi Frei, have countered with a legal motion to keep the girl, whom they've raised since she was born, attorney Larry Jenkins confirmed.

That sets up months, if not years, of more legal wrangling and uncertainty about who will raise Leah Frei.

The Freis, who live in a Provo suburb, legally adopted her through an agency in 2010. They have four biological children and two adopted children, including Leah.
But this story is far from ordinary, as the next paragraph makes clear:  "The birth father says Tira Bland, his wife at the time, traveled from their Texas home while he was away on military service in South Carolina and gave birth in Utah. She signed off on an adoption in Utah to the Freis without his knowledge or consent, Wiser said."

HIS WIFE AT THE TIME. . . . He was MARRIED to the mother of the child at the time of conception and at the time of the child's birth.  That AUTOMATICALLY makes him the LEGAL father of this child.  That makes this case FAR different from all the cases of unwed fathers who are ignored in the course of adoptions.  The law makes clear distinctions between married fathers and unmarried fathers.

Fathers not married to the mother of the child are not necessarily legal fathers.  In Lehr v. Robertson, the Supreme Court says that unmarried biological fathers have only an opportunity to become legal fathers, they are not legal fathers by reason of biology.  Unmarried fathers have to DO SOMETHING to grasp the opportunity to be legal fathers:
The significance of the biological connection is that it offers the natural father an opportunity that no other male possesses to develop a relationship with his offspring. If he grasps that opportunity and accepts some measure of responsibility for the child's future, he may enjoy the blessings of the parent-child relationship and make uniquely valuable contributions to the child's development. If he fails to do so, the Federal Constitution will not automatically compel a State to listen to his opinion of where the child's best interests lie.
So when it comes to unmarried fathers, and whether they have any legal rights when their biological child is adopted out, we ask what they DID to grasp their opportunity to be legal fathers.  Did he support the mother financially and emotionally during pregnancy?  Did he live with the mother and child as a family unit?  What has he done to develop a relationship with the child? Has he supported the child financially and emotionally? And in more recent times, we ask, did he file in the putative father registry of the state in which the child is being placed?

Under this kind of fact-specific inquiry, there can be considerable disagreement over whether a biological father has sufficiently grasped his opportunity to be a parent.  That's how courts can ignore him in adoption placement -- the court just finds facts that show he did not grasp his opportunity to parent.  Now he isn't a legal parent, and he has no say in the adoption placement. He doesn't even have any parental rights that need to be terminated before the child can be adopted.

But married fathers don't have to DO ANYTHING -- they are legal fathers. Says the Supreme Court in Lehr,  "The most effective protection of the putative father's opportunity to develop a relationship with his child is provided by the laws that authorize formal marriage and govern its consequences."  See?  Once he's married to the mother, he has grasped his opportunity to be a legal parent, and he need not do anything more.  He is the legal father, and the child cannot be adopted out without his consent and without the formal termination of his parental rights based on that consent.

So, yeah, cases that ignore unmarried fathers who desire to parent are morally outrageous, but they're legally ambigous.  But a case that ignores a MARRIED father?  That is a new low in adoption placement.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Adoption "Service" Projects in School

OK, I’m going to try not to make this a rant – and you know just how hard that is for me!!!  I recently learned about a “service project” at a local private school [not my kids’ school] that is making my head explode.  Basically, the 6th grade kids are going to visit Gladney Center for Adoption, be given a tour of the campus and a presentation about adoption.  Then, the students will be working on a card that will be attached to a superhero puzzle and given to current and future birth mothers.  (A superhero puzzle?!   Apparently that’s in support of a new campaign called Brave Love, which according to the school, “targets women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy and encouraging them to consider the choice of adoption by using their bravery and selfless love for their child.”)

OK, where to start?!  I have so many objections to this “service” project, I can hardly figure out how to organize this.  So I’ll start with a summary: 

1. This is NOT a “service” project, because there is no actual help provided to anyone who needs help. 
2. Even if one can identify someone being helped, 6th graders are still concrete thinkers who need a more concrete object to get anything out of a “service” project.  

3. Even if the 6th graders can figure out who is being helped, they may land on the idea that the object of charity is adoptees, and given that there are adoptees in the class which the school fully knows, it shines a light on THEM as objects of charity.  Kids at this age – whether adopted or not – are usually at a developmental stage where they HATE being different or standing out.  They really don’t need to have a project that points out how they are different from all of their classmates.
 4. Even if you don’t care about the feelings of these adoptees, and want to do a project related to adoption, there are ways to truly help, like focusing on providing ACTUAL AID to prospective birth mothers and post-placement birth mothers, not just giving them a card and a stupid puzzle, or offering ACTUAL AID to orphans abroad or older kids in foster care in need of adoptive homes. 

5.  Using kids to express a viewpoint not universally agreed-upon – like how relinquishing is a statement of brave and selfless love! – is compelled speech, using them as little unpaid lobbyists for a public policy viewpoint that they are not really mature enough to form independently. 
To explain further:

First of all, if you don’t know anything about this “new campaign called Brave Love,” I suggest you read Claud’s post about it over at Musings of the Lame.  Essentially you’ll find that Brave Love is practically a wholly-owned subsidiary of Gladney Adoption Center.  And why is Gladney interested in the organization?  Consider this interview with the Gladney Center CEO and Brave Love Board member  Frank Garrott:
Q: What's Gladney's biggest challenge today?

A: Growth in a flat to declining market. Domestic infant adoption continues to shrink overall. On the international side, countries shut down or slow down adoption and we have to contend with the volatility. But we believe tough times create opportunity. We have a game plan and the will and capability to see it through.

Q: How does Gladney set itself apart from others in the field ?

We are working hard to lead our field toward greater collaboration and away from the mindset that we need to view each other as competitors. We believe that "a rising tide lifts all boats."

Q: What are the trends in domestic infant adoption?

A: More and more young women are choosing to be single parents. Combined with those choosing the abortion option, that leaves less than 2% who decide to place their baby for adoption. We have to do a better job of educating the public that adoption is a wonderful option.
So, Gladney needs to endorse projects like Brave Love to counteract a flat market in domestic adoption?  Doesn't seem like the problem is not enough parents wanting to adopt (the demand side), it's not enough mothers wanting to place (the supply side).  So, imagine your 6th grader – adopted or not – being involved in this project.  Your little darling gets to help Gladney develop the supply side!

Is this really a SERVICE project?! Exactly who are they providing a service to?!  What service are they providing?! My kid’s 6th grade class had their "service" project culminate last week -- after designing a cookbook, soliciting recipes, drawing pictures to illustrate it, they sold it and used the money to go shopping at a local discount store for clothes and toys for 56 needy kids. It's pretty easy in a project like that to figure out who is being helped, what service is being provided. 

But here, with the Brave Love project? Are they helping birth moms? Not so sure about that. Even if you absolutely love newborn adoption, even if you are the most “pro-adoption” person in the world, do you really think it is a service to prospective birth moms to send them a card and superhero puzzle?!  Lordy!  My kid’s class made Christmas cards for retired nuns at a local Catholic nursing home.  That’s a nice thing.  But is it SERVICE?!  I don’t think so!  And 6th-graders are still pretty concrete thinkers.  I don’t see how they “get” any lesson from this Brave Love project about helping others, when it’s pretty difficult to figure out who is being helped!

If you want a service project to help prospective birth moms, and you are super-duper pro-adoption, then how about doing something to offer post-adoption support for birth mothers? Or how about this – a project to help poor young mothers parent!  Collect disposable diapers, for instance – hey, if she decides to parent, she has diapers for the baby, and if she decides to relinquish, the diapers can go with the baby as a starter set for the adoptive parents!

Maybe the objects of this “service project” are kids relinquished for adoption? Are we helping them by encouraging prospective birth mothers to relinquish? That only works if you think it's better for kids of poor moms to be adopted by better-resourced parents, or for kids to be raised by a two-parent married couple than a single mom.  And those are not exactly universally-held viewpoints (says this single mom!). And if the “object” of this charity is the adoptee, then how is that a good idea as a school project WHERE THERE ARE ADOPTEES IN THE CLASS?!  The LAST thing these kids need is to have their classmates view them as charity cases!

But suppose you do want to have a service project that benefits adoptees, despite the charity-case problem? There are other ways to do it that DIRECTLY benefit truly needy kids – say, older special needs kids in foster care, who might need clothes or toys at this holiday season. Guess what?  Gladney even has a program for placement of older special needs children currently in foster care!  Instead of helping out Gladney’s newborn adoption program, how about helping these kids who really need help?! Or maybe Gladney’s orphan support programs abroad? Collect formula for orphans in Ethiopia, collect toys for orphans in Colombia. . . . (I'm not really endorsing these programs -- I don't know enough about them -- but I'm just suggesting that there are lots of CONCRETE ways to really help if you're looking for them).

Seems to me the only object benefitting from this service project is the adoption agency itself. Which makes this “service” project really a lobbying project. It's coercing the KIDS to express a public policy position. It's an awful lot like when a local ISD forced the kids to write out something they'd lose if Robin Hood educational funding took some of their considerable tax revenue and sent it to poor school districts. Kids were told all about how they wouldn't get to have a computer room, and how so-and-so would lose their job, and how the sports programs would suffer. . . . And then until they wrote something for the "chain," which would be taken down to Austin for a rally, the kids couldn’t go out to recess! Guess what?! Not all kids, nor all their parents, think that the Robin Hood plan is a bad one! The schools were essentially turning the kids into unpaid lobbyists of the schools’ position.  And that’s what this Brave Love project looks like, too, making the kids little salesmen for Gladney's newborn adoption program.

And then to do it on an issue that might have a high degree of sensitivity for an adopted child, knowing IN ADVANCE that there are adopted kids in the class?! Maybe not all adopted kids are at a place where they want to go to an adoption agency and work on separating moms and babies! Maybe not all adopted kids feel like having the entire class's collective noses rubbed in how adopted kids are charity cases! Maybe not all adopted kids want to feel conspicuous and different about being adopted! Maybe not all adopted kids think birth mothers are brave for relinquishing!  When I talked about this project with my 6th-grader, wondering what she thought of it, she said, “Well, I think sometimes it’s brave for birth mothers to keep their babies, like in China where it would be brave to defy the government’s one child policy.”  (Hah!  Think Gladney would hand out her card and superhero puzzle encouraging prospective birth mothers to be brave and parent their children?!).

I know, I know, if I don't want my child to participate in such a project, I could always just tell the school she would not be participating.  That way she wouldn't feel conspicuous and different.  Right, let's treat her differently in such a conspicuous way, so that she won't feel different and conspicuous!  Kind of puts a parent between the proverbial rock and hard place, huh?

So this project isn’t happening at my kids’ school, why am I writing about it – not my business, right?  Well, I’m hoping that if some other adopted kid’s parents are trying to figure out how to explain to the school that an adoption-related service project is A VERY BAD IDEA, maybe this post can give you some ways to explain it!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sixth Grade History Fair: International Adoption

Well, here it is -- the culmination of a lot of work for the 6th Grade History Fair!  Zoe selected the topic herself:  International Adoption.  I'll walk you through the board a little, so you can get an idea of what all she learned and shared.  To the left is the historical timeline, showing the start of international adoption after World War II, proceeding through the Korean and Vietnam Wars (including Operation Babylift), the growth of international adoption after the fall of the Soviet Union, the increase as China came on line, the corruption scandals that closed Vietnam, Cambodia and Guatemala, the Hague Convention passage, etc.  To the right, is the part Zoe was most interested in, "Spotlight on China."  She talked about the one child policy, orphanages and foster care in China, and the adoption process.  In the center of the board, Zoe covered why children ended up available for international adoption, why parents adopted internationally, problems with international adoption, the passage of the Hague Convention, and the growth and then decline in international adoption.

It was a tough project for Zoe, for both academic and emotional reasons.  As an academic topic, international adoption is pretty challenging for 6th grade, especially since it's hard to find just a few sources that cover the breadth of the topic and are comprehensible to a 12-year-old (even a smart 12-year-old like mine!).  Synthesis of multiple sources was the hardest academic challenge for Zoe with this project.  If I knew at the beginning of the project what I know now, I probably would have tried to direct her to something more limited, like maybe focusing on the Vietnam Babylift or just on China adoption.  Oh well, in 8th grade, she has to do History Fair again -- so remind me in two years -- SMALLER, EASIER topic!

In terms of emotional content, there was a lot of hard stuff -- war, poverty, social upheaval -- in both the history and present time of international adoption.  Yes, many history topics are grounded in tragedy, and some 6th graders did handle these topics, but I think for Zoe it really hit closer to home because of her personal connection to international adoption. Even more difficult, this is the first time that Zoe has really confronted problems of trafficking and corruption in adoption. 

Still, I think it was overall a positive experience for her.  She was certainly pleased with herself, as you can tell  in the photo below (Maya had to be included in the picture because she also starred in the display board as we used some of our own pictures to illustrate topics on the board, and the red binder in front of the board included pages from each of their adoption-trip albums).

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Poverty and Adoption

Interesting piece on poverty, adoption and inequality, based on a new study of attitudes of adoptive parents toward their children's birth mothers:
Reproductive health academic and activist writing contains no shortage of articles devoted to untangling the various intersections between access to abortion, abortion stigma, and poverty. The same thoughtful commentary and analysis has been applied to parenting and motherhood, exploring ways that different mothers are subjected to stigma and societal judgment for their reproductive choices based on race and social class. Yet, when it comes to adoption, the intersections with poverty are just as complicated and deserving of analysis yet less examined by those who care deeply about reproductive health, rights, and justice. Since November marks the beginning of National Adoption Awareness Month, we decided to come together to review some new research on adoption and poverty.

* * *

It remains true, however, that the women who relinquish or place children for adoption are almost always of a lower socioeconomic status than the families that adopt their children.

How, then, do the intersections between adoption, poverty, race, and class play out today? How are birth parents—most likely living in open adoptions, where they have ongoing contact with their child and his or her adoptive family—affected by these social differences? A new paper by sociologist Kathryn Sweeney examines perceptions of birth parents held by their counterparts: their own children’s adoptive parents.

Sweeney’s primary thesis is that the way our culture understands poverty broadly influences the way adoptions are lived individually. She relates the culture of poverty (that is, the socially-conservative American model for explaining inequality which attributes poverty to an inherent laziness or lack of personal responsibility in low-income communities) to adoption by saying:
“[adoption] perpetuates culture of poverty arguments by assuming that removing children from families is a solution to poverty; removing children implies that the families they are born into are inadequate to raise them… The focus on failures means that connections are lacking to larger economic systems that lead to placements by disempowered birth mothers and give privileged adoptive parents access to children.”
Through 15 in-depth interviews with White adoptive parents, Sweeney examined how they perceive their child’s family of origin, and how those perceptions are influenced by broader ideas of a culture of poverty. The narratives of adoptive parents – even those adoptive parents who recognize the structural causes of poverty—focus on individual choice, individual responsibility, and courage and altruism in making adoption decisions. Many viewed birth parents as making “bad choices” that led to their pregnancy, and described a “pathology of poverty” in which the negative traits associated with poverty were viewed as contagious—and, consequently, the adoption was a redemptive way out. Not so different, then, from the type of “redemption” that Solinger describes as being available to women 50 years ago.

Though a small study, the implications here are profound. Sweeney’s findings represent challenges for those in the adoption community: agencies that unwarily allow culture-of-poverty discourses to influence discussions of adoptions; adoptive parents who view their child’s family of origin as substantially different from their own; birth/first families who attempt to negotiate ongoing openness in their adoptions across a cultural divide that is both real and manufactured; and adoptees who must develop an identity that reconciles both their adoptive parents’ ideas of their original families and their own feelings about their origins.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Zoe's History Fair Project: Reflections on International Adoption

Sixth grade, and it's time for History Fair.  Zoe chose international adoption as her topic.  She still has a week before the display board is due, but the rough draft of her "reflection paper" is due tomorrow.  Here's what she came up with:
            I chose my topic on international adoption because I am adopted from China. Being adopted internationally means leaving your home country and birth culture and first language, and having to learn the culture and language where you live now. You lose your first family, too, in adoption.  But you get a new family to love you and take care of you forever. And in your new country, you can still learn about your first language and birth culture and home country, but it can be hard work.
            Because I’m adopted, I thought I knew a lot about adoption.  I do know a lot about adoption from China, but I didn’t know much about how international adoption started.  I didn’t know there were problems with international adoption.   And I didn’t know about the Hague Convention, which was passed to fix some of those problems.

            International adoption started after WWII. Children orphaned in the war were adopted in Belgium, England, and the U.S. Transracial adoption means adoption where the race of the children and the parents are different. An example of that would be an African American family adopting a child or children from China. Some of the first transracial adoptions in America were white families adopting Japanese children after the war.
            International adoption often happens in very poor countries. Example: China was a very poor country. Another example is Guatemala because the money that international adoption brings to Guatemala caused people to break laws to find children to offer for adoption. Sometimes, people would buy children so they could then place them in adoption for large adoption fees. Sometimes children were stolen from birthparents. Many countries worried that the adoption process in poor countries was not being handled right. That’s why governments got together and drafted the Hague Convention.

            The Hague Convention has a really long title: The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The Hague Convention was drafted in 1993 and since been signed by almost 90 countries. The Hague Convention sets out rules for sending countries to make sure that children to be adopted really need families and don’t already have families. It also makes rules for receiving countries to make sure adoptive families will be good families for kids.
            “Sending countries” mean countries that send orphans to be adopted and “receiving countries” mean where the adopted parents live. Some examples of sending countries are China, Russia, South Korea, Guatemala, and Ethiopia. Some examples of receiving are the U.S., France, Canada, Spain, Italy, and England. I was surprised to learn that the U.S. is also a sending country! Some children from the U.S. have been sent to Canada and The Netherlands to be adopted.

            I’ve learned with this project that some parts of international adoption are sad and some parts

are happy. Some sad parts are that sometimes adoption doesn’t always work the right way like in

Guatemala. Some happy parts are that children have families.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Should the Adoption Tax Credit be Renewed?

At the New York Times Room for Debate page, a discussion of the adoption tax credit, pro and con.  The MOST AMAZING thing is that a birth mother and two adoptees are included in the debate!  Here's a sample of the debate:
Children’s lives depend on the renewal of the adoption tax credit. Most adoptive families need it in order to afford adoption, which costs an average of $30,000. Most of our applicants at spend $30,000 to $50,000, and sometimes more depending on the circumstances and travel involved.

Many American families seeking to build their families through adoption can provide for a child on a day-to-day basis but cannot pay these fees in full and up front. So these large costs present insurmountable financial obstacles.


The Adoption Tax Credit originated mainly as an incentive to find families for special needs children who needed homes. (At the time it was nonrefundable, meaning it would only offset any taxes owed, but would not apply to families with too little income for a tax liability.) Lobbyists from the adoption industry pushed to expand the credit.

This increased the demand for adoptable children and adoption agencies responded by finding more mothers at risk to increase their own profits. Historically, as the adoption tax credit went up, agencies followed suit and raised their fees as well.

For a mother facing relinquishment, that same credit could very well be the bit of certainty she needs to parent her own baby. She would know how to pay off medical bills, or pay for day care, or take time off from work to enjoy her child.


The adoption tax credit should not only be renewed, but Congress should once again allow it to be refundable – available even if an adoptive family doesn’t have an income tax liability to apply against -- as it was in 2010 and 2011.

A refundable credit would ensure that more families of modest means can provide homes to vulnerable children. When children are adopted from foster care the credit can help care for children with special needs, and keep brothers and sisters together. A 2007 study showed that families who adopt from foster care have, on average, lower incomes than other adoptive families.

* * *

Unless the tax credit is refundable, many children would remain in expensive foster care. Analysis has shown that each adoption from foster care saves the government up to $235,000, so legislation encouraging adoption from foster care — like a refundable adoption tax credit — can both help vulnerable children and save taxpayers money.


The original intent of the adoption tax credit was to help families adopt through foster care, because, as Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, said, those parents “are of lower income than those adopting with an agency or internationally.”

But extending the tax credit to families who wish to adopt internationally, in 2001, was a misplacement of resources and effort. It benefits American families, often upper middle class and white, but not struggling families overseas.

* * *

Many children adopted internationally, said Mary Martin Mason of the Minnesota Adoption Resource Network, have post-traumatic stress disorder or fetal alcohol syndrome, “as well as traumatic orphanage experiences that are overwhelming to parents who try to parent with traditional techniques. These children are in jeopardy of adoption dissolutions if their families can’t find adoption-competent therapists. Funding post-adoption supportive services such as therapists for adoptive families is truly needed.”

Allowing the adoption tax credit to cover international adoptions only adds to this problem.


As an adoptee who’s just begun to learn about my birth family, I can honestly say adoption saved my life. If my biological mother had raised me after I was born, or if I grew up in foster care, I cannot imagine where my life would be.

There are more than 100,000 children in foster care. They can live in three to as many as 12 different homes before they age out of the system. When they do age out, they have no parent’s arms to run to when life has the best of them. They have no place for guidance, financial assistance in case of an emergency or help in fulfilling their dreams. Just 2 percent of foster children earn a bachelor's degree or higher, and studies have shown that most prison inmates have been in foster care at some point in their lives.

These children deserve and need a place to call home, but the high cost of adoption deters many families from considering it. The adoption tax credit is one of the most important resources for them.

 Please comment on the New York Times site, and whatever your opinion, please compliment them for including multiple voices not usually included in these debates.  This is really a HUGE DEAL!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Adopting Out the Children of Illegal Immigrants V

A more positive entry in the continuing series (see part I, part II, part III and part IV), from, of all courts, the Texas Supreme Court, who ruled that deportation alone is not sufficient for termination of parental rights:
[T]hough we agree with the court of appeals that deportation, like incarceration, is a factor that may be considered (albeit an insufficient one in and of itself to establish endangerment), its relevance to endangerment depends on the circumstances. Under the court’s reasoning, the mere threat of deportation or incarceration resulting from an unlawful act, regardless of severity, would establish endangerment. We disagree with that analysis. Many offenses can lead to an immigrant’s deportation, including entering the country unlawfully. Under the court’s reasoning, virtually any offense that could lead to deportation—even a minor one committed long before the parent’s children were born—would create such an unstable and uncertain environment as to establish endangerment, subjecting countless immigrants to the potential loss of their children. The court’s broad reasoning necessarily applies to citizens as well. Any offense committed by a citizen that could lead to imprisonment or confinement would also apparently establish endangerment, simply because the parent’s ability to be present in his children’s lives would be uncertain. Our nation’s Constitution forbids such a far-reaching interpretation of our parental rights termination statutes. Here, though Francisco engaged in a criminal act and left Wisconsin without completing his probation before his children were born,there is no evidence that these actions created such uncertainty and instability for his children sufficient to establish endangerment. Nor is there evidence that Francisco abandoned his parental responsibilities once he was forced to leave the country. Instead, the undisputed evidence illustrates that Edna and Francisco lived together as a family unit without apparent incident until they separated, and Francisco and his family remained a regular presence and source of support in the children’s lives after he was deported.

* * *

Deportation flowing from an unknown offense occurring many years earlier cannot satisfy the State’s burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that a parent engaged in an endangering course of conduct, nor can mere guesswork undergird such a finding.
Oh, and how did Francisco end up between the cross-hairs of ICE so that he was deported? He went to apply for a green card!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Homecomings of Adult Adoptees Reveal Dark Side of Adoption

Another piece on international adoption from the Korea Times:
Washington State Senator Paull Shin, French digital economy minister Fleur Pellerin and French Senator Jean-Vincent Place. They all have something in common.

All three are Korean adoptees who have become successes in their adopted countries.

Behind the success stories of those people, however, are others who suffer emotional distress after being adopted by foreign parents.

Adoptees' rights activists say many of the children sent for inter-racial adoption suffer racial and other social discrimination, constantly longing for their biological parents and homeland.

In the United States, a country where adoptees must undergo a separate procedure to obtain citizenship, more than a few adoptees never become naturalized, partly due to indifference from their adoptive parents.

According to South Korea's health and welfare ministry and an activist group devoted to Korean adoptees' human rights, there are 23,000 Korean adoptees in the U.S. whose citizenship status the groups do not know.

The figure represents about 20 percent of some 110,000 adoptees sent to America over the past 60 years since the 1950-53 Korean War.

A majority of those 23,000, in fact, appear to have obtained U.S. nationality but the true figure remains unknown due to local adoption agencies' poor management of post-adoption information.

"Most of the unconfirmed cases may be caused by the agencies' failure to inform the government of information on adoptees' acquisition of U.S. nationality," said Rev. Kim Do-hyun of the activist group KoRoot. "But several thousand of them are still believed to be living without any nationality."

In recent years, a sizable number of adoptees have been deported to Korea after being convicted of criminal charges while living overseas without becoming citizens of the country in which they live.

"As far as I know, there are more than 100,000 adoptees who voluntarily returned or were deported to South Korea while living without nationality," Kim said. "But the actual number may be larger than this when the number of people who live in South Korea without telling others they were deported, for fear of possible disadvantages, is counted."

The returnees are often unwelcome in Korean society, also.

Except for those with professional skills or fluency in the Korean language, most face language and cultural barriers.

Some return to locate their biological parents and find their true Korean identity only to discover that all the personal information they thought they knew about themselves was fabricated to facilitate their adoption.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

South Korea: Adoptee Justice/Adoptees Return

Two stories about South Korean adoption came across my radar today.  First, from a German magazine, South Korea's Lost Children Return, highlighting the life and work of Jane Jeong Trenka:
When South Korea was left in ruins following its war with the North in the 1950s, many children were sent to families in the United States or Europe. Western families were convinced they were giving these Korean orphans a better life.

Meanwhile, some of those international adoptees have returned to the land of their birth to learn more about their own history.

Jane Jeong Trenka was born in 1972 and adopted with her sister to northern Minnesota. Trenka says she always had questions about her adoption. Some of the stories her American parents told her didn't make sense. In 1995, she visited Korea and tracked down her birthmother.

It was then Trenka found out that her adoption was a lie and that her biological mother had been trying to find her.

"My American parents were told that I was the child of a single mother, that I was an unwanted child," she told Deutsche Welle. "When my birth mother made contact with my American parents, they really didn't welcome that, because the agency had lied to them."

Trenka found out her mother was married - to an abusive husband. She apparently never wanted to give up her children. An adoption agency worker simply took them from her.
Second, from the Korea Times, Adoptee Justice is About Social Justice, by Korean/Danish adoptee Anders Riel Muller:
The conventional narrative surrounding adoption is one of poverty but as I began to dig into Korean economic history I started to question the conventional narrative of a poor country who had no other option to sending children overseas. Rather, my understanding of overseas adoption has now come to the point where I see adoption as a political choice to address the social problems that came from rapid economic transformation. The highest numbers of overseas adoptions occurred during a time of radical and accelerated economic transformation.

By 1980, when I was sent overseas for adoption, Korea no longer belonged to the poorest countries in the world. But by then overseas adoption had become a very effective tool for population control and limiting social welfare expenses by the government. For each adoption, Korea received several thousand dollars in good hard foreign currency. Foreign currency was tightly controlled by the state, because in order to industrialize, the government took loans from overseas and they had to be paid back in U.S. dollars.

Every dollar earned was vital to the continued ability to industrialize. It is estimated that overseas adoption contributed between $20 and 40 million in hard currency every year in the 1970s and 80s. At that time, if any Korean company exported even $1 million in goods, they were acknowledged by the government. Also, by sending children from marginalized groups overseas, the government saved a lot on social welfare that could instead be reinvested in economic development.

This understanding of history leads me to the conviction that adoptees contributed to the economic miracle and that we have a place in the history of Korean development and hence to be critical of it.

* * *

As an adoptee, who now has a better understanding of how my adoption history relates to Korean development, my duty to Korea is to get involved in changing the system and work for a more just and equitable society. Many adoptees are doing the same. They are actively engaged in different kinds of political activism such as supporting single mothers, migrant workers and adoptee justice. Hopefully adoptees will continue their involvement with other groups working for justice and equality in Korea. But it is a two-way exchange. Progressive Koreans also have to recognize our place in their society and history. We may be outsiders in terms of language and culture but our place in history as laborers for Korean development should be acknowledged. Hopefully this can lead to new alliances, new networks of solidarity and ultimately a more just society for all.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Meeting the Wrong Birth Parents

A Korean adoptee, who thought she'd met her birth parents -- until the DNA tests showed they were the wrong people (they actually belonged to another Korean adoptee, a mixup from the orphanage), tells her story on the Ricki Lake Show:
I sat in a lobby nearly 6000 miles from home with nerves nagging my insides, sweating my brains out and breathing as heavily an 85-year old man with sleep apnea. I’ve waited before– for auditions, at the doctor’s office, in line at the DMV... But never had I been so overcome with fear, joy and hope (although, the anticipation of a new driver’s license picture does conjure up the aforementioned feelings). As far as I knew, this was the most important day of my life. I was about to meet the people whose genetic makeup I had been toting around for the past 29 years of my life.

My name is Michaela and I am adopted. I was born in South Korea, where I lived until, at three and a half months old, I joined my new family, a kind posse of tall Caucasians living in Upstate New York. From as far back as I can remember, I have thought about my bio-mom; what she looked like, where she was now, if we had the same raspy voice and raucous laugh, if we would one day meet, if she ever thought about me…

Last year I received a letter from the orphanage in Korea notifying me that they had located my bio-mother! And get this: She’s married to my bio-father! They have two children, AKA my full-blooded siblings! Finally, I could play out the reunion fantasies that had been camping out in my brain for years.

* * *

As I walked through the door, tears coating my face, my first thought was, ‘they look nothing like me.’ I was mad at myself for being so critical in the first moments, so I tucked the doubts away and hugged without abandonment. (No pun intended). It was exactly as I had pictured it: we embraced and cried and then cried some more—my bio-mom could not let me go. For as big of deal as this was for me, it was a bigger deal for her.

* * *

After leaving Korea, I had been back in Los Angeles for a couple of months, anxiously awaiting the DNA results. When they came, I felt devastated and vindicated: The people I met in Korea were not my family. From what the Korean orphanage explained to me, they belonged to someone else; another girl who had been born on the same day I was. We were two star-crossed babies. Who was this other girl? Where was she now? Would I ever meet her? I had met her bio-family. I hoped she would get the chance to meet them too.

Korean Adoptee Twins Now Homeless

Incredibly painful story from KoreAm:
The tragic story of homeless twin sisters in Washington, D.C. has been met with anguished reactions from the Korean American community.

Korean broadcasting station SBS recently aired a one-hour documentary about the Korean American twin sisters living on the streets of our nation’s capital.

Mi-kyung and Mi-young, both 32, were only 6 years old in 1987 when their father Soon-hong Min sent them to an orphanage in South Korea. The twins’ mother passed away only three years after giving birth. Min, who struggled to make ends meet, decided to drop off his daughters at a local orphanage, where they were later adopted by American parents.

On their way to the orphanage, Min told his daughters that they will be staying with their aunt until he comes back to take them back home.

The twins were soon taken to the United States to meet their new family. However, they were often harassed by their adoptive parents, who they described in an interview last year with the Korea Daily as being heavily abusive. They said at the time that the abuse was severe, so much so that both were convinced a mysterious stranger kidnapped them to separate their biological family.

* * *

However, everything changed when the twins received a letter from Min last year. Min, after learning that his daughters had become homeless 26 years after he had taken them to an orphanage, wrote a letter to them asking for their forgiveness.

Having thought that they had been kidnapped for all these years, the twins were devastated by the truth that they had actually been abandoned by the very person they spent nearly all of their lives trying to find.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Nigerian Mother's Battle to Keep Her Baby

From the BBC:
A doting, smiling mother cradles her first born caressing his tiny fingers in her hand. But 16-year-old Affiong Ene Essien is close to tears when she describes her journey to motherhood and says she was almost forced to give up her baby for adoption.

Affiong had been sharing a simple one room rented home in south-east Nigeria's Akwa Ibom State with her mother, her sister and young niece. Her parents say they had no idea about their daughter's pregnancy when she went missing.

"We had hoped she would get a job after completing her secondary school last year," her father Ene Ekpe Essien told the BBC.

Affiong says the father of her child disappeared and cut off contact when she became pregnant. With problems at home, Affiong headed for the city of Calabar in neighbouring Cross River State.

Confused, scared and broke, she was extremely vulnerable. She says she was offered free food, lodging and medical care at a refuge for pregnant teenagers - but on one condition.

"Since I did not have anywhere to go, I had to accept to sign with them that I would give the baby [away] and go."

Refuge Girls Home denies that any of the girls it takes in are ever coerced into signing over their babies.

* * *

Affiong said she was not allowed to use a mobile phone to call anyone and that the only time she was allowed to leave the home was for medical check-ups or to go to church along with other pregnant teenagers.

She says she was escorted to church and after the service had to come straight back to the home.

On 4 August, Affiong delivered her son by caesarean section at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital. Medical staff were soon suspicious that all was not well.

"I wasn't happy and it wasn't to my own mind that I should hand over my first child to the government," said Affiong, who told me that an employee of the home threatened her.

"The woman said that if I think of carrying that baby and running away then they were going to arrest me and jail me."

* * *

One doctor has chosen to speak out after discovering that some babies are being removed from the hospital even before their mothers are discharged.

"When I came in I discovered that everybody was in a state of panic - scared. They were talking in hushed tones," said Dr Elihu Osim.

"The truth was that young Affiong was worried about her child being taken away from her. She was frantic and had been crying all day and that's how the nurses got to know there was a problem.

"She was hysterical. She was not just weeping, not just sad because of what was going to happen to her baby but she was scared of what would happen to her. It was a double tragedy," said Dr Osim.

* * *

Dr Osim helped reunite Affiong with her parents and they all tell me they are proud of the latest addition to the family.

"When I remember the pain and I turn around and see my son I am always happy," said Affiong, taking it in turns with her mother to hold Daniel.

"At least even if I'm not going to have any child again, I have one and that will always make me happy."

Adoptive Parents in China Still Live in the Age of Secrets

From Channel News Asia:
More Chinese are defying tradition by adopting abandoned babies, especially handicapped children. These adoptive parents however, face many obstacles.

14-month-old Cui Keren was born with a cleft palate and abandoned by his parents shortly after birth.

First sent to a children's home in Shanxi province, Keren was later taken to Beijing for medical treatment.

In the capital, Keren was cared for by 48-year-old volunteer Cui Yaji at a temporary home for abandoned children.

The bond between the two became so strong that Ms Cui decided to adopt the infant.

"Initially I was very hesitant as it means adding another member to the family," said Ms Cui in Mandarin. "Raising a child is not a small matter but something with long-term implications."

She had the strong support of her husband and her 17-year-old daughter, Kexin.

Keren is an indispensable part of the family now. He has also undergone an operation for his cleft palate.

The only worry faced by the otherwise happy family is that Keren is unable to obtain his hukou, or household registration, in Beijing.

That is because Keren was abandoned and found in Shanxi province.

Under current regulations, Beijing only allows abandoned children to be registered in the Chinese capital if they are found and abandoned in Beijing.

"This is really troublesome for the child in future, whether in registering for school, finding a job, or going abroad," lamented Ms Cui.

"I won't be able to produce his proper registration. I'd only be able to produce the adoption papers. This isn't good for the child's healthy development."

Like most adoptive families, Keren's does not want him to know that he is an adopted child.

They prefer to break the news to him when he is older. But not being able to register him in Beijing means that it is difficult to keep his adoption a secret.

"Being abandoned by his natural parents meant that he had already been wounded once. I don't want to see him wounded a second time," said Ms Cui.
Sigh.  Like it isn't going to wound him when he finds out his loving adoptive parents have lied to him for every minute of his life. . . .

Maya's foster parents have fostered several children after her, one of whom was domestically adopted in China.  They told me that it was a family from Guangdong Province (not from Guangxi Province where Maya is from), and that they came to a different province to adopt so as to make it easier to hide the fact the child was adopted.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

In Gay Couple Custody Dispute, AP Wins over Bio Parent

The New York Post reports on a custody case pitting biological mother against her partner who adopted the child:
A Family Court judge has awarded full custody of a young child to her adopted mother, instead of her biological mom, in what is believed to be the first such New York state case involving a same sex couple.

Manhattan real estate attorney Allison Scollar defeated the little girl’s biological mom, Emmy-winning TV producer Brook Altman in a bitter court battle, the Post has learned.

“Love doesn’t just come from biology,” a relieved Scollar, 50, said days after being awarded custody and decision-making authority for her daughter, who turns 6 tomorrow. “And the minute I saw this little baby, I knew she was mine.

* * *

Manhattan Judge Gloria Sosa-Lintner said, “Although . . . Altman is the biological parent, this does not give her an automatic priority over the adoptive parent. This is analogous to a father getting custody of his own child, where only the best interests of the child are paramount.”

Scollar, the judge ruled, “is indeed the more responsible parent looking out for the child’s best interests, not her own interests” — while the 47-year-old Altman “behaved more as a friend or older sister than a responsible parent.”

Altman, who is co-CEO of the consulting and life coaching company The Handel Group, said, “This is just the end of the first phase. The judge ignored the evidence and issued a decision that is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law. We’re appealing this decision and I’m confident we’re going to prevail.”
Reactions?  Should biology trump adoption?  Suppose this was a heterosexual stepparent adoption case -- the couple divorces, and the court considers custody.  Should legal adoptive/step-mom or bio dad get custody? Reverse the sexes -- should legal adoptive/step-dad or bio mom get custody? Should these kinds of cases be decided as any other custody case, disregarding distinctions of biology or adoption?

PAP Sues Agency for Failed Adoption

From the Courthouse News Service:
Pakistan authorities charged an American with child trafficking because her Michigan adoption agency failed to fully investigate its partner program, she claims in court.

Nancy Baney says that she contacted Lighthouse Adoptions in October 2008 about adopting a child from Russia. After experiencing significant delays, however, Lighthouse president Lorien Wenger allegedly "recommended a new country program for the adoption of children from Pakistan."

Baney says she was "hesitant because she had strong heart ties to Russia after having adopted her son from that country."

"Defendant Wenger told plaintiff that she had been 'working for a year' to develop a Pakistani adoption program," the complaint in Washtenaw County Circuit Court continues.

"Defendant Wenger told plaintiff that she had partnered with a Non-Governmental Organization in Pakistan for Christian adoptions.

    * * *

After Wenger offered Baney the chance to adopt a 1-month-old baby in 2009, Baney says she wired over $14,000 for the adoption and spent a nearly month in Pakistan as one of the first families for the Pakistan pilot program, according to the complaint.

"Plaintiff was to spend the time in Pakistan bonding with her baby daughter and visiting the birth city and to complete an IR-4 adoption immigration visa to bring baby Marina back to the United States," the complaint states.

"On or about October 12, 2009, plaintiff was awarded a permanent guardianship for Marina by the Pakistan court.

"Two days later, on October 14, 2009, the US Embassy denied plaintiff's application for an IR-4 adoption immigration visa for Marina. The denial was based on an I-604 investigation that confirmed that two (2) of Marina's identity documents were forgeries.

"The US Embassy also confirmed for the plaintiff that Global Adoption Services was a front for a large child trafficking ring located in Faisalabad, Pakistan. Faisalabad was the city of Marina's birth."

Ultimately, the complaint says "Marina was taken from plaintiff's arms while plaintiff sat at gunpoint by the Pakistani Federal Investigative Agency," according to the complaint. "Marina was placed in an orphanage while her mother, the plaintiff was investigated for child trafficking."
My favorite allegation in the whole suit?  "Lighthouse Adoptions and Wenger allegedly 'became acquainted with Global Adoption Services and [its director] Sadeem Shargeel through unsolicited e-mails that he sent ... offering his services.'"  Lordy, wonder of the idiots at the agency also answer those emails from Nigeria looking for someone to accept a wire transfer of $1.6 million, just send us your bank account information. . . .

Friday, September 28, 2012

Charity Begins at Home: Adoption Tax Credit

OK, as you know, I can't stand equating adoption and charity, but the author of the article titled it thus; the Family Law Prof blog reports on a new law review article arguing that the adoption tax credit should be discontinued for international adoptions:
DeLeith Duke Gossett (Texas Tech University School of Law) has recently posted her article If Charity Begins at Home, Why Do We Go Searching Abroad? A Call to Sunset the Portion of the Federal Adoption Tax Credit that Subsidizes International Adoptions, Lewis & Clark Law Review (forthcoming) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Unlike the media frenzy that surrounded Angelina Jolie’s and Madonna’s international adoptions, noted director Steven Spielberg’s adoption of two African American children from the Los Angeles foster care system received very little fanfare. Spielberg went on to establish the Children’s Action Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding permanent homes for the thousands of children stuck “in the system” of foster care. He documented their stories and their hopes of someday being adopted. For many, however, adoption is a dream yet to be realized. 

Currently, nearly half a million children reside in United States foster care, some “aging out” without ever having been adopted. Beginning in the 1980s and carrying through the 1990s, Congress passed a series of legislative measures aimed at helping those children in the system. As incentive for placing children in permanent homes, and as part of the Adoption Promotion and Stability Act of 1996, a tax credit was made available for those who adopted children. Since that time, the federal adoption tax credit has risen to as high as $13,360 per child, some years as refundable and other years as non-refundable. 

* * * 

In recent years, international adoption has become the new social trend, fueled by celebrity and evangelical circles alike (although arguably for different reasons), even though a large number of children remain in the foster care system. Children from other countries are now being imported to form the new American families, and those who adopt internationally, whether they receive $13,360, or even $6,000, are receiving the same tax benefits as those who adopt domestically. And while this may add to the diversity of our culture, and provide those adopting with a sense of fulfilling a higher purpose, the very ones who were the intended beneficiaries of the legislation, those “lost in the system,” remain there and are not being helped as the statute originally intended. Because the tax credit should be used to reclaim children from the foster care system — not to subsidize international adoptions — it is time to let the international portion of the tax credit sunset and focus taxpayer resources on those whom the tax credit originally sought to help.
I posted last week about how we adoption tax credit users are part of the 47%. And for an impassioned and cogent argument for why the adoption tax credit should be abolished alltogether, check out this post at Musings of the Lame.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

School/Health Issues for Adopted Kids

More on that study I posted about yesterday, this one from U.S. News & World Report:
A school project that requires a baby photo, classmates who tease, well-meaning counselors who say the wrong thing, uncommon medical conditions -- these are just a few of the challenging issues families with adopted children experience in their day-to-day lives.

A new report summing up adoption research shows that the portrait of adoptive families in the United States is changing and so are the needs of those families, said lead author Dr. Faye Jones, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Louisville.

Jones said the research suggests that families would benefit if their pediatricians were more aware of their unique needs -- specialized counseling and emotional support, connections to other adoptive families and tutoring service recommendations, for example. Adoption experts say educating schools and communities would help too.

"The key point is that families and children are going through a lot of different types of adjustments and it doesn't stop when the papers are signed. It's a lifelong process," Jones said.

* * *

As far as health issues, 39 percent of adopted children were classified as having special health needs, compared with 19 percent of the general population. The authors recommend pediatricians offer a roadmap to families -- help them locate any specialists, therapists and medical-equipment providers they might need, even before parents bring their new child home. 
* * *

Family doctors and teachers can ease communications with adoptive families by learning to use terms like 'birth parents' and 'biological parents,' and not saying 'real parents,' Goldwater said. Teachers should also know what might trigger a youngster's anxiety.
"An assignment that requires a baby picture can be traumatizing for a child who has no photos of herself as a baby," Goldwater said. Family-tree projects and Mother's Day may also spark deep emotions.

"Getting teachers to be aware of how they talk about family, what kinds of language they use, what might be embedded in their curriculum that might be difficult is important," she said. She recalled one family whose daughter, adopted from China, "fell apart" in school one day when her class was reading a textbook that described how baby girls in China are sometimes abandoned or given to orphanages.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pediatricians Need to Support Adoptive Families

From Medicalxpress:
As more children are adopted each year, pediatricians must be knowledgeable about adoption issues and model positive language for adoptive families, according to a clinical report published online Sept. 24 in Pediatrics.   

Veronnie F. Jones, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues from the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Early Childhood and Council on Foster Care, Adoption, and Kinship Care, examined the role of the pediatrician in supporting adoptive families.

The researchers report that approximately 120,000 children, representing 2 percent of the U.S. population, are adopted every year. The role of pediatricians may start with reviewing preadoption health records to help families assess the health needs of children they plan to adopt. The pediatrician can help parents decide how and when to communicate about adoption with their children. They should introduce adoptive parents to available resources and provide support for parents during the child's developmental understanding of adoption. Pediatricians should be encouraged to model positive adoption language for adoptive families. This effective communication is key in promoting the long-term mental and physical health of adopted children and their families.

"As more children each year become part of permanent families through adoption, it is becoming increasingly important for pediatricians to be aware of and knowledgeable about adoption," the authors write. "Pediatricians play an important role in helping families deal with the differences, the losses, and the many other issues surrounding the adoption of a child."

You can read the whole article in Pediatrics magazine.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Adopting a Kid, Not a Cause

From the Her.meneutics blog at Christianity Today:
There are three bad things that happen when we emphasize the missional aspects of adoption while minimizing our longing for children.

First, we marginalize those women, our sisters in Christ, who suffer the trial of infertility and who pray month by month for the Lord to open their wombs . . . and we’d do well to remember that the Lord often received their plea for children with compassion. Their desire is not inferior in his sight.

Saving the world one adoption at a time also risks objectifying our children. Adopted children are no longer allowed to be simply kids. They become involuntary ambassadors for a cause.

I live in Mississippi. I am the Caucasian mother of two black children. But my children were not adopted to be overtures of peace in a racial reconciliation campaign. One of my children came from a continent where a child dies every minute from malaria. But he is first and foremost my child, not my personal platform for children’s health initiatives. . .

Finally, when Christians focus on response to a need—the number of global orphans, the bleak future of older orphans, and so on—we encounter a third problem: a false hierarchy where some adoptions seem more worthy than others. For example, there’s a sense in the adoption community, to which I belong, that couples who adopt international, special-needs kids are doing something more valuable than couples who adopt same-race, healthy infants. By ignoring our common joy in family, adoptive parents often lack mutual respect for one another.
My problems with adoption-as-a-cause include this author's number two problem -- objectifying our children, making them "involuntary ambassadors for a cause."  But I have other problems with it, too, as I said in a post entitled What's wrong with rescuing orphans?:
The first problem -- gratitude.  Have you ever heard the old saw that a man ought to date a homely woman, since homely women are likely to be grateful for the attention?  It's an ugly suggestion, isn't it?  And we can all look at such a relationship and see it as inauthentic, exploitative, unhealthy.  Any relationship where one person feels superior and the other is expected to be grateful is completely corrosive.  Talking about adoption as the rescue of needy, pitiful orphans by white knights on white chargers sets up that same unequal power dynamic.  Feeling inferior is profoundly damaging to self-esteem, identity, human dignity. I think it's not just damaging to adopted persons, but to adoptive persons, too.  Feeling superior does terrible things to your character, too.
And the suggestion is that, like that homely woman, the "rescued" adoptee should be grateful for everything that everyone else gets to take for granted. 

* * *
Which leads me to a second problem with "rescuing orphans" -- ends justify the means.  Movements can be world-changingly positive.  They can also be dangerous.  Sometimes when we focus on the great need of orphans to be rescued from deplorable conditions, we start to believe that ANYTHING we do to cure this great wrong is justified.  We don't stop to ask if the children are truly orphans or if they have extended family who can care for them, or if they truly need to be adopted. 

* * *
A third problem with adoption as rescue -- it won't work.  Let's face it -- the "orphan crisis" we hear about, the 132 million or 147 million or the 163 million orphans around the world (those are UNICEF numbers, but they don't really represent true orphans), will not be solved by adoption.  Even if we successfully placed all 163 million orphans in new adoptive homes, the conditions that produce orphans -- war, poverty, illness, gender inequality -- would keep on churning out orphans.  The ONLY way to resolve the orphan crisis is to work to end the conditions that cause kids to need out-of-family care.  The orphan crisis will end when we take care of vulnerable FAMILIES.
* * *

A final problem I have with the rescue theme is that it is often presented as a uniquely Christian obligation to adopt orphans. .  .  .
And once adoption becomes a uniquely Christian obligation, we start excluding suitable adoptive parents based on some Christian beliefs, having the perversely opposite effect of making it harder to place orphans.  Gay and lesbian parents, unmarried couples, single women, Muslim parents, atheist parents, parents considered insufficiently Christian or the wrong kind of Christian, just won't do, it seems, when we see adoption as a Christian mandate.

There are lots of churches and organizations and individuals, Christian and otherwise, who are doing great work in caring for orphans.  I applaud their work, I donate to such organizations.  But caring for orphans and adopting children are two different things.  I don't confuse my charity work with the adoption of my girls.  I wish the rest of the world would keep the distinction in mind, too.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Adoptive Parents: We Are the 47%

There's been a lot of talk this election season about people depending on the government for handouts, culminating in the recent comments by Mitt Romney about the 47% of people in America who don't pay federal income taxes, that they are "dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. . . . . And so my job is not to worry about those people—I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

There's also been a lot of attention paid to some groups in that 47% -- like seniors, active-duty military, the working poor (those earning less than $20,000), thousands of millionaires, etc.  I was curious, though -- how many in that 47% are adoptive parents who have utilized the adoption tax credit and thus pay no taxes. I couldn't find any figures for how many adoptive parents take advantage of the adoption tax credit each year, much less how many use it to meet their entire tax obligation. . . .

So I took a look at the tax tables for 2011, looking to see at what income level a person's taxes would have been completely paid by the $13,360 adoption tax credit.  I was actually a little surprised by how high that income was -- a single person taking nothing but the personal exemption of $3650 and the standard deduction of $5800 could earn up to $78,400 and not pay a penny of federal taxes because the adoption tax credit covered their tax obligation.  A married couple taking nothing but the personal exemptions of $7300 and standard deduction of $11,600 could earn up to a whopping $103,350 and not pay a penny of federal taxes because the adoption tax credit covered their tax obligation. AND the adoption tax credit is refundable -- meaning that if your tax obligation is less than $13,360, you get the balance as a refund! Government handout, anyone?!

Of course, the adoption tax credit is a one-time thing and doesn't seem to suggest some long-term dependency, right?  But then, we don't know whether that's true for the rest of the 47% as well.  All we know is that in any given year a certain percentage of people don't pay any federal income taxes, not how long they haven't paid any income taxes. And don't get me started on adoption subsidies that do last year after year. . . .

So, if you're disturbed by the specter of 47% of Americans not paying federal income taxes, then it's time to get rid of the adoption tax credit, right?!  In fact, those of us who took the credit in the past should be ashamed of ourselves for taking that government handout, for our dependency on the government, for sucking at the government teat.  Right?!

Hmm, I'm not sure many adoptive parents would agree to that.

So when you look at the 47%, remember that one person's "dependency" is another person's deeply-prized tax break. . . .

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Falsified Adoption" from South Korea

Interesting story, though why the headline is "falsified adoption" rather than "adoption trafficking" is anybody's guess:
As Australians find it harder to adopt babies from overseas, one woman has discovered she was falsely adopted from South Korea, where her biological mother was told her baby was stillborn.

Emily Will* was pronounced dead at birth. Born in a small maternity home in the countryside of Geoje, Gyeongsandnam-do, the midwife allegedly told her biological parents the baby was “stillborn”.

“I don’t know how this could have happened to me,” she says. “Why would someone (the midwife) do that? Why would someone make a choice for someone else?”

“Her decision changed my life.”

For 23 years, Ms Will believed she was put up for adoption after her biological parents decided to part ways. Her adoption papers said her parents were in a de facto relationship, a status considered shameful in traditional Korean society, with two daughters.

It was not until she became a mother herself, Ms Will became curious about her biological roots.
“After my daughter was born, something changed. Something changed in me,” she says.

“I didn’t know my medical history. I didn’t know what I could have passed on to my kid. I didn’t know if there were any genetic heart diseases. Nothing.”

After three years of searching and waiting, Ms Will thought she was prepared to meet her biological parents.

“It’s well known that you may possibly or most probably have a false story given to you so you brace yourself,” says Ms Will, 24, a mother of two in Sydney. “But when you finally get the real story, the story you thought you had prepared yourself for… it definitely throws you.”

Her emotional reunion with her biological family was set up in a small room at her South Korean adoption agency, Eastern Social Welfare Society.

“When I saw them my mind went completely blank. I didn’t know what to think at that stage. It was a bit of a shock. I really didn’t think this day would come. It was very surreal.”

It was at this meeting Ms Will became aware of the truth of her past; she was a stolen baby and her parents had in fact been married at the time.

The experience of Ms Will is uncommon, but not unheard of. Intentional fabrication, falsification of documents and unintended adoption has been previously reported in South Korea.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Adopting Children/Adopting Pets

A writer recounts a conversation with preschoolers who only know about adoption as something that happens to pets:
Months ago I went to a preschool moving sale. Everything was for sale. I enjoyed watching several children reminiscing about their time at this school. They were taking turns reading to each other in an unstructured setting they chose.

The preschool director and two little girls were sorting stuffed animals. I sensed that they were consoling the director. When offered a chair, I readily became involved. Among the treasures was a box of hand puppets. We each chose one and pretending to be that animal, we talked together.

After a few minutes the girls asked me if I had children, where they were, and how old they were. I shared photos of them when they were 3 and 5 years old and said my boys were now men and dads to their own children. I told the girls both my sons were adopted. They looked perplexed; I was prompted to ask if they knew what “adopted” meant.

They conferred, one saying, “Adopted, adopted, I heard that word before.” The other one said, “Yeah, me too.” They scratched their heads, they asked their hand puppets, and still a bit unsure, the older girl announced, “I know, I remember now.” She then looked straight at me wide-eyed and quipped, “You adopted your kids from a shelter? Did you go there and look at a bunch of babies to pick them out?”

A little surprised, realizing they associated adoption with pet shelters I tried to satisfy their new curiosity by telling them that adopting children is different from choosing a cute pet. That little interaction gave me pause.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

DYI Adoption

From the Wall Street Journal The Juggle (juggling work & family) blog:
Get a lawyer, set up a website, create an advertising budget. These may sound like steps needed to launch a business venture, but this is actually the advice professionals give to people looking to adopt a newborn in the U.S.

When my husband and I started to look into adoption, we didn’t realize we would have to be proactive in the process. We were baffled by the idea of self-promotion, but both our adoption attorney and licensed agency were adamant that we get ourselves “out there” to attract someone who might be considering an adoption.

More and more, the “match” between an expectant parent and a prospective adoptive one is done without the intermediation of a licensed agency, in what is known as an “independent” adoption. Our agency noted that around 65% of annual placements of newborns were identified adoptions, meaning the adoptive family had found the birth family through their own advertising.

Oh, and great job of reinforcing stereotypes of birth parents: "Brace yourself for getting some exposure to a diverse group of expectant parents. We were contacted by a sex worker, a junkie, a high-school student, a homeless woman, a single mother of four, to name a few situations. And of course, there were cases of expectant families looking to make the most of an unplanned situation."  Sigh.