Thursday, January 12, 2012

Biggest Misperception of UNICEF

At the Council on Foreign Relations, Dr. Susan Bissell, Associate Director and Programmes Chief Child Protection, UNICEF, answers questions, including "What is the biggest misperception of UNICEF?"
The biggest misperception is that UNICEF is against inter-country adoption. We are most certainly not against inter-country adoption. I think that there is some very deliberate and misleading journalism in this area. We support the continuum of care: everything from trying to support vulnerable families so they don’t have to relinquish their children; to permanent foster care; to having a child with his or her extended family on a permanent basis; to transparent and ethical inter-country adoption. We are guided by international standards like the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is saddening and it is personal. There is so much written about what my colleagues and I are trying to do in the field to fix these problems, and I think we’re making progress on addressing this misperception.
I've addressed this common misperception about UNICEF here and here and here.  Though Dr. Bissell thinks they're making progress on addressing the misperception, I'd have to say the UNICEF blame game in the adoptive parent community is as strong as ever.


Anonymous said...

OK but honestly, she has a great big title within UNICEF I would like to hear someone WITHIN the Council on Foreign Relations (Other than someone paid through UNICEF) or someone with any other kind of clout and yet working with the orphaned children directly, A director of an orphanage for instance, about the benefits of UNICEF for abandoned children. THEN I will think it's worth listening to.
The fact that this person with a huge title within UNCEF, who makes good money from the program staying put and benefits off of positive press...says this really means very little to me. It's like the big oil CEOs standing up to congress and singing their own praises.

Anonymous said...

i agre with anon 1. i've NEVER heard a good thing about UNICEF from any orphange.
however, susan bissel, wrote in response to a question by an adoptive parent regarding unicef's involvement in advocating nepal adoptions close:

"...I reviewed what you sent me, read the press release, re-read the Hague piece, and have the UNICEF/TDH study in my short-term memory. I just want you to know that I think the UNICEF press release was badly timed, badly worded, and perhaps not even needed.

...Finally, just to let you know that I sent an email to the entire child protection team, moments ago, to urge them to be more sensitive in our work with the press, and in issuing public statements..."

Too little to late. she doesn't say anything about supportinv IA in any way at any time. Too many children around the world are living without loving families because of UNICEF.

UNICEF is a bad org and hopefully people will start to understand that. ask her how much money they gave to guat? ask her how the org harmed so many kids from haiti after the earthquake? ask her if she has any handle on the cultures of the countries they try to control in regards to child welfare? where are they in nepal? where are they in India? what about china? how come they aren't all over china for their adoptions? china doesn't need their money - simple as that!

Anonymous said...

malinda - please don't refer to it as a common misperception of UNICEF. perception is reality. just refer to it as a perception (not misperception). be objective and let people decide.

malinda said...

Anon 2, my blog, my views. I consider it a misperception, not different perceptions, as I've explained many times. You are, of course, free to disagree. You are not, however, free to tell me how to blog. Feel free, on your blog, to write it any way you like!

Anonymous said...

This is Anon-1 again...

I think the people at UNICEF BELIEVE they are not doing any harm to children. But that is way different than them NOT doing any harm to children.

Malinda- I don't think Anon - 2 (actually Anon 3) meant to insult you. But, your blog is fairly well read, and I agree with Anon -3. The titles of your posts, at times, can be misguided. If the intention of your blog is to engage and educate the general public, and to bring light to public topics for discussion, then it should be presented in a way that does not appear biased from the get go. You have "agree" and "disagree' tabs on the front of your topics, which makes it appear you are looking for discussion. So it becomes a bit confusing when someone disagrees with your presentation (not just your perception) and you push them aside, and ask them to move along. Just saying.

Kris said...

I believe UNICEF (or at least their stance on international adoption) is misunderstood. Anon 2, with all due respect, why SHOULD UNICEF be supportive of international adoption? International adoption is really a LAST RESORT, and should be. EVERY EFFORT should be made to avoid it. It is mostly beneficial to adoptive parents.

Anonymous said...

I am an AP of an international adoption. Our daughter probably would not have been adopted domestically, and in fact, at 23 months old, was being primed to live in an orphanage till she aged out. It would be great to assume she would be adopted domestically, but that is a HUGE assumption. One has to assume, instead, that she would have aged out. HOW does it benefit her MORE to age out of an orphanage than to be adopted internationally? I honestly cannot imagine ANY child growing up and saying, "Whew, I'm so glad I still have my culture instead of a family!" IMO, family ALWAYS trumps culture...always! You could have asked my German grandmother who immigrated to the US with her parents that very same question, and she would have said the very same thing.

malinda said...

I have no problem with people who disagree with me on the substantive points I make. I LOVE discussion. I have the agree-disagree buttons instead of the usual like-dislike buttons because I think it should be about the arguments made, not whether you like it or not.

But that's different from wanting me to blog a certain way. I make no pretense of objectivity, any more than I expect commenters to be objective. If you don't want my opinions, then read another blog. Or do all the research and digging I do to bring issues up for discussion on your own. Then my pesky opinions won't disturb you.

You may notice that I don't ask people to move along to another blog when they disagree with me, I do it when they say they aren't getting anything out of reading here, are irritated by how I blog, or try to tell me to blog in a way I don't want to. Disagreeing with my opinions is fine. Expect me to blog in a way that YOU like is not.

The world is a big place, and there's room for all kinds of blogs. If you don't like mine, find another or start your own.

Doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

Anonymous said...

malinda - anon 3. i don't blog. but i do go to sites like yours for education. when you use subjective words you are leading the reader in a certain direction. if that is your intent then fine, keep blogging the way you did in this post. but if you want people to get a true education let them decide if unicef is misperceived. you do it, unicef does it and pear is pathetically guilty of doing it. state the facts and let people decide.

Anonymous said...

kris - my child may not be walking today if her adoption did not go through. don't know for sure but it is a possibility. docs are amazed by her recovery from many conditions. one very serious that would not have been addressed in an orphanage. she would have aged out and then what? unicef would say the day?

Anonymous said...

malinda - anon 3 again. i actually feel bad that i disagree with you on so many things because you are clearly a very kind intelligent person. and i do love your transracial stuff. so i'm sorry - but your subjective support of so many anti adoption people/groups is annoying. :-)

Kris said...

I am an AP too. My daughter is from Russia and is a member of a minority group and so probably would not have been adopted domestically either. Just the way it is there. I am not saying she would be better off in an orphanage. Not so. However, I questioned why she was in an orphanage in the first place. I contacted her natural family and (of course) poverty had a lot to do with it. That shouldn't be a reason to give up your kid.

What I am saying is that IA should be a last resort. What if my daughter's family had had some support? There was no abuse, alcoholism or drug abuse. They should not have had to give her up. Unforunately IA is a huge money maker and the system really needs to change so that adoption is about finding families for children who really need them, not finding babies for wealthy Americans. That's all I am saying. I agree with UNICEF's position on IA. I have never understood why so many people have a problem with it.

I love my daughter more than anything but I'm not sure I did what was best for HER, I only know I did what was best for ME. I will never know if it was best for her and that haunts me.

I don't think Malinda shows "subjective support for anti-adoption groups." I think she does a fantastic job of pointing out the problems with adoption as it stands today. There is a lot of corruption and there are a lot adoptions that probably did not need to happen. That is just wrong. Pointing it out does not make her anti-adoption. I am not anti-adoption either. I just think there needs to be some reform.

Anonymous said...

what is wrong with poverty being one of the options of adoption? a friend adopted a child the same age as my daughter. it was domestic and open. the birth mom could not financially afford to parent the child and knew adoption was the best option. along with poverty SOMETIMES comes poor relationship decisions and other behaviors that sometimes lead to pregnancy. some of the kids are unwanted. it's reality. kris, do you really think a caste system will support poverty stricken families? untouchables? sorry, harsh but it is what it is.

Sharon said...


UNICEF should be supportive of intercountry adoption because they have written policy statements asserting that they support it. What they do in practice diverges radically from that policy, which is why so many call them out for being anti-IA. They are free to set any policy that they wish, but it would be nice if the written statements matched the behavior of the organization.

Anonymous said...

"I don't think Malinda shows "subjective support for anti-adoption groups." I think she does a fantastic job of pointing out the problems with adoption as it stands today."

I think this blog does maybe too good of a job pointing out in detail problems with international adoption, but does a poor job of pointing out even the slightest problem with UNICEF and there are many. There is almost a blind support of UNICEF and presents many contradictions.

It just seems like people who are anti-adoption just don't want to hear anything negative when it comes to the outcomes of some of UNICEF's policies.

Anonymous said...

Anon who said: "You could have asked my German grandmother who immigrated to the US with her parents that very same question, and she would have said the very same thing."

Did they come to the US shortly after WWII? Were she one of the first group of individuals UNICEF helped? If later, were her parents some of the beneficiaries right after the war? UNICEF started because of all the starving children in Europe who were in danger of dying especially from countries on the opposite side in the war.


If you want UNICEF to support IA in all countries - fight to reform the IA ADOPTION INDUSTRY and stop pointing fingers at an agency that must follow the mandates put in place by the UN - UNICEF is following the rules they are required to - make the adoption industry follow the rules and the problem will be solved.

Anonymous said...

This is the anon to whom you are referring.
My point was not whether or not UNICEF helped my grandmother. I don't know if they did or not. In fact, my grandmother would now be over 100 years old if she were alive, and I am unsure if UNICEF even existed back then. However, none of that really matters. My POINT WAS that family trumped culture for her, without a doubt. Culture should be hand in hand with family "in a perfect world" but children in orphanages are NOT in a perfect world....far from it! I still say FAMILY TRUMPS CULTURE.....And THAT should be the focus of UNICEF, but it seems it is just the opposite. I do not believe UNICEF employees BELIEVE they are doing the wrong thing, but I DO believe that UNICEF has it's priorities and subsequent lack of concern for orphans, headed in the wrong direction, especially since many of these children will know their culture but will NEVER know family, till they age out and become wives and/or mothers.

Anonymous said...

theadoptedones- Me again :-)
I think it's important to add that regardless of whether or not UNICEF helped my grandmother and her parents (although unlikely-but your point is understood), I am not saying that UNICEF is the anti-christ, or that UNICEF has not done some good when it comes to children. That is indisputable.
BUT, for an organization (or agency as you refer to it) to put it out there as if they're helping orphans, and then stand in the way of those orphans finding families...THAT is what I (and dare I say, most of us who disagree with UNICEFs ways) am standing up against. Who says that UNICEF has to get involved with the handling of orphans at all? UNICEF? No one entity dictates to UNICEF that they shall police orphanages. The UN does not demand this of them. UNICEF chooses to get involved with orphanages. If they were ONLY out there helping children and families, I would applaud them. But they are not. They are interfering with the direction a child's life will go, many times, with negative outcomes...IN THE NAME OF justice. THAT is what I (and many others) take issue with, not the actual hand out they give to families in need.
But one good deed does not justify one bad deed. And just because they have done good for some, doesn't mean they are exempt from being called out for doing wrong to others.

Anonymous said...


UNICEF operates under the auspices of the UNITED NATIONS. If the UN has ratified a convention on the rights of children which I believe they did in 1989, then UNICEF (as a UN-Org) must adhere to that convention. Their mandate must then be the same as any mandated reporter such as a social worker, school teacher, policeman, physician to report suspected child abuse, trafficking, etc. They can't turn a blind eye. That goes against being a UN-org.

That is why I say support reform for the IA processes and get the bad guys out of it - instead of allowing them to move on to the next fertile country - that will fix the problem because then UNICEF will not have to report issues because the issues won't be there.

NKSingh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NKSingh said...

The office does not look like an office, it looks like a prison cell, and a victim had to escape like a prisoner escapes from jail. A professional staff is/ was well protected under rules and regulations; like HR 4.2.17 foot note 18, post abolishment policy para 2.9 and 2.13 and vacancy policy of equal treatment for all the applicants. But the staff was discriminated, harassed, threatened, tortured and what not? The office advocates equality, non-harassment, and many more; but it did not followed any. Many emails to deputies and repeated pleas and appeals to two executive directors for over three and half years from 2007 to 2011 fell into deaf ears. The organization runs against management principles. An organization who advocates well being of people has a victim of terror and torture within the organization. It is an organization, where there is no justice rather rampant anarchy and autocracy. Charity begins at home. Practice what you preach.