Sadly, interest in the world’ s social orphans tends to be shown only by a small, dedicated group of people. The numbers of children affected is huge, but the debate is carried on within a fairly narrow field. Within that group of interested parties, there is a certain “custody battle” over the proper way to describe and approach the children and their fates.
For one example, there are groups devoted to improvement in the living conditions of the children, developing local partnerships and stressing key improvements deemed most important to the advocacy group in question; improved institutional conditions, including emotional stimulation and nutrition, for instance. This seems to be the approach of groups like Kidsave (http://www.kidsave.org) and Worldwide Orphan Foundation (http://www.wwo.org), as well perhaps of the European World Initiative for Orphans (www.wiorphans.org).
The better adoption agencies in the US have expanded their interests in child welfare, and are represented by the Joint Council on International Chidren’s Services, which attempts to promote international adoption, but also advocates for enhanced child welfare policies more generally (http://www.jcics.org).
The organization Ethica, while to some degree supportive of international adoption, takes as its main issue ethical deficiencies in international adoption programs. (http://www.ethicanet.org)
While all of these groups have their place, and each performs an important service, it troubles me greatly how little we know about numbers of orphanages, numbers in foster care, numbers of children being abandoned, or indeed being trafficked for sex or other forms of exploitation. We all too readily let national governments off the hook; even those with minimal social welfare infrastructure could do better than they do at accounting for children living without families.
I would like to know, among many many other questions: How many Russian children are being put into foster care a long term alternative to adoption? How closely is foster care being monitored? In what countries are young children who will not return to their original familes being placed into foster care instead of adoption? Why isn’t there more international visitation happening with respect to all orphanages–not just the ones national authorities wish us to see? Is it true that China has many fewer abandoned girls than ten years ago, for instance? Do impartial, human rights based bodies have the ability to make this kind of site visit?
In order for their to be trust in the responses received to such questions, there should be a neutral international body charged with the tasks of fact finding and verification. Will this ever happen?