Consistently unknown–the case of China and social orphans

There was an interesting and telling story about the head of a large adoption agency in the Netherlands who has resigned because of alleged intimidation by the Dutch authorities, who opposed her wish to carry out an investigation into corrupt practices in Chinese adoption. The Dutch government’s rationale was that her proposed investigation would harm diplomatic relationships and that they had been assured by China that no children involved in baby buying scandals had been adopted into the Netherlands.

Well…..There is much to be said here, but I cannot help but note that the problem of access to the truth about China’s social orphans is of long standing. Many fewer children are said to be in the orphanages now–is this true? Can any objective outside group visit orphanages and assess the veracity of such statements? How pervasive is child trafficking of many different kinds?

I am not taking sides with respect to the politics of what has happened in the Netherlands. I don’t know the persons involved, and know nothing about the relationship between the Dutch government and the adoption agency in question. But I am left with two dominant impressions: the first is that without more transparency in a country like China–with its traditionally large population of abandoned children– it is very difficult to establish whether Chinese policies are serving the interests of these children. Secondly, in such a complex social and cultural environment, demonstrating corrupt practices, and possibly shutting down adoption programs, seems to me only a first step, and certainly not an end in itself. The point is to include those children who need the families (and we cannot know that without China opening the doors of its child welfare institutes) and exclude those children who are somehow brought into the system through corrupt or deceptive means, in order to ensure that this does not occur. It makes little sense to generalize about the needs of an entire cohort from anecdotes about abusive practices.

The lack of systemic, human-rights based inquiry in these matters is deeply frustrating….


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