Say what you mean

It is bizarre to try and navigate the fraught ideological world of international adoption….It is exhausting and confusing and crazy-making–especially when the silent issues of abortion and the many dangers to living children co-exist with the ICA questions….

I am tired of trying to make sense of people who focus obsessively on problems that arise in relation to adoption…If they dislike adoption on some deep philosophical ground, why don’t they just say so? For some, the biological relation is everything–it drives their perception and understanding of everything–They have bought into the idea that in international adoption, one person’s loss is another person’s “gain”–When they speak of culture, they are really speaking of biology…(since I doubt if they care whether some family moves their children around the world into a new culture zone–I mean, would they care???)  No, it is the question of legally cutting off that first biological tie. And their deep sympathy, empathy with the adult  problems that led to that circumstance…I want to talk tomorrow about the pending US legislation Families for Orphans Act, as it is profoundly symbolic…but I cannot help but feel I want to first send the message–Do not use anecdote as proxy for your opposition to international adoption….(Part of the reason for this is that we must present a “professionalized” version of our point of view–so finding instances in which there is corruption or other defect in international adoption allows us to denigrate everyone involved in that process…..It is easier and more congenial than simply saying, I do not like international adoption because I disagree with its ideological premises….) If you are opposed on fundamental grounds, just say so…Do not make instances of corruption or mistakes a proxy in your battle against the foundational premises of international adoption….


2 thoughts on “Say what you mean

  1. Hi Sara,

    Good to see so many new posts at your site! I completely agree with everything you’ve said here.

    The “loss of culture” argument is especially bitter for me in the case of Haseena, the little girl that activists prevented us from adopting in India. An Indian family was found for her by the govt to placate adoption protestors, and this was viewed by some as preserving her cultural ties — yet she was born a Muslim and the family was Hindu. She was a given a new Hindu name and caste identity upon adoption, but in a society fraught with tension between Hindus and Muslims, there is no practical way for her to reclaim her Muslim heritage as an adult and retain her place in her adopted family. It is likely that her hidden Muslim roots will prove a liability for jobs, social standing etc if exposed later, or worse yet, a threat to her physical safety. I worry about that a lot. Had we been able to adopt her, she would have attended Christian church, it’s true, but we would not have changed her name and would have supported any exploration of Islam that she wanted to pursue as she grew older. Nothing would have been hidden from her or others.

    Every adoption, domestic or international, involves a cultural shift of some kind; every family has its own internal “culture” that the child must adjust to. The culture argument is in many ways just a smokescreen for ideological positions that have nothing to do with child welfare, as you’ve said.

    • Hi, Sharon–Thanks so much for writing…..The details of what happened to you are so painful to recall…..I really think the argument for cultural ties is often a smokescreen for something else–much more ideological, but which is never acknowledged up front. There is a deep and widespread view that international adoption is a kind of theft, an unnatural act, and from that flows all kinds of arguments….The right to an identity is, I think, the right for families and children to be safe from intrusion into cultural autonomy….I can never see what it has to do with a small child moving into a new culture, as long as the original culture is honored, and where that is the safest and best move for the child. All my best–

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