Bravo, Madame Alliot-Marie!

Reading more closely, it is clear that it was political will that finally brought the Haitian children to France–after a year of waiting….Check out this inspirational story–So plain that fear of being accused of “child napping” held back the former Foreign Minister of France–whereas his successor, Mme Alliot-Marie, is fully on board with the need to get these children–those without relatives to care for them in Haiti–out of there and into the safe harbor of those who will love them. This is a holiday story and a political tale about the politics of he social orphan crisis!


Earth to Huffpost!!

I confess to being a faithful reader of the Huffington Post–I generally go there before the New York Times.  This morning, lo and behold, Huffpost provides space for an  off the cuff, cut and paste, diatribe against international adoption by someone named John Feffer–who in this piece strings together the views of David Smolin and Emma Nicholson (!?) as proof that ICA is nothing but a “baby market”…..Oh, so depressing….

The piece is so fluffy and out of sync that there is little point in trying to refute it logically…..It is so clear that of the hundreds of thousands of children living out of parental care, only the tiniest fraction ever find their way to genuine family life–It is so clear that we cannot extrapolate from one story (such as the Korean one he describes) any broad themes about ICA as a “baby market.” It is so clear that using inflammatory terms like “baby market” may make for feel-good political catharsis, and does little to illuminate the true lives of these children…..But it is one more example of the autopilot journalism that animates our adoption debate–

Old news, same news

This one dates from 2008–but I had not seen it before. It involves an “intervention” before the European Parliament by that expert on all matters adoption (????) Mr. Nigel Cantwell–one of the most influential and ubiquitous figures in the field–don’t ask me why! (He is in this statement backing up Terre des Hommes….)

Cantwell goes after Kazakhstan here on its adoption policy (little wonder that KZ is now effectively closed to ICA)–hurling accusations at government officials and agencies–Making the broad statement that essentially all KZ children up to the age of 2 could be adopted domestically etc etc……

I have seen many, many “interventions” by Mr Cantwell on these issues–see his report on Ukraine and international adoption–same song–But never, ever a credible look from the inside at how many children are in the institutions–why–what happens to them–It doesn’t seem too much to ask, does it?

Patricia Williams in The Nation on the issue of “rescuing” children

I have a high regard for Professor Patricia Williams and have read her work with interest over many years. However, I found her recent piece in The Nation to be a real disappointment. See

The short opinion piece is, at least in my view, glib and superficial, and casts aspersions on the motivations of virtually everyone involved in international adoption. I have often said that of the hundreds of people I have known in the ICA context, none hold the view that these children as to be “rescued” by international adoption, or that ICA is the best way to procure healthy white infants. The latter proposition is in fact absurd. I have long held the view that domestic adoption is hampered–and severely so–by lack of clear information for the public about the modes and forms of domestic adoption. In the present informational vacuum, it is so easy to make sweeping statements about international adoption as trafficking–Personally, I would have expected something more insightful from Professor Williams.

The latest Mirah Riben article–yikes!!

Those of you with an interest in international adoption might have noticed this–the latest salvo in the adoption wars:

Riben uses very tough rhetoric and makes a good number of accusations here…..I don’t care to jump into this, except to say that it seems to me that this kind of sterile debate is exactly the reason we need to base adoption policy on facts–how many children are truly in need, how many families can/cannot be put back together, etc…..There is really no point hurling insults at one another–

I have tried to develop my own nuanced approach to these issues over the years–I think my own article on international adoption and human rights, from 2003, was subtle and open-minded. It really is troubling, upsetting, dreadful, though, to note that in Haiti, where children are truly languishing in orphanages and even dying, it is extremely difficult to carry out an adoption–does this make sense? HOw is responsible for that? And as for the folks who are so concerned about “cleaning up” international adoption (and I of course want that as well), what efforts are they making in that direction–to ensure not only that no baby buying goes on–but also that all children who need alternative families can actually get them?

There goes Ethiopia…of course!

As has been predicted, Ethiopia is the next target of those opposed to the “baby market.” See

The rapid rise in Ethiopian adoptions has set off alarm bells among children’s lobby groups. The U.S. State Department issued a statement this month expressing concern about reports of adoption-related fraud, malfeasance and abuse in Ethiopia.

The statement warns prospective adoptive parents to expect delays in the adoption process. It says additional information may be required to determine facts surrounding a child’s relinquishment or abandonment and whether the child meets the definition of orphan, under U.S. Immigration law.

Embassy consular officials say nearly two years of data collection has enabled them to identify individuals and agencies involved in unusual adoption activities.

U.N. Children’s Fund in Addis Ababa chief Doug Webb says the large amount of money changing hands in adoptions is a huge temptation in an impoverished country.

“Money is a powerful factor in this country,” Webb said. “We’re talking about $20-25,000 per adoption coming into the country. And, there is increasing evidence of irregularities within the system of various types of problems at different levels. And, these have been well documented by PEAR.”

Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform did a study of Ethiopia, this year, after detecting a pattern of troubles similar to those in Vietnam and Guatemala before they were closed to American adoptions. The PEAR study turned up evidence of unethical practices by adoption agencies and the use of coercive methods to persuade mothers to give up their babies.

Conditions in orphanages were found to be particularly severe. Some had no running water or sanitary facilities. Children are said to have suffered sexual abuse and beatings.

Ethiopian officials say their own studies confirm PEAR’s findings. Mahadir Bitow, head of Ethiopia’s Child Rights Promotion and Protection Director tells VOA one of the first priorities will be to close dozens of orphanages that appear to have sprung up to meet the demand for children.

“Before 6-7 years there were not a lot of orphanages, like there are now, so the increased number of adoption agencies brought about the increase in the number of orphanages in Ethiopia,” Mahadir said. “Most of these orphanages are not orphanages. They are transit homes. They receive children. They give to adoption. They are a (pipeline). So in the future we will not need all these orphanages.”

Mahadir would give no time frame for shutting down orphanages that exist simply to fill the demand in the United States and a few other Western countries for Ethiopian babies.

She acknowledges the plan to close as many as 25 percent of the country’s orphanages could create temporary havoc, as officials scramble to place thousands of de-institutionalized children. But she says taking away financial incentives should reduce the supply of babies offered for inter-country adoption.

Even Voice of America (!!) is using that crass descriptive language–prospective parents “paying for” children, the baby business, crackdowns, scandals…….For once, after all we have learned, couldn’t we see a reasoned, human rights based approach to problems that arise in devising international adoption systems? As is so typical, one could not differentiate in this article between those adoptions that were necessary and life saving, as opposed to those that did not need to happen, insofar as the children concerned could be “taken care of” adequately in the home country. There have been issues in the Ethiopian adoption system–but are we even close to ensuring that all abandoned children in that country will find permanent families? Once again, so predictably, so depressingly, we hear all the “market” discourse and none of the fact-based nuance……

What really gets to me is that it all sounds fine–ethical reform, fixing the system–but that is not what happens, and that is not the real agenda of the UN…..What happens in practice is that these countries do not reopen, and there is little if any work done on identifying children in genuine need of families so as to facilitate placing them for adoption. My prediction: That will not be the result of all this rhetoric–quite the contrary, in fact!!  Ethiopia will place far fewer children, and most children in real need will be forgotten by the international community.