The rise in African adoptions: Stopping this at “all costs”?

One of those vexing stories out of the international “human rights community”,  sounding the alarm bells as intercountry adoption from Africa rises.

The African Child Policy Forum argues that the “industry” of international adoption has turned to Africa in an attempt to supply the endless demand for children to adopt by those dreadful Westerners….It is appalling to me that the human rights dimension of this problem is presented in such a skewed way. A recent conference of high level UN representatives  and academics lamented the rise in these adoptions–and called for solutions “at home.”  We all agree that where home solutions are possible and feasible, these are the best. But in tens of thousands of cases, such solutions are not available. What then? What does it mean to say that this rise should be stopped “at all costs”?

The usual suspects were brought out for blame–supposedly tens of thousands of dollars paid to “buy” the children, profit-making by agencies, shortages of adoptable children internationally….

It is of course true that other countries have tightened up on adoption–but far more because of this sort of scare tactic than because real and positive solutions of permanency have been found in the countries of origin. If I saw a meaningful shift in child welfare policy, I would rejoice. But keeping children at home certainly in itself does nothing to guarantee that they are safe, loved and protected. How sad to see human rights discourse used in this very misleading way.

It is easy for critics to keep on saying that there is a “shortage” of adoptable children–because there is no human rights imperative demanding that countries account for their populations of social orphans. The real fact seems to be that the number of children adopted is and has always been very small in relation to the numbers of children requiring permanency and psychological safety.


China and the revelation of chained children

The 1990s film, The Dying Rooms, created a great deal of controversy in its day, and vehement denials by the Chinese government….The film makers were lying, biased, lacked knowledge, etc etc.

It comes as no surprise to me that China’s new social media outlets have recently  carried a photo of two supposedly “disabled” children chained up in an orphanage….There are so many issues here…The exaggerated reliance on diagnoses of “disability”–lack of access by experts from outside China, the unknown state of Chinese child welfare homes, public and private….The claims that the children were chained to “protect them”….

See one of the many articles on this subject:

China seems to feel it has no international obligation to assess the conditions of its children living out of family care. (Although China is not alone in this–most countries feel the same way.) We are repeatedly told that there are no more “healthy infants” in Chinese orphanages and care homes–as if that were an end of the matter. With the rise of gender selective abortion, there has certainly been a significant decrease in child abandonment…But has it gone away completely? One doubts. But since no one can enter child welfare institutions and carry out objective assessments, how are we to know? And who should we believe? In this case, Chinese officials scrambled to explain that unqualified people were contracted to run this institution, but no one is telling how many such orphanages there are, how many children live in them, or exactly how they live.

It is really a tragedy and an international crime to allow this sort of treatment of children….But the root of the problem is in the secrecy. I am reminded of Sarah Ferguson’s  ill-fated visit to Turkey, where the Turkish government has worked so hard to make the story Sarah’s supposed violation of the “privacy rights” of the children, rather than the state of care within the institution.  (Same rationale, of course–the children were tied up and kept in confinement for their own protection….!) Also, it seems that invoking the term “disabled” is meant to cover all the bases–as if any kind of wretched care is fine, as long as the children are officially classified as “disabled”…..Wow!

What the Hague, Kyrgyzstan?!

As the adoption debate continues to run, with the UN decrying the rise in adoptions from Africa, and China denying any ill-treatment of children in orphanages, another frustrating report out of Kyrgyzstan….I am sure Kyrgyzstan is a wonderful country, with kind people and the best of intentions. I would love to visit there–But what I see is a small nation caught in a  confusing web of mixed messages and terrible child welfare policy as a result. See today International adoption. There are no more chances? an article by Anastasia Bengard, describing the political morass surrounding adoption of children in Kyrgyzstan.

Obviously, that country is being pressured not to allow children to be adopted out–even to the point where some have died waiting for families with whom they have been matched. Others are growing older, with almost no chance of leaving the orphanage system. I imagine the UN is encouraging more “foster care”–the apparent answer to all child welfare problems! Agencies are accredited, then the accreditation is withdrawn….In a nation where most all public acts involve some bribes, any hint of bribery in this context leads to mass panic and selective prosecutions.

Where is the human rights body that can clearly tell Kyrgyzstan: The unequivocally right thing to do is to determine whether these children have good homes to go to in Kyrgyzstan. If they don’t, you are honoring their rights by allowing them to find homes abroad. Do it quickly, do it ethically, and be proud of your decision. Someone needs to sort out this never-ending set of contradictions in child welfare policy. In the case of resource-strapped countries like Kyrgyzstan, it is so urgent.