Are You Aware?
November is adoption awareness month and for many people around the globe this is a non event. If you happen to be adopted or you’re a first parent, it means increased media attention and public awareness and not all of it necessarily good. Since the 1980s domestic adoptions in North America have dropped significantly. This is attributed to better access to birth control and family planning as well as greater social acceptance for single parenting. With the supply of healthy infants dwindling and infertility on the rise, international adoption has become the optimal choice for people who hope to become parents via adoption. This means that more people are adopting internationally then ever before.
Adoption by definition has always meant finding needy babies and children permanent homes. It’s viewed as a ‘win-win scenario’ in the eyes of the public. In recent years adoption has undergone a serious shift in ideology. In 1989, the United Nations General Assembly ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, acknowledging that children have rights as human beings and require special care and protection. All countries signed except the United States and Somalia. The Convention covers a wide range of issues, including poverty, child welfare and adoption and human trafficking.
In 2003, a report was submitted to the 59th session on the Commission of Human Rights by the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. What was so shocking about this particular report was that it focused on adoption fraud and the sale of babies and children coming from impoverished countries as well as the coercion and sale of babies within North America procured from unwed, poor single mothers. Essentially, babies and children being exchanged from the poor to the affluent.
The UN received many complaints, specifically concerning the ‘sale’ of babies and children involved in adoption and revealed that children have become the object of commercial transactions. The Special Rapporteur stated, “the best environment for most children to grow up in is within a family, and that the adoption by a parent or parents of a child who does not have a family able to look after him or her is a commendable and noble action. Regrettably, in many cases, the emphasis has changed from the desire to provide a needy child with a home, to that of providing a needy parent with a child. As a result, a whole industry has grown, generating millions of dollars of revenues each year, seeking babies for adoption and charging prospective parents enormous fees to process paperwork.
Mainstream media and corporations (both public and private) have a strong voice in advocating for adoption. Chase Bank in the US has a special loan program for those wanting to ‘grow their family’ by adoption. A worldwide industry has emerged to make adoption available to those able to afford it. This includes lobbyists and stakeholders who want adoption to be more available and adoption records kept secret. We think of adoption as a solution to infertility and a loving option for an orphan. And when we see celebrities like Madonna and Angelina Jolie adopting internationally, this agenda is furthered to the detriment of children and their first families. Instead of utilizing funds to help communities and families suffering in poverty, these monies are used to separate families and create a lucrative marketplace. The black market for a healthy infant means abuse, coercion and outright fraud.
Unfortunately, what is tragic about international adoption is that it accomplishes little for the first mother, her community and her country. The countries earning money from each child only serves as incentive to produce more sales while not addressing or resolving any political and social crisis. The children growing up in North American adoptive families may receive the support they require in the short term, the so-called 'better life'. In the long term, many adoptees long to know their culture, their history and sadly do not feel connected to either their home land or their adoptive families.
Adoption has always been seen as an act of love without ever daring to ask the hard questions. The past 100 years of public perception of adoption is naïve at best. Adoption may very well need to be a permanent structure in which we can give needy children futures. Yet erasing identities and erasing families while not addressing the systemic poverty and corruption is highly unethical. Most of us know who our parents are and where we come from and don’t give it a second thought. It is a part of who we are.
For those who are adopted they do not have this as a basic human right. Their origins and the simplicity of knowing who they are and where they came from, becomes a mysterious secret. The UN Rights of the Child states that every child, whether born in or out of wedlock, regardless of financial status, has a right to be raised in their family of origin. When this isn’t possible the convention advocates for these children to be raised within their own extended families and communities. Their identity remains intact.
Yes this November is Adoption Awareness Month. While I won’t be drinking any adoption kool aid or thinking about Jolie or Madonna, I will be thinking of the thousands of mothers and babies who will be needlessly separated in order to earn the world an enormous profit at the expense of human rights. I will be thinking about the thousands of adoptees who are now adults, lobbying for adoption records and information to be made available as a basic human right. I will be thinking about the millions of people across the globe who are searching for their parents and children and extended family. Most of all, I will be thinking of the families who are experiencing extreme poverty.
Adoption, in my opinion, may open the door to a new life, but it shouldn’t include an erased identity and severed family ties. There are viable alternatives to international & domestic adoption, which include a greater commitment to improving second and third world countries and providing international protection and redress to mothers and children who fall victims to adoption and fraud. The adoption awareness campaign this month should be about educating the world about the buying and selling of children, lost identities and extreme poverty. There’s a dire need for increased accountability. Most importantly, human trafficking must be put to an end. Having no choice, is not a choice at all.