Saturday, October 19, 2013

Re-writing adoption

In doing the research for Not Only the Things That Have Happened, I read hundreds of news stories, books, articles and blogs about inter-country adoption. Some of what I read was from the point of view of adoptees, some from the point of view of first mothers or birth mothers. And there were blogs by adoptive parents, as well. From my wide reading on the subject I took away an overwhelming sense of the unspoken losses entailed in adoption. And again and again, I ran into the following quote, mostly on adoptee and birth mother sites:
Adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful.
- The Reverend Keith C. Griffith, MBE.
My reading led me to conclude the orphan crisis - an oft repeated figure is 163 million orphans worldwide - is so necessary to the adoption industry that the industry has neither hesitated to create the figure in the statistical sense, nor, tragically, in the real sense; i.e., not just by doctoring the figures, but by actually separating children from their biological parents or other members of their biological families, thus making orphans of them. As for the figure, it is very much a doctored figure. Writing on  Fleas Biting, David Smolin, professor of law at Cumberland School of Law and the director for The Center for Children, Law, and Ethicshas this to say:
These global orphan estimates come from UNICEF, which is using a broad concept of “orphans and vulnerable children” which includes children who have lost one parent but are living with their other parent.   90% of these “orphans” are living with a parent, and thus certainly are not in need of a family through adoption, for they already have a family. 
The unequal distribution of economic and political power within the adoption triad - birth parents, the adoptee, and adoptive parents -  is one reason for the sort of corruption that won't hesitate to separate children from parents who very much want to keep them. There is very little acknowledgement of the lifelong trauma this separation can create in the child. There is next to no incentive to promote family preservation. Alleviating poverty, so families can remain intact, is neither lucrative, nor has it the necessary cultural or political mandate. The birth mother, who is lauded for putting the child's interest above all else and giving her child for adoption, thereby performing an ultimate sacrifice such as only a mother can, is banished from her child's life. Isn't this woman exactly the mother this child needs? If one recalls the story of Solomon's judgement, the mother who was brave enough to give up her child is rewarded by having her child returned to her arms.

The work to reform adoption is well underway. In 2010 Korea acquiesced to the campaign by international adoptees for the return of their lost citizenship.

More recently the Australian Government apologized to birth mothers for the forcible adoptions carried out in decades past. 

But the vulnerability of children who enter the adoption stream continues, as illustrated in the horrific practice of 'rehoming,' where adoptive parents hand off guardianship of children they no longer want with the ease with which they might any other transaction unsupervised by the law. Arrangements for the handover are made online between strangers who meet briefly in parking lots to effect the transfer. No one is watching. Megan Twohey has written an extensive series on 'rehoming' for Reuters, which you can read here.

This is not an easy issue. Adoption, like marriage or any other institution involving millions of people all over the world, cannot be summed up simply as  wholly 'good' or wholly 'bad'. But I do believe we need to reform the system of inter-country adoption such that children and their birth mothers have rights the don't currently enjoy. This will require us to be more open, more accountable, and probably more uncomfortable.

Anyone who follows politics knows that bad policies flow from bad narratives   At least in the short run, I think that to understand the complexities and ambiguities of this issue, we need new narratives as much as we need new policies.  Which is why I wrote a novel, not an essay.

I will keep adding to the list of blogs I have collected on the right. All of them were valuable to my research, all of them speak courageously about loss in adoption. In doing so they are all part of the attempt to rewrite the narrative of adoption.

No comments:

Post a Comment