In part one of this little blog duo on international adoption I talked about the huge amounts of corruption we, who are on the ground, are seeing. I wrote about my belief in international adoption and how my motivation for this whole conversation is to find a way to clean things up so that international adoption can remain an option for the children who truly need it.
Read the whole thing here.
Today i’m going to try and give some advice to adoptive parents and those who work in international adoption about what we can do. Please remember that adoption is messy messy business and there is no one simple formula we can apply to ensure things are ethical. But we can do better. This is my best effort at helping those on this journey do their best for the children they are trying to help.
So here we go:
1. Start listening, and believing, the stories. When we talk about giving the voiceless a voice, don’t forget about the shattered families international adoption can leave in its wake.
2. Start putting as much passion and energy into preserving families as we put into getting adopted children home. I dream of the day when media campaigns and lobbying is done for vulnerable families at the same level it is done for international adoption.
3. Start supporting organizations that keep families together or work towards domestic solutions. I know… I know… I’m a little biased about this one, but you don’t have to support Abide. There are so many other great ones out there!
[be sure to include your favorites in the comments!]
4. Become educated. Stop supporting the adoption agencies that have unethical practices. Pull out of country programs rife with corruption. Avoid the lawyers whose fees are enormously large [there’s a reason for that]. And honestly? The key to becoming educated on these things is to talk to people on the ground. We know. We hear things and we see things.
6. Believe us when we tell you that the birth mom was coerced, or money changed hands, or that lawyer is corrupt, or that orphanage traffics kids. You wouldn’t believe how many times we’ve tried to speak truth to an adoptive family only to be completely ignored. We’re not just making these things up for fun, we’re just as passionate about seeing children in families as you are.
5. Stop thinking of kids still in process as “yours”. I know this is a really hard one. I’ve haven’t adopted yet, but i’ve walked that road with others and I know that the second that referral picture hits your computer or lands in your lap your heart explodes. But when you prematurely start to think that child belongs to you, you are much more likely to ignore red flags and less likely to support resettlement should you discover that child has loving family.
7. Stop letting poverty be a good enough reason for international adoption. I can’t tell you how many times i’ve heard people justify their international adoptions with “but the mom was just really poor”. Did you ever think to ask whether the mom was ever offered any assistance to keep her children? It’s not an ethical adoption if the birth family was never given another option. Let your kids starve or relinquish your rights? That’s not an option. Let’s support birth families who love their kids so they can keep their children instead of giving them up.
8. Ask questions. Ask so many questions. Don’t just blindly believe what you’re told by your agency or orphanage or lawyer. If possible, hire a private investigator.
9. Watch your motivations. If your motivation is to help a child then you shouldn’t care if you have to switch countries or agencies or orphanages to be more ethical. Be careful that adoption doesn’t become more about you and your plans, then the well being of a child.
10. Remember the extended family. Especially when adopting in Africa, family here is large and extensive and kinship care is alive and well. Just because a child is a total orphan or if the primary caregiver is not capable of caring for them does not mean they should be adopted. There are uncles and aunts and grandparents on both sides and older siblings and neighbors who are like family. In Uganda it is really rare that there isn’t someone in the family who is willing and able to care for the child. We’ve only come across cases where that isn’t possible a handful of times.
We owe it to the kids and the shattered families to speak out. To stop only telling certain stories, the stories we like hearing. We owe it to them to dispel this myth that adoption corruption is really rare so we should just stop talking about it [because, I so wish it wasn’t true, but it is far from rare].
To be responsible and honest in our attempts to care for the children in our world we have to fight the hard fight of shifting through the layers of corruption and deceit to find the truth. It’s hard and it’s messy and it’s not very fun…. but these children and these families? They’re worth it.