By SARAH SALMON
As an adoptive mother, I would like to respond to Amy Stockwell’s November 17 article, “You can’t change poverty one adoption at a time”, in order to portray another side of the story, to highlight the constructive things adoptive parents are doing for their children, so as not to damage the positivity we try to project for our kids.
I agree that you cannot change poverty through adoption but that is not the purpose or intent of adoption. Like many adoptive parents, I chose to adopt my two daughters in order to give them a loving family and a stable environment in which to thrive. My daughters were willingly given up by their Cambodian birth families, who were unable to care for them, as is the case in many developing countries. So we shouldn’t compare internationally adopted children to the Stolen Generation – they are not forced adoptions.
While I recognise that child-trafficking is an important issue, most internationally adopted babies are not stolen or sold; there are government checks in place to prevent that. A lot of children come to their birth families as unwanted additions to an already stressed family unit, not as planned family extensions. They may not be real ‘orphans’, but they are social orphans.
While poverty certainly plays a role in many adoptions, and there is great need to address poverty on a global scale, it will take many years to achieve any lasting results.
What happens to the millions of children in the meantime who are subjected to lives in orphanages?
Should they be deprived of a loving family, an education, and medical care?
Should they remain in institutions to suffer nutritionally, developmentally and emotionally? Should they stay in overcrowded, understaffed, unhygienic buildings where there is no love, no laughter, and there are no toys, where they can be victims of violence and sexual abuse?
I have visited orphanages in developing countries and they are deathly quiet homes full of desperate children. Is it such a sin for a foreign couple to welcome one of these children into their family via adoption?
If goals to eradicate poverty are achieved, there will undoubtedly be less children living in institutions who are available for adoption. That would be a positive outcome. But it’s not just poverty that plays a hand in unwanted children. Many developing countries have cultural traditions and mind-sets that result in unwanted babies. Unwed mothers can be disowned and shunned. Female discrimination equals unwanted girl babies.
The list goes on. While we’re trying to eradicate poverty, let’s also work on the equally important need to change cultural attitudes so that fewer babies are given up for adoption. In the meantime, in an imperfect world, there are still children living in orphanages who need families to care for them.
You can spend all the money you want on “addressing poverty in these countries, in strengthening child protection systems, in improving education and health outcomes” but it doesn’t change the current situation of institutionalised children. While I appreciate such philanthropic ideals, many of them are unrealistic in the short-term.