A great act of altruism

April 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

Adopting children from outside the U.S. has increased since the post-war era, often as an act of Christian charity and concern for the plight of others. However, reforms have been long overdue to rein in the abuses that exist internationally that have led to corruption involving some of the most at-risk populations effected by the process.

For couples who can’t begin families naturally on their own or would like to add to their households, adoption has always been an option. Adoption of any type though has always been awkward because of theory or perception that orphaned or institutionalized kids are “damaged goods” (“someone else’s problem” and/or have physical or mental challenges). It bears mentioning too that the “inventory” of children ready for adoption in the U.S. tends to be from poor, minority backgrounds that don’t visually or culturally match the often affluent white adoptive parents.

Despite the seeming paradox, adopting children from other countries has become a viable alternative ever since news reports after the Second World War and Korean conflict drove home the point that wars, famines, etc. around the globe made orphans of thousands of innocent children.

Adopting kids from another country often is a grueling, emotionally-charged experience for the parents involved. Locating a reputable agency or broker, navigating the complicated laws of the host country, preparing and receiving documentation, potentially making trips to the nation of origin, and paying a variety of fees and expenses can be draining- financially and psychologically. Even after the legal process has been completed, adoptive parents will need to work to socialize a child (that often doesn’t look like her guardians) into a new culture.

Unfortunately, as long as there has been international adoption there has been corruption and the exploitation of children that have gone along with it in some quarters. In some of the worst examples, rings of child traffickers in some countries abduct or coerce poor parents into offering up children and then pass these kids off as orphans. In nations where laws about adoption are sketchy or facilities to house at-risk kids are sub-standard the allure of accepting large cash payments from often wealthy American (or other Western) couples is a great temptation for illegal activity. The brokers or agencies that adoptive parents employ, too, can overcharge, or be too closely aligned with the authorities in the sending country to not have questions about their practices. The U.S. government has had to investigate the practices of a number of countries’ adoption systems and networks.

The writer does not suggest that foreign adoption is inherently a bad idea nor would I posit that American couples looking to assist a child from areas of the world in which war, political instability, poverty, or cultural practices won’t usually mean a healthier, more pleasant way of life for those involved.

International agreements like the Hague Convention that was updated several years ago aim to standardize practices, and report unscrupulous or exploitative actions of what has often been an unregulated and dangerous “market” to enter. Couples looking to adopt will still need to be diligent in selecting only reputable representatives to work with.

I would suggest however that Americans looking overseas for a child to raise might strongly consider a domestic adoption or provide foster care to an at-risk youth here. The growing income disparity and dysfunction in our society at home sadly means that American orphans can suffer plight approaching their peers away from these shores. Babies that have been spared the fate of abortion need loving homes too that can provide for them. While all types of adoption prayerfully entered into are means of providing faith, hope, love, and benefit to all involved we should remember those in our communities as well as the high-profile cases beamed on to our screens.


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