When is adoption an acceptable option?
Over the last couple of days I've been following a heated debate that followed the death of Chase Harrison/Dmitry Yakovlev, where proponents and opponents of adoption were caught up in a endless feud that seemed to have resulted in a temporary cease fire, only to be picked up at another time and another place.
What started as a factual summary of the circumstances of this Russian boy's death, led to a purging of all that is right and wrong in adoption, dished up in pro- and anti-adoption rhetoric, all in an attempt to beat the other sides of the triangle. It all ended in insult and name calling, hardly a fruitful way to approach the changes needed in child placement.
As to be expected in a battle of the forces, the entire "triad" was present to defend it's side of the three-faced coin and beating their own particular drum. All atrocities involved in child placement were dug up, from coercion to crack babies, from adopted serial killers to baby baking cradle robbers, all nicely decorated with the occasional fuck you/fuck you too.
In the undertow of the accusatory cacophony of opinion was a theme though, the question when adoption is an acceptable option and I'd like to address that issue in the remainder of this post.
At the risk of being labeled anti-adoption, which due to its connotation seems to equate utter and total retardation, I don't believe adoption is a viable option in most situations. Those opposed to the anti-adoption point of view will call this extremist, but as I will explain, I believe adoption is the extreme, not its opposition.
Since there is no single form of adoption, let's like to look at the various types of adoption and how they fit into the entire realm of child placement.
Domestic Infant adoption
While almost absent in most Western European countries, domestic infant adoption is still an ongoing business in the United States. Certainly the waiting lists are much longer nowadays than they were twenty/thirty years ago, but as an institute it hasn't disappeared like it has in Sweden and the Netherlands.
The fact most Western European countries hardly know any domestic infant adoption at all, demonstrates it is unnecessary, hence opposing it can hardly qualify as extremism. It's not in the child's best interest to be taken away from its natural parents, in the long term it's not in the natural parents interest to relinquish a child, so it only serves people wanting to adopt.
Despite two congressional hearings about baby brokering, one in 1976 and another one in 1984, not much has been done to bring down the numbers of domestic infant adoption. The reason numbers have dropped significantly can be contributed to better availability of birth control and the legality of abortion. In fact the US government has, during the last seven years subsidized infant adoption awareness programs and has been a huge proclaimer of abstinence only sex education, both measure that run counter to bringing down the numbers.
If the government were willing to change the situation and had the potency to do so, the issue could be solved, especially if we look at the two main contributers to domestic infant adoption: teens and poor families that have already too many mouths to feed. The first group can best be served by proper sex education and easy availability of birth control, while the latter group requires better low income wages. As long as low income jobs can't supply the money needed to raise a family, the situation will be perpetuated.
Domestic infant adoption is a social problem, much more than a legal issue. The phenomenon in Western Europe didn't cease to exist because legislative measures were taken, but because the right educational and social services were implemented and because reasonable minimum wages were maintained.
Adoption from foster care
With adoption from foster care we touch upon a much more intricate subject. Where relinquishment in infant adoption is in theory a choice, placement into foster care is always forced. Here we enter the mine field of the various Child Protection Services and almost every state has serious issues going on. First off the work of Child Protection Services is a difficult one. Even under the most ideal circumstances there will be false negatives (children that needed to be placed out, but weren't) and there will be false positives (children that didn't need to be placed out, but were anyway). Still CPS does a bad job either way, there are far too many false positives and far too many false negatives.
One of the main factors in the malfunctioning of CPS is the complete lack of over sight over the workings of the agencies involved. All their businesses are protected by closed family court proceedings, much more to the protection of the agencies than to the protection of children on whose behalf they claim to work. It even goes so far that court proceedings remain closed if a child has died, supposedly to protect its privacy. This is all of course according to the letter of the law, but I believe it goes against the intent of the law. No dead child needs privacy protection, but agencies that make capital mistakes want it all the more.
To counter the many problems facing foster care the magical word "permanency" has been invented and with that magical word a whole array of subsidies, targets and quota have been instantiated to take children out of the foster care system and place them in permanent homes. All to often these permanent homes are also qualified as "loving" to sugar coat the practice even more, while little or no guarantees are provided that these homes are even suited to the child, let alone being "loving".
The problem with the push to permanency is that it only brings more children into the foster care system. As with all targets and quota systems the incentives offered usually have huge side effects. Reaching the target becomes a bigger responsibility than doing a proper job and with that comes a rise in false positives and false negatives. Young children from poor and uneducated families become easy prey, because they are highly adoptable, while older children from abusive families are ignored, because not many people want to adopt troubled, damaged older children.
I believe there is also something wrong with the notion permanency = adoption. While some children certainly need a place to live until they are mature enough to live on their own, it doesn't necessarily mean all ties with their origins need to be severed, which in fact, is a point that applies to every form of adoption. I see no need for name changes, no need for amended birth certificates, no need for the entire negation of a child's history, especially not when that child is completely aware of that history.
Whether we want to call permanent placement adoption or legal guardianship is mostly semantical, neither works if not properly implemented. I don't care so much for the word choice here as much as for a proper system that indeed does what is needed for a child.
While the previous two forms of adoption were already complicated, the issue of international adoption has the complexity of the two combined times 100. Like domestic infant adoption it is most of all a buyers market, where the money of people wanting to adopt speaks louder than the interest of a child. In that sense the practices of the baby scoop area have not really disappeared, they have just found another location. The business of International adoption is riddled with coercion and child trafficking, all in the name of saving a poor orphan, a trigger word for many Christians who see it their obligation to take a poor orphan into their home.
So how many of these children are in fact orphans?
Well most of them are not in the true sense of the word. Most of them have a mother and/or a father, though according to American law most are orphans, due to the fact their parents have not claimed them or been able to claim them over a six month period. This deliberately misleading use of the word orphan is one of the most flagrant abuses of language since George Orwell's invention of New Speak in his book 1984.
The tactics of the adoption industry are nowhere so devious and manipulative as in the realm of international adoption. The agencies can portrait themselves as clean, caring and ethical businesses, because most of their dealings take place outside of the American borders, outside the reach of US law, Officially their business is just paperwork, all perfectly accredited according to the Hague trade agreement.
Next to all the lies, the corruption, the trafficking, the down right detrimental effects of losing ones culture, to me the most compelling argument against international adoption is that fact that it doesn't solve a single problem. In fact it creates more "orphans" than it places. The promise of a bright future abroad fuels relinquishment, while the humanitarian aid in the form of adoption agency run baby homes and orphanages has a negative effect on the development of local services for children in need.
International adoption only serves the needs of people wanting to adopt and lines the pockets of those working in the business. Because of that it has no moral grounds for its existence and should be halted altogether. Those who want to do something for the children in poor countries better support the local build up of children's services. It is much more cost effective, for the price of one international adoption, many children can be provided for for years, and helps to build up a country instead of tearing it down.