Much to do about supply and demand in adoption
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- Bindoon Boys Town: The sad truth behind Britain's lost children
- The Challenges of International Adoption
- The Evangelical Christian adoption movement: The orphan crisis that wasn't
- A desperation for sons ... even someone else's CHINA: Age-old gender biases feed
Much has been written in the last week about the case of Angelyn Lisseth Hernández Rodríguez (aka Dulce Maria or Karen Abigail) daughter of Loira Rodrígue, and much of the discussion revolves around the question, what is in the best interest of the girl involved.
Ethica puts it like this:
And really, the bottom line is this: in this case, and in thousands like it, there is a child, and she is no longer living with the loving family that intended to raise her. She was adopted by people who love her and intended to raise her, too. In the balance swings the child, her entire life experience shaped not by her parents, but by those who stand to profit from the very experiences that cause her trauma.
While it is certainly true that much of Angelyn Lisseth's life is shaped by those who have profited from her sales, Ethica's statement introduces a false equivalence between her real parents and her adoptive parents.
Insisting on an equivalence between the two families easily leads to the conclusion that Angelyn Lisseth should stay with the adoptive family, because she has by now bonded to them.
This line of reasoning ignores the fact that the adoptive family knew long ago that Angelyn Lisseth had been stolen and kept her, resulting in the bond she now has with the adoptive family.
If this line of reasoning applies to adoption, it would also have to apply to kidnapping. Would we insist a child stays with a kidnapper if for some reason the kidnapping results in a bond between the child and the kidnapper?
The case of Angelyn Lisseth is not all that different. She does not live with kidnappers, but she lives with people who acquiring her through kidnapping; she lives with adults who willfully let her bond to them, knowing she may have been the victim of a kidnapping.
If adoption were legally defined as the commercial activity it actually is, laws related to handling of stolen goods would actually apply to this case.
Unfortunately, adoption is not legally defined as a commercial activity and with that all protective measures that exist for commercial trade don't apply to adoption. It almost seems as if adoption laws are created to protect most parties in the adoption supply chain, not the victims affected by corrupt and illegal placement practices. In spite of criminal activity, such as kidnapping, an otherwise illegal act can magically become a "legal" adoption, making it virtually impossible for the rightful parents to have parental rights to their own child. In short, the victims of a crime become victimized by the adoption industry, as their parental rights get stolen by those who insist the completed adoption is "legal" and binding. For parents who had their child kidnapped or stolen, this is an outrage.
Angelyn Lisseth's adoptive family cannot be held accountable for keeping a stolen girl. Celebrate Children International, the agency handling the adoption, cannot be held accountable, because they only provided services.
As it turns out, no one in the entire adoption supply chain actually "delivers" a child to the adoptive family. Every agent in the supply chain provides a "service", and by miracle, the services make it possible for a child to end-up in the hands of the adoptive parents. After some time all can claim it is the child's best interest to stay with those adoptive parents because breaking the established bond between parent and child will be too traumatizing for the child.
There is another aspect to this tragic kidnapping/adoption case that needs addressing.
Inter-country adoption is promoted to be a service to children who would otherwise "languish" in orphanages in sending countries.
Let's look at how that applies to Angelyn Lisseth and children like her.
Angelyn Lisseth was living in an orphanage at the time of her adoption, so indeed the adoption prevented her to "languish" in that orphanage, but it is also true that she was placed in that orphanage for the very purpose of adoption. So inter-country adoption contributes to the problem it claims to solve. If not for inter-country adoption, Angelyn Lisseth and healthy children like her, would not have been stolen and placed in an orphanage in the first place.
Then why is it that so many children "languish" in orphanages, yet children are being stolen for inter-country adoption at the same time?
The answer is quiet simple if we look at adoption as a commercial activity, having supply and demand.
Orphanages around the world are stocked with sibling groups, children with special needs, but most of all with older children. The demand side of the adoption economy is the inverse of that. Adopters generally prefer healthy single children, preferably as young as possible.
The above chart shows in red the demand for children and in blue the supply of children. As adoptability of children decreases, the supply grows and the demand declines. The grey section of the chart shows the number of children that are actually being adopted.
There is very little that can be done about the demand curve. Adopters pay top dollars for a child and invest much of their time and energy raising a child. They are simply not going to do that for a child they don't desire.
The supply curve on the other hand can be manipulated. More adoptable children can be put on the market to meet demand where it is highest. This is exactly what we see happening in many of the sending countries. Young, healthy children are being bought/stolen/laundered to increase the total number of children adopted. The light-green part of the chart shows the "gains" the adoption industry can make with an increase in supply.
When adoption agencies make claims about the number of children "languishing" in orphanages, they mostly talk about the large number of children that can be found in the light-orange section of the graph. These are the children that will not be adopted, because there is simply no demand for them.
The light-orange section is in reality much bigger than shown in this chart. The number of adoptable "orphans" languishing in-care far exceeds the number of children being adopted. There are millions of orphans worldwide, while there are "only" tens of thousands of inter-country adoptions each year. The grey section, representing the number of children adopted, is actually minuscule compared to the light-orange section, representing those children that will never be adopted.
Angelyn Lisseth and stolen children like her are victims found in the green zone of the chart. They were not adoptable; they were not relinquished, they were not neglected, they were not abandoned; they were stolen. These so-called orphans found in orphanages have families of their own and those families were capable and prepared to care for them, as loving parents wish to do. But something happened. The demand for adoption and the money that can be made to help supply that demand, pushed Angelyn, and healthy children like her, into the grey -- a zone no child with loving caring parents should be placed in.
Worst of all, the adoption industry disingenuously keeps the public focused on the light-orange section of the chart, claiming the hope and goal through adoption services is to provide every child with a family. How can adoption be called charitable, when children with caring families are being stolen then sold and given a false identity, while those with the greatest need are not going to be served, cannot be served and will not be served, because very few paying customers show an interest in those children?
Angelyn Lisset's case is by no means an isolated incident. There may be thousands of children just like her. This case does, however, prove that inter-country adoption is nothing more than a humanitarian facade behind which a corrupt and profitable industry hides. Much needs to be done to change that.