So, yesterday CBS had a negative story on about Ethiopian adoption. I would love to tell you that my commentary on the piece is going to be objective, but it's not. Stuff like this makes me so angry and the piece was so incomplete, you could hardly say it was unbiased itself. The story accused Ethiopia of child trafficking and unethical adoption. Before I go on, let me say this loud and clear: I am not defending any sort of unethical or immoral behavior in adoption, nor am I denying that it ever occurs. Adoption is no different than anything else - where people are involved, there are bound to be mistakes and sin and the process is bound to be imperfect. Fraud happens in adoption everywhere and I cannot say that it has never happened in Ethiopian adoption, so that is not my point.
This 'news' story highlights a family that has been in the news before with their story about their Ethiopian adoption of 3 older girls. The girls' mother had passed away, but the father was still alive and well. The problem is, the girls have said that their father was paid to give them up and that the girls thought they were coming to America for an education. Apparently, they thought they were returning to Ethiopia when the adoption was complete. So, CBS used this story to raise questions about Ethiopian adoption in general and imply that the entire system is full of corruption and adoption of children who "are not orphans." Let me also say that this post is not a commentary on whether or not this story is true or really happened. I am using it as a spring board to share my thoughts on some questions and concerns the piece raises. If you'd like to watch the whole story, go HERE.
There are a couple of points I'd like to make about this story and about adoption in general.
1. This story implies that "these are not children sitting around in orphanages." REALLY?? How can one even claim that? I have been there and seen them myself. They most certainly are children without homes and families to take care of them. They are sitting in orphanages and they ARE waiting for families. The idea that someone is paying someone - especially for older children who are hard to place - to make money from an adoption is crazy. There are skads of children sitting in orphanages waiting for homes already....there is no need to come up with children to meet the demand. It's ludicrous.
2. Ethiopian adoption is not big business. Last year, in 2009, there were 2277 Ethiopian adoptions in the US. There are 5 million orphans in Ethiopia. MOST children in need of a home in Ethiopia will not get one. Adoption is a blessing to those whose lives it touches, but it is a dream that will not happen for most of these children.
3. Another point made here, and one I've seen made elsewhere is that "these children are not really orphans." I suppose, in some cases, that depends on how you define orphan. If you mean that both of their parents are dead, then maybe some of them aren't. But if you mean that these children do not have families, a place to belong, or adults to take care of them then they most certainly are.
This is one thing that bugs me. Adoptive parents often beat themselves up because they wonder if their child would be better off with their biological family, or feel guilty because they perceive their child was given up due to poverty, treatable sickness, or hardship. The fact is, most of those are true. Most of these children probably were given up because of one of those factors and a smaller number probably have two deceased parents. Does it matter?
Here's the thing: We, as adoptive parents, did not create our children's situation. We did not twist anyone's arm to give up their child. By the time we came on the scene, the child was already in the orphanage....What are we to do then? Not respond because we don't like the reasons they were relinquished? Who are we, as Americans, who are warm and well-fed, to judge another for the decisions they make in situations we cannot begin to imagine?? Yes, of course it is sad that their parents and/or family had to make these heartbreaking decisions....I am not making light of that. But that is not the point here. The point is, we are called to respond to those in need, not to judge or decide if someone is in need because of worthy reasons.
4. In response to "most of these children are not true orphans", I also say this: If you adopted in the United States, most of those children also have a living parent. We don't think anything about that. Why are these children, who are born in a third world country, any less deserving of a family than these American children? The point is this: If these children do not have a loving family or a place to belong, they need us to step up and be that for them. Yes, it's sad that they were often given up due to desperate situations, but they were still given up and they still need us to love them and call them our own. If Christians would rise up and be the hands and feet of Jesus to the poverty stricken around the world in a real and tangible way, many of these families wouldn't be faced with the difficult decisions to give up their children.....but that's another post for another day. If you don't feel called to adopt, but want to fulfill the mandate to care for these children, then do just that. Find a way to connect with an organization or individuals making a difference for these poverty stricken families.....support them so they can keep their kids.
5. The last thing I want to say is that I found Ethiopia to be very conscious of doing right by these children and very careful in making sure that each child was an orphan and was in fact adoptable. During Elijah's referral and court period, there was actually a stop put on court dates for abandoned children because they were being sure that there was no corruption in the system. Many people do not pass thru court the first time because they want to see careful and complete documentation. Our agency, America World, is thorough and cautious in their process as well. I never had any doubts about the ethics or morality of our adoption.
It makes me sad that pieces like this come out and cast doubt in people's mind. There are so many children counting on us to make a difference for them, and some will be stopped because of one story on the evening news telling them the system is flawed. There were no highlights of the wonderful, honest agencies doing good, hard work on behalf of the children. There were no stories told of successful adoptions that had made a difference for families and for kids. I guess that doesn't make for interesting news.