by Lorraine Dusky
The good news is that "Foreign Adoptions Drop Sharply" according to an Associated Press story that shows the continuing decline as some countries clamped down on foreign adoptions and other battled with allegations of fraud. The number of adoptions is down to its 1999 level. China is no longer in the top spot for adoptions, having given that to Guatemala, where fraud and child snatching appear to be rampant.
And then a few days later we had the story about the California couple who were trying to adopt from Guatemala when they saw that some paperwork had to be fake. A doctor's signed statement attested that DNA samples of the mother and baby had been taken on a day that the Jennifer Hemsley, the prospective adoptive mother, knew the baby was with her. To her credit, Mrs. Hemsley reported the discrepancy to the authorities, and thus was not able to bring the child to America. But how many other cases have there been when the adopters saw the irregularity but said nothing?
We first mothers have mixed feelings about foreign adoptions, and we will be posting our thoughts over the next week. But what I think we are all in sync with is that when we see a child that is from a different culture than the parents, we internally gulp. We think about a woman somewhere without a child. We wonder what were the horrible circumstances that led to her having to give up a child today. We wonder how the child feels about looking different from everybody around them. We wonder if their parents are really dead, if the child was really abandoned, if she really had been languishing in an orphanage. We wonder if the country made any effort to have her adopted in her native land.
And we wonder if the child was stolen.
The buyer's market in babies has led to all kinds of deceptions to get babies to feed the demand. There have been enough reported cases of kidnapping that we know there are many many more. Mirah Riben has documented this in her book, Stork Market. Yet we know there are children--older children, children with problems, teenagers in foster care--who desperately need homes here in America, and yet go begging for parents. But people don't want to take in those children. Most want healthy infants without strings, aka a first mother. Or they don't want an African-American child, which is why so many of ours were sent to Canada to be adopted. Maybe Obama's ascendancy to the presidency will have some impact on that, and that would be a good thing.
A recent book, The Brotherhood of Joseph, details the trials and tribulations of adopting from Russia, and though reading made me angry page after page, I had to see where it led. I certainly did not end up liking the writer, Brooks Hansen, but at least he was honest about his feelings.
Hansen is in love with all things Russian, exp. Prokofiev and he manages to work that into the little speech he gives to the judge about why the wanted to adopt from Russia, because he feels a special connection yadda yadda yadda....and I quote from the book here:
"There was some discussion of the birth mother as well, more than I was comfortable with. Katya [one of the emissaries they hired] kept taking notes but I tuned out a little, not because I was afraid of what I might hear or because I didn't want to humanize her too much [Oh really, it certainly seems that it the point] --or just that [meaning what, just that? Sounds like you don't want to humanize her but can't bring your pompous self-righteous soul to admit that you can't stand to humanize her because that would make you aware that somewhere out there is a mother without a child, that your child didn't come via The Stork]--but the whole conversation struck me as being a little too conjectural. Apparently they hadn't been able to track her down, so she was either out of the region or still 'indigent.' They'd used that same word back in July, but what did that mean? No address? Elizabeth and I had already discussed this. No address for a thirty-year-old would have meant something, but twenty-two? That could just mean you're sleeping on your friend's couch, in which case half of the 20-year-olds I've know were indigent."
He goes on at some length throughout the book about his love of all things Russian...and how they will let the child be aware of that (actually the kid is from Siberia).."his native land is a place we care about deeply and if he wants our help in finding it, [my ital] we will be there for him with full and open hearts as we intend to be there for him in all things. [Except possibly knowing his roots any more specifically than generally which is why you settled on Russia/Siberia anyway, your love of Prokofiev notwithstanding.] It was that birth mother problem, wasn't it?
Yet. Some of these children would be, one assumes, languishing all their lives in an institution, and I don't imagine that poor countries have very nice institutions. So I have mixed feelings about foreign adoptions. The two people I know--both older men--who spent most of their childhoods in institutions here in America ended up less than emotionally healthy. One is a recluse poet, the other someone who ranted and raved at me when he learned I had written a memoir about the pain of giving up a child.
I personally know so many adopted kids from elsewhere I sometimes feel like I'm trapped in a New Yorker cartoon, a figure with black thoughts over my head as I see the foreign faces coming at me like rain. Three Chinese teenage girls in Sag Harbor alone, or four, if you count the one whose parents are only friends of friends. A professional acquaintance who adopted from Guatemala. That's only a partial list. If I include the friends of friends, such as my real but tenuous connection to Mr. Hanson, it grows way longer.
What I do know is that because of the demand, babies are stolen from their mothers, mothers are coerced into giving up their babies, fraud is built into the system. And the commodity is human flesh.
My husband got a 2009 calendar put out by The Onion. One of the photographs depicts Chinese babies in swings coming down an assembly line. An American couple stands nearby, looking over the goods, presumably to pick out one to take home.
It's a screwed-up world.
--Happy Thanksgiving, y'all. --lorraine