' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Tell NYT readers what you think about Celebrity and International Adoptions

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tell NYT readers what you think about Celebrity and International Adoptions

We’ve written about Madonna and Malawi Mercy before but it’s worth another pass.

Here’s a chance to let New York Times readers know what you think about international adoption. The Times “Room for Debate” column has invited readers to comment on Madonna’s attempted adoption of a three-year old Malawi girl, Mercy, and international adoptions in general.

The Times included articles from six well-known commentators; four spouted the usual drivel about how the need for children to grow up in stable families trumped the perceived need for children to stay with their families and in their country. Throwing a bone to culturalism, they mentioned culture camps and other adornments.

Two writers, journalist E.J. Graff and adoptive father and law professor David Smolin, wrote about the corruption in international adoption and pointed out that most of the children coming from third world countries are not true orphans but very young children of impoverished parents. True orphans are older, often handicapped, and not desired by those interested in adopting. We’ve written before about Graff’s excellent coverage of corruption in international adoption.

The vast majority of the 174 commentators as I write this Tuesday afternoon are persons who adopted children from abroad. They argue that Madonna is a loving mother who will provide a better home for Mercy than her poor father. They (like Tom Lehrer’s old dope peddler) contend that they did well by doing “good”. They met their need for a child -- and they rescued a child from a life of degradation in their native country and culture. They didn’t adopt an American child because few were available except for undesirable foster kids. Some of them sound amazingly smug and are amazed that anyone would oppose the adoption of any child from a Third World country.

I posted the following comment: "Marguerite Wright and other pro-adoption commentators note that 'Research shows that children do best when raised in a supportive, caring family. Mercy has a much better chance of thriving in a family environment with personal attention, educational opportunities and medical care than in an orphanage.'

Madonna is not offering Mercy a supportive, caring family. With Madonna’s commitments and career, Mercy will be raised by nannies and receive little personal attention from Madonna or anyone else. If Madonna were willing to put Mercy’s needs before her own desire for publicity and possession of a child, she would provide funds for Mercy’s family to give her educational opportunities and medical care while being raised in a supportive, caring family, her own.

There are millions of poor children in the world. We need to work on providing all children educational opportunities and medical care rather than snatching a few thousand each year from their loving but poor families to meet the emotional needs of wealthy Americans.”

Let’s add our voices to this debate. Post your comments here and then go to the Times site and add your voice there.


  1. While most of the comments at the NYTimes site are from adoptive parents and adoptive grandparents, this is the last comment posted this morning:
    179. May 13, 2009 8:32 am Link

    In Oct. 1971, I case #7549 was sent by plane from ROK (Korea) to Denmark. Adopted as part of a International silent agreement that children was to be consider on the same terms as any other kind of goods, stuff and “things” an object who can be trade with if the check is suiteable enough.

    The issues of adoption is not just a personal matter, as much as a public matter. Having said this the attitude and discours seems to be that this is how social problems is dealt with in countries with heavely economical, financial and socialproblem. Under cover of culture problem as an argument for keeping up the adoption rates to western countries as the USA as the number # 1 buyer of adopted children, this business just seems to escalate, increasing instead of decreasing. With so called celebrities as Madonna etc. adoption is no longer about provide new options and a “second change” but it’s about need. I need this “thing” as i need food, cloth, or: i WANT this new tv set, or I DEMAND to have and so on. Why is it much better to go thousands of kilometers ways from ones frontgate to the deep deep jungle in “no mans land” and grab a kid by the legs, instead of going to place in ones own country with kids in the same need of help from parents who one way or another has lost the ability and capacity to take care of there own child-(ren).
    What kind of mechanism is it that makes people pay hundred and thousands of hard currency in whatever national currency instead of donating the same money to charity work or even go there themselves to do humanitary charity work. If one needs to show the word, and save the world let him or her start in ones own back yard!

    SoulofKorea - A.k.A Young Min denmark
    — SoulofKorea

  2. I am so sick of the stereotypes in adoption.

    I left two comments there although it may take a while before the author checks back to allow them through.

  3. Mei-Ling:

    Would you post your comments here?

  4. Here, here Jane!

    I especially liked the comment that said, "Hey Madonna, hey Angelina, Save the plane fare and come to my hood in the South Bronz, where there are lots of children who need homes." But that isn't the point for the celebs, is it? It's about the warm and fuzzy publicity gained from building an exotic family.

    These women have the ability to help children and families in poor countries -- help them STAY TOGETHER! But that isn't the point either.

    So sad...

  5. There was an interesting comment from a Korean female adoptee who said people give her and her (white) a-father "disgusted" looks when they are out together. The assumption is that they are dating.

    Does no one consider that these youngsters will one day become adults, opening up a whole new world of family and adoption-related issues?

  6. I saw that comment too. People used to ask if I was the nannny. Not sure that proves much except that people's assumptions are limited by their notions of what the world ought to be.

    The discussion seemed pretty lively. In fact, rather a large number of a-parents seemed a bit defensive.

  7. A bit defensive?

    They are positively defensive. And irritated that anyone would question their decision to adopt from poor nations. Did any of them admit that one attractive reason was that the possibility of a birth mother popping up is nearly nil?

    Yet we know that is what appeals to many.

  8. OK, probably more than a bit. How about a "modicum" of defensiveness?! My point is, when people are on the defensive, you know the winds are shifting. Seemed to me there was a good selection of views from all sides and that the corruption message is taking hold. You watch--IA is going to dry up in the next few years after a few more scandals are revealed.

  9. I find it obnoxious that these "professionals" get any clout just because of title when they don't know squat about being Adopted or Being a Real Mother forced to give away her baby. No one should listen to them because they are no authority on this subject and personally I think they should just mind their own buisness and sacrifice the ego trip they want for being quoted in a newspaper.

  10. Lorraine, just on that birthmother popping up thing, I find many admit it freely! They're not even remotely embarrassed by saying that--we don't want her showing up here. Just ran into another site last week mentioned on my Google alerts where it happened again.

  11. "Did any of them admit that one attractive reason was that the possibility of a birth mother popping up is nearly nil?"

    Aha. I just stumbled across a blog which went into that issue - left a comment there as well.


    I'm not going to paste all the comments I left but the ones that probably stuck out to people were:

    "Adoption does not start in an orphanage."

    - In response to Meg:

    “you can move past your fantasy about how your life could have been and value the one you’ve been given~justly or otherwise”

    As a Taiwan adoptee who is planning to reunite with her other family in Taiwan this coming June and who has seen pictures of the district where her family lives, I can tell you there doesn’t need to be a fantasy.

    One does not need to “fanticize” in order to miss or grieve a home that should have been her birthright. I did not get thrown in a dumpster or abandoned on the streets, nor did my family grow up in poverty or at the brink of death. The stereotypes have GOT to stop.


    I’m actually quite fine with expressing the happy aspects of adoption.

    But the reason I don’t normally do so online is because then I know it’d just cause people to say “LOOK! A happy adoptee! Now why don’t the rest of y’all just shut up and be grateful!” or something along those lines.

    Say something good about adoption and people don’t think they have to listen anymore. That’s the trouble with expressing positive aspects.

    As noted by an adoptive parent above, Jong-Sook is the only adoptee whose comments became noticed and that’s because overall, she praised her adoption.

    It’s not that I don’t think my adoption is good, or that Madonna truly just *might* want to raise a child - but adoption goes beyond good intentions. I have loving parents, I have an awesome home, an education - great - but what I also don’t forget is all of that came at a high cost.

    What about the parents who did not raise me? Are they somehow supposed to find an OFF switch for their love or sorrow? What about the home I did not grow up in? It’s not buried in poverty or disease or malnutrition. What about the education? People DO go to post-secondary in Asia, you know. It’s not “less than.”

    Adoption isn’t all-horrible, but its ethical aspects do need to be looked into. Just because one adopts doesn’t mean their child might not potentially have some factor of corruption *PRIOR* to the orphanage. Did corruption happen? Probably not. But no one will know for sure.


    There are more comments I left but they're not as eloquently written. =P

  12. Thanks for the comments, Mei-Ling.

    Adoption is such a complicated series of relationships. I wish you all the best when you make your trip back to Taiwan, and hope that it goes well.

    Yes, I know that Madonna may not be the evil adopter, but celebrity adoptions from foreign nations make them more popular, and increase their number, and that, as we now know, leads to the unethical trade in babies.



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