' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: International Adoption Advocates Fight Back against decline in adoptions

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

International Adoption Advocates Fight Back against decline in adoptions

Pacific Harbor Seals
Mother Pacific harbor seals leave newborn pups on the beach when they go into the sea to fish. Believing the pups have been abandoned, humans take them to aquariums or try to raise them themselves, often unsuccessfully. Mother seals returning to the beach to nurse search futilely for their babies.

I think of these seals when I read about international adoption. Thankfully, it has declined from a high of 22,884 in 2004 to 11,059 in 2010. Wide-scale corruption or other abuses has caused Ethiopia to join Cambodia, Guatemala, Nepal and Russia, in closing their borders while adoptions from China, the biggest supplier of babies, have been reduced.

Adoption advocates are coming out in full force to counter the decline, whether through evangelical crusades or progressive parades. They conduct emotionally charged campaigns, employing images of wailing Haitian children or emaciated Ethiopian babies to urge American public officials to use their power to increase the number of children available for adoption.

Writing for The Nation, (The Evangelical Adoption Crusade, 4/21/11) Kathryn Joyce* notes: “As a way for conservative evangelicals to reclaim the social gospel message from liberal churches, adoption is a perfect storm…seemingly defining antiabortion activism as more truly ‘prolife’—or ‘whole life,’ as one Bethany [Christian Services] staffer coined it--while providing new opportunity…to spread the gospel.”

Joyce tells us: “One result has been the creation of ‘rainbow congregations’ across the country, like the congregation [Russell] Moore helps pastor in Louisville, Highview Baptist. An active adoption ministry has brought 140 adopted children into the congregation in the past five years. These children don’t recognize the flags of their home countries, Moore proudly noted at a 2010 conference, but they can all sing ‘Jesus Loves Me.’”

Liberals are just as committed to international adoption. I've attended services at Unitarian Universalist Churches in several cities and it's clear that Evangelicals do not have a lock on "rainbow congregations."

Prominent non-evangelical adoption advocates include Jane Aronson, an adoptive mother and pediatrician specializing in the treatment of internationally adopted children. She founded Worldwide Orphans Foundation and serves on the board of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services; adoptive mother and law professor Elizabeth Bartholet, director of Harvard University’s Child Advocacy Program, of which she is the only professor; National Public Radio weekend announcer and adoptive father Scott Simon, and US Senator and adoptive mother Mary Landrieu (D. LA), founder of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Sen. Landrieu, along with liberal Senator Amy Klobuchar (D. MN), has teamed up with conservative senators Sam Brownback (R KS) and James Inhofe (R OK) to support conservative Christian adoption agencies. According to Joyce, Landrieu will reintroduce the Families for Orphans Act which would “create a special State Department office to oversee adoptions and offer—critics say condition—developmental aid to countries that help obtain permanent parental care for orphans, including through international adoption.”

Even Prince William and his betrothed, Kate Middleton, are allegedly getting into the act. According to the National Enquirer: “The bride-to-be admires actress ANGELINA JOLIE’S multinational adoptions … and both she and William are determined to create a loving home for a child from another culture.” A "palace insider" goes on to speculate that "Adopting a child from another country would demonstrate that 21st century royals are willing to connect with the ordinary world to become more relevant. And Kate is determined to do her best to help."

It’s tempting to assume that what these advocates are really after are children to meet the needs of the infertile. Indeed Sen. Klobuchar brags on her website that “she has helped hundreds of Minnesota families navigate the difficult and complicated international adoption process.” It’s no coincidence that many advocates are adoptive parents who struggled with infertility.

It is also true that misguided altruism plays a part. Many advocates truly believe that adoption is the best, if not the only way, to help poor children. Attorneys and adoptive parents Johanna Oreskovic and Trish Maskew describe Bartholet’s views: “she leave[s] no doubt where she stands: International Adoption should be if not the preferred alternative, then at least a preferred alternative for the ‘millions on millions’ of children in the developing world who would otherwise be doomed to living out their childhoods in damaging institutions or on the streets.’” (“Red Thread or Slender Reed: Deconstructing Prof Bartholet’s Mythology of International Adoption,” Buffalo Human Rights Law Review, 2009)

Advocates have seen rooms full of cribs pushed close together, babies anxious for any sign of affection. It’s easy to ignore doubts about corruption or sweep aside thoughts that the children (like the seal pups on the beach) may be waiting for their mothers to come for them. Yet in some countries, such as Nepal, as we recently wrote, children are kept in deplorable conditions and put on view to westerners to get them to open their wallets. It's outright thievery, and trafficked children are the pawns.

Fortunately, others are speaking up including the supposed beneficiaries of international adoption, adoptees themselves. Peter Dodds, adopted from Germany at the age of three in 1957 and author of Outer Search/Inner Journey (see book above) recently appeared on “Test of Faith.” He likened international adoption as “bringing a palm tree from the Bahamas to Canada and expecting it to flourish.”
Dodds points out that international adoption helps only a tiny fraction of abused, neglected, and abandoned children and does nothing to solve high birth rates or poverty. International adoption has been corrupted by big money and exploits poor women. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of American children languish in the foster care system. Rather than adoption, the answer to the plight of poor children is organizations like World Vision and UNICEF which support children in their own countries.

Other adoptees are speaking out as well. Jane Jeong Trenka, author of The Language of Blood about being raised by white parents in a small Minnesota town, is working with other Korean adoptees to reform Korean adoption laws. Their proposals would give mothers more time to make adoption decisions, allow adoptees access to information about their original identities, and help single mothers keep their babies. MI OK Song Bruining, also adopted from Korea, and Joan Shumack, adopted from Greece, have spoken against international adoption at American Adoption Congress Conferences. 

Those who adopted internationally are making their voices heard. In addition to Johanna Oreskovic and Trish Maskew, these include David Kruchkow of Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform (PEAR), Professor David Smolin of the Cumberland University School of Law, and Usha Rengachary Smerdon and Tracy Desserich, board members of Ethica. Although not an adoptive parent, Brandeis professor and investigative reporter, E. J. Graff has written extensively about international adoption, exposing the myths that continue to support it, “The Lie We Love” (Foreign Policy, Nov/Dec 2008) and "The Baby Business" (Democracy Journal, Summer 2010)

*Joyce is also the author about the deceptive tactics of Crisis Pregnancy Centers used to convince American women to surrender their babies, “Shotgun Adoption,” 8/26/09


  1. Gee with all these adoptive parents speaking out about adoption will other potential adoptive prospects listen?
    I can answer that NO it isn't shot the adoptee it's about the
    adopter tryingt to fix them. I am thoroughly disgusted that it has taken this long to even expose the pain involved
    with adoption. Sadly, adopting will fill their hole while ripping a hole that will forever be with mother/child an
    aggressive act seen as an act of human love.

  2. Found at another blog:

    "Our 7 year-old Ethiopian daughter, K., has been with us for a year. We are in process of adopting a 3 year old boy and hope to travel for court in July.

    "We are trying to decide whether to take our daughter with us. I met her birth mother when I was there last year and liked her very much, although, of course, it was a very emotional meeting.

    "My husband is concerned about our daughter’s attachment to us being impacted if we take her to visit. K seems attached to our family and happy. She used to throw tantrums a least once per day about not getting her way – clothes, food, etc.

    "In the last month the tantrums have been rare. She sometimes pouts, but is not crying and throwing herself on the ground.

    "I would like to take her to visit and we probably will not be going to Ethiopia again for several years.

    "Has anyone taken their children back to Ethiopia to visit birth relatives after only a year or so? How did you prepare them?

    "I know she will feel some sadness but I don’t want her to be devastated and feel torn."


  3. And a response found there:

    "I agree with Teresa, it is too soon. We tell our adopted daughter from ET that when she is older she can go back to visit. Our oldest bio daughter has made two mission trips to the very place our adopted children are from.

    "I was so excited the first trip she made because she visited the birth families and took video and photos. The last night before coming home she could not find that particular camera and she kept it with her passport because she didn't want to lose it, it just came up missing. We were so upset but see now that it was the best thing for us, at that point it would have made it more difficult for our adopted daughter to move on and attach to us. We are just praying that God will show us the right time for her to go back and visit someday if it's possible. It sounds like your daughter is still having major adjustment issues.

    "It has been over two years for us and still have a lot of bonding and attaching to do. It just takes time. Also read a blog recently of a family who took their adopted daughter back to China with them to pick up another child and she seemed to do okay while there, but now she is having night terrors every night since they have been home."

    Lorraine again: I am personally at a loss. Can you imagine what it would mean to the girl to have a photo of her real mother? Her first mother? Her birth mother? The attitudes that are displayed by MOST people who adopt overseas are mind-boggling.

  4. Let me see if I understand this. They take a child from the only environment he/she has ever known, give all "the best things in life" and totally freak out that the child will reject them should they take him/her along on a visit back home or even (gasp) show him/her photos of his/her family.

    And this is seen as good parenting?

  5. Gaye:

    You got it right. I freaked with horror when I read a) the first post; and b) one of the comments above. How can people who adopt be so totally clueless about what it means to take a child from another culture, about what it means to be not raised by your family of birth? I dunno. And people do not want to become educated either, it seems.


  6. "Adopting a child from another country would demonstrate that 21st century royals are willing to connect with the ordinary world to become more relevant." If ever I hear of the commodification of adoption this is it!! Let's hope their home study is not approved.
    What a great post.

  7. One of the best things I've read recently about adoption was by David Kruchkow at PEAR:

    "I believe that most children would rather be raised in the families and cultures to which they were born than be placed for adoption. Those are their hopes and dreams. I believe that all citizens of the world should be working toward providing support to help preserve families and eliminate any need for adoptions."

    The good news is that international adoptions have decreased by 50% in 6 years (2004 to 2010). However, I believe that no matter how many international adoptees write books or blogs that IA won't end or be looked at as less than wonderful and saving the children of the world.Adoption is not about children. It is about APs and PAPs and money.

    The idea of William and Kate adopting sounds rather far-fetched. The whole idea of royalty is based on lineage. I guess technically they could adopt with only their biological children being able to acccede to the throne.

    Lorraine wrote " How can people who adopt be so totally clueless about what it means to take a child from another culture, about what it means to be not raised by your family of birth? I dunno."

    This attitude doesn't surprise me at all. My APs never considered my first family or my connection to them at all. Because according to them, my A-family is my REAL family so the people who created me and whose genes I carry meant nothing at all.

  8. Look at cults, they keep people confined until they can't think for themselves anymore. If the cult lets the person out the brainwashing may be interrupted or not work at all. No communication with the outside world.

    The adopters aren't worried about the child going back when the adoptee is older, though. Sure, then they don't have to deal with it. The adoptee can even pay for their own trip back.

    Confine the adopters and send the kids back where they belong.

  9. This is so thoroughly depressing. How can anyone see the decline in international adoptions as anything other than EXCELLENT NEWS??? And furthermore, the pictures of emaciated African school-age kids used as propaganda to persuade people to "save the orphans" do NOT depict the kinds of children that people are willing to adopt anyway.

  10. The dogged, blind excuses in the AP narratives you quote are appalling, and yet I cannot even bring myself to be surprised anymore by their willfullness. Their "concern" is about their adopted children attaching to them--and their OWN fear of rejection--not about "protecting" the adoptee from pain. Loss is loss, and in IA huge loss of family and language and culture. The selfishness of these particular APs is horrendous.

    The one story was even more awful in that the bio daughter was "allowed" to see the adoptee's family. No fear of competition there, and the second-tier nature of the adoptee was so plain, depsite protestations of love.
    Secrets and lies are insidious and pervasive in adoption, as well as "for the adoptee's own good," almost never decided by the adoptee.

  11. Thanks for posting this informative article. As you clearly demonstrated, the proponents of international adoption often times have much difficulty in getting their facts correct.

    The YouTube video you linked in the article contains excerpts from a tv interview where I debated Dr. Rita Simon (wearing the blue top). Dr. Simon is a professor at American University so would seem to be a credible source of information. However, during the debate she made one false claim after another after another. One of the most astonishing was all women who surrender children for adoption are products of rape.

    I'm sure many of your Forum followers would think differently.

  12. Someone I know recently adopted a baby from a Vietnamese orphanage. They flew over to collect the baby and their one comment that has stayed with me is that the baby screamed and screamed all the way to the airport. Maybe he had a tummy-ache or.....maybe he knew he was being torn away from all that he was familiar with

  13. Maybe I'm just strange or maybe being a first/birth mother has done this to me(or a combo) ,but does anyone else think it's a strange coincidence that Jane's blog talking about mommy and baby seals with a picture of baby seals was done right before some US Navy Seals found Osama Bin Laden?



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