Thursday, February 04, 2010

If You Want To Adopt, Why Not Consider Adopting From Foster Care?

The other day, I wrote about my feelings about the group of kidnappers who are currently in custody for attempting to smuggle children out of Haiti. As I learn more about the tactics used by the kidnappers to separate children from their families, I am becoming increasingly agitated and hope that everyone involved in this scheme serves prison sentences.

There is an amazing article on The Dangerous Desire to Adopt Haitian Babies on racialicious. It not only discusses the ethical dilemmas and questionable impulses surrounding adoption from post-earthquake Haiti, it discusses the problems inherent in international adoptions as well. The writer asks a lot of hard questions about what the prospective adoptive parents are willing or able to take on and then delivers an observation which is devastating in its truth:
You’d better be sure you can handle it. If you can’t, your child will pay the highest cost. If the adoption falls through, your child may end up in foster care, possibly so scarred that they’ll never get another chance at a family.
The Adoptees of Color Roundtable has a statement on Haiti on their website which I also consider to be a must read for all of us. The whole thing is powerful, but I was struck most by the following:
We uphold that Haitian children have a right to a family and a history that is their own and that Haitians themselves have a right to determine what happens to their own children. We resist the racist, colonialist mentality that positions the Western nuclear family as superior to other conceptions of family, and we seek to challenge those who abuse the phrase “Every child deserves a family” to rethink how this phrase is used to justify the removal of children from Haiti for the fulfillment of their own needs and desires. Western and Northern desire for ownership of Haitian children directly contributes to the destruction of existing family and community structures in Haiti. This individualistic desire is supported by the historical and global anti-African sentiment which negates the validity of black mothers and fathers and condones the separation of black children from their families, cultures, and countries of origin.
Too often, we assume we know what is best for other people. Too often, we confuse what we want with what is right, proclaiming our desires to be "moral imperatives" and, therefore, above reproach. Too often, we confuse our cultural conditioning with morality. Too often, we do not take the time to listen to the people who will be most affected by our actions.

I am not suggesting that people should shouldn't adopt children or that there is something inherently wrong with international adoptions. However, we need to question our motives when we seek to "rescue" children. Isn't it arrogant to assume that the life we can offer them is better than the one that they are currently living? Is adoption the only way to offer a child a "better" life?

We keep hearing about how poor Haiti is (though we aren't reminded enough of the western world's responsibility for that poverty), but poverty explains why the quake did so much damage, it doesn't begin to explain the tenor of the world's response to the damage. As in many things related to the aftermath after the earthquake in Haiti--idiotic and racist statements made by Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh, people getting food and water for their families being described as looters in the American press, the insistence by Americans that we need to expedite the adoption process so that children (many of whom still have families) can be "rescued"--I can't help but feel it would all be a lot different if the earthquake had happened in, say, Iceland.

So the Haitian people don't need us to adopt their children. What they need is help. Please give to an organization (like UNICEF) that is on the ground in Haiti, helping the people put their lives back together so they can keep their families intact.

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