A Sobering Article on International Adoption

18adoption_ss-slide-I1HM-master1050This story made the cover of yesterday’s Sunday New York Times Magazine. It is a sobering account of the plight of Korean adopted children (now in or near adulthood) who had been adopted in a wave that extended throughout the 80’s and 90’s. It brings up a number of issues that may be difficult for adoptive parents to digest yet they are all so true. In many countries from Asia to Eastern Europe, Russia, Africa and Latin America, culture, shame, economics and lack of support often thrust women into the gut wrenching decision to give up their children for adoption.

I remember when we adopted Casey from Poland in 1991, her mother was reported to have given instructions that she never be contacted. But now, 24 years later, I look back at those same instructions and wonder, did she really mean it? Did she sign a document only to regret it later? How could she not think about her daughter? This same logic applies to the Times article. It points out so many things that parralleled my own conclusions about adoption, all of the misconceptions and myths that I bought into. Simply removing them from an orphanage and loving them wasn’t enough, at least for us. But many adopted children do just fine.

The title of this story says it all to me: “Her Choice Was No Choice At All.” Precisely. In the adoption triad, we adoptive parents have choices, even if we find them difficult. Birth mothers also have choices, but they are all pretty much bad. Adopted children have no choices. They could be spirited away from an impoverished land and home to the lap of luxury in America, Europe or Australia, but they didn’t ask for it, so don’t be surprised if they don’t lay on the gratitude.

This article confirms a number of things I’ve learned that run completely counter to my belief system when we adopted Casey, but you have to put the child’s needs first.

  • You can’t simply paper over the complexities of an international adoption, especially where race is involved. We didn’t have the race issue as Casey was Polish and could easily pass for our daughter in the Safeway checkout line.
  • Open adoptions are healthier for the child even if they’re difficult for the parents.
  • Separating a child from her origin, race and culture can be damaging no matter how well intentioned the adoptive parents.
  • As such, maybe an international adoption should be seen as a last resort.

The bottom line is, put yourself in the child’s shoes. How would you feel if this was your life?


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