Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Read this if you care about international adoption

Three weeks ago, I found out that illegal inter-country adoptions are taking place in Tanzania.  You might have read the rant that I wrote that night.  It's usually not a good idea to publish blog posts when there is steam coming out your ears and the pulse is visible in your neck.  But after yelling into the phone to a friend, she encouraged me to go ahead and write anyway.

Now that I have calmed down, I still have no regrets about what I wrote.  But I do have more to say.  This message needs to get out into the adoption community.  If you have a friend who is considering inter-country adoption, or if you are part of an adoption group or on-line community, will you please share this with them?  I want this to spread.  This is really, really important.

Call me naive, but I guess I figured that inter-country adoption abuses were happening only by seedy, scummy, dark alley agencies.  I figured that people who got hooked in by them were either really ignorant or had bad motives.

But instead, as I started to network with others who had these concerns, and they sent me links to agencies who are doing these adoptions, and families who are paying for them, instead I saw well-designed websites for agencies with experience.  I saw beautiful Christian families with fundraising pages saying, "Help bring our Tanzanian baby home!"

So then I went back to the Tanzanian law, and I read it again, and again, and I tried to find the loophole that the agencies claim to have found.  But instead, it just became clearer to me.  To adopt in Tanzania, you must live here for three years and you must foster (in country) for three months.  There are no exceptions.  At best, these families and agencies are encouraging Tanzanians to break their own laws, and at worst, they are essentially participating in child-trafficking.

Then I figured, Maybe these agencies just don't know any better?  Maybe someone has lied to them?  Maybe they just need to hear the truth?

So I wrote to them.  Each of them, personally.  I wrote to the families too.  I spelled out the law.  I begged them to reconsider for the sake of Tanzania and adoptions here.  I was respectful and professional.

Yet now, over three weeks later, I have heard nothing.  From anyone.  No response.  Crickets.

And I think, How can they do this?  How can they deliberately break another country's laws?

There's a word for this; it's called ethnocentrism.  It's defined as the belief in the inherent superiority of one's own ethnic group or culture.

That's got to be what is driving this.  These agencies must be thinking:  We know what's best for Tanzania's children.  We don't care about their country; we don't care about their government.  Tanzania can't take care of their orphans, so we're going to step in and do it for them, whether they like it or not.  

It's the ugliest kind of American arrogance.  And it makes me sick.

Unfortunately, it's also made me cynical about inter-country adoption in general.  I think about other African countries whose adoption programs have bit the dust:  Rwanda, Liberia, now Congo and Uganda and almost Ethiopia.  It's easy to blame the corrupt officials in those countries who ruined these programs, but it makes me wonder how much the agencies are to blame as well.  

Listen--I don't want to heap guilt on the adoptive parents here.  If you adopted from one of those countries, you were trusting your agency--and it's very possible that everything was above board.  Plus, I definitely trust God's sovereignty in all these situations; the kids that came home were meant to come home.  At the same time, I don't want future adoptive parents to unknowingly contribute to corruption.  We must stop this.  

Now that I have this knowledge, I feel that I must take action.  Since the agencies have ignored me, I am going to higher levels of authorities.  I am contacting embassies and the accrediting organizations for these agencies.  And I will also start by calling them out by name, right here.

These are the agencies I know of who are facilitating illegal Tanzanian adoptions.  Please avoid these agencies at all costs, for adoption from any country.

Little Miracles (Texas)
Joshua Tree (Florida)
A Love Beyond Borders (Colorado)
Faith International Adoptions (Washington)

If you are a parent considering inter-country adoption, please don't be scared off by this!  There are still millions of children out there who need a family, and it is very possible to do this ethically.  This is my advice:

1.  Start your research with this blog: Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform.  I recently learned about PEAR, and wish I had known about it sooner.  For example, PEAR was sounding the warning bells about adoptions in Congo years before everything there started falling apart.  That information could have spared many parents from incredible heartache.  This blog is an invaluable resource for adoptive parents.

2.  Research your agency well.  Look for the details.  Ask questions about their philosophy.  Make sure they are Hague certified (though that fact alone doesn't guarantee anything, since all of the above agencies are Hague certified).  Don't just go with the agency that seems cheapest or fastest.

3.  Research adoption in the country you are interested in on your own--don't just depend on the information your agency gives you.  Be very wary of countries who have "just opened up" or which are war-torn or suffering from a natural disaster.  As much as those kids need homes, the country will rarely have the infrastructure in place to maintain ethical adoptions.  For the sake of all the children in that country, don't be tempted by an adoption that bends the rules.  

4.  I believe that a child's need for a family trumps culture, so I would rather see a child in an American family than stuck in an orphanage in their own country.  However, I do not believe that a child's need for a family trumps truth and justice.  Children should not be adopted by breaking another country's laws. Adoption is no longer honorable when it fuels corruption.  

This is an emotional subject.  We are talking about children here--orphaned, vulnerable, often with special needs.  Each child has a face and a name and a story.  Adoption culture often emphasizes making a difference in the life of Just One.  We can't fix the problem for all of them, so let's just focus on One.  I get that mindset.  It's significant.

But we can't see only the parts without stepping back and looking at the whole.  What if, by focusing solely on the One, we make life a whole lot harder for Many?  There must be a balance between making a difference in the life of that one child, and yet thinking about the bigger picture as well--the child's country and government and larger story.

Let's not allow brokenness to breed more brokenness.  Let's be a part of the solution, not make the problem worse.

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