OVBIAGELE: Overseas adoption effective?

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If Americans across the country were asked why they favor foreign adoption, they’d give altruistic responses.

From wanting to give hope to a child to bettering an entire nation, the benevolent intentions are diverse.

But behind the intentions for goodwill held by most adopters, the enigmatic question remains: Is adopting a child from a poor country the most effective way of bettering the child and the country in general?

My response: maybe not.

Last week, I touched on the reasons why Americans are increasingly seeking to adopt children from overseas.

I came to the conclusion that although the majority of individuals and partners who adopt foreign children do it out of benevolence, a few do it for less than altruistic purposes.

But before I go further, I think it’s important to note that the issue of adoption is a touchy one, and I am not ignorant or insensitive of the fact that people adopt for extremely personal reasons that go beyond the above simplified reasons. And I respect that.

That being said, contrary to popular thought, adopting from a poor country might not be the most effective way of bettering a child’s life in particular and might even be detrimental to the child’s country.

According to UNICEF’s position on intercountry adoption, it’s in the best interest of orphaned children to be raised in their home countries.

UNICEF went on to further suggest that intercountry adoption should only be done as a last resort, when there is no other internal support system available for the child.

But herein lies the problem: due to the increasing international adoption demands from families in wealthy countries, an industry has been created.

And just like all industry and business ventures, profit maximization ranks prime even in the face of ethical concerns.

This is the painful but uncomfortable truth.

According to an industry analysis by the Marketdata Enterprises Inc. of Tampa, Fla., adoption provider revenues in 2000 were $1.44 billion with a projected industry annual growth rate of 11.5 percent by 2004.

This might be a lure for adoption agencies to exploit the process. The result: non-orphans portrayed as orphans, child trafficking and exploitation.

In Darlene Gerow’s book, “The Infant Adoption Industry Should Be Abolished,” she writes that in Guatemala, mothers filed dozens of complaints with the Guatemalan attorney’s office because their “babies were taken without their understanding or consent.”

According to UNICEF, the lack of regulation and oversight in such countries and potential financial gain has “spurred the growth of an industry around adoption, where profit, rather than the best interests of children, takes center stage.”

This is not to blame the kind hearts of American adopters, for most times they are unaware of these things. But they do happen.

Also, most children adopted internationally are from culturally rich nations. And it can amount to an impending identity crisis when children who were born in a distinctively different cultural setup grow up outside their birthplace.

Good food and education are essential to growing up, but when a child starts to question who he or she is, psychological breakdowns become a real possibility.

What about the effect on the country?

While international adoption might give a child from a poor nation an opportunity for a new start and a better life, it does not remedy the socioeconomic problems faced by the child’s country.

It does not remedy the problem of high birth rates or solve the miseries of poverty in such countries.

Furthermore, only healthy babies are typically considered for adoption, leaving out the special needs and disabled children, who actually need more attention.

If one of the primal purposes of adopters is to better the life of the child being adopted and her country, then maybe seeking other means of helping the child within her country may be more beneficial — investments in educational infrastructure, social amenities, etc.

That way, the life of one child is not only helped but the growth of a nation is, too.

Why impact just one life, when you can use the same resources in impacting an entire country and continent.

Food For Thought: By helping to better a child’s life in his or her own country, you not only create a future for him or her but for generations to come.

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