International adoption in the United States is in crisis. Some adoption advocates estimate it will be completely extinct by 2022. We believe that children, no matter where they are located or what their needs, should have the human right to a family. Join us in the month of April as we choose to #betheirvoice and #telltheirstory.
International adoption is in crisis here in the United States.
Intercountry adoptions have decreased more than 80 percent since 2004, and many adoption advocates estimate that, at this rate, and without a change in what appears to be the anti-international-adoption bias and policies inside the leadership of the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, they may completely end by 2022.
Here on this blog, we stand 200 percent behind the rights of children to grow up not as orphans but in families; not in institutions, but in homes.
Research shows the long-term scars that institutional care and lack of early attachment leave on a child for the rest of his life.
And although we believe that a loving family in a child’s birth country is the most beneficial, so a child can easily maintain his culture and heritage, we know that it is not always POSSIBLE. And when an adoptive family is not viable or available in his or her home country, his human right to grow up in a family where he can enjoy attachment, protection and provision should not be relinquished.
Because in many cases, and for many sick, needy and special needs superheroes, it could literally mean death.
Amy Eldridge, CEO and founder of Love Without Boundaries, a humanitarian aid organization that works with orphaned and impoverished children around the world, shared this with us this week:
“I wish that our government, instead of just listening to those sitting behind desks formulating policy at the State Department, would instead gather together a group of people who are actually on the ground in other countries, trying every day to help orphaned and marginalized children. Listen to their stories of both great success in implementing local projects to care for children in need, but also their very real stories of neglect and hunger, sickness and death ... because that is a reality for far too many children in institutional care. I don't think you can listen to the truth and not believe that international adoption must still remain one of the options for children around the world to find safety and care. Our charity is now involved with a multi-faceted approach to orphaned children, from caring for those in institutions to implementing local foster care to doing everything we can for family reunification, and the issues are complex. Yes, we should all strive for the day where no child is ever abandoned or ever has to leave their country of birth. But let's be real. Some abandoned children cannot return safely to birth families and would never be chosen for domestic adoption due to having health issues such as HIV. Others will face lifelong shunning or even forced institutionalism in their countries due to their special needs. Far too many children in orphanages will simply die if they can't get the care they require in their home countries. I see it EVERY SINGLE DAY. And it hurts my heart to know that we are a country with so many families willing to open their homes to children in need, and yet our own American government is making it harder and harder for those children to find homes.”
Opponents of international adoption, including many in leadership in high offices in this country, argue that removing a child from his country and culture is more detrimental than leaving him in it as an orphan. But Elizabeth Bartholet, Professor of Law and the Faculty Director of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School, disagrees:
“Children growing up in institutions rarely have any option to truly enjoy their birth or national heritage. Most of them will die in or age out of those institutions. The families that abandoned or surrendered them, or from whom they were removed, will rarely be able or willing to take them back home to raise. There are few adoptive families available in the countries where large numbers of children are institutionalized. Foster families are in limited supply in these countries also, and foster families don’t work nearly as well for children as adoption, whether domestic or international. The social science demonstrates definitively that international adoption works extremely well for children, helping many recover significantly from damage suffered in their first months and years, and enabling those adopted early in life to thrive.”
Let’s just be clear.
As Orphan Warriors, the very FIRST people we should be advocating for are the first families (biological families) and the children of those who we all agree would best be served by staying in their own extended families, in their own countries. Doing everything we can to promote first family unity, from funding surgeries to providing education and medical care, MUST be part of a holistic orphan care approach. As Orphan Warriors, our FIRST goal should be to stand by first families to help stop the orphan crisis before it even begins. (This is why we absolutely love and support Love Without Boundaries!)
But when that isn’t possible, either because of abandonment or disease or death or cultural stigma or any other factor, and it isn’t possible for a child to be placed either with kin or in his or her home country, we believe whole heartedly that ETHICAL, responsible, transparent intercountry adoption must remain an option. Because it provides a child with a right that should be fundamental to all human beings — the right to grow up inside a family, even if that family lives outside his country of origin.
We believe that no child is better served by living in his home country as a forever orphan in an institution than by growing up in a different culture as a beloved son or daughter.
We all agree that ethical, transparent, responsible intercountry adoption requires oversight and monitoring to ensure it is done in and for the best interests of children. And we ABSOLUTELY want policies that protect children and birth mothers from becoming victims. We are so thankful for a government that prioritizes that, and we should ALL fight for that!
But when anti-international-adoption governmental policies and pushback actually prevent legitimately orphaned children (like the more than 600,000 reportedly living in orphanages right now in China) from coming to loving homes where they can receive the love, services, education and medical care they might never receive otherwise, we choose to speak.
Because if we don’t, the true orphaned and abandoned children around the world (and for us, specifically in China) who have not been able to be adopted in their home countries will grow up as orphans on the outskirts of society, most without education, proper medical care or resources, and now, with no one to advocate for them, their entire lives long.
As they age out of institutions, without family units to protect and rely on, they ironically can become the very victims of the trafficking we say in this country we want to prevent. (Need evidence? A 2002 Russian case study following approximately 15,000 Russian orphans who left institutional orphanages when they aged out of the system between 16 and 18 years old showed that, within two years, 33 percent of the children were unemployed, 40 percent were homeless, 20 percent had committed crime, 10 percent had committed suicide and roughly 50 percent of the girls had been forced into prostitution.)
We should be just as concerned about 16- to 18-year-olds being trafficked as we are about the ones sitting in orphanages today.
Orphan Warriors, THIS MATTERS. Children matter. ORPHANS MATTER. And we can’t afford to sit by silently while a narrative of fear that prevents families and countries from pursuing the fatherless dominates the stage.
Because without the option of international adoption, children will literally die.
Grow up without attachment.
Age out of institutions.
Even turn to trafficking.
In this country, we often only hear the horror stories — the stories of children who were unethically removed from homes or who were abused by unfit adoptive parents.
Those practices are intolerable, and we as a nation and as a people should NEVER condone or stand for them. That is exactly why we have Hague Convention protections in place in our adoption system today. We as adoptive families and orphan advocates should always fight for the strict enforcement of those policies that protect the most vulnerable of children.
But what we DON’T hear about are the thousands of OTHER stories. Because though they’re the most common, they’re not the most salacious.
They don’t make “great news.” Because they’re the “rule,” not the shocking exception to it.
The stories of children who nearly died in institutions and are now thriving in family homes.
The stories of children who were unable to sit or walk or move and, with services and the support of a family unit, are now, like Superhero 4, racing walkers through the streets.
The stories of superheroes whose special needs are just superpowers in disguise who were unable to be provided for in institutions, either because of a lack of staffing, medical care, access to education or simply parental LOVE, who are now, in a family setting, THRIVING for the first time in their lives.
We know not every adoption story is a Cinderella story, and we don’t want to pretend like it is.
Adoption comes from a place of sheer brokenness, and we never want to forget or discount the LOSS that brought it about.
But we also know how most of the stories of the children now living in our homes may have ended without the protection, provision and security of PARENTS, no matter how mucky or messy the story.
Friends, right now, our greatest need in this battle for international adoption is to CHANGE THE NARRATIVE.
We do that not by speaking down over agencies and people, all of whom are truly doing what they believe is best for children around the world, but by speaking UP for the orphan.
By telling their story.
By being their voice.
By sharing their value.
By displaying their worth.
By dispelling the myths (check out this awesome Coalition for Intercountry Adoption’s Common International Adoption Myths Propagated as Truth page) and sharing the stories of how international adoption has changed lives.
We refuse to fight darkness with darkness.
Instead, we choose to fight darkness with LIGHT.
We do that by #beingtheirvoice and #tellingtheirstory.
Stay tuned. Because Orphan Warriors, that is EXACTLY what we are going to do.
#betheirvoice #telltheirstory #oneofH1S #changetheorphanstory
Want more information about intercountry adoption and how we can fight the battle to keep it a viable option in this country?