On Russian Adoptions

I confess, I write this with a great deal of reluctance.  I’ve followed my wife’s disagreements with the First Mother Forum, but my general instinct has been to stay out of it.  The author’s of the blog have clearly experienced a great deal of personal pain and now serve as a sort of nexus for people who are experience that pain for themselves.  On the whole, I think that’s a laudable and worthy undertaking.  However, on a factual level, I strongly disagree with them.  I do not believe that my son will be inevitably scarred by his adoption.  I believe that, like many other experiences that will come into his life, it has the potential to scar and injure. I believe that with planning, patience, love, wisdom, understanding, and (I hope) the help of his birthmother, we’ll be able to help him be at peace with the life he’s had.  The women of the First Mother Forum don’t seem to believe that this is possible, but I do think that if they met my son they would, at the very least, pray that I’m right.

On many practical issues, I think we’re on the same side.  I, for one, find the way birth certificates are handled a bit silly at best and quite disturbing at worst.  Indeed, I think the whole idea of “pretending” that an adopted child is yours by birth to be extremely harmful, to the point of child abuse.  I firmly believe that contact with the birthmother/father can and should be wholesome and amazing part of an adopted child’s upbringing.  And, I fervently hope that circumstances will allow my son to have that experience.

As I said earlier, their blog is a bit of a nexus for a great deal of pain and anguish.  In general, I’ve felt like there isn’t much point in going into an argument with them over these small differences.  My wife and I have staked out the path our family will walk.  They’ve clearly come to their own strong opinions, and I don’t see how anything either of us could say would be likely to change either of our opinions.  As a nurture and healer, my wife is always drawn by the urge to find commonality and make connections.  As an engineer, I tend to see the world in much more black and white terms.

HOWEVER…

I confess that this post touched a bit of a nerve:

A few things jumped out at me, and I feel like some sort of comment was required.  I’ll start by quoting two large sections.  I’m quoting the section in it’s entirety, and with no edits (a courtesy they didn’t offer my wife):

“Over 700,000 children live in Russian orphanages. At its height, about five thousand were brought into the U.S. each year; for fiscal 2012 (October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012) the number was 748.* Even at the rate of 5,000 children per year, it would take 140 years to empty the orphanages and by that time another 7,000 would be in them. As a practical matter, the U.S. could not absorb 700,000 Russian children let alone the millions of needy children worldwide.

Being adopted into the U.S. helps only a handful of children. At the same time, it harms children who suffer abuse in their new homes, loss of culture, and feelings of abandonment. Foreign adoption fuels corruption and abets misogyny. China sends thousands of baby girls abroad because families prefer male children. Culture and economic pressures cause unwed South Korean mothers to give up their children. I have been to both China and South Korea. These are not impoverished countries, and if it were not for the low status of women, they would keep their children.

The availability of foreign adoption discourages countries from taking action to care for their children. Before the middle of the last century, the U.S., the United Kingdom, and other western countries had many orphanages. With the advent of welfare programs, orphanages either closed or reinvented themselves into adolescent treatment centers.”

The first and the third paragraphs make claims that both simply cannot be true.  How on earth does removing 700 children from a backlog of 700,000 do ANYTHING to “discourages countries from taking action to care for their children.”  More to the point, what an egotistical and America-centric view of the world!  Russia is running an inhuman and grotesque childcare system because American’s remove a relative handful of children every year?  And the solution to this problem is for American’s to change their behavior in the desperate hope that Russia will wake up and fix itself?  Seriously??

Perhaps it’s painting with a bit of a brush, but I’m fairly certain that if you simply took the position that whatever the Russia government is  wrong by default you’d be on the side of angel’s far more often than the demons.  After all, lets not forget what started all this- a whistleblower was beaten to death in prison, a (dead) whistleblower who is now on trial just to remind the citizenry what happens if they get uppity. 

Their are only two kinds of governments in the world.  Those you can fight to change, and those you must run from to survive. Russia is the latter.

Another statement jumped out at me:

“I have been to both China and South Korea. These are not impoverished countries, and if it were not for the low status of women, they would keep their children.”

I’m baffled as to what possible definition for “poor” she could be using.  South Korea is admittedly doing ok at a per capita GDP of $31,200.  Unfortunately, that’s the pick of the litter.  Russia makes due with the princely sum of $16,700, while China brings up the tail with a mere $8,400.  If that’s not poor, then I’m not sure what is.

More to the point, she can’t have it both ways.  Either these countries have more than sufficient resources to support their children, in which case they’re deliberately engaging in mass child abuse on a truly horrific scale… or they don’t, in which case it would seem that the adoptions are, on balance, doing good.  Either way, I don’t see how adoption is doing anything but helping out the children it manages to reach.

Now, one could argue (as FMF does), that the money and resources spent on a adoption would be better spent on supporting first mothers. The world is full of misery and evil, and nothing is easier than spending other people’s money on it.  If the author’s of FMF have taken a vow of poverty and chosen to follow Gandhi down the path of sacrifice and service, then I apologize that I haven’t been strong enough to go down that path myself, and hope that in the future I may find the strength to do so.  But if they haven’t, then they should stop trying to stick their hands into my wallet.

But I digress.  The truth is that there are some truly terrible places to be without a family and there are countries where a truly horrific number of children are trapped in those places.  Helping to provide a family to such a child is an act of love an service, and should be respected as such.

When championing any cause, the danger exists that ones beliefs and viewpoints will make the truth cloudy.  Indeed, looking at my son’s adoption, I can see their arguments.  Perhaps his birth mother could have found a way to make her life work.  Perhaps we’re not really up to the job ahead of us, and at the end of this road he’ll come to hate the path we put him on.  I think I can do the job right and give my son the childhood he deserves, but I can see the argument.

But, America is not Russia.  Despite my quite low opinion of how America treats it’s most unfortunate children, and make no mistake, that opinion is quite low, our child welfare system is IMMEASURABLY better by virtually any metric than what many orphans experience in Russia.  Pretending otherwise is willful blindness.  Pretending that we can do anything significant to fix their system is hubris of the highest order.  And doing anything to stand in the way of even one of those children getting the family they deserve is despicable.

Frankly, this is what makes me furious about this.  This is the opening paragraph of there “What We Think About Adoption” section:

“Some are absolutely necessary, and good. There will always be children who, for one sad reason or another, need to find a home and parents, and in many cases, they will not be family members.”

Really?  And adopting a child out of Russia’s orphanages doesn’t meet this standard?  These are REAL children who, through no fault of their own, are trapped in truly horrible and completely hopeless circumstances.   How can ANYONE argue against someone trying to help even one of them?

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