As I have mentioned in this blog before, the knee-jerk reaction of most people when they hear about plans for a foreign adoption, is to tell you what a "wonderful" thing you are doing. It’s been almost embarrassing when people go misty-eyed and tell me how selfless my plans are, how amazing it is that I should be "saving" a child from the hardships of growing up in the developing world. They never really stop to think that the arrangement is mutual, that by asking a small child to adapt to a culture so different from their own (a big, big ask) and a stranger as their mother, the exchange is far from one-sided.
This attitude is not just confined to people outside the adoption process. Many applicants I have met have expressed the same sentiment; I had a recent conversation with one woman, adopting from the same country as me, who was upset that officials there had shown a hostile attitude towards her, as she considered she was doing the country a "favour" by taking an "unwanted" child off their hands. I asked her if she had ever stopped to think about the embarrassment—something I have experienced first hand—at having first world-ers coming to "rescue" their children. She hadn’t—and the conversation pretty much ended there. I haven’t heard from her since (before this we had been in contact on a regular basis).
The social workers of your appointed ICIF (Institución Colaboradora para la Integración Familiar or Collaborator Institution for Family Integration) will be on the lookout for this attitude, and it doesn’t pay to reveal it, even if it is one of the motivating factors of your decision to adopt. Basically their stance is that if you have feelings of solidarity then go and work in an NGO and leave the small pool of ‘adoptable’ children to the ones that simply have a burning desire to be parents.
Personally, I don’t think the issue is so black and white. I have been lucky enough to witness many cases when international adoption has been the right thing for a particular child, but I don’t think that is always the case and I am dead against the ‘trophy’ status that many of these children receive—especially when we are talking about celebrity adoptions. Basically I think that the ideal scenario would be to improve the economies and infrastructure of the countries where these children live, so that they could be cared for in their own communities. But, in the case of my child, I am fairly certain this is not going to happen in my lifetime, or even hers.
We have all seen documentaries and read news reports of children being trafficked for adoption and dirt-poor mothers being paid to give birth in order meet our demand for babies. We have heard the heart-breaking stories of how, years later, adopted children have learnt that their birth parents are alive and well, and the horrendous quandaries they that they and their adoptive parents, who brought them into their homes because they thought were doing the ‘right’ thing, face.
One of the best articles I have ever read on the huge moral dilemmas and ugly realities of international adoption is titled ‘The Lie We Love’, and I urge you to read it here.