Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Connection Between Disaster and Adoption

A friend in Canada guided me towards this article on international adoption. I was very interested because it seems to follow the content of another conversation I was having with another mother's group about the unspoken criminalization of the poor. It seems that the poor are begrudged their children in this country and conned out of them in other nations.

We've all read or heard, at some point, of how children were taken for "medical treatment" or to a place where the parents told them they could attend a school, only to have those same children show up in the US as adopted "orphans."

This article from the Toronto Globe and Mail is a great summary of the problem. The passages in boldface are ones that struck a chord with me.

One sure consequence of disaster: adoption

Siri Agrell. The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Ont.: Feb 6, 2010. pg. F.5

When a group of American missionaries was arrested last weekend after trying to bring 33 children out of Haiti, troubling questions began to arise about the impulse to whisk kids out of disaster zones. But trends in international adoption have always followed close on the heels of war and humanitarian disaster, according to Queen's University professor Karen Dubinsky, whose book Babies Without Borders: Adoption and the Symbolic Child in Canada, Cuba and Guatemala will be released this spring.

The story is always the same, she tells Siri Agrell . The disaster produces interest in orphaned children, an adoption system is opened, scandals develop and the system closes down. Move to another location and repeat.


The adoption of foreign children began in the United States during the Korean War from 1950 to 1953, when an American evangelical couple named Henry and Bertha Holt began a campaign to fight communism one child at a time. "They had missionary zeal and the Cold War behind them," Ms. Dubinsky says. "Some historians say they single-handedly invented international adoption."


In Canada, the first spike in international adoption began at the end of the Vietnam War, spearheaded by three Montreal housewives who got involved in a U.S.-led campaign called Operation Babylift. More than
3,300 infants were removed, although it was later revealed that not all were orphans. The project earned notoriety after an Operation Babylift plane crashed after takeoff in Vietnam, killing 141 children and volunteers. The adoption campaign led to a change to Canada's immigration policy, creating a new category for unaccompanied babies.


From 1960 to 1961, 14,000 unaccompanied children were sent from Cuba to Miami as part of Operation Peter Pan (*see the Daily Bastardette's archives for more on this). Although parents were promised that they would be reunited with their children, more than 7,000 were permanently stranded in the American foster-care and orphanage system after the Bay of Pigs invasion ended U.S.-Cuban relations. Decades later, one of those children - Maria de los Torres- would sue the Central Intelligence Agency for access to documents that revealed Cuban parents were responding to an American rumour campaign suggesting Fidel Castro was about to nationalize children. Now, there are rumours of a Hollywood movie about the event.


After Nicolae Ceausescu was overthrown and executed in the 1989 revolution, media attention directed at the sorry state of Romanian orphanages created a bump in interest about adoptees in former Soviet Bloc states.


In 1990, Russia made adoption open to foreign parents. Ms. Dubinsky says interest was fuelled by U.S. investigative television shows that aired hidden-camera footage of substandard orphanage conditions. Unlike with other countries, the narrative around Russian adoptions focused on the physical and mental health of the children. (* And so many Russian adoptees suffered so much after being removed from their country and was in the news. rw)


In the early 2000s, Guatemala had the dubious distinction of having the highest per-capita adoption rate in the world. Civil wars in Latin America drew international attention to the region, and soon the poor country was cashing in on its children. "In Guatemala, it just started to become a business, nothing more," Ms. Dubinsky says. "It was a country in deep poverty that began to see its only value in exporting its children." (*Which also meant that the market had to exist for the children to have monetary value. And many of these children were not voluntarily surrendered. rw)


The increase in adoptions from China did not emerge out of a single event. The introduction of the country's one-child policy in 1979 and the Tiananmen Square massacre a decade later drew global attention to the country's human-rights abuses, and adoptive parents to its shores. (*And the one-child policy gave adopters the perfect excuse and assumptive rights to a child-savior's halo. rw)


In the aftermath of the 2004 Asian tsunami, many well-meaning families rushed to adopt as an immediate way to provide help. "That's probably one of the first times that ever happened," Ms. Dubinsky says. "It's also the first time mainstream child-welfare organizations started saying it wasn't the right response."


Adoptions from Africa were not popular until the late 2000s, despite decades of well-publicized suffering, and were influenced by the celebrity families of Angelina Jolie and Madonna. Ethiopia experienced a surge of foreign adoptions three years ago.

Middle East

Although recent global conflicts have been focused on the Middle East, Islamic nations are the exception to the adoption trend. Muslim nations do not allow Western-style adoptions, although they do have a system for caring for orphaned children. "It's an interesting parallel," Ms. Dubinsky says. "I don't think we saw the same kind of human-rights coverage and calls to adoption agencies after the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions." (*I am going to say it. When it comes to adoption, the Muslim nations have the right idea. rw)


Ms. Dubinsky is troubled by the news that one of the same Miami groups involved in the Cuban airlift of children in 1960 has re-emerged in Haiti, calling itself Operation Pierre Pan.

And so it goes....when those whose work is adoption get worried about how it is being done, things have really gotten bad. But this was legally done to millions of young women in the middle of the 20th century and the reasons used were youth, poverty and marital status, or lack of one. None of those things are criminal in nature. Poverty still seems to be a good excuse for the DFC to confiscate kiddies, still, here at home. It is sinful and criminal, obviously, to be poor.

So now, abroad, it is a crime to keep your child within your family if a disaster has hit your homeland or if a war or invasion happens.....or, if your nation's politics are just not too popular with Uncle Sugar's enforcers.

I wonder if there are any people who have adopted, internationally. who might even be the least bit concerned about how that child became available and who was hurt to procure that child for their benefit?


Lori said...

I have been reading post after post by adoptees. The same with First Mothers. The one thing that all of us wonder - when is it going to stop.

Now I have a new thought. Why does the richest nation in the world (yeah right) not take care of their own children. Not those with families, but those without? And why do we remove children from homes that are not perfect, but their homes, when the DCF/CPS whatever you want to call them, know that the only place that those children will land is permanent foster care.

The whole damn thing makes me sick - but not as sick as watching a public that is oblivious to what is going on.

They called her Chloe said...

have you read this blog writeen by an AP who discovered her children were kidnapped from their mother?
Of course the kids were not returned...why not I wonder?