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International adoption: The transaction involves fees and money so whether it a private or agency adoption, it resembles a commercial or market The danger of international adoption being tied to human trafficking cannot be ignored. — David Smolin

Village girl in Rajasthan

NOTE from Elaine:

During part of the upcoming holidays, I’ll be sharing formerly-published posts. Thanks for staying tuned!

Though my birthfather Giovanni Cecchini was Italian-born, I began life in America. After WWII ended, a college professor and his wife adopted me and my brother, giving us love, stability, and advantages that my birthmother knew she could not provide. I tell this story in my memoir The Goodbye Baby: A Diary about Adoption.

When touring India a few years ago, I saw firsthand the plight of gaunt, ragged street children.  Begging in stilted English, they followed us relentlessly through the streets of New Delhi. I felt deep compassion for these small boys and girls. I wanted to help them, but their need was too deep. A few rupees might stave off hunger, but homes were what they needed.

Perhaps they were not all orphans, but clearly  they were not being nurtured by parents. They lacked families, but it seemed unlikely they would find them in their native land. What if they were adoptable? Could international adoption provide an answer? Each country has its own policy about international adoption, and there are many hoops for prospective adoptive parents to jump through. Sometimes it takes years to satisfy legal requirements, and the barriers can be insurmountable.

International adoption, I am learning, is fraught with debate. 

Here, briefly, I present some of my research about the potential dark side of international adoption…

Orphan boys at Jaipur Children’s Aid

Author David Smolin, in a paper published online by Valparaiso University, presents both sides of international adoptions. Smolin asks “When is intercountry adoption a form of child trafficking?” and comments that “the answer is surprisingly obscure.”

Smolin points out that in international adoptions, the majority of children are transferred from poor to rich countries, “stripping children of their national identity, native culture and language.” On the other hand, he continues, if international adoptions are universally banned, there will be more of the world’s millions of orphans abandoned, killed, left in dismal orphanages or living on the streets.

Journalist Bryce Corbett, in The Australian Women’s Weekly, interviews Leith and Rob Harding and their adopted daughter Zed, originally from Ethiopia. A photo of the beautiful 18-year-old Zed and her adoptive parents radiates happiness and love.

Me (Elaine) at Fatehpur Sikri, India

Zed, studying nursing at Queensland University of Technology, says “I am so blessed to have everything I have in my life…Every day, I thank God that I am here and not in Ethiopia. That I wake up in a warm bed and not on the side of the road. If I had been left in Ethiopia, I most likely would have died on the side of the road without anyone even knowing who I am.”

The article cites a recent press release announcing Ethopia’s attorney-general’s decree: a halt to all future adoptions of Ethiopian children into Australia. In sharp contrast to the Harding family is the couple, Bronwyn and Scott McNamara, who have waited eight years with high hopes of adopting a child from Ethopia. They are in their fifties. The magazine article includes a photo of the McNamaras, arms entwined and looking heartbroken.

Bronwyn laments, “All we have ever wanted is to have a family and the concept of providing a home for children already in need seemed a more rational approach…now the Ethiopia Program is closed…we are in shock, we are grieving. Our whole future has been annihilated by this.”

Me (Elaine) leaving India. Promise, those suitcases are not all mine.

The prediction for international adoption, claims author Smolin, is bleak: Because it operates as a market in human beings, he says, unless reforms are made, intercountry adoption will eventually be abolished.”

A ban on all international adoptions? Will this come to pass? Should it? This needs to be talked about!