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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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66 Responses

  1. AVS
    AVS April 23, 2011 at 10:12 am |

    This is disgusting. Really reminds me of the 60’s Scoop in Canada when thousands of Aboriginal kids were taken from their parents and adopted into white families. Using children to advance religious or political agendas strips them of their self-worth and identity.

  2. Kathleen
    Kathleen April 23, 2011 at 10:16 am |

    how is this not illegal???????????????? I mean, I know how. But in a decent world.

  3. Kathleen
    Kathleen April 23, 2011 at 10:34 am |

    “The ultimate purpose of human adoption by Christians, therefore, is not to give orphans parents, as important as that is. It is to place them in a Christian home that they might be positioned to receive the gospel.”

    Dickens? Is that you, you spectral kidder?

  4. kung fu lola
    kung fu lola April 23, 2011 at 10:37 am |

    The Canadian Salvation Army did this back in the 60`s and 70`s, as well. I personally know one woman who was adopted by a SA family because they felt it was their “Christian duty”. She rebelled spectacularly, had a child out of wedlock, and is now a passionate and committed women’s health worker, living in partnership with another woman. And she now has a grandchild by her unmarried daughter.

    Another Canadian adopted as part of this scheme is [mildly NSFW] Bif Naked. So, yeah. That idea of building an ideological clone army totally didn’t backfire on the “Good Christians”.

  5. Jessica Isabel
    Jessica Isabel April 23, 2011 at 10:43 am |

    Damn.. this is really messed up… but I don’t know what would be worse, adopting them or leaving them to live in the poverty and neglect of their circumstances. I’m not talking about parents who are paid to give up their children for adoption… that’s another issue entirely. What I’m talking about are parentless orphans in developing countries. I’ve been to a few orphanages like that and the facilities are more often than not underfunded and not maintained… So even if these children are being raised in a conservative Christian household with no attachment to their home country, they are being fed and clothed and cared for (despite what we liberals may think of the families who adopt them).

  6. Jadey
    Jadey April 23, 2011 at 11:00 am |

    Jessica Isabel: leaving them to live in the poverty and neglect of their circumstances

    How about working to improve their circumstances without removing them, isolating them, and using them as tools of colonialism and imperialism? There is room to help here, but it does not look like mass removals of people from countries which are already struggling – these nations are losing generations of children. Historically it has been shown time and again that the “rescuing” of “orphans”* does not result in better outcomes for them or their original communities, especially not when it occurs within a movement driven by an ideology of social superiority.

    Conditions are bad, but mass removals don’t improve those conditions.

    *I think when we talk about orphans, we also need to think about how we are defining family.

  7. kung fu lola
    kung fu lola April 23, 2011 at 11:06 am |

    The solution to the situation you describe – underfunded, not maintained children’s homes – is to help developing countries build an infrastructure within which orphaned children can be cared for by the adults of their nation. It doesn’t have to be high-tech, like building new institutions, it can be community-oriented and make use of existing structures, like promoting “wardship”, as happens in Muslim countries.

  8. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub April 23, 2011 at 11:11 am |

    Yeah, that worked out real well with Randy Terry’s son, didn’t it? I roll my eyes at this as much as I do at the taunts of the RWCC’s who insist that they’ll outbreed liberals. Kids have their own minds. Anyone who’s foolish enough to think they will adopt every single one of your beliefs (or any of them)–be they religious or secular, liberal or conservative–deserve the ice water shock they get when their grown children inform them that no, they don’t actually believe/want to do the things you did, no offense or anything.

  9. Jadey
    Jadey April 23, 2011 at 11:14 am |

    People have already mentioned the Canadian removals of Aboriginal children from their families and communities, and it happened in Australia as well. It’s known as the Stolen Generations. This is a well-established and sadly highly effective tactic for colonizing people and trying to destroy communities and cultures. It is indefensible.

    It’s not as though all individual adoptive parents are bad awful people bent on colonialism or that the experience of being adopted internationally is one of total and unending misery – it’s so much more subtle and dastardly than that. There are some people who are undoubtedly aware of and counting on the macro-scale negative impact, but they rely on the complicity, well-meaning or otherwise, of adopters not cognizant or accepting of their privilege and the harm of their actions as they exist in the current social and political context.

  10. So...
    So... April 23, 2011 at 11:53 am |

    This is much ado about nothing.

    Firstly, I have more respect for these people than from white fluffy liberals who have been taking these kids for years. At least these people have a cause behind this. The self centered neo-colonialist crap that has fueled this industry has gotten little criticism from inside the US and it should have. It has taken international pressure and the countries themselves to close the borders.

    Secondly, international adoptions are plummeting and have been for the last 10 years. They are about 40% of their peak and falling. Most international aid agencies and IGOs/NGOs (Unicef etc) are strongly against international adoption i.e. baby selling and actually work hard to help countries stop it. Seriously, for good or for bad, American foreign policy is not going to be controlled by where a bunch of babies live or do not live. Since “taking your babies” is such an assault on a nation’s sovereignty, even if international adoption could be conducted ethically (which it can’t), it probably isn’t worth losing one tiny missile to the US military industrial complex. Haiti was super close to the US. But no kids left Japan in this disaster and they won’t be leaving any other time. I know it’s nice to “be horrified” at Christians but why not write some posts about the hemp wearing white liberal ass twats profiled in the NY Times every week who have three black kids and have raised them “color blind” because “race doesn’t matter”.

    Yes, I’m annoyed.

  11. Jill
    Jill April 23, 2011 at 1:09 pm |

    Wow, So, that may be one of the most inane and ridiculous comments ever posted on this blog. Nice work!

  12. Queen Maeve
    Queen Maeve April 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm |

    I wouldn’t have worded it the same way, but there’s a point that’s worth paying attention to, there. International adoption is unethical, or, if we want to be generous, ethically dubious, whether it’s done for religious reasons or not. Yet how many feminists have I known who felt they were doing some kind of righteous political act adopting kids from China, Ethiopia, or Guatemala? The baby-selling situation in Guatemala was so bad international law enforcement had to step in, ffs. This is hardly a problem limited to Christians or conservatives.

  13. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin April 23, 2011 at 1:43 pm |

    It’s very interesting to read this story. A woman who was my next-door-neighbor growing up has become part of a similar movement. She was raised quite devoutly Southern Baptist, so she and her husband decided to adopt a child of color. Their adopted daughter is actually from Uganda, though, not from Haiti, but I still wonder if the process involved is similar.

    I need to draw a distinction here. Yes, I am a Christian, but no, my blog does not contain references to God or Jesus every entry and while I do quote Scripture, I’m usually only trying to bolster a much larger point. And though I am also a Quaker, there are some branches of Friends who do proselytize. The irony among many is that there are now more Quakers in Kenya than in the whole of North America.

    I myself never seek to “convert” anyone, though I do gladly explain what I believe to those interested. So I’m always a little uneasy by any of these efforts. And I’m made further uncomfortable by those who think that adopting a child from a third world country makes some sort of larger statement, religious or otherwise. There are ways to assist those in poverty that don’t border on exploitation.

  14. Jadey
    Jadey April 23, 2011 at 1:47 pm |

    I cannot wrap my head around why, on the basis of the OP and ensuing comments, there is an assumption that it’s only unethical adoption practices by Christians and conservatives that are being criticized. Yes, this particular article is about that, but did anyone say, “Thank god the liberals aren’t fucking up like this?” There’s a fairly general condemnation of thoughtless, privileged, en masse international adoption going on here. For my part, I certainly do not restrict my ire and critique only to Christians and conservatives.

  15. Tom Head
    Tom Head April 23, 2011 at 1:55 pm |

    We live in a country where antifeminists have so much power that they can regulate whether or not an organization can give women free pap smears, but one paragraph on a feminist blog is too much dissent to tolerate.

    That’s one of the many problems with authoritarianism, I guess. If these men ran a flower shop, they’d kill everything but the red roses.

  16. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin April 23, 2011 at 2:02 pm |

    I think the White Person’s Burden still persists, liberal or conservative, religious or non-religious. But I honestly do believe that some of these people are so indoctrinated that they don’t even recognize what they’re really doing.

  17. thetroubleis
    thetroubleis April 23, 2011 at 2:04 pm |

    Color me unsurprised. I am an adoptee and while, thank the powers that be, my parents aren’t that kind of Christan, the other transracial adoptees I knew growing up did have that kind of parent.

    My contempt for the adoption industry is unlimited. I know, I know, this is where folks accuse me of wanting to let kids starve in orphanages, like that’s the only other option, but I’m used to being called bitter. Bitterness is of course the only reason one would be upset with a industry more focused on finding children for parents than finding parents for children.

  18. Anonymous for This One
    Anonymous for This One April 23, 2011 at 2:36 pm |

    My father & step-mother adopted a baby. (Read as: paid for a baby from a third-world South American country.) The baby was a pawn to establish the step-mother. Which the baby did. It’s a mess and is totally unethical in every way. But my father was rich and could do whatever he damn well pleased and then did it. I don’t think either of them gave any thought to the child knowing much about their culture or how they came to be where they are. (They adopted out of the country because EVERY adoption agency in this country turned them down.) And before you ask, I tried to stop it and was called “jealous”. Which, knowing my family as I do, is not what I would have termed my feelings.

  19. konkonsn
    konkonsn April 23, 2011 at 4:30 pm |

    I want to make sure I’m not just making this up before I go into it, so has anyone else heard of cases within the United States where poor, single mothers let their religious groups take care of their children for what they believe is a short while, then the child gets adopted out and the courts let the adoptive parents keep the child because its a better situation? I feel like I’ve read an article about this on a feminist site.

  20. karak
    karak April 23, 2011 at 4:58 pm |

    I grew up in a highly conservative Christian rural community. Many of the people there believed it was their duty to care for all children, and so they fostered and adopted American children, often ones who were not infants and had endured serious abuse and had emotional, mental, physical, and developmental issues. They were fierce advocates for their children.

    Those people? I respect. These people? Make me fucking sad.

  21. Aunti Disestablishmentarian
    Aunti Disestablishmentarian April 23, 2011 at 5:03 pm |

    Individual ministries abound, like Orphan’s Ransom, which helps evangelicals pay international adoption fees that can range from $20,000 to $63,000.
    – The Nation article which spawned this post.

    If these ministries and potential adoptive parents were so intent on actually helping the children, that $20-63k would go a long, long way to providing for an individual child in their home country– particularly by allowing a family to support a child they might otherwise have to place in an orphanage.

    We need to shift the focus of solutions from adoption (if the child has family / viable community) to supporting families directly and addressing the root causes of their poverty.

  22. Hillary Rettig / The Lifelong Activist

    As someone who is a former foster mother of Sudanese refugees (“Lost Boys” – a different scenario as they were teens when they came here), and also who works in an immigrant services agency here in Boston, I can tell you that one of the very best things anyone can do to support people in developing countries is to volunteer to help an immigrant or refugee who is already here in the US or other “developed countries.” Particularly in this economy, the people on the lower end of the economic spectrum are really suffering, and they are often cut off from information and mentorship that can make a huge difference. (Which is why so many immigrants were preyed on during the foreclosure scandal.)

    If you can help them and their kids succeed – not even primarily with cash, but with mentorship and career and school support, and general life coaching, e.g., personal finance – it can yield a BIG return, not only for the family here, but back home. The people here will be able to send back larger remittances, and they will often insist that those remittances be used for productive investments like school and starting a business. $1,000 a year pays for a top flight K-12 education in some countries, and a bunch of educated kids can grow up to transform a family’s prospects.

  23. Jadey
    Jadey April 23, 2011 at 5:39 pm |

    konkonsn:
    I want to make sure I’m not just making this up before I go into it, so has anyone else heard of cases within the United States where poor, single mothers let their religious groups take care of their children for what they believe is a short while, then the child gets adopted out and the courts let the adoptive parents keep the child because its a better situation?I feel like I’ve read an article about this on a feminist site.

    Yes, The Feministe post on it is here.

  24. Kathleen
    Kathleen April 23, 2011 at 5:43 pm |

    “Sooo…” and “Queen Maeve” — you may both want to learn something about actual feminists, who have been concerned about the exploitative nature of first, domestic adoption (in the send your daughter away while she’s pregnant, 1950s/60s/70s model) and international adoption for *decades*.

  25. Jillian
    Jillian April 23, 2011 at 8:20 pm |

    This shot doesn’t surprise me. I’m still looking for the article but there was also a scandal after the tsunami in south east asia back in 2004. Some one was an idiot enough to go on record and say “awesome! Now there’s all these Muslim orphans we can scoop up and convert!”. The stAte department but a cabosh on that because the US’s reputation was already in shreds due to the Iraq war.

  26. r.t.
    r.t. April 23, 2011 at 8:33 pm |

    If I live past the next few years, I was thinking about adopting, as I don’t want to reproduce.

    The state of the adoption culture makes me sad and angry though, children stolen from legitimate parents, blatant discrimination (good luck adopting if you’re anything but white, christian, heterosexual, and able-bodied, things I’m 1 for four of) and the vulture-like nature of the industry to take advantage of people in disaster areas to their detriment.

    I don’t think I’ll be allowed to adopt even if I found a way to do it ethically.

  27. Alphabet
    Alphabet April 23, 2011 at 9:04 pm |

    One thing that struck me was the difference in the desirability of the Ukranian vs. Haitian children. In non-evangelical adoptions, parents tend to want a child of the same race when possible (though many don’t care). In the case of the evangelicals, though, the Ukranian (white) children did not inspire the out pouring of support that the Haitian (of color) kids did.

    Part of this was probably due to wanting to help after a major crisis. But I can’t help but feel that the folks doing this to prove their godliness actually like that the kids look different from them. It is a very visible example of their sacrifice- no one will mistake them for biological, thus they are like a badge of honor proving just how much they are willing to do in the name of Christianity. They can count on a lifetime of kudos.

    Now, I am not saying this is even an explicit thought process, and for many it doesnt matter at all. And yes, it is cynical. But when people are willing to break laws to take children of unknown origins, it is hard not to be cynical.

  28. Medea
    Medea April 24, 2011 at 2:41 am |

    So…: I know it’s nice to “be horrified” at Christians

    If you type “adoption” into the search bar you will find other Feministe articles critical of adoption practices that aren’t about conservative Christians.

  29. Cactus Wren
    Cactus Wren April 24, 2011 at 5:14 am |

    Alphabet, I suspect that there’s also a notion — perhaps not articulated even by those who harbor it — that the Haitian kids, being after all Not White, have to be rescued from heathenism: from some bizarre devil-worshiping idolatrous tribal religion where one baby in five is thrown to the crocodiles, or something. Because Everybody Knows that’s how all Not White peoples worship until they’re led to the Gospel.

  30. shannon
    shannon April 24, 2011 at 9:02 am |

    I’m reading a book The Little Princes which mentions child trafficking in Nepal, in which the traffickers dump the children in international orphanages after getting large sums of money from the children’s parents for the child’s safe keeping.

    I also wonder why they don’t have a mission to foster/adopt children here in the US..

  31. Alphabet
    Alphabet April 24, 2011 at 10:37 am |

    Cactus Wren,
    I agree, particularly with them saying they are bringing the Haitian kids ” out of darkness “.

  32. paraxeni
    paraxeni April 24, 2011 at 11:09 am |

    But y’know, thanks to this being a perfect world and all it’s not as if there are any brown kids left in foster homes in the US anymore.

    *pukes*

    Breaks my heart a bit to think what the ‘price’ of one of these kids could do, what $30fucking000 dollars could do, for the place and people those children belong to.

  33. Brittany-Ann
    Brittany-Ann April 24, 2011 at 11:29 am |

    This makes me so angry. So unbelievably angry. Not only for the colonialism and child trafficking involved in international adoption, but also because there are so. many. kids and teens in the foster care system here in the US that NEED a safe place to live.

    My ex-fiance was one. He aged out of the system because no one wanted to adopt a teenaged boy whose father abused him and his silblings physically and molested his sisters. He was the one abused but no one wanted him. He was bounced around from foster home to foster home, finally landing in a home with five other fostered teenage boys, all of whom shared two tiny bedrooms. They were essentially cooks and cleaners for their foster “parents.” When he turned eighteen, the payments to the foster parents stopped, and he was tossed out on his ass. It was heartbreaking to watch. I won’t even get into what happened to his siblings, and how their relationships with each other suffered.

    There are tons of kids and teens from broken homes that need help, but people like those don’t want them because they’re broken. Or rather, they’re broken in the “wrong” way.

  34. Athenia
    Athenia April 24, 2011 at 11:37 am |

    shannon:
    I’m reading a book The Little Princes which mentions child trafficking in Nepal, in which the traffickers dump the children in international orphanages after getting large sums of money from the children’s parents for the child’s safe keeping.

    I also wonder why they don’t have a mission to foster/adopt children here in the US..

    I’ve read that book—do you mean why they don’t adopt kids from Nepal to the US? Or do you mean why they don’t have the same type of organization in the US?

    I think it’s pretty clear from the book that these kids aren’t orphans and that their mission is to reunite the kids with their bio parents–who usually want them back. (sorry, don’t mean to spoil the book!)

    However, I did find that book kinda disturbing—it shows how NGOs really can’t solve the problem–it just ends up being a transfer of wealth from rich donors to a poor country. Of course, maybe people are ok with that, but it ultimately doesn’t stop the problem at its root—poverty and infrastructure failure.

  35. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe April 24, 2011 at 2:05 pm |

    This makes me think of the Vietnam “babylift” that some right-wingers made a big deal about when South Vietnam “fell” in 1974. It seemed to me at the time like the ultimate insult. We’ll trash your country, bomb the shit out of it and condemn huge swaths to poverty and desolation, and oh, yeah, on the way out we’ll take your kids.

  36. Summer Vega
    Summer Vega April 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm |

    It took 30 years to lift the gay adoption ban in Florida where I now live, however, in the city of St. Louis where I lived previously, due to the massive amounts of city kids in the foster system, despite a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, gays could easily adopt. This world is a bit topsy turvy.

  37. tricia
    tricia April 24, 2011 at 8:22 pm |

    I get the impression from a lot of comments in this thread that intercountry adoption is necessarily an imperialist practice that negatively impacts developing countries, full stop. Am I reading too much into things, or is that indeed the position of most commenters here?

    If so, it seems to me that just as the statement that anyone who opposes intercountry adoption must therefore be in favor of the institutionalization of children (“letting children starve in orphanages”) is a false dilemma, so too is the argument that foreign adoption of those children works against the hope of alleviating the poverty or other negative circumstances that create the problem of disadvantaged children in the first place.

    In particular, it seems to me that sane, regulated, limited intercountry adoption can alleviate financial pressure on and even secure resources for domestic alternatives to the institutionalization of children.

    Of course, even non-abusive intercountry adoption can also undermine those in-country services, and too often has. But writing off the practice wholesale as an exploitative service industry for childless people in wealthy countries seems like an unwarranted conclusion, and I wonder if the tendency to jump to it so quickly owes more to a post-colonial narrative than to consideration of real consequences in individual situations, of which academic study (to my admittedly inexpert eye on skimming through some recent scholarship on the subject) seems to have been limited and often contradictory.

  38. Jadey
    Jadey April 24, 2011 at 9:02 pm |

    tricia: In particular, it seems to me that sane, regulated, limited intercountry adoption can alleviate financial pressure on and even secure resources for domestic alternatives to the institutionalization of children.

    Maybe. I try not to rule out anything as impossible because, hey, the universe is infinite. But there’s a big gap between possible and likely. What you describe really is not what’s happening, and it doesn’t look like there’s much investment in developing a system like this.

    Also, not jumping to the conclusion quickly. At least not on my part. This post was in no way my introduction to the issue, and I suspect that this is the case for a number of us, which is why we brought up additional information from how this has played out before. Not to mention the analysis of the specifically colonialist language used in the particular case under scrutiny in this thread.

    It is a complex issue, and I think some of the best people to listen to are international adoptees who have gotten deeply involved in a reflection upon and critique of international adoption. For general interest, Harlow’s Monkey is one of the first places I started.

  39. shannon
    shannon April 24, 2011 at 9:43 pm |

    Sorry, I shifted subjects. I meant why all the obsession with adopting foreign children when there are so many here to be ‘saved’?

  40. William
    William April 25, 2011 at 8:59 am |

    I get the impression from a lot of comments in this thread that intercountry adoption is necessarily an imperialist practice that negatively impacts developing countries, full stop

    Ask yourself about how and why these adoptions happen. Is it about connecting children who need homes with parents who want children? Well, probably not because we have plenty of children in foster care in this country, but they tend to be older and these parents want younger kids, from the beginning its about the parent, not the child. That seems exploitive.

    But it goes deeper than that. Part of the appeal of an international adoption is that the birth parents has no standing, no resources, not ability to challenge down the road. In the US you’ll have 18 years of lurking fear that a birth parent might show up and sue for custody, not so with a parent from outer Mongolia. Again, this is about the adoptive parent, the international adoption market is appealing because it has a sense of finality that can only come from a truly massive disparity in power and privilege.

    The big problem with adoption, to my mind, is that it isn’t about helping children. Down deep its about people with money and privilege wanting something. They want to raise a child unencumbered by the influence of others. They want a blank slate that will reflect their ego. They don’t want to deal with someone else’s problems. They don’t want a disability. They don’t want baggage. They want a mind to mould into whatever form most pleases them. Maybe what the adoptive parent wants isn’t anything on this list, but at the end of the day there is some kind of motivation that leads them to seek children from birth parents with far less power. At the end of the day its about paying money for a child because something about the child or the child’s circumstance is perceived as being worth that money even though far less expensive adoption options with smaller power disparities are available in the US.

  41. Nilbog
    Nilbog April 25, 2011 at 1:02 pm |

    William: I understand your sentiment, but I think that you are conflating a variety of different rationales for adoption. Because of some medical issues it is unlikely that I can have children and I’m not sure if I would consider adoption, but not everyone who adopts is necessarily rich or selfish. I think it’s important to have a nuanced discussion about international adoptions. As the original article indicates, the problematic element that is being discussed here are international adoptions that occur because of a first-world individual’s delusions that their life-style is the only kind worth living and that they have a religious mandate to save the children of other countries from heathenism (which in their minds likely implies poverty and suffering). Perhaps I am reading too much in to your comment, but as a feminist I think it is important that we not make women who cannot have their own biological children and may want children into scapegoats for our larger criticisms about colonialism, power, and inequality.

  42. Jenn
    Jenn April 25, 2011 at 9:00 pm |

    I once heard a minister involved in this “orphan care” movement say that he and his family adopted two boys from Russia. One of the DJ’s asked him what they were doing to foster cultural awareness in the boys, or something similar, and the minister replied that the family was teaching the boys all about Ahmerca because they’re Ahmercans now. This minister (and the DJ since it was a Christian station) had no plan what so ever to ensure that those boys had a connection to their cultural heritage and as a social worker, I can tell you that that is going to be damaging for these children, both of whom were “older” children who spoke no English when they were adopted. I’ve heard this refrain before, particularly from conservative adoptive families, that once they bring the child home, that child has no need for ties to their roots. Nothing could be further from the truth and the unwillingness to acknowledge that fact can be detrimental to these children. If you’re adopting just to save souls, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, IMHO.

  43. William
    William April 25, 2011 at 10:44 pm |

    but I think that you are conflating a variety of different rationales for adoption.

    Absolutely.

    Because of some medical issues it is unlikely that I can have children and I’m not sure if I would consider adoption, but not everyone who adopts is necessarily rich or selfish.

    Everyone is selfish. We are selfish creatures, it is in our natures. Sometimes we might appear unselfish but, except in rare cases, that generally means that an observer is unable to see our gain. As for rich, well…I’d wager money that international adoptions with massive economic disparities between the adopting and the birth family are far more common than more equal relationships, and that the richer family is almost always the one adopting.

    As the original article indicates, the problematic element that is being discussed here are international adoptions that occur because of a first-world individual’s delusions that their life-style is the only kind worth living

    Aside from the charming bit of ableism nested in there with the “delusions” comment, I’d argue that there isn’t a great amount of difference between someone looking to convert and the “better lives/opportunity” schtick that tends to lurk in the background of discussions about adoptions.

    and that they have a religious mandate to save the children of other countries from heathenism (which in their minds likely implies poverty and suffering).

    I’m not sure motivation matters much here. Whether you’re doing it for god, country, or because you’ve just always wanted a widdle baby its still deeply problematic that people who are overwhelmingly rich, white, heterosexual, cis-gendered, and western, are using their various privileges to get children from people who aren’t. Theres not a lot that can mitigate that and I’m not sure how much more lipstick you can put on this pig and still call it nuance.

    but as a feminist I think it is important that we not make women who cannot have their own biological children and may want children into scapegoats for our larger criticisms about colonialism, power, and inequality.

    No one has a right to a child. We’re talking about a human being, not a piece of property. People have rights to their own bodies, not the bodies of others. I’m certainly no arbiter of what is and isn’t a feminist but I’m not familiar with the argument that the appropriation of the bodies of others is cool so long as its a woman doing the appropriation.

  44. Nilbog
    Nilbog April 26, 2011 at 8:27 am |

    William: My apologies for the abelism. Thank you for pointing that out. I sincerely appreciate it.

    Everything else, however, I stand by. I have too much work to do today to really engage in this argument because I think that we are coming from fundamentally different perspectives. Personally, I think it is selfish to tell a woman with medical issues that she’s out of luck and should just deal with it if she wants to have a child because there is no way that she’s not screwing somebody else over. It denies everyone involved the ability to make a rational choice (although it seems to me that you either think that selfishness is rationale or that having a child is always irrational).

  45. Jadey
    Jadey April 26, 2011 at 8:48 am |

    Nilbog: Personally, I think it is selfish to tell a woman with medical issues that she’s out of luck and should just deal with it if she wants to have a child because there is no way that she’s not screwing somebody else over.

    There’s an intersectional argument to be made here. Lack of able-bodied reproductive privilege does not exempt someone from their other privileges, like a member of a white-dominated Western country with colonial powers and intentions. Individual motivations and needs collide with larger contexts and realities. It’s not fair by any means, but that’s kyriarchy – it’s not fair by nature. I don’t believe in the villainizing of any group, including adopters, but there is no “Get out of colonialism free!” card.

  46. Nilbog
    Nilbog April 26, 2011 at 9:14 am |

    Jadey – You’re absolutely right and I certainly did not mean to imply that! I’m not a proponent of international adoption and I would never do it, but I do think that we shouldn’t lump all adoptions into “first-world white couples trying to save third-world babies from themselves.” But you are correct in that adoption politics cannot be separated from larger issues of power and inequality no matter where they take place or who the participants are.

  47. William
    William April 26, 2011 at 9:15 am |

    Personally, I think it is selfish to tell a woman with medical issues that she’s out of luck and should just deal with it if she wants to have a child because there is no way that she’s not screwing somebody else over

    And personally I find it morally repellent to suggest that because someone has significant means and power that they have the right to the bodies of other persons. I feel for people who are unable to have biological children, but that give them the right to use the kinds of power and privilege they wield to oppress others, appropriate their bodies, coerce children from their families. It sounds like you’re saying its selfish to tell a woman of privilege with a medical problem that she’ll have to either adopt from her own country with it’s legal constraints or go without a child when the alternative is buying a human being. The implication of that is that its selfish to be against the buying and selling of human beings in a colonial context. The implication of that is that the only people who really matter are people whose need is great and look like us.

    Also, I don’t buy your premise that this is about wanting children. Its about wanting specific kinds of children. There is no shortage of children with special needs, children who have survived abuse, children who are not infants or very young toddlers. They need homes and they are here in this country in our foster system. If this were about people who desperately wanted children (btw, way to erase LGBT persons who often face real barriers to adoption by making this about women with medical problems) finding children who desperately need homes then international adoptions wouldn’t be under such incredible scrutiny right now. No, this is about parents of privilege wanting blank slates to sate their egos in one way or another. I don’t really give much of a shit if the hole in their hearts is from a medical problem or a heavy dose of Evangelism, colonialism and abuse is still colonialism and abuse even if the colonial abuser has a sad story that lead them to turn to their privileges as members of an abusive colonial power. Might you sometimes have good outcomes from that? Sure, but that doesn’t justify the overall system.

    It denies everyone involved the ability to make a rational choice

    It is difficult to make a rational choice when there is a staggering power differential. Thats why its always wrong for a doctor to have sex with a patient or for a boss to ask a subordinate out on a date. More than that, you’re speaking from a privileged point of view precisely because it seems that implicit in your theory is the belief that somehow there are systems in place to protect children and birth families from abuse. When you’ve got a female infant on the adoption market because the parents are only allowed to have one child and their society strongly rewards them for having a child that is male you can hardly call that a rational choice situation.

    although it seems to me that you either think that selfishness is rationale

    Show me a person who isn’t selfish and I’ll show you either a liar or a person in a coma. Even pro-social behaviors essentially boil down to avoiding pain or pursuing internal pleasure. But hey, not everyone shares that view.

    So…explain to me how a person who cannot have a child yet wants one, and satisfies that desire by engaging in a system known to be rife with abuse and oppression, isn’t being selfish.

    or that having a child is always irrational).

    Could you show me where I suggested that?

  48. Nilbog
    Nilbog April 26, 2011 at 9:57 am |

    William – As this whole discussion is relatively off-topic, we can’t seem to find a common ground, and frankly it’s making me a little more emotional than I can deal with right now, I’m checking out.

  49. Jadey
    Jadey April 26, 2011 at 10:06 am |

    Nilbog: I do think that we shouldn’t lump all adoptions into “first-world white couples trying to save third-world babies from themselves.”

    I absolutely agree that not all the couples are white and not all the stated intentions are about saving the kids from themselves*, but by the very nature of the issue we are almost always talking about first-world couples (of some means, because international adoption can be cheaper, but it’s still not cheap – almost anyone who can afford the process international adoption is probably wealthy or at least well-off by global standards, though not necessarily domestic ones) and third-world babies, which means we are talking about that massive power differential William describes. So some lumping is justified, not because all of the actors involved are actually homogeneous, but because the gravity of the consequences override the individual intentions of the unique couples involved. Hell, the fact that there are and often have been mass movements organized around these ideals speaks to the fact that it is more than just a lot of individuals with the same idea for different reasons. To make an admittedly crude analogy, a white person might claim to dislike black people for totally idiosyncratic personal reasons, but in a context of institutional racism the uniqueness of their feelings doesn’t really carry a lot of weight. That analogy is not about accusing adoptive parents of being racist, but trying to point out how “lumping” isn’t necessarily wrong if what we’re talking about is recognizing a trend. (If this thread were about criticizing a particular couple, then their individuality would be somewhat more important to me.)

    *Sometimes the stated intentions are primarily about really wanting a baby and domestic adoption not being the most viable/appealing option, for various reasons, but hang out on some adoption forums and blogs and the prevalence of the “save them!” theme will quickly become apparent even among those adoptive parents whose primary motive is acquiring a child. It’s a powerful narrative and it seems to make international adoption even more appealing than domestic adoption, which is seen as less charitably awesome from some weird reason. I have some seen people be bluntly pragmatic about the fact that international adoption is frequently just easier and cheaper than domestic adoption, though that isn’t much more appealing to me, especially when people are also bluntly pragmatic about the fact that it’s harder for birth parents to reclaim children in international adoptions. At the root of it, even with non-adoptive parenting, there’s a lot of creepy possessiveness.

  50. Jadey
    Jadey April 26, 2011 at 10:08 am |

    @ Nilbog,

    Sorry, I didn’t see your reply to William before posting. Please do not feel obliged to keep engaging with me, and I sincerely hope you feel better. I know all too well how unpleasant and triggering some conversations can be.

  51. Nilbog
    Nilbog April 26, 2011 at 10:25 am |

    Jadey – Thanks! I understand what you’re saying and I think that I mostly agree. Most of the thread has been about the larger issues at hand, I just felt that William’s post made it feel a bit more personal than is necessary. However, I also recognize that it’s not reasonable to make this conversation into one about women who can’t conceive because that’s ultimately not really the issue here. It’s not about me, but to categorize all adoptions as essentially purchasing a baby out of selfishness just rubs me the wrong way (in part because I recognize that there is some truth to this statement). I resent William’s assumption that I would never consider caring for a special needs child or fostering a child and that a woman who can’t have a child and might possibly consider adoption can be easily equated to an evangelical using adoption to spread their religion. They are related through the larger issues of the politics of adoption, but I don’t think that they are clearly equivalent.

  52. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla April 26, 2011 at 10:31 am |

    William: It sounds like you’re saying its selfish to tell a woman of privilege with a medical problem that she’ll have to either adopt from her own country with it’s legal constraints or go without a child when the alternative is buying a human being.

    I want to amplify this (and I’m not directing this at nilblog or any one commenter in particular): Buying a human being – which is what you’re doing when you “adopt”* a child from another country – is by definition slavery.

    Yes, women who medically cannot have children, and even more, TBLG women, ought to be able to adopt children. What pisses me off is people buying children from overseas when there are millions of children here in the US who desperately need parents and a permanent home and are languishing in foster care, being bounced around from foster family to foster family. I can only conclude (in agreement with William and Jadey) that those who “adopt” internationally are in it for moldable babies that assuage their white-knight syndrome (whether it’s motivated by “saving heathens” or by pseudo-feminist “saving girls from the ebils of Islam”).

    * Scare quotes on purpose.

  53. Kathleen
    Kathleen April 26, 2011 at 12:03 pm |

    William — I couldn’t disagree more with your statements about the essential selfishness of human nature, but otherwise, yeah, I agree with the points you have made here. Nilbog, I am so sorry that you have health issues that may be obstacles to the life that you want for yourself. That sounds really hard. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that adoption shouldn’t ever be about finding children for parents, but always about finding parents for children. Enough evidence has piled up that international adoption is a truly terrible tool for accomplishing that task.

  54. William
    William April 26, 2011 at 1:11 pm |

    Nilbog- Sorry if I came out swinging. The discussion got my hackles up too and I suppose my emotionality tends to be a bit more externalized. I still stand by what I said but yeah, it was a lot sharper than it should have been. For the record, I wasn’t suggesting that you would never consider caring for a special needs kid or fostering, I was trying (ineffectively) to say that someone seeking an international adoption when there are kids here who desperately need families made me very suspicious about their motivations. Still, I get that this seems to be a raw nerve for both of us and I don’t want you to feel like I’m trying to draw you back in, just wanted to clear the air a bit.

  55. Kathleen
    Kathleen April 26, 2011 at 1:35 pm |

    fwiw, I don’t think the invocation of “special needs kids” is in good faith here. Part of the focus on “finding parents for children” is really listening if someone says they don’t feel like they want to, or think they could, parent a special needs child. A sort of punitive approach — “oh, you want a kid? WELL HERE’S ONE YOU AREN’T AT ALL READY TO DEAL WITH, SUCK IT UP IF YOU WANT A KID SO MUCH” — is also not putting the needs of children first. It, in fact, is treating special needs children as the kind of bargain-basement deal you just have to accept in the dog-eat-dog world of child-finding. It’s really insulting to kids with special needs, let’s cut it out (and can you imagine what an effing disaster it would create as policy — people who don’t want to deal with special needs as parents to children who have them? Who would that be good for again?). It also sets up unfair expectations around other kids — all of whom are “special needs” in some way — that raising them is going to be comparatively easy (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha it’s not).

    A better approach? Thinking, here is a kid. What does this kid need? There *are* parents ready for special needs kids. Those are potentially a good match. Any old parents at all? Not so much.

    This approach also highlights the wrongheadedness of potential adoptive parents who are very ready to confess their unreadiness for certain kinds of children, but very unprepared to hear from others they may *also* not be the right parents for other kinds of children. Start from the kid, and matches don’t necessarily get easier but at least start from the right place.

  56. Nilbog
    Nilbog April 26, 2011 at 1:54 pm |

    Kathleen – You’re right. Thanks for the reminder.

  57. rox
    rox April 27, 2011 at 4:16 pm |

    I was adopted as an infant by christians. I turned out to have special needs. Every parent should prepare to meet their child’s needs. My parents couldn’t handle that I struggled in school and believed I just wasn’t trying. I basically moved in somewhere else in highschool and go pregnant. Then they started in on me with how I was not good enough for a child. I was not good enough, I had never been good enough.

    If we want to help adoptees, we need to think about helping their parents first. If the adoptees parents have issues it’s possible the adoptee will have some of the same. We need to stop being ablist and refusing support services to people who are struggling. We need to support women in unplanned pregnancies with getting what they need to be good moms instead of just telling them they aren’t good enough over and over until they collapse and give up.

    I have never recovered. I held my sweet child in my arms when she was born. She was so beautiful. She nursed from me and I wanted to hold her forever. She was made from me. She gazed at me. She snuggled against me and slept. They walked away with my child while I screamed.

    This is not a just system. It is so cruel. I thank all of you for looking at it, because it is rare that feminists are willing to look at the class and privaledge issues in adoption. I never wanted to lose my daughter. At any moment. I fought against my parents the adoption counselors, the people in society who thought a poor single mom could never be as good as rich adoptive parents— I fought against it every step of the way but there was no one, no one who believed I deserved my daughter.

    I live with PTSD uncontrollable crying, I miss my daughter. I always miss my daughter. I just want to prevent this from happening to other women, be they women in poor countries who need help to feed their children, or women in western countries who need emotional support to believe in themselves and get the support they need to be good moms.

  58. rox
    rox April 27, 2011 at 4:22 pm |

    Just to say, my mom wanted to keep me as much as I wanted to keep my daughter. She had no where to go. She stayed in a maternity home and after giving birth she wanted to keep me and they said she had to pay them thousands of dollars for staying there if she wouldn’t hand me over. They had cleverly encouraged her not to work, not to make sure she had a place to take the child home to, not to have a car.

    She had no choice. This is not empowerment for women. This is horror. And that was in 1982, not in the baby scoop era. And the same organization is running the same way as I had a friend who stayed there and got brainwashed by them 9 years ago. They told her to accept her “moment of truth”— the moment you realize you have no choice but to place your baby for adoption.

    How is that empowerment? That is evil.

  59. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 27, 2011 at 4:29 pm |

    Oh rox. I am so sorry to read your story. What you’ve been through is heart breaking. I’m really thankful that you shared your experience, and I’ll be looking at your blog later.

  60. rox
    rox April 27, 2011 at 6:01 pm |

    I thank you for reading my story. I don’t get a chance to talk about it among feminists or human rights activits much. I am not a good writer and tend to ramble, but I hope you can get through some of it because I hope more people will listen that this is still happening to women that don’t want to lose their children. I watch the expectant parent blog and support sites— the women who place and then are so sad and confused and in pain. They struggle and it hurts me that they are not getting empowering counseling because the majority clearly wanted to parent but did not believe they were good enough and so “adoption is best” even though they are in unbearable pain and they really wanted to keep.

  61. rox
    rox April 27, 2011 at 6:16 pm |

    Also if anyone reads my blog and wants to write about the topics on their blogs that would be a great help to the movement many of us who lost children are trying to make happen. We can not fight this battle alone. We need people outside of those of us who are hurting from losing our children to speak with us. The world doesn’t care much about the voices of women who are in pain because they lost children. The fate of our movement rests in being heard by others who are not as broken by this pain. Many of us have a hard time functioning after this loss and it’s hard for us to talk about it or make movements happen. I want to change the kind of support we provide to women in unplanned pregnancy so that women feel truly empowered to reach for their goals. If a woman feels like only one option is truly possible than her choice comes not from empowerment but a feeling of powerlessness.

    This happens often in life, and we may not be able to fix that some people feel powerless and a lack of options, but we can do what we can to make all options possible, and encourage women to believe in themselves, and if they dream of parenting the child in their womb, helping them get resources so they can do a good job with that. The same I think if a woman wants to get an abortion but feels like there are financial/transportation/other obstacles in her way we should help empower her to achieve what she truly desires.

    And if a woman truly wants to carry the child to term, but truly wants to be rid of the child and not be burdened with the difficulties of parenting, then adoption should be an option for her.

  62. Kathleen
    Kathleen April 27, 2011 at 10:26 pm |

    Rox I am so sorry for what you have gone through, you are so right, no one should have to experience that.

  63. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla April 28, 2011 at 9:52 am |

    Rox, OMG, what the system has done to you was cruel and incredibly unjust. I’m so sorry that you went through that and I hope you are able to heal.

  64. rox
    rox April 28, 2011 at 10:05 am |

    One of the reasons it’s hardest for women to heal from this is that society doesn’t realize this exploitation happens to women. When people find out I have a daughter that I lost this way and that I occasionally have visits, people tend to say, “Oh that’s sweet!” They have no idea that visits themselves can cause PTSD and the trauma of wanting to be with your child and having your entire society believe that you don’t have the basic rights to partical custody that in general we believe every non-abusing parent deserves.

    In a sense, my signature permitts society to see my humanity as a parent who wants to be with my daughter like any other parent as destroyed, despite that my signature was taken under circumstantial durress, family pressure, and disempowering counseling. Once the signature is obtained, society can erase the biological mothers existance as a mother who still loves her child every bit as much as any other mother and still wants to be with her child every bit as much as any other mother.

    Instead of seeing a woman who visits her child a few times a year or even once a month for a few hours if she is lucky as facing a horrific circumstance— because of her signature people assume she should be grateful! She is worthless, and deserves nothing that a normal parent would deserve. If a parent loses all custody in a custody battle and were granted one visit a month, most of us would feel deeply sympathetic particularly if the parent was nonabusive and the other parent manipulated the justive system with power or money.

    But in adoption suddenly the mother does not deserve to feel the horror and grief and trauma of not being allowed to simply be with your child and parent the way every other parent does.

    This gap in societies understanding of how horrific losing a child is, means that women who lose children this way are often facing lifelong grief, social isolation, PTSD, difficulties with functioning— and also complete lack of understanding of their trauma from anyone around them.

    It’s a horrible experience. My daughter is not dead. “Letting go” rituals don’t make sense. I can feel that she is still alive in the world and no matter what anyone says, my heart will always know that I should be there with her in daily life. I will not let go of my love for my daughter. I am also adopted, and I would never want my biological mother to let go of her love for me. The only thing preventing me from being with my daughter is the fact that society believes I don’t deserve to be with her. Which means the feeling of exploitation is something that continues eternally. It’s not a one time event. I will always be less deserving of my own child than how we see every other non-abusing mother. I know my place. And it is hell.

    I thank all of you for listening.

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