Wednesday, September 12, 2012


The cultural differences in adoption are astounding, but they are hard to process.  It is hard to understand and appreciate how differently ethnic groups and even some orphaned children are viewed in their countries of origin.  This is the key piece that adoption haters miss. When these folks talk about dropping tons of money (from where?) on these problems of poverty, neglect, and maltreatment, the cultural piece is missing.  Those who hate adoption assume that most every parent who relinquishes their child to an orphanage is honestly interested in parenting.  They assume that caregivers will give at least a minimum of acceptable care to all children if given the right resources.  Money and fancy ad campaigns will be all we need to solve the orphan crisis and remove the "criminality" of adoption from these "child hungry" adoptive parents.

I'd like to know how that view helps THIS child.

Here is a child, just brought home...and (surprisingly!) NOT from The Bad Place and not from Bulgaria.  But where he was - for him at least - was very bad.  Bruises on most of his body (both old and new) scrapes and healing fractures from old breaks, malnourishment, and so on.  This boy was obviously beaten and injured many times.  His gastrointestinal issues are a direct result of his treatment.  He cowers where adults approach him now. He is afraid.

Some of the children in this group went to summer camp. Ahhhh. Summer camp.  Did you go to summer camp?  Maybe you remember lazy nature walks, fishing in the camp lake, eating s'mores with the campers beside a roaring campfire?  And hey, maybe you had a terrible experience at camp, but chances are, you didn't have to go back if the activities didn't appeal to you.

Ah, yes.  Summer camp.  Lovely summer camp.

Were you beaten and abused at summer camp? Were you taken to a concrete shell of a place - not to learn to enjoy the outdoors or to acquire a skill - but to be shut away all summer long so your caregivers could get vacations?  Were you taken care of at camp?  Were you starved and left to wander without supervison?  And if you were, were people prosecuted as a result? 

"Orphan Summer Camp" is not always the same as our idea of summer camp.

In Bulgaria, the pervasive view of so many is a predisposition of discrimination against the Roma.  It is historic and likely on par with the way the United States treated African Americans in the 19th and much of the 20th century.  It is legendarily ingrained into the culture that is Bulgaria. See HERE for just one of several examples.  My good and wonderful facilitator in Bulgaria even succumbed to this sort of discrimination when she told us that "true 'Bulgarians' are being reverse-discriminated against, because Roma refuse to send their children to school and live off government handouts."  The facts, however, tell a different story; a story where Roma children are routinely denied the opportunity of education.  This has been a problem so great, the European Union has consistently asked Bulgaria to address it.  Yes, it is 'that' bad.

Money and resources do not fix discrimination.  Our own country's history strongly supports that fact.  It wasn't money and parenting classes and lots of pie-in-the-sky  utopian dreams without substance aimed at ending discriminiation and lack of opportunity (which still exist in many forms today, so it's not like our country has 'nailed' it). It was a cultural shift, pressed forward by the pioneers of the Civil Rights movement, that ultimately shifted the tide.  It was legislation that began to be enforced that changed the fortunes of the marginalized. 

This is not a question of supplanting one culture for another in a ethnocentric perspective.  This is not American parents swooping in to "save" children from a culture "less superior" to that of the United States.  Are countries like Bulgaria and Ukraine and Russia as "advanced" as nations like the US and Canada?  No, certainly not.  Does that make them inherently "bad"?  No.  It's not that.  This is not a case of circumstances that prompted legislation like the Indian Child Welfare Act that was needed and necessary long before the time it was actually installed. 

When the culture a child resides in fails to adequately care for them; when the culture actively discriminates against them to the point where the child is being harmed and the government is too weak or too incapable to address  Money and lots of hopeful good wishes and all kinds of programs won't adequately address the problem, and certainly not in time for many children.  It takes decades for a population to begin to value what it deems valueless.  The children caught in that transition - who are they?  Collateral damage?  Unfortunate victims who get the "privilege" of remaining on their native soil while they suffer?  Can those who despise adoption actually accept those terms for the sake of eliminating some of the corruption in the system (and yes.  Corruption exists.  We 'get' that too.) 

Even if 50% of all foreign adoptions were corrupt (and they aren't) but even if they were, what do we say to the other 50%?  "Sorry, so's a check that I sure hope reaches you...good luck going to school if you're allowed to go...good luck not being abused and beaten with no effective government to prosecute those who have hurt you...good luck to your future in your native land.  Enjoy it!  Hope change comes soon.  Love, Industrialized World Who Would Much Rather Ignore You Than Actually Participate."

Adoption for many is not the answer.  It is, however, an answer.  It is a solution that is hopefully not needed if our world improves.  I like to look at Poland as a great example, or South Korea.  These countries at one time sent hundreds (in South Korea's case, thousands) of children out of their countries in international adoption.  These countries are now some of the lowest 'sending' countries out there, because internally, their countries have improved to the point where international adoption is not 'necessary'.  Culturally, things have improved; economically, things have advanced dramatically, and fundamentally, much of the country can handle their child welfare needs without relying on international adoption to a large extent. 

Other countries are not so fortunate.  At least, not yet.

Please pray for those children, and search your heart on how you can help them.  Ignoring them is criminal.

1 comment:

Kind comments are welcomed. Poorly researched, ill-informed, horrifically biased comments are exploded. :)