I just read an article titled Ethiopian Adoptions Rise, Bucking Global Trend. The article discusses changes in international adoptions from a global perspective and highlights the fact that although many children are currently being adopted from Ethiopia, most other countries that used to allow international adoptions have either shut down or have dramatically slowed in international placements.
I worked at an international adoption agency during the time Romania shut down in 2003. Our small agency had been active in placing children from Romania for many years and the founder, Deb Murphy Scheumann opened and operated a baby house (or orphanage) in Botosani, Romania. The operation of the baby house was truly a labor of love and the agency spent a great deal of time and money helping not only children who did not have families to care for them, but also the larger community of Botosani through their role in bringing the Medical Missions Foundation to the area.
To be clear, the vast majority of folks working in international adoption (myself included) believe that ideally children should stay in their family of origin and/or country of origin whenever possible, but that when those two options are not possible, international adoption is preferable to growing up without a permanent family.
This was the case with the children served by the baby home founded by Deb. There was no one to care for them in Romania, but there were families here in the US who were in the process to adopt them when Romania stopped international adoptions, leaving these families and children in limbo.
Fast forward… The adoption agency closed and years later these same children remain in Romania and furthermore, still do not have permanent families. Many folks here in the US who had attempted to adopt them, had adopted other children internationally or who had been involved in the Medical Mission work have not forgotten them and do the best they can for these children. In spite of tremendous financial and other difficulties, the baby house remains open and is now known as Deb’s House. It is now managed by United Aid Foundation and many individuals are committed to doing the best they can for these children through supporting them and keeping them together as a “family” until they reach the age of 18.
I am in awe of the love, commitment and tireless work these individuals and organizations put into Deb’s House and are investing in these children. It is inspiring and amazing. But, it is still not optimal for these children. These kids are some of the “lucky ones” and yet they are not growing up in a loving, permanent family. No matter how wonderful Deb’s House is, it is not the same as a permanent forever family.
Romania is not the only country. There are children in Guatemala, Vietnam and most recently, Nepal who have loving families waiting for them across the world, but due to the closure of international adoptions will instead grow up with no family at all and most will not even have the love, concern and support of groups like Deb’s House or United Aid Foundation.
Are there problems with international adoption? Sure. Is it the best case scenario? No. We wish that no child would ever suffer abuse, neglect and that all parents would be able to provide loving, stable homes for their children. But, that is not reality and when others in the child’s community or country cannot provide a family for a child, they should not be denied the chance to have family through international adoption.
It’s not just about policy. It’s not just about principles or politics. It’s about individual children like these little ones–the majority of which do not have anyone speaking for them or supporting them.