The sermon at church yesterday was focused on some of the principles that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for. During that 20 or 30 minutes, I was struck by how parts of it are relevant to the state of international adoptions today–not in terms of race, (even though it is, of course!) but in terms of human rights.
Our pastor spoke of two particular evils that Dr. King fought against and that we all need to continue to fight against: Intolerance and Indifference. He pointed out that these are really just two sides of the same coin and here is how I see them playing out in the area of international adoption.
I believe that international adoptions in general are under attack. You can look at the numbers on the US State Department’s graph (below) of visas issued to see what I mean. Many organizations around the world are becoming increasingly intolerant of international adoption as one solution to the plight of children who have no other avenue to grow up in a family. They actively work to limit and in some cases, extinguish, international adoptions. In just five years, the number of US visas issued to children being adopted went from 22, 990 to 12, 753. That’s a reduction of almost half! It’s not that there are fewer children needing families and it’s not that there are fewer families wanting to adopt children. It’s about policy and politics.
In order to be so intolerant of international adoption as an option, these organizations and most importantly, the individuals driving these organizations, also have to be indifferent to the impact they’ve had. Look again at the chart from the State Department. The difference between the high and the low years is 10,237.
The problem is that this number represents not just families who are unable to adopt, but that it represents children who will never live in a family that might have if it weren’t for the intolerance to international adoption as an option.
It’s easy to look at a bar graph for a moment and then move on to the next thing. It’s easy to point out flaws in a system. It’s easy for all of us to become angry and frustrated with unethical behavior or abuses. It’s easy to throw up our hands in disgust and say, “Forget it!” It’s NOT so easy to wrestle with these problems and work to improve the system.
And yet, if we as a world don’t continue to wrestle with the problems, we’re indifferent and that indifference and intolerance impacts thousands of children each year. We’re indifferent the the individual children that encompass that number of 10,237. I think that looking at some individuals within that number can help chip away at indifference.
Please take a moment to visit a blog by waiting families whose children are currently stuck in Nepal. From their blog:
They Wait: 65 American families are facing heartbreak due to US policy in Nepal. These families are struggling to bring home their legally adopted children who are stuck in Nepal awaiting visas that will allow them to enter the US.
Some families are stranded in Kathmandu–many since August, 2010. Other parents wait anxiously in the US while their adopted children remain in orphanages, knowing that every day spent in an orphanage is a developmental disaster.
You can choose to fight indifference by signing their petition here.
From the Guatemala 900 website:
On January 1, 2008 adoptions in Guatemala abruptly changed from a privately run system to a government run entity. The 5000 adoptions that were “in process” at the time were “grandfathered” to finish under the laws in which they began. The childrens’ cases were promised to be expeditiously processed in a timely and reasonable manner, but now almost a year and a half later approximately 900 children are still waiting to join their families.
The Guatemala 900 Campaign is being launched to be an active voice for these 900 children and asks the governments of the United States and Guatemala to work together to ensure speedy due process for the remaining grandfathered cases
From the website: When Romania ended its international adoption program in 2003, it left a number of orphans in limbo. The babies and young children, who had parents in the United States waiting, suddenly could not go. The biological parents who abandoned the children did not have the means to take them back in Romania.
14 of those children still live in Deb’s House today.
It was founded by Debra Murphy Sheumann, as a home for babies in adoption transition. When international adoption closed she kept the children together to be raised as brothers and sisters.
Today, United Aid Foundation and many committed individuals work tirelessly to “raise” these children. That part of the story is inspiring. The part that is heartbreaking is that these children had families in the process of adopting them, but because of politics, they will not be able to grow up in a family with parents. You can see more about Deb’s House on their Facebook page.
The children of Deb’s House are among the lucky ones in Romania. They are not in government run orphanages, what passes for foster care there, on the streets, or worse. But before you become indifferent because they are better off than some, ask yourself if it’s enough? Would you be okay if your child or grandchild were being raised in Deb’s House? It’s better, but it’s not the same as being in a family with loving parents.
There are many other countries where international adoption is still an option, but that option is becoming increasingly narrow. Why should we care? Because of the individual children who may not otherwise ever have a mother or a father, who may not have a warm bed of their own or enough food in their stomachs. We should care because institutionalization has been shown to stifle social, emotional, cognitive and physical development. We should care because otherwise we are indifferent and intolerant.
“The group consisting of mother, father and child is the main educational agency of mankind.”
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.