Dear Rosita: It’s Not About You

 

no-whiningIt is amazing the amount of print space, air time and political clout given to those who choose adoption (particularly of the intercountry variety) to ‘create a family,’ yet so little given to the adult voices of those who have actually lived and can speak to the long-term effects of the intercountry adoption experience. Over the last four months, Irish airwaves and numerous publications have extensively covered the impact of the recent Oscar-nominated film ‘Philomena’ and Ireland’s history of trafficking more than 2,000 of its own children abroad. Yet the Irish Times has remained curiously silent on the topic. Until this past weekend, when we were treated to Rosita Boland’s cringe-worthy lament on the ‘Kafkaesque process’ that she claims intercountry adoption to be in Ireland today.

Rosita, it’s not about you. Lost in this whinge-fest is the truth that adoption is supposed to be about finding homes for children who desperately need them, not about finding children for people like Rosita Boland who desperately want them. What Ms. Boland doesn’t seem to understand is that adoption, and more importantly, the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption (to which Ireland is a signatory and ratified), is about the best interests of children – not the adults wishing to adopt them. Creating a family through alternative means when one finds oneself biologically incapable of doing so is not a Constitutional right. It is a privilege. And trying to create one by any means necessary, including by flaunting the basic human rights of natural parents and their children, makes for a playing field and supply/demand scenario ripe for fraud. If adopters like Ms. Boland truly want to make a difference in a child’s life, why not sponsor a child and his family? Or adopt one of the thousands of children in care (and, sadly, among whom are the cast-aside teens of prior Russian, Romanian and other intercountry adoption arrangements), of which according to recent HSE statistics, more than 300 are currently statused as tracked for adoption?

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We’ve all seen the numerous recent imbroglios in which Ireland has become involved concerning intercountry adoption: Vietnam, Mexico, Tristan Dowse and other cases all stand as stark reminders to how corrupt this practice has become. The moribund, quasi-governmental body known as the Adoption Authority of Ireland has managed to step into one nasty quagmire after another in its quest to create bilateral agreements and satisfy the insatiable demands of prospective adopters. That it finally tried putting the brakes on some of these relationships is a small victory for best-practice adoption, although clearly it put a major damper on Ms. Boland’s hopes.

The underrepresentation of adult intercountry-adopted voices when it comes to intercountry adoption policy – be it on the board of the Adoption Authority, in the media, or at conferences concerning the topic – is staggering and concerning. In the US, a Bill known as the Children and Families First (CHIFF) Act, designed to ‘fast-track’ intercountry adoptions, is struggling to gain support. It is sponsored by senior Senator from Louisiana Mary Landrieu, whose own husband was trafficked from Ireland in 1949 – before a legal Adoption Act was even on the books. But that doesn’t seem to bother Ms. Landrieu one whit, as she herself played ‘white saviour’ and collected two children internationally, and touts her husband’s ‘adoption’ as something out of a “storybook.” His export from Ireland and adoption was and is illegal. She and the CHIFF committee make the odious argument that there are ‘more than enough [children] to go around,’ as if children were somehow party favours. Even more egregious, supporters of this Bill recently hosted a conference to which not ONE intercountry adopted adult was invited. When questioned about the lack of representation of those with lived experience on the topic by groups of Korean, Irish, German, Vietnamese and other internationally-adopted adults, CHIFF committee members told us the conference was geared toward the ‘legal aspects of the Bill.’ So there are no intercountry-adopted lawyers out there? Ms. Landrieu’s own husband is a well-known Louisiana attorney. But perhaps he remains ignorant of his own trafficked status, unaware that perhaps somewhere in Ireland there was or is a mother who lives devastated and grieved that her child was taken from her simply because of the social mores of the day.

Which brings us back full-circle to the truth of Ireland’s own involvement in child trafficking from the 1940’s-1970’s. The last piece of dirty carpet remaining from Ireland’s history and culture of containment. Those of us whose identities, heritage and culture were stripped in that trafficking are now middle-aged adults: we vote, pay taxes, have children and grandchildren, have served in the US military, and yes, some of us are even attorneys. We have a voice and a story to tell. It is no mystery why the Irish State and former religious-run agencies would prefer this piece of carpet not be torn up. It will expose a half-century of fraud, corruption, illegalities and human rights violations that may well make the industrial school abuses and Magdalene Laundries pale in comparison. What is a mystery is why individuals like Ms. Boland whinge about the small number of children available to be adopted from abroad. We should be applauding those numbers and recognising that the best outcome for most children is to be raised within their natural families, within their own country and culture. Money and power should never be used as tools to subjugate women in other countries and strip them of their children. Implying that privileged white adopters can better raise a child is the worst sort of racism and classism, and does not represent choice or empowerment for women in underdeveloped nations or without resources to parent. And making it easier for that power imbalance to continue to exist is certainly not the answer.

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10 thoughts on “Dear Rosita: It’s Not About You”

  1. I think this response misrepresents what Rosita Boland was saying. She stressed repeatedly in her article that the interests of the child are and should be paramount. Not one word in what she said could be interpreted as a disregard for potential abuses of the adoption process. It remains the case that there are many children who are desperate for available, appropriate, loving homes which can and should be made much more readily accessible to them.

    It’s not just about you, either, Culchiewoman. To caricature someone as clearly well-intentioned and unselfish as Rosita Boland – and all the other Rosita Bolands – as you have is hugely unfair. And it’s surely not helpful either to the interests of the many children who could and should benefit from their care.

    1. Oh, but it is about me/us, Miriam. That’s what gets lost in all of this, and the whole point of my post. My mother was no match for the wealthy American adopters who raised me, and she should have had options to parent. Now we’re doing the same thing to poor women of colour or from underdeveloped countries. Dismissing the adult voices of intercountry adoption who dare to critique the system is disingenuous and marginalising. Yes, Rosita mouthed the words “best interest of the child,” but her entire post was all “me, me, me…why can’t I adopt?” as if it were some God-given right to be a parent. It isn’t. Some people are not blessed with biological children. Perhaps they should examine that, come to peace with it, grieve their not-had children and seek other ways to be “of benefit” to a child, rather than ripping one away from his family of origin, culture and heritage. You also assume children would benefit from Rosita’s and others’ care…why? Adoption is no guarantee of a better life – only a different one. Suggesting such smacks of the very racism and classism I mentioned: “I can give your child a better life because I’m richer and whiter than you.” Money and privilege do not necessarily make for a happy or “better” life. And why the clamor to go abroad? Children in Ireland would benefit from Rosita’s care, no doubt. So why not consider them first? Her entire post was selfish and entitled, and I’m far from the only one who feels that way. We have the same entitlement issues here in the US, as well as a corrupt, broken adoption industry. There’s no getting around that, no matter how you try to colour it. But thanks for weighing in.

    2. Well, yes, it’s all about the children.

      My child has certain needs and rights. Keeping her identity intact was one of those rights, yet when she was trafficked for adoption her right to know who she is was disregarded.

      The rationalization for this was Rosita’s theme: Children have needs, and ___________ (insert country here) is failing its children, so anything we do to put them in families is a lesser evil.

      I’m quite tired of being told that I’m oversensitive, unrealistic or don’t care about orphans when I object to the expansion of our system of international adoption. My child was sold, I was defrauded, her first family was deceived…lesser evils are still evil.

      We can come up with a global child welfare system that respects children and families.

      1. Totally agree that all of the considerations outlined in this article should be fully taken into account when inter-country/racial adoption is at issue. It still does not mean that there are not good homes available to children who need and want them or that it should take 9 years or more for the suitability of prospective adoptive parents to be established. Clearly, a sensitive and respectful knowledge of interracial adoption is a prerequisite where it’s an issue. A willingness and desire to adopt children is not de facto a selfish thing, as might be inferred is suggested in your response to RB’s article . Adoptive parents undergo far more stringent tests of their motives and means than do ANY biological parents. The process is frequently discriminatory – even where a child would patently benefit from being placed with willing parents.

    3. She’s complaining about the lack of children available and complaining that she can’t become a parent. Right there her priorities are skewed. Once biological reproduction is out of the question, it is no longer about whether you can become a parent. Fewer children being available for adoption is a GOOD thing. Anyone who can’t see that is, I think, unfit to be a parent to begin with, no matter what their governmental assessment says.

      Sure, she mentions adoption being for the children and some random other things about “best interests of the children” but I think they were more of an afterthought.

  2. I’m astounded by your reply. I didn’t say it was not about you – I said it was not ‘just’ about you – meaning it’s not solely about your personal perspective. That is not to dismiss you at all, merely to acknowledge that there are other equally important perspectives. I’ve nowhere suggested – and neither did RB in my understanding of what she wrote – that it was ever right to rip any child away from a loving, natural parent. Neither did anything she wrote imply that white, Western people offer some intrinsically superior solution to the plight of vulnerable children from other parts of the world. Are you suggesting that adoption is never appropriate? And if not that, then in what circumstances do you think it is? And should it take 9 years or more for that adoption to take place? There are loving homes available to children who need them – and 9 years is far too long for any child to have to wait for that. There is a terrible injustice to both children and potential parents when the processes that are applied to approving the arrangement are vastly in excess of those that are applied to biological parents and their children. And of course the biological child/parent relationship is no guarantee of a good outcome either.

    1. Miriam, you wrote ” Are you suggesting that adoption is never appropriate? And if not that, then in what circumstances do you think it is?” What are you talking about?

    2. I am definitely not anti-adoption. But as I said in my piece, it needs to be about finding homes for children who desperately need them, not about finding children for people that desperately want them. That’s where it tends to (and with alarming frequency) go pear-shaped. And as far as 9 years, I admit that’s extreme but don’t know the inside particulars of why Rosita has not cleared the vetting hurdle. Perhaps there are reasons that she didn’t share in her piece. But you’re seriously deluded if you think that a child has been likewise languishing and waiting for those same nine years. If you believe that, it clearly shows you don’t know much about the intercountry adoption process and should perhaps do a bit more research. I would suggest you start by Googling “adoption fraud,” and be prepared for the legions of articles returned on the topic.

      And forgive me if I have no sympathy for that process. My parents were “approved” based on nothing more than a letter from a parish priest and a healthy bank account balance. I got lucky – many others of us trafficked from Ireland and other countries were not so lucky. But I’m sure you don’t want to hear the stories of physical and sexual abuse, deprivation, alcoholism and sometimes abandonment. That would ruin the picture-perfect notion many who have not done the research hold. You also seem to hold firmly the belief that the children Rosita seeks to adopt were relinquished under full, informed consent, or as we so often hear “abandoned” by their mothers/parents. Too often that is not the case, although that is the “story” unscrupulous agencies and brokers hand prospective adopters. Remember, Philomena’s son Anthony’s adoptive parents also told him his mother had “abandoned” him. Nothing could be further from the truth.

      I’m not suggesting Rosita or many other people are not capable of providing homes for children who desperately need them. But I would suggest that they a) start in their own backyard and b) do complete and thorough investigation of whatever agency they use, the history (true history, not the agency-concocted one) of their child, and make sure it is absolutely the only option for that child. And most importantly, don’t approach it with the misguided notion that they somehow have a “right” to a child. That simply isn’t the case, and starting from that premise guarantees to doom the experience. And let’s remember, that experience is a life-long one: it doesn’t end with the handing over of a warm bundle of joy.

    3. Adopting is not the same as having biological children. Strangers to a child are more likely to hurt that child than biological parents are. The only reason this isn’t obvious is because there aren’t as many adoptive parents as there are biological parents, but any social worker will tell you this, which is why stepparents are considered more dangerous as well. You keep trying to convince the world DNA doesn’t matter. Well guess what? If it didn’t matter, every woman who gave birth would just drop her baby off at a hospital nursery and any old idiot could come by and pick up any one they wanted. If DNA doesn’t matter, stop breathing for an hour and get back to me.

      The two situations are not anything alike. Adoption isn’t having a child, it’s taking someone else’s child.

      And what you’re talking about solving with children who need care, adoption isn’t necessary to that. All you have to do is take in the child and take care of them. You don’t have to rename them, fake their birth certificate or any of that other nonsense. But no one seems to want to just take care of a child. They have to own the child too. Why is that?

      But of course you’re also assuming that every single child “up for adoption” worldwide is a genuine orphan being offered up by honest people who are only trying to find that child a home. Please don’t adopt, because you haven’t fully educated yourself yet. And this is why we shouldn’t import and export children like so many consumer commodities. It’s hard enough to obtain a child honestly in one’s own home country. Much less when they’re from somewhere else and you have no idea what’s going on, even if you visit that country and that orphanage and meet that child for yourself.

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