Intercountry adoption according to me

I want to talk to the adoptive parents in the house who are struggling with the debate over intercountry adoption. I’m not excluding adopted people and first parents here, but believe that what I have to say on this topic will resonate less, if at all, with you.

If you are the parent of an internationally-adopted child, you undoubtedly love that child so much and care for him or her so tenderly that you cannot imagine why someone would want to deny another child the same, especially if you believe that the only alternative is life in an institution. You see how good intercountry adoption can be, and believe it is the very best we can offer to children in need, here and around the world.

But maybe, like my family, you’ve experienced shoddy adoption practices or even adoption corruption first hand, and it makes you so mad you want to spit, even if your child made it through the experience unbroken. If you haven't, you might be sick of adoption for profit, first parent coercion, trafficking, lack of legal protection for intercountry adoptees, adoptive parent entitlement and apathy, or something else.

I live with both of these conflicting thoughts in my head, all the time.  Some days I tell myself that the only thing that matters is that a family is found for every child, no matter what it takes.  But seldom does that thought linger for long, because I immediately remember that there are reasons those children need families, and that I as an adoptive parent have a responsibility to put those things right

If adoptive parents only speak to the need for families for children, but never the reasons why, we become part of a greater problem, and feed the debate and polarization. I want to be able to honestly promote adoption, but have to know we're on the road to making the following a reality before I can:

  • Adoption is always practiced lawfully, justly and with respect for the rights and voices of the people it separates.
  • Adoption is always practiced lawfully, justly and with respect for the laws and cultures of the placing country.
  • Adoptive parents understand and practice responsibility to their children's ethnic heritage, genetic connections and legal protections.
  • For-profit adoption is outlawed.
  • Laws exist to protect the human and civil rights of first parents and adopted individuals, and they are not excluded from rights enjoyed by the general public (think protection from family separation, adoptee access to original birth certificates, and intercountry adoptee citizenship).
  • All placing and receiving countries ratify the Hague Adoption Convention.
  • Adoption is recognized and accepted as valid care for children when no other option exists, never as a solution to unwanted pregnancy or alternative to abortion. Each of these deserves attention independent of the others.

It's dead easy to sit down at your PC and film 30 seconds of adoption praise. The real work lies in making the list above (which is mine alone, and doesn't reflect everything that needs to be done) a reality.


Speak out on these issues, online and in your real-life adoption communities.  Share information that promotes dialog and reasoned discussion. Contact your legislators about laws that discriminate against adoptees and first parents. Work with other adoptive families to support your children's cultural and community connections. Fight racism.  Don't jump on every pro- or anti-adoption bandwagon that rolls by - think critically about what they stand for, especially whether or not they are fighting root causes of adoption.  Support organizations that fight those root causes: adoptee- and first-parent led organizations, organizations that offer support to families and unmarried mothers, or organizations that fight for legislative reform. Stop using your own or others' positive or negative experiences with adoption to promote one position or another; there's good and bad, accept it, and act accordingly. And never, ever claim the adoption experience as your own; never speak for any adopted person or first parent, or pretend to know what they as individuals or a community think or feel.

Can't do all of this? Who can? Just do one, pick one that you believe you can really do some work on and go for it.

The net of it is to step away from the notion that adoption is all good, accept what's broken, and then do something about it.  I think that's the best possible way any adoptive parent can promote adoption without doing more damage than good.


FauxClaud said…
I love you. I loved you before this post, but if possible.. today I love you more!
Thank you from this natural mom who lost a child to adoption.
Nikki said…
Hi Marcie. I am an adoptive parent of internationally adopted children, AND an adoptee myself. Thank you so much for writing this post, because like you, I live with these same conflicting thoughts in my head. I especially like what you said here: "If adoptive parents only speak to the need for families for children, but never the reasons why, we become part of the greater problem" !!!! AND "step away from the notion that adoption is all good, accept what's broken, and then do something about it". Thanks, Marcie -- great post!
Psychobabbler said…
This post needs its very own link from your blog's home page. Kudos!
Cynthia said…
thank you for putting the ambiguity of adoption into a concrete framework. and i appreciate your view of both/all sides of this process. there is rarely one solution, or one viewpoint.....but rather many..and many problems underneath it all that we have yet to address in our own communities and beyond.
Barbara Thavis said…
Thank you for speaking to a population that can really help adoption reform. Your child is lucky that you, with all of your heartfelt compassion for adoption loss, is their other mother. God bless you for working towards understanding.
Momma C said…
It is a struggle as a beneficiary of international adoption I am often thought of as a hypocrite -you have yours home and now you want to prevent me from getting mine (and yes that is terminology I have heard used) I actually just had a "conversation" on a IA forum. She was lamenting how she sees people wasting money of luxuries and all she can think is how many children could be adopted with that money. Not how that money can help "orphans" stay in their first families. As adoptive parents we have to get to the point where we accept that intercountry adoption should be the LAST resort for children and advocate based on that truth- not on the "truth" that we are "saving" kids and adoption is the first best option. Every adoptive parent should read this but sadly, until it doesn't fall on deaf ears, little will change. But the fight for change will continue
Nora said…
This is such a good and important post. We are in month 13 of our wait to take custody of our son born in Korea. I wish posts like this, and these issues, were part of the mandatory training required of adoptive parents. I wish that adoptive parents were required to draft a "care plan" that addresses how we will promote these tenets, how we will contribute to these efforts. Thank you.
NanIe Yi said…

Thanks for articulating the politics and hard stuff in a simple and concise way, the stuff that people only argue about into something rational. The 'adoptee bill of rights' sound very good to this adult adoptee.

Can I ask hypothetically speaking about Korean adoptions- if we follow the guidelines you stated, does this mean that PAP's/adoptee's who are PAP's,wanting to adopt, should not adopt from Korea since it is not Hague ratified and Korea's adoption system is built on the backs of single mothers whose babies are 'harvested' for adoption? And in a hypothetical and ideal world,where people only adopt in judicious and 'always' legal ways - what DO AP's do if they can't meet all those criteria you stated? Do they magnanimously live a childless life and say they did it out of upholding principle and politics for the rights of children, and satisfy themselves with adopting a dog or cat? I know a professor and her husband who couldn't have children and ended up adopting 2 dogs- my reason for mentioning this. Since I am not an AP,I simply ask these hypotheticals since we know many AP's urge to parent and get a child is stronger than anything else. Obviously,we do not live in an ideal world and after reading your article, would PAP's and AP's really deny themselves a right to having a child and become a family?

Stepping back into reality,the more important thing is what you are doing in working for change, and that we have a clear and concise way of better understanding what we are specifically talking about when people say 'adoption reform'.
Soo-Jung said…
My friend, the most striking thing about your post is that it even needs to be said. And yet, having been spoken, there are still masses who will not receive the words.

We are pathetically comfortable in our insular little worlds of privilege and righteousness.
Amanda said…
Thank you for such a deep and honest expression of the paradox that exists for adoptive parents whose eyes have been opened to needs for adoption reform. My worry as I have read more about this movement is the possibility that older children who are growing up without families because they could not be raised by their biological relatives will be lost in this larger debate. I truly believe their is room for both programs that encourage family permanency and programs that advocate for the adoption of older children. Your post highlights that there is good and bad in adoption. I feel like much that I read is either anti-adoption or pro-adoption and not addressing the root causes of the need for adoption. It was nice to read such a well thought out and balanced assessment on adoption. Excellent post!
Kris said…
This is a great post and puts into words perfectly how I, as an adoptive parent to a child from Russia, feel about adoption and particularly intercountry adoption. Great job!!
Jennifer Grant said…
Wonderful handling of complicated issues. I linked to this post from my Facebook group page so others will find it - my page is a place for parents by adoption. In my book "Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter," I explore at length the ethical complexities (as well as the joys) of adoption and always appreciate honest, authentic, respectful discussions of same such as your post today.
All best,
Jennifer Grant
Margie said…
Everyone, I want to thank you for reading this post. I sincerely hope it encourages more adoptive parents to speak about these issues, and also encourages prospective adoptive parents to consider them carefully.

Several of you asked questions that I will try to respond to in the coming weeks - thank you for these, I really appreciate the discussion!

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