An adoption attorney from Loveland, CO named Ronald Stoddart has apparently been scraping the Department of State site and adding people to his distribution list to advertise his cause, SaveAdoptions.org, and – lucky me – I was added. It is a typical “save the orphans” page: Single issue focus (Nepal ban), photo of a little girl (presumably Nepalese) on the front page to tug on your heartstrings, pro-IA commentary by Elizabeth Bartholet. The “problem” the site propose to solve is summarized this way: “Orphaned and abandoned children in Nepal are still restricted from entering the United States. Over 6 ½ years have passed and it is well past time for this suspension to be removed.” It’s framed with Trish Maskew’s testimony before Congress on adoption corruption and her 2008 article, “The Failure of Promise,” from the Spring 2008 Administrative Law Review (a must read).
There is no mention of the circumstances that have led to the orphan status of these children, including evidence found by U.S. Department of State and USCIS indicating the unreliability of claims of eligibility for adoption. There is no mention of their families, while UNICEF has shown that as many as 85% of these orphans have one living parent. News coverage, like the Guardian’s 2014 report and ABC News’s 2016 coverage, also demonstrate how well-meaning voluntourism feeds the bad actors. This is a situation ripe for abuse. In spite of this evidence, the site promotes lifting of the State Department and USCIS holds. It does so with absolutely no reference to the damage unethical adoption does to adoptees or to their families. It promotes making a dream come true for adoptive parents, no more than that.
So how does one help children who, even if they are not truly orphaned and are not truly eligible for adoption, remain in dire need? I would start by getting of our American high horses and presuming that the only way we can help a child in poverty is to remove them from their country. Poverty is not a crime, and the punishment for being poor should never be to lose one’s children. With that in mind, I would then seek out reputable organizations who can use your donations to help children remain connected to their families in the country of their birth.
I’m sure if I dig through my archives I’ll find that I have said this before: No one wants a child to suffer. But adoption is not the only way to stop a child’s suffering, and individuals, organizations and sites on both sides of intercountry adoption have to tell the whole story. In the same way I call out this site for failing to share the risks and concerns about adoption from Nepal, sites opposing intercountry adoption need to do a better job of showing how we can help children while preventing unneeded and unethical adoptions, as well as how we make adoption ethical when it really is the best outcome for the child. And frankly, every single site that touches intercountry adoption should be talking about the failure of EVERYONE involved in adoption to provide adoptees with the legal protection of citizenship.
I challenge SaveAdoptions.org and Ronald Stoddart to do that. If you are really in favor of intercountry adoption, acknowledge its flaws. Talk about the families who will be devastated by the loss of their children. Don’t gloss over loss with “win-win” or “the parents have no other choice” platitudes. You’re an attorney, Mr. Stoddart, tell me what you will do to help the adult adoptees who are without citizenship because the adults who brought them here failed to provide it. Tell me what you will do to bring deported adoptees back to the U.S. If you embrace intercountry adoption, embrace the wake left by unethical adoptions and work to put it right. Until then, your site is just one more in a long line promoting a status quo that’s very clearly broken.