Thursday, November 16, 2006

Another Word on International Adoption

I was very happy to see that my last post on international adoption drummed up some debate. I'd like to use this post to clarify my position on international adoption and to pose the dichotomy in the debate in an alternate fashion.

I still think that opinions on international adoption can be divided between those that think that international adoption is a way to save children and those that think it is racial genocide. I also think the debate can be divided another way. International adoption can be viewed through two different lenses: (1) the immediate, (2) the long-term.

The immediate view sees international adoption as a way for some kids in horrific living conditions to be adopted by those who are capable (economically and in other ways) and interested in raising them. The long-term view thinks that international adoption misses the bigger picture problems -- the global problem of widespread poverty that pushes these children into orphanages.

I do not understand why these two views of the world must be in conflict. Why can't we help some kids (even if it is very few out of the millions living impoverished)? Simultaneously we should be collectively OUTRAGED at the poverty, war, and disease that leaves these kids homeless and in orphanages. These two views -- the immediate and the long-term do not have to be distinct.

Do we lose out on the fight on poverty by adopting children who are currently in orphanages and other institutions? Do we miss the picture of millions of hungry children by saving a few? I don't think so, although, this is a point upon which I can appreciate some disagreement.

Some think that the way to fight poverty is to not use stop-gap measures like international adoption (that reaches a small proportion of children). I ask -- if we're not currently solving poverty -- if we don't think we can heal the sick, house the homeless, and feed the hungry -- why can't we save a few children who we can heal, house, and feed?

There are compelling arguments on the other side. Some think that international adoption is an extension of white empires who enslaved, sold, and stole black and brown children for generation upon generation. I have heard that some people in countries providing children for international adoption fear that their children are adopted for devious means -- to provide organs for U.S. children, to serve as housemaids, etc. Study upon study have demonstrated that this is simply not the case. These children who are adopted internationally are adopted into homes eagerly awaiting them as children -- to love, raise, and nurture.

I hope that we figure out a global solution to poverty. I hope that we can do that really soon. I wonder though, why do we need to leave these kids in orphanages in the meantime? Will their suffering help the plight of their parents in any way?

Any process that removes children from one country, culture, and people and moves them to another is bound to be controvercial, emotional, and difficult to reconcile. I hope that in the debate we do not lose sight of the children in need of immediate help -- that 6 month old, that 10 year old, that premie.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

International Adoption -- A Savior for Unfortunate Children or Racial Genocide?

International adoption is a spreading phenomenon. Thousands of children are adopted internationally each year -- largely by U.S. citizens. International adoption has become relatively trendy with famous celebrities adopting internationally. Madonna, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and even Tom Cruise have made headlines with their internationally adopted children.

Despite this more recent -- and headline worthy -- trend, international adoption remains controversial in legal spheres. Proponents of international adoption herald it as a way to give marginalized, neglected, and often times extremely disabled children a new start in life. These children would otherwise grow up in orphanages -- getting attention only once every few hours to re-prop up the bottle in their mouths that might deliver some nutrition. (This is an anecdote related in Elizabeth Bartholet's book -- Nobody's Children.)

Opponents of international adoption see it as a racial genocide. Rich -- and largely white -- countries raid poorer countries and steal their "most valuable resource." Many reputable organizations that champion children's rights are anti-international adoption. UNICEF, for example, urges extreme regulation to ensure that the horrors of baby-selling and racial exploitation are not facilitated through international adoption. (Read UNICEF's view on international adoption here.)

I wonder how international adoption robs countries of their precious "resources" if these children remain neglected and marginalized throughout their childhood. Are these kids really going to contribute to their country? Is the country doing themselves a disservice by allowing these children to be adopted internationally and raised by families who would go to the ends of the earth -- for moths at a time -- to get that child?

In some cultures adoption is not widely practiced. In South Korea for example, domestic adoptive homes were difficult -- if not impossible -- to locate. Therefore, for orphaned children, abandoned children, abused children, or simply children with no home, there would be no other opportunity for a permanent family without international adoption. Romania used to be a source of many international adoptions. After a "baby-buying" scandal, Romania closed its doors. I wonder who is served by keeping kids in impoverished orphanages?

I have to admit that I was shocked when I heard that UNICEF (and many other "pro-children" organizations) are anti-international adoption. I understand some of the cultural arguments -- but international adoptions are not fueled by children taken from happy families. These children aren't even taken from unhappy families. These children simply do not have families.

Granted, more regulation would be great. It would be ideal if screening could be monitored and all parties could feel totally comfortable that these children would be going to safe and wonderful families. In reality, however, why deny these children homes that are -- by all accounts -- undeniably superior?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

LaShuan Harris is on Trial for Killing her Three Children

LaShuan Harris is on trial for killing her three children. Harris' defense is that she is/was insane. She has been diagnosed schizophrenic, and had been medicated before the murders (although she chose to stop taking her medication).

Harris was 16 when she got pregnant with her first child. Within 5 years, she had two more children. One day, Harris got hot dogs for her children, then she walked them down a pier and dropped each of them over the railing.

In the articles describing Harris' upcoming legal battles, the tragic murder of her children, and the instances that lead up to the murders -- one major point is missing. Why did Harris still have her children? (Read Article)

Harris reportedly would talk to herself, stay up all night giggling, saw bugs in sheets where there weren't any, and would spend hours talking on the phone with no one on the other end. Harris' problems did not go unnoticed.

I don't think that Harris should have necessarily lost custody of her children because she had mental illness. I do think that those children should have had more support than just that of their young mentally ill mother.

Mental illness is a tragedy in and of itself -- for the person afflicted AND for their family. Doing more to protect Harris' children would not just have benefited the kids -- Harris herself would not now be at risk of spending the reset of her life in jail.

All in all, how can the presumption that parents have an absolute right to their children superceed an apparent danger to the safety of both mother and child?

3L Paper Progress Update

This semester has been moving along very quickly -- and it has been very busy. I'm going to outline a brief description of my graduation requirement paper ("3L paper") in order to garner reactions and words of wisdom -- so if you have comments, please pass them along.

I'm curious about the interaction of chilren's status and their legal rights and responsibilities: I wonder how the law reacts to children acting as adults. I plan to explore this idea by studying a number of areas and comparing the legal implications. At this point, my list includes abortion (for minor girls), sex (between minors and between minors and adults), the internet, criminal implications for children, emancipation, child marriage, and adoption (of children and of the children of minors).

I think this is an important field of study because things that happen to children when they are children can have grave impacts on their adult lives. I am interested to see if when the impacts will carry over into adulthood we tend to give children more “rights” to act like adults. This concept has a long history – it was even expressed by ancient traditional Islamic scholars as a defense against forced child marriage.

I'll keep the blog updated with progress on this project -- and I promise some non-paper posts will come along soon.