Monday, February 23, 2009

Adoption – now there’s a feel-good story. Everybody wins, everybody’s happy, right ? Well, like just about everything else in life, it’s not that simple.

I am frequently asked what has surprised me the most about the move from the corporate world to the non-profit arena. And my answer may surprise you ! I have discovered that the adoption field has its share of controversy.

Nowhere is this truer than in international adoption (what we now call inter-country adoption). Most developing countries do not allow inter-country adoption or they make the rules so restrictive as to have the same effect. This is partly because they don’t want to be seen in the community of nations as unable to care for their own, although frequently they cannot.

The controversy around inter-country adoption is even more deep-seated, however. In many nations, inter-country adoption is viewed as baby selling / child trafficking. On the surface, this sounds ridiculous, because our perspective is that we Americans are simply trying to provide homes and opportunities for disadvantaged orphans.

It turns out that there are a number of bad actors out there who are in fact simply looking to profit from inter-country adoption. This is disgusting, to say the least.

So how can you tell when your agency or facilitator is doing the right thing ? One way is to understand their commitment to the countries where they are working. How invested are they emotionally and financially ?

At the Gladney Center for Adoption, we raise substantial sums of money each year in humanitarian aid to improve the quality of life for the children left behind in every country where we operate. We focus attention as well on the children who are about to age out of the orphanages, not because there is any benefit to us, but because it’s the right thing to do. At Gladney, we seek to impact 100 children left behind for every one child who finds a permanent family.

Another way to determine that your agency or facilitator is doing the right thing is to understand their priorities. In every country where Gladney works, our priorities are 1) family preservation, 2) domestic (in-country) adoption, and then 3) inter-country adoption.

We are not alone. Several other leading agencies share these priorities and share in our desire to invest in the countries where we work. Collaborating with the “good actors”, working with the Joint Council and National Council for Adoption in their advocacy roles, and all under the umbrella of the Hague Convention regulations, we can weed out those who attempt to profit from suffering and improve the perception of inter-country adoption, so that it is widely recognized for the good intentions and positive work of the majority.

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