An excerpt from Jillian Lauren’s memoir of adoption, Everything You Ever Wanted, is posted on the Adoptive Families website. I read and loved and recommend the book. Jillian Lauren’s voice is thoroughly engaging and real, and the story of becoming a mother through adoption is, of course, one of my favorite subjects. The AF website requires a log-in to read the excellent interview with the author, conducted by my friend Sharon Van Epps, but you should be able to access the excerpt here.
Posts Tagged ‘adoption from Ethiopia’
EJ Graff, who writes often about inter-country adoption, authored a summary of its current state as seen through the lens of Ethiopia (mainly). The article is thorough and well-researched, although the title, to me, feels gratuitously offensive: They Steal Babies, Don’t They? (Is that the way to open a productive conversation? With an insult? Note to EJ Graff: You lost a big chunk of your potential audience right there.)
In any case, Graff’s main idea confirms that inter-country adoption, as it was practiced in the past (by some), is over.
“It’s been 14 years since the U.S. Senate ratified our nation’s entry into the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. Slowly, the State Department and Congress have put into place the rules, regulations, and laws that make it possible to keep open international adoption agencies that do their work carefully and respectfully—while at the same time closing agencies that “find” children for adoption through bribery, deception, coercion, and kidnapping. With the right kind of oversight, international adoption may be able to shed some of its systemic problems. It will never be perfect, but it can return to its roots as a system that finds families for needy children, instead of looking for children to fill families.
“In 2004, the peak year for international adoptions, Americans adopted nearly 23,000 children from other countries, according to the U.S. State Department. For years, those numbers had increased every year, mostly infants and toddlers. By 2012, Americans adopted only 8,668, and a larger proportion were older and special needs—the children who most urgently do need new homes abroad, according to international child welfare experts. And as surprising as it may sound, that’s good news, for families and children around the world.”
My wish for 2015 is that folks who write and think about adoption could acknowledge this paradigm shift and move on to discuss the new challenges in front of us. Such as: The lives of our children who are here now and how they navigate two worlds and cultures; and the lives of present and future children conceived through assisted reproduction and embryo transfer, and their natural and inevitable questions around identity.
Yes, remember the past. Look at the past. Learn from the past. But move on and move forward.
Connecting with other adoptive parents ranks as my favorite outcome from writing Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir. Instantly, we launch into our stories, using a shorthand we each understand.
So it happened last January, when I read from Mamalita at Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In the audience sat Dina McQueen, adoptive mom to a daughter named Aster, born in Ethiopia. As we chatted I learned Dina also had authored a book about her journey to motherhood. Finding Aster: an Ethiopian adoption story was published in February by Inkwater Press. Naturally, I bought a copy, and quickly read the compelling tale. True, I knew the book’s ending, but still, I found it hard to put down.
Since then, Dina and I have discovered we share a deep commitment to adoption, and to writing and thinking about adoption. In addition, we both love reading to our children. In a recent blog post, Dina compiled a list of her favorite Children’s Books for Multi-Ethnic Families; from it, I gleaned a few new titles I didn’t know about, which I plan to add to our family library. Check out Dina’s list and Dina’s book, too. You’ll enjoy both.
I just hung up the phone from the U.S. State Department conference call on the status of Guatemalan adoption and I’m in awe of the composure of the other people who were on the line. Not the State Department employees, who are doing their best and are trained to remain composed. But the parents who have been waiting for their children for more than three years–the group known as the Guatemala900. How did those mothers and fathers not shriek with outraged fury–My child is growing up in an orphanage without me! My kid needs a loving family! Does anyone care about the fate of our children?
I’m afraid that’s what I might have done.
The first thing we were told was that the call was “off-the-record” for journalists. I doubt anyone considers my blog “journalism,” but in case they do, I’ll respect that caveat. Besides, there is little new to report since the 12/21/10 conference call. Guatemalan working groups continue to review cases. The universe of cases seems to remain around 385. The ones in PGN are staying in PGN; the ones in CNA aren’t moving from there, either. The pace is still slow. Excruciatingly so. Six cases per week, on average. At that rate, we’re looking at another year and a half to two years, minimum, for large-scale resolution.
I understand how important it is to remain positive. But the more I read articles, books, and other blogs about international adoption, the more I realize that emotion, and not reason, often seems to drive the decision-making process. Take adoption from Ethiopia. Recently, the government there announced that due to “irregularities”–real or perceived–only five cases a day would be processed. A spate of blog posts followed, pro and con, including an excellent overview at Creating a Family. In the Comments section, “abiye” wrote this:
“Most Ethiopians are not happy in what’s going on in the Adoption dram[a]. Ethiopians, particularly in Addis Ababa, get angry seeing white people coming into their country and leave with a child – as if that child is a pet. This is/was a talk of the town for last few years & the government knows it that at any time the anger can reach a boiling point.”
I posted in response:
“As an adoptive mother to two children from Guatemala, I admit there are problems in the system that must be fixed. However… From my observation, some of the controversy around international adoption stems from th[e] anger [abiye describes]. If that’s the case, perhaps no level of reform will ever be perceived as satisfactory.”
In a February 17 blog post, I wrote about the Kyrgyzstan 65, a group of adoptive parents in the U.S. whose pending adoptions have been hung up for years. Yesterday, March 30, an article titled Bishkek Lawmakers Reluctant to Lift International Adoption Freeze appeared on Eurasianet.org.
In 2008, responding to local rumors that foreigners were adopting babies to harvest their organs, the Kyrgyz government imposed a moratorium on international adoptions. Since then, American families… have been waiting to bring home 65 children whose adoptions were in progress when the freeze was announced. According to the Ministry of Social Protection, 30 of the 65 orphans have special health conditions and need regular treatment that is difficult to find in Kyrgyzstan. Two have died. Families in Kyrgyzstan have adopted only four.
Could it be that, around the world, unreasonable delays are happening because, bottom line, some people really don’t want these adoptions to be resolved? That, for reasons of their own, a nation would prefer their children live in orphanages than go to the United States? Recently, I was asked to participate on a panel about adoption from Guatemala. In preparation, the question arose about domestic adoption in Guatemala–that is, Guatemalan families adopting children who are not blood relations. How many such adoptions have occurred, now that adoptions are closed to outsiders? If an answer exists, none of us could find it, including a Guatemalan national with close ties to adoption. “Domestic adoption first” is held up as a solution, the better way to provide permanent families for children who need them. Wonderful. But in the three years since the December 2007 shutdown, few, if any, families in Guatemala have stepped up to adopt orphans.
Meanwhile, the families on the phone line today continue to wait.
I saw Dr. Jane Aronson’s open letter to President Clinton on another blog, Whatever Things Are True. Dr. Aronson is founder and CEO of Worldwide Orphans Foundation, and writes with the authority of a physician involved in international adoption for some twenty years. Her message is so passionate I’m also printing it here, in the hopes of adding to the letter’s readership. Dr. Aronson’s subject is the recent news about adoption from Ethiopia, and her interpretation of its meaning.
March 13, 2011
An Open Letter to President Clinton
Once again, tragedy strikes orphans – children who might have been adopted into a permanent home have had their hopes and dreams demolished. This time it’s Ethiopia, where international adoption has been growing rapidly over the last six years, beginning with a handful of older children in the 1980’s and 90’s. By last year 2,500 children – sweet babies and toddlers – were adopted by American families.
Now, the Ethiopian government has announced that it is reducing the number of visas approved for adoption from 50 per work day to five. The outcry from those waiting to become parents, from adoption agencies and from not for profit organizations advocating for children, is predictable and equally predictable, the world at large appears to be indifferent to the anguish this ruling is causing. And so, the numbers of children adopted from Ethiopia will decrease, the time it takes to adopt will increase, and international adoption in general, and the children in particular, are the losers. (more…)
People outside the adoption community may not realize how contentious the subject is within the community. This review of Mamalita by blogger ”Coffeemom” at “Another Espresso Please“–self-described as a mother to eight, through birth and adoption, both domestic and international–explains:
Now, to be honest, I wasn’t sure about this book to start. Obviously, I am an adoptive mom and have adopted here in the states as well as internationally, from Ethiopia. That makes my family a multiracial, multicultural blended up mix of people. It also makes me place adoption and adoption issues pretty high on my personal radar. All this is to say that I had kind of tangentially followed the roller coaster of the adoption world in Guatemala over the years, but from afar (no pun intended), and I was a little hesitant to read this memoir. I feared a skewed perspective or an unfair or romanticized treatment of what was and is still an extremely complicated, layered, and challenging topic. International adoption is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for the unscrupulous. You must have hard eyes to see and hold a steady gaze at the roller coaster of process; making sure along the way that your desires are jiving with foundational ethics, preferably those laid out by the Hague Convention.
So, with that disclaimer and mindset, I began. I found this book honest and compelling… It took me a bit to come to a kind of reading rapport for the author, largely due to my aforementioned guard regarding Guatemalan adoptions. However, as the story continued I found myself appreciating her honesty and the clear eyes she used to see and describe both the beauty and the hardships in Guatemalan adoption.
Mamalita is an honest, frank retelling of the Guatemalan adoption process: the good, the bad, the ugly. It is a book that might well engender some controversy in this heated climate of international adoption. If only because of that, it is worth a read. It shows us the near precipice where desire, desperation, and truth stand and take stock of each other. I still think about this book because it reveals the complexities of this difficult process, adoption, and it’s not a comfortable thing; nor should it be. O’Dwyer shows us the heart of a mother, in this case, an adoptive mother and how she will literally go the distance and move the map of her home to go get her child.
It sounds like an oxymoron to say this, but I am passionate about moderation. I believe in balance, thoughtfulness, and the ability to consider an issue from all sides. Thank you, Coffeemom, for recognizing this quality in my writing. I’m grateful.
Happy National Adoption Awareness Month! When Seal Press decided to publish my book, Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir, in November, I was thrilled. While writing the book, my hope was that our experience could contribute in some small way to the dialogue surrounding adoption. What better time to publish than in the month dedicated to the subject? As it turns out, the book was released in mid-October… Close enough!
On November 1, the U.S. State Department held a briefing on international adoption-related issues with Special Advisor for Children’s Issues Ambassador Susan Jacobs. Ambassador Jacobs answered questions regarding the implementation of the Hague Treaty; adoptions from Ethiopia, Haiti, Nepal, and other countries; as well as the currrent situation in Guatemala.
The entire briefing is worth reading and watching. Ambassador Jacobs’ comments regarding Guatemala, quoted below, reiterate the State Department’s commitment to resolving the unfinished cases (the “Guatemala900″) that date from the Hague Treaty shutdown, in December 2007. I join the many Americans who are still hoping for resolution for those families soon.
Regarding adoptions in Guatemala, Ambassador Susan Jacobs said:
“In terms of the [Guatemalan] pilot project, every time we asked for details about it, there weren’t any. So it turned out there really wasn’t a pilot project to which – in which we could participate. And in looking at the procedures and regulations that had been put in place, not very much had changed since adoptions had been shut down. So we are trying to work with the Guatemalan Government to help them set in place proper regulations and procedures, and at the same time, close the cases that are in the pipeline. There are hundreds of cases that need to be resolved, so we’ve asked them to focus on that.”
As many of us who follow international adoption know, Ethiopia is on the verge of becoming the largest sending country of orphans to the United States. It is also being used as a model of “fair” adoption practices. This comprehensive article by David Crary of the Associated Press outlines reasons why.
Adoptions from Ethiopia rise, bucking global trend
By DAVID CRARY (AP) –
NEW YORK — As the overall number of international adoptions by Americans plummets, one country — Ethiopia — is emphatically bucking the trend, sending record numbers of children to the U.S. while winning praise for improving orphans’ prospects at home.
It’s a remarkable, little-publicized trend, unfolding in an impoverished African country with an estimated 5 million orphans and homeless children, on a continent that has been wary of international adoption.
Just six years ago, at the peak of international adoption, there were 284 Ethiopian children among the 22,990 foreign kids adopted by Americans. For the 2010 fiscal year, the State Department projects there will be about 2,500 adoptions from Ethiopia out of fewer than 11,000 overall — and Ethiopia is on the verge of overtaking China as the top source country.
The needs are enormous; many of Ethiopia’s orphans live on the streets or in crowded institutions. There’s constant wariness, as in many developing countries, that unscrupulous baby-sellers will infiltrate the adoption process.
However, a high-level U.S. delegation — led by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Susan Jacobs, the State Department’s special adviser on children’s issues — came back impressed from a visit to Ethiopia last month in which they met President Girma Wolde-Giorgis.
“What’s encouraging is they want to work with us, they want to do it right,” Jacobs said in a telephone interview. “Other countries should look at what Ethiopia is trying to do.”
The global adoption landscape has changed dramatically since 2004. China, Russia and South Korea have reduced the once large numbers of children made available to foreigners while trying to encourage domestic alternatives. There have been suspensions of adoptions from Guatemala, Vietnam and Nepal due to fraud and corruption.
In contrast, Ethiopia has emerged as a land of opportunity for U.S. adoption agencies and faith-based groups. Several have been very active there in the past few years, arranging adoptions for U.S. families while helping Ethiopian authorities and charitable groups find ways to place more orphans with local families.
Buckner International, a Dallas-based Christian ministry, has about three dozen Ethiopian children lined up for adoption by U.S. parents, but it’s also engaged in numerous programs to help Ethiopia build a domestic foster care system.
In one village visited by Jacobs and Landrieu, Buckner has built a school and housing for teachers while beginning a slow assessment of the orphan population to determine which children can be cared for locally and which might benefit from U.S. adoption.
Randy Daniels, Buckner’s vice president of international operations, said the children who do head to adoptive families in the United States generally seem to flourish.
“They’re some of the warmest, most loving kids of any I’ve worked with in the world,” he said. “It’s amazing to how quickly they adjust to the families stateside, to the language, the culture.”
Buckner’s clients include David McDurham and his wife, Amy, of Mansfield, Texas, who adopted their daughter, Ella, from Ethiopia in 2008 and are preparing to pursue a second Ethiopian adoption. Unable to have a biological child, the McDurhams had been considering adopting from China. But that can now be a four-year process, and they became increasingly intrigued by Africa.
“They were just opening up the Ethiopia program,” said McDurham, a Baptist minister. “We were thinking, where did the needs of children and our needs coincide?”
McDurham said Ella, who just turned 3, is thriving in their Dallas suburb. They’ve become popular customers at a local Ethiopian restaurant and have forged ties with several other families who adopted from Ethiopia.
“We want her to see other families like hers — to know other people who have that same story,” McDurham said,
Other agencies active in Ethiopia — both with adoptions and developing local alternatives for orphans — include Bethany Christian Services and the Gladney Center for Adoption.
Gladney only registered with Ethiopian authorities in 2005 and since then has completed nearly 500 adoptions by U.S. families. J. Scott Brown, Gladney’s managing director of African programs, said the agency also is working with government-run orphanages in Ethiopia, trying to improve living conditions and develop job-training programs to benefit youths who won’t move to homes abroad.
“There are still some bad players in Ethiopia who need to be removed,” he said. “But if we can work closely with the government, this can be a leader for other countries to follow.”
Some Ethiopian officials remain skeptical of international adoption, but Brown said he’s seen doubters won over after visiting the United States to view firsthand how Ethiopian children are thriving in adoptive homes.
Landrieu, one of the leading adoption advocates in Congress, said Ethiopia deserves praise — compared with many developing countries — for recognizing that its orphans would be better off in a family environment such as foster care or an adoptive home rather than in an institution.
But resources are limited. She said there was only one judge assigned to process adoption cases and make sure that children are indeed legitimate candidates.
Heather Paul of SOS Villages-USA, which runs overseas programs supporting orphans and abandoned children, said it’s critical that potential adoptions be closely scrutinized.
“Having better regulations protects American adoptive parents too,” she said. “There’s no worse heartbreak than finding a child had been sold away.”
In contrast to Ethiopia, there’s uncertainty and frustration over adoption developments in two other countries.
In Kyrgyzstan, the government suspended adoptions in 2008 because of suspected corruption, leaving more than 60 U.S. families with pending adoptions in limbo. Plans to resume the process have been disrupted by recent political upheaval, though Jacobs said she remains hopeful that a new adoption law could be passed whenever a newly elected parliament is able to convene.
Adoptions of abandoned children from Nepal have been suspended by the U.S. government until Nepalese authorities implement procedures to curtail corruption and mismanagement. Jacobs said 80 pending U.S. adoptions are under review by the State Department.
The suspension has been criticized by some U.S. adoption advocates.
“When you close a country, you end up causing more problems than you prevented,” said Chuck Johnson, CEO of the National Council for Adoption. “What happens to the kids who aren’t adopted in Nepal? Some will end up as prostitutes and slaves.”
State Department: http://www.adoption.state.gov/
Buckner International: http://www.beafamily.org/country-ethiopia.shtml
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
PBS’s award-winning non-fiction showcase, Point of View, will broadcast another documentary about adoption, tonight, Tuesday, September 7 at 10 p.m. Titled Off and Running, the film was directed by Nicole Opper. Please note: some PBS affiliates are screening the show at a later date. Check your local listings for air time by clicking on this link and typing in your zip code.( http://www.pbs.org/pov/tvschedule/)
How exciting and wonderful that the subject of adoption is receiving so much attention on public television! I’m glad I support my local affiliate, KQED, with a membership.
Here’s the PBS synopsis:
“Off and Running tells the story of Brooklyn teenager Avery, a track star with a bright future. She is the adopted African-American child of white Jewish lesbians. Her older brother is black and Puerto Rican and her younger brother is Korean. Though it may not look typical, Avery’s household is like most American homes — until Avery writes to her birth mother and the response throws her into crisis. She struggles over her “true” identity, the circumstances of her adoption and her estrangement from black culture. Just when it seems as if her life is unraveling, Avery decides to pick up the pieces and make sense of her identity, with inspiring results.” (more…)