An article in yesterday’s Irish Independent caught my eye and brought to the surface feelings of discomfort that I have around inter-country adoptions. Or, more precisely, inter-racial (although I hate that term!) adoptions.
You see, I am not entirely sure that adopting children from other cultures and bringing them up in another culture is really in that child’s best interests. I am not naïve – I have been to India, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam and I have seen for myself the abject poverty and atrocious circumstances these children are born into. And of course I am not suggesting that if they could be given a better life, it should be denied them – but I question whether or not that better life can only be provided outside their country of birth.
My intention is not to be glib – I understand the pain of childlessness and considered adoption – but was married to a man who wouldn’t countenance it. I was lucky that I eventually (after 13 years of trying) did conceive. My children are half-Indian and there is no dad in their lives, so it is up to me to provide their Irish-ness and their Indian-ness. This I do as best I can. The deep awareness and understanding of their cultural and religious background makes this easier for me. We go back to India as often as my purse will allow and we have friends who are Indian Hindus both here and in India. Still, I find integration can sometimes be difficult.
Identity is a huge issue for all of us. We all want to know who we are and where we came from. Is it fair on these children to bring them up in a family that they are obviously adopted into? It is obvious from first glance that they weren’t born to their parents and there is an immediate sense of dislocation. They are marked as ‘different’ from the start; and all sorts of presumptions are made about them and their parents – both birth and adoptive. What does this do to their sense of self, their sense of belonging, their sense of security? Of course I understand that a child is better off in a loving home than dead, but I have to question if anyone has the right to remove a child from the country and culture into which they were born and transport them across the globe. There are other solutions – foster parents in their own countries of birth, for example.
The dirty nasty truth is that, for as long as there are foreigners prepared to pay for them – no matter how that payment is dressed up – children will be sold into adoption and women will be coerced into surrendering children they don’t particularly want to surrender. It happened in Ireland not so long ago – remember?
There are plenty of children in Ireland who need loving homes. Many children in long-term foster care simply cannot be adopted by their foster parents because our laws prohibit such adoptions. Maybe, rather than decrying the laws of other countries we should lobby our own government to have our laws changed.