Yesterday I just finished attending a conference at which my wife was presenting. She is the academic so she is the one who is likely to attend a conference and do all the presenting while I tag along as the partner of Dr what’s her name. I am more than happy to be he insignificant other. As always it is an absolute pleasure to support her in the work she does. This time though we had to travel half way around the world for her to deliver a paper to a very small audience. An indicator that they were not interested in what we as Australians are doing. The conference was on “adoption” and my wife was presenting on “fostering”. However it was great to be part of a movement which something to say about an industry which I have never considered to be – well I have just never considered it. It isn’t as if I haven’t heard of adoption but I have never considered in any meaningful way eg what it means to be adopted.
What was discussed was a range of interesting issues such as the cost to adopt and the lack of accountability for the money being charged. That much of what happens in this area is now inter-continental and inter-racial. What does it mean for a white person to adopt a Nigerian child? What does it mean for this child as they grow up? Were they legitimately placed for adoption or were they kidnapped? Does adoption provide a new and better opportunity for a child? What views do I hold which colour my views of adoption?
Before this conference I considered adoption was probably a good thing because it provided homes for kids who were living in poverty or were unwanted by their parents. This may be true but it isn'’t always the case. How do we know what is true and what isn’t? The truth is that we don’t know. There are very few checks and balances that can determine if a child is a legitimate adoptee.
What concerns me is, who are we to judge whether a life in a different country is going to provide a better outcome for the child. Because we may offer a more material and educational environment doesn’t mean that we are have the answer to happiness and that we are going to provide joy and mental well being for a child. Far from it in fact it is more likely that a child living in poverty in some countries is going to be better of mentally than in a western society. For us to assume that we are “saving” these children is a judgement which is not correct. I notice that this notion was raised but wasn’t debated nor is hotly contested. I guess that is because those that have an investment in adoption would find those ideas particularly challenging. It was evident that a reasonable percentage of academics attending this conference were adopters or adoptees – either way their was not discussion on the merits of adoption vs the disadvantage of adoption.
May important questions were raised but none more so than the notion that if large amounts of money are being generated per adoption then how open is this system to corruption. This is like the elephant in the room and certainly no one spoke to this issue. One presentation I attended talked about the amount of money exchanging hands but refused to take a moral stand on this issue. Within this system there is considerable concern for the trafficking of children, the abuse which is likely to take place because of this trafficking. There is virtually no legal authority across borders who can control what happens in other countries.
I doubt that I will take this issue up as I have other child protection issues but when I meet with someone who is adopted I will be better prepared to ask more probing and in depth questions.