The International Orphan Myth

Most of us believe there are basketsful of orphaned babies the world over just waiting for an international adoption.  The truth is more sullied and brutal than that ideal.  The international children being adopted already have parents and they are being sold to the highest bidder.

Westerners have been sold the myth of a world orphan crisis. We are told that millions of children are waiting for their “forever families” to rescue them from lives of abandonment and abuse. But many of the infants and toddlers being adopted by Western parents today are not orphans at all. Yes, hundreds of thousands of children around the world do need loving homes. But more often than not, the neediest children are sick, disabled, traumatized, or older than 5. They are not the healthy babies that, quite understandably, most Westerners hope to adopt. There are simply not enough healthy, adoptable infants to meet Western demand–and there’s too much Western money in search of children. As a result, many international adoption agencies work not to find homes for needy children but to find children for Western homes.

Where do these babies come from? As international adoptions have flourished, so has evidence that babies in many countries are being systematically bought, coerced, and stolen away from their birth families. Nearly half the 40 countries listed by the U.S. State Department as the top sources for international adoption over the past 15 years–places such as Belarus, Brazil, Ethiopia, Honduras, Peru, and Romania–have at least temporarily halted adoptions or been prevented from sending children to the United States because of serious concerns about corruption and kidnapping. …

Prospective adoptive parents in the United States will pay adoption agencies between $15,000 and $35,000 (excluding travel, visa costs, and other miscellaneous expenses) for the chance to bring home a little one. Special needs or older children can be adopted at a discount.

The problem with celebrity adoption of international children — Mia Farrow, Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Soon-Yi Previn — is that their effort sets a false expectation for the easy availability of adopting darling, foreign, children, who are in desperate need of a good home when the reality is something harsher.

The most needy orphans — the disabled, the wounded and the misbegotten — are being rejected in favor of the “buyable perfection” that the American Aesthetic demands of its children.

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