This image is somewhat controversial if not outrightly offensive to many people. I understand the sentiment behind the creation of the image though. I once referred to the celebrity types who insist on adopting a plethora of multicultural children as collecting tokens on an anthropological charm bracelet…[Poverty Porn, Dilettante Charity and a Holiday in Cambodia]
I do understand the desire to want to help a child in a desperate scenario. And I do know personally, people who have successfully adopted internationally, mostly from China. The children are healthy, happy and accomplishing much in loving homes.
In some cases there may be a genuine desire to bring children into their lives and truly care for them. That is likely the majority of cases. However, in others…the mommy or daddy dearest syndrome takes over where children become props for outrageously huge egos and to validate certain public or social presentations.
There has been a trend historically of dominant cultures co-opting the children of those they dominate.
I got in a conversation on Google+ with John Pappas on this issue, particularly in reference to Haiti. He wrote:
It is and has been for awhile a very commonplace practice. The idea is that there is an opportunity to pull people from the brink of damnation to the good word via tragedy. The same thing was prominent at “Indian” school in the American West. It is considered an act of civilizing.
The point especially regarding “civilizing” lies at the heart of the colonialist mindset.
Canada had a horrific history of residential schools where children were basically kidnapped from their communities and locked up in Catholic run schools that abused several entire generations. It was not historically however, popular to adopt the children into individual families.
Residential schools mostly run by the Catholic church have a history around the world. In India, at present, for example, at the town of Mussoorie where I had been living for quite a few years there are numerous schools run by that church. They are private boarding schools that are very prestigious. One notes in marriage ads in the newspapers, for example, a request or description that girls be or are “convented” which means having graduated from a convent school, that is one run by nuns. Convent schools exist in most major cities. The cost runs around 50,000 rupees per year just to attend-about $1300 not including boarding costs, uniforms, school trips, sports fees and a lot of miscellaneous other charges. These schools are often seen as the epitome of Western style education. Many politicians have graduated from them.
I do wonder if the reason for their continued success in India is due to the strict rules that prohibit foreigners from adopting Indian children. In other countries where these residential schools have flourished changes in both adoption rules and social trends that have allowed or disbarred foreign or interracial adoptions have led to a demise of these schools. It’s a correlation that I note but can’t find any research to indicate a causal element.
This whole notion of civilizing developed further with the crisis in Haiti, when hard core evangelical Christians began adopting Haitian children in order to proselytize and enlarge the congregation…even going to the point of attempting to kidnap them. No doubt the social capital they would gain for being “good” Christians in their current environment is that important. Couple of stories on that here Americans Charged with Haiti Child Kidnap, Kidnapping or Caring? Missionaries in Haiti Tried to Take Children to U.S. After Earthquake and The Evangelical Adoption Crusade. Another interesting thing to note on this is the concomitant rise of both Christian based home-schooling and of private evangelical Christian schools many of which have expanded enough to include a boarding facility. These two trends are also on the rise in secular education. In some cases the private/boarding school function is meant to bring economic relief or increased revenues. Secular example Boarding School Goes Back to the Future: Public School Develops Boarding Program.
John wrote of his personal experience in encountering some Christians on the mission to influence foreign students in a student exchange program. He wrote:
In conversation with some local “Good Christians” they explained what an opportunity exchange student programs presented then in proselytizing the “good word.” They currently have two children from Japan for a year. Church twice a week and bible study. School out here gets out early on Wednesday for Bible School.
I was lucky enough to tutor these children after-school and learned that they were not Christian and found the whole church thing very annoying but seen as a necessarily evil to the exchange program.
One sees this in India as well where Anglican and other protestant churches are setting up after school tutoring programs in order to entice students and their parents into participating in religious activities. Many of the poorer people will come, not only for the tutoring but also for gifts that are handed out which include Christmas and Easter food hampers, books-which include bibles and other religious material and clothing collected during clothing drives. Implicit in all of these activities is a pressure to appear at church services and proselytize to other family members and neighbors.
Is that preferable to foreign adoptions? It’s all rather arrogant, ethnocentric and colonialist.
In terms of secular interracial and cross-cultural adoptions I have a mixed opinion. If adoption leads to a denial or disparagement of a child’s ethnic or cultural origins then obviously it is not in the best interest of the child to be involved in such an arrangement. They will always feel as if who they are and where they have come from is somehow not good enough.
Where I do see good quality parenting, with the child being wholly respected and accepted and especially coming from a situation which has very little by way of support for their developmental success and where there is little ability for local people to provide homes then it strikes me as a beneficial thing.
Unfortunately the mechanisms in place to do such thorough scrutinizing and filtering are not very well developed in many cases. And sometimes they are prone to corruption such as bribery.
There are many stories of foreign born children adopted only to be abused, abandoned or even murdered. Check out the Wikipedia List of International Adoption Scandals or look up foreign adoption abuse and you’ll find over 58 million references in Google.
This whole area of international, interracial and cross-cultural adoption really needs serious scrutiny.
Children are not accessories.