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Archive for the ‘orphans’ Category

I haven’t written about adoption in a rather long time … Heck! I haven’t written about much of anything … but an article in today’s BBC sets wheels to spinning and fingers to keyboard.

Hundreds of parents in Nepal are struggling to come to terms with the fact that their children have been adopted by Western couples without their consent.

The article goes on to say that there are “about 20, mostly female, agents operating in Kathmandu, obtaining children for orphanages …”, and I don’t doubt the accuracy of that estimation.

Reactions from the gut happen … my gut, too. The photo looks fake, the girl in it a faded insert, and the copy states the woman had just one female child yet the caption reads: Sarita Bhujel says that she is devastated that her baby daughter appears to have ended up in Italy.

Horrible. Rotten. Dirty tricks played on illiterate parents in poor countries and hopeful adoptive parents in more affluent lands that must be addressed.

Yep.

At the root of the problem … ?

Adoptive parents pay thousands of dollars in fees and “donations” to orphanages and government officials who process their cases, creating what many observers describe as an incentive for widespread abuse.

Many observers say that, heh? I’m sure they do, and to a certain extent they’d be right to do so.

But …

The root of the problem has nothing to do with potential adoptive parents; it goes so much deeper than that, deeper than the roots of the Himalayas themselves.

The issue is poverty, poverty compounded by corruption, a global circumstance of real life for many of the world’s people.

What happens to children in poor countries? Well, let’s take a look at Nepal, shall we, since this is where this story is set?

– Statistics shows that of about 7 million children between 5-14 years old working in Nepal

– The number of bonded children is estimated as 33,000

– It is estimated that at least 1 million children in Nepal are working as child labourers in difficult circumstances, often as slaves in carpet factories, brick kilns, domestic service, agriculture, plantation, construction, transportation, stone quarry, mines and as migrant workers.

– Available data suggests that approximately 7,000 girls between 10 -18 are lured or abducted into prostitution each year. In many cases, parents or relatives sell young girls into sexual slavery.

– As an illustration, it is believed that 200,000 of the prostitutes in India are Nepalese. 20% are thought to be under 16.

– Half of 100,000 girl prostitutes between 10-14 in Bombay are from Nepal and are kept in brothels against their will.

– Poor, uneducated young women from Nepal’s rural regions are trafficked to India to work as prostitutes and for bonded labour. Nepalese citizens also are trafficked to Hong Kong, Thailand, and countries in the Middle East. Government officials suspect that organised crime groups and “marriage brokers” are the primary traffickers in Nepal and state that parents and other relatives of trafficking victims are sometimes complicit.

– A survey done in Kathmandu on 52 commercial sex workers by the Department of Research and Planning suggests that out of the total commercial sex workers surveyed, 13% were between 13-17 years.

– The NGO CWIN alleges that 2000 brothels exist in Nepal and a high percentage of the prostitutes working were children.

– Notorious in their own right for appalling working conditions, Nepalese carpet factories, where 50% of the workers are estimated to be children, are common sites of sexual exploitation by employers, as well as recruitment centres for Indian brothels.

It has longed seemed that outrage aimed at adoption is a red herring. Sure, shit happens and it should stop and those who profit in any way through corrupt practices should be strung up …

BUT …

wouldn’t it be more helpful to take on the bigger issues of real life?

No. I’m not suggesting adoption should not be subject to examination, controls, effective protocol or that it’s the be-all-end-all-warm-fuzzy-fix, just that it’s too damned easy to slap “Adoption (insert negative emotive word here)” into a headline and prompt a diverting knee jerk that shifts focus from the shit that is our world, no matter how far from our neighborhood where everyone’s heard stories about bad adoptive parents who sent their kid back to Russia.

Countries that conduct business under a layer of sleaze are crooked on all levels and those making money selling kids aren’t picky about who they sell them to … not even biological parents more often than most would like to think … so how about a global push to chop the balls off any man who has sex with a child? That seems a much better use of time and funds and energy, seeing as how the bottom would fall out of the kiddy sex industry pretty fuckin’ fast if there was a real chance they’d be separated from their testicles … not to mention all the extra duck food around.

Of course, some will argue that such drastic action would rob girls of a way to make a living, and in far too many circumstances that’s exactly what child prostitution is, so there would have to be provisions made, but perhaps a population lighter in the scrotum might find ways of being more creatively concerned with methods of living better suited to the welfare of all.

As this in The Independent suggests, the turn against adoption has not been the answer to the needs of children.

Only 60 babies were adopted in England last year – startling evidence of how Britain’s system for adopting children is grinding to a halt despite record numbers being taken into care.

Thousands of children are being held in limbo in care homes, secure units and temporary fostering because so few adoptions are being signed off by social workers. Their guidance has been to try to keep families together, which has also led to some children being left with negligent or abusive birth parents for too long.

Sadly, I can almost hear the standing ovation inspired in some by the news of adoption “grinding to a halt” and hope they read far enough to get to:

Three-quarters of the children in care, or about 48,000, were placed with a foster family. Twelve per cent, almost 8,000, were cared for in residential accommodation. A third of young adults who left care were not in education, employment or training last year.

The world is not a fair place. Bad things happen to good people, and many of those people are children.

Adoption is not a perfect solution, nor is it an evil foisted on the world. It is nowhere near the scale or condition of the sale of children into prostitution, yet one could be led to equate the two and with adoption far less a challenge to halt making that focus an easy rant.

And a BBC headline that shouts, “NEPAL COMES TO TERMS WITH FOREIGN ADOPTIONS TRAGEDY” misses the point that Nepal … for one … needs to come to terms with corruption and the sale of its children to pimps, that children in Britain languish for years in foster care and institutions and that a lot of men will pay money to have sex with kids.

By the way, writing about this again after all this time has brought to mind why I don’t often have adoption as a topic any more …

It just fucks with my head.

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Although I understand the BBC feeling the need to place a few items of “good news” on their website since there’s so much nasty crap going on in this world of hurt, they shot wide of the mark with this story on a “baby bin” in South Africa.

As if the photo alone doesn’t provide quite enough bleak, the copy in the report is gag-invoking on many levels and was very obviously written by someone who has no clue to the sensitivities of the adoption world.

Most people would not give a second glance to the metal hatch on a wall in Hillbrow Street in Johannesburg’s tough Berea suburb.

But the “Door of Hope” is saving the lives of scores of unwanted babies.

Mothers can place their babies, usually newborn, inside and leave them anonymously to be found and cared for.

Awww. How warm and fuzzy, heh?

Well … no.

The reality being that much of Johannesburg is dirt poor, AIDS infected, drug-riddled and that many pregnancies occur outside the realm of ability to care for a child, there are many, many babies born in conditions that offer few options.

Yes, putting a baby in a “bin” that will lead to food and warmth, rather than death, is an option and it does save lives, but the fact that an average of sixteen babies per month are being deposited is not “good news”.

These are the lucky few – they are alive and have someone to care for them.

And if the orphanage has its way, they will soon be adopted by families who can provide for them.

The lucky few … hm …

Sure, when paragraphs like that are juxtaposed against the following, it can warm some cockles …

Child Welfare South Africa (CWSA) – the country’s largest non-governmental organisation – says more than 2,000 children are abandoned in the country every year – a 30% increase in the past three years.

Many of them are found near death in rubbish bins, wrapped in plastic bags, inside toilets, shoe boxes, open fields and parks and often die within hours of birth from dehydration, starvation or hypothermia.

Horrific thought, heh? Sure. An orphanage is certainly a better fate, and those who get the baby bin rather than the rubbish bin can be considered “lucky”-ish, but stories like this miss the point by so wide a margin.

For starters, the issue isn’t one of babies, but the entire shredded fabric of South African society, and a piece here and there about a few babies being “saved” does nothing but provide a tiny diversion from the truth of the matter that is life in Johannesburg.

As adult adoptees will point out through the benefit of their experience, there’s nothing lucky about being stripped of all history, and although I have often taken issue with those who state they’d “rather be dead than adopted”, starting life in a loss as great as abandonment is devastating at a cellular level.

Orphanage care, no matter how compassionate, is still institutional, and orphanages in South Africa are far from well-funded. The more babies they have, the more institutional the care out of necessity.

We then come to specifics on the adoption thing, of which even a mention is ridiculous to the point of cruelty. South Africa is such a bloody mess that potential adoptive families in the country are almost nonexistent. As for adoption by families from other countries … well … here’s how it looks from the USA.

South African law recognizes two kinds of adoptions by foreigners:

1) Local adoptions of children resident in South Africa by foreign residents of South Africa, and

2) Intercountry adoptions of children resident in South Africa by foreign citizens residing abroad.

The first category (“non-Hague adoption”) requires the foreign adoptive parent(s) to be resident for five years in South Africa, and the adoptions are handled by an accredited agency and finalized by the Department of Social Development under laws relating to local adoptions. Note: Under applicable U.S. laws and regulations, children adopted in non-Hague adoptions will only be eligible for immigration to the United States after a waiting period of two years’ residence and two years’ legal custody with the adoptive parent(s).

The second category (“Hague adoption”) is only available to citizens of countries with a working agreement between the prospective adoptive parent’s country of origin and South Africa. As of this writing, there have been no working agreements finalized between South African and U.S. adoption service providers. Please contact the U.S. Consulate Johannesburg Immigrant Visa Unit (contact information below) for the latest information regarding adoption in South Africa.

There have been a number of cases in which American Citizens have been issued “Guardianship Orders” from the South African High Court. These orders do not constitute “irrevocable release for adoption and immigration” as required by United States Immigration Law. As such, they cannot be used for immigration purposes.

In other words … uh … nope.

Bottom line on the BBC’s “feel good” efforts?

Show us something on real efforts tackling AIDS prevention, controlling drug cartels, rights and education for women, stemming violence and alleviating poverty.

Yes, I know. That’s not easy, is it?

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People outside the adoption community are often surprised to learn that there is no little contention on the issue, that there is a contingent of adult adoptees who are dead set against building families through adoption, that some consider international adoption as “cultural genocide” robbing children of their birth heritage. Those purporting such have their points, and I’m not here … today … to argue claims of wrongness about adoption; I’ve done that beforemany times.

Nope. Today is not about what can go wrong in adoption … and, as it is in any case where mere humans are involved, shit does happen … but rather on what is so very, very right.

As long-time readers know, my dear friend Gay has been been heading off to Cambodia to build houses every since we brought Sam home. She does this through the organization Tabitha, a non-profit that does so much for so many … I encourage all to learn more and participate … or, at least, shop their store.

Tabitha was started by a Canadian, Janne Ritkes, personal heroine to anyone familiar with her work and her spirit, in 1994, and she’s been on the ground in Cambodia running the show ever since.

In 1995, Jan and her friend June Cunningham found themselves in charge of an orphanage, Cambodia House, after the person who had establish it abandoned the project and the thirty-two one-to-six year-olds living there.

As Tabitha was just beginning and Cambodia was still very unstable, we decided that running an orphanage was not what was best for the children, so we started a process of adoption. Over the next two years we placed all the children in adoptive families around the world.

While some would see this as a theft of their Cambodian identity, all these years later, the children, apparently don’t.

In the ensuing years, many of the children and their families have returned to Cambodia for reunions and house building. It was good to watch these young people grow and mature. This summer marked another passage for these young people – they are either finishing high school or their first year at university. They came for a reunion – they came to house build.

In the past, a number of these young people would talk about their desire to return to their birth country and work with the people here. They knew firsthand about the poverty and the suffering of so many. As they would say to us as parents, this could have been us.

This summer was no different except that they are now young adults with a vision in mind. Several are training to be teachers, architects, contractors, etc.. Their adoptive siblings are also young adults who have caught the vision.

What was clear was that house building was no longer enough. They wanted to continue impacting their birth country even while they were studying and developing skills. Over the past 6 months, these young people had done fund raising themselves and they had raised enough money for twenty houses. For them and their families it was fun and it was concrete.

We talked about what they could do. We talked about Theoun, one of our children, who had died in a tragic fire a year ago. We talked of his legacy, a school for impoverished children in Kompong Thom – a school that will be finished in August. They talked of their desire to also build a school. And so that is what they will do.

A mom herself to a Cambodian-born daughter, the impact on Janne is very personal.

My daughter Miriam is part of this process. She came home so very emotional about the impact of this past week.

“Mum, these are my brothers and sisters”, she said. “That’s what we call each other – we are all Cambodian, we are all adopted. We all want to help our fellow Cambodians. And their families mum, these are also my family. We know each other, we understand each other, and we take care of each other.”

I wondered at her maturity.

“I want to be a doctor mum, or at least a nurse – then I, too, can come back and help.”

Sam and Cj are still small, but already they have developed a love for and pride in the country of their birth. Over the years, we will visit Cambodia, and Gay has plans now to take them on house-building trips when they’re old enough. I fully expect they, too, will make significant contributions.

I understand well Janne’s point when she says:

As a parent, I often wonder if I am doing the right thing. As Cambodia House Chair, I often wonder if I did the right thing. As founder and director of Tabitha, I often wonder if we keep doing the right things– this week, I know it is right.

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Let’s hear a round of applause for a cooperative effort between Afghans and Americans at the National Military Hospital in Kabul … and not only because we have two hands to clap with.

Abandoned as a baby, 12-year-old Haidar has never buttoned a shirt, held a pencil or combed his hair. Born without hands, Haidar has only been able to use his wrists and forearms to pick up objects and manipulate his environment; he has never been able to care for himself properly.

Having neither the expertise nor the facilities at the hospital in Afghanistan to construct hands for this boy, a doctor from the US Navy has been invited to do what Vincent Price was unable to do for Edward.

By July, one month after U.S. Navy Capt. Jerone Landstrom – a surgeon specializing in hand and microsurgery – arrived, Haidar has undergone an operation on his left hand and, while he’ll never have a normal hand, it is now functional.

When in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king, so there’s little doubt that this young man’s life and prospects have improved tremendously, and with his case building bridges that span between medical professionals the advantages may be far-reaching.

Given how much time Afghans and Americans spend pointing fingers of blame at each other and palming off responsibility for the horrible things happening in Afghanistan daily, it’s great to see some people from both nations working hand-in-hand.

Okay. Okay. I’m done with the word play … although armed with such handy material I can hardly thumb my nose at the chance …but this is hands down my favorite story in today’s news.

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Not learned much in 600 years, have we ... ?

Lest anyone get the idea that I am inclined to chew on the ass of only one religion, I’ll range more widely today and slam effects of worship all the way to witchcraft.

Subscribing to a bit of the old double, double can seem nothing more than a giggle, but as is the case with all who take hocuspocus as gospel, be it the Eucharist or “He turned me into a newt!”, it always results in damage to some innocent bystander.

Today’s example comes from the BBC in this report on an increasing number of kids in Africa being accused of witchcraft, and the horrible consequences of those accusations.

A new Unicef report warns that children accused of being witches – some as young as eight – have been been burned, beaten and even killed as punishment.

(… burned, beaten AND EVEN KILLED … What the hell sort of sentence is that? Oh … never mind … )

In rounding up the usual suspects, it’s orphans, street kids, albinos and the disabled, mainly boys between the ages of 8 and 14 who are victims.

Unicef … always so good at counting atrocities, but not so hot on preventing them … reports that 20,000 street kids have been tarred with the black magic brush in Kinshasa, DRC alone.

The agency [Unicef] said there was little it could do about the belief in witchcraft itself, and that it was not trying to eradicate the practice. But it said violence against children was wrong, and that it would do everything it could to stop it.

Well … isn’t that special?

Urbanization and war are fingered as prompts for a shift from picking on old crones and focusing on kids as harbingers of evil sorcery as more and more children fend for themselves in ways that just might make some uncomfortable. Of course, there’s always a few folks who have figured there’s a buck or two to be made, as well.

It is reported that some evangelical preachers have added to the problem by charging large sums for exorcisms. One was recently arrested in Nigeria after charging more than $250 for each procedure.

When some of those rituals involve petrol being poured into the eyes, one must wonder at the price of fuel.

As logical as it gets ...

Being me of little faith, the whole disambiguation song and dance has always been a puzzler. I get that paganism, being an outdoor activity that didn’t make a lot of dosh, was an unpopular option to offer potential church members, but didn’t anyone twig to the fact that anyone with the sorts of powers accused could easily avoid the horrific demise those devout Christians so relished?

But it’s never been about sense. As Nietzsche so aptly put it, “’Faith’ means not wanting to know what is true.”

True is that tens of thousands of children are being tortured and murdered over something that J.K. Rowling has made a mint from.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BEST SELLING AUTHOR LAUNCHES NEW TRAVEL ANTHOLOGY/COOKBOOK AND HOSTS 24-HOUR GLOBAL DINNER PARTY

100% of royalties will be donated to fund scholarships to vocational schools for kids from the slums of New Delhi.

SEATTLE, WA (MAY 20, 2010) — Bestselling author Rita Golden Gelman launches Female Nomad and Friends: Tales of Breaking Free and Breaking Bread Around the World (A Three Rivers Press Original), June 1, 2010, in Seattle. Forty-one authors tell their stories of adventuring around the world; all but two of them are women. To celebrate the anthology and the special bonding that happens when people share a meal and a book, Rita is hosting a 24-hour global dinner, Connecting through Food, on Friday, June 18th. She hopes you’ll join her by giving a dinner in your home.

The Anthology/Cookbook is the sequel to Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World (Crown Publishers, 2001) which tells the story of Rita’s selling her possessions and becoming a nomad—living in mud huts, in royal palaces, and on magical islands. She’s been a nomad for 23 years. Her story captivates readers; the book is still going strong. Ignoring a warning from her publisher, Rita included her e-mail address. The last line is: “I can’t wait to hear from you.” She was flooded with e-mails from readers worldwide who offered guest rooms, couches, meals…. and their own stories of connecting around the world. Many of those stories and more of Rita’s adventures are collected in Female Nomad and Friends, which includes 59 amazing tales and more than 30 fabulous international recipes.

“We’re encouraging people around the world to invite friends to buy the book, cook the recipes, and share a meal at our Global Dinner Party – Connecting through Food,” said Gelman. “In hundreds of homes, guests will be ‘talking’ to us about the stories and discussing the anthology as well as the food. We’ll post your videos, pictures, and comments on Facebook. Please join us.”

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We knew it was coming, and here it is, just as predicted a few days ago when I wrote:

There is no shortage of arrogant pinheads ready to scream “cultural genocide” and insist that any kid removed from Haitian hellfire is being robbed of his birth right, will suffer lifelong from the loss of said culture, and just may have some blood relatives still alive somewhere who are not too busy bleeding and killing and looting to take in an extra child or ten. In other words, demanding a hands-off-Haitian-children and leave-them-to-rot policy to rule.

At the top of the leave-’em-to-rot hit parade, as always, UNICEF, with their advisor in comfortable, safe Geneva coming out with this …

“We know the problem with trade of children in Haiti and many of these trade networks have links with the international adoption market.”

Of course UNICEF knows the problems with children in Haiti, but what they’ve done to alleviate those over the years is, shall we say, unimpressive. They do good counts of dead kids and can usually tell us how many are undernourished, but how helpful is that to the actual children? Not so much.

And that bit about “links with the international adoption market” is nothing but a dirty swipe with a tarred brush meant to divert attention and cast adoption in the negative light UNICEF is so fond of.

Save The Children is jumping on this one, too; a natural response from an organization that supports its very large staff through donations to kids stuck in poverty and misery.

“Taking children out of the country would permanently separate thousands of children from their families – a separation that would compound the acute trauma they are already suffering,” said Save The Children’s chief executive Jasmine Whitbread.

The children being “rushed” out of Haiti are those who should have been home in the safety of their adoptive families long ago, having been cleared for adoption, abandoned or orphaned, paperwork ready, and held in orphanages simply because organizations like UNICEF demand they wait and wait and wait.

Several of the children arriving in France had been resident in a nursery that was severely damaged in last week’s earthquake but “not a single child was injured and not a single adoption file was lost,” said French consul in Haiti, Jean-Pierre Gueguan.

The children left the school on Thursday where they had taken shelter after the destruction and headed to the Port-au-Prince airport.

Each had a Haitian passport with the family name of their adoptive family but also their birth family’s surname.

For many, it’s impossible to comprehend a mindset that condemns the idea of families welcoming children into the fold, but the anti-adoption steamroller was bound to plow over Haiti’s disaster. As the press hops on for the ride, read well for motives … and look hard for anyone who bothers to ask the kids how they feel.

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