Every Child Deserves a Family

 

 

In 2007 on our adoption trip to the Peoples Republic of China, we toured our newly adopted 3-year-old daughter Hong Mei’s orphanage. We had considered Chinese adoption for many years and had seen many photos, a documentary, and videos of what we might encounter in a Chinese orphanage. Despite my preparation, I found myself completely overwhelmed by the experience.

Dear Reader, try if you can picture yourself in a government building attractive from the outside, but in reality, was a poorly constructed, filthy concentration camp for children. Small unlit rooms were filled with cribs absorbing nearly all the floor space, with two or three babies per crib. Toddlers tied all day to potty chairs to catch waste;  flies crawling across their expressionless faces. Despite the great number of babies and toddlers, not a cry or coo was heard. Children in orphanages learn quickly, no matter how uncomfortable they feel, or how badly they hurt, not to cry, because their cries are ignored. Their first attempts at language are not encouraged. They spend every day, all day, never rocked, never held. The few adult caregivers available are overwhelmed by the seemingly endless sea of humanity which takes all their time just to prepare and pass out bottles, and handwash cloth diapers and clothes, and change diapers, all without modern conveniences.  Death is a common occurrence releasing the young inmate from an earthly prison.

 

Feral older children run thru the courtyard punching and pushing one another out of boredom. No toys or books are found. A playground is provided resting on hard concrete. When these children are young teenagers they will be released to the streets without social and job skills. Some of the girls will be absorbed into the sex slave industry.

For the briefest of moments I had a Mother Theresa experience. My spirit cried out in protest, “G-d where are you!! How can you allow this to happen!!?”  I received the answer: we mere mortals were put on earth to succor up the fatherless and the orphans. Those of us there that day were doing the work of imperfect earthly angels.  Riding back to our hotel on a bus, no one spoke. Mothers quietly sobbed holding tight their little one, and tears ran down the faces of the fathers.

 

 

I stand as a witness today dear reader, that there are conservative estimates of 10 million children in the world who are orphaned or abandoned who live in such facilities or even worse on the street.  Every fiber of my being testifies that every child deserves a family.  Every child deserves love and opportunities only a family can provide.

 

For the last 60 years international adoption was an avenue for couples and singles looking to become parents, and for families like ours who looked to expand our family by including an adopted child into our fold. The numbers have steadily risen to peak in the United States at 22,884 in 2004. The numbers of internationally adopted children has plummeted to less than half in five years.  Other countries cite similar statistics

 

Shocking enough, the reason for the sudden drop in adoptions is human rights organizations run by the United Nations who began to: bully, coerce, and otherwise discourage the international adoption process. The adoptive family is under attack and, dear reader, we need your help.

 

Organizations such as UNICEF and Save the Children  promote the idea that unparented children should be kept at almost all costs in their country of origin. Elizabeth Barlot, a law professor at Harvard University, and Faculty Director of the Child Advocacy Program, at Harvard Law School, has written  an important article that details the negative effect groups like UNICEF and the liberal media have had on thousands of children who are right now denied the basic right of a family

 

It is shocking to me that those who claim to uphold the human rights of  defenseless children are the ones who are destroying the likely hood that some of these children will be able to be adopted into loving families.  Years ago, it was common for internationally adopted children to be placed as infants, now it is unlikely a child will be adopted before age one and most after age two. Child development experts warn of the life long damage that prolonged institutionalized care does to babies and toddlers.

Opposition is now beginning to mount in the form of a grassroots campaign Both Ends Burning with the goal of obtaining 1 million signatures.  The following is the statement written by Elizabeth Bartholet    from Harvard University: International Adoption: The Human Rights Position

 

 

Abstract

International adoption is under siege, with the number of children placed dropping in each of the last several years, and many countries imposing severe new restrictions. Key forces mounting the attack claim the child human rights mantle, arguing that such adoption denies heritage rights and often involves abusive practices. Many nations assert rights to hold on to the children born within their borders, and others support these demands citing subsidiarity principles. But children’s most basic human rights are to grow up in the families that will often be found only through international adoption. These rights should trump any conflicting state sovereignty claims.

 

Policy Implications:

•International adoption is under siege by those claiming the human rights mantle.

• Children’s most fundamental human rights include the right to a nurturing family which is often available only through international adoption.

•Children’s fundamental human rights should trump state sovereignty claims.

•Neither adoption abuses nor concepts of heritage justify restrictive international adoption policies, in-country holding periods or the elimination of private adoption interme- diaries.

•International adoption appropriately recognizes children as citizens of a global community with basic human rights entitlements.

We know as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”  The well-being of the family is essential to our core beliefs, it is an opportunity for you, dear reader to take a positive stand on affirming the family, and choose to  to help with this pro-family cause.

 

Every once in awhile liberals and conservatives come together to protest for a righteous reason and this is one of those times. This organization, Both Ends Burning needs all of our help to promote that every child deserves a family. Both Ends Burning has produced the award wining  documentary Stuck ( trailer shown above), which champions the plight of defenseless orphans. Please, for a moment, put aside your political views, join with many of us, no matter what your political viewpoint is, to have your voice heard in “celelebrating the family” and for the a basic right of a family for all children.

 

What can you do to help?

 

Both Ends Burning organizers need your help in signing a petition, and they will present this petition to the leaders of our government with a goal of  1 million signatures. Please see “Stuck” when it comes to your city. If “Stuck” is not scheduled to be shown in your city, please make a request.  Join Both Ends Burning, the Face book page, share the youtube video trailer, and invite everyone you know to please sign this petition.  Maybe many of us doing a little will be able to turn the tide and allow for thousands of abandoned and orphaned children to be adopted into a family, as is their basic human right.

For more information see:

 Bartholet, Elizabeth. International Adoption: The Human Rights Position. Digital image. Global Policy Journal. Global Policy Volume 1 . Issue 1 . January 2010, n.d. Web. <http://www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/bartholet/IA-GlPol72409.pdf>.
Digital ImageComments

 “Both Ends Burning » STUCK.” Both Ends Burning » STUCK. Both Ends Burning, n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013. <https://bothendsburning.org/initiatives/stuck/>.
WebsiteComments

 Change.org. Change.org, n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013. <http://www.change.org/petitions/make-a-child-s-right-to-a-family-our-priority>.
WebsiteComments

 “The Family.” : A Proclamation to the World. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013. <https://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation>.
WebsiteComments

 “International Adoption: The Human Rights Position.” Global Policy Journal. Global Policy Journal, n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013. <http://www.globalpolicyjournal.com/articles/international-law-and-human-rights/international-adoption-human-rights-position>.
WebsiteComments

 “STUCK | Facebook.” Facebook. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013. <https://www.facebook.com/STUCKthedocumentary>.

 

 

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About JA Benson

Joanna entered the world as a BYU baby. Continuing family tradition, she graduated BYU with a degree in Elementary Education and taught for several years. Growing up in Salt Lake County, her favorite childhood hobbies were visiting cemeteries and eavesdropping on adult conversations. Her ancestral DNA is multi-ethnic and she is Mormon pioneer stock on every familial line. Joanna resides in the Southeastern USA with her five children ranging in age from 8 to 24. Her husband passed away in 2009. She is an avid reader and a student of history. Her current intellectual obsession is Sephardic Jewish history, influence and genealogy. She served as a board member for her local chapter of Families with Children from China. She is the author of “DNA Mormons?” Summer Sunstone 2007 http://www.bycommonconsent.com/2007/04/dna-mormons/ and “Becoming Hong Mei`s Mother” in the Winter Sunstone 2009 http://theredbrickstore.com/sunstone/becoming-hong-meis-mother/.

14 thoughts on “Every Child Deserves a Family

  1. I’d just like to add a few thoughts to this. On my mission in Bulgaria we had the opportunity to serve in Bulgarian orphanages. We witnessed many of the same circumstances you’ve described. It still breaks my heart to think of these babies and their situations. I will say this though, every so often we would see a spark of life in those sweet eyes and that gave me hope. I have come to feel that only the Atonement of Christ will make these kinds of situations right, but still the suffering is troublesome. If anyone is interested in helping to better the lives of orphans a few of my Bulgarian mission companions started One Heart Bulgaria to raise money, and awareness for orphans. One Heart sponsors over 100 orphanages in Bulgaria, and provides them with fresh food, clothing, bedding, medical supplies, training for the staff, “Grandmas” (people to come in and play with the kids), books, school supplies, and building maintenance. Their website is here: http://www.oneheart-bg.org/

    Joanna, thanks for posting this.

  2. Correction on one thing…One Heart has 30 sponsored orphanages, but they donate and supply to over 100. Sorry about that.

  3. Thanks Joyce,
    A worthwhile charity indeed. The sad fact remains that despite a few adequate orphanages, children are best served by having a family. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if orphanages had to shut down because all of the children found homes! If you haven’t already, please sign the petition and pass the information around. Realistically 10 million probably won’t find homes, but at least if the US could return to the 20 thousand adopted orphans a year, that would be better than the 5 thousand currently adopted.

  4. Great article, and thanks for pointing out how misguided the xenophobic policy of keeping these children in their own countries really is.

    However, I feel that you are over-simplifying the problem by attacking the easiest target: misguided beaurocratic policies. But adoption rates are falling because of many different factors, not the least of which is that adoption is being seen increasingly as less desirable for prospective parents, who would rather do IVF, surogacy, or go without, rather than deal with the increasingly publicized risks of children with frightening attachment disorders, etc.

    International adoption is rarely purely a “rescue” effort. American couples spend enormous amounts of money and wait for years for the chance to adopt from China not because the children there need it the most. (Others need it even more, even if Chinese kids need it too.) They go to China for all sorts of reasons: positive feelings about the culture, aesthetic and racial prefrences, the desire for younger, healthier children than they can get elsewhere for cheaper. People usually adopt because they can’t have their own children, so they understandably want to find something as close to that ideal as they can: younger, with a culture they value, healthy.

    Parents feel guilty for picking and choosing in this way, (which they should not feel guilty about) so they do everything they can to mask the guilt, by highlighting the the “rescue” element of adoption. But if you really wanted to maximize your adoption investment, you could do a lot more good by adopting more needy, older, unhealthy children. So this is not about efficiency or saving the world. It’s about the pain of a childless couple, trying to fill the void with the next best thing to pregnacy.

    My wife and I are on a long waiting list for an Asian country because my half-Asian wife harbors openly acknowledged prejudices against non-Asians. Plus she is so torn up inside about her own infertility and insecurities about adoption, that she simply won’t even pretend to say she is trying to “save the world” by adopting a needy child. For her, this is a desperate act that is deeply tied into the enormous suffering she feels about her infertility.

    Adoptive families are not coming to the rescue, and they never will. Only a few lucky ones will escape. Institutions are the only answer for the rest. We get upset because embittered child-advocacy groups get in the way of American couples snatching up the few good pickings. But we forget that their problems are much bigger than we possibly can imagine. They are the real parents of these children. When we leave with one, what happens to the rest? They are orphans, and that title will stay with them for life. Just as Jesus said, “the poor you always have with you,” he could have said, “the orphans you always have with you.”

  5. Thank you Nate for your response. I am very sorry for your fertility difficulties. A very sore trial indeed for a couple to go thru. I hope you and your wife are able to enjoy parenthood in the future. I do have to take you to task for some of your comments. :)

    ” But adoption rates are falling because of many different factors, not the least of which is that adoption is being seen increasingly as less desirable for prospective parents, who would rather do IVF, surrogacy, or go without, rather than deal with the increasingly publicized risks of children with frightening attachment disorders, etc.”

    Possibly these are factors, but the number of children adopted was steadily growing to the highest number of international adoptions world-wide of 45,000 in 2006, it plummeted 50% in five years, and continues to drop. If this was disinterest alone, it would have steadily declined. If you watched the trailer you will see real children who should be living with their families “stuck” in the adoption process. This is bureaucratic way of discouraging international adoption.

    “International adoption is rarely purely a “rescue” effort.”

    For our family it was. My late husband and I were in our mid-40′s. A month after we came home with Hong Mei we sent our oldest off on a mission. We were in one of the largest adoption groups ever adopting when we went to China in 2007. Of that a group, a majority of the parents were probably there because of fertility issues. Perhaps 1/3 were families like ours: older already parents. Of these couples many adopted infants, and toddlers, other adopted older children. Many of these kids had facial clefts and other minor disabilities. One young LDS couple was coming to adopt their 2nd child. Both children were adopted as young children with severe spina bifida. One family, the father was 1/2 Japanese and in the military, with several other children, came to adopt a blind, mentally handicapped child with albinism. Another family, similar dynamics as ours adopted a deaf toddler. In the community where I live in the Southeastern US. There are churches, where an adoption program is given, a call is given out for one of the families to commit to adoption. RIght then and there the spirit speaks to a couple and they commit, others then commit right there to help financially with the adoption. I know people who have done this.

    Why did we do it? I have been asked this question many times. Everyone of us would answer, cause G-d called us to. That is the only way it can be explained.

    “American couples spend enormous amounts of money and wait for years for the chance to adopt”

    A few short years ago this was not the case. It was 1 year start to finish to adopt Hong Mei. Now it would be closer to 5. The entire cost was $20,000, a few years before it was $15,000. Now the cost is $30,000. In previous years, after only a few months, adoptive parents were able to adopt healthy infants. At one time, you could get a healthy Chinese infant in less time than it takes for a biological one.

    “They go to China for all sorts of reasons: positive feelings about the culture, aesthetic and racial preferences, the desire for younger, healthier children than they can get elsewhere for cheaper. People usually adopt because they can’t have their own children, so they understandably want to find something as close to that ideal as they can: younger, with a culture they value, healthy.”

    You have cited the many positives of past experiences with adopting from China, but most of us ( no matter where our child came from) would say, we went there because our child was there. LDS, not LDS, we will say the same thing, “It was G-d who lead us there”.

    “Parents feel guilty for picking and choosing in this way, (which they should not feel guilty about) so they do everything they can to mask the guilt, by highlighting the the “rescue” element of adoption.”

    There is a guilt factor involved. When I went to the Waiting CHild List Hong Mei was on, I applied for 6 girls. I felt awful picking thru those files of kids, selecting a few. The oldest was about 9 down to (then) 2 year old Hong Mei. The adoption agency ultimately matched us with her, feeling she was the best fit for our family, and they were sooo right!

    “you could do a lot more good by adopting more needy, older, unhealthy children.”

    Hong Mei has mild spina bifida if that helps. :)

    “So this is not about efficiency or saving the world. It’s about the pain of a childless couple, trying to fill the void with the next best thing to pregnancy.”

    I am going to try to be as delicate to your tender feelings as possible. I understand your pain, but biological or adopted children, once you are a parent it is not about you. Do not adopt if you all are not over grieving. Adopting will not take away the pain. It is not fair to you all, and especially not to the child.

    A couple of years before we adopted Hong Mei, an adoptive mother in our community murdered her beautiful Chinese daughter (adopted as an healthy infant). Our adoption social worker told us the mother never grieved her infertility. She had just come home from a neighborhood walk with other young mothers who were bragging about how their baby was talking walking etc… Her baby was normal, just a little behind. In her mind, if she ( the mother) had been able to have a biological child, HER child would have been able to compete with the other babies. In her frustration, she slammed her daughter’s head into the coffee table and killed her.

    As a potential parent you have to accept the child G-d gives you. Biological children can come with any number of handicaps and rebellious behavior. When you adopt a child, you prepare yourself the same way. This is not about creating a mini-you. This is being given the stewardship of one of G-d’s children, every single one with mortal imperfections, and helping them, no matter how they come to us, back to our Heavenly Father is what it is to be a parent.

    “Adoptive families are not coming to the rescue, and they never will.”

    I hope I have demonstrated many orphans were being saved. My current Bishop is an Korean adoptee. HIs parents already had other children. He was adopted when he was only a few months old. Because he was adopted at such a young age, he was able to avoid the negative consequences of institutionalized care. Children adopted as infants used to be the norm, now it is not. It would be in the best interest of these kids, if world returned to infant adoption.

    “Only a few lucky ones will escape. Institutions are the only answer for the rest.”

    I will take the former 45,000 a year world wide international adoption number over 15,000-20,000 and falling. As many as can find a family the better. I hate to invoke the lovely story about the Star Fish, but it applies here.

    We get upset because embittered child-advocacy groups get in the way of American couples snatching up the few good pickings.

    ‘A few good pickings!!?? The younger they are adopted the better it is for them the rest of their lives. They are saved from the horrors of institutionalized care.

    “But we forget that their problems are much bigger than we possibly can imagine.”

    Sorry don’t buy it. If you want a child ( adopted or biological) with no problems, you are setting your self up for frustrations and unhappiness as I said earlier.

    “They are the real parents of these children.”

    You will have to clarify this statement for me, I am sorry I do not understand.

    “When we leave with one, what happens to the rest? They are orphans, and that title will stay with them for life. Just as Jesus said, “the poor you always have with you,” he could have said, “the orphans you always have with you.” ”

    Yes, but we are duty bound as Christians or Jews to help as many fatherless and orphans as we can. Just cause you can’t save them all, does not mean you don’t try in some way. If you can’t adopt: donate money, or sign the petition, as it takes very little time or thought. Maybe it will make a difference.

  6. Nate, Once again, I am sorry for what you are going thru. I hope I was not harsh. I do not mean to be. As one who has had to go down the grieving path, I know how hard it is. It is okay to go thru a sad/angry phase. Seek counseling if needed, and rely on G-d. You both will get thru it and come out of it with understanding and increased love.

  7. Hi JABenson,

    I was going to redact most of what I said in my last comment, but then I saw that you had given it such a thoughtful and sensitive reply, and I was glad I had sent it because it gave me the chance to see how deft you were at dealing with my devisive comment in a wise and sensitive way. So thank you.

    I would like to redact the part of my email which refered to adoption as not a “rescue effort.” Upon further thought, I realized that every adoption is fundamentally a selfless act, and indeed a rescue, whether or not that rescue represents the maximum efficiency of resources. Even having biological children in our day takes enormous sacrifices, and these sacrifices are multiplied when one adopts. Picking the most needy or disabled child may not represent the ultimate act of selflessness if the sacrifice will consume the family beyond their abilities.

    Additionally, when one spends $30,000 to adopt a healthy child from China, that fee is supposed to subsidize the orphanage and help care for the many children who will not be picked. So there is no virtue in getting a “cheaper, needier” baby, if you give nothing financilly to help the institution your child came from.

    I still believe that adoption is not the answer for many, if not most orphans. Even if orphanages freely imparted their children to Western couples, there would never been enough families to go around for all the hard cases. The argument against abortion, that there are so many longing parents, who want to adopt your drug addicted black baby simply is not true. Institutions must be seen as part of a comprehensive solution to the problem.

    Adoptive families are an important part, but only part. They help fund institutions through fees, and they take away some of the children. But the rest is up to the institutions. That’s why I said the insititions are the real parents of these children.

    In my wanderings through Europe, I’ve seen a number of magnificent 19th century buildings that were originally built as orphanages, by states that recognized that their role was to care for an entire class of human beings who had been rejected by society. The state was the only answer back then, and for many or most, it is still the only answer.

    I think that adoption advocates and orphanages should work together to achieve a vision of well-run, orphanages, with a chance given to as many of these children as possible to have a family. My little sister loved her trip with Rising Star to India, where she got to play around with Indian orphans and her fee helped subsidize the orphanage. Family cannot be the only answer.

  8. Thank you Nate for your thoughtful comment.

    “I still believe that adoption is not the answer for many, if not most orphans. Even if orphanages freely imparted their children to Western couples, there would never been enough families to go around for all the hard cases. The argument against abortion, that there are so many longing parents, who want to adopt your drug addicted black baby simply is not true. Institutions must be seen as part of a comprehensive solution to the problem.”

    Practically I agree with you. As for the hard cases, yes, most of those kids will remain institutionalized. Often the children in these bleak orphanages are “lucky” in that at least they have some food and a bed to sleep in. An orphanage is better than life/death on the streets. The way we looked at this situation was, when we took Hong Mei from her orphanage, we opened up a space for another one. She was one less child to feed and clothe. Believe you me, that place was overrun with kids, it is seared into my memory what I saw.

    The rising cost of adoption is not because of larger monetary “donations” to orphanages. It is because governments are taking a bigger chunk of that money, including our government. Disgusting is what this is.

    The purpose of “Both Ends Burning” campaign is that there are adoptive parents, parentless children, who are waiting to be united. These parents have filed the paperwork and paid the money and have been promised a particular child, and even worse the child has been promised a family and they all wait for years. I cannot convey the damage that institutionalized care does to a normal healthy child. Adoptive parents, especially those choosing international adoption, have become demonized as the “enemy” of the poor.

    “I think that adoption advocates and orphanages should work together to achieve a vision of well-run, orphanages, with a chance given to as many of these children as possible to have a family. My little sister loved her trip with Rising Star to India, where she got to play around with Indian orphans and her fee helped subsidize the orphanage. Family cannot be the only answer.”

    They do, adoption agencies often run the best orphanages or pediatric medical facilities within the countries they adopt from. It is the UN and the governments themselves that prevent the help. For example, there is a fantastic organization called “Half the Sky” formed by adoptive parents in California. There goal is to take care of the children who will not be adopted and provide a better care for those who will be adopted. My daughter’s orphanage was always one of the largest orphanages in China. For ten years, the local government declined assistance from Half the Sky. Very recently, Half the Sky was able to go in and give assistance. This is bittersweet for me. If they had not declined the help from Half the Sky, my daughter would have had a better start. She is okay now, but she will carry with her the rest of her life the effects of early deprivation. Also what happens to these kids when they are young teens and are forced out of the orphanage, the only home they have known? HOmelessness, crime, sex slave industry and low level jobs ( for the luck ones) is what awaits them.

    “Family cannot be the only answer.” But for thousands this can be possible.

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