A researcher, or perhaps a journalist, Kathryn Boyce has recently written an expose, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption (published 23 April 2013), on how evangelical Christians are preaching the new gospel of adoption.
I haven’t read the book; I’m flagging it down here in case someone wants to. My guess is that the information it contains will be received as not new news here, but the subtitle “rescue, trafficking, and the new gospel of adoption” seems like the right sort of unholy trinity for suspecting the author is on the kind of track that has some particular traction around here. (Apparently the author was interviewed on NPR, so her basic message seems to have gone out far and wide.)
Besides the “public service” of announcing this book, I provide also the opportunity to aggravate yourself, by reading certain of the comments attached to the NPR article linked to above. It’s a refresher on the discourse of push-back that typically accompanies this topic.
One of the in-principle milder versions of this comes from a supposedly favorable review of the book:
In this chilling expose that promises to become a muckraker classic, Kathryn Joyce rips the veil off a sacrosanct institution in America and other rich nations: international adoption. She exposes not just black- and grey-market practices—though she finds plenty of both in evangelical-Christian institutions piously claiming to rescue orphans from poor countries. More profoundly, though, Joyce reveals how secular, squeaky-clean adoption can also do harm, not just to individual birth mothers and adoptees, but to the progress of children’s and women’s rights globally. The Child Catchers is essential reading for adoptive parents, those thinking about adopting, and anyone concerned with democracy—nationally and throughout the world.
To me, the key sentence is: “The Child Catchers is essential reading for adoptive parents, those thinking about adopting, and anyone concerned with democracy—nationally and throughout the world” (emphasis added). The implication is that, having stared into the horrorshow of (international) adoption, one might still proceed to adopt. I think it’s always crucial to consider those moments when (and how and why) consciousness raising does not achieve its desired aim, i.e., that having changed people’s minds their actions change as well.
As for comments on the article mentioned above, of course the first one has everything you could ever want in a prissy, self-pitying rant (from David Fisher):
How sad that Ms Joyce equates adoptive parents with an evil movie villain who imprisons children.
We may disregard I suppose that this was exactly what the English (female) Gothic novelists of the late eighteenth-century employed in a (conscious or unconscious) reaction to and critique of imposition of ignorance, sequestration, and repression practiced (especially) against women and girls at the time. It was, in fact, a wholly apposite equation.
I wonder if Ms Joyce has ever traveled to nations where millions of orphans live
I wonder if anyone has. In the US, the number of orphans is estimated at 100,000. Even in Russia, the currently advertized orphan capital of the world (I think), estimates run from 100,000 to 2.5 million or 4 million–depending upon how you count what an “orphan” is, of course. India has 20 million (some say), but since this is only 4% of the child population, Russia still gets the palm at 50% (of its child population). I mention India because Fisher adopted 3 from India, but whether he has ever traveled there might be merely rhetorical on his part.
in miserable conditions, suffering abuse and neglect simply because they do not have parents. Do all adoption stories have happy endings? Of course not. But most do,
Besides asking the question–how is it that a child ripped from her native environment and thrown helplessly into the “care” of people in a foreign country who may not even speak her language could hardly have any “choice” in the matter except to try to make as much of a “happy ending” out of that circumstance as she could–one could get offended at the grossly statistical argument being made here. This isn’t adopting a puppy from the humane shelter or risking money in the stock market. In this particular case, failure cannot be allowed as an option. That “most do” have happy endings therefore cannot begin to answer for the (statistically) higher rate of suicide amongst transracial adoptees–much less the reports from those who survived (and are surviving) adoption that calling the outcome of the whole ordeal a “happy ending” is disingenuous at best.
and to imply that a majority of adoptions result in children being “ripped from their families” and the adoptive children feeling like “this is not any of what they signed up for” is ludicrous.
Except of course for those cases where the adoptee does feel that way. If the antiadoption stance errs in shitcoating all adoption as bad, then the similar sugarcoating of all adoptions as good has to be equally ludicrous. And were there any sign of acknowledgment on the sugarcoating side that those who did not have a good time of it in adoption aren’t simply crazy, uppity, maladjusted, angry, expecting special dispensation or treatment, &c, then Mr. Fisher’s smugness might move from ludicrous to merely unbearable (or perhaps even tragic). But since that dialogue not only rarely if ever occurs but seems just s often actively suppressed, then to accuse some of overstating the “evil” of adoption is itself an act of such repression. It’s exactly equivalent to trying to equate racism by whites and racism by nonwhites in a leukocentric (white-centric) social order.
I post this not simply to irk the old wounds, but hopefully to find in this typical barrage (from fisher) something atypical and hopefully useful moving toward to create the grounds for more positive and desirable social change.