Friday, October 13, 2006

Out of Africa?

(a companion piece to the one below)
First, read this. What Ji-in has to say is really important. Please read through the comments.

Then, an adult Ethiopian adoptee and poet speaks of his experience as an alien. This breaks my heart, and his situation is so far from anything that could even be imagined in the Bloom household that I, like many parents reading it, want to say "but his beliefs come from his own, specific tragic childhood!"

Yet he's right when he says that international, transcultural, transracial adoption is rooted in the adults' needs to better their own lives. However much I genuinely wanted to parent a child who really needed me, it was about me more than it was to "give the child a better life."

And from my writing you can see that I'm always thinking about this (are you tired of reading it?): I made the decision that a child from Africa would land in a white family in the United States, and she didn't have a choice (when she's a teenager, if not sooner, she'll tell me this). So did the Ethiopia courts, but most certainly under the pressures of poverty, while I made my choice under no pressure but the pressure I applied to myself to enlarge my family. I would hate for anyone to look at my family, or Madonna's son? David, and believe that generally, African children are better served to be taken out of Africa.

Africa's children will be better served when debt relief is offered, when antiretrovirals are available to those who need them, when women and children's rights are protected and their welfare is seen as indivisible, and when there is more than one physician for every lot of 50,000 potential patients -- not when "we" airlift them all out into white Western families.

But then I recall that for every Miss I, there are 10,000 orphans in Ethiopia alone, and changing those things above tomorrow won't change that today, and it won't bring back Miss I's first family.

I am thankful for the adult tras who make us think. But Madonna's controversial and contested adoption will not make me defend mine, or those of the non-celebrity adoptive and adopting families I have grown to love through this process and the children we've shared.

I find it very troubling that we can go from the potentially illegitimate adoption by a celebrity of a child from a country without established intercountry adoption to the determination that all intercountry adoption is imperialist and immoral (though many were already there, and that, strangely, is fine with me). One of Ji-in's commenters asserts that because she has realized that this is so, she would not consider international adoption. At the same time, if the criticism is that this child should not have been placed because family exists to take care of him, domestic adoption of nearly every sort should be out (lots of people already think this too, and I won't debate that here other than to say that I do respect that position and many of the ways it is reached).

But the fact remains that sometimes: The first best option (first family) is gone or incapacitated. The second (extended family) is decimated. The third (same race, same country) is unavailable. The fourth (same race, different country) is also not available to the extent needed. That I am not the ideal parent for Miss I, I get. That she'd still be with me, even after such a search for alternatives, is beyond doubt. That Malawi didn't demonstrate this, that the US doesn't currently require this, is a problem. That Madonna (or anyone else in her position) would not know that she's the fifth best parenting option is a bigger one.


Mia said...

All VERY good points. I find myself having to work at not making sweeping generalizations. I am definately not anti-adoption, I am pro-reform but I know sometimes I come off like I think adoption is a bad thing. It's hard to convey the distinction sometimes.

Stories like this Madonna adoption make it even more difficult. The bright side is that situations like this gets people talking about it.

Nice post.

Erin O' said...

great post.

Just discovered you through another blog (and the rest is history). My husband and I will be adopting a child from Ethiopia in the coming year, so I appreciate your point of view and look forward to reading more.

What interests me about the madonna/media debacle is that each person's take (people not involved in adoption of any kind), is radically different. Some people believe that anything on Oprah is law, others are more critical, but very few have had the opportunity to hear something that captures the complexity of the situation of orphans in Africa.

I end up recommending "There's no me without you," but very few people are up for a 200 page plus read.

Thanks for putting things so well,


Overwhelmed! said...

As we explore our options for adoption #2, you give me much to think about. Thank you for that!