We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Adoption ethics

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ethics in transnational adoption, specifically in Ethiopian adoption. I’m afraid it’s not as rosy and simple as I believed a few years ago when we started Bug’s adoption process.

Of course I love my children dearly and don’t question their place in our family. They’ve made our family a family after all. This isn’t about them though of course they are the reason I am interested in this topic. And I know they’ll have really tough questions for us, starting pretty soon, I suspect.

Right now I am especially concerned about the big picture of adoptive, the troubling fact that capitalism is fully in play, and demand creates supply, especially when it comes to young healthy infants, but also with older healthy children.

So I read a lot of adoption blogs, including those written by adult adoptees, to whom all adoptive parents should be listening. I particularly like Harlow’s Monkey, written by a really smart woman who is an adoptee and an adoption social worker. I also read the fantastically named Ungrateful Little Bastard, which is smart and funny and also very sad.

Fleas Biting focuses on corruption in adoption and has some very interesting recent posts about a conference on adoption ethics.

Adoptive parents often don’t want to hear these criticisms. But some adoptive parents (including me, I hope) do seem to get it. One example comes in the November issue of Mother Jones magazine, which includes the sensationally named article Did I Steal My Daughter? Sorry for the spoiler, but the answer is no, the author didn’t steal her daughter. However, she raises some incredibly compelling points, and I encourage anyone even tangentially interested in the topic to read it.

And I’d be interested to know what you think.


23 October 2007 - Posted by | adoption


  1. I’m interested to know more about your experience with Ethiopian Adoptions… I’m following a discussion of a group in North Carolina, “From Hope to Reality”, which is advocating Ethiopian adoptions in their congregation and the wider community. They are saying that available children are on the rise. They also indicate that they are the children easiest to obtain.

    What can you tell me about it?

    Comment by Mark Diebel | 23 October 2007

  2. What a horrible thought, that the child you thought you have adopted legitimately may have been involved in ‘baby snatching’…..

    Parents who adopt internationally should avoid getting swept away by their eagerness to adopt a baby and carefully consider where the baby might have come from.

    Many countries have government approved adoption agencies and conform to the Hague convention on adoption.

    But overseas adoption is still a fantasic, humanitarian act – just be sure to go through the proper channels

    mrs b

    Comment by mrs b | 24 October 2007

  3. Mark, your questions are good and too big for an answer in a comment. So how about if I take a day or two but then answer in a proper post? Also, see my answer to Mrs. B., below.

    Mrs. B, thanks for stopping by. However, I disagree that going through the proper channels is the way to ensure an ethical process. If only that were the case.

    I know families who went through proper channels but later found out that the referral information was totally wrong (and in some cases, with the agency’s knowledge); that the child was not an orphan as stated on legal government papers; that families were told they would have on-going, regular contact with their reilnquished children; and that a parent who changed his mind before the final relinquishment was told he’d have to pay a fee to keep his children and so relinquished them because he was too poor to pay the fee.

    And mind you this experiences were with well-respected licensed agencies regularly lauded for their ethical process and experience.

    It’s very, very messy.

    Comment by egypt4 | 24 October 2007

  4. How exciting that you are in Egypt!!

    I have woken up and become very skeptical since the adoption of my own infant girl. My heart has changed a lot. The agency we adopted from, I no longer have faith in and question greatly, the structure of their program. (i.e. wait lists, gender and age requests). It is the only agency I know that has a constant flow of babies coming into care. They are the only agency I know where families are stacked in line waiting for infants. It is the only agency I know where the in-country representative recently promoted to Regional Director of Africa, is literally gaining wealth off of Ethiopian adoption. Supply = Demand. I strongly say that we have created a need and a business empire.

    When I set out to adopt I was told there are too many children available for adoption that I could request age and gender because “millions of orphans need homes”. Unfortunately, I have found, that the “millions of orphans” are not the ones being adopted and rather, families are waiting for one to be made available that meets their requirements.

    My Ethiopian husband who has worked in adoption for several years, and is now in America, has had a conversion of sorts himself. He questions the process and ultimately if adoption is even in the best interest of the children long term. Especially as more and more children seem to come to adoption with families in tact. Is this really adoption or is it sponsorship?

    We are contemplating another adoption with a great deal of caution and struggle. We will not use the agency that we were both connected to and seek to adopt children whose parents are deceased or where the child has been abandoned. We will have our own way of checking the child’s history before we commit to adopting.

    I am grateful that many are evolving and waking up to share their stories and to ask the hard and needed questions.

    Comment by Nancy | 29 October 2007

  5. I just found your blog via American Family and look forward to hearing more of your perspective. We have one child through adoption and one child through our own birthing and would like to adopt again in the future. However, my opinions and beliefs about adoption have changed DRASTICALLY since we adopted the first time, even though I interned in an adoption agency for about two years before we adopted…or maybe it was getting distance from the agency that let me begin to see the truth?

    I’m interested in Ethiopia’s program as I had heard that it is an ethical one…I’m beginning to wonder if such a thing exists?

    Comment by Kohana | 29 October 2007

  6. […] October, I posted about adoption ethics and mentioned a great article by Elizabeth Larsen in Mother Jones Magazine. Larsen has a follow up […]

    Pingback by One-way dialogue « We Four in Egypt | 12 December 2007

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