Many in the adoption community have begun to focus on the plight of the unadopted orphan in the hope that the lives of the many children left behind can be protected and nurtured in their own countries. This is sorely needed as most orphans will never find homes - there will never be enough willing families for the overwhelming numbers of children who languish in orphanages, institutions, and on the streets. I applaud those who engage in orphan care worldwide. But with this movement, a growing evaluation of adoption as the fuel for trafficking and corruption has begun. I believe that corruption should be addressed and rooted out, but I also believe that this movement has taken a harmful turn in questioning the validity of international adoption as a whole.
There have been instances of infant acquisition and kidnapping, and even older child relinquishment by living relatives over the years, but this has been rare in the adoption community compared to the large numbers of children adopted throughout the world. The number of children trafficked for non-adoption related purposes, however, is horrifyingly large and growing, and the trade is much more lucrative for sellers. Traffickers can sell a child or young adult for $10,000, and buyers can hope to earn $250,000 over the short lifetime of that child through prostitution, pornography, organ sales, and slavery. But the recent focus is adoption, where the roughly $5,000 orphanage donation – a pittance compared to the offerings of traffickers, is exacted for a child who has often spent 10 or more years in an institution responsible for feeding, clothing, medically caring for, and educating a child. While not minimizing the pain and suffering of both children and parents who are separated wherever they are trafficked, the impetus should be to root out the slavers and sellers - not frighten away willing families with out of proportion claims.
Potential adoptive parents – now reluctant - should consider the story of “John.” John was born with deformed ears – a malformed skull, and other visible facial differences. He was abandoned as a baby 12 years ago, and immediately placed in a loving foster home. He is talented, smart, and loved by his foster mother. Because of his great potential and good situation, an adoption agency actually offered to pay the very high cost for the foster family to adopt him. The foster mother broke down and wept as she turned them down – knowing that “John” had no future in his home country due to cultural norms and discrimination. Shall we work to change this? Yes. Will it happen in time for John? No. His foster mother knows it because she lives it – the birth family knew it - but we judge situations from the outside - by our own experiences and idealism, ignorant of the present realities of this child’s situation.
Ever since the days when the disciples asked of Jesus, “Who sinned – this man or his parents – that he was born blind?” cultural discrimination has existed. Jesus’ reply instructs those who would listen, “Neither. He was born blind so that God’s Glory might be displayed in him.” Special needs and orphaned children may have to endure living on the outskirts of society as we work to change it, but adoption is an answer to – not the cause of their problem. I fear that the unfounded and growing condemnation of adoption as a cause of trafficking will slow down the few opportunities these children have to escape a life of desolation. All the money and education available would not have changed the situation for “John” and his birth family – and so many others – until hearts and minds are changed regarding orphaned and special needs children in their respective countries. Vilifying and questioning adoption is not the answer – turning the hearts of fathers to their children is a start, as well as supporting anti-trafficking organizations who work to stop the horrors of human slavery.