February 6, 2013

Who is failing the children?

I have tremendous respect for Jane Jeong Trenka and the work she has done to change attitudes and laws around single parenting and intercountry adoption in Korea. The work she does and has done has made a real difference in the lives of single Korean mothers and their children, and should be applauded.
 
But in the article I referenced in my last post - How to stop languishing and get yourself adopted - Jane has oversimplified a really complex issue. This may be the first time I have to say I really don't agree with Jane's view of her subject.
 
If I don't misinterpret, Jane reasons that the number of adoptable children in foster care (104,236 in 2011 according to AFCARS #19) is the result of prospective adoptive parents who seek to infant adoptions while rejecting the older children and sibling groups who need them.
 
A couple of stats to broaden the discussion ...
  • 50,516 U.S. children adopted from foster care in 2011 (AFCARS #19)
  • 9,320 intercountry adoptions (US State Dept 2011)
  • 18,000 estimated private domestic non-relative adoptions annually (AdoptionGuide.com)
  • 310,000,000 approximate U.S. population in 2011
... which in turn raise a couple of questions:
  • If demand-driven adoption programs no longer existed, would the 27K consider adopting from foster care?
  • If they all did, would that provide homes for the 100K children waiting?
  • With a general population of 310M, why have only 50K people stepped up to adopting a child from foster care?
Prospective adopters would have several choices to consider if infant adoption programs no longer existed: live without children, very wrongly turn to the black market for a child, or adopt an older child from foster care.  Even if every one of them adopted an older child, many thousands of adoptable kids would remain in foster care.

I believe the numbers point to a lack of concern or interest among the general population, which is a much more complex issue than Jane's article suggests. I'm as guilty as every non-adoptive parent for failing to do more for these children.

Again, I say this with all due respect to Jane, whom I respect and admire.

4 comments:

Terra Trevor said...

I view Jane's article as sardonic, scornful, mocking, biting sharp at those adoptive parents who want to adopt a white baby or younger child who is in perfect health, and I agree with Jane and her point of view.

But I also agree with Margie's article and point of view.

And I have a strong standpoint of my own because I adopted out of birth order when I adopted an eleven year old from foster care in Korea. At the time my other kids were four and six, and I don't recommend for the average parent to adopt an oldest child. Most of the time older kids will do better if they are adopted by experienced parents. Naturally there are exceptions. However, I was not an exception, and I could have been a far better mother to our oldest child if I had been better prepared to be her mother.

Kohana said...

I guess I feel compelled to mention that while there are indeed many children in foster care, Americans actually adopt more children than any other nation. After having spent time living in Australia, I have also come to believe that many Americans view adoption very positively. From this side of the ocean, I see that Americans are actually doing so, so much, for vulnerable children. (You don't want to get me started on how Australian immigration policy basically prohibits Australians from adopting children with medical needs or special needs!)

Also, speaking as a foster parent, I feel it is worth mentioning that parenting a child who has been abused and/or neglected is extremely challenging. You really do need some serious skills/resource/community to support you. While I hope more people step up to engage in foster care, it is not an easy thing and these children deserve families who can handle the challenge. I think people are put off because they're scared, and there is reason to be thoughtful about taking on this kind of comittment.

Zoey said...

Hi - I just found your blog. I am a prospective adoptive parent trying to sort out what to think about all the information I am getting about adoption. I was in process of adopting from Korea but from what I've read by Korean adoptees about the adoption industry, I am not sure I want to be part of that system (I'm a typical white American). I am adopting by choice - forgoing having my own children - because I want to take care of children who don't have a family. However, more and more I am confused and perhaps will abandon adoption all together and not have children.

Anyway, thank you for the blog. I've enjoyed reading it and have learned much.

Margie said...

Thanks, all, I appreciate it.

I totally get what you're saying Terra. Jane is absolutely right in that the vast majority of adoptive parents are seeking a very specific type of adoption: that of a healthy infant, in most cases white.

My point is just that if these adopters are no longer considering adoption, it won't solve the challenge of the many older children in care. And it just didn't make a lot of sense to me to point to prospective adoptive parents as the cause of that problem. I personally believe that if infants aren't available for them to adopt, they just won't, and the older kids in care will stay there.

That said, I do believe that if adoptions of healthy infants end, a different situation will be resolved: that of unnecessary intercountry adoptions. So it's still a worthy goal to make intercountry adoption as rare as possible.

Thank you Kohana for stopping by, so good to hear from you! Your point the challenges associated with raising a child who has been in care is one of the primary reasons people do not step up to the plate. I will say honestly that my husband and I didn't think we could do it.

Zoey, welcome, and I am glad that what I have written here has given you food for thought. Best to you on whatever path you take!