Monday, February 12, 2001

Another round of international-adoption scare stories

Alright, can someone explain this to me? We have, over the last few week, had several stories about domestic adoptions that could have caused reporters to do some really probing, negatively charged examination of how babies get handed out in the U.S. How does an unmarried actress plagued by reports of eating disorders and passing out at work get the okay to adopt an infant? Are internet agencies and, by extension, anybody involved in arranging private adoptions really just matchmaking, or are they selling babies? If a celebrity couple work apart so much they can't keep their marriage together, how did a social worker suppose they'd be able to parent children together? Are their no safeguards in domestic adoption? No sense? Can anybody with enough money get a baby?

Those stories would make my blood boil, to be sure, but I could understand why they were coming up now. But in fact, no one much questions how celebrities adopt (do they even need homestudies?), and after a flurry of righteous indignation, the saga of the biracial twins caught in a tug-of-war between two sets of adoptive parents has pretty much faded from view, taking all those sticky private adoption questions with it. And so, in need of a cheap readership or ratings boost, the media has gone back to one of its favorite bloodsports: attacking international adoption.

There's actually nothing new on this story, no fresh outrage, just the same old statistics to pump and sad parents to pity. Many of the folks quoted in stories like the one by Deborah Hastings, which has been circulated by AP to papers across the country, or the one that popped up recently in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, have been telling their tales of woe for years, whether in the news or on internet e-mail lists. Our heart certainly goes out to them. But must it continue to go out, over and over again? For no new reason?

And must the tone of the article always be so grim? And must the title always be something like "Foreign Adoption: Bringing Heartache Home"? And must they always contain lines like these, from Hastings' piece:

"It has taken a decade for Americans to realize that hidden in a deluge of children adopted from Eastern Europe are untold numbers of violently and profoundly disturbed youngsters."

"Two Russian children, a boy and a girl, lost in America with little hope of redemption, seemingly destined for prison or worse and adopted from agencies that lied or misled, their parents claim."

"They arrive by the thousands from loveless orphanages in Romania and Russia, adopted by Americans desperate for children. Among the immigrants are deeply damaged youngsters who will try to kill new siblings and family pets."

And must they always ignore lines like this, also from the AP story:

"Since 1990, more than 100,000 foreign children, the majority from those two countries, have been adopted into American families. Most fit fine."

Hello? Most fit fine? Then why don't we ever hear about them?

Or, for that matter, about the percentage of children adopted domestically through foster care, babies adopted privately, or for that matter children who are not adopted at all but living with perfectly nice birthfamilies, who grow up to be psychopaths? Surely we've got enough homegrown ones of those that we could lay off the little immigrants for a while.

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