When I was in Kazakhstan adopting Michael, a man who worked for the Antares Foundation told me he considered orphanages "prisons for children." It was a bit startling to hear that, but he had spent a lot of time in orphanages trying to help the kids, and he was bitter. He was right.
My friend Cindy's post about adoption makes for powerful reading. I found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read it. Cindy has 5 adopted children, 4 from Kazakhstan and one from Krygstan. Her children bear emotional, intellectual, and physical scars from time spent in an institution and they will have to battle issues related to that for the rest of their lives.
Orphanages are not examples of culture. Cindy puts it beautifully:
"The idea of a child in an orphanage setting being better off in their birth culture is a total crock. What any country fails to see clearly, or will flat out not admit, is that orphans are not engaged in their birth cultures at all, instead they are shut off from their fellow countrymen, locked up with keys thrown away and the only culture they have any experience with is Orphan Culture. And trust me, the only culture that comes close for comparison's sake to Orphan Culture is Prison Culture."
In case you aren't aware of it, UNICEF has attacked international adoption. Check out this article. UNICEF has stated that it's much better for children to remain in their birth cultures than to be adopted internationally. As a result, many children DIE. Yes, UNICEF thinks it's better for children to die in their home country than be adopted by foreigners. I'm sorry but I have to disagree.
If I had not adopted my daughter she would very likely be living on the streets in Russia, surviving as a prostitute. Many of her friends from the orphanage now live like that. They are kicked out of the orphanage at 17 or 18 and have to fend for themselves. My son was destined to lead a life that was short and brutal, living on the streets, completely outside of normal society, unable to work.
In both my adoption hearings I had very skeptical female judges ask me, with genuine incredulity, "You know this child's background and you STILL want to take this child into your home?!" - the implication being I was crazy or stupid or both. Yes, I know my kids had alcoholic birthmoms and absentee fathers but I also know they were and are good kids. How do I know this? I just knew it. I looked into their eyes and I saw troubled souls who nevertheless had intelligence and a capacity to give and receive love, and that was enough. Those little eyes told me they were going to be fine. I also knew God was directing me in my adoptions, and he is never wrong.
Have I had challenges with me kids? Undoubtedly. Has Cindy had challenges? Certainly. However, if we had given birth to our kids would they have not had any challenges? Would they have been perfect little angels? Of course not. All kids come with challenges for their parents. That's just life. I certainly gave my parents a run for their money when I was young, and so did my brother.
Now, UNICEF is right to worry about child trafficking and about baby selling. Those horrible things happen in the world. We must do everything possible to eradicate them. Stopping international adoptions, though, or publicly condemning them, is not the answer.
Celebrities have long been associated with UNICEF. I wish I could get the attention of people like Selena Gomez, Salma Hayek, David Beckham, Angelina Jolie, and all the others and tell them to put pressure on UNICEF to reverse their position on international adoption. I don't think UNICEF is a bad organization. I know they do a lot of good in the world. However, they also cause a lot of harm.
But before we can get UNICEF to change, we will have to get cultures to change. Orphans are seen as unworthy and horrible, less than human, undeserving of pity or regard, by so many cultures around the world, but certainly in former Soviet bloc countries, as I well know. The thought is, if your mother was a drunk, you will certainly grow up to be a drunk and/or a liar and a criminal. And since orphans are discriminated against in those societies, that's often true. They get no chance to do anything else. Kids who come to America usually grow up in nice families and they lead good lives. We take children and transform lives. They take the same children and warehouse them in prison-like atmospheres of hopelessness.
Anyway, I could go on and on, but I don't want to elevate my blood pressure much more.
Please pray for those hundreds of thousands of children still in orphanages around the world. Pray that they can be reclaimed by birth families who can treat them well and give them a good start in life, or adopted into loving homes.
Huge difference between my daughter in July 2004 and the summer of 2010.