Thoughts from an outsider

There are a couple of thoughts first and foremost in my mind. And the first is, that a lot of lip service is given to ethical adoption practice and the importance and focus of "the child."

Unfortunately, the reality is that adoptees and first/birth parents are marginalized.

Even at a conference about adoption ethics and accountability.

They tried. I have to give lots of kudos and props to Ethica, Inc. and Korea Focus, who worked so hard to get me there and have been only supportive and advocates of hearing ALL voices involved in adoption.

So far this has been an interesting conference and I’m learning a lot about how adoption "professionals" (of which I am, too) need to do a better job focusing on the needs of the kids. But I need to say that a lot of the "talk" about focusing on the needs, or "best interests" of the children, are in fact couched excuses for perpetuating the status quo. There has been relatively little discussion about who is, in fact, the "client." And the fact that we’re using the word "client" is problematic.

In the opening panel, Linh Song, the executive director of Ethica, summed well my personal view. She asked, "Can we advocate for reform without being seen as anti-adoption?" For it seems that anyone who critiques adoption is summarily discounted as being "anti-adoption" and dismissed. I have stated it before and will state it again. What is often considered best practice in one decade we can look at in hindsight and say that we failed. We failed kids, we failed families (of origin and adoptive) and we failed communities. We must critique our current practices and not wait for the next generation to clean up our messes. As Linh put it, "unethical practices are the greatest threat to the continuation of adoption."

The best part of this conference so far is meeting people I admire. I was fortunate enough to meet and spend time with some amazing people. I’m a fan of Indigo Williams Willing and her work. I got to meet Laura Romano, an adult adoptee from Columbia who was featured in a documentary, Las Hijas, which I saw just a few weeks ago. I don’t think people cared much about the blogger panel, but I got to meet some great activists including Margie from Third Mom, Usha and Desiree from Fleas Biting, Claud from Musings of the Lame, Suz from Writing my Wrongs. I reconnected with Nathalie Cho and got to know Linh. I spent time with a UNICEF ambassador from Guatemala and along with Nathalie and Indigo, we spoke to him about the future of Guatemalan adoptees and the questions they might be asking in five to ten years. Is Guatemala ready for them? Who is going to be accountable to the next generation of adoptees?

What I’m most disappointed about is that most of the people who should be here – the agencies who practice adoption – are not well represented. The speakers are amazing and smart and have good things to say (for the most part) but we’re kind of preaching to the choir here.

There are hundreds of agencies who are practicing unethical adoptions and they are not here.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

8 thoughts

  1. I am Masha Allen’s attorney. The failure to discuss her case in detail tells me that this conference was little more than window dressing on a serious problem. It’s not about being “pro” or “anti” adoption; it’s about doing the right thing (which remains in short supply).
    The audacity of Jeannene Smith appearing (although I heard she was booed) is like Josef Mengele attending a medical convention. The fact that she lasted one final year at ROTIA after several powerful Congressmen said she should be in JAIL just proves that no one is really demanding accountability.
    As you recognize there is a lot of “talk” about “doing the right thing” but very little ACTION.
    Earlier this year we filed a complaint about ROTIA for the Masha Allen debacle with JCICS. Even though JCICS was at the Masha Allen Congressional hearing in September 2006 AND testified AND heard the entire thing, there was no unilateral action on their part to sanction ROTIA. We had to file a formal complaint and once we did JCICS allowed ROTIA to resign instead of vigorously pursing the complaint.
    If Masha did not have lawyers, publicity and was just another child caught up in a sad story, JCICS would not have done ANYTHING about ROTIA. And sadly that’s eventually what happened. To argue that there’s accountability, peer review and self-policing is a lie.
    Finally, if there is one constant in Masha’s case it is that the international AND domestic adoption system failed her repeatedly. Jeannene Smith was the linchpin for both of her disastrous placements, first with Matthew Mancuso and then with Faith Allen (a/k/a Lynn Ginn & Kimberly Murphy). The “official” adoption community has been woefully silent on both these failed adoptions.
    Now that Masha’s Russian sister has appeared and is ready to tell the real story, the entire adoption community will begin yet another round of hand wringing, testy defensive editorials (thank you Adam Pertman), and blanket denials. I expect my phone will be ringing with more death threats. Trust me, the final chapter in the Masha Allen saga remains unwritten. And Jeannene Smith un-indicted – at least for now.
    James R. Marsh
    happily adopted in 1965

  2. thanks for you post. my husband and i adopted our daughter from Guatemala a year ago this past weekend. I enjoy and cringe while reading your blog and am so glad this type of communication now exsists.
    I personally think adoption as we have known it will no longer exsist in 5-10 years. With the increase in social welfare for single, poor, or young mothers and the addition of the politics that crop up with IA that I truly believe we will never know if they are myths or reality.
    My grandmother was an Orphan Train baby at the turn of the century so adoption is intricately involved with the creation of my family. I am certain that in 5-10 years those that are unable to conceive “naturally” adoption as we know it will not be an option and science will be their only answer to being parents – and that brings up a whole other set of ethical issues doesn’t it.
    thanks for posting from the conference – in light of the guatemalan situation I wanted to attend. My agency was there….

  3. lots of lip service, i agree. it would be wonderful if more adoption services/agencies did attend these sort of conferences. they are most likely the ones needing to hear these discussions and reports (as well as protential “clients”). like you said, you’re pretty much preaching to the chior right now unfortunately.

  4. Hmm, will be interesting to see all the views and feedback. I will post mine soon. I am exhausted. I agree with you on many points, disagree on some but that is to be expected with this type of conference and the two different angles we come at it from.
    the blogger thing was overshadowed by the guat situation. we were supposed to be in that room and such. yes, agreed it could have been better but am still pleased they invited us, validated us, and are here reading.
    too bad masha allens attorney could not make it to the conference. especially as a happy adoptee..his perspective could have been doubly interesting. he would have also been interested in our luncheon keynote speaker, dontcha think?
    finally, agreed wonderful to meet you. wish we had more time to talk!

  5. Suz, I also wish we’d had more time to talk. I am exhausted too! It was really important that we were all there, and I give Ethica so many props for making sure we were there. I am glad you and all the other bloggers and activists were there. We rock!

  6. Kristin, it’s misleading to call yourself “UNICEF adoption” when it’s clear you are very anti-UNICEF.
    I looked at the web site you provided and read all the posts. I could not find anything that supported your claim. Could you provide me with actual facts about the claim that UNICEF gave 28 million dollars and stipulated that it could only be used to promote abortions? I read the statement by the Guatemalan congressman and it did not state that UNICEF demanded it was to be used for abortions.

  7. Jae Ran, thank you on behalf of Korean Focus for the shoutout. KF is so glad you were there – and I was thrilled to meet you! I just wish I had been able to talk to you – to everyone, really – more. Hopefully we’ll have that opportunity some time again at a future conference.
    Thank you for your thoughts on the conference, too. I had to decompress a little before I could write, but I think what I took away will keep me going for weeks. So much to process, I wonder if I’ll every really be able to understand it all.

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