New York Times: Ethicist’s take on the morality of adoption

NYT Blogger Randy Cohen's take on morality and adoption. Cohen writes,

As long as there are orphans, the ethical question is not whether it
is O.K. to adopt but how to do it. Jacqueline Novogratz, the head of
the Acumen Fund, a non-profit
that promotes anti-poverty efforts throughout the world, says:
“Reputable adoption agencies know where children come from. Some
children are abandoned and some are placed in orphanages when their
families can’t afford to raise them. Finding those children good,
stable, healthy homes could change their lives immeasurably. Going
through the right agencies is key.”

Sadly, such scrupulousness, while necessary, may not matter much in
the end. If Malawi (or Russia or Ethiopia or Guatemala) threw open its
doors to everyone on earth who wished to adopt — no rules, no red tape,
no embarrassing Madonna-indulgences — it would barely diminish the
heart-rending parade of homeless or orphaned children stretching to the
horizon. Most estimates put their number above 100 million worldwide.
And who will adopt those who are not adorable infants — a traumatized
11-year-old Pakistani street kid or a 5-year-old Nigerian with AIDS or,
for that matter, a teenager shunted around New York’s foster care

You can read the whole opinion piece here. At the end, Cohen writes, "In considering international adoption from an ethical perspective, I hope I’ve suggested fresh ways of seeing it." Actually, I don't think there is anything fresh about what Cohen's perspective. He brings up issues that many people have been considering for a while now. Guess he hasn't heard of Ethica, PEAR, Fleas Biting or the many others listed in my side links under Ethics, Advocacy and Support. And trotting out the same "experts" that are in every article, like Jane Aronson, doesn't exactly convince me that he's looking outside the box. Still, there are some points he makes that I agree with, other points I disagree with, but like everyone else, he is jumping in on the Madonna bandwagon. Just like the rest of us.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

4 thoughts

  1. This is only tangential to his point, but as my partner and I (in a black/white interracial relationship) tell people about our plan to adopt from foster care, I’ve been amazed how many have suggested going overseas instead or “just getting pregnant.” It blows my mind that people look at a black woman and tell her she’d be better off with a Chinese child than one from our state who shares some of our culture and ethnic background. I don’t know if there’s a “greater moral obligation to help those close by,” but I do know I feel it’s creepily colonialist to suggest there’s a greater moral obligation to help those farther away. There’s so much weird discourse around adoption; I hate it.

  2. Count me in as deeply disappointed by Randy Cohen’s clear lack of understanding that this issue has been looked at from the ethical viewpoint and come up lacking. Seriously lacking.

  3. Ethica disappointed me though. Their Mercy Jones campaign and the article they feature on their home page are cases in point. The Mercy Jones fundraising effort does little to address the larger issues and even sounds exploitative and the article again makes the citizenship/immigration issue for adoptees seem separate from the larger immigration community’s concerns which is why it is dangerous for adoptees to have an ambiguous immigration status.

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