Transnational Adoption and the “Financialization of Everything”

From Conducive Magazine, a new online publication, is this article by Jane Jeong Trenka. You can read the entire article here.

Transnational Adoption and the “Financialization of Everything”

International adoption is often seen as a mutually beneficial relationship between children in need of a home and financially stable adults wanting to raise a child. But it is also big-money business. In line with neoliberalism, or the hollowing out of government services, many adopted children are born to single mothers who are offered little to no resources to care for their children. International adoption agencies have stepped into this gap by offering homes, and making a profit in the process. The transformation of adoption into a global business creates a further incentive not to assist mothers, who may turn to adoption out of desperation, not desire. Adoptee activists are working to shed light on this issue. Focusing particularly on South Korea, author and co-founder of Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea (TRACK) Jane Jeong Trenka argues the process should be re-engineered to put the money and fateful decisions back where they belong: with the mothers and their children.  TRACK is now working with the Korean government to get the the voices of birth parents and Korean adoptees heard in South Korean adoption law revisions.

One of the arguments I have been trying to make for several years as a social worker who has worked for adoption agencies is one that Jane points out as well – that adoption is a band-aid and that social workers, adoption agencies and society should be working to eliminate the pre-existing conditions that lead to adoption as a service. Jane writes,

The adoption agencies would like to portray themselves as the leaders of the movement to end the monetary incentive behind transnational adoption.  They would like to be perceived as the people who originally came up with the wonderful idea to preserve families instead of separating them.  But, let’s look at this logically.  The ideal situation, which everyone seems to pay lip service to, is for children to stay with their own families in their own countries.  Therefore, the adoption agencies should be working to put themselves out of business.  The agencies say that they are doing wonderful work in “sending countries” to support families, but the reality is that the adoptions themselves fund this work. In other words, supporting vulnerable families is directly at odds with their main source of revenue.  Adoption agencies exist because of adoption, not in spite of it.  Their work to support families will therefore always be half-hearted.  This contradiction exists on the organizational level.

On an individual level, the very jobs that adoption agency workers keep, with which they support their own children, are dependent on keeping the existing order intact.  In other words, if the adoption agencies stop doing adoptions, a lot of people are going to have to get job retraining.  On the other hand, people who do not have any business ties to the adoption industry have no vested interest in continuing adoptions or constantly renewing their customer base.

Please read the whole article.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

3 thoughts

  1. Hi! Thought you might be interested in the most recent On Demand episode of 16 and Pregnant. She ends up giving up the baby for adoption and it was one of the most heart wrenching things I’ve watched… I thought it was well portrayed.

  2. Really good point. Money makes the difference, and becomes obscene when it becomes the controlling factor in human relationships. We saw that clearly here in Guatemala, too. The socio economic mess that causes children to be at risk is not even helped as much as a band aid would help a terminal lesion. The money that should go to support people is used as a bait to get women to go against what their hearts tell them.
    There is no money to be made in doing the right thing. It has to be done because of a higher, or altruistic motive. There are some people trying to do this. But they are not in the Adoption industry, as Jane shows. Their reward is not in a fat paycheck. But they sleep really well at night.
    As we watch the “healthcare Reform” debate in Washington, I am reminded of the “adoption reform” debate in Guatemala that preceded the new law. The “experts” are tainted. They would never pass a conflict of interest test. Therefore, reform is pretty much a joke.
    Maybe Che was right. Revolution is needed.
    Or Maybe Jesus was right ( and his “followers” really are deaf idiots or self interested hypocrites) and if we actually would repent of indifference, and really love our neighbor as ourselves….maybe that would be revolutionary too.

  3. I finally had a chance to read Jane’s piece. It is excellent, and I’ve recommended it to other APs.
    One point I wanted to make, since I know other adoptive parents read this blog. Trenka writes, “The reason for taking up this page space, therefore, is to simply challenge transnational adoptees to make a clear distinction between their feelings toward their adoptive families — which are genuine and are to be respected — and an unflinching intellectual and political critique of the adoption system itself.”
    I would like to change up a few words here (indicated by *)and issue a challenge to “transnational *adoptive parents* to make a clear distinction between their feelings toward their adoptive *children* — which are genuine and are to be respected — and an unflinching intellectual and political critique of the adoption system itself.”
    Some adoptive parents are in the habit of criticizing other adoptive parents by saying things like, “How can you criticize adoption when you have adopted children? What sort of message are you sending to them?”
    This is defensiveness on their part. But the real answer is that I sending an important message to my children, to value themselves and their first families as real people and real families. And I’m doing what’s right.

Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s