Monday, November 9, 2015

ROUND TABLE: Lost Daughters #FlipTheScript on Crowdfunding and the "Orphan Crisis"

Today's Prompt: Many people view adoption as the best solution to the world’s so-called “orphan crisis.” To this end, prospective adoptive parents routinely crowdfund in order to raise money to be able to adopt children from countries outside the U.S. Talk about your thoughts on the practice of asking for help in funding an adoption and/or your thoughts on adoption as the primary solution for children labelled as orphans. Do you think it’s ethical for prospective parents to crowdfund their adoptions? Why or why not? Do you believe there is an orphan crisis? Do you think intercountry adoption is the best solution for children outside the U.S. who have been designated as orphans?

Image courtesy of sheelamohan at

Amanda: I am really interested in hearing from our sisters who were labeled "orphans," and who experienced displacement across national borders. As an observer of these movements from the inside-outside (a sojourner with fellow adoptees who does not have the experience of intercountry adoption), there are a number of issues I have with crowdfunding for adoption. To name just one, I take issue when a movement focuses on funding the displacement of children as a response to economic and social injustices, rather than fund-raising to alleviate those economic and social injustices that lead to child displacement. Whether intentional or not, focusing on adoption instead of family preservation is a politicized determination that one effort is more worthy than the other. It sends the message that the creation of new families for adoption, often at the behest of white Westerners, is more important than preserving the families, communities, and cultures of children. As an inside-outsider, I think the same can be said for domestic private adoptions and even foster adoptions. Not that children needing alternative caregivers never happens, but that we make politicized choices about what children need by inadequately addressing poverty and access to health care while pouring money into private adoption fees and tax credits after the fact.

Julie Stromberg: I was adopted through the private, domestic infant adoption industry in the United States. My natural parents were both known entities and I was never considered to be an orphan. So I definitely agree with you, Amanda, that the voices of our Lost Daughters sisters who were would provide some vital insight regarding the realities of the "orphan crisis." That said, I am entirely aware that many of our fellow adoptees who have been designated as orphans do, in fact, have living parents and family members.

As such, the entire notion of fundraising to adopt one "orphaned" child perplexes me. It is my feeling that the compassionate response to families in crisis is to help the entire family. So I am not sure how raising thousands and thousands of dollars to remove one child, while possibly leaving remaining family behind, serves to help society as a whole. It is my feeling that those thousands and thousands of dollars, for example, would better serve by helping to keep families together and supporting efforts to strengthen communities.

Kassaye: Adoption fundraisers make me uncomfortable because I feel like it's tied to the idea of saving and rescuing kids who, often times, are not real orphans. If people really want to help, help children stay with their families (instead of tearing them apart just so that you can form your own perfect family and because you think they will have a better future with you, in the Western world). An incredible amount of adoptees have discovered that they were never orphans, usually after digging into their adoption stories and/or reuniting with their birth families. The reasons for relinquishment are almost always the same: economic, social, gender inequalities, government policy or war--this is what the orphan crisis is really about.

I really believe we need to move away from international adoption and promoting it with World Adoption Day and ridiculous smiley faces. It's not helpful and it only makes people pity children by trying to save them instead of getting to the heart of the issue and empowering communities. So what do I propose? More community-based care (instead of orphanages), employment and income-generating activites for women and last but not least advocating for the rights of low-income women in developing countries (and here at home too).

Rosita González: Kassaye says this so well. To add to her comments, the business (yes, business) of international adoption is another means of first using the faces of children in need as a propaganda tool. Children in the advertisements for agencies are smiling but poor. Consider the stories behind these children …

Poverty often is the reason children are abandoned. I have met first mothers in Korea who have shared the difficulties of trying to raise their children as single mothers. The stigma is great and the government support lacking. For example, the group, KUMFA (Korean Unwed Mothers Families’ Association), reports that single mothers in Korea are given a mere $59 a month to care for a child while the orphanages are give $900 a month per child.

To watch prospective adoptive parents take to crowdfunding an adoption smacks of privilege to me. Obviously, for me as an adoptee, to talk to single mothers and first mothers who have lost, it is devastating. One mother is searching for her son of 26 years. She was promised he would have a “better life” and was given up to white, affluent (in her mind) parents in the United States. Of course, they would seem affluent because they can afford to pay the agencies large sums of money to fly her child to the states.

She clings to the pictures of her smiling boy and thinks of him every minute of her waking days. She has asked the agency for word of his well-being but is turned away.

These are the families impacted by international adoption of “orphans.” What if these families and mothers in poverty could crowdfund the ability to keep and raise their children? How much hurt could be spared?