Owners of bright eyes and innocent smiles, they are enough to light up any room. Whether it’s a grandparent who just met their grandson for the first time or a friend who needs to be picked up after a fall, children bring joy, comfort, and laughter to millions worldwide. Most importantly, these youngsters represent the future of our species, and they hold an infinite potential to change the world. Thus, it is critical that each child on this planet is provided with love and support as they mature, to hopefully ensure they may grow to become healthy and happy adults.
Sadly, it is undeniable that many children do not live in such a nurturing environment. Many have lost their families to violence, or are unable to stay with the ones they love due to a lack of resources. Others inhabit abusive or dangerous households. For these children, it is crucial to locate more suitable surroundings, where they may be treated with the compassion they deserve. Many children do find foster families who care deeply for them; however, thousands are still denied love due to adoption systems in nations such as Canada and the USA that desperately need reform.
There are several types of adoption, but generally, they can be split into two groups: domestic, when the child is given up for adoption in their own nation by their birth parents, and international/intercountry adoption, when one adopts a foreign child and brings them to a new country. Both systems are flawed and have much to be improved upon.
The first of these two groups is domestic, or private domestic adoption. As mentioned, this generally occurs when families put a child up for adoption and consent to the new foster family, typically with the help of an adoption agency. Thus, there are several prominent issues that may arise, which are easily illustrated by the story of a Canadian family that had to give up on adoption due to what they called a “completely and utterly broken” system. Lori Niles-Hofmann and Martin Hofmann were educated and described as “adoption-ready” after over a year of strenuous background checks. However, when they tried to adopt a young boy marked as a priority, they received no response from the Toronto Children’s Aid Society for months, before being told the office was understaffed. According to Niles-Hoffman,
Cases aren’t followed up on. There’s no oversight … you start to wonder, how can we have trust in that to start a family?.
Another writer describes her struggle to adopt a child in Chicago. These included a 7-month screening process to become eligible to adopt a child, and a large sum of money needed for an adoption attorney. However, the biggest challenge she describes is the adoption system’s wish for a child to remain with their birth parents if possible. It is evident that problems such as understaffed and unresponsive organizations, high costs, and a system that typically avoids adoption if possible can all leave many children without loving homes or families.
Another large risk for adoptive families that choose domestic adoption is the “legal risk” of becoming a foster family. Though very few adoptions are legally contested by a birth parent, those that are can become stories of heartbreak, ones that scare the people involved for a lifetime. According to the article “The Sad, Dark Side of Domestic Adoption” by Jennifer Gilmore, “There are no laws to protect prospective adoptive parents. No one is held accountable, and nothing is federated.” Without these protections, she was unable to keep the baby she had wished to adopt. Ultimately, this was caused by the wish of the birth father to have the child, as he was previously uninvolved in the adoption. Ultimately, the child was taken, yet found themselves in foster care elsewhere. Her entire story is heart-wrenching, and illustrates a lack of protection and a high level of risk for families looking to adopt, thus decreasing the number of people who are willing to bring a child into their homes. It is evident that the domestic adoption system needs change – something that may come in the forms of better budgeting and staffing, or more protection for prospective families.
Then, there are the many problems that arise concerning international adoption. While millions of children worldwide do need help and live in poor conditions, most international adoptions are not as beneficial to a “greater good” as they seem. The truth is, the children who need the most attention are generally too sick, unhealthy, or disabled for prospective foster families to find them desirable, and as a result, many adoption agencies look for healthier and stronger babies. These efforts may divert resources away from the children who genuinely need them. As described by Alexandra Yuster, a senior adviser with UNICEF,
It’s not really true that there are large numbers of infants with no homes who either will be in institutions or who need intercountry adoption.
Furthermore, the evidence of babies being artificially coerced or brought to adoption agencies is alarming. According to the Economist, Guatemala’s adoption industry, which was spurred by a civil war in the 1970s, was largely manufactured. Many Western adoptive families were unaware of the fact that many of the children were not the orphans they were believed to be. By the 2000s, many of Guatemala’s “orphans” were bought or kidnapped into a system and raised in poor conditions. Some women were paid to continually have children, while many lawyers covered the paperwork. It took until 2008 for the UN to investigate and stop the horrendous situation. The same pattern is supposedly seen frequently in many other poor countries as well. For families that are looking to adopt a child, these types of systems may discourage them from finding a child; thus, fewer children who genuinely need a home are saved.
There are many things that can be done about the dysfunctional systems surrounding adoption. Enforcing stricter or more standardized laws regarding adoption would be a step in the right direction, as would having more protective laws for foster families, and a generally more transparent environment between the individuals involved. Standardized rules regarding international adoption would also benefit many while reducing the number of “artificially made” orphans. Several other solutions may prove to be effective, but as of right now, only one thing is clear.
If nothing changes within these poorly governed adoption systems, children will continue to suffer both locally and abroad, and many will continue to be unable to find the homes they would love.