Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Ethics of Adoption

A year ago I wanted Ugandan babies to be flown to the US to live the life I thought was best. A year ago international adoption was my favorite thing in the world. A year ago I didn't realize the importance of culture and I didn't understand the ethics and corruption involved in the international adoption world.

But now I have grown. I have seen children who I thought had no future but to be adopted to America home with grandparents, fathers, or uncles who LOVE them. I have seen children thrive in the village. I have seen moms who we wrote off as incapable of caring for their children step up to the plate and do marvelously. I have seen fathers who people just assumed couldn't do it love their children back into healing.

I see our kids smiling, laughing, and running to their grandparent's arms and I realize I got it all wrong. My ethnocentrism went to the extreme. The extreme where I actually believed a life in the United States would be better for these children then a village life with their biological family.

Because adoption is beautiful- seeing a child and parent linked not by blood but by love is miraculous. But we cannot forget the hard parts. We cannot think away the day when our adopted kids ask, "why didn't my first mom and dad want me?" When that day comes we HAVE to be able to say we did everything we could to try and resettle them, to try and empower their families to care for them. Every adoptive parent should know their child's story, should know the details behind it, and should do the research themselves to ensure the adoption is ethical.

Before adoption is even considered every effort should be made to reunite a child with their biological family. If it’s a matter of money offer them sponsorship or job training. If it’s a matter of ignorance about parenting come along side them and help them learn. If the child’s been abandoned every effort should be used up to find their families. Too many people assume because a child was abandoned that every member of their family doesn’t want them. It only takes one person to abandon a child and you don’t know the full story or what aunt, uncle, grandparent, father, mother is waiting and wondering what happened to their child. Don’t write a father, mother, care giver off until you’ve given them a chance.

When reunification is not possible the next step should be domestic adoption. We cannot make the dangerous mistake of believing we can give a child more than their own culture and society can. We cannot be ignorant of the identity issues adopted children can face and why it is so important to give them a chance at growing up in their original culture. I love Uganda and it hurts me to see American parents come in and bring children out of this country with no intention of ever bringing them back or even trying to maintain their culture and language.

It is my opinion that is only after all these options have failed that a child should be adopted internationally and I believe it is because these options have not been exhausted that so many countries have shut down their international adoptions. I fear that for Uganda it is coming all too soon. I realize these opinions of mine are not popular. I realize they could make some people- even close friends- mad or offended. But I can’t stay silent because I’ve seen the disastrous results of people’s ignorance when it comes to international adoption.

I believe it is all our responsibilities to ensure that adoptions are done ethically- those working with orphan care, those adopting, those supporting others who are adopting, orphanages, adoption agencies, etc… There are millions of orphans sitting in orphanages and just waiting and they need us to act but we HAVE to make sure we act in the way that is best for them… not the easiest way or the way that makes us look the best. We have to put aside the mentality of the American life as being the best option. We have to forget the white savior mentality. We have to stop being selfish and truly ask ourselves: what is best for these precious children?

Important note: Many of you know I work closely with Amani Baby Cottage. My comments on unethical adoptions in Uganda are NOT a reflection of my work with them. I have found Amani to have some of the most ethical adoptions in all of Uganda. Amani does the research every child deserves into their families and encourages domestic adoption as well as processing international adoptions.


  1. Love this! I too feel the same way and the more time I spend in Uganda the more I see that children belong in their home countries. If we put as much time, energy, and money into partnering with the local parents, families, and communities as we did in bringing those children to America things could be very different. Thank you for being brave enough to voice these unpopular TRUTHS! <3

  2. I would REALLY like to discuss this more with you.

    Email me--transformedfromglory2flory at gmail dot com.


  3. Oops.

    My email should read,

    transformedfromglory2glory at gmail dot com


  4. Meg, I agree with you, too, as a father of a Karamajong son that my wife and are in process of adopting. He has both parents alive, they have substance abuse problems and problems with multiple wives and families they cannot support. They also are very willing to let him go. He is older and knows this all too well. That said, I still agree with you that it is best to return kids to families whenever possible though if the child is seen largely as an object to get income I wonder what can be done to change that viewpoint, a viewpoint that all too many parents I have seen in Uganda seem to have.