Sunday, January 20, 2013

Orphans

I've always been a sucker for demographics & inferential statistics (one of my majors in college was Sociology) and I also appreciate when things are put together in a visually pleasing manner (as in subway art or commercial graphics) so I thought the following infographic on Adoption in America, compiled by graduate students in Social Work at USC this fall, was very interesting:

 
However, as well designed and researched as this infographic is, there was one word used in the infographic which recieved a lot of criticism from members of all sides of the adoption triad in the adoption community- and that was the word "orphan" which was used to describe all children who are adopted.

I don't know about you, but when I hear the word "orphan" I associate it with children in third-world countries who have lost their families or been abandoned because of tragedy- namely, natural disasters, epidemics, wars, and extreme poverty.

As for my own experiences with adoption (thus far), we adopted our daughter as a newborn through a private domestic adoption when her mother voluntarily relinquished her parental rights and chose us to be her parents. Although our daughter is adopted, I've never considered my daughter to be an "orphan" because she was never abandoned by her parents or lost them through death- rather, she was placed with us out of love. And we have never felt that her birthmother placed her with us because she didn't have the desire to take care of the child. (See the second criteria in the infographic "WHY ARE THEY ORPHANS?")


  • Parents do not have the appropriate financial resources to support the child
  • Parents were young and/or did not feel ready or have the desire to take care of the child
  • Parents have died or have separated from the child

  • Assuming that all children who were adopted had parents who didn't have the desire to take care of them, and therefore, meet one of the definitions of an "orphan" does a disservice to both the adopted child and their birthparents. Furthermore, if all adopted children are labeled as "orphans" then it automatically turns adoptive parents into saints for "rescuing" them from a bad situation- which may or may not be true of their circumstances.

    Our daughter happened to join our family in a not so typical way.  I consider how she came to us to be a technicality (although a miraculous one) because the question of how she got into our family has always come secondary to the fact that she is a part of our family. I don't consider us adopting her to be an act of charity or pity- so when people say something like "You're so great for adopting!" or "She's so lucky to have you" I think, "No, actually, we're the ones who are lucky to have her!" In my opinion, it's the selfless birthparents like her birth mother who make families like mine possible in the first place who deserve praise.

    In the case of foster care, there are many birthparents out there who do have the desire to take care of their child, but who are unable to do so, and they don't have the choice or option of keeping their parental rights or choosing where their child ends up. This causes me to speculate (because I do that a lot, in case you haven't noticed) and I wonder: In the future if we are able to adopt one of our foster children after their parents' rights have been terminated or if we adopt a waiting child from the U.S. foster care system, would they be considered an "orphaned" child even though they didn't necessarily come from an orphanage or from a poverty-stricken country? Because, technically, a child in foster care pretty much fits the definition of a child who has lost their parents through tragedy- perhaps not the same kind of tragedy as a tsunami or civil war- but because of the tragedies of drug addiction, neglect, abuse, or even mental illness.

    Other observations/ramblings about orphans:

    1) MONEY (or rather lack of money) seems to be a big reason as to why children are orphaned, as the very first criteria of the Infographic stated in answer to the question "Why are they orphans?"


  • Parents do not have the appropriate financial resources to support the child.

  • Money is also a huge determining factor for adoptive and prospective adoptive parents in being able to adopt- especially internationally.  On that note, THANK GOODNESS for the extension of the Adoption Tax Credit.

    2) As for the hundreds of thousands of orphans in Russia who have even less of a chance of being adopted now because of Putin's recent purely politically motivated ban on U.S. adoptions- WHAT A TRAGEDY! I can't even imagine what the prospective adoptive parents who have been matched and met with Russian children they plan on adopting must be going through right now.

    3 comments:

    CherubMamma said...

    I think it's important to point out that many, many, many children that are currently "waiting" for adoption in other countries are NOT orphans either. They may have both birth parents currently alive and desperately wanting to care for them.

    There is a tremendous amount of corruption in international adoption. Babies are stolen. Parents are convinced their children are being cared for temporarily when in fact they are being put up for adoption. So many horrific situations.

    Sharla said...

    I find the infographic really interesting because I'm always interested in the numbers and the "trends" and hoping that things are trending towards more adoptions and less "orphans".

    But I have to say that the first word to hit me was the word "orphan". There are certainly adopted children who in my mind do not fall into that category by any stretch of the imagination. Though some of my adopted children did at one time fall into that category, they are orphans no more.

    Pauline Sandberg said...

    Adoption may still be an issue for some people but for me as long as the intentions are good then it'll be a big help for the kids. It's not just to have a better life but a family that would love them as their own and a family that they will call home. :)