Written by Jena Miller, mom to 3, one brought home from Vietnam in April of 2007
Recently on a Yahoo Group that I belong to (and probably many of you do too) a question was posed about why “some” countries have so many problems with ethics and corruption. The questioner asked why, if there are thousands of children being raised in orphanages, is adoption not open to them. The examples given were Vietnam and India. While I have no experience with India, I do have some with Vietnam.
So why are Vietnamese adoptions so corrupt? They aren’t; at least not any more than any other adoptions. What I have found in my 2+ years of research is that there is absolutely no country free of corruption and major ethical concerns, including the United States; not Russia, not China, not Cambodia, not Ethiopia, not Guatemala, not Korea, and most certainly not Vietnam.
What then should we do, abandon our hopes and dreams of building our families through adoption? Throw our hands in the air and say, “Oh it is all hopeless, the world is an evil place.” I know that some PAP’s do just that, give up on adoption because it is all so dark and scary.
I don’t believe that giving up is the answer. Neither is ignoring the problem. I have heard many PAP’s state that they feel so powerless. I don’t believe that PAP’s are powerless at all. Indeed, PAP’s clearly have the most power in the adoption triad, and it is my belief that PAP’s, collectively, have far more power than agencies and even governments.
What would happen if we as PAP’s would choose only agency’s who first make every effort to make sure that the first family could care for their child through sponsorship programs and vocational training and subsidized day-care so that families could stay together? What would happen if we only chose agencies that first focused on domestic adoption and developing education and resources to help take away the stigma from adoption in Vietnam? What would happen if we chose agencies who told us the truth about the children that truly need to be adopted, that they have special needs-if only that most of the children that need to be adopted are not less than 12 months old. We would, truly, be the ones with the power to change how the system works.
The reality is that we as PAP’s can do all of those things, and some PAP’s, in fact, do all of those things. If all PAP’s would adhere to these standards then there would be absolutely no need for agencies that do not adhere to the highest ethical standards. I am not talking about “are they ethical enough?” I am talking about highest ethical standards.
When we brought our son home in April of this year, we stayed in a guest house located on the top floor of his orphanage in Saigon. By staying there for 2 days before his Giving and Receiving Ceremony we had the chance to freely walk around and observe the orphanage. We had a chance to visit with the 500+ children that were living and growing up there. Out of those 500+ children, 14 were healthy infants. 7 or 8 were healthy baby girls. The vast majority of the children in the orphanage were over the age of 3. Most of them have a physical, emotional or mental special needs as well as being older children.
When we asked why all these children were going to grow up in the orphanage, our agency’s Vietnam program director told us that Vietnamese officials and orphanage officials knew that this is not what adoptive parents were looking for. In fact, through her tears, she told us that she thought that they would never find a home for our son because of his special needs.
What I am talking about is a change in expectations on the part of PAP’s. I have found that in the world of adoption, in many people, there is a sense of entitlement. I, too, thought there were thousands of babies needing homes that were just waiting for me to adopt them. This is not the reality. There are far more prospective adoptive parents waiting for infants than there are infants available. We need to change our expectation from, “I want an infant because it is easier/less risky”, or “I want a girl to balance out my family”, to “I want another child in my family that needs a family”. If the case may be that there are a majority of girls that need families, like in China and that program works for our family, fantastic. If the case may be that there are thousand of infants waiting around to be adopted, great. But if that is not the case what then? Do we keep looking for a program that can give us what we want or do we change our expectations as the situation changes?
Call me naïve, but as I see it, when people continue to work with agencies who have employees or associates (in whatever capacity) who have been investigated for criminal activities and ordered by the government of the country they are working in to stop working in that country; when people continue to demand healthy baby girls (and boys) as young as possible; when people continue to work with agencies who have had a difficult time being licensed and had to pay for the licenses; when people continue to work with agencies who are umbrella-ing; when people continue to work with agencies who pay hospital workers to convince women in labor to give their babies up for adoption (and call these “hospital donations”); when people continue to work with agencies who require you to carry large amounts of cash for donations; that is what feeds corruption. On the flip side, if we stop using these agencies, we starve corruption. If you want to know if the agency you are using has done or is doing these things, ask them.
The reality is that corruption exists wherever people believe that if they have enough money (power), they can have whatever they want. Of all the people involved in adoption, (PAP’s, Adult adoptees, first parents AP’s) PAP’s have the most power over whether or not corruption continues. Corruption exists in every country where adoptions are taking place. But it does not have to.
What is my stake in all of this? My son. When he is a man and is able to look me in the eye and ask me for the truth, I want to be prepared to tell him the truth, all of it. I will tell him that there was controversy and corruption surrounding Vietnam adoptions (if he doesn’t already know). I will tell him that I did everything I could do to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were meant to be a family, and that I did not steal or buy him from his first family, culture or country. I owe that to him.