And here are the six points that the letter puts forth (the link to this is in the letter above), that I argue you should NOT put your signature to:
Here are some facts you should know about the DRC:1. It is estimated that 10% of Congolese infants die before their first birthday and that 20% of Congolese children do not live to see their 5th birthday.2. There are estimated to be over 1,000,000 orphans in the capital of Kinshasa alone, and 5,000,000 in the entire country.3. The longer the embassy takes to do investigations the more at risk these children are at illness and even death because of the high rate of TB, meningitis etc. It is in the child's best interest not only emotionally, but physically, for their survival.4 If a child becomes ill they have fewer medical resources than in the U.S. Children residing in orphanages in DRC do not receive medical care or immunizations.5. All children residing in orphanages in DRC have some level of malnutrition and many children die in the orphanages because the orphanages do not have the resources to feed them even one meal a day.6. Some have suggested that the embassy is lengthening investigations to prevent child trafficking and they have argued that ultimately it is in the best interest of the children. However, allowing millions of children to languish in orphanages and on the street in a country with such a high mortality rate is surely not in their best interests.
I have so many problems with this presentation of facts. The biggest problem is that it appears to be saying that the extreme poverty of children in DRC and the high infant/child mortality is the justification for adoption. We do not adopt children because they are extremely poor, we adopt children when they need a new or second family. Extreme poverty is not why children should be adopted. The statistics in this letter are broad (and do not give the sources) and if anything, should motivate our energy towards fighting the underlying reasons why there is such extreme poverty.
Then it appears to be implying that there are 1 million orphans in Kinshasa that live in orphanages that are not receiving medical care or immunizations and are malnourished and dying. And it further implies that the embassy (by investigating orphan status more thoroughly) is "allowing millions of children to languish in orphanages and on the street." The letters goes on to imply that given there is such a high mortality rate in DRC, the embassy is not acting in the children's best interest by allowing them to languish in orphanages and on the street. Basically, the letter has the feel of implying that the embassy is a part of millions of children dying in DRC because they are insisting on lengthened investigations! That it is the embassy taking the time to ensure ethical adoptions that is causing children to die! Talk about manipulation!
"Orphan" in Africa as in many other countries around the world is a term that is used to describe many children. It is used to describe the child of a woman whose husband has died. The child of a man whose wife has died. It is used to describe a child who has been abandoned. A friend in DRC called herself an orphan because her mother was too ill to care for her and her father had deserted them. The term is used regardless of whether or not the child who is called an "orphan" is living in an orphanage (which few are) or living with their one surviving parent or with their surviving parent and his/her new spouse, with extended family, or with foster care. Spend even a short amount of time in DRC and one will quickly realize that almost every family you meet has an orphan living in their home. I personally feel like a more appropriate term than "orphan" would be "vulnerable child".
Certainly when children become ill they have less resources to treat those illnesses in than in the U.S. However, it is a lie to suggest that children residing in orphanages in DRC do not receive medical care or immunizations. There will be some orphanages (especially ones that are either very poorly supported or the ones that have corrupt director and keep donated funds to themselves) that do not have medications. But even the two orphanages I was visiting and working at in eastern DRC made sure the children were all immunized and of course medications were given (even when the funds were extremely low and the children had very little to no food).
The reality is that most children who are referred for adoption are immediately placed in foster homes that provide a high level of care compared to an orphanage. The ones that aren't placed in foster homes are often housed in agency/organization funded orphanages that certainly feed the children more than once a day. The letter that I quoted above, that letter is meant for all the children living every day in DRC that will never be adopted. Those kids? Those are the kids that I am trying to help through Reeds of Hope. Those are the kids that most of my fellow adoptive parents and friends are trying to help by improving their lives. Those kids in that letter, they aren't the ones being adopted.
So why the manipulation, why the guilt tactics? Would it be so hard to write a letter that is simple, heart felt and the truth?
Why not write instead something like--
"We share the concerns our government has in ensuring that our adoptions are done ethically and that the children we are bringing home are the ones that truly need homes. We know that there have been concerns with the rapid increase in DRC adoptions over the last 3 years and we understand your concern that with this rapid increase comes intense pressure on a already fragile system that is working to protect children from harm and first families from manipulation. We want to be a part of ethical adoptions and we applaud your efforts to do so as well in DRC, which is a country that has little infrastructure and worrisome levels of corruption. We are concerned, however, with how long the investigations are now taking due to the combination of greater numbers of adoptions being processed and understaffing at the embassy to handle this number of adoption investigations. We strongly encourage you to consider supporting the Kinshasa embassy more fully so that they can do their work in a timely and thorough manner so that the children that do need homes do not have to wait for their homes any longer than necessary. Thank you."
Addendum May 7: The letter is no longer accessible on the link above.
May 14, 2013--comments now closed on this post.