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Opinion: Author, Lecturer Mirah Riben Responds to St. Michael Patch Adoption Series

Noted author and lecturer Mirah Ruben of Advocate Publications weighs in on our National Adoption Month Series with this warning: Not everything is as it seems.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed through this column are those of Ms. Riben, and do not represent those of St. Michael Patch, Patch.com or our parent company, AOL.

In response to the article: “National Adoption Month: Faux Pas

Some people are genuinely rude and thoughtless, and at other times we may be over-thinking, or being overly sensitive. People are curious and anything out of the ordinary is fuel. Mothers or fathers of red-haired children–with nothing to do with adoption–are often asked, for instance: “Where did he (or she) get that gorgeous red hair?” Many comments need to be put into that type of context.

If you have adopted more than one child, why wouldn’t people be curious if they were a sibling group or adopted separately? Is it wrong to ask? Of course, the general public lacks knowledge of sophisticated language and unique vocabulary known to those within the adoption community. Acceptable language also changes over time.

People who choose to adopt trans-racially have (hopefully) thought through how their family will be forever changed into an inter-racial family and as such will garner looks, stares and questions other more homogeneous families will not incur. I often find curious the dichotomy of adoptive parents some of whom get up in arms when newspaper articles note adoptive status and bemoan attention, while others–such as politicians, celebs and just plain regular folks–seem to thrive on it, wearing their adoptive parent status as a badge of honor and pride. I have had strangers volunteer to me that their child was adopted, without my ever asking. Some in front of their children.

The response: “I did not buy my children, I paid for services to adopt my children” may be comforting to the adopter when asked about payments and fees, but may be a semantic game akin to adoptive parent Jerry Sandusky [allegedly] saying he did nothing wrong, just “horsed around” with [according to testimony] naked boys in the shower!

In the documentary "Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy" the prospective adoptive mother is in a hotel in China counting out cash for bribes. She comments that some might think this wrong, but it’s “the way things are done here.” 

When adoptive parents turn a blind eye and justify such obvious criminal activity, they are very much part of the problem. No child trafficking for adoption would exist without demand and no one willing to pay the piper. When such blatantly questionable disregard for ethics are flaunted as they are in this film, it unfortunately reflects on all adoptive families, and leaves every adoptive parent in a position of needing to defend adoption and their role in it.

We live in a time when not all stories about adoptions are warm and fuzzy with happily-ever-after endings. Reports of corruption and child trafficking have emerged from all corners of the globe: China, Spain, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Vietnam, Cambodia, Samoa. The public is seeing behind the curtain and viewing adoption in its full nakedness and the glaring truth it is not always pretty. Such cases shatter the once impenetrable image of adoption as a win-win act of altruism.

Caring, intentional adopters such as the Smolins and the Rollins are speaking out after having unwittingly and unknowingly adopted stolen children from India. David Smolin in fact has become the leading media “go to ”expert on the subject of child trafficking and child laundering for adoption. We–and the public–are now aware that children are passed off as abandoned or have falsified DNA and women other than their mother posing for pictures and even stating that they voluntarily placed their child for adoption.

Adoptive families cringe at questions headlines about Timothy and Jennifer Monahan, who have been ordered to return a child who was kidnapped from Guatemala, and tremble with fear of facing the same crisis. No matter how ethical or reputable a U.S. adoption agency is, none can guarantee that children being placed have been acquired fully legally, and the mother was not coerced and all extended family have been located and were unable to care for the child being placed. Some have subsequently been able to meet their child’s mother and feel confident, others are unable to.

Adoptive parents must toughen up and prepare themselves for tough questions as the veneer is peeled away and the lies and corruption that is endemic in adoption is exposed. And so too must the children you have taken into your lives.

Finally, I would like to point out that it is a faux pas and an insult to assume that any mother made an “adoption plan.”

No mother (other than a paid surrogate) intentionally conceives a child, carries it for nine months, labors and birth with the goal of giving to strangers. Every adoption – domestic or international – begins with a tragedy, not a plan. To suggest it was a plan might ease and comfort those who have adopted, but it is offensive to all mothers who have lost children to adoption and to the every adopted person.

Sensitive language needs to be sensitive to ALL the parties in adoption.

MIRAH RIBEN is author of two internationally acclaimed books, shedding light …The Dark Side of Adoption (1988) and The Stork Market: America’s Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry (2007) and numerous articles.

Former Director of the American Adoption Congress, Riben has been researching, writing and speaking about the need to reform, humanize, and de-commercialize American adoption practices since 1979.

Mirah Riben December 02, 2011 at 03:26 AM
Perhaps the individual who said they did not buy a child, they paid fees to adopt, knew in their particular individual case that there was no coercion. I never made any personal attack on the individual. I commented on the overall fallacy of beleiving that in general. Adoption fees are the incentive for baby brokers and adoption facilitators who in turn find babies or pressure mothers to MEET A DEMAND. No fees, no demand, no coercion, no exploitation. No Johns, no prostitution and no trafficking of women and girls for that purpose. Do you get that? I'm sorry if that feels hurtful. As i said, those who adopted in the past and didn't know are not be blamed. Many of them share my views and fight to create change and stop the corruption going forward.
Mirah Riben December 02, 2011 at 04:49 AM
"Over the past decades, hundreds of thousands of large-hearted Westerners—eager to fill out their families while helping a child in need–have adopted from poor and troubled countries. In many cases—especially in adoptions from China or former Soviet bloc countries—these adoptions were desperately needed, saving children from crippling lives in hard-hearted institutions. But too few Westerners are aware that in too many countries, there’s a heartbreaking underside to international adoption. For decades, international adoption has been a Wild West, all but free of meaningful law, regulation, or oversight. Western adoption agencies, seeking to satisfy consumer demand, have poured millions of dollars of adoption fees into underdeveloped countries. Those dollars and Euros have, too often, induced the unscrupulous to buy, defraud, coerce, and sometimes even kidnap children away from families that loved and would have raised them to adulthood." The dollars INDUCED the corruption. Not my words. http://www.brandeis.edu/investigate/gender/adoption/index.html
Liz Edw December 02, 2011 at 05:17 PM
Exactly, that;'s the crux of it. It's turned into an industry for the adults who want gratification instead of being about the needs of a child. Hence, so many unnecessary adoptions. It's a business.
Steve Osborn December 06, 2011 at 11:42 AM
what do you think of this phrase? " In a perfect world, there would be no adoptions."
Steve Osborn December 06, 2011 at 11:50 AM
Jessica; The point Mireh was making was that when one pays an exhobitant price, inflated by market pressure ( high demand, for instance)....that is a purchase. To say otherwise is saying something is good, when it is not. The analogy re Sandusky is a classic one of using an extreme example of this tactic to help reinforce the ludicrous nature of the argument.

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