International adoption in the UK has a terrible official reputation. Instead of being an incredible humanitarian act it is perceived to be either a route for the trafficking of children or immigration through the back door.
The attitude to international adoption in the UK has always puzzled me.
It is one of the kindest acts that one can do for another human being. It is a humanitarian act that calls for an incredible personal investment. It can literally be the physical and psychological saving of a life. It is a beautiful gift for a child who has nothing. It is hope, it is promise, it is joy. And ultimately it is Love.
So why is it so fundamentally frowned upon here?
We give to charities, we love giving to charities. In face in 2010/2011 we gave £11 billion to charity. After medical research and hospitals, Children receive the most amount of money, 11% of the total, and overseas the forth largest amount, 10% of total. Thus we believe in helping children and children overseas - so why not help them to permanently change lives. Why not help them to help themselves and their future. Why not give them love, security and a family?
The only reason I can fathom is that international adoption is in the wrong camp. It is not in the humanitarian camp, not next to the Save the Children's of the world. Not next to acts of kindness. It is not perceived to be what it is, development. Permanently improving the life of the disadvantaged. One positive and proven method to break the endless cycle of deprivation, that these children have inadvertently found themselves in. Development because adoption is for life, this life and for the next life and for life after that.
Once a child is taken out of an orphanage and placed in a home with a family - then they are out of the state system, becoming autonomous individuals, and family become their unit. They learn the tools of building relationships and developing societal rules. They go on to live normal lives, creating their own families, giving their families the security that protected them. And so on down through the generations. Development at its finest.
But left alone in the orphanage, well not alone they are in the company of 163 million other children, they are kicked out the institution on their 16th birthday with not a person in the world, not a place to call home, no security, no money and never any opportunities for work. So they take to the street and survive if they are lucky. 21% of Russian orphanage children do not make it to their 21st birthday, the commit suicide or are murdered. Their life is one of prostitution, gangs, drugs and alcohol. They live underground on the margins of society. And they bear children, children who will grow up in institutions until they are 16 and the whole cycle begins all over again.
Yes, adoption is humanitarian development and the sooner it is put in that camp the sooner we can start making a bigger difference.
I read these words today from the American Peace Hero called Peace Pilgrim 1908-1981:
"You have much more power when you are working for the right thing, than when you are working against the wrong thing."
And this is where things have gone wrong. International adoption has been looped together with illegal immigration and criminal trafficking of children. It has been put in the camp of illegitimate activities. Those unlawful acts at whose heart the criminal lies. International adoptive parents are perceived to be part of this ring of dishonesty, persons whose intent is to bring harm for personal gain.
It could not be further from the truth.
At the heart of the adoptive parent is the urge to nurture. To give that what has been given. To help a minor grow and flourish, through gentle care and love.
Can the anti-trafficking lobbies not see this? Can they not identify a difference?
Their paranoia has clouded their judgement, and has the potential of scaring a generation of children whose only dream is to have a family. Their sentiments have crept into the organs of inter-country adoption and onto the stage of international politics. Instead of international adoption being a personal arrangement between potential adoptive parents and orphaned children, a gesture of kindness and goodwill, a humanitarian act of development; it is seen as the root of international illegal activities and thus it has to be stamped out. Procedures are in place to lock down, and it does not take much for this action to be taken.
But stop for a minute and look deep, deep. There will be so much more power working for the right thing. See international adoption as a positive act; see it as a responsibility of humanitarian development. How much difference can that one shift of thinking have? How many more children will have a chance to experience a normal future?