2009 March 09 Monday
World Orphan Crisis A Myth

Writing in Foreign Policy E. J. Graff reports startling news about the widespread adoption of babies from less developed countries. Those countries where lots of babies are getting adopted by Westerners are probably countries where these babies were not orphans in the first place.

Westerners have been sold the myth of a world orphan crisis. We are told that millions of children are waiting for their “forever families” to rescue them from lives of abandonment and abuse. But many of the infants and toddlers being adopted by Western parents today are not orphans at all. Yes, hundreds of thousands of children around the world do need loving homes. But more often than not, the neediest children are sick, disabled, traumatized, or older than 5. They are not the healthy babies that, quite understandably, most Westerners hope to adopt. There are simply not enough healthy, adoptable infants to meet Western demand—and there’s too much Western money in search of children. As a result, many international adoption agencies work not to find homes for needy children but to find children for Western homes.

Since the mid-1990s, the number of international adoptions each year has nearly doubled, from 22,200 in 1995 to just under 40,000 in 2006. At its peak, in 2004, more than 45,000 children from developing countries were adopted by foreigners. Americans bring home more of these children than any other nationality—more than half the global total in recent years.

Where do these babies come from? As international adoptions have flourished, so has evidence that babies in many countries are being systematically bought, coerced, and stolen away from their birth families. Nearly half the 40 countries listed by the U.S. State Department as the top sources for international adoption over the past 15 years—places such as Belarus, Brazil, Ethiopia, Honduras, Peru, and Romania—have at least temporarily halted adoptions or been prevented from sending children to the United States because of serious concerns about corruption and kidnapping. And yet when a country is closed due to corruption, many adoption agencies simply transfer their clients’ hopes to the next “hot” country. That country abruptly experiences a spike in infants and toddlers adopted overseas—until it too is forced to shut its doors.

So we are corrupting less developed countries with our baby buying just as we are with our illicit drug buying. It reminds me of the Star Trek idea of non-interference with developing civilizations. Some societies can't handle Western culture, technology, money without serious problems as a result. We need to consider not just the good but also the bad effects of our influence.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2009 March 09 12:17 AM  Immigration Human Trafficking

M said at March 9, 2009 3:46 AM:

Hollywood will be devastated,no status symbol souvenir kids to collect while globetrotting in the Gulfstream?

Bob Badour said at March 9, 2009 6:44 AM:

Hollywood won't care. The child's father showing up waving his arms saying "Wait! Wait! No, that's my baby! I am the father!" didn't deter Madonna for even a moment when she had her mind made up on the souvenir baby from Mali she wanted.

kurt9 said at March 9, 2009 1:32 PM:

This is clearest indication yet that the rest of the world really is developing economically and that those UNICEF ads depicting African level of poverty are likely to be confined to, well, Africa. As usual with government bureaucracy, much of this problem has been manufactured by UNICEF itself. UNICEF, being the bureaucracy that it is, is always involved in efforts to get more money (Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy) and, thus, show many television ads depicting orphaned kids in horrific poverty.

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