I am apparently getting into internet fights now.

I figured I would post my response to the list serve here, since I seem to get a lot of adoption traffic. If you read this, please feel free to leave me a comment to educate me, as I seem to have either MISUNDERSTOOD the situation, or I am just dealing with people who have very narrow interests.

Background: Because of the disputes between Viet Nam and the U.S. (explained here and here for those who have not followed the situation), Viet Nam stated that it would stop accepting dossiers on July 1 and stop honoring referrals on Sept 1 (of this year). There are many PAPs for whom is is unlikely that their adoptions will be completed. Some of those people can switch to other countries; some are trying to decide what to do; a final group has decided to launch a petition to campaign for Viet Nam to continue to “grandfather in” dossiers past Sept 1. Basically, they’d like Vietnam to continue to honor referrals until all PAPs have children in the U.S.

In theory, this sounds okay, but once you start to think about

a) the situation that brought us to this closure (namely, fraud, and by the Embassy’s report, pervasive fraud, although many people have appropriately pointed out that the statistics cited have no reasonable context provided, so it is difficult to know the extent to which fraud pervades international adoption in Viet Nam;

b) the fact that this petition is written by a group of PAPs who have a lot of time and money on the line. For many, this may be the last chance they have to have a child, given the laxity of the Vietnam regulations (older PAPs are accepted, not a lot of regulations on parent health. This is a position I know, as someone who would be seeking a similarly relaxed country for the same reasons – not age, but health considerations).

One thing I think is often neglected is that referrals to adoptive parents are just that – referrals. They are pictures of a child that might be theirs, one day. But until the G&R, where the parents are identified as the legal parents of that child, that child is not theirs. I know that sounds mean. But the way PAPs talk about “my child” on these lists – referring to pictures of a child – it is very disturbing. That child has other parents, too, and what was the most upsetting thing to me last month when the Embassy posted its reports was the fact that those parents had no idea that their child was being adopted by others.

It sickens me to think of it.

So I responded to a list serve question in which someone raised these very good points (points a and b, not the one about how referrals are not PAP’s official children…that was my own $.02). In my first post, I agreed with her that perhaps the petition is misguided.

I was told, in response, that I had no idea what the orphanage conditions were like, and someone then forwarded a news article to “enlighten” me.

Here is my response.

Just to clarify…

I never once said that the orphanage situation wasn’t dire. I don’t think anyone else did, either. I have been in orphanages in Viet Nam, too, although I haven’t adopted from one.

Another poster is correct: in the U.S., we have the luxury of sitting in our nice houses and judging the decisions from our rose-colored glasses of the world. However, I think we need to take it a step further. Yes, the orphanages are bad. Some of them are terrible. From a developmental perspective – and my entire career at this point is to evaluate kids for developmental issues – an orphanage is not an optimal place to develop.

But at the same time, there are parents in Vietnam who birthed babies who were not aware that their babies would be adopted by U.S. parents. We have a listmember whose referral was exactly this case. Sitting here in the U.S., we have NO IDEA what it is like to be not literate, to live in a society where there are few civil rights, to be told that we cannot bring our children home unless we pay a hospital bill the equivalent of several months’ salary (or more). Up front. We have no idea what it’s like to be pregnant, have many other children, and be forced to accept an offer for a baby. How can we? Visiting a country for a few weeks – even a few months – is nothing compared to living there for the bulk of one’s life. And we know that the referral system in Vietnam is terribly flawed, fully lending itself to the propagation of fraud in the chase for money.

So yes, the orphanages are bad. But there are more than babies here at stake. And I understand the need for PAPs to finish the adoptions that they have waited so, so, so, so long for, but I would assume that no parent wants to complete an adoption that is not 100% kosher. The reason I objected to the petition is because I felt that those who wrote the petition had their own motives – PAP’s motives – first, without potentially considering that there is a third aspect of the triad – biological parents – at stake, as well.

If I am incorrect, please, someone inform me otherwise. But please do not state that we “need to hear first hand how bad some of the orphanages” are. If those babies appeared out of thin air, yes, that would be the only consideration. But because those babies have parents – and it would appear that fraud clouded the process by which some of those babies appeared in an orphanage – there is more to the story. That is not my personal opinion, that is what our embassy reported. That is what many APs report. That is what other APs, who did not complete an adoption because of the suspicious nature of their referral’s paperwork, and who are our personal friends, report.

THAT is what I wanted to say the first time.

Rachel and DH, who were PAPs but stopped the process because of ethical concerns in the fall.

[Nicely phrased] thoughts? If I’m wrong, please, tell me. I will be the next signatory to that petition, if so. But otherwise, I think the system needs a lot of cleanup. If the system continues the way it’s going, there will always be more babies in orphanages.

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