Buffalo, New York, USA
The experience of surviving the earthquake in Haiti is indeed traumatic. I’m glad she and her soon-to-be-adopted-son are alive. They will be coping with that horrendous experience for the rest of their lives.
But that’s not the whole story.
What troubles me is the unsettling details of this boy’s journey from Haiti, to Miami, Florida and then to an undisclosed location, and soon to be in my home town. The pre-adoptive mother is a teacher for a school just down the street from my home. The pre-adoptive father is a lawyer (go figure). They live in a southern suburb of Buffalo.
No indication of where the other 5 children are going when they leave Miami.
One of the Pod-casts below states that there are 254 US families in line to adopt Haitian children. Does this mean these adoptions were already in process? Or are these new families who rushed in immediately after the earthquake?
With all the coverage of adoptions that were in the process before the earthquake, and after, I find this story troubling. Local media sensationalizes and glorifies this couple. Comments of “how wonderful of you to adopt…” and, strangers saying “thank you” to them as if this couple is protecting the larger society’s interests somehow. This just adds more fuel to the fire – to the myths of savior adoptions – that we in the adoption reform community must dispel.
This couple, indeed, had developed a relationship with this three year old boy over the course of several visits and extended time. Links to the pod-casts and newsprint article below tell their story.
It is clear that they had “attached” to each other — not “bonded”as so many people say. Bonding is actually a scientific term. Bonding ONLY happens between a pregnant mother and her child. Bonding is the reciprocal relationship between that mother and her child and NO ONE else. Bonding continues through pregnancy, the birth process, breastfeeding, eye contact, body smells and touch, and continues for about three months. Socialization with the father and other siblings and other family members BEGINS while the infant is in utero as the sense of hearing familiarizes the pre-born infant with voices. Socialization and attachment occur AFTER birth. (Ken Watson, lecture at an American Adoption Congress circa 1989).
So, now, we have a little boy called Geoffrey by his adopting parents. We don’t know anything about his name at birth, the name he went by before his adopting parents came along and spotted him in an orphanage. We don’t know anything about his parents of birth; if he has any siblings nor do we know if he has any extended blood kin family, as in cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. Nothing is said about his birth certificate in Haiti. Nothing is said about what the adoption process does to his personal identification papers, or his loss of connection with any of his blood kin family, or his loss of his native culture and language. Instead of being a Haitian citizen, he will now be erroneously be identified as an “African-American” by sight-analysis alone.
It is simply assumed that Geoffrey is his American name.
But what happens with his Haitian birth certificate? Is that placed under seal, as any domestic adoptee’s birth certificate is sealed forever from all domestic adoptees? From what I know about foreign-born adoptees, a “new” birth certificate will be made in his new adoptive name, and his parents of birth will be replaced, legally, by the names of the two people who are adopting him.
Something is wrong with that picture.
Should anyone be allowed to alter the material facts of life for a minor child? This is stealing his right to his name, his country and place of birth, his true blood parentage, and his human right to his name at birth and to his parents and family of birth.
We, in America, still hold onto the myth that adopting parents replace the parents of birth. In reality, they do not.
Other countries, such as The Netherlands, recognize the importance of a child’s birth identity. While the child still loses her legal right to her birth name, and takes on the legal right to be given a new adoptive name, such an exchange is legally documented with an Adoption Certificate, not a NEW “Certificate of Live Birth”, as we do in the United States.
One cannot, or should not, tamper with anyone’s facts of life and papers documenting birth, adoption, marriage, death.
The adoptee must cope with the realities of a dual identity in the face of legal documentation that proves she, or he, has only one set of real parents. The legal paperwork contradicts what each and every adoptee must emotionally deal with every day for the rest of her life after being “rescued” by “wonderful” and “generous” adopting parents.
The United Nations Rights of the Child states:
- Article 7 (Registration, name, nationality, care): All children have the right to a legally registered name, officially recognised by the government. Children have the right to a nationality (to belong to a country). Children also have the right to know and, as far as possible, to be cared for by their parents.
- Article 8 (Preservation of identity): Children have the right to an identity – an official record of who they are. Governments should respect children’s right to a name, a nationality and family ties.
- Article 9 (Separation from parents): Children have the right to live with their parent(s), unless it is bad for them. Children whose parents do not live together have the right to stay in contact with both parents, unless this might hurt the child.
- Article 10 (Family reunification): Families whose members live in different countries should be allowed to move between those countries so that parents and children can stay in contact, or get back together as a family.
- Article 11 (Kidnapping): Governments should take steps to stop children being taken out of their own country illegally. This article is particularly concerned with parental abductions. The Convention’s Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography has a provision that concerns abduction for financial gain.
- Article 16 (Right to privacy): Children have a right to privacy. The law should protect them from attacks against their way of life, their good name, their families and their homes.
- Article 20 (Children deprived of family environment): Children who cannot be looked after by their own family have a right to special care and must be looked after properly, by people who respect their ethnic group, religion, culture and language.
- Article 21 (Adoption): Children have the right to care and protection if they are adopted or in foster care. The first concern must be what is best for them. The same rules should apply whether they are adopted in the country where they were born, or if they are taken to live in another country.
- Article 22 (Refugee children): Children have the right to special protection and help if they are refugees (if they have been forced to leave their home and live in another country), as well as all the rights in this Convention.
It is interesting to note that the United States has NOT ratified the international treaty of The United Nations Rights of the Child. Could it be because we Americans profit by the multi-billion dollar adoption business that deals with the trade of human children from one family to another, from one country to another, without giving FULL consideration and respect due to the rights of the very children Americans are so quick to snatch up?
I urge all people who read this post to read the very important statement issued yesterday by Adoptees of Color Roundtable. This is clearly an appeal by adoptees of different races who oppose the rush to adopt Haiti’s children by white, affluent people. There IS racial discrimination in America, and these Haitian children, whether we want to admit it or not, will face the indignation of racial tensions even with the best of intentions of their adopting parents.
Now, here is the information on the couple from Buffalo, New York (USA) who is in the process of adopting a Haitian toddler:
Series of 3 NPR Pod-casts tell their story:
- Lancers reunited with adopted child 2010-10-27
- Lancers await adoption of Haitian child; Haitian orphanage low on food & water 2010-01-19
A print story appeared 1-27-2010 in The Buffalo News online, Comments needed.