A couple of adoption items have been on my mind recently. I thought I’d cover them here even as we all wind down towards the end of the year. (And on that note, I hope everyone has an enjoyable and warm holiday, surrounded by serenity and by those you love. (I wonder if those two things are by their nature inconsistent?))
First–an update on the situation in Russia. This is from the morning paper. Two things seem clear to me here. One is that this is now a political football. On one level it seems wrong to me to turn the fate of children into a political football but there is a part of me that thinks this happens all the time in many different ways. I think back to the whole fuss around Elian Gonzalez, say.
The second thing is that this is one of those instances in which there is both a short-term and a long-term problem and it’s easy to tangle up the solutions (or possible solutions) to both of those. In the short term it seems clear that there are many children in Russia languishing in orphanages and/or foster care. Not enough people are offering to adopt these children, many of whom have spent most of their young lives in institutional care. And, I’m afraid to say, it seems like it is poor institutional care. Granted that the system that has placed children with US families may not be perfect or even very good. But it seems like cutting off that avenue entirely in what amounts to a fit of pique is just wrong. Make it better–sure. Close it down to appease some nationalist fervor? I hope not.
In the long-term, there is obviously a larger and a deeper problem: Too many unwanted children and no good way to care for them. Kisrita mentioned the need for birth control in a comment on the earlier post and this is a good point to remember. One approach would be to reduce the number of unwanted births.
But there are apparently also social systems that somehow encourage parents to abandon their children to the care of the state. (I use the unmodified “parent” here deliberately because I really don’t know what the most common underlying situations are.) That’s as opposed to encouraging people to continue to take responsibility or to supporting them in their efforts to raise children. This, too, increases the number of children consigned to state care.
It’s a funny world we live in. Their are countries like Japan and Italy where demographers worry that not nearly enough children are being born to ensure a viable society in thirty years. And there are countries like Russia where there seem to me more children than anyone wants to care for. If children were a commodity you can see a solution–reallocate the excess supply from Russia to Japan and Italy. But (just to be clear) children aren’t a commodity and cannot be reallocated that way.
The second adoption item is here. It’s sort of a reflection piece about a case that the US Supreme Court may or may not take. In this instance, a young child has been living with one set of parents (prospective adoptive parents) for some time but there is a competing claim for legal status from her genetic father. This is akin to some of the recent stories out of Utah–stories about genetic fathers who want to enforce claims to legal parenthood after a child has been placed for adoption. But the complicated factor here is that the genetic father is a member of the Cherokee Nation and ICWA gives special consideration to children whose genetic heritage links them to a tribe.
There are no easy answers in these cases. They remind me (us?) again of how difficult the passage of time makes cases involving placement of children. In the months or years it takes a court to rule, children grow up. They live their lives. They form bonds with the people who care for them. Some of the delay is inevitable–the produce of a deliberative and participatory process. But surely we could think about fast-tracking these cases in order to minimize the harms wrought simply by the passage of time.