ADOPTION CRISIS: The political influence of adoptive parents

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The Romanian story shows us how the political influence of prospective adopters can create an adoption crisis. It also shows that this influence can obstruct reform of an adoption system that has gone wildly out of control.

Romania is not exceptional. We could have told a similar story about Guatemala, where adoption continued for years, despite widespread corruption and blatant child trafficking.

Not hindered by any ethical considerations, many American prospective adopters flocked to Guatemala in a free-for-all quest for young and healthy infants.

Another adoption craze had formed, and again the political influence of adopters and prospective adopters helped sustain a criminal situation for years. The Department of State and various politicians pushed the Guatemalan government to keep the gravy train going, and for years they were successful at it.

In the end, an adoption craze is unsustainable. Eventually every sending country becoming overly popular has to reduce supply drastically. Romania did, Guatemala did, and even Ethiopia has taken reductive measures in recent years, much to the chagrin of prospective adopters. In all these situations politicians in receiving countries stood on the wrong side of history, and chose electoral gain over ethical conduct.

Political influence of adopters is not just limited to periods of adoption craze. The influence is much more persistent, and has been institutionalized. In the US, the existence of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) is a perfect example of how enmeshed the political system can be with adoption interests.

Initially, CCAI was set up by members of congress to promote adoption from foster care, but that mission was quickly broadened to encompass all forms of adoption. Since then CCAI has become an important lobby group representing the interests of adopters and of the adoption industry.

A similar situation exists in Europe, where adoptive parents have successfully put pressure on their governments to move the European Commission towards adopter-friendly  policies.

Ten years after Romania closed its borders, the European Commission has made a U-turn, and is now firmly in favor of inter-country adoption. This reversal of approach towards adoption from Romania is meticulously researched in the study by Ingi Iusmen, mentioned in our introduction. It is not an easy read, but for a good understanding of the politics of adoption, it is an indispensable document.


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