Child Catchers: adoption is very far from perfect

Child Catchers

Joyce does an excellent job navigating the personal stories of adoption advocates, adoptive parents and adopted children. She traces the history of adoptions to the United States in the mid-20th century at a time when millions of children were taken from their mothers due to social attitudes about unwed mothers. Her previously religious reporting makes for an insightful guide to understanding the current motivations for increased activism surrounding international adoptions.

The work makes a good case for having appropriate structures and regulations on adoptions. Rwanda is used as an example where international adoptions number in the dozens each year. The country has an exhaustive process to determine whether a child is eligible for adoption. Instead, Rwanda emphasizes the need for in-country adoptions and reducing the problems that cause orphans in the first place (such as maternal mortality).


The story touches on the growth of orphanages in developing countries. Time and again, people have proven that orphanages are one of the worst development investments. Kathryn Joyce’s work shows how the proliferation of orphanages is connected to a supply and demand curve that bends as adoption advocates swoop down onto a new country. The book is an important read. So much of the energy behind the adoption movement could be better spent on sustainable development programs.


SLIDE SHOW: Adoption and all that comes with it


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