Suddenly, intercountry adoption is a cudgel and a political tool in the debate over the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, as if adoption—particularly intercountry adoption— had never been a political Supreme Court kickball in the first place.
I’m not going to speak for intercountry adoptees and adoptees of color, though I do represent many of them, including a Haitian adoptee. Rather, intercountry adoptees have spoken many times before, speak and research and advocate continuously today, and yet are still ignored as a centering voice on the issue of being adopted to the United States. Do not ignore their voices in debating the ins and outs of intercountry adoption: they have lived it nearly every day of their lives and continue to live it today.
Here are some resources to consider before making up your mind and spouting off about the “beauty” of intercountry adoption and the “savior credit” it gives to predominantly white Americans who adopt from other countries. Educate yourself first, particularly what has happened in Haiti and what intercountry adoptees experience themselves today.
Haiti Statement by Adoptees of Color Roundtable. “For more than fifty years ‘orphaned children’ have been shipped from areas of war, natural disasters, and poverty to supposedly better lives in Europe and North America. Our adoptions from Vietnam, South Korea, Guatemala and many other countries are no different from what is happening to the children of Haiti today. Like us, these ‘disaster orphans’ will grow into adulthood and begin to grasp the magnitude of the abuse, fraud, negligence, suffering, and deprivation of human rights involved in their displacements.”
Intercountry Adoptee Voices. “Historically, much of the academic collection of research in the intercountry adoption arena has been driven and led by professionals with little understanding of what it’s like to live the experience. This page is dedicated to compiling intercountry adoption research led by intercountry adoptee academics who bring a different outlook and perspective to the knowledge of adoption.”
Adoptees for Justice. Get far better context and understanding of intercountry adoption by speaking to intercountry adoptees who, despite the promise of a “forever family,” were not given the basics of a permanent home: more than 30,000 intercountry adoptees today have lived in the United States nearly their entire lives but have not been provided U.S. citizenship, despite being adopted as children by U.S. citizen parents. Some have been deported—or face deportation—to countries they effectively never knew. Efforts to fix this have so far failed in Congress, despite politicians falling over each other to espouse the beauty of adoption and what it provides.
Note: Judge Amy Coney Barrett and her husband adopted two children from Haiti. The second adoption occurred during the humanitarian crisis that gripped Haiti after a massive earthquake in early 2010, less than a month after the Barretts had given up on the adoption and had “closed the door” to its completion. Most of the resources below relate to that period of time in Haiti. An examination of questions raised by the adoption is here.
The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption. The very first chapter of this eye-opening and thoroughly researched book from Kathryn Joyce is about the rush in 2010 to “orphanize” children in Haiti after a devastating earthquake. Her book goes on to discuss intercountry adoptions from other countries, including Ethiopia, which in February 2018 banned foreigners from adopting its citizens due to widespread corruption. From her first chapter dealing with Haiti in 2010:
Long-standing religious relief organizations joined with upstart Haiti orphan missions to call for a reenactment of the 1960s anti-Communist ‘Operation Pedro (or Peter) Pan’ that had spirited more than fourteen thousand children out of Castro’s Cuba and into mostly Catholic homes in the United States. The revival Catholic groups proposed for Haiti, ‘Operation Pierre Pan,’ was enveloped in the language of emergency with compassionate calls to get the children out as if they were boarding the last plane off the island. It was language that recalled another mission, the 1975 ‘Operation Babylift’ evacuation of thirty-three hundred Vietnamese children to North America and Europe just before the fall of Saigon. Evangelical activists suggested that any aid planes delivering supplies to Haiti return to the United States ‘load[ed] up with orphans.’—Kathryn Joyce, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption, Public Affairs: New York (2013), p. 4.
Haiti: “Expediting” intercountry adoptions in the aftermath of a natural disaster . . . preventing future harm. An examination of what went wrong with intercountry adoptions from Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. From the executive summary:
Neither Haiti nor the receiving countries were in a position to ensure that family reintegration measures and other domestic solutions were exhausted prior to implementing fast-tracking procedures, in other words, that the principle of subsidiarity was complied with. Genuine respect for this principle usually takes time and therefore it is concerning when babies as young as two months are adopted abroad. Such realities in Haiti are a clear warning that the principle has likely been breached.
Few efforts existed to confirm the adoptability of children, nor were children given an opportunity to be consulted or prepared before being transferred to other countries. Physically, children lacked appropriate clothing to confront the cold winter weather and on a psycho-social level, they were not prepared to meet their adoptive parents, many for the first time.”–Executive Summary, Haiti: “Expediting” intercountry adoptions in the aftermath of a natural disaster . . . preventing future harm, The International Social Service (ISS), 2010, p. 6.
Intercountry Adoption after the Haiti Earthquake: Rescue or Robbery? Peter Selman, a British-based researcher and academic, who also wrote about intercountry adoption in Haiti prior to the 2010 earthquake, updated his research with a new post-earthquake paper, which begins:
On 19 January 2010, a week after the 7.0 magnitude quake hit Haiti, 54 Haitian-born children arrived in Pittsburgh on a flight with Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell. It was later revealed that 12 of the children were not in the process of adoption and that most of these were not orphans. Ten days later, ten members of an Idaho-based Baptist charity were arrested for trying to take 33 Haitian children across the border into the Dominican Republic without proper paperwork. It was subsequently found that all 33 children had parents, with whom they were eventually reunited at an orphanage run by the Austrian-based SOS Children’s Villages Charity.—Selman, Peter. (2011). “Intercountry Adoption after the Haiti Earthquake: Rescue or Robbery?” 35 Adoption & Fostering 41-49, p. 42.
End Child Exploitation and Trafficking in Haiti. This is an exhaustive collection of articles and posts from Marley Greiner, a writer, researcher, and activist and one of the founders of Bastard Nation. Written and collected at the time of the Haitian humanitarian crisis in early 2010, it is described as “a resource page for media, researchers, and the public interested looking for material and opinion on the ethics and legality of fast track adoption, babylifting, ‘humanitarian aid,’ identity, historical and cultural erasure, and corrupt practices in international adoption, especially in the current Haitian earthquake crisis.”
U.S. Department of State, Intercountry Adoption Statistics. The U.S Department of State, which oversees intercountry adoption to and from the U.S., maintains general statistics on the number of adoptions occurring to (and from) the United States each year. Haiti last year, as a “sending country,” saw 130 of its children adopted by U.S. citizens, down from a high of 464 children in 2014.
Michael Libberton was brought to Illinois for adoption from Colombia in 1978. He found out only 5 years ago he isn’t a citizen. A Chicago Tribune story that highlights the struggle of Mike Libberton, who was adopted from Colombia and was told all his life that he was a U.S. citizen—until he recently found out that he was not.
A Woman Without a Country: Adopted at Birth but Deportable at 30. New York Times immigration reporter Miriam Jordan details the life and legal struggles of Rebecca Trimble, an Alaskan resident who was adopted to the United States from Mexico as an infant but who was never provided U.S. citizenship. She now faces deportation.
Feel free to list additional resources below, though I ask that you elevate the voices and stories of intercountry adoptees who have actual lived experiences on the issue.