What Would My Utopia in Intercountry Adoption Be?

This was presented by Lynelle Long at the Child Identity Protection (CHIP) Webinar on Friday 18 Feb, 2022, the topic of the webinar was: Respecting the Child’s Right to Identity in Intercountry Adoption (at 2:58:01 on the video recording).

What I hope for the future is possibly just utopia, but sometimes in speaking the words out loud, our words can find an energy with others who share the same desire, which can start the small wave of thoughts that become an activity, then a movement that has ripple effects, that eventually turn and flow into a tsunami. I know there are so many in our adoptee community who are working so hard for these changes to happen. Each of our efforts can seem small in isolation, but together, en-masse, we will eventually effect that change we are working towards.

My utopia would love to see an end all intercountry adoption as it is currently practiced today: obliterate it or as a minimum, redesign The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption to ensure that it respects our right to identity, culture and family relations … and ensure legislation exists that supports our rights as adoptees and for our biological families.

When we do this, we need to also:

  • Remove money from being an incentive for profit and gain.
  • Remove the use of private agencies, centralise adoption and directly hold the responsibility and the risk with the Government / State.
  • Ensure adoptees have the right to annul their adoption and without a cost.
  • Ensure the generational rights to adoptee records i.e., our children and their children need to be given access to our adoption and birth records should we not do so in our lifetime.
  • Improve pre and post adoption supports, make it mandatory that this be free, trauma informed, lifelong and comprehensive; most importantly, in its design, to actively consult with lived experience expertise.
  • Make it mandatory to educate support professionals so they understand the heightened risk of suicide and trauma for adoptees, the inherent racism we face, the identity conflicts, etc .. so many issues we live that need trained and informed support.
  • Stop adoptions that are private/expatriate and from non Hague countries.
  • Create and fund a legal centre of expertise in intercountry adoption to help victims hold agencies and countries accountable where their rights have not been upheld.
  • Create and fund an independent body to monitor and punish Hague signatories who don’t uphold their responsibilities — to deal with issues like deportation by adoptive country, abuse and murder of child by adoptive family. There needs to be accountability for those responsible in placing us into families or countries that are more traumatic than where we came from.
  • Create and fund an international organisation that is setup up to empower and help support bio families search for their children. I meet so many of these bio parents who are disempowered and have nowhere to turn.

But before we even talk about adoption as a solution for a child, we need to ensure the focus and funds prioritises family preservation above all else. If this happened, we should not need intercountry adoption. To accomplish this, we need to help our birth countries implement social welfare alternatives like foster care, guardianship, group homes, simple adoption; and ensure that these are well resourced.

Regardless of whether we have intercountry adoption or not in the future, we need to deal with the past for those who are impacted. This means a historic investigation by an independent body must be conducted into past practices; learn from the lessons, ensure restorative justice for victims, including compensation. Only then when this is done, should we move forward to looking at re-implementing a new model of intercountry adoption.

And let’s not forget, we must make sure we cross pollinate the learnings from intercountry adoption into other family formation methods such as surrogacy – to prevent the further commodification of children and robbing them of their identities too.

These are the things I spend my life working on, creating and joining into the groundswell of people / community working to push for these much needed changes. 

For this to happen, we need to challenge governments and stakeholders around the world to ask the tough question, is intercountry adoption the ethically and morally right thing to do when we know other solutions can exist for vulnerable children that better respect our right to identity, culture and family relations.

Sadly, utopia doesn’t exist and so I can only conclude that until we have a system that upholds our adoptee rights, I don’t believe we should be conducting intercountry adoption in its current form. It is NOT in the best interests of the child to add on layers of trauma that could be prevented when we know better. Yes there will always be children who need support and alternatives .. but, we can’t keep repeating the mistakes of the past and turning a blind eye to what we are doing to so many en-masse. We must do better and challenge ourselves to be honest, truthful, listen to the voices of those it impacts most, and heed the lessons we can learn.

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