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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - International adoptions

International adoptions

International adoptions

I refer to the PPPost article of July 4, 2003, "International Adoptions to be

'a last resort'". For an organization that uses the word 'United" in its

title, an interest in keeping the world divided is evident in the UNICEF proposal

that international adoptions should only be considered as a last resort.

The world is a small place and we are all citizens. Cambodians could be first in

line to adopt Cambodian children, but are there homes for the thousands of those

orphaned and abandoned in Cambodia? Are hundreds of Ethiopians queued to take in

the orphans there? Do enough people in India want baby girls to make up for all the

others there who do not?

Like it or not, it takes resources to raise a child, to feed, clothe and educate

a child, and many Cambodians, like those in other countries, are hard pressed to

provide for their own children, which is a major reason so many are abandoned.

Should a child orphaned in a garbage dump be made to live out her life amongst the

rubbish because of the location of her birth? Should a baby abandoned in a gutter

sleep there until adulthood because that's where his roots are? Does birth in a desperately

poor or war-torn country command a life sentence be served there?

Adoptions anywhere are expensive processes involving legal fees, social workers and

facilitators of one sort or another. Americans and Europeans do pay thousands of

dollars to bring a child into their home, and many would happily offer a new life

to more if the costs of the adoption itself were less.

How many of the world's unwanted children could grow up well fed, schooled and loved

if families around the globe, without regard for geographic location, were encouraged

to open their homes and hearts to these most vulnerable little people? The present

climate, however, tends to vilify the loving, the courageous, the generous and to

cast doubt upon the best of intentions.

Do Sarah Mills of UNICEF and Stephane Rousseau of the Netherlands Embassy suggest,

while implicating adoptive parents as part of a "lucrative business which fuels

the trafficking of infants", that lives of Cambodian children who fill the orphanages

will improve when international adoptions become ever more difficult, if not impossible?

Cambodia certainly has not cornered the market on either corruption or greed, but

has been singled out as if it had. Of course, "unlawful and corrupt practices

and a lack of transparency" in every department in every government in the world

should come to an end. And of course, greed should play no role in any realm involving


In some perfect world in some future time, perhaps this will be the case. In the

meantime, in this world, thousands of children are orphaned and abandoned and thousands

of people who would gladly make them family are busy dodging barriers, old and new,

in efforts to provide for these kids.

Allegations that reported cases of trafficking "probably represent the tip of

the iceberg" and pinpoint international adoption as the cause are unfair and

unhelpful. For many a child left languishing in orphanages in countries too poor

to feed another mouth, there is a family who could and would provide a rich, full

life of love and care.

Unfortunately, making this possibility progressively more remote, keeping more and

more kids trapped in their country of birth, makes real trafficking, the trafficking

that fills brothels and provides tiny laborers, so much easier and cheaper.

Poverty so profound that mothers are forced to market their newborns for $15 in Phnom

Penh markets to provide bus fare to the home village where other children wait to

be fed is the issue, but this cannot be corrected or even addressed by placing more

barriers between children and the families who would care for them.

Until this issue is addressed strongly, until families adopting the unwanted and

unloved children of the world are given the credit they deserve for stepping up to

the plate and putting their caring where others cannot or will not, children's lives

will continue to be bartered for pride, for ethnocentricity and for the ideology

of organizations needing to justify their existence.

My husband and I live in Seychelles, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, and adopted

our son, now eight months old, from Cambodia. Americans have been prevented from

giving homes to Khmer children for almost two years, which is one reason we decided

that our child would come from there.

The world is far too small to worry about who came from where or for attempting to

preserve our roots in amber. As a dynamic family from far-flung corners of the planet

(I was born in America and my husband is British/Seychellois), we live our lives

where we are without suffering much angst over where we came from.

Our son will always know that he was born in Cambodia. We will let him know that

his biological mother had few if any options, but history will teach him the tragedy

of many Khmer lives and the good fortune he had in growing up outside that tragedy.

The fact that 140 children in the orphanage he came from have no chance of adoption

by American families, and therefore less chance of any adoption at all, is very sad.

Although having a child was among the top ten in our reasons for adopting, we were

not desperate 'baby at any price' people portrayed by some whose own agenda is suspect.

Providing a stable, secure and loving home for a child who had not even the most

remote possibility of such was far more important than satisfying a yen to shop at

Baby Gap, and I resent any implication otherwise. Adopting parents are heroes.

- Sandra Hanks Benoiton - Seychelles


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