Your Baby Never Comes Back

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this book here before. The cover is certainly familiar but it has come back up for me today. Someone who has read it says – It focuses on international adoption and Christian international adoption in particular rather than a more general look at adoption. But it’s a very interesting deep dive into that corner. You would particularly be fascinated, I think, by the way this myth of “millions of orphans” was created.

The New Republic published an article by Kathryn Joyce back in 2015 titled – “Do You Understand That Your Baby Goes Away and Never Comes Back?” Now you know where the title of my blog today comes from. The byline is – “Adoption is embraced in the Marshall Islands, but in the Ozarks, it means something very different. The tragic consequences of cultural misunderstanding.” Guess what ? I do live in the Ozarks. I may have even read this article back in my early days of becoming aware of all things related to adoption.

Springdale Arkansas is home to a large Marshallese population. The Koshiba’s lost their child in a method similar to some of Georgia Tann’s techniques. After a draining all-nighter in labor, an unfamiliar woman shows up in the hospital room with relinquishment papers. The father signs them without reading them deeply and the mother is still too groggy but signs them too. Barely making it with 3 children already, the couple had hoped to receive a big enough tax refund to fly the mother’s sister in from the Marshall Islands for childcare that would allow for both husband and wife to work and provide for their family.

So in March 2014, the mother pregnant once again, the couple had decided to place their unborn baby for adoption. They already had three children to care for, and both had other children from previous relationships living with extended family. The stories that circulated among the Marshallese in Springdale made U.S. adoption sound not dissimilar to customs back home: The adoptive parents would call and send pictures regularly; the biological parents would have the right to reclaim their children if need be; and the children would return to their birth parents when they turned 18. They’d also heard that Marshallese women who placed their babies for adoption in the United States were paid around $10,000.

The hurried nature of the exchange at the hospital left the parents without contact information about the adoptive parents so they could check on their baby from time to time. When the adoption agency would not cooperate with her wishes, the mother called the police. She says the police called the adoption attorney. That is when the mother first learned that she wasn’t entitled to any information. It turns out, she “willingly” entered into a closed adoption. Closed adoption is the default form of adoption in Arkansas. Adoption records are sealed; no identifying information about either birth or adoptive parents is shared and the parties can only contact each other through their agency or attorney. 

The article is long but worth reading. I’ll let you decide if that is something you wish to pursue.

Adopting To Create Converts

I have 3 new books related in one way or another to adoption and was holding off the mention of any of them but I have long suspected that evangelicals are adopting to create converts.  Similar to my blog yesterday related to overpopulation, this is another way that a child is objectified to accomplish a mission that is not actually related to the child’s well-being.

So, I haven’t read this book yet but I will and after I read it, I may have more to say from my own perspective.  There is so much wrong with this.  Transracial adoptions are by far even more damaging and complex than same race adoptions and I recently wrote about one of those as well.

“Evangelicals felt that they had kind of unfairly lost a claim to the good works side of Christianity, the social gospel, the helping the poor,” the author tells Fresh Air‘s Dave Davies in an interview, “and so they wanted a way to get back into doing something for poor people’s rights, and adoption and orphan care came about as something that, I think, they could really invest themselves into without challenging or changing their stances on the other social issues that they care about.”

Joyce says that the connection between abortion and adoption is also key in that many Christians see adoption as a ready answer to the longstanding abortion debate.  Conservative evangelicals have helped orchestrate a boom-and-bust adoption market in countries where people are poor, regulations are weak, and families are vulnerable to these agencies that are sending representatives abroad to recruit “orphans.” It is not uncommon, says Joyce, for these orphans to come from caring families who have a different understanding of adoption than Americans do: They agree to send their children away, thinking it’s temporary – for a better education and opportunities – and that the child will eventually return.

These evangelical Christian couples believe that God has destined this child to be in their family from the beginning of time.  There is absolutely a missionary or evangelizing angle. A lot of the leaders in this movement, who have written some serious books talking about the adoption of children, describe this as the way that Christians can best mirror the experience of their own salvation – that Christians were adopted by God – and so Christians must reflect that experience by then going and adopting children.