Inter-country adoption and the “Madonna-effect”
In the last 10 years, inter-country adoption has become popular, much more so because of well-publicized adoptions by the likes of Angelina Jolie and Madonna. Madonna was especially involved in a controversy way back in 2006 when she adopted little David from Malawi because the said child wasn?t an orphan at all. David was placed by his father (his mother had passed away) in the hope that the child gets a better life.
There is currently a heated debate going on on the ethics of inter-country adoption and how adoptions by celebrities are affecting this issue. The so-called ?Madonna-effect? has affected inter-country adoption as follows:
? A recent report by psychologists at the University of Liverpool claims that more and more families from the West are opting more and more for inter-country adoption rather than adopting children from their home country, possibly following the example that celebrities such as Madonna has set.
? The same report claims that ?Madonna-style? inter-country adoptions are increasing the number of children in orphanages in developing countries. It seems that more and more parents are giving up their children to institutions with the hopes that some rich Western family will adopt their child and provide for her/him a better life. It is estimated that about 96% of children across Europe (most in less developed Eastern Europe) are not orphans at all but have at least one living parent.
The Liverpool researchers recommend more stringent guidelines for monitoring inter-country adoption policy and practice.
Philip Ball, a columnist at Nature, and one who has opted for inter-country adoption, thinks that the report by the Liverpool researchers are full of ?gross simplifications and misleading conclusions? which actually do not help clear up the issue. It is true that inter-country adoption can lead to problems like coercion and child trafficking (remember the French aid workers who tried to smuggle ?orphans? out of Africa?)
However, these issues should not invalidate the real purpose of inter-country adoption. This controversy is rather sad because either way, it?s the children who will suffer. A December 2007 paper in Science reported that children who are moved from orphanages to foster homes showed better cognitive development than those who stayed in orphanages. The question is whether the children?s plight in orphanages is any worse than if they had stayed at home. But clearly there is a need for getting children out of orphanages as early as possible. In the end, it?s the children that matters.
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