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Haiti’s Children–Part 2 of 4

February 3, 2010

To review, I’m in the middle of a four-part series thinking about the tragedy that Haitians are undergoing this month and the unfortunate event of 10 Americans being arrested for gathering Haitian orphans and transferring them to another orphanage outside of Haiti.

Part two concerns the question “Do we have the right to go to a land of poverty and “rescue” children through international adoption efforts?”

I’m adopted–not internationally, but bi-racially. And I know that the primary intention of all families who adopt is to bring joy, radiance, and love to their lives through a small child that they can claim as their own. But there’s something that bothers me about this idea of going into another territory (an actual poorer country or an agency that works strictly with birthmothers in poverty), claiming a child (legally or otherwise), and raising that child solely as an American, neglecting that child’s culture of origin. What are some of the unspoken implications of this response?

I feel like my parents did were pretty culturally sensitive with my sister and me–it helps that I’m part Hispanic and my birthday is Cinco de Mayo. Seriously though, they were open to questions that I had about where I came from and did well in giving appropriate answers and comforting me when they had none. But race is everything to a child that doesn’t look a thing like their parents–I know that my sister and I both attempted to develop cultural narratives to describe ourselves; though they were often fictional or only partially developed, they helped create security and a personal sense of identity. I get the chance to speak occasionally with adoptive parents through a local adoption agency, and I encourage those that are seeking to adopt internationally or inter-racially to research their child’s culture of origin and find creative ways to adapt celebrations and rituals from that culture into their family’s rhythm.

I got the chance to visit the region in northern Spain of my ancestry this summer with Katie; as part of our European adventure, we visited Pamplona and San Sebastian—two cities with significant Basque influence. We explored Basque cuisine (pintxos with various seafoods and cheeses), I watched about 30 minutes of jai alai, one of the regions most popular sports, learned about the Basque naval tradition, and explored several regional art museums. We were only in Spain for five days, and there were some parts of the trip that were wearisome (especially the language barrier), but this trip provided unique answers to lifelong questions about my identity.

I’m curious, along with thinking about the unspoken implications of neglecting the child’s culture of origin, about stories from people who were adopted inter-racially or internationally or adopted inter-racial/international children and found creative ways to incorporate their/their child’s culture of origin into their family’s narrative. Thanks for dropping in–looking forward to hearing from you!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2010 9:57 pm

    Awesome question. I was thinking the same thing along the lines of the first question (though less eloquently) when listening to NPR this morning. It made my heart sink to think of these well meaning Americans “rescuing” these kids from their parents who are poor. What is so sad, I think, is that their intentions were probably innocent. But sometimes I think that innocent condescension is the worst kind. That kind of hubris, is essentially saying, we would be better parents for these kids because we have stuff. We have more money and education. Ouch.

    I have mixed feelings about international adoptions… its very sad to think about kids being removed from their culture and being Americanized. Not that its bad to have a loving family, but their seems to be something oddly colonial empire-building about seeking out international adoptions.

  2. February 4, 2010 7:10 pm

    Lots of great thoughts that will be reiterated in Friday’s post about rescuing. Indeed, an appropriate response to the naivete of these “well-meaning Americans” is “Ouch.”

  3. Corrie permalink
    February 5, 2010 10:33 am

    I’m not so sure that their intentions were innocent.
    Anyway, I don’t have answers. Just wanted to let you know that I read this. Keep on writing.

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