I can remember clearly the yellow walls and Holly Hobby bedspreads in my room the night I arrived in America. On the wall were a few pictures, one was a poster of UNICEF – three color blocked children sitting on top of a white dove. That poster was on the wall for the duration we lived in that home. I loved that poster. I took it to mean that there was a group of people who looked out for all children, no matter their color. It embodied a sense of hope for me. I remember wanting to work for UNICEF. It is on my bucket list to someday be a part of UNICEF in a project in some way.
One of my first writing projects when I worked at the EBD Adoption Institute was to write a paper comparing the UN Rights of the Child and the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. I was struck by how much these two documents had in common and remain curious as to how the United States felt it was ok to ratify the Hague but not the UNRC? If I stick to typical social situations and pop culture as my source, I find adoption is still second-best, for some completely abhorant to the possibility of having a “child of my own.” I know, I am oversimplifying it, but for those conspiracy theorists among us, I am certain the thought of market forces impacting adoption plays a huge factor in the Hague being ratified and the other stuck having only been signed.
Now, I literally living my dream chance. It isn’t UNICEF, but so close, an international NGO that is one answer to the plight of children who are without parents. Between assisting them craft their position statements on adoption and spending half of September with the APRC group to draft a position paper on the North Korean Refugee Adoption Act of 2012, I realize my stand on adoption is gaining clarity. It isn’t so much whether adoption should or shouldn’t happen. That ship has sailed centuries ago. It is about when and how it should happen if we believe the child is the central focus, the client. Our definition of “child” and all he/she is entitled to keeps evolving, but I am glad that UNICEF hasn’t changed their perspective, or has it? This sentence caught my eye in particular – For individual children who cannot be cared for in a family setting in their country of origin, inter-country adoption may be the best permanent solution. I appreciate the choice of words here and can well imagine how many hours it took to craft such a sentence. What I am struck by is the contrast in perception that UNICEF is a major roadblock to international adoption. With a sentence like that, how can anyone believe all this venom is warranted? Furthermore, what is so wrong about a leading international organization, created to support families and protect children from exploitation, making a stand that adoption not be the main priority? Color me naive, but I am totally OK with UNICEF being there to be the stalwart bar set on how we prioritize adoption. As long as there are articles that read like this – The Evangelical Adoption Crusade , we need them to stay that way.
I thought I would post what UNICEF has on their site about their thoughts on inter-country adoption.
UNICEF’s position on Inter-country adoption
Since the 1960s, there has been an increase in the number of inter-country adoptions. Concurrent with this trend, there have been growing international efforts to ensure that adoptions are carried out in a transparent, non-exploitative, legal manner to the benefit of the children and families concerned. In some cases, however, adoptions have not been carried out in ways that served the best interest of the children — when the requirements and procedures in place were insufficient to prevent unethical practices. Systemic weaknesses persist and enable the sale and abduction of children, coercion or manipulation of birth parents, falsification of documents and bribery.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which guides UNICEF’s work, clearly states that every child has the right to grow up in a family environment, to know and be cared for by her or his own family, whenever possible. Recognising this, and the value and importance of families in children’s lives, families needing assistance to care for their children have a right to receive it. When, despite this assistance, a child’s family is unavailable, unable or unwilling to care for her/him, then appropriate and stable family-based solutions should be sought to enable the child to grow up in a loving, caring and supportive environment.
Inter-country adoption is among the range of stable care options. For individual children who cannot be cared for in a family setting in their country of origin, inter-country adoption may be the best permanent solution.
UNICEF supports inter-country adoption, when pursued in conformity with the standards and principles of the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoptions – already ratified by more than 80 countries. This Convention is an important development for children, birth families and prospective foreign adopters. It sets out obligations for the authorities of countries from which children leave for adoption, and those that are receiving these children. The Convention is designed to ensure ethical and transparent processes. This international legislation gives paramount consideration to the best interests of the child and provides the framework for the practical application of the principles regarding inter-country adoption contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These include ensuring that adoptions are authorised only by competent authorities, guided by informed consent of all concerned, that inter-country adoption enjoys the same safeguards and standards which apply in national adoptions, and that inter-country adoption does not result in improper financial gain for those involved in it. These provisions are meant first and foremost to protect children, but also have the positive effect of safeguarding the rights of their birth parents and providing assurance to prospective adoptive parents that their child has not been the subject of illegal practices.
The case of children separated from their families and communities during war or natural disasters merits special mention. Family tracing should be the first priority and inter-country adoption should only be envisaged for a child once these tracing efforts have proved fruitless, and stable in-country solutions are not available. This position is shared by UNICEF, UNHCR, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Hague Conference on Private International Law, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and international NGOs such as the Save the Children Alliance and International Social Service.
UNICEF offices around the world support the strengthening of child protection systems. We work with governments, UN partners and civil society to protect vulnerable families, to ensure that robust legal and policy frameworks are in place and to build capacity of the social welfare, justice and law enforcement sectors.
Most importantly, UNICEF focuses on preventing the underlying causes of child abuse, exploitation and violence.
New York 22 July 2010