2006-12-01 / Columnists

The Progressive

Madonna And Child, Or The A-Word
Commentary By John Paul Culotta

By John Paul Culotta

Before starting to write this column, I read in the New York Post an article where the headline read, "I Want A Girl- Madonna Plans Second Malawian adoption." For many years adoption agencies have been using the month of November as the month to inform the public-at-large of adoption issues. Many Americans approve of adoption as a vehicle to save children from a life of misery. It is often a solution for many brave women who will not choose abortion to resolve their social or economic problems. Despite our differences regarding medical choices being made by the individual and their physician, most of us see abortion as a tragedy.

We must recognize the truth that all families are different and yet the same. Families are people who are bonded by love and law, not just blood. Sesame Street has recently had a new slant on adoption. Sesame Street is a television show for young children on the Public Broadcasting System. A single mother adopts a baby boy from Guatemala. On Sunday, November 5, 2006 the New York Times reported on the adoption of children in Guatemala by Americans. According to the article an American family adopts one of every one hundred children in Guatemala. The country ranks third after China and Russia in providing foreign-born children for adoption to eager Americans. It was reported in the article: "The pace of adoptions and the fact that mothers here, unlike in other places, are sometimes paid for their babies have brought increasing concern and the prospect of new regulation that may significantly reduce the number of Guatemalan babies bound for the United States next year or end it altogether."

The questions that are raised by the above mentioned articles regarding adoption by celebrities and wealthy and middle class Americans or Europeans of third world babies and the fact that it is difficult for Americans to adopt at risk children in this country are not raised frequently by the popular media. Our nation must realize that adoptions must be ethical and in the best interest of the children adopted. On November 2, 2006 a New York Sun article, "Madonna's Adoption in Malawi May Lead Others to Africa" reported, "Last year, nearly 23,000 children born abroad were adopted into American families - more than three times the number of international adoptions in 1990." There is criticism of Madonna because some accuse her of bypassing Malawi's adoption laws. Some call her a kidnapper.

It is clear rich celebrities have an easier time adopting. The Progressive believes many poor Americans would adopt children if finances were not an obstacle. The Sun article stated that it cost between $4,000 and $7,500 to adopt a child from Africa. It costs from $20,000 to $ 30,000 to adopt from Asia, Eastern Europe, or Central/South America.

Children in this nation languish in the foster care system for a lengthy period of time because of regulations that appear on the surface to benefit uncaring, abusive parents and the welfare bureaucracy. Too many children in this nation suffer abuse and the social workers are not given the resources to maintain adequate vigilance over the children in the child welfare system. We need to address this issue from the federal, state, and local levels all over our fifty states. We need to open up opportunities for children to live in loving caring homes. Singles, older people, the less privileged and homosexuals must not be denied the joys and hardships of parenthood and children here and abroad need to be placed in loving homes.

Gay Courter is an author and documentary filmmaker. In her book "I Speak for this Child: True Stories of a Child Advocate," she speaks about the child welfare system in Florida. Our president's brother is the Governor of that state and its child welfare system is a total disaster. This is not much different from the other forty-nine states despite the political affiliation of the Governor and/or state legislatures. Courter wrote an op-ed column in the New York Sun on October 31, 2006, which she wrote: "Throughout America, at any time, there are approximately 125,000 children waiting to be adopted out of the child welfare system. A disproportionate number-45%-are African Americans. Yet, of the 50,000 children adopted in recent years only 35% were African American. Want to send a message, Madonna? Take one of these children-or more, since it is even harder to place sibling groups."

Adoption advocates should thank Madonna and Angelina Jolie for making adoption issues important during the month dedicated to the subject. According to the Census in 2000 2.5% of all children in this nation under the age of 18 are adopted. This is 1.6 million Americans. We have much to be proud of and more to do.

According to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute the vast majority of adoptions of foster care cases are by the foster care parents and relatives. Forty percent of adoptions are by stepparents. These figures came from an Associated Press report by Jocelyn Noveck on October 19, 2006.

In 2007, international adoption practices will undergo a major change. The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption will make the majority of international adoptions a federally regulated practice. Sixty eight countries have signed on the convention that will attempt to ensure that adoptions are in the best interest of children, and prevent abduction, exploitation, sale or trafficking of children. Adopting parents will benefit because there will be federal standards including costs and procedures regarding home studies and translation fees.

Our State Department and other western nations should encourage all nations to agree to the provisions of the convention.

If any reader is interested in adopting, please contact the National Council For Adoption 225 N. Washington Street, Alexandria, VA, 22314, toll free (866) 21-adopt or www.adoptcouncil.org.

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