Tuesday, March 14, 2006
A Letter to the Washington Post
The following letter was e-mailed this morning to the editor of the Washington Post.
Sunday's article by Peter Goodman ("With U.S. Couples Eager to Adopt, Some Infants Are Abducted and Sold in China") artfully weaves several issues in China into one inaccurate construction that impunes the motives of adopting Americans, and the orphanages from which their children come.
Goodman begins by detailing the tragic abduction of a child from the streets of Dongguan in Guangdong Province. He artfully transitions to China's adoption program, leading readers to conclude that somehow the seven month old girl had been kidnapped to satisfy an adopting American family.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence to establish this link, and in fact considerable evidence to disprove it. By Goodman's own admission, 50,000 children were adopted to the U.S. since 1992, an average of 4,000 per year. I suppose Goodman proposes that these 4,000 children represent a significant number of China's 1.2 billion people to result in kidnapping rings to develop, but the sad reality is that annually an estimated 250,000 children (mostly girls) are abandoned in China, 35,000 of which end up in China's foreign adoption program. One can readily see that there is no shortage of adoptable children.
The trials of those involved in the Hunan baby-trafficking ring all testified that the children involved were unwanted newborns willingly relinquished by their birthparents. Defense testimony by Police and other witnesses confirm this. No lost child reports, no response to found baby newspaper notices. Goodman makes some sweaping generalizations, inaccurate assumptions, and faulty reasoning to falsely assert that the international adoption program is contributing to child abductions in China.
Additionally, he erroneously quotes me as asserting that the Chinese orphanage program is "a corrupt system. . . driven by money, and there's no check and balance to the greed." This statement was made in what I thought was an off-the-record conversation discussing China's governmental structure, not its adoption program. I have frequently and publicly written that I believe the Chinese adoption prgram to be one of the most ethically run in the world. A family leaving the U.S. knows who their child will be, exactly what fees will be paid, and where they will be on any given day while in China. Few other international programs run this predictably and effeciently.
Goodman also anonymously attributes to a "Western aid worker " a quote that proposes that few of the donation dollars given by adoptive families and other NGOs actually reach the children. This is patently false to anyone who has visited orphanages over the last few years. Whereas orphanage facilities in the early 90s were most often housed in small, unheated adobe or brick buildings, today nearly every orphanage is housed in third-generation modern facilities, many with medical and educational facilities on site. These orphanages are often located next to facilities for the aged, to allow a symbiotic relationship to develop between the elderly and the young. Contrary to Goodman's assertion, a more engaging argument could be made that China is over-investing in their orphanage system, given China's declining abandonment rates. This decline can be attributed to China's increasing personal wealth, as well as the passing of male-preference traditions in its culture.
Goodman also falsely characterizes the American families that come to China to adopt, portraying them as almost being on a shopping expedition, being ferried "to sightseeing spots in Beijing", and walking streets "thick with stroller-rental shops and silk baby outfits embossed with traditional Chinese logos." This characature belies the fact that most adopting families try to experience, in the short time made available, as much of their child's Chinese heritage as possible. All have spent more than a year preparing the paperwork required by both the U.S. and Chinese governments, and paid significant fees to both governments. For most, the adoption trip is an emotional and spiritual experience, and are deeply offended to have it portrayed as a shopping excursion.
Goodman's article does a disservice to almost everyone involved in the Chinese adoption program. There is little doubt that the adoption of Chinese children by foreigners has altered the perceived value of these children, but to falsely assert, with no substantiating evidence, that these families are fostering kidnapping rings in China to satisfy their parental urges does a disservice to them, and the legacy of their children.
Brian H. Stuy