Thursday, September 22, 2005

ETHICA: A Life Guard In Turbulent Waters

This article briefly examines a Hot Topic and an organization that is right in the middle of it. The organization is Ethica. And the topic is Inter-Country Adoption.

I am going to say up front that there are many complex issues that come into play when adoption is discussed. And even more complex issues arise when inter-country adoption is discussed.

My goal in this article is not to explore and discuss all of the aspects of this very complicated issue. Instead this article is to make the reader aware of an organization that is lending its efforts to make the world a better place, and in doing so improving the lives of Africans along with the wider global community.

To begin, Ethica lists its beliefs as follows:

1. Every child deserves a loving home.

2. Adoption should never be the first choice for a child.

3. The best home for a child is with his or her family of birth.

4. Families should be given practical assistance to remain together, whenever possible;

5. Adoption should be properly regulated to protect all parties involved;

6. Proper regulation of the adoption system will increase the number of available adoptive homes for children in foster and institutional care.

Now, this may seem like six simple and straightforward concepts upon which everyone could agree. However, the realities of the world often make it difficult to put these practices into practice.

The "simple" six beliefs are backed up by:

- FIVE beliefs concerning the rights of the Adoptees

- SEVEN beliefs concerning the rights of Children in Foster or Temporary Care

- EIGHT beliefs concerning the rights of the Expectant and Birth/First/Natural/Original Parents

- FIVE beliefs concerning the rights of the Foster Parents

- NINE beliefs concerning the rights of the Adoptive/Adopting Parents

- THREE beliefs concerning the rights of Ethical Adoption Service Providers

And each of the rights in each of these sets of rights is important, complex and can have a very significant bearing of the quality of a life unfolding before a child.

It would take a very large book to unpack all of the sometimes conflicting rights and the different pressures - social, financial, cultural, political, etc. - that impact upon the adoption process. And often these pressures pervert this process so that it does not work in the best interest of the child. I can not hope to adequately address this subject thoroughly, but perhaps by pointing to just one issue of controversy, I may be able to give you an idea as to how complex matters involving adoption can become. And in doing this, I can also illustrate the importance of an organization like Ethica.

Ethica is very serious about being "An Independent Voice For Ethical Adoptions." And there is very little doubt that such a voice is needed; particularly when it comes to intercountry adoptions.

On 20 November 1989 the United Nations General Assembly adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was designed by UNICEF (The United Nations Children's Fund); and entered into force on the 2nd of September 1990.

Within the Convention on the Rights of the Child is an article (Article 21) that seeks to protect children from adoptions that are inappropriate or otherwise not in the best interest of the child.

Many critics took the tone of Article 21 to imply that the UN favored long term institutionalization of children over intercountry adoption. But on January 15th 2004 UNICEF issued a Position Statement in order to clarify its stance on Article 21 of the Convention. In this clarifying statement, UNICEF was clear about its position that institutionalization should be a short term measure, and that intercountry adoption should be an option when a permanent family cannot be found for the child in his or her country of birth. It said that institutionalization "should be used only as a last resort and as a temporary measure."

In its Position Statement UNICEF also pointed to the fact "Over the past 30 years, the number of families from wealthy countries wanting to adopt children from other countries has grown substantially. At the same time, lack of regulation and oversight, particularly in the countries of origin, coupled with the potential for financial gain, has spurred the growth of an industry around adoption, where profit, rather than the best interests of children, takes centre stage. Abuses include the sale and abduction of children, coercion of parents, and bribery, as well as trafficking to individuals whose intentions are to exploit rather than care for children."

Because of these types of abuses pointed out by UNICEF in its Position Statement, "Ethica strongly believes that reform of the intercountry adoption process is necessary in many countries of origin and in receiving countries. On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that rapid and unplanned changes often result in moratoria and the rapid decline of protective child welfare services in many countries, often making children even more vulnerable to human rights abuses."

Ethica states because of this, it "strongly supports the gradual implementation of changes which address both short and long term goals for establishing appropriate child welfare policies."

Ethica is a nonprofit corporation, which, as I mentioned earlier, seeks to be an impartial voice for ethical adoption practices worldwide, and provide education, assistance, and advocacy to the adoption and foster care communities.

In order to maintain an impartial status, Ethica does not accept donations from adoption agencies or other entities that place children for adoption. Nor are it's managing Board of Directors currently affiliated with agencies or other entities that place children for adoption. They are persons who have an interest in ethical adoption practices.

Ethica's web site states that it "seeks to develop organizational policy and recommendations based solely on the basic ethical principles underlying best practices in adoption and the best interests of children." And remember, Ethica deals with issues that arise in Domestic adoptions as well as those that arise in intercountry adoptions.

I have only given you a "teaspoon" of an issue that has problems enough to fill a lake. But I cannot write a book about the subject on this blog. I cannot even give more space to the discussion of this very critical area or to Ethica, an organization that has plunged into these turbulent waters like a life guard and is doing an outstanding job. The web site for Ethica is below, as are links to the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child and UNICEF's position on Inter-country adoptions.


Convention on the Rights of the Child

UNICEF's position on Inter-country adoptions

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