By Mikhail Bell (@Bellsworld)
Regent University’s Center for Global Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law, has raised the profile of human trafficking and child protection, such adoption, issues within Christian and secular circles. On January 11-12, the Center hosted its latest engagement of modern social issues with the second annual Seeking Justice of the Least of These symposium in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Appropriately delivered during National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the message urged both compassion and caution for future parents of adopted children from abroad.
Over the past few years, international adoption has become en vogue among Christians. Citing verses such as James 1:27, which calls for us to look after the “widow and the orphan,” believers are encouraged to “rescue” children from unfortunate circumstances and into their loving home.
As Dr. David Smolin, Director at Samford University’s Center for Children, Law and Ethics, noted it takes more than good intentions for Christians to successfully add another person to the family unit. To stunned silence, the researcher asserted that there is no biblical mandate for adoption. Scriptures referencing the” widow and orphan,” he pronounced, instead refer to a fatherless family unit, which in ancient times, left the surviving dependents economically vulnerable. Thus, the command is not to adopt the child and leave the widow but to make provisions for both.
As Solomon famously opined, there is no new thing under the sun – not even adoption. Just as Christians are opening up to adoption, however, it seems like countries are barring the doors shut. In late 2012, Russia announced that it intended to halt all international adoptions to the United States. While American sources claim the Kremlin is retaliating after Congress passed the Magnitsky Act, a survey cited in The Washington Post indicated that 56 percent of Russians supported the move.
A Brief History of Adoption
According to Dr. Smolin, who is himself the parent of two adopted girls from India, families must account for cultural context.
Adoption in ancient Rome bore social and legal implications due, in part, to the patria potestas. This head of household possessed absolute authority over family decisions, even whether a child would live. While offspring did not age out of the patria potestas structure, adoption placed a child under the authority of another patriarch through a two part process. The mancipatio, whose root gives us the word emanicipation, was a symbolic sale that occurred three times. The father would sell and buy back the son from the guardian twice. On the third exchange, the father would not purchase his son. Nero, who succeeded Emperor Claudius, was adopted and became emperor after, Agrippa, disenchanted his mother had her husband assassinated.
In Japan, age is not a barrier to adoption. In fact, maturity is sometimes a benefit as moguls graft heirs into their fortune to perpetuate their lineage.
Trafficking Children for Adoption
The combination of private adoption agencies, under-resourced regulators, and eager American parents can create the perfect storm for illegal adoptions. The private entities are paid per successful adoption. Consequently, agencies have a massive financial incentive to increase the number of children available to interested parties from abroad.
Following Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, there were verifiable concerns about child trafficking in that nation. In January of the same year, I attended a briefing on Capitol where panelists identified adoptions as a primary source trafficking incidents. In at least one case, Americans reportedly flew to Haiti on a private jet, collected a small group of children and flew back to the Northwestern United States.
In Ethiopia, home to one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities, adoption is a bittersweet issue. Following a boom in Chinese adoptions during the 1980s and 1990, the East African nation has become a hotspot for international adoption. Couples seeking a child can easily find one here, where adoption times are among some of the lowest in the world. A 2012 Wall Street Journal article indentified a threefold increase in adoptions from Ethiopia between 2004 and 2010. However speedy approvals are a welcome invitation to child traffickers and other unscrupulous actors. Authorities in the East African nation surfaced their concerns in 2011, when they accused U.S. agency personnel of facilitating child trafficking through adoptions.
While Christians and couples should consider adopting, the Regent University panel perspicaciously addressed hidden costs that both the child and new parents should consider before starting this process.