The Joint Council on International Children’s Services, a U.S. adoption agency lobbying organization, recently posted a very long policy recommendation on its website titled, “Cultural Sensitivity Regarding Adoptions in Ethiopia.”
The gist of the recommendation is that adoptive parents NOT be seen publicly with their newly-adopted Ethiopian child. Why? Because non-Ethiopian people being seen in public with Ethiopian children apparently violates “cultural sensitivities”:
“Given that the vast majority of American and European families adopting from Ethiopia are Caucasian or other non-black, the adoptive families and their Ethiopian child are easily distinguished and are often a point of curiosity among Ethiopian citizens. Understandably, due to misconceptions about adoption some Ethiopian citizens even look upon American and European adoptive families with suspicion. Cultural differences in parenting and child behavior are contributing to this suspicion.”
Frankly, the Joint Council’s policy statement itself is culturally insensitive, painting Ethiopian citizens as ignorant, superstitious and potentially hostile natives who don’t understand adoption. When Ethiopians see white people taking away Ethiopian children by the thousands, they understand quite well the loss that international adoption means for them, their children and their country, and they understand only too well that the “help” they get from white people is taking away their children, the rest of the country’s citizens be damned.
The Joint Council never explains what they mean by cultural insensitivities, but they sure sound scared at the possibility for business drying up:
“Without exaggeration, this [cultural insensitivity] may lead to the elimination of intercountry adoption as an option for ensuring that every Ethiopian child has a safe, permanent and loving family.”
If the sheer magnitude of international, transracial adoptions from Ethiopia looks so bad, wouldn’t the most culturally sensitive response be to find ways to keep children in country with their Ethiopian families, instead of counseling adoptive parents to slip Ethiopian children out of the country as quietly as possible so that Ethiopians don’t notice?
When has secrecy in adoption ever been a good strategy?