LGA contributor, Farnad J. Darnell, gives his take on an article about international adoptee reunion and raises some thoughtful questions. How can we truly know what is in a child’s best interest? What is “better off” and how is that idea determined? Reader, we want to know your thoughts – comment away!
If you haven’t had the chance to read the Washington Post article “Born abroad, adopted teens find home in multiple lands,” then please read it before continuing with the post. My write-up is a response to the piece.
Ms. Bahrampour writes a general piece about children adopted from Kazakhstan and Russia, brought to live in the DC Metro area, and who are now in their late teens and early 20s and tackling issues of identity by wanting to see where they came from. For many adoptees this is a natural process, and indeed the article is well-written in following with this narrative. She mentions the name of one adoptee who does not desire to search for their past, but continues with those who do desire to search.
But alas, the devil is in the details. The now teen was, to put it crudely, abducted by doctors because they knew her mother and thought the girl would have a better chance and better life if she were put up for adoption. This is my contention: how do any of us know what is in fact the best interest of the child? What legitimate authority could possibly know the best interest of the child? She was abducted, but the doctors told her mother she had died, so she need not come back to see if her child’s health was improving. The best interest of the child? It is nowhere to be found on either side of this story.
The profiled teen takes the opportunity to visit her home country of Kazakhstan, and this is when she realizes what poverty looks like, as well as what her family looks like. She has a mirror image of where she came from; indeed, her [physical] identity has a validation. But there is another exchange taking place – she knows where she came from and from her perspective her life is great; but not so for her family. But, she wouldn’t have to know if she hadn’t been kidnapped and put up for adoption. She wouldn’t question her identity and that of her family, and she wouldn’t have to deal with some semblance of survivor’s guilt…she knows she’s better off than her family and she can’t help them. Best interest of the child?
I don’t mean to dismiss her fortune; indeed, she is fortunate to have a loving home and opportunities she wouldn’t have otherwise. But, why is it a bad thing to think she would be worse off? How would she know? Isn’t it in a sense identity relativity? Bottom line: being adopted isn’t as simple and loving as some stories make it out to be. It is messy; it is frustrating; it is sad; it is empty.
I would like to make one last point: the article does not pursue the issue of kidnapping or child abduction for profit and adoption. This is another topic I will pursue from this article. To be continued . . .