CNN has been publishing several stories about adoption lately. The most recent is an interesting piece on South Korean adoptions highlighting where several adoption agencies have lied about the identities and ages of birth parents to make a child seem more appealing to foreigners wishing to adopt. There is such a stigma in South Korean culture around unwed mothers that far too many adoptions contain false information from birth parents trying to hide the origins of their children. So, naturally, Korean activists are now coming forward to try to invoke change. One in particular, an adoptee named Jane Trenka, is fighting to end South Korean international adoptions altogether as a means to curve the stigma around unwed mothers. To quote from the article,
“The best option is always for a child to be parented by his or her birth parent,” she said. “Then domestic adoption, and only then intercountry adoption.”
That makes slight sense if you’re coming at this issue solely from the perspective of the birth parent and what that parent may feel is ideal. But what if you approach this issue from the perspective of the adoptee?
The best option is not necessarily always for a child to be parented by his or her birth parents. Such a notion is heavily dictated by our ongoing obsession with genetics and blood-relation. The best option for a child to be parented is that a child is parented by someone who will love and nurture that child. That should always be the trump card. If a biological parent is incapable of making those provisions for the child, then they are not the best choice for the child, plain and simple. And sometimes, that’s obvious even before the child is conceived. The notion that blood-relation is the ideal creates a second-class citizenship around adoptees and implies that what they got was somehow “second best.” Or third, Trenka would argue, if the adoption was international. I would ask why domestic adoption trumps international adoption. I suspect Trenka would feel that children should remain in families of the same race, and that notion is just bigoted. We as a society must shed the idea that kinship is only built on blood. Kinship is a social construct. Parenting language has to be earned. It is not given by God. It is not guaranteed by blood.
There are, I’m sure, many issues that need to be tackled surrounding international adoptions, as there are any adoptions. Some of these activists are probably making really positive headway on those issues. After all, the stigma surrounding unwed mothers, has to be dealt with not only in South Korea but everywhere. And yet, no adoption agency or government should ever work under the assumption that the “best option” is for a child to be with his or her birth parents. The starting question should always be, “Who is most capable of loving and nurturing this child?” So, while a birth mother may be the first person to ask that question, that alone won’t make her the ideal parent. And mothers who put their children up for adoption often do so because they understand how they might answer that question and understand up front that they are not the “best choice.”