I wrote a post in October on Developing World Orphanages and some of the deceptions involved what has become an industry. I recently read a penetrating expose of has become a fully-orbed industry of adoption in Foreign Policy. "The Lie We Love" by E.J. Graff does a great job of thoroughly explaining how the exorbitant prices of international adoption have essentially created an industry of exploitation and human trafficking. "Westerners have been sold the myth of a world orphan crisis" he says. I will quickly try to recap the main points, for a more detailed explanation click the link and read the article for yourself. This industry has developed due to a confluence of developments. In the West, there are fewer babies being put up for adoption anymore. Also, the Western trend of waiting for a while to have children decreases the percentage of pregnancy. Combine those trends with the rising popularity of trying to relieve poverty in the world through adopting and you have a huge number of families hoping to adopt internationally. The numbers have spiked in the last fifteen years especially. It should be noted, however, that the demand is only for healthy babies. Graff states:
There are simply not enough healthy, adoptable infants to meet Western demand—and there's too much Western money in search of children. As a result, many international adoption agencies work not to find homes for needy children but to find children for Western homes.
When the adoption costs from $15,000 to $35,000 per child, one can see how this would be tempting in many economically-challenged nations. The lack of regulation in many developing countries provides an opportunity for the system to be exploited. It is that much easier with the levels of corruption in many developing nations.
So, what about those millions and millions of orphans we hear about? The figures are deceptive. First of all, orphan is sometimes defined as one parent dead or missing (as UNICEF does). This is not the Western connotation of orphan, we consider one orphaned when both parents are dead or missing. Two other factors are important to remember. Most orphans (95%) listed in the statistics are over the age of 5. Secondly, many orphans are physically disadvantaged. The truth is that a healthy baby born—in even the most dire of poverty—is wanted by the family. In the rare event that the baby is not going to cared for by his/her family, there is enough demand within the country that the baby can be adopted within the same country. The article makes the claim that if that enormous pile of cash did not exchange hands there would be zero healthy babies without a home in many of the nations. The amount of money involved has encouraged the terrible exploitation of the poor and minorities in many developing nations. Babies quickly become "paper orphans" through the manipulation of the official documentation.
The extremely high demand for healthy babies from wealthy western nations has created a business that will not go away unless we become wiser about these issues. As it is, we are essentially creating orphans by purchasing them from poor, disadvantaged families.
Scripture is clear that we are to care for those disadvantaged like orphans widows. But James 1:27 encourages us "to visit orphans and widows in their affliction", not buy them from impoverished or oppressed families. We need to seek the well-being of families in poverty so as to minimize the number of true orphans in the world.