Deborra-lee Furness: Fight the global orphan crisis + Response

In a recent series of articles on international adoption by CNN News, Deborra-lee Furness (wife to the ultra hunky Hugh Jackman) wrote her opinions about the decline in international adoptions coming into the U.S. She first mentions the UNICEF statistic which states there are about 151 million orphans [actual UNICEF figure is 132 million] in the world that compiled together would create the 10th largest country in the world. However, UNICEF’s definition of orphan is a child who has lost one or both parents. In truth, only 10% of these defined “orphans” have lost both parents. Evidence clearly shows that the vast majority of orphans are living with a surviving parent grandparent, or other family member.  (www.unicef.org).”

Deborra-lee Furness argues that there are loving parents who want children and victimized children who need parents, and that we need to work to allow these two groups of people to come together. However, it isn’t as simple as that. Most couples want to experience raising a child from infancy, but the UNICEF figure is that an estimated 95% of all orphans are over the age of five. Additionally, adoption has become a profitable industry for exporting countries and middlemen involved in corruption and fraud.

Deborra-lee does bring up child-trafficking and corrupt practices in her article, mentioning one main issue of accountability. She says, “What needs to be addressed is the systemic core of the sending countries. We need to assist countries that have been rife with poverty and war and lack of education for decades. Until we can get at the core of why there are so many young women and unborn/newborn babies with no real support, they will always be vulnerable. By getting to the root of the problems, there is the possibility of creating an environment that will serve families and there will be fewer abandoned children that need to find another family.

I absolutely agree 100% with that statement. While many people question why children end up being in situations where adoption seems to be a necessary step of action, the pondering stops at careless, financially unstable, or abusive parents. The question people should be asking is what events or systems put these birthparents in such positions. If more people delved deeper into the issues, they would see a common theme – that the problems begin not at the conception of an “unwanted child,” but at the conception of oppressive cultural practices. By keeping women without autonomy to their own bodies, by not providing people with adequate health education, by ostracizing struggling, single mothers, or by denying people access to a living wage, these are all ways in which societies entrap birthfamilies in desperate situations. Through tackling these massive socio-economic and political issues of societies across the globe, the so-called “global orphan crisis” would be minimized greatly.

Deborra-lee’s dream is “that there would be no need for adoption and that every child could remain with birth families. When adoption is the best option for these kids, [she] totally advocate[s] for a well-run system that serves these children and families.” This is my dream, as well. Though I believe this goal is attainable, it will be a long way until we reach an ethical and expedient international adoption system that supports the birthparents, children, and prospective adoptive families.

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