Monday, February 15, 2010

Orphans, Adoption, and Kafala (Guardianship)

William Hogarth's "Moses Brought Before the Pharaoh's Daughter"
[In Islam, Musa is raised by the Pharaoh's loving wife, Asiyah, one of the 4 most revered women of Islam, whereas in  the Judeo-Christian tradition Moses is found and raised lovingly by the Pharaoh's unnamed daughter]

The timing of this long-planned post was determined by the start of the 5 day Fulla Festival in Jeddah, as announced last month in the Saudi Gazette:

Festival for orphans next month
By Fouzia Khan

JEDDAH – Social care homes in Makkah and Jeddah with the cooperation of the Saudi Corvette and Kamaro club are organizing a festival to support orphans and social charity in the Makkah region.
The five-day “Fulla festival” starts in Jeddah Feb. 15.
The aim of the festival, a senior official from the organizing committee said is to create public awareness and seek support for orphans.
The organizing committee has formed a working group to oversee the festival’s activities with a number of Saudi youth being involved as volunteers as an expression of their social responsibility, Saud Al-Aqeel, head of the organizing committee of the festival, said.
Over 300 orphans and 1,000 families will attend the festival which includes social and cultural events, competitions and a car race with Saudi champion Sultan Hamidi.
The festival, he said, will also try to inculcate a culture of charitable voluntary work by underlining the importance of caring for orphans and making them happy.
“This festival comes with the aim of establishing role models for orphans and organizing programs that will allow them to display their creative talents. Orphans will have a chance to enhance their creative skills which will help them integrate into the social system,” he said. – SG

However, the initial impetus, was from a post a few months ago on Coolred's Rant, Give Me A Family...Please?. I must say that the topic of abandoned children inspires Coolred to very high quality ranting. Her title, while appropriately echoing the famous literary abandoned child's, Oliver Twist's, "Please, sir, I want more", led to a post inspired by the Arab and Muslim cultures of Bahrain, the GCC in particular, and other MENA country practices, as provoked by this Gulf News article of an extreme situation, Baby Abandoned At Riffa Mosque:

Baby abandoned at Riffa mosque
By ANIQA HAIDER Posted on Tuesday, July 28, 2009

MANAMA: A newborn baby was yesterday found abandoned in a mosque car park in East Riffa. A passer-by came across the boy wrapped in a pink blanket at around 3pm.

National Radiator Industries job supervisor Masood Ahmed was parking his car at the Abdulla bin Darwish Fakhro Mosque, near Lulu Hypermarket, when he spotted the one-day-old baby and called police.

An ambulance took the baby to Salmaniya Medical Complex's accident and emergency unit before being transferred to a general ward.

The Indian and his colleague Raju Varghese had been sent to the mosque to carry out maintenance work on its air-conditioners.

"I was surprised to see a baby and I immediately called my manager."
"He told me to call the police, who asked me not to touch the baby, and they came immediately."

Mr Ahmed was then asked to file a report at Riffa Police Station.

"I believe the baby was given a shower and fed before being dumped in the parking lot as he didn't cry when I picked him up," said Mr Ahmed. "From the looks, I can say he had an Arab look. But you can't be 100 per cent sure."

Police last night confirmed the baby had been found abandoned and was still under observation in hospital.

Sources said the boy might be sent to an orphanage later if he was found to be healthy. Doctors said the baby was "absolutely fine".

Judging by the Comments on the post (and off), this story struck a chord with many who were concerned about the misrepresentation of Islamic and Arab values that such an abandonment represents, the difficulty for even Muslim expats to adopt a baby, the desire for adoption on the part of infertile couples, or the disagreements within a couple about adoption, whether versus or in addition to a biological child, and the differences among Western style adoption, foster parenting, and Islamic kafala, or guardianship. There was also care not to limit the phenomena of pre-marital sex, abandoning children, or rejecting disabled children to any one religion or ethnicity, particularly if one looks historically at Western countries, or contemporaneously at poorer regions of the world.

Unfortunately there has also been a rash of abandoned babies in Western countries, including Canada. Recently in Canada a baby was born in a Walmart washroom stall, and rescued after the mother attempted to flush the boy down the toilet. A quick thinking and well-trained store manager acted to successfully resuscitate the baby after a woman pointed out that a customer seemed to have had medical difficulty in one of the stalls. The unmarried, teenaged mother  was later found and charged.  Another baby was left in freezing temperatures on a doorstep last winter. However, the baby was well cared for and well protected, and seems to have been left when the mother knew that the home owner would be stepping out the door for his morning jog. His wife, a nurse, took care of the baby well until authorities could take over. Babies in dumpsters, or one in a freezing parking garage have also made the news. Simultaneously, mothers are reminded they can give the baby up for adoption, or "abandon" the baby in a hospital, or at a police station, no questions asked.

Foundling wheel at the "Ospedale Santo Spirito" in Rome

In Europe an increase in the abandonment of babies has lead to the re-establishment of foundling wheels, first created in 1198 in Italy, modernized as an incubator-like baby hatch at a hospital. A number of countries have done so, as a response to an increase in abandoned babies, and their deaths. They include Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, Hungary  Poland, and Switzerland in Europe, as well as Japan and the Philippines in Asia. In Pakistan and India, a number of baby hatches have been created in an effort to curb female feticide, and abandonment of babies out of poverty, 95% of whom are baby girls.

A German baby hatch, receives baby warm and safe, then sets off a notification to staff.

One major critique of these practices of foundling wheels and protections for mothers, is a failure to address fathers' rights. While in the past in Europe both poverty and the shame of an out of wedlock birth were motivators, currently the issues are more likely poverty and being overwhelmed by the need to care for an infant. Fathers may or may not be aware of the pregnancy, birth, or abandonment. Legally their rights are often less protected than the mothers'. The child also loses right to know his or her identity--maternal and paternal--as guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Foundling wheel (ruota innocenti) at the "Ospedale degli Innocenti" in Florence

Certain countries have made laws and taken social action to encourage women, who "choose" (not always a very free choice) to have a baby, to also choose to have it live and be cared for. France's law of "accouchement sous X", ie allowing a woman to deliver a baby in hospital anonymously, including anonymous to the hospital, was vigorously defended by Ségolène Royal, herself a mother, in the last Presidential elections. Certain US states have created Safe Haven Laws or Baby Moses Laws to decriminalize a mother leaving an infant at a hospital. Due to the economic downturn however, Nebraska, for one, experienced a number of older children being left.

Natural disasters, like the recent one in Haiti, result in new "orphans", some truly orphaned, and others only separated from loving parents. They also invoke rescue responses internationally by others to want to adopt the children orphaned by the disaster. This raises a number of issues about who is a real orphan, profiteering, child trafficking of real orphans or just any child, and whether it is best, especially for older children rather than infants, to be adopted away from their home culture and extended family, and social networks of friends, neighbours, and classmates.

Another high profile media type of adoption, and a controversial one, is celebrity adoption. While it may set an admirable role model for adopting and diversity, the Angelina Jolie phenomenon of adopting a rainbow family seems to me somewhat contrived, and only superficially beneficial to the majority of children in orphanages around the world, by raising awareness and giving a role model for cross-racial and interfaith adoption.  Jolie's and others' philanthropic efforts in a number of countries towards orphanages, schools, and hospitals are more effective and admirable in my opinion. Efforts to get at the poverty that is the most common reason for children to be in a third world orphanage are even better, in my opinion.

SOS Children's Villages International, created by a philanthropist post-WWII to deal with the war orphans and displaced children, is now established in the 3rd world. Its houses, with a small number of children and a "mother",  living among other similar houses, seems to be a better model than the older orphanage model, which had large numbers of  orphans together in a highly institutionalized setting. SOS Villages also protects children longer term, ensuring their education and integration into working society rather than (re-) abandoning them at an arbitrary age.

Iraqi girls, Al Amal Al Khariya (Virtuous Hope) orphanage, during an American troop's goodwill visit

Islam values the care of orphans highly, and advocates kafala or guardianship, but does not allow for adoption in the Western sense. Kafala is a legal undertaking but the child retains their family name, and does not inherit from the guardians. Mahrem and non-mahrem rules apply as they would in reference to the child's biological family, meaning that the family members the child is raised with would be non-mahrem.  This would only change if  a baby was taken in very young and breast fed by the mother, making her the child's milk mother, and her biological children breast fed by her  the child's milk siblings. The mahrem and non-mahrem rules apply to milk relationships as well as to blood ones.

Kafala has been compared in the West to fostering, but, perhaps because of professional experience, I think that comparison is unfair, in that foster homes are most often highly temporary, and sadly can be as abusive as the original setting; or the phenomenon of being switched from family to family undermines the child's sense of stability and self worth. Also, the fostering ends at age 18 or can end at age 16 if a child wants to opt out of  the system (usually into social services to stay in high school). Then again, perhaps I am naive about kafala, which I tend to see as open adoption, and which Coolred described more as long distance funding, or a place to put one's zakat money.

I take the liberty here of recopying my comments on Coolred's post, Give Me A Family...Please?, lightly edited for typos and comprehension, to address a number of further points that I feel are relevant on this topic, some of which are responses to others, including Coolred:

Coolred--you are in excellent form on this topic and hit all the main points.

I have an older friend from a verrrry Christian family (Eastern Orthodox) and a culture verrry similar to the Arab culture. She became pregnant while a med student by a med student who wanted to marry her and keep the baby. Her family coerced her into having the baby in a 3rd country, and giving it up to the convent orphanage. She tried for 18 months of that baby's life to be a mother, marry the father, and to find a way to keep the baby, but finally realized the situation was difficult for the child's development and signed adoption papers.

When the child's 16th birthday was approaching, by her own account she was so "insane" with worry and regret that her family performed a (well-greased) miracle and found the teenager. She has worked very hard to build a relationship with her biological daughter, the adoptive family, and now grandchildren (both boys being raised Italian, and Roman Catholic). She still wishes she had had the maturity to stand up to family even to have a perfunctory marriage (the man was abusive) to be able to keep the child, including having her daughter raised by family elsewhere in the world, while she completed her studies. Needless to say, she is in favour of open adoption.

Re: Bahrain--No kafala? No admiration of the Prophet Mohamed's status as orphan and Allah's blessings on those who taken in orphans? No looking west to Jordan and Ms Abir Muhaisan, kafala-adoptee of the Late Queen Alia and King Hussein? No Muslim expats? Or is it all about not having an identified father?

Abir Muhaisen, with her guardian-father, King Hussein of Jordan

Other than kafala, my biggest response to this is DNA DNA DNA! Subpoena the penis [sorry, but in this case the y chromosome person is letting the part speak for the whole, and not manning up], and make it give a DNA sample, and give the child at the minimum legal papers and a legal name. Hispano-American wandering men seem to do at least this much, which makes a huge difference in the children's lives.

Here I am thinking of specific Hispano-American patients, from diverse countries, who are the children of the longtime mistress, and are grateful that their fathers have recognized them legally, provided some financial support, and given them their surname, which makes an immense difference to their social status, and life opportunities. Their attitude in therapy has been, "At least he did that much". All would have preferred to be part of a traditional family, to have the father leave the privileged and socially more accepted first family to marry their mother, but all adore their mothers.

Hispano-American men come to mind because of these patients, and because the culture is similar in many ways to Arab culture, despite the differences in religion, yet different from what Coolred has described in Bahraini culture.

A French psychologist friend, married to a Moroccan and living in Morocco, specialized in orphaned children, is trying to get the kafala system and the legal system there changed to give the abandoned children legal papers and surnames so that they are entitled to Moroccan public benefits like education, and social assistance--maybe like the Italian traditional surname for abandoned babies, "Esposito" (exposed, left), or better yet a fine Arab/ Muslim name.

It sounds as though there is a failure in some situations to appreciate kafala in its best sense of guardianship, which is close to open adoption, often within the extended family.

BTW a friend adopted a Palestinian Christian from Lebanon, through a private adoption, and raised him in her ethnic non-Arab culture, and its specific denomination of Eastern Christianity. He is a happy successful young man. When he was a teenager he became curious about his identity (one of the tasks of adolescence being to create an adult identity), and his adoptive father promised to take him to Lebanon after high school, and to find his mother for him. He was happy with the offer and never did it, although he did spend a few months in Lebanon post-university graduation.

If a Muslim family is looking to adopt they might want to consider adoption or kafala, and then formal adoption in the US from Morocco, which has an active program, and is primarily concerned that the child be raised Muslim by Muslim parents who have the means to do so. Girls are coveted so there are fewer of them. Information is available on a number of sites, including this one by country, this one, and the US State site by country. Lebanon is also an option. Palestinian children are harder to adopt but possible. This excellent site for US citizens (and others) gives the requirements of different countries about adoption. They have a specific pamphlet on adopting from countries where Sharia Family law applies.

Coolred's point about having the loving mother keep the child is still valid, and it is hard for Westerners to get used to the idea that a child without a living recognized father is an orphan, no matter who is in his or her life, including a living, loving mother.

There is a well known and lethal psychiatric syndrome in infants called "failure to thrive" where lack of affection, bonding, and physical holding and loving results in wasting, weakening, and even death, despite receiving the mechanics of care, like food, clothing, cleaning, and shelter. Truly sad, and one of the reasons for closing orphanages here.

["Barrel children" are a more recently described phenomenon for children left behind when parents move overseas seeking better employment and leave the children in the care of strangers, neighbours, distant relatives or not much older siblings. This has been studied in regards to the Caribbean for one. The phenomenon of suddenly leaving a child with a grandparent, to work as a maid in Canada, then wrenching the child from the grandparent about 5 years later, has contributed to the psychological challenges of some Caribbean immigrants to Canada, and the dysfunctional family structures of some, notably in Toronto, Canada's Jane-Finch Corridor, which has had a problem recently with gang violence, and school shootings. The funding cuts by the previous highly conservative provincial government made matters worse.]

Addendum: Abu Abdullah’s comment below, and one offline inspired me to include the Quranic references to orphans and their possessions as an Addendum to the post. These are from the Yusuf Ali translation courtesy of this excellent site, University of Southern California Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement, with multiple English translations of the Quran,  an Index, Search function, the Hadith, and Resources on line for the 3 Abrahamic religions, as well as updates on other activities of the Center.

The Quran on Orphans:

Total Verses: 286 Revealed At: MADINA
002.220 (Their bearings) on this life and the Hereafter. They ask thee concerning orphans. Say: "The best thing to do is what is for their good; if ye mix their affairs with yours, they are your brethren; but Allah knows the man who means mischief from the man who means good. And if Allah had wished, He could have put you into difficulties: He is indeed Exalted in Power, Wise."

Surah 4: AN-NISA (WOMEN)
Total Verses: 176 Revealed At: MADINA
004.006 Make trial of orphans until they reach the age of marriage; if then ye find sound judgment in them, release their property to them; but consume it not wastefully, nor in haste against their growing up. If the guardian is well-off, Let him claim no remuneration, but if he is poor, let him have for himself what is just and reasonable. When ye release their property to them, take witnesses in their presence: But all-sufficient is Allah in taking account.

004.127 They ask thy instruction concerning the women say: Allah doth instruct you about them: And (remember) what hath been rehearsed unto you in the Book, concerning the orphans of women to whom ye give not the portions prescribed, and yet whom ye desire to marry, as also concerning the children who are weak and oppressed: that ye stand firm for justice to orphans. There is not a good deed which ye do, but Allah is well-acquainted therewith.

Total Verses: 11 Revealed At: MAKKA

093.001 By the Glorious Morning Light,
093.002 And by the Night when it is still,-
093.003 Thy Guardian-Lord hath not forsaken thee, nor is He displeased.
093.004 And verily the Hereafter will be better for thee than the present. .
093.005 And soon will thy Guardian-Lord give thee (that wherewith) thou shalt be well-pleased.
093.006 Did He not find thee an orphan and give thee shelter (and care)?
093.007 And He found thee wandering, and He gave thee guidance.
093.008 And He found thee in need, and made thee independent.
093.009 Therefore, treat not the orphan with harshness,
093.010 Nor repulse the petitioner (unheard);
093.011 But the bounty of the Lord - rehearse and proclaim!

The Quran on orphans' possessions:

Surah 4: AN-NISA (WOMEN)
Total Verses: 176 Revealed At: MADINA

004.002 To orphans restore their property (When they reach their age), nor substitute (your) worthless things for (their) good ones; and devour not their substance (by mixing it up) with your own. For this is indeed a great sin.
004.003 If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.
004.010 Those who unjustly eat up the property of orphans, eat up a Fire into their own bodies: They will soon be enduring a Blazing Fire!

Total Verses: 111 Revealed At: MAKKA

017.034 Come not nigh to the orphan's property except to improve it, until he attains the age of full strength; and fulfil (every) engagement, for (every) engagement will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning).

What is your opinion on the topic of how to define an orphan, and how extended family and society should care for them?
What are your ideas about international adoptions, including cross-racial, and interfaith?
What measures should be in place in a society to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the mother giving birth to a baby, and to ensure that baby receives care rather than being abandoned or worse?
What are or should be the father's rights; and the childs' rights to know their identity?
Should a man always ask for DNA proof before accepting paternity of a child whose mother is not his wife?
How important is it familially, socially, culturally, religiously to have biological children from your perspective?
What is the stigma or not against unwed mothers where you are?
What is the impact of celebrity adoptions?
What experiences have you had, or do you know about, with open (adoptee's birth family is know) or closed (all identifying information is kept sealed) adoption, fostering, kafala, guardianship?
Any other comments, thoughts, experiences?


Anonymous said...

I LOVE THIS POST VERY MUCH, children always touch a chord with me...

What is your opinion on the topic of how to define an orphan, and how extended family and society should care for them?
Though technically an orphan is defined as a child with dead parents at least in india. But actually i believe an orphan must be defined as child with dead parents or parents who cannot afford to raise the child to its fullest capabilities.
And that the responsibility of raising the child must fall on the parent and if the parents are not capable then the childs family, and extended family and so on.


What are your ideas about international adoptions, including cross-racial, and interfaith?
Identity Crisis thats one thing i am always worried about children. But any way children must be given exposure to their own cultures as well.


What measures should be in place in a society to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the mother giving birth to a baby, and to ensure that baby receives care rather than being abandoned or worse?

Actually i don't care about the society, but one question i would ask is, is it fair that the innocent child is shielded away from its real mother? isn't it a child's right to know its real mother?


What are or should be the father's rights; and the childs' rights to know their identity?
The Father has his rigths as long as he is willing to effectively provide for his child, and the child has absolute 100% right to know his or her parents.

Should a man always ask for DNA proof before accepting paternity of a child whose mother is not his wife?
Actually i guess a man who asks for DNA is only trying to avoid raising his child.


How important is it familially, socially, culturally, religiously to have biological children from your perspective?
It is very important for me to have a child for me from all perspectives mentioned. I see my child as an extension of myself.


What is the stigma or not against unwed mothers where you are?
Back in India unwed mothers and thier children suffer the most, its a common perception that unwed mothers are loose women and just every body tries to take advantage of them. OF course yes there is a percentage of ladies just like men who do lack morals but there are coward, hypocrite men who also cheat on women too. And in India a fathers name is absolutely important for a kid, he / she needs to fill in the fathers name in every application and its not an option. And children with unknown father names are looked down in the society and they don't get respect.

And in Saudi Arabia as i am not an Saudi i don't think i will not be able to know about what happens down here, but i read in a blog or some where about the child from a unwed emirati mother being given away to a omani couple for adoption and the girl was silently married away.


Any other comments, thoughts, experiences?
To any one don't be a fool in going into unwanted pregnancies and ruining your childrens life.

oby said...

While reading this post I was thinking about the MASH scene you mentioned wondering if that was the same thing you meant here....

I think an orphan is someone whose BOTH parents are dead or in some way incapacitated(perhaps mentally due to an accident) and are unable to care for them. I do think extended family should try to care for the child if they are able to. Ie: someone who travels extensively and for that reason doesn't have kids by choice might not be the best choice. In this case putting the child up for adoption might be the best situation. anyone who will go to all the trouble and expense to adopt a baby must really want one.

As far as interfaith or cross racial adoptions...I am totally OK with those. Although I think it would be better if there was a hierarchy of sorts. A child born in the Middle East perhaps should be adopted to Middle Eastern family. That way they are raised in a milieu that is most natural to them and to their adoptive parents. On the other hand, a precious baby is a precious baby and should not be denied loving parents no matter the religion or culture. Each baby is a clean slate when born and will adapt to their situation. One of my daughter's best friends is a little girl who comes from China adopted by a Jewish family. they adore her as if she was born to them. they have raised her Jewish but also have made huge efforts for her to be in touch with her native culture. I would do that with a baby say, from KSA. I would raise them in America in my faith BUT, I would make sure that they knew about where they came from and their mother's religion etc. I would never deprive them of that information.

confidentiality is important so that a mother does not feel afraid to leave the baby with the proper authorities rather than abandoning the baby in a dumpster or elsewhere so she is not "found out".

I think that the father, if he can provide for the baby or even keep it if the mother gives it up should do so if possible. As for asking for DNA...I think it is the right thing to do. On one hand it is terribly offensive to ask because it implies that the woman is loose and that she sleeps around. On the other hand, for him it is a big deal because he will invest himself emotionally and legally if he is the father so the stakes are high and if I were him I would want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt if I were the father or not.

For me it was important to have my own child as I wanted to go through the whole experience and have the blood line. But I would not have been opposed to having a natural one and an adopted one. My brother and his wife adopted a daughter after their first. We see absolutely no difference between the first child and the adopted one. OF COURSE, a few years later they got pregnant with twins! where they PLANNED to have two they now have four...and love it!

Qusay said...

Great post... in Saudi the light skinned kids get adopted quicker than the dark skinned or black kids... that is if the black ones get adopted at all. It used to happen (adoption)a lot, but it does not happen as much anymore... I do not know why.

Adapted orphans can be included in the inheritance and usually are, but Islam limits what u can give, to a 3rd of your wealth, the rest is distributed according to Islamic ruling.

I know many people who go to orphanages and take a few kids out every week in Jeddah, so I guess it would be like a big brother program, they take them on trips and offer them a sense of family and that... which is still good IMO.

Great post once again.

Susanne said...

Lovely pictures especially those precious children! And I love the stained-glass picture - wow!

An orphan is someone whose parents have died or given up their rights or have been forced to give up their rights due to court rulings. If extended family can help care for them, that's probably ideal unless they come from an abusive family.

I know several couples who have adopted internationally. One couple in my church adopted a toddler girl from China and later went back to adopt a then-8-year old boy who was missing an arm. Isaac is now doing well and even made the honor roll at his school. His mom said "not bad for someone who didn't grow up knowing any English!" He's been here about 2 years now...maybe 3. I know this family recently celebrated the Chinese New Year so it seems they are trying to celebrate things from their adopted children's native country. An online friend has a 3 year old son and they are trying to add to their family by adopting from S. Korea. The hardest part is the long wait - it's been well over a year since they did all the paperwork and the homestudy and still no referral. I know another couple who adopted 2 boys from Vietnam, other church friends got a girl from Vietnam and there are one or two other couples in my church with children from China. So I think it's fine and actually the couples who have gone to China and Vietnam tell us that the natives say how lucky those children are to be adopted by Americans. Oh, I also know a family who adopted a Guatemalan boy. And then one church family adopted three children domestically -- all as infants. Another online friend's parents have adopted 3 children - two domestically and one from Russia which has been disastrous since the girl was 8 when she came here, had suffered terribly under her alcoholic/prostitute mother and suffers from reactive attachment disorder. Thankfully most adoptions that I'm familiar with have been fine, but only the last one has been horrible for the adoptive parents and the adopted child.

I like that some (most?) places have some laws in place so moms can leave their children in safe places, no questions asked. I'd rather them do this than throw their children in dumpsters or try to suffocate them due to PPD or being overwhelmed. I know some people who do NOT want open adoptions so they won't consider adopting from certain agencies. I think if children later want to find out about their biological family, they have that right. I know some do and many do not. If women giving up their children want to register so that one day their biological children can find them, that's great. But if they want to sever all ties and any potential for reuniting then that's their choice.

A father who wants to care for his child should be given that chance provided he's able. I guess asking for DNA tests is a way to be sure so I can understand the desire for confirmation.

I think having biological children is important in my society although adopting children is also highly acceptable. My Arab friend often is amazed at how some Western areas have so few children since his society has way more children for the few jobs available in his country. For instance in Germany they are not replacing themselves so they are having to rely more and more on recruiting skilled workers from the Middle East and India in order to keep their country functioning at its same productive level. Americans are a bit more fruitful in reproducing so we aren't really at this place, but apparently many European nations have this upcoming "problem."

Susanne said...

Continued ...

There is not too much of a stigma against unwed mothers any more. I guess is some circles there would be moreso, but overall it's generally accepted in America these days.

Celebrity adoptions -- My online friend was upset by a celebrity adoption that happened last year because the woman who adopted was able to pull strings (money talks!) and go to the head of the line whereas my friend and her husband had been waiting for a child. So I think sometimes people resent celebs being treated better than us ordinary people.

Other thoughts -- I think the adoption process should be less costly. In order for people to adopt they have to raise thousands of dollars. My church has held fundraisers for some of the couples and I know Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife have a foundation to help couples adopt. -- I think more children would be adopted by good, loving families if it were not so expensive. But I know some of the expenses go towards bribes and bureaucracy so it's not surprising.

You wrote: " as opposed to the Pharaoh's unnamed evil daughter in the Judeo-Christian tradition"

Honestly I've never heard anyone say Pharaoh's daughter was "evil." She's been looked on rather favorably (or neutrally at worst) as one used by God to care for and protect Moses at a time when her evil father put out an order to kill all Hebrew boy babies. So I don't know where you heard that we think of her as evil. Maybe you speak from your own upbringing and things you've read. I'm only reporting on my own.

Great post!

Chiara said...

Abu Abdullah--thank you for your comprehensive comment, and I am so glad you enjoyed this post.
I would agree that since so many "orphans" are in fact children, some of them greatly loved, whose parents cannot afford to provide for them, the definition may need expansion or revision. I do think that in most normal families there are appropriate adoptive parents or guardians to be drawn from the family itself, which preserves roots, and especially for older children is more stabilizing than a dramatic shift away from their own family.

An identity crisis is a risk of mixed families, but generally this is addressed now by requiring that the parents agree to preserve the original cultural identity of the child. There are for example groups of white parents who have adopted Chinese children who organize language and culture lessons, daycares, summer camps, Chinese New Year celebrations, etc.

Unfortunately, I think it is sometimes necessary and good standard practice for men to be assured through DNA that the child is his. In a study on cystic fibrosis in a prominent Canadian children's hospital, it was accidentally found that 10% of the children were not fathered by the man the child and father thought they were. Other studies which are random in the sense that they were really wanting to study another phenomenon, but needed the genetic information, have found similar rates (up to 15%).

The issue of close or open adoptions is a big one currently with most favouring open adoptions, ie the child and mother no each other and even other family members as well, especially fathers, and siblings. The proponents of open adoptions advocate opening old records to adoptees. However this goes against the confidentiality and privacy the birth mother counted on in giving her baby up for adoption. This is a delicate balancing of the child's right to know and the mother's right to privacy and confidentiality. I must say I don't favour the retroactive breeching of the guarantee of confidentiality and privacy that these women expected. It would be better to continue to allow release of information when both mother (usually, but also father) and child (seeking one or both parents) have both registered for identifying information.

Many people feel as you do that it is highly important to have a biological child, often just as an extension of their family, and sometimes with greater concerns about inheritance and social status.

I think the latter considerations, and also the issue of pre-marital sex lead to stigma. In my own extended family, on of my father's American cousin's married an American woman who had been adopted. She was rejected by her very Roman Catholic inlaws on the presumption that she had been conceived out of wedlock--reasonable assumption, but unreasonable response in my opinion.

I do think that men should be required to provide a legal name, and financial support for all the children they father. Hopefully they would provide more emotionally and psychologically, even where they do not wish to marry the mother.

Thanks again for your comment.

Chiara said...

Oby--thanks for your comment, which also raises a number of interesting points.

I guess in a culture where a woman doesn't have the means to raise a child, considering a child with no father an orphan is logical. I do greatly prefer the idea of making sufficient opportunities for mothers to provide for their families.

I agree with you about interfaith and cross-cultural adoptions. The one place I would not favour this is where it is done to serve a political aim: eg Turkish adoption of Armenians during the genocide, Chilean officers adopting the babies of the "disappeared", where an ethnicity or race is threatened with extinction or elimination as a social unit.

I also agree with the importance of confidentiality for mothers, and of support provided by fathers. Many solutions can be found in the best interest of the child without the couple being forced to marry--IF the society is willing.

Thank you for sharing your views on and experiences of biological and adoptive children in a blended family. I have a colleague who is Appalachian, and had her own child then adopted a Korean girl. She says and shows that she loves them equally. It was a deliberate choice she and her husband chose adoption over bringing more children into the world, once their biological need was satisfied.

Of course it seems the most fertile couples are those who do not wish for a pregnancy or believe they are unable to conceive! LOL :)

Chiara said...

Qusay--Thank you for your compliments, and for sharing more about the situation in Saudi itself and about the Islamic perspective on this. How sad that this type of racism exists, yet fortunate that Islam works against it, rather than reinforcing it.

I fully agree that those who give a broader social life and family experience to orphans are doing a kindness, and enriching lives even if they do not wish to adopt or cannot. Foster families also often provide as loving stable home for children, but the foster care system in North America seems to have a great deal of problems.

Thanks again for your enlightening comment.

Chiara said...

Susanne--Thank you for your great double comment.

Last things first, my apologies for my statement about the Pharoah's daughter in the Judeo-Christian tradition. I am not sure where I got that idea but I was obviously visiting the sins of the father on the daughter. It may have been from reading too much poetry by communist surrealists, or rebellious French Canadians. In any case I have corrected the caption. Thanks for pointing this out.

Like Oby you point out the caveat of the abusive extended family adopting a child. This is certainly a major consideration and sometimes biological relatives are not screened as well by social workers as non-family members would be.

Thank you for sharing your experiences of international adoptions. As you point out most of the time these work well and parents preserve a sense of the culture of origin. Unfortunately some adoptive families go through very trying periods, but then so do some birth families.

Many who find their birth families are disappointed that they were not as imagined, or that the bonds of a family are not easy to create. Many do find that their experience is enriched though, and that they are better able to love their adoptive family. The types of options you describe for either open adoption or mutual registration for information and connection is appropriate. Post partum psychiatric syndromes could seriously impair one's judgment about whether one wanted to keep a baby and whether one could take care of one. Most are highly treatable and temporary so it would be sad to have that as a time of decision-making. Thanks for the ideas about church fundraising for an individual couple, and the foundation with the link.

Thanks again for your inspiring comment.

It is true that most European nations are not at replacement levels of child bearing, including traditionally Catholic ones. This contributes to xenophobia and Islamophobia imo as often the much higher birth rates, at least initially on immigration, are used as a propaganda tool.

Stigma is much lower these days about unwed motherhood in mainstream North American society, such that single women who do not abort most often keep their child as their own without pretending that the child is a much younger sibling as they used to.

Celebrities do seem to get "special" treatment related to money donated, and name cache. I don't blame your friends for being distressed by this.

You raise good points about the expense, and the bureaucracy of adoption being an unfortunate deterrent for many.

Chiara said...

I do hope others will contribute to this conversation on such an important topic from a number of dimensions: individual, familial, societal, and religious.

Marilyn said...

I have been researching the Renaissance Foundling and Baby Hospital in Florence Italy and the Montreal Foundling and Baby Hospital in Montreal Canada when I came across your blog somehow. I was searching for a picture of the foundling wheel I believe.
My mother was adopted by her biological father in Montreal from the foundling hospital. I am searching for her biological mother as somehow her father knew she was there. So I hope she is not anonymous as many were back in the 1920's.
Your blog has been very educating as I had no idea that places like this existed. How very sad. I hold a degree in Human Services, so I guess that explains why it touched my heart. Montreal did not have a foundling wheel, but mothers were allowed to place their baby on the steps outside. The building's steps do not face the street for that purpose. It is said that the babies on the outside of the building were replicas of the ones in Florence Italy and that the King of Siam's wife, "Anna" started the one in Montreal in the late 1800's.

Chiara said...

Marilyn--Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting and sharing your knowledge and perspectives. One of the tragedies in Quebec before the "Quiet Revolution" in the 60's was the shame associated with unwed pregnancy, and moreso than that the creation of the "Duplessis orphans" ie normal orphans falsely committed to mental institutions so that the Duplessis government of Quebec could shift the cost of care to the federal government. The orphans were abused, not only by being committed to psychiatric institutions but by the persons who ran them, including priests, nuns, administrators, and psychiatrists. In fact the Catholic orphanages were sometimes just re-designated as mental institutions with the same "occupants". There is some evidence that they were made involuntary subjects of medical experiments. At best they were "discharged" at age 18 with no education, work skills, or real life experience.

While there has been a certain recognition of wrongdoing cases are still before the courts.

You are probably more familiar with searching for adoption records in Quebec than I am, but I found this, if it helps:

Thanks again for your comment, and I hope you will comment on older and newer posts.


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