When Children Suffer

When Children Suffer

I remember preparing to adopt our first son from Vietnam, many years ago. I was a newbie on the web, and pretty proud of myself when I figured out how to join a Vietnam adoption email group and communicate with other families who were journeying along with me towards their children. The web has grown since them…and so has my knowledge of how the actions of just a few people can effect the lives of so many others.

The day we received our referral I realized, “this is really going to happen. I am actually going to travel across the globe, to an entirely different world…and return with a son.” I began acquiring as much knowledge about traveling in Vietnam as I could. There was lots of advice from my email list friends on what to wear, what is socially acceptable and what is not, how to be gracious and what common “American actions” were not socially acceptable in my son’s homeland. I was instructed on the proper way to give a gift, and how to graciously decline eating something that was just to “foreign” to me.

Unfortunately, a few of my travel companions did not feel it necessary to “bone-up” on the etiquette of being a guest in someone’s country. Although most in our group, like us, were wide-eyed, excited and respectful of the customs and culture of our children’s homeland, there was one couple who simply believed the world should bend to their loud, obnoxious and horribly “ugly American” stereotypical (in the eyes of people of other nations) behavior.

Now, I am not a prude, but I am sure there are guidebooks that instruct travelers in Asia that taking off your shirt (the husband) in public, while chewing tobacco and loudly asking if there “is anywhere a guy can get out of this god-forsaken sun” is not endearing. And I’ll bet that those same guidebooks would beg tired couples not to engage in a screaming argument about the “f---ing stroller you just had to bring” right outside the tour bus while Vietnamese officials were on hand to greet you and your newly adopted child.

Yes, this really did happen. And one might think that this type of behavior is truly the exception….and I suppose to this degree it may be. However, there is another, less obvious social discretion, that is very much on the verge of ruining adoption for other familes…and leaving many children to suffer in orphanages indefinitely.

Surely, I exaggerate. No. In fact, I have proof that I am absolutely telling the truth, but you must judge for yourself.

In 2001 I traveled with my husband to China to adopt our 2-year-old daughter. While staying at the White Swan hotel, where just about everyone stays waiting for their consulate appointment, I was dumb-struck to see not just one, but 2 separate “couples”….with both parents being women. These were not a single woman and friend traveling together. These were obviously lesbian couples (holding hands, kissing) with their newly adopted children….even though China has adamantly (as does every other country working with the US to place its orphanage children) outlawed the adoption of its children by gay couples. My thinking was, “Why? Why are these women flaunting this when they know it is against Chinese law?”

I won’t go into my personal feelings about homosexuality, because it really doesn’t matter what I think, or what you think, or what homosexuals think….countries have the right to place their children in whatever types of families they choose. And people who break the law, and then flaunt that….ruin adoption and place children at risk of never having a family.

And that is exactly what happened. Before 2003, single women (and even some men) were openly and without restriction encouraged by the Chinese government to adopt. Thousands of single women did just that, and are wonderful, loving parents to their sons and daughters. Many went back for another…or even a 3rd child. Singles were adopting about 32% of ALL the children adopted from China But that door that was once wide open, is now heavily restricted. Single women may now only adopt 8% of the children and sometimes wait a year or two to have their application sent over. In addition, they must supply extra paperwork to qualify and testify that they are not in a same-sex relationship.

So what will happen now? Will same-sex couples and ugly Americans get the picture? We are guests in the homelands of our adopted children. For goodness sakes, and the sake of the waiting children, please hold the social customs and laws of these countries in the high regard that they deserve. You may be tired, gay, nervous, stressed, or just ignorant…but the world doesn’t have to hear about it when the stakes are this high. It’s not about you…it’s about the children.

Editor’s note: We occasionally run controversial letters such as the above. This does not mean that we agree or disagree with these comments. If you have something you would like to share, please email it to: Martha Osborne


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