Saturday, February 24, 2007

Big Baby Girl Sale -- My Thoughts

This editorial was recently published on the Opinions page of a newspaper in Tennessee -- the La Follette Press:

BIG BABY GIRL SALE - ONLY $17,000! - Jim Dossett

The Chinese have given us many things; gunpowder, spaghetti, woks, Jackie Chan. Oh yes, they've also been delighted to give us their discarded children. Actually, they're delighted to sell us their kids. And government officials have laid down new ground rules for foreigners who want to adopt children from China's overflowing orphanages.

Prospective adoptive parents must not be obese; no more than 50 years old; must not take antidepressants; must not have severe facial deformities. So the bottom line is, if you take up two seats on a plane, are a member of AARP, take Prozac,
or resemble the Elephant Man - No Chinese kids for you!

Mind you, these edicts are issued by a culture where parents traditionally leave female babies at orphanages or by the roadside because they wanted a son, or because the government allows them only one child. Ninety-five percent of the children available for adoption are girls. I'm amazed that one of the world's oldest civilizations, dating back to more than six millennnia, still doesn't realize that women are the best of us all.

I doubt whether many Campbell Countians would be eligible to adopt a Chinese baby - not because we're fat, old, or grotesquely deformed - but because it costs more to buy a child in China than many of us make in a year.

According to Chinese baby brokers, the estimated total cost of a no- frills adoption, not including travel, is about $12,000. The estimated total cost plus travel for two is $17,120.00 - such a deal.

"End of Year Sale! Get your certified, pre-owned girl child for the amazing price of $17,120! She's a beauty despite a few minor scratches and dents, but comes with a manufacturer's warranty - no surprises under the hood or the diaper!"

Once the bucks are shelled out for the kiddie commodity, who knows where the money ends up. Maybe some of the cash trickles into the new charity created
by the China Center for Adoption Affairs. This burgeoning group of capitalists is hopeful the charity will improve conditions in orphanages and "keep infants and young children alive and well enough to be adopted." It makes you wonder about the fate of toddlers who are not well.

Despite the high costs and stringent rules issued by the baby dealers, childless couples from the U.S. and around the world still flock to China in hopes of bringing baby home. God bless you decent souls. Stick religiously to your pretrip diets of carrot sticks and cottage cheese and look forward to the fat and happy times you'll have raising your baby girl!

Hmm. What to make of this? Parody? Insanity? Stupidity?

Whatever you make of it, the editor of the newspaper published an apology the following day and explained that the paper would look more carefully at the editorials in the future. The editor-in-chief also said they would be doing a story on a local family to show the positive side of adoption-- this editorial was intended to criticize the Chinese government, not adoption.

Well, I have a lot I could say about this. I didn't write a letter to the editor in complaint-- it's an editorial piece, and people are certainly entitled to their (stupid) opinions. After all the First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press (as my Con Law professor likes to point out). I would have liked to have learned that the paper would publish some of the letters it received in response to the editorial. And maybe they did-- or will. Who knows.

A few adoptive parents have commented on this editorial, and they've done so much more eloquently than we have. My personal favorite is Journalism Schmournalism, posted by a family whose daughter is, like Marcie, from Chongqing (though from a different orphanage). I think the best point made by this post is that the majority of the money spent on adoptions from China goes to the United States government and U.S. agencies, not to China directly.

But then I started thinking more about it-- I was more offended by the reference to the "baby sale" than to the criticism of China's new standards. I'm not pleased with the new restrictions, but they are entitled to set whatever standards they want, just like agencies do here in the U.S. And just like other countries do. So then I started wondering why the "baby sale" reference bothered me so much. Adoptions are expensive. I wrote about that back when I began blogging (you can read my entry about the cost of adoptions if you're so inclined). And China is one of the less expensive adoptions (unless you fly premium economy in the height of the travel season-- or if you're going to be there during Chinese New Year or the Olympics or something, which means more expensive travel costs). Here in the U.S., adoptions can cost up to $40,000. And birthmothers can receive money throughout their pregnancies-- and for 6 weeks after to help pay for basic necessities. I'm not saying this is wrong, even though a family might pay all these expenses only to have a birthmother change her mind in the end (which she is, of course, entitled to do, despite the broken hearts and empty wallets of the potential adoptive parents).

Why don't I like the notion that this might be "baby selling"? Hmm. I think, for me, it comes down to this-- children are not property. Really, it's that simple. The expenses we've paid for our adoptions-- to certify that we are stable, aware adults capable of creating and maintaining a stable and loving home environment-- those are not to own our children. None of us owns our kids. These expenses we've forked over-- they are for the privilege and honor of raising these precious, trusting children. For the privilege of introducing them to the wonders of the world. For the privilege of teaching them right from wrong. For the privilege of kissing their bruises and patching up their cuts. For the privilege of rocking them to sleep and singing them lullabyes. For the privilege of watching them smash birthday cake into their face at the end of their first year, the privilege of cheering them on through first steps and first sports games and first dances. For the privilege of holding them tightly when they are sad or scared and the privilege of laughing with them when they amuse us with their wild antics and giggles. But we really shouldn't confuse that with ownership. We can never own our children. And while I am incredibly attached to mine-- and would fight to the death to protect them-- I can only hope that as they grow up and become independent and I have to (literally) let them go, they will choose to return to me from time to time, to share some companionship, to seek my advice, to allow me remain a part of their lives. We pay this money not to own our children. We pay it because our lives our richer and fuller for being parents. And I'd be willing to bet that if you asked any parent-- adoptive or not-- how much they'd pay to keep their child, $17,000, or $40,000 or $4 million-- it wouldn't matter. It would be worth it. Because what our children bring to our lives just isn't measurable in dollars. So no one should kid themselves-- the costs we (adoptive parents) pay, they aren't to own our kids. We may be possessive and over-protective sometimes. We may call them "ours." But people are not property.


Anonymous said...

the editorial continues to reinforce the perception that adoptive parents bought their children. ugh!

i get his sarcasm, but ugh!!

alison frm. dallas.

Julie said...

Well said, Karen! I thought you very eloquent.