NY Times on Haiti Adoptions: Missing the Bigger Story

Yesterday’s NY Times article on U.S. adoptions from Haiti was a mixed bag.  (My letter to the editor of the NY Times is below).  The article did raise many of the complex and difficult issues that come with inter-country adoption, including a number that adoption advocates of every stripe must take very seriously.

Ultimately, however, the reporting missed the bigger story.   First, it missed the fact that the expedited adoption process following Haiti’s earthquake was very narrowly focused; it was no “adoption bonanza” as the article irresponsibly claimed, but rather a narrowly targeted process that helped only children that were in the adoption process before the earthquake.

Second, it missed the fact that with very few exceptions, Haiti’s orphans face the direst of circumstances.  Even those with an orphanage roof over their heads (including children with living relatives that are unable or unwilling to take them in) often know hunger, disease and abuse intimately.   Several prior blog posts note the consequences when adoptions are stymied (including here and here).  And it is certainly worth noting that while inter-country adoption often comes with difficult moral dilemmas, other attempts to care for orphans are frequently rife with far worse problems.  Shortcomings in both inter-country adoption and in-country care should be addressed and solved, not used as an excuse to stymie either effort in favor of the other.

Most significantly, the article missed the biggest story of all:  hundreds of children no longer live on the streets or in orphanages as a result of the expedited adoption process following Haiti’s quake.  Instead, the author selected from vast hours of interviews a handful of anecdotes and carefully-chosen quotes to emphasize potential pitfalls of inter-country adoption.  In a well-meant attempt to explore important (and sometimes overlooked) issues, the article ultimately failed to tell the full story.

A letter to the editor of the NY Times is below:



Your article, After Haiti Quake, the Chaos of U.S. Adoptions, smartly highlights the complexities of inter-country adoption.  Sadly, its emphasis, anecdotes and innuendoes were decisively those of the critic, underscoring potential flaws while missing the far more important reality.

Here’s the central fact:  tens of thousands of children will grow up in institutions and on Haiti’s streets if not adopted.  While orphanages are sometimes the only way to provide mass care temporarily, they are simply no substitute for a loving family.

Many Haitian orphans have relatives willing to care for them but for financial need, and every effort should be made to support such solutions.  Meanwhile, orphans without local options should not be kept from loving families abroad by the fact that adoption—like every solution to complex human needs—carries challenges.  It is time to reject the false choice between in-country care and inter-country adoption.  Compassion demands a commitment to both.

Jedd Medefind, President

Christian Alliance for Orphan