adoptee · Educational · family preservation · international adoption · reform · smolin · Uncategorized

The Rights of the Poor Family

Miriam James

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is “the most widely accepted human rights treaty” and through it, international adoption law determined that ideally, family preservation should be preferred to adoption, and domestic adoption should be preferred to intercountry adoption, etc because it operates off of the proposed rights of a child. These would include such rights as “to a name, a nationality and to know and be cared for by his or her parents…to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name, and family relations…State Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will (subject to certain limitations, of course).”
“In addition, the CRC also states that “due regard shall be paid to the desirability of continuity in a child’s upbringing and to the child’s ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background…In all actions concerning children . . . the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

It should be noted that only the United States and Somalia, according to Amnesty International, have not ratified the CRC.

Though there’s much to be said about that, including the truth that though the rest of the world complies with the CRC, as we’ve already seen, this seems to be more in word rather than deed. Still, the way we speak about adoption in the US definitely reflects our history which includes parental rights but not child rights. In the US, parents have the right to care for and have custody of their biological children.

“However, this approach differs from that of the CRC in two significant ways. First, like other rights in the United States, this is a negative right protecting against governmental action, rather than a positive right by which governmental assistance would become mandatory. In practice, this means that the government does not have any obligation to assist parents with the financial means necessary to be able to care for their children. Indeed, where the parents are unable to provide for the child due to poverty, in some instances child protective services will remove the child from the home rather than provide the financial assistance necessary to preserve the family. While persons working in the system may make theoretical statements that poverty is not a grounds for removal, in practice the deficiencies of environment and provision associated with poverty are commonly used by child protective services as grounds for removal, and the State often does not offer to remediate the poverty that contributes to those deficiencies. Not surprisingly, in this context voluntary temporary placement of a child into foster care, or permanent relinquishment of a child for adoption, due to poverty or financial difficulty, is seen as a lawful and legitimate act within the United States, even if no effort is made to offer financial assistance.”

Also, because we don’t recognize a right of the child to be raised by his or her parents, when it comes to adoption parental relinquishment is normalized “as rights can be waived by those who hold them.” So in that case, no destruction of rights has occurred because the child has no relational rights to lose.

Instead, when we talk about adoption being in the child’s best interest (and here again, we classify domestic adoption in at least two ways: independent and foster, and here we’re talking about independent), it is without knowledge of the concept of the rights of the child to know and be cared for by their parents (even though this is an accepted rule throughout the rest of the world). “Best interest” instead seems to revolve around some mix of financial, material, educational, and marital circumstances. The conversation switches from “how can we preserve the natural and familial rights of the child?” to “which option will give the child more opportunities and stability?” We assume the rest will fall into place, i.e. the ends justifies the means and any loss will be outweighed by the good done. The child thus becomes a pawn, and a blank slate rather than a person.

This is one of the hardest arguments to wrap my head around, especially as a Christian. It’s easy to talk about hypothetical families in impoverished countries who are having their children kidnapped. I would hope that’s a no-brainer. But there’s almost a reluctance to agree that children have a right to be raised by their uneducated, impoverished, unmarried, especially non-Christian parents (who think, say, and do things offensive to us) in America. We aren’t talking about cases involving abuse or drugs. We’re just talking about the difference in classes, really.

It seems to be difficult for Christians to say that it would not be better for the child to be raised by stable, Christian families. Does anyone else, reading that, think our logic is flawed? If anything, that is never prescribed as an evangelistic or assistive solution in the New Testament so we should be hesitant to so easily reconcile that reasoning in our minds.

At the very least we need to recognize that adoption is anything but a guarantee, even and especially of evangelistic success.

I also think something has gone wrong if we’re equating “privilege” with “better.” That’s a natural assumption, but not a Christian one.

And what of God? If he wills something, will it not be brought about? Do humans have the capacity to derail his plans permanently? If an unbelieving family changes their mind and decides to parent their child, has that child (or family) lost their one and only likely hope for encountering God or the gospel? Similarly, had I not chosen adoption myself, would God have erased all possibility of me becoming a Christian? No doubt that was providence. But wouldn’t God have worked regardless of the good or bad decisions I made, as he always has? Isn’t he bigger than us and our circumstances? Can’t he do exceedingly more than we could even think to ask? Our inability to comprehend him and his ways makes me think that the statement “if I hadn’t have done that, this never would have happened” borders on simplistic. Not that I’m taking God out of it-no, I believe he’s responsible for the redemption of all my decisions thus far. Rather I’m putting God into it even more- that maybe the letter of my life would be different, but not the spirit. If I don’t believe my salvation rested on my signing those papers, then I can’t believe some child’s salvation rests on his or her parents signing away their parental rights.

If we sit in so much judgement against those who we deem lesser or worse off, what are we doing to enter into their lives and have an impact? Extracting children from that context and believing they can just be transplanted and assimilated into our church culture can’t be the only way to minister to those in need, can it?


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