The Daily News

LFCA Latest Issue: Friday, September 25, 2009.

Latest Post on BlogHer: Parenting after Infertility.

My Status: Fed Josh's almonds to the squirrels. They needed them very badly.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Adoption of the Fittest

Karaoke Diva sent me an interesting clip that was commentary on Angelina Jolie's recent appearance on Larry King Live:

KING: Some other aspects of our extremely talented guests -- you have two adopted children, right? What's that like?

JOLIE: It's the same as my biological child. They're -- I have three, and Maddox -- he's five and he's from Cambodia, and Zahara is two, almost, and she's Ethiopian, and Shiloh is six months. And they are all just like everybody. I love my kids -- they're funny, and they're magnificent, and --

KING: The late Bob Considine (ph) -- the Chicago writer -- wrote, "I have four children; two are adopted -- I forget which two."

JOLIE: That's right. You really do. And I honestly thought, when I was pregnant, I thought, god, I hope it doesn't feel different. Because I was worried. And it didn't feel different -- it doesn't at all.

KING: What do you make of the fuss over Madonna adopting a young African boy?

JOLIE: I don't know all the details and we're not close friends, so I wasn't able to speak with her. I only understand that we all have to be very -- everybody who adopts -- it's a difficult thing, to adopt, probably more difficult in many ways than it should be. But it's great that it is out there. And you have to go through many levels in order to do that.

KING: It should be hard.

JOLIE: It should -- it should be hard to be a parent, period. It should be -- you know, you shouldn't...

KING: They ought to have a test for it.

JOLIE: I mean, yes, you're saying -- and I go through many, many things in order to adopt. I'm fingerprinted, I'm checked, I go through home studies. I go through everything to prove I'm a decent citizen, I'm a good human being.That doesn't -- that didn't happen to me when I gave birth. You know? So it's interesting that there's no background check on you when you bring a child into your home in that way. But -- but I think, you know, that there's -- it was a country that does not have foreign adoptions usually. And so I think she's--I'm sure--smart enough to know that that was going to be unusual.

Jolie's comments during the interview reminded me of the line Keanu Reeves delivers in the movie, Parenthood: "You know, Mrs. Buckman, you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car - hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they'll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father."

I disagree with's take on the interview: "Angelina Jolie insists adoptive parents are more fit to raise a child than biological parents, because their background and personality is thoroughly scrutinised to see if they're suitable for the challenge." She didn't say anything close to that. Instead, she was pointing out the hoops adoptive parents jump through that are absent from the world of biological parents.

It is interesting that there aren't background checks. There's no one turning to you in the hospital and saying that you're too fat or too old or too damaged to parent. Yet countries set up stringent rules on who they deem worthy to adopt children.

China recently changed their rules to exclude many people--not only single parents, but also "those who are obese, disfigured or on antidepressant medication. Applicants who are divorced or had their marriage annulled must wait five years after remarriage, and first-time couples must have been married for two years before becoming eligible, the rules stipulate. Homosexuals are excluded from adoption. Both prospective parents must have body mass indexes under 40 -- in other words, they cannot be morbidly obese."

I question some of the hoops that parents go through who take the adoption route. Why is it permissible to have that level of judgment within adoption, but we wouldn't dream of making some of the same rules for biological parents? Would the world be up in arms if government officials were entering the hospital and removing newborn children from parents who are "obese, disfigured or on antidepressant medication"?

And how many Americans would currently be parents if all of the rules governing the China adoption program (which is not the only program in the world with these limits) were suddenly in place in America?

I can't really put my finger on the "why" since it isn't determined by genetics, but there is a tinge of something akin to eugenics in this new ruling. Instead of weeding out the "undesirable" in order to create a race of blond-haired blue-eyed children, the Chinese government is weeding out the "undesirable" in order to create a community of slim, heterosexual, married adoptive parents. The government has the right to limit their program, and certainly no person has the "right" to be able to adopt (adoption is a reality of the world at large coming together to help raise a child--it isn't a system to create parents but rather one that allows people who can help to step forward to aid that child). Yet the new regulations smack a little too much of Nazi Germany to make me feel comfortable.

I am all for determining the fitness of parents--but that fitness is directly tied to having sound parenting techniques and responsibility in regards to the child. It's not determined by weight or having four limbs or being free of mental illness. Nor is it determined by arbitrary characteristics such as IQ, hair colour, or height. And I guess that's what worried me since, as Keanu Reeve's character pointed out, any asshole can be a parent--that is, as long as they don't engage in adoption.


Anam said...

i like angelina jolie - always have (not a fan of her acting though) but i like her stance on a bunch of issues - especially adoption and kids etc we failed our home study becuase i talked too much and my husband is an artist and therefore unstable. so we sued and own but it put us off state adoption for life

Anonymous said...

I honestly though that if science didn't work out I would adopt from China. find out I wouldn' have been eligible because of freaking ZOLOFT. Heaven forbid I seek treatment for my seratonin issues.

Anonymous said...

Oh, am I full of typos today. I am sorry about that.

Anonymous said...

I'm absolutely beside myself about the new China restrictions. I'd thought China might be an option for us if we end up adopting down the road, but I guess not. You know, because two highly-educated, highly-paid, homeowning, churchgoing attorneys are somehow not fit to be parents because of my ill-advised and short-lived first marriage. Sheesh.

The Town Criers said...

Stacie: It is unsettling. I think taking care of a health issue makes you a FANTASTIC parent.

GLouise said...

Wow- very interesting about China.
And of course, no one in China has confirmed all of these new regulations hopefully this is not set in stone.

Does anyone know how their new rules compare with other countries, such as Korea?

pink said...

Well, I guess depressed and fat mean that I'm an unfit mother in the eyes of the Chinese government.

This makes me think about my beef with the insurance industry, which tells you that if you're on anti-depression meds, you're a higher suicide risk, so they won't cover you. But the person who doesn't go to a therapist, doesn't get put on meds, and self-medicates with alcohol every night, that person will get coverage. (Sorry, little bitter about that.)

TeamWinks said...

Even my cable man who was just here came in saying his last job he had a kid who kept kicking him. Why can't there be some kind of license to have kids! How funny. I told him we were adopting, and conversation ensued.

China just plain pisses me off. I can't comment in any nice way about this, so I won't. Yet.

Jenn said...

Alls fair in love and war but not adoption and certainly not insurance. Like Pink I get upset about the insurance which covers illnesses related to poor choices but not infertility which is beyond my control.

As for China, I wonder if these new regulations have something to do with the fact that China is running low on women. There was a 60 Minutes not too long ago about the fact that their are too many men and not enough women in the upcoming generations and as a result there are a lot of serious social problems. Rather than admit that there are problems with limits on family size, they will just keep more girls in the country by denying adoption by certain groups.

lunarmagic said...

I find the stringent adoption rules very disconcerning. My best friend was adopted, and she is fully for adoption and is even considering adopting a child (even though she just had a biological child and has no fertility problems)... but she observed that they might not even be able to, because of all the rules they ahve to go through. And it's very sad, because there are many children who need good homes in our own country - yet many people look to other countries for adoption because it's usually slightly easier to accomplish. It's very upsetting to me, to see trailer trash who treat their children like dirt have 8 kids... but friends of mine who want a child VERY VERY badly and are such wonderful people have to jump through hoop after hoop to adopt a child. It's just not fair. But then, nothing about infertility is very fair.

Paper_whore said...

I've always said that the government should require a license to breed. Anybody see the recent news story about the pregnant woman who had a blood alcohol level of 0.18 (legal limit is 0.8) when she was in labor. Baby was born with a level of 0.17 and died shortly there after. She should be sterilized.

Pardon me while I hop on my soapbox...
I also think it's peculiar how it's illegal to make money from giving your child up for adoption, yet the agencies and lawyers rake in the haul. Sure seems like baby sales to me. That's definitely not a jibe on families adopting or on birthparents, but it is certainly a jibe on these agencies and lawyers making tons of cash from adoption. I realize the background checks and home studies cost money, but I would be curious to know exactly how much of the thousands of dollars adoptive parents spend is used to line the agency or lawyer's pockets.


Anonymous said...

Yeah - the AD's thing raised a flag for me as well - considering many adoptive parents are infertile and have previously undergone IVF, and there is a significant risk of depression due to IVF treatment. Is it better they hand these children over to people who "tough it out" or people who proactively seek a solution?

Then again, I'm a bad person because when I read this article a few days ago there was a little part of me that said, "Yay! We're not obese and we've never been diagnosed with depression, we're (touch wood) still able-bodied, married, heterosexual - this means we can go to the front of the queue!"

Then of course I realised that once a program starts placing restrictions it implies a sort of winding-down - which is a blessing in many ways, except I'm on the side with the most to lose from that process.

And then I thought of the people who would be excluded, not because they're bad parents, but because of some characteristic the Chinese government finds undesirable.

And of course I did think of the children, whose interests should be central. I guess I can only hope the policy makers keep that in mind.


Anonymous said...

Also, further to what Jenn said - I don't believe it is about keeping women in the country, so much as the simple fact the country is getting richer and more liberal.

Sure, still a one-child policy, but there have been plenty of discussions about a possible review in recent years.

Meanwhile, many middle-class parents can now afford to pay the "fine" for having a second child, and it is also becoming more socially acceptable to do so (although it is still a little taboo in most regions - kind of unpatriotic. But I've seen upper middle class people basking in the trendiness of having a friend with an illegal second child - think of this same demographic in the west in years gone by proudly sporting their token "gay friend".)

The social acceptance of girls and their equal value to boys is also improving with each generation. So I think it's more a culmination of these factors rather than a carefully engineered process to keep Chinese women in China.


Anonymous said...

So China's out now? Wow, it just gets better and better for those of us with mental health issues that actually get help. So I have to go off my meds whether I want to adopt or conceive, that makes oh so much sense.

Bobby and Ivy said...

Unfortunatly, you go through a lot of the same in a domestic adoption as well. You go through rigorous homestudies, you fight your way into the line, and then you wait to be CHOSEN. Even in foster care adoptions, you are put up against two other homestudies and you basically have to fight it out. You're scrutinized, compared to others, and if your lucky, your chosen. I know couples who have been on waiting lists for years because they're not "perfect" in the eyes of the state or the birth parents.

Because of the nature of our adoptions, I have often thought of this same topic. Why is it that my husband and I have to work so hard to be parents just because we have fertility issues while Fertile Mertile, who can't take care of her kids, who hurts her kids, who pops them out like puppies so that she can get more help from the state is never looked at or scrutinized?

IMO: It all adds up to yet another ouchie on the infertility bar.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you. When going through ivf I many times said, I probably should just start smoking crack and go on welfare because it seems they get pregnant so easily.

Thalia said...

I can see a lot of different sides in this discussion. One quick thing first, though. In terms of weight China is only excluding people with a BMI above 40 which is really morbidly obese (obesity starts at BMI=30) so it's not like they are insisting you are slim. I am overweight at a BMI of around 26.5 and they're not even close to excluding me. It does not seem unreasonable to me to want parents to be in shape enough to run around after a toddler.

The really troubling thing for me in the China changes is that the requirements for special needs children are fewer. So special needs children, who presuambly need more in terms of energy and resources, somehow aren't required to have such parents?

The hard thing about the hoops we must jump through as infertiles to be parents is that once the state is in the positioning of deciding who can be parents, of course they put in place restrictions. They have to put the child first, not us first, and so they can't just hand out babies as the gds seem to do to fertile, 'unsuitable' parents. They do need to check if we are child abusers, if we are mentally stable, if we can love a child appropriately. Unfortunately it is not a gd-given right right to be a parent. It is a biological imperative, but that is not the same thing.

Dee said...

While for the most part, I think that China's new restictions are going to keep a lot of great people from adopting there, I understand (to some degree) why they have implemented the changes. I don't think the changes were necessarily meant to be a judgement on one's fitness to parent. I do think they were meant to severely restrict the number of dossiers China is receiving. When we first applied (June '05) the wait was 6 months from log-in to referral. It's currently at 16 months and getting longer every month. They don't seem to be able to make babies "paper-ready" fast enough to keep up with the dossiers. I also think they want to slow down adoptions for political reasons (Bejing Olympics for one). I really doubt the changes are being applied to help correct the current gender imbalance as the 15,000?? or so babies adopted internationally each year is just a drop in the bucket compared to the population as a whole.

Trust me, I'm not defending the changes (they new rules will probably exclude us from a 2nd adoption), just trying to explain a little more about the situation. I wish the choice they had made was to implement better procedures to make more children available for adoption, domestically or internationally.