If Australian experience has taught us nothing else it is that we should be cautious about cross-cultural adoption. The assumption that it is as easy as lifting one child out of destitution and placing them in the relative affluence of a (usually) white and (generally) rich home says volumes about the values that really appeal to us.
This is surely none other than the paternalism of the stolen generations. The simplistic solution is: if I can improve the lot of one person then that is better than doing nothing. And if I can do it is a big way then that is better than doing it in a small way.
This forgets that people do not exist in isolation. That though families may be stressed, even decimated, we need to think in broader frames of reference than just the isolated case. What does this do to communities and nations?
One interesting letter in the London Times makes a few of these points which have quite a lot of resonances with aspects of recent Australian history
The essential thing to remember about Madonna’s continuing adoption saga (report, Mar 30) is that both David Banda, whom she adopted in 2006, and the girl she is reported to be adopting imminently, are not without families of their own. High-profile intercountry adoptions send out the wrong message to vulnerable parents in poor countries who may be doubting their ability to bring up their own children because of extreme poverty.
A report published last year by the University of Liverpool’s School of Psychology described what it called the “Madonna Effect”. It claimed that poor parents in Eastern Europe were willingly giving up their children to orphanages in the hope that they would be adopted by a rich Westerner. The concern is that a similar effect may be taking place in sub-Saharan Africa. Intercountry adoption could be increasing the total number of children in orphanages. The emphasis needs to be placed on the work being done to support vulnerable families to stay together. This may be less glamorous than international adoption by pop stars but it is the only viable solution to provide safe and secure homes for all of Africa’s children.
Chief Executive, EveryChild UK
The real problem with the cult of celebrity is that it allows actions such as those of Madonna to go largely unchallenged. But we need to do better than this.