If you're thinking of acquiring a Third World baby, adopt a new attitude
- If you're thinking of acquiring a Third World baby, adopt a new attitude
September 4, 2010
Don't leave it too late to have babies, girls. There must hardly be a
young women out there who has missed out on this warning. It is a
lesson pressed on them 100 times over, in the media and over the
This generation of young women will not make the mistake some older
women made, of believing fertility was simply a matter of mind over
ovaries, that if you were smart about it you could give birth to
healthy babies well into your forties, just like the celebrities in
the magazines, with their dark glasses and boisterous twins and giant
cups of takeaway coffee.
This myth has been put to rest only to be replaced by another one I
keep hearing from women in their twenties. It goes like this: "If I
leave it too late to have babies of my own it is OK because I'll just
adopt, which is better anyway because there are so many babies in the
Third World who need a home."
This statement is mythical on all counts: inter-country adoption is
not easy, you cannot do it at any age and there are not millions of
tiny infants in need of homes in the First World.
The countries we have inter-country adoption arrangements impose
criteria on adopting parents which make it an unrealistic back-up plan
for women who have left it too late to conceive. Options dwindle once
you are in your forties. For example, if you want to adopt a child
under two from Bolivia you must be under 40; if you want to adopt a
baby from China you must be under 45. Prospective adoptive parents of
South Korean children must be under 44.
And if you are single there may not be many options at all. The
Department of Community Services advises singles looking to adopt from
overseas that there are only limited options because none of the
countries that we have arrangements with will accept applications from
singles unless they are willing to adopt much older children, and
those with complex needs.
UNICEF estimates there are more than 132 million children in the world
who have lost a parent. Statistics like this are quoted by those
lobbying for swifter, easier adoption. But if you look more closely at
the statistics they show there is not a massive, untapped pool of
babies in need of adoption by foreign families.
As the UNICEF Press Centre makes clear: "Of the more than 132 million
children classified as orphans, only 13 million have lost both
parents. Evidence clearly shows that the vast majority of orphans are
living with a surviving parent, grandparent or other family member -
95 per cent of all orphans are over the age of five."
Additionally, and for good reason, the Hague Convention seeks to have
children adopted in the country of origin before overseas adoption is
considered. So it is not surprising that in 2008-09 there were just 93
inter-country adoptions across the whole of NSW, with an additional 20
babies adopted locally.
Some may be reading this wondering, "Well, what about all the
celebrities in the magazines?" Gossip mags make it look like anyone
can adopt, just as they once made it look like anyone could pop out a
baby well into middle age. There is Angelina Jolie with her entourage
of toddlers, not to mention tragic cases like the soap heiress Casey
Johnson who acquired a small girl from Kazakhstan (not a signatory to
the Hague Convention on inter-country adoption at the time) in spite
of Johnson's mental fragility and party lifestyle. She lost custody of
the child and died in suspicious circumstances in January.
It is true the US has a more relaxed adoption program than we do, but
this lack of red tape is hardly something we should want to emulate,
especially when there is a risk of creating a market for trafficked
Not every woman wants to have a baby. There are plenty of other ways
to live a fulfilling life. And there are lots of ways to have a child
in your life even when it is too late to conceive, such as fostering
older children, which may be a pathway to adoption. But imagining you
can easily adopt a baby is not a back-up plan, it is a fantasy.