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"Muslim Converts 'Not Islamic Enough' for Their Adopted Son to Have a Brother":

That's a headline from a Times (London) story:

When Robert and Jo Garofalo decided they wanted to adopt a child in Morocco they knew it would not be easy. Although the law in the Muslim state had been changed to allow foreign adoptions, the couple were required to convert to Islam first[, which they did]....

So when, earlier this year, they approached Surrey [U.K.] social services for approval to adopt again from the same Moroccan orphanage, they were surprised to discover that they would have to go through the whole process again. The couple were particularly concerned that, in order to assess Samuel's "attachment" to them, he would have to be monitored and even filmed while playing.

Equally disconcerting was that even though social workers indicated in an initial report that they would be prepared to support the second application, the couple were left with the impression that they were being asked to do more to show they were living a Muslim lifestyle.

"The Moroccan orphanage felt it would be good for Samuel to have a brother and were very positive and encouraging. They were happy with the way we dealt with Samuel's cultural and religious needs," Mrs Garofalo, a 40-year-old actress, said. But this was not enough for Surrey, who made clear that an assessment would go ahead only if the couple proved that they were making enough effort to live a Muslim lifestyle.

In their report, social workers noted that although the couple had stated their religion was Islam "there is no outward sign that this is a Muslim family ... Joanne and Robert are aware that the socio-religious element is an aspect of Samuel's identity and heritage which this agency takes very seriously." It recommended that "particular attention be given to sharing techniques and strategies with Joanne and Robert that will enhance their children's sense of identity and legacy, particularly in view of their very public statement they made deciding to convert to Islam in order to adopt"....

Surrey County Council said that children's services were under a legal duty to conduct an assessment on how the couple's son was doing, and their efforts to promote his Muslim faith, before exploring a second adoption.

"The couple approached us with a view to adopting the second child and we told them that by law we had to do an assessment to find out how well the adopted Muslim child from Morocco had settled with them in this country, the security of his attachments and the likely impact on him of having a sibling with complex needs in the household. We also told them the assessment would look at their efforts to promote the adopted child's religion and culture. After finding out these legal requirements, they decided not to continue the process." ...

A few thoughts:

1. It seems to me there is one important reason why we'd want to make sure that adoptive parents raise the child in the birth parents' faith: To encourage the birth parents to put their children up for adoption, by removing or mitigating one reason for them not to do so (a fear that the child will be raised in a way that endangers the child's salvation). And that's true even if we don't share the parents' beliefs; so long as such birth parent fears are real, they may deter adoption placements that would otherwise happen, and that would help the child, the adoptive parents, the birth parents, and the taxpayers. It's true that there might be some opposite effects, if children end up being unadoptable because of long delays caused by waiting for just the right religion. But I suspect that the effects will quite likely be positive.

2. For international adoptions, there may also be similar reasons focused on the belief system of the birth parents' country. If Morocco stops allowing adoptions to Britain or the U.S. because there's no assurance that the child will be raised Muslim, then that might materially diminish the quantity of win-win-win-win adoptions.

3. The trick comes with policing such a system. This is especially in the U.S., where the First Amendment generally bars the government from even deciding who's really one religion or another, much less how well someone is teaching the child a particular religion. But I would think there should be similar concerns, even if mostly policy concerns and not constitutional concerns, in other liberal and religiously mixed democracies. I would be inclined to say that the solution should be some provisions through which the parents (or the parents' countries) can delegate the religious judgment to private entities. Much as Orthodox Jews who insist on kosher food rely chiefly on the certification marks provided by private religious organizations or individual rabbis -- marks whose authenticity is assured by religiously neutral trademark laws -- so a mother who wants to give a child up for adoption could provide that the religiosity of the child's new home be vetted by some religious organization of her choice.

There would have to be limits on this aimed at protecting the child's best interests: For instance, the organization shouldn't be allowed to demand that the child be taken away from the adoptive parents after the adoption is final, even if the adoptive parents leave the faith. But at least the initial screening could be conducted by the private religious organization, and perhaps the organization could even enforce certain requirements through the threat of some moderate damages liability.

4. But in this case, it seems to me that the UK authorities aren't really trying to make sure that the birth parents' wishes, or even the Moroccan authorities' wishes, are satisfied. There's certainly no sign in the Times story that the UK authorities are focused on such matters, or on the long-term viability of international adoptions from Morocco to the UK. And it seems that the Moroccan authorities are happy with keeping the Muslim conversion strictly pro forma.

Rather, the rationale seems to be that an Islamic upbringing is in the child's best interest, because Islam "is an aspect of Samuel's identity," "heritage," "legacy," "religion," and "culture." And this, I think, is wrong as a matter of morality and sound government policy (and would be wrong in the U.S. as a constitutional matter).

The trouble, I think, is that (a) small children (Samuel was only several months old when he was adopted) don't have "religion" or "culture" or preexisting religious or cultural component to their "identity," and (b) the government shouldn't take a stand on how valuable the children's "heritage" or "legacy" is. Religion and culture is something that children are taught. Identity is something that is formed by those teachings, by the child's innate biological makeup, and by the reactions of peers and the rest of the adoptive society -- not by the religion of the child's birth country.

And whether a child should be raised in the religion of his birth parents or birth country, or raised in a much less devout version of the religion, or in another religion, or raised in no religion at all is a matter on which different sets of reasonable parents can differ. I know of no empirical basis for a belief that the child will be deeply scarred by one decision or another. And in the absence of such an empirical basis, the government shouldn't take the view that one's life, whether adult or young, should be linked to the accident of the child's birth.

Nor does it matter to me that the parents might have been insincere in their conversion to Islam. That strikes me as none of the UK government's business, given that the Garofalos weren't claiming any benefit from the UK government on account of their religion. It strikes me a very hard matter for the UK government to determine in any event. (What if they were sincere and then changed their minds? What if they practice a highly reform version of Islam?) And it strikes me as being of extremely slight relevance to the best interests of Samuel, or of Samuel's potential adoptive brother.

So the Times story, if accurate, is pretty troubling, both based on its particulars -- among other things, there's now one child who's more likely to have to spend more time in a Moroccan orphanage rather than in what seems likely to be a loving family -- and in what it says about the mistaken attitudes and priorities of the English child welfare system. I hope U.S. authorities avoid going down that path, both for First Amendment reasons and for the other reasons I outlined above.

Greg Q (mail) (www):
Anyone think the UK authorities would, with a Russian adoption, demand the couple prove that they were making enough effort to live a Christian lifestyle?
10.21.2008 4:31am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
I quite agree with your constitutional and policy analysis. What I find curious is the attitude of the Surrey authorities. As you say, the idea that an infant has a religion is absurd, not only as a matter of morality and government policy but as a matter of biology. Religion is not transmitted genetically.

One possibility is that the authorities are actively promoting Islam, but as far as I know, the Islamicisation of Britain has not proceeded nearly that far. Another is that the authorities are transferring to religion a policy that makes some sense in the case of "race", that is, where the adopted child is a member of a visible minority. There is a colorable argument that a minority child raised by parents of another ethnicity may have problems due to conflicted identity, so that, e.g., adoption of black children by white parents is discouraged. Here in Canada there is a similar issue with the adoption of (native American) Indian children, where it is widely held that such children should either be adopted by Indian families or if raised by non-native people, brought up with as much exposure as possible to their Indian heritage. (There is also the issue, not relevant here, that there is a history of seizure of native children on dubious grounds and deliberate placement with white families for the purpose of cultural genocide.)

However much validity there may be to the issue of adoption of visible minority children by non-minority parents, this does not apply in the case of Muslims, who are not a visible minority. There is no "Muslim" appearance. Even if people might observe that the child did not look stereotypically English, it isn't generally possible to tell an Arab from a Turk, a Greek, or a Jew, or for that matter to distinguish a Muslim Arab from a Christian Arab. But given the frequent references to alleged "racial" discrimination against Muslims and suchlike, I wonder if perhaps the problem is that in the authorities wooly-headed thinking they have equated race and religion?
10.21.2008 4:51am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
From time to time, there will be an effort in the US to have Korean orphans adopted here from their earliest ages have a legacy event. I guess they eat kimchee or something.
The Association of Black Social Workers opposes interracial adoptions on cultural grounds.
The difference between Surrey and the US is that the efforts in the US are not a matter of government policy, but of general idiocy. I mean, the government has not yet decided to promote this particular bit of general idiocy.
Did I say "yet"? Yes. I see that I did say "yet".
10.21.2008 8:48am
A.C.:
I think Bill Poser is right. There seems to have been a reasonably successful effort in Britain to have "Muslim" declared a race for the purposes of anti-discrimination policy. I think that approach has had less traction in the US, perhaps because of our general approach to religion and the law or perhaps because our immigration patterns have been different.
10.21.2008 9:12am
Anon Y. Mous:

It seems to me there is one important reason why we'd want to make sure that adoptive parents raise the child in the birth parents' faith: To encourage the birth parents to put their children up for adoption, by removing or mitigating one reason for them not to do so (a fear that the child will be raised in a way that endangers the child's salvation).

In real estate, they have an instrument called Deed Restrictions. This allows the original developer of a property to have a certain amount of control over how the property will be used in the future, even after it has been sold. Perhaps the same approach could be used with adoption: for the biological parents giving up the child, they would be able to set some criteria that the adoptive parents must meet. For devout Muslims, they could insist that only devout Muslims would be eligible to adopt; for those who are not so devout, they could relax the restriction. It seems like that would be a better result than having the state make assumptions about what should apply to everyone.
10.21.2008 9:19am
mlstx (mail):
Some religions are "lifestyle" religions -- Islam, Judaism, old-fashioned Catholicism. There's more to it than showing up one day a week at a house of worship. There are special foods, special daily activities, special holidays. So these religions are much more about culture and identity than most protestant religions.

So the comparison to Russian adoption is not terribly apropos.

I would suspect that what the Surrey authorities are looking for is more emphasis on the "cultural" aspects of Islam, regardless of how devout the parents are.

There are, in fact, tons of empirical studies suggesting the importance of integrating cultural and racial identity for transracial adoptees.

I have two children adopted from China. We are not practicing Buddhists or Daoists, but we do incorporate cultural aspects of both into our lives.
10.21.2008 9:21am
JB:
This story places the adoption story in a pattern: Ignorance of Islam driving appeasement-bent Westerners to go way, way farther than necessary to make Muslims happy.

(what actually happened in my link:

On the UK Playstation forums, a 22 year old kid, goes by the handle Solid_08, types out about the copy of LittleBigPlanet that he managed to wheedle out of a retailer before the release date. On the 'Africa' level, he hears a song by a Grammy-Award winning Muslim artist, currently living in Somalia. The two-year old award-winning song offends him, because there are some snippets of an obscure Somali dialect used as a background track in the song, and he interprets the snippets as being from the Qui'ran (according to the artist, they really aren't, they are just phrases which while weird, are not word-for-word passages). In his particular, small sect of Islam, apparently the use of the Qui'ran in recorded music is considered sacrilige -All Islamic prayers and services are always sung... it just a handful of sects that believe that this singing should not be recorded.

Now in all of Great Britain, there may be but a handful of people who could understand any of this, but Solid_08, who has a Somali mother and knows a little of the language, is offended, so he writes a polite but impassioned request to have the song excluded from LittleBigPlanet on the grounds that it offends Islam, as though he were speaking for the whole of the religion.

Immediately, Sony of Europe goes ballistic and demands the popular song be pulled immediately. Media Molecule, the makers of LittleBigPlanet instantly produce a zero-day patch to eliminate the song being used in the game, but this is not good enough. Sony insists that at least 2% of the owners of the Playstation 3 have no internet connection, and that it is potentially possible that some small percentage of those people might be Muslim, might know that dialect of Somali, and -because they know nothing of Islam- assume that this would trigger a fatwa among all Muslims, everywhere.

So the more than 500,000 copies of the game are immediately recalled, despite already having been shipped to stores all over the world. The cost is tens of millions of Euros, and all of the games will end up in a landfill, a complete waste.

Since then, many more orthodox Muslims have stepped forward stating that this is entirely insane, because for most Muslims, recordings of music containing parts of the Qui'ran are common, and enjoyed in even greater measure than, say, Christians enjoy Christian Rock. This song is basically Islamic Rock, you see. It was very popular throughout Europe two years ago. However, Solid_08 is a recent immigrant.

So because of ignorance, racism, and the conviction that all Muslims believe the same thing, and all Muslims are potential terrorists, Sony has wasted every copy of LittleBigPlanet in a cowardly attempt to placate what they assume is an evil empire of bomb-carrying nutcases just waiting for a chance to blow up their world headquarters. All because of one post by one 22 year old boy fresh off the boat.

This blind appeasement of Muslims is becoming more and more common, especially in Great Britain, and from what I read in their newspapers (such as the Guardian and others), this is pissing a lot of UK folks off. But, Sony has spoken, and they dare not piss off the terrible Monolith that is the threat of Islam!

This is the full story, the full details of the matter. Media Molecule is crushed, they are angry and upset, as are a lot of gamers. Many have sworn to boycott the game as a protest against the increasing loss of their own culture and freedom of choice in order to appease Islam, or rather to appease a generalized, bigoted fear of Islam.

As the current largest religion on earth, recently just passing Christianity in number of adherents, this problem is not going away, and unless people start to grow the balls to dare to let Muslims be offended along with everyone else, we will see more and more of this blind, frightened, reactionary appeasement going on.

That is why I, and others are so mad about this. It isn't the game being late, it is the racist, cowardly appeasement. It's being so frightened of 'towelheads' that no act, however great, or expensive, or dire is too great to avoid making them go Jihad... because there is a belief that 'Muslim' is the same as 'terrorist'.

I find that very, very, very objectionable. Unforgivable, in fact. Folks is folks, and just as most Christians are not terrorists, so most Muslims are not terrorists, and this frightened effort to kow-tow to the image of a turbaned terrorist is completely offensive. It is also a pain in the ass, because it messes things up for everyone.

That's the scoop folks.


Here is the actual song, "Tapha Niang" from Muslim world music artist Toumani Diabate:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKT-07MKblc

Listen for yourself.
10.21.2008 9:36am
fortyninerdweet (mail):
Thanks for that, JB. For several years now too many Brits have wet themselves attempting to "placate" Muslims without knowing diddly about their religion or culture. This post is but another example of what happens when multiculturalism becomes a religion. Of course that could never happen here, could it? Could it?
10.21.2008 9:57am
J Adams:
This strikes me as more UK bull****. I adopted three kids from overseas - we baptized them here as Catholics. As far as I'm concerned the "birth parents" and their "culture" can go jump in the lake - given the abuse our kids suffered. Their culture now? American. If some agency told me I'd need to convert in order to adopt I'll tell them to go to hell and move on. When does this madness end?
10.21.2008 10:05am
Hoosier:
Philosophy 101 Essay Question:

Can God write a headline so convoluted that even He can't understand it? (Show your work)
10.21.2008 10:10am
JB:
fortyninerdweet: Having studied Islamic history and theology, I must say that there is a real competition between idiot Westerners and uneducated Muslims as to who can turn Islam into more of a medieval caricature of intolerance and villainy. It's a real horse race, and the rest of the world is left with the horse byproducts.

Educated Muslims are just fine, though. All this goes to show is that the certainty that religion (be it any traditional religion, multiculturalism, or whatever) provides is a dangerous tool in the hands of morons.
10.21.2008 10:35am
Houston Lawyer:
Coming up next, Surrey requires female circumcision on babies adopted from Africa. Following that, the endorsement of honor killings. Its all in their blood and heritage.
10.21.2008 10:51am
Ken Arromdee:
It's being so frightened of 'towelheads' that no act, however great, or expensive, or dire is too great to avoid making them go Jihad... because there is a belief that 'Muslim' is the same as 'terrorist'.

Because it's happened with actual things that offend actual Muslims, who resort to actual violence. Sure, most Muslims wouldn't care about the song. Most Muslims didn't care about Satanic Verses or the Mohammed cartoons or Submission either. It only takes a very tiny percentage of violent followers to be a threat (particularly if they include preachers or politicians who thrive off of hatred of the West, and can rile up crowds.)
10.21.2008 11:10am
mlstx (mail):
EV writes:


It seems to me there is one important reason why we'd want to make sure that adoptive parents raise the child in the birth parents' faith: To encourage the birth parents to put their children up for adoption, by removing or mitigating one reason for them not to do so (a fear that the child will be raised in a way that endangers the child's salvation).


Let's examine the a priori assumtion behind encouraging birth parents to put their children up for adoption -- why in the world would we want to do so? Isn't it better for children to be raised by their birth parents in their birth culture?

I say this as an adoptive parent, who can recognize that the general adoption story, and especially the international adoption story, is that adoptive parents can give children "a better life." But how do we define "better life?" My father grew up desperately poor on a dirt farm in Mississippi -- would it have been better to shift him to richer parents?

There seems to be a suggestion of entitlement here -- rich, white prospective adoptive parents are entitled to the world's poor children, so long as they give in exchange "a better life," defined almost always as material gain.
10.21.2008 11:20am
Conrad Bibby (mail):
I go along with the comments of J Adams above. Although I have no personal experience with adoption, it seems to me that when you give up a child for adoption, you forfeit any right to control the child's future upbringing. By the same token, when you adopt a kid, you shouldn't then proceed to raise him/her with any particular deference to the wishes of the birth parents, let alone those of the orphanage and country the child came from.

The story has several disturbing aspects. One of them was the willingness of the adoptive parents either to convert to Islam or to pretend to do so in order to adopt a Moroccan baby. I could imagine myself lying to an adoption agency about how often I run the vacuum cleaner or change the furnace filters, but I can't see myself lying about (or trying to change) my basic beliefs just to get a baby from a particular country. Moreover, I would seriously resent the experience of being REQUIRED to do that by some damn social worker.

Perhaps more disturbing is the extent to which "Surrey" was willing to involve itself in policing the depth of the couple's commitment to Islam. Obviously, there's a role for government to play in adoptions, but let's not go crazy here. Surrey should limit its inquiry to whether the adoptive parents are fit to raise a kid. Anything beyond that should be considered off limits. If that means Moroccan orphanages won't want to send children to England, that's up to them. It's not the role of government to solve other countries' social problems.
10.21.2008 11:21am
mlstx (mail):
Conrad Bibby writes:

I go along with the comments of J Adams above. Although I have no personal experience with adoption, it seems to me that when you give up a child for adoption, you forfeit any right to control the child's future upbringing. By the same token, when you adopt a kid, you shouldn't then proceed to raise him/her with any particular deference to the wishes of the birth parents, let alone those of the orphanage and country the child came from.


Yes, your lack of experience shows. I'm not sure what J. Adams' excuse is!

Certainly this is something I often hear from adoptive parents. It is in fact the advice transracial/international adoptive parents were given in the 1950s when Korean adoption to the U.S. started in large numbers.

Now, we have the benefit of the voices of adult Korean and Vietnamese adoptees, and adult African-American adoptees as well. And what we're learning is that it is a grave mistake to ignore birth culture. Regardless of how "white" we raise them, it's a whole different ballgame when they leave our houses. The greater world will look at their skin and see them as Korean, Vietnamese, African-American. And they have to somehow assimilate that perception, together with their white culture, into some kind of healthy racial identity.

The common theme in what many of these adoptees say is that having their parents ignore their birth culture made them ashamed of their birth culture, made them ashamed of their skin, made them ashamed of being anything other than white. They lost faith in their adoptive parents who seemed only to love them if they were white, when white was the one thing they could not be.

When birth culture is obviously not the same as adoptive culture, I think adoptive parents ignore birth culture at their peril. It might work when your kids are young, and under your protection. But that won't last forever . . . .
10.21.2008 11:32am
NowMDJD (mail):

The trouble, I think, is that (a) small children (Samuel was only several months old when he was adopted) don't have "religion" or "culture" or preexisting religious or cultural component to their "identity," and (b) the government shouldn't take a stand on how valuable the children's "heritage" or "legacy" is.

One trouble, I think, is rather that some religions have a different view of what constitutes a religion that you do. Judaism, for example, considers itself (at least in moderate to traditional variants) to be a covenant rather than a confession. One is Jewish by virtue of being born a Jew, and is subject to the obligations and privileges of Judaism by virtue of such birth.

I believe (but am not certain) that Catholicism analogously considers valid baptism to be an irreversible induction into the Church, regardless of the intent of the baptizee. In the famous Edgardo Mortara case, a young Jewish boy who was baptized by a household servant was removed from his home in the Papal States during the 1850's because of this. (That is not to say that any civil authority would now enforce this Catholic canon, if it now exists.)

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgardo_Mortara

I don't know what Moslems would consider to constitute irreversible induction into Islam, or what legal status a religion's definition of its own membership has in the UK. It is possible, of course, that Moslem authorities might differ on this question.

IMO, it is reasonable for a government to extend somewhat more recognition to the claims of religious communities than we do in the United States. However, people should be allowed to abandon or change religious affiliation in the context of the mutual relationship of the religious body, the secular state, and the citizen.

However, it isn't clear that a social service agency in Nation A (the UK) should be enforcing regulations in Nation B (Morocco) absent a legal obligation in Nation A to do so. In this case, this is true a fortiori because it isn't even clear that Nation B wants the agency to enforce its regulations.

I end up agreeing with Prof. Volokh, but for a different reason.
10.21.2008 11:34am
JB:

Because it's happened with actual things that offend actual Muslims, who resort to actual violence. Sure, most Muslims wouldn't care about the song. Most Muslims didn't care about Satanic Verses or the Mohammed cartoons or Submission either. It only takes a very tiny percentage of violent followers to be a threat (particularly if they include preachers or politicians who thrive off of hatred of the West, and can rile up crowds.)


Except in this case the orthodox Muslims came down on the side of the game.

Having a one-size-fits-all rule is stupid. Like the Republicans found with the "Obama is a Muslim Machurian Candidate" smear this year, there are always some things that are just too absurd for even the most credulous to credit.

Yes, uneducated Muslims often get violent when offended, and get offended in ways that baffle non-Muslims who don't know anything about Islam. The answer is not to cave in to every perceived threat from self-described Muslims, the answer is to -ask some Muslims- if it's really all that bad. Or, you know, go about your business without letting yourself be bullied by chauvinists. But if you're going to try to avoid conflict, adopt a more thoguht-out position.

Satanic Verses was easily seen as a character assassination of Muhammad. The cartoons purposely treated Muhammad with disrespect. Submission was a direct attack on some extreme Islamic beliefs. The outrage against all of them, deplorable as it is, was entirely predictable. Those who produced them did, or should have, anticipate it. The lyrics controversy and the adoption decision fly in the face of Muslim history, culture, and preferences, and only the most ignorant could classify them in the same category as the others.

The lyrics one in particular is bad. If a Southern Baptist demanded that "In God We Trust" be removed from the U.S. dollar because Christians believe it is blasphemous to mention God's name, would you support that? It's that level of idiocy here.
10.21.2008 12:01pm
Toby:

I have two children adopted from China. We are not practicing Buddhists or Daoists, but we do incorporate cultural aspects of both into our lives.

I am guessing that these adoptees are female. Are you incorporating into their culture a disrespect for female such that they will give up their own daughters for adoption in the hope of future sons?

I clearly know nothing of your situration and what you are doing, so please excuse any reading of this comment as ad hominem. I am instead reaching for an idea that perhaps some parts of some cultures are not worthy of transmittal through adoptees.

I have a nephew whose natural mother was an exotic dancer who had aborted 6 kids before having the one put up for adoption. Perhaps there, too, and with no racial non-western cultures involved, there are some parts of the ancestral culture that should not be transmitted...
10.21.2008 12:10pm
autolykos:

Yes, your lack of experience shows. I'm not sure what J. Adams' excuse is!

Certainly this is something I often hear from adoptive parents. It is in fact the advice transracial/international adoptive parents were given in the 1950s when Korean adoption to the U.S. started in large numbers.

Now, we have the benefit of the voices of adult Korean and Vietnamese adoptees, and adult African-American adoptees as well. And what we're learning is that it is a grave mistake to ignore birth culture. Regardless of how "white" we raise them, it's a whole different ballgame when they leave our houses. The greater world will look at their skin and see them as Korean, Vietnamese, African-American. And they have to somehow assimilate that perception, together with their white culture, into some kind of healthy racial identity.


Yes, and your lack of reading comprehension shows. Whether or not it benefits adopted children to be educated about a different culture than that of their parents, that has NOTHING to do with deference to the wishes of the child's birth parents. Nowhere in his post did J Adams say or even imply that adoptive parents shouldn't attempt to address the issues that a child of a different race has in growing up in an adoptive home. Of course they should, just as adoptive parents of children of the same race should do their best to work through whatever issues the child has with being adopted. That has NOTHING to do with honoring the wishes of the birth parents. You don't even have to get to the accuracy of your melodramatic claims to realize they aren't applicable to his argument.
10.21.2008 12:11pm
Ken Arromdee:
Yes, uneducated Muslims often get violent when offended, and get offended in ways that baffle non-Muslims who don't know anything about Islam. The answer is not to cave in to every perceived threat from self-described Muslims, the answer is to -ask some Muslims- if it's really all that bad.

If you ask Muslims, then at best you'll know that most Muslims think it's okay. "Most" isn't good enough if you're worried about inciting violence, since even a very small number can be dangerous.

The cartoons purposely treated Muhammad with disrespect.

But the idea that merely depicting him at all is disrespect is itself baffling.
10.21.2008 12:21pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
NowMDJD identifies an important issue: Not all religions see religious affiliation as an act of individual conscience.

For many conservative Muslims, Islam is the default. Everyone is born a Muslim, but unless they are taught their faith, they may fall away from it into some other religion. That's why those who convert (in our parlance) to Islam are called "reverts" by Muslims, not "converts".

The problem in Surrey is that hardline Salafists (whether Wahhabi or Deobandi) are getting to make up the rules. It will take more moderate Muslims' becoming politically involved in the council to oust the radicals.

But moderates don't get exercised about politics much, no matter the issue, no matter the country. It's always the 'activist' who has the energy and interest to go into politics to promote his/her view.
10.21.2008 12:31pm
NowMDJD (mail):

The cartoons purposely treated Muhammad with disrespect.

But the idea that merely depicting him at all is disrespect is itself baffling.

All this is, of course, off topic.

But physical depictions of holy things may be considered disrespectful in the context of other religious traditions.

In Christianity, the Byzantine iconoclasts objected to use of images in worship. During the Protestant reformation, representational art was removed from churches in many places. In the Netherlands, the old churches and former cathedrals now are sans stained glass windows and altar pieces.

Traditional Judaism does not permit pictures of God. Some traditional Jews do not permit pictures of humans.

There is widespread belief that the physical depiction of the holy is sacrilegious and therefore disrespecful, and that some or all of God's creation is holy. This may be foreign to your point of view, but should not be baffling. God said to Moses, "No man shall see my face and live."
10.21.2008 12:38pm
Fub:
fortyninerdweet wrote at 10.21.2008 8:57am:
This post is but another example of what happens when multiculturalism becomes a religion. Of course that could never happen here, could it? Could it?
That sounds like a question for Secret Asian man.
10.21.2008 2:12pm
Conrad Bibby (mail):

Regardless of how "white" we raise them, it's a whole different ballgame when they leave our houses. The greater world will look at their skin and see them as Korean, Vietnamese, African-American.



Let's say for the sake of argument that you're correct, a non-white child who is adopted into a white family will experience a "whole different ballgame" when they leave the house "no matter how 'white' we raise them." What's your solution? Ban interracial adoption?

The same reasoning can easily be applied to interracial marriage.

I would assume that for at least 99% of the non-white orphans, they are better off being adopted by a white couple than they would be by not being adopted at all, even assuming some of them struggle to find a comfortable ethnic identity later in life. Erecting formal or informal barriers to adoption based on racial or ethnic considerations strikes me as a bad idea. Getting kids into quality homes ought to take precedence.

If all you're proposing is that adoptive parents not "ignore" "birth culture," that's a different matter. However, I don't see how merely "paying attention to" birth culture is going to immunize a non-white adoptee from the problem you describe in the paragraph quoted above.

I don't doubt that some kids in interracial adoption situations end up struggling with thought that they're not really white but they're not really black, either. I don't think the solution, however, ought to be nurturing a racial identity for the kid separate and apart from that of their adoptive family. What a kid in that situation really needs to understand is that they shouldn't think of themselves as being white OR being black. Nobody should. Race ought to be treated as an irrelevancy, because it is. Any other approach just reinforces the idea that race matters, which seems like a bad message given that there's nothing the kid can do to change his race.
10.21.2008 2:22pm
JB:

But the idea that merely depicting him at all is disrespect is itself baffling.


If you're trying to understand Islam, yes. If you're trying to go about your business and not cause riots, no. It's simple: These people hold, for baffling reasons, a belief that it is insulting to portray Muhammad, and are willing to riot over it, so don't portray him unless you're willing to have people riot. Similarly, these people often enjoy listening to recordings of the words of the Qur'an in popular music form, so they are unlikely to riot about your playing a song recorded by a Muslim featuring words from the Qur'an.

Islam is only a baffling mystery, wherein people act in completely unpredictable ways, to those who have absolutely no knowledge of it whatsoever. Asking a Muslim opens the doors to their strategically misleading you as to what will be offensive, but that can be mitigated more easily than complete ignorance can be.

I'm not defending the tendency of many Muslims to become violently outraged at minor provocations. I'm saying that these violent outrages are predictable, and one should be able to tell the difference between an internet troll and a leader of rioting thousands.
10.21.2008 2:27pm
Ken Arromdee:
Asking a Muslim opens the doors to their strategically misleading you as to what will be offensive, but that can be mitigated more easily than complete ignorance can be.

But that goes back to my point: asking a Muslim--even if he's completely honest and doesn't mislead you at all--would only tell you that most Muslims aren't offended. And when you're talking about violence, "most" isn't enough.
10.21.2008 2:36pm
mlstx (mail):
Conrad Bibby writes:


Let's say for the sake of argument that you're correct, a non-white child who is adopted into a white family will experience a "whole different ballgame" when they leave the house "no matter how 'white' we raise them." What's your solution? Ban interracial adoption?



I wish we could ban ALL adoption! Or more accurately, I wish we could end the current circumstances that lead to adoption. Most adoptees are not in fact "orphans" as we once required. Most of them have one or two parents who can't parent because of poverty.

But to address your question directly, what's a solution? Most adoption professionals, social workers, adult adoptees and adoptive parents agree on that -- incorporate the child's birth culture into their new lives, create positive feelings about their race/culture and birth parents (even if -- maybe ESPECIALLY if -- there was abuse. If you tell kids their birth parents or birth culture is evil, they'll see themselves as a product of evil and evil themselves), discuss race and racism explicitly, recognize that all adoptions start with loss -- loss of birth family, loss of culture/language if intercountry, loss of racial identity if interracial.

And that means those who screen adoptive parents need to look for openness to doing these things, and adoptive parents need to be educated on these issues.
10.21.2008 3:28pm
mlstx (mail):
Toby asks if my children from China are girls and writes:


I am guessing that these adoptees are female. Are you incorporating into their culture a disrespect for female such that they will give up their own daughters for adoption in the hope of future sons?



I'm afraid, Toby, that your understanding of Chinese culture is a bit superficial. I don't blame you for it -- it's a complicated subject.

The ideal family in China is considered to be one boy and one girl. The one family, one child policy, which is not a product of Chinese culture but of Chinese law, affects that cultural preference. And at this point, the social preference for boys is largely driven by economics rather than Confucian ideology. When workers are given pensions, the rate of abandonment of girls falls dramatically. The problem is rural areas where farmers don't have pensions and can expect only a boy child to support them in their old age.

If you're interested in learning more, I highly recommend Kay Johnson's book, Wanting a Daughter, Needing a Son.

As to your nephew's birth mother -- even if she is not an admirable character, I would like to suggest that it is best if your nephew is given a positive image of his birth mother. If she is described/discussed as a bad person, he may well see himself as a bad person.
10.21.2008 3:38pm
John M. Perkins (mail):
The United States has the Indian Child Welfare Act, which has U.S. government involvement in both adoption and foster care.
10.21.2008 3:41pm
mlstx (mail):
Autolykos chides me:


Yes, and your lack of reading comprehension shows. . . .

Nowhere in his post did J Adams say or even imply that adoptive parents shouldn't attempt to address the issues that a child of a different race has in growing up in an adoptive home.


Two points -- I was replying to Conrad and J. Adams, in the context of EV's post, which involves issues of race, religion and culture.

Second, what J Adams said was: "As far as I'm concerned the "birth parents" and their "culture" can go jump in the lake. . . . Their culture now? American."

I suppose I was wrong not to see his openness to addressing issues that a child of a different race or culture would have in growing up in an adoptive home.
10.21.2008 3:46pm
Happyshooter:
With several noteworthy exceptions, usually church organizations, THERE IS NOTHING COLDER THAN CHARITY.

Yes, I am yelling.
10.21.2008 4:00pm
Kevin P. (mail):
How about multicultural or interracial marriages? Should the government be concerned about addressing issues that spouses will have living in a home that is not of their birth culture and race?

What about the children of multicultural or interracial marriages? What issues will they have?

What about children of immigrants to the US? Particularly those of traditional immigrants who immigrate with baggage, not just of the physical kind?
10.21.2008 4:08pm
Kevin P. (mail):
mlstx, you avoided the question.


The ideal family in China is considered to be one boy and one girl.

Can you provide a cite for this?
10.21.2008 4:13pm
mlstx (mail):
Kevin P. asks for a cite for the fact that the ideal in China is considered to be a family with a boy and a girl.

Yes, Kay Johnson, Wanting a Daughter, Needing a Son. Her work is extremely well respected. The book is a compilation of her articles in peer-reviewed academic journals on population issues.

And if by "the question" you mean Toby's question whether I was planning to instill in my children disrespect for women because that was the cause of child abandonment -- I thought I had answered it by telling him I need not do so since it isn't even an aspect of modern Chinese culture.
10.21.2008 4:45pm
Conrad Bibby (mail):

But to address your question directly, what's a solution? Most adoption professionals, social workers, adult adoptees and adoptive parents agree on that -- incorporate the child's birth culture into their new lives, . . .


I frankly don't see the value in this. If I adopt a baby from central Africa, and raise him in Suburbia, USA, there's no way I can reasonably "incorporate" the kid's birth culture. At best, I can hang a map of Africa on the wall of his room or take him to a museum exhibit of African folk art every now and then, but he's still going to be 100% a product of American suburban culture. Where is the evidence that making superficial gestures like these is going to head off the problems you described earlier?


... create positive feelings about their race/culture and birth parents (even if -- maybe ESPECIALLY if -- there was abuse. If you tell kids their birth parents or birth culture is evil, they'll see themselves as a product of evil and evil themselves),. . .


The problem here is that you're potentially asking an adoptive parent to not raise the child in accordance with the parent's own values and beliefs. What if the kid comes from some tribal region of Afghanistan, where the "birth culture" is Islamic fundamentalism? Should an adoptive parent be expected to "create positive feelings" about the Taliban? To me, it would be more important for my adoptive child to cherish religious freedom, civil liberties, and women's rights (among other Western values) than to have positive feelings about his "birth culture."

As for talking about the birth parents, I'm not sure how I would handle that. Barack Obama evidently grew up imagining his father was this great man who just happened to leave the states and return to Africa. Later on, Barry was devastated to find out his old man was an alcoholic bigamist. I'm not sure how Ann Dunham should have handled the situation, but it doesn't appear that sparing Barack Jr. the gory details about his father did a lot of good in the long run.


. . . discuss race and racism explicitly,


But what's to discuss? "Hey kid, the reason your skin is brown is we adopted you from Africa when you were three months old. None of that matters now. If anyone acts differently around you because of your skin color, they're an idiot and you should just ignore them."


recognize that all adoptions start with loss -- loss of birth family, loss of culture/language if intercountry, loss of racial identity if interracial.


But that's not true! A kid adopted at the age of three months hasn't LOST his "birth culture". He never experienced his birth culture. Same for language (obviously).

I don't understand why adoptive parents would want to portray the situation as one of "loss," or telegraph to the kid that he still has some kind of mystical connection to Africa that we all know has no basis in reality. If the kid's skin color prompts him to later develop an interest in Africa, fine, but for the parent to encourage the child to form a psychological bond to people or a culture to which the kid has no practical connection is just wrong, IMO. To me, it seems antithetical to the bond between the kid and his adoptive family to encourage him to feel a connection to the other culture.


And that means those who screen adoptive parents need to look for openness to doing these things, and adoptive parents need to be educated on these issues.


I'd prefer we just work on getting the kids placed into good homes and leave it up to the parents to decide whether they want to pretend it's a cultural exchange program.
10.21.2008 4:52pm
TruePath (mail) (www):


There are, in fact, tons of empirical studies suggesting the importance of integrating cultural and racial identity for transracial adoptees.

I have two children adopted from China. We are not practicing Buddhists or Daoists, but we do incorporate cultural aspects of both into our lives.


Ohh, give me a break. You really think that in the US people of Chinese heritage would suffer some great disadvantage if they were raised as cultural Americans rather than having exposure to their Chinese heritage.

My wife is half Taiwanese and she knows less about Taiwan than I do from reading the newspaper and doesn't find this a hinderance to her life in the least. There are also plenty of 3rd generation and later asians in the US who lack any real contact with their mother cultures.

One has to be careful about studies like the ones you mention above. Luckily, in the US, people of oriental descent suffer very little discrimination (at least in middle class communities). Groups whose skin color exposes them to greater discrimination will find it harder to identify as members of the broader culture and may benefit more from a cultural background that lets them connect with those who won't discriminate against them on the basis of their ethnicity. Also it's quite possible that studies like this merely show a correlation between willingness to expose children to birth culture and the effort level of the adopted parents.
10.21.2008 5:18pm
autolykos:

I suppose I was wrong not to see his openness to addressing issues that a child of a different race or culture would have in growing up in an adoptive home.


Again, their posts have nothing to do with addressing the child's issues, they have to do with honoring the parent's wishes. They correctly point out that, once the parent gives the child up for adoption, they can go jump in the proverbial lake. The parent's wishes as to the child's upbringing should bear zero weight. That doesn't mean you don't make the same decisions for different reasons, but it has nothing to do with "openness".

As an aside, I have to say that one of the best things about the growing racial diversity of the United States is how absurd it reveals opinions like yours to be. Leaving aside the strained assertion that people make judgments about ethnic identity based on a person's skin color (can they even tell the difference?), more and more Americans of all races are becoming a part of the amorphous middle American culture and it's becoming harder and harder to assume that a person of different skin color is culturally anything other than middle-American. I don't know people that make assumptions about people based on their race anyway, but apparently it's a big enough problem where you live that the return of the melting pot will amerliorate that issue.
10.21.2008 5:25pm
A.C.:
The culture stuff is similar for children and grandchildren of immigrants. Especially grandchildren, if the children made an active effort to assimilate and the grandchildren grow up with no direct connection to the culture of relatives who may actually turn up for holidays.

The same occurs in families where there has been a dramatic change in social class.

Everybody wrestles with varying levels of this phenomenon. But the fact of the wrestling doesn't mean there is one right answer that works for everyone everywhere.

You can't turn everyone into a peasant, tied to the land forever and destined to follow in the footsteps of many generations of ancestors. And I don't think you would want to. Changing circumstances and wrestling with questions of identity are NORMAL in the modern world.
10.21.2008 5:29pm
mlstx (mail):
TruePath,

Thank you for sharing one anectdote. That surely cancels out all empirical research.

Indeed yes, Chinese-Americans, just like all other visible minorities, have to come to some understanding of their racial identity.

My oldest daughter, at the age of 4, was saying that she wished her skin was light. She refused to see an African-American Santa at a store because she didn't want to see a Santa who "has skin like mine." When the greater world looks different -- and your family looks different -- it doesn't take long to think that there's something wrong with the way you look. THAT'S often where racial identity problems start, but that's not where it ends.

Pointing to people you know who have no problem doesn't mean the problem doesn't exist. If it did, we wouldn't have to do empirical studies of anything, would we? We'd all base our opinions on our narrow world view.
10.21.2008 5:34pm
Litigator-London:
Judging by the comments of your posters, very few have troubled themselves to research either our adoption law or the rationales which lie behind it. It goes without saying that the primary aim of the legislation is the protection of the child to be adopted. The restrictions we have on transnational adoption are there for very good reason, including and in particular the suppression of international adoption rackets which were becoming rife simply because there are many more couples in the UK who wish to adopt a child than there are "perfect" children available and because unfortunately there are also many who wish to adopt for all the wrong reasons and who would be quite unsuitable as adoptive parents.

Therefore there is a lengthy vetting process for prospective adoptors just as there is a careful process to protect the rights of the birth parents before the Court releases a child for adoption. Generally speaking, the aim is to have prospective transnational adopters go through the vetting process as prospective adoptive parents BEFORE they identify the child they wish to adopt.

From the Times article, it seems as though the prospective parents in question did not do this. I'm not saying that the social workers involved are infallible, but the family courts on the whole do a good job of sorting out any wrinkles including any excess of political correctness.

Since the Times was taken over by the Neocons, any article on social issues is suspect.
10.21.2008 5:49pm
mlstx (mail):

Me in prior post: But to address your question directly, what's a solution? Most adoption professionals, social workers, adult adoptees and adoptive parents agree on that — incorporate the child's birth culture into their new lives, . . .


Conrad: I frankly don't see the value in this. If I adopt a baby from central Africa, and raise him in Suburbia, USA, there's no way I can reasonably "incorporate" the kid's birth culture. At best, I can hang a map of Africa on the wall of his room or take him to a museum exhibit of African folk art every now and then, but he's still going to be 100% a product of American suburban culture. Where is the evidence that making superficial gestures like these is going to head off the problems you described earlier?

Let me give you an example of what we do. My kids attend Chinese School on Saturday afternoons where they learn Chinese culture and language. We celebrate Chinese holidays like the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival and Chinese New Year. And yes, we have books and maps about China. We lived for 5 months in China while I taught at a law school there.

No, not all adoptive parents will go as far as I have. But MOST adoptive parents will make efforts to expose their children to Chinese culture by celebrating holidays, eating foods from China, maybe hanging artwork from China in their home.

It may not be much, but is better than nothing, which seems to be what you are suggesting parents need do.



... create positive feelings about their race/culture and birth parents (even if — maybe ESPECIALLY if — there was abuse. If you tell kids their birth parents or birth culture is evil, they'll see themselves as a product of evil and evil themselves),. . .


The problem here is that you're potentially asking an adoptive parent to not raise the child in accordance with the parent's own values and beliefs. What if the kid comes from some tribal region of Afghanistan, where the "birth culture" is Islamic fundamentalism? Should an adoptive parent be expected to "create positive feelings" about the Taliban? To me, it would be more important for my adoptive child to cherish religious freedom, civil liberties, and women's rights (among other Western values) than to have positive feelings about his "birth culture."

Yes, sometimes the parents have to put aside their own values and beliefs IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THEIR CHILD. Odd concept, I know.

"Islamic fundamentalism" isn't the only thing that is Afghanistan culture any more than "communist ideology" is the only thing China is about. I can point out problems with China while still instilling respect for China and Chinese people and Chinese culture. I do it about America all the time, don't you? Is it unAmerican to point out Jim Crow? to note mistreatment of minorities? to disagree with the war in Iraq? I can do all of those things, and still be proud to be an American (cue the music now) and pass on American values to my kids.


As for talking about the birth parents, I'm not sure how I would handle that. Barack Obama evidently grew up imagining his father was this great man who just happened to leave the states and return to Africa. Later on, Barry was devastated to find out his old man was an alcoholic bigamist. I'm not sure how Ann Dunham should have handled the situation, but it doesn't appear that sparing Barack Jr. the gory details about his father did a lot of good in the long run.

I'm certainly not for sparing gory details. The touchstone always has to be truth, told developmentally appropriately. But people are multidimentional, rarely wholly evil — context is important. What I do with my daughters in talking about their birth parents is to tell them what I know, which is very little, and tell them that their birth parents had a hard decision to make and that they did the best they could to make sure their children were found and taken care of.

Better than telling them that their birth mothers were inhuman monsters who abandoned their daughters, which is often how Chinese birth mothers are pictured.



. . . discuss race and racism explicitly,


But what's to discuss? "Hey kid, the reason your skin is brown is we adopted you from Africa when you were three months old. None of that matters now. If anyone acts differently around you because of your skin color, they're an idiot and you should just ignore them."

Somehow I expected this to come up here! The only ones who can afford to raise a "colorblind" child is someone with white children. As much as we might want it to be, it is NOT a colorblind world. And telling a child to ignore racial bullying is unforgivably cruel. Children of color need to be given tools for dealing with racists, because they are not going to be able to avoid them. I've seen it already with kids as young as 7 — the always-popular "slitty-eye" thing with the fingers, etc.


recognize that all adoptions start with loss — loss of birth family, loss of culture/language if intercountry, loss of racial identity if interracial.


But that's not true! A kid adopted at the age of three months hasn't LOST his "birth culture". He never experienced his birth culture. Same for language (obviously).

Because the TRUTH is that babies grow up and they WILL experience it as loss. No matter what they gained, Korean adoptees overwhelmingly say that they wished their language and their culture matched their appearance. They don't want to be bananas, yellow on the outside but white on the inside, or bamboo, Asian on the inside but hollow of culture on the inside.

I don't understand why adoptive parents would want to portray the situation as one of "loss," or telegraph to the kid that he still has some kind of mystical connection to Africa that we all know has no basis in reality. If the kid's skin color prompts him to later develop an interest in Africa, fine, but for the parent to encourage the child to form a psychological bond to people or a culture to which the kid has no practical connection is just wrong, IMO. To me, it seems antithetical to the bond between the kid and his adoptive family to encourage him to feel a connection to the other culture.

Yes, adoptive parents have to acknowledge it as a loss, unless they're prepared to have their children see them as irrelevant to their adult lives. No matter how much we want adoption to be a 100% happy, happy, joy, joy thing, our children, as they grow, may not see it that way. Of course, some adoptees navigate all of this easier than others. But since you don't know how your kids will think about these issues, it doesn't pay to start off your parenting relationship with lies.


And that means those who screen adoptive parents need to look for openness to doing these things, and adoptive parents need to be educated on these issues.


I'd prefer we just work on getting the kids placed into good homes and leave it up to the parents to decide whether they want to pretend it's a cultural exchange program.

Well, I think we should work on getting the kids placed in good homes, too. But "good homes" is not a self-defining phrase. Someone has to decide what a good home is in order to put children there, no? For adoptees, I don't think we should leave it up to the natural ignorance of parents who have never raised adopted kids to decide. The screening by SWs today includes educational components on what it is transnational/transracial adoptees need.
10.21.2008 6:16pm
mlstx (mail):

How about multicultural or interracial marriages? Should the government be concerned about addressing issues that spouses will have living in a home that is not of their birth culture and race?


Do you see no difference between adult marriage and the adoption of a child? Adults entering into consensual relationships have all kind of choices. Childen don't choose to be adopted, much less who adopts them. That has been, in a very substantial way, the role of government. Even in private adoptions, the courts have to approve.


What about the children of multicultural or interracial marriages? What issues will they have?


Oftentimes, they have the same issues as transnational adoptees, but they have the advantage of one parent who can help them navigate each side of their race/culture. And the government doesn't have a role in families created biologically. They only claim this role in families created by the state via adoption.


What about children of immigrants to the US? Particularly those of traditional immigrants who immigrate with baggage, not just of the physical kind?


Yes, many of the same issues appear here, with the benefit of parents who share the same baggage to mitigate it somewhat.

And yes, with second and third generation immigrants who have assimilated quite thoroughly, there may still be racial identity issues. Since anecdotes are so prized by commenters at the VC, I'll mention a friend of mine who is Japanese-American. His parents were children when Japanese-Americans were interred during WWII. His parents reaction was to be as non-Japanese as possible and to teach their children little about being Japanese, including language. He met his first non-family Japanese person in college. He had a LOT of years of a lot of work to try to figure out who he was. And racial identity played a big part of it.
10.21.2008 6:27pm
mlstx (mail):
As an aside, I have to say that one of the best things about the growing racial diversity of the United States is how absurd it reveals opinions like yours to be.

You know, I, too, can't wait until growing racial diversity renders issues of minority status, racial identity construction, and cultural difference irrelevant. But we're not there yet.

So one day, perhaps "opinions like mine" will be revealed as absurd. Today, however, your opinions show you as completely out of touch with the real world.
10.21.2008 6:34pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Litigator-London,

I am well aware of the issues involved in transnational adoption, but fail to see their relevance. The specific issue raised here is not whether prospective adoptive parents should be vetted, but a particular aspect of that vetting, namely why the British authorities should be more concerned about the diligence with which parents practice Islam than, apparently, the Moroccans. Your comment does not address this issue.
10.21.2008 8:06pm
Waiting Parent:
Bill Poser,

You are right about the article Volokh lonked to, but Volokh went further. He argued that it was immoral for adoptive parents and adoption agencies to try to help an adopted child understand and respect his or her birth culture.

Years of experience with transnational adoption have shown that Volokh is wrong. Any reputable adoption agency will screen out prospective adoptive parents who are unwilling to teach their children to understand and respect their birth culture. Heck, the new Hague treaty might even legally require it. China specifically requires prospective parents to promise to teach their kids about Chinese culture.

In the case Volokh points to, it seems like the adoption agency has taken a good idea way too far. But the underlying idea is still sound.

Volokh really does believe in protecting the best interests of children, but he doesn't have a clue about how to raise an adopted child from a different culture.
10.21.2008 8:34pm
Litigator-London:
Bill Poser:-

As you might imagine, the papers of the social services department tasked with approving the 1st and proposed 2nd adoption are confidential and the department is not at liberty to disclose them without the leave of the Court. From the article it appears that the couple (i) set their face against the normal process of being pre-vetted before identifying the proposed adopted child, (ii) changed their religious affiliation to obtain the foreign court's approval, and (iii) tried to push the English approval for the 1st adoption through at double speed and (iv) then tried to repeat the process.

Were I professionally involved, I would have some concerns that the alleged change of religion might have been bogus and represented merely "gaming" of the system in their own interests. When two legal systems are involved, it is the duty of the court to seek to ensure that there is no attempt to deceive the courts of either jurisdiction - any such deception would raise issues as to the suitability of the persons concerned to be adoptive parents.

Without seeing all the papers it is quite wrong to express a view, but the Courts do have to bear in mind that some childless couples wish to adopt for selfish rather than selfless reasons - and that transcultural adoptions in such circumstances do come to grief from time to time. In such cases there is a lot of merit in "festina lente".
10.21.2008 8:44pm
Litigator-London:
Bill Poser:-

The relevant UK legislation on international adoption is to be found on-line Department for Children, schools and Families.

Note in particular the provisions of the Adoption (Bringing Children into the United Kingdom) Regulations 2003. The responsibility of the Secretary of State is to certify to the foreign state that the proposed adoptive parents are suitable. Not something to be done lightly.
10.21.2008 9:12pm
Litigator-London:
Bill Poser:-

This link will illustrate how local authorities go about adoption assessment: All kinds of people can make
great adoptive parents. Could you?


That's from my own local authority in North London.
10.21.2008 9:20pm
Waiting Parent:
Litigator-London was kind to the adoptive parents and restrained when he said that he might suspect that they were "gaming" the system with their quickie conversions. If the conversions were not genuine, then the prospective parents probably lied under oath numerous times. That would be perjury and adoption fraud.

International adoption poses some legal challenges. Adoptions must satisfy the laws of the parents' state, the adoption agency's state, the US government, and the foreign government. Many countries make requirements that would be banned in the US. For instance, China will not let gays and lesbians adopt. Can a Massachusetts adoption agency permit a Chinese adoption? I don't know. Other countries like Taiwan and, apparently, Morocco, will only accept parents of a specific faith. For Taiwan, only Christians need apply.

As far as I know, no one has challenged the power of adoption agencies and governments in the US to enforce foreign requirements that would be illegal in the US. Any such effort would be a radical shock to the IA system. Foreign governments rely on adoption agencies to only send lawful applications, so Volokh's rule would probably prevent US parents from adopting from a number of countries.
10.21.2008 9:56pm
Litigator-London:
Waiting Parent:

One of the titles of the King of Morocco is "Amir-al-Muminin" (Commander of the Faithful) and the Alaouite dynasty claims descent from the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). Islam is the national religion. That means legislation has to conform broadly with Islamic principles.

In Islam, the blood relationship of child to parent should never be broken. It is considered that children should never have the existence of their birth parents concealed from them. So there is no concept of adoption.

What does exist in Morocco is Guardianship where the duties of parents are vested in a suitable person as Guardian - often a relative - but in the case of abandoned orphans there is Law No. 15-01 relating to kafala (Guardianship) of Abandoned Minors [Dahir nº 1-02-172 of 13 June 2002, published in the Official Gazette No. 5036 of 5 September 2002.

The procedure is that the prospective adopter applies to the Children's Judge (Judge des Affaires des Mineurs) who appoints the prospective adopter as the child's guardian and later gives permission to take the minor ward out of the jurisdiction. Adoption is then a matter for the foreign Court.

The law requires that people seeking legal guardianship of Moroccan children be of verified means and morality, Muslim and either a permanent or temporary resident of Morocco. Prospective adoptive parents who are not already Muslim must convert to Islam in Morocco and undertake to the Court in Morocco that the child entrusted to them will be raised as a Muslim.

Since the social services department of Kingston Council would have had to advise the Secretary of State as to whether the parents were complying with their first undertaking to the Court - relevant of course to any second application to the Moroccan Court, the issue was certainly one which had to be investigated.

The parents are quoted in the Times article as saying "We might not be leading an outwardly Muslim lifestyle, but we are sensitive and respectful to Samuel’s background." That is not quite the same as saying, "We are Muslims and bringing Samuel up as a Muslim".

The fact that the parents seem to have chosen to abandon the attempt to seek a Certificate of Suitability from the Secretary of State rather than challenge any determination of the investigating social workers in Court does raise questions which the Times article does not address.
10.21.2008 11:12pm
Waiting Parent:
Thanks for the explanation. The decision now appears to be not only sound, but legally required. This does not look like a government is trying to impose its view of what is or is not legitimate Islam. It's a government trying to decide if the parents really have a good faith belief that they are Muslim.

American courts make similar distinctions all the time. Someone who wants an accommodation based on their Jewish or Islamic faith has to show that they really believe themselves to be Jewish or Muslim.

For those who think the local government's decision in this case was wrong, think about this. Taiwan only accepts dossiers from Christian adoptive parents. Should the US Government approve a petition to adopt from Taiwan if the USCIS believes that the applicants are lying when they swear under oath that they are Christians?
10.21.2008 11:39pm
autolykos:

You know, I, too, can't wait until growing racial diversity renders issues of minority status, racial identity construction, and cultural difference irrelevant. But we're not there yet.

So one day, perhaps "opinions like mine" will be revealed as absurd. Today, however, your opinions show you as completely out of touch with the real world.


I can't tell if this is an intentional strawman or if you're just incapable of constucting/responding to a coherent argument. I'm leaning towards the latter, but if you want to save face by begging the former, I'm willing to oblige.
10.21.2008 11:45pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Does anyone know why non-Muslims would bother either to convert or to pretend to do so in order to adopt a child from a Muslim country when they have the alternative of adopting a child from any number of non-Muslim countries that do not impose the same requirement? Unless the couple had a connection to this particular child or his birth family, why not adopt a child from some other country?
10.22.2008 12:07am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
What is the source for the claim that Taiwan only permits Christians to adopt? No such requirement is listed by the US State Department, and I find it highly implausible since Taiwan is an overwhelmingly non-Christian country in which Christians form a small minority (4.5%, including Mormons).
10.22.2008 12:19am
mlstx (mail):

I can't tell if this is an intentional strawman or if you're just incapable of constucting/responding to a coherent argument. I'm leaning towards the latter, but if you want to save face by begging the former, I'm willing to oblige.


Neither -- I was simply engaging in the same insulting argumentation that you seem to enjoy.

And as soon as you make a coherent argument, I'll reply to it.

Enjoy!
10.22.2008 12:38am
Kevin P. (mail):

mlstx:
As an aside, I have to say that one of the best things about the growing racial diversity of the United States is how absurd it reveals opinions like yours to be.

You know, I, too, can't wait until growing racial diversity renders issues of minority status, racial identity construction, and cultural difference irrelevant. But we're not there yet.

So one day, perhaps "opinions like mine" will be revealed as absurd. Today, however, your opinions show you as completely out of touch with the real world.


mlstx, if you're referring to me, then you're a fool who is just emitting gas. I'm a naturalized US citizen who grew up in a different country and then immigrated to the US. I have a brown skin. I was a minority in my country of origin. I am a minority in this, my adopted country. I am married to a woman of a different ethnicity. I have directly lived the experience of being a minority in two cultures.

What is your own life experience? If I were to wildly speculate like you, I would say that you sound like another guilty white liberal, repenting for the sins of your ancestors by worshiping at the temple of multiculti.

Jeez... "your opinions show you as completely out of touch with the real world"... indeed.
10.22.2008 1:28am
Litigator-London:
In response to Bill Posner: Like Elizabeth I, I do not have "a window into men's souls", so I could not comment on the motivations of the couple in the specific case.

But I'm afraid we live in an "instant gratification of desire" society. There will always be some childless couples who believe they cannot be "fulfilled" until they can adopt and who are prepared to go to any lengths regardless of legality to achieve their desire.

Bitter experience has shown that those who want to short circuit the checks and balances in the adoption process may be quite unsuitable adoptive parents.

The proposition that the race culture or religion of the child who is to be adopted should be of no concern to the Courts is not one I can accept.

And what should be of primary concern to both states and courts is the welfare of the child.

Since the trafficking of children from country to country for selfish purposes is fraught with dangers, therefore in transnational cases, the adoption process must respect the requirements of both the sending and the receiving state.
10.22.2008 5:42am
Litigator-London:
I declare an interest: At the time of the Spanish Reconquista of Muslim Andalusia, some Sephardi Jews and some Spanish Muslims made their way to England. Their descendants are still here and most of us have not forgotten our heritage even though the horrendous events which prompted the migration took place long before the American revolution.

I am always somewhat surprised to see that on social and other surveys there are people in the USA who put down their ancestry as "American". Apart from the First Americans, everyone is of some other ancestry: your forebears either emigrated - many willingly - others less willingly as slaves, indentured workers, POWS etc.

Unfortunately, some of the less desirable British attitudes to race, religion and culture went with the emigrants to the US colonies. And some US WASPS continued to discriminate well into the last century. Remember the Pentagon was designed to have segregated lavatories - the US Army did not desegregate until after WW2, the South until the Great Society. Irish and Jews encountered discrimination on religious grounds. Latinos get it now.

Just like us over here. I am old enough to have encountered religious prejudice in the UK in the 1950's and I saw its pernicious effects in Northern Ireland. Likewise with race.

I rejoice in the fact that in my Borough of London we have made great progress towards a multicultural society - but it takes a long time - a mere five centuries of progress has not yet resolved all the relevant issues for us any more than for you.
10.22.2008 6:06am
Waiting Parent:

What is the source for the claim that Taiwan only permits Christians to adopt?


I had heard that from other adoptive parents. I did find one agency that lists this requirement. It's possible that my information was dated. It's possible that some agencies required it. It's possible that this is a generally unwritten rule that you have to comply with at pain of not completing your adoption. It's possible that it's the rule of some orphanages. It's also possible that I was wrong.

Parents adopting from abroad have to satisfy the laws and whims of lots of governments, agencies and individuals, many of whom are not subject to US anti-discrimination laws or the First Amendment. Many international adoptions would end if US and British agencies were banned from enforcing foreign requirements that would be barred in the US.

Here's another example--expedited adoptions. Basically, if you are ethnically Chinese and if you or your parents were born in China, you can get expedited treatment based on your race. Can a US agency refuse to submit an "expedited" application based on the race of adoptive parents? This site has a brief FAQ on expedited adoptions.
10.22.2008 7:19am
mlstx (mail):
Kevin P. says:


mlstx, if you're referring to me, then you're a fool who is just emitting gas.

This is what passes for civil discourse here?

No, I was responding to another commenter -- you might ask where your defensiveness is coming from . . . .

It seems to me that the discussion has degenerated to the point where more heat than light is being produced. And no, Kevin, this is not just a reaction to you, but to other commenters as well.

It's a shame, really. We'll never reach that nirvana of "colorblind," racially-diverse-so-race-doesn't-matter America if we are so uncomfortable talking about race.
10.22.2008 8:35am
Happyshooter:
I am always somewhat surprised to see that on social and other surveys there are people in the USA who put down their ancestry as "American". Apart from the First Americans, everyone is of some other ancestry: your forebears either emigrated - many willingly - others less willingly as slaves, indentured workers, POWS etc.

Several thoughts:

1. There are no "First Americans". Some folks got here sooner, but they lost their land since they couldn't figure out metal working. The government now allows their great grand children to live on welfare ghettos and sell alchol tax free and own (but not run) gambling halls since they are in a welfare mindset and unable to hold down jobs. As some of their children decide to work and led normal lives they move out of the welfare ghettos and join mainstream society.

2. I am an American, I was born here, as were my parents and grand parents. This is my land and my nation. The great grand parents came from germany, but I am in no way german. I spent a year over there with the army and my outlook on life and culture isn't even close to theirs. You may want to put me in some 'german living in America' box, but that is your racism.

3. Did you ever stop to think that the 'everyone must keep their culture and not be a Briton' idea is why London is as bad as it is?

4. We as America, through 1960 by setting them out by holding them down, and post 1960 by letting them have their own leaders and cities to live in and run, have set out citizens with black skin. The results have been nothing short of a disaster. Their schools are worse than third world, their neighborhoods a vision of post law and order crime and destruction, and their governments are so corrupt that some honest would stand out like a sore thumb. We tried being multi-cultural and it does not work.
10.22.2008 10:05am
Kevin P. (mail):

mlstx:
No, I was responding to another commenter -- you might ask where your defensiveness is coming from . . . .


msltx, if you go back and look at the thread, you responded to my post, and then in the very next post, said:


As an aside, I have to say that one of the best things about the growing racial diversity of the United States is how absurd it reveals opinions like yours to be.
...
So one day, perhaps "opinions like mine" will be revealed as absurd. Today, however, your opinions show you as completely out of touch with the real world.


So I made the reasonable assumption that you were referring to my opinions. If you were not referring to me, then who were you referring to?

In any case:


It seems to me that the discussion has degenerated to the point where more heat than light is being produced. And no, Kevin, this is not just a reaction to you, but to other commenters as well.

It's a shame, really. We'll never reach that nirvana of "colorblind," racially-diverse-so-race-doesn't-matter America if we are so uncomfortable talking about race.


I somehow doubt that you have any interest in actual dialog about race. Dialog implies that multiple differing opinions are heard and respected. It is hard to square your grandiose proclamation about "more heat than light" with your previous proclamation about "... how absurd it reveals opinions like yours..." and "... your opinions show you as completely out of touch with the real world ... ". You seem to be more interested in a monologue, where you get to hear the sound of your own voice and everyone else's opinion is "absurd" and "out of touch".
10.22.2008 11:37am
mlstx (mail):
Kevin P., You seem to be operating under a mistaken belief that I insulted you.

In fact, it is autolykos who said: "As an aside, I have to say that one of the best things about the growing racial diversity of the United States is how absurd it reveals opinions like yours to be." That post is at 4:25 p.m. on 10.21.2008.

He/She is the one who threw the first punch, as it were, in describing my opinion as absurd.

Then you jumped on the bandwagon to call me a fool.

I've enjoyed discussing these issues with those who make substantive points, even when I don't agree with them. I can compliment Conrad Bibby, for example, with doing me the courtesy of actually addressing my points, even if in addressing them he disagreed with each one!

Most replies, however, were non-substantive and accusatory. Any surprise that I don't find this a forum open to dialogue on race?

It is in fact possible to disagree without being disagreeable, the oft-repeated cliche of how lawyers should operate. It seems that rule is not operational here.
10.22.2008 3:30pm
Conrad Bibby (mail):
mlstx: Just to be clear, I appreciate your personal stake in this discussion, and I don't mean to disparage your choices in how to raise your children.

That said, I remain deeply skeptical of a policy that would deny an otherwise suitable couple the opportunity to adopt a foreign-born child of a different race unless the parents were committed to embracing the child's "birth culture." The vast majority of would-be adoptive parents couldn't make the commitment you are making (e.g., living in China for 5 months). Even if they could, I doubt anyone has more than anecdotal evidence that merely paying homage to the "birth culture" in the way you describe is going to avert any serious problem a non-white child would otherwise experience on account of having been raised by a white American family.

It sounds like the policy you advocate is that a parent who adopts a kid from Africa should do their utmost to raise an African kid. That strikes me as complete nonsense. There is no way a parent in Middle America can raise an "African" kid. They can certainly educate the child as to certain aspects of the relevant African culture -- which may be an enriching and worthwhile experience for both parent and child -- but it doesn't make the kid "African" in any meaningful sense of the world.

I would also point out that millions of Asians and blacks are at this very moment leading happy and productive lives in "Middle America." They are not, so far as anyone can tell, tormented by the idea that their skin color doesn't match their cultural environment. It seems ludicrous to me that your daughters would have any problems as adults because their American upbringing didn't match their "yellow" skins. Even if that were their fate, I don't see how their childhood hobby of dabbling in Chinese culture would prevent such psychological turmoil from taking root in their minds.

What I disagree with most of all is your apparently fervent belief that race is destiny (at least for non-whites). Clearly, there is no biological basis for that philosophy. From a societal standpoint, moreover, it should be obvious that race matters a whole lot less to society these days than it did 50 or 100 years ago. To suggest that a color-blind society is some kind of fantasy that can never be realized in a diverse country such as ours is silly, to say the least. It can happen and arguably IS happening.

I confess to having little instinctive faith in the judgment of the social worker profession in these matters. Have they not made some pretty serious errors over the years?

Although we disagree, I want to thank you for the informative and lively discussion we've had.
10.22.2008 4:18pm
mlstx (mail):
Conrad, I'm afraid you've overstated just about everything I said! No, I do not advocate the position that a parent who adopts from Africa raise an African child, for example. I suggested that transracial/transcultural adoptive parents "incorporate" birth culture into the child's life. Are we having only a debate about definition? Because no way do I think, even with what we do, that I am raising a Chinese child. I am, however, raising children who are likely to be seen in America as Chinese first. And the interesting conundrum is that when we were in China, they were seen as American first!

And yes, social workers make mistakes, just like any professional. But if no claim to expertise is ever accepted, then what do we have left? Why do your instincts trump a social worker's? Why do instincts, anecdotes, uninformed beliefs seem more important than empirical data, educated beliefs, knowledge? Or is it inappropriately "elitist" to believe that?

I don't know what you mean when you say I believe race is destiny. Does race serve as a limit on what people can achieve on their own merit? No. Does race serve as a distinguishing mark to which people apply stereotypes? Absolutely. And racial identity still matters in a society like ours which is not homogenous. African-American girls are still picking the white baby doll as the prettiest, and describe the black baby doll as bad while the white one is good. In fact, white children raised in predominately African-American neighborhoods describe the same need to create a racial identity as do African-American kids raised in white families. And this despite undoubted progress on the racism front.

I don't know if a color-blind world is some kind of fantasy that can never be realized. I think we differ on how close we are to that reality.

As I said in a previous post, I, too, have enjoyed the dialogue. If you are interested in more info, you might want to take a look and listen to some of the videos at this link (sorry, don't know how to embed them here):

http://www.adoptedthemovie.com/videos/

Since calls to expertise make you uncomfortable, maybe these voices of adult transracial adoptees will be interesting to you.
10.22.2008 4:44pm
NowMDJD (mail):

In response to Bill Posner...

Just like us over here. I am old enough to have encountered religious prejudice in the UK in the 1950's

Could addressing "Bill Poser" as "Bill Posner" reflect an accidental misreading influenced by your own prejudices?
10.22.2008 6:13pm
Hoosier:
London-Lit:

I am always somewhat surprised to see that on social and other surveys there are people in the USA who put down their ancestry as "American".

My great, great etc. granfather came to North America (Canada) just after the American Revolution. He was an Irishman who took the King's shilling and served in the army. After his enlistment ended, he stayed. Eventually, his descendants migrated down to Green Bay, Wisconsin. As did my grandma's (Irish) family. (Confession: The family went back to Canada for a few years to avoid having their sons serve in the Civil War; they didn't think it was "their fight").

The other Irish side of my family came over during the Famine, while the Dutch side arrived in the 188os due to land shortage back home.


I have been to the Netherlands once, for a very brief period. While there, I didn't visit my great-grandparents village. I speak no Dutch. I have never been to Ireland. My wife and I considered it as a honeymoon destination, but we went to Istanbul instead. None of my Irish-American grandparents ever met a forefather who was born in Ireland.

And I hate Irish folk music, which is annoying and redundant.

Why should I be expected call myself "Irish" or "Dutch" when asked about this? What sense does this make? I am not Irish or Dutch in any sense of the term, aside from the accident of my family name. (I didn't even like going to Notre Dame, to be honest. And I'd never have gone to Calvin or Hope!)
10.22.2008 6:19pm
Hoosier:
Dialog implies that multiple differing opinions are heard and respected.

Etymologically, just two. But I'm with you on substance.
10.22.2008 6:22pm
Litigator-London:
On the various comments above:-

I am sorry if I misaddressed Mr Poser - and it was unintentional - my eyesight is not as good as in my salad days!

I think there is confusion between "citizenship" and "ancestry".

If Hoosier, for example, cares to re-read his own post he would observe how replete it is with references to an Irish cultural background which must have some influence on his thought.

I do not think it could be denied that there are vibrant "Irish-American", "Italian-American", "Japanese-American", etc communities within the USA. In the days before "Flying while Muslim" became akin to an indictable offence, I remember visiting Chicago and realising the truth of the Greek aphorism that the biggest Greek cities are: "Athinai, Melvourni, Chicago, Nea Yorki kai Thessaloniki"..

Personally, I'm for the celebration of one's roots, not the rejection of them.
10.23.2008 1:29am
Litigator-London:
Waiting Parent:-

I had a quick shufti at the web site you linked to in your post.

At first glance it appeared to be to be an adoption agency with some kind of connection to evangelical Christian churches and it probably only has relations with overseas orphanages or agencies run by like-minded organisations.

Very many of the charities which care for orphans in the less developed countries are faith-based and given the lack of state resources in such countries, they have saved many many lives. I remember 50 years ago the nuns in my Montessori primary school in England handing out savings cards and encouraging us to buy sixpenny stickers at the school office to pay for the care of a black baby in their orphanage in Africa.

For those considering trans-national adoption who have a particular confession, working through an established faith organisation in the home country is probably a good idea.

Where I have concerns are the organisations which work overtly or covertly for profit and I'm not sure how effectively these are regulated in the USA. I'd be very cautious about offshore web-based entities. I know of some very sad cases where desperate people have forked out large sums of money to adoption scams.
10.23.2008 2:08am
Litigator-London:
In relation to Mr Volokh's original post, I hope it is now clear that the original Times story gives some false impressions.

There is a public interest in regulating transnational adoption and ensuring that undertakings given to a Court or government authority in the sending state are honestly given.

That is not to say they have to be immutable for all time.
Once a child is lawfully within the UK, it is the Court which regulates the adoption process and in that process the interests of the child will be paramount. In any case where the social services department of the local authority and the parents are in conflict, the Court will generally appoint a guardian ad litem to speak for the interests of the child. Once the child has been adopted, ordinary domestic family law takes over.

I know Morocco quite well. I do not think the position of the government is "merely formal". But, I question whether this was properly explained to the parents - it is all too easy for parents not fully to understand formalities being conducted in a foreign language. Further the Moroccan Courts are horribly under-resourced and they depend a lot on the assurances tendered by the orphanage and formal documents rather than conducting any proper investigation. With development, that is changing.

In relation to the 1st child, the English Court has permitted the adoption and the parents can now bring the child up as they see fit - subject to the concerns a court would have in the case of a naturally born child. The English Court is not required to enforce the undertaking to the Moroccan Court

The problem was with the proposed 2nd adoption. Knowing that the Moroccan Court insists on an undertaking, how could the Secretary of State breach good faith between states by not informing the Moroccan authorities that the first undertaking had not been respected - if, in fact, it had not?

Yes, this involved the authorities in an investigation and a value judgment they would doubtless have preferred not to get into but if the social services had reached an erroneous conclusion there was a remedy by way of judicial review which the parents elected not to take.

I do not think it is for the English Court to reach a value judgment as to the whether the undertaking is a "formality" or not. Neither the Government and/or the Court can collude in the deception of a foreign court. I would hope that this would be disapproved of on the ordinary principles of comity between sovereign nations - let alone the recent Hague Convention.

Much of what other posters seem to disapprove of is cultural baggage (often tribal rather than religious) which has nothing to do with Islam properly understood. JB has it about right:-

"I must say that there is a real competition between idiot Westerners and uneducated Muslims as to who can turn Islam into more of a medieval caricature of intolerance and villainy."

In theological terms, a Jew, a Christian or even an animist who sincerely practices his faith in accordance with the revelation he has received is in my understanding truly a Muslim (ie, one who submits to the will of the Almighty as revealed to him). Hence the command to respect churches and synagogues because the same Deity is worshiped therein.

I do some mediation in matrimonial disputes and every often problems can be resolved if a 1st or 2nd generation Muslim immigrant can be persuaded that what he regards as "unislamic" is actually part of the customs of his country of origin rather than of religious law.

And, yes, I often have some fun with supposedly Christian or secular social workers telling me what they think are are the dictates of my faith.
10.23.2008 3:37am
Rich Rostrom (mail):
On the importance of raising a transnational adoptee in the culture of his birth:

An American couple adopted a Nigerian foundling. They made great efforts to ensure that the child was well rooted in "his" native culture: the whole family studied the Yoruba language. They listened to the music of King Sunny Adé, performed little Orisha rituals, kept a Yoruba calendar on the wall...

When the boy was 16, he volunteered for a DNA screening program to locate matches for bone-marrow donation. He was a match to a Nigerian student in the U.S. A further test showed they were blood relatives. Unfortunately the student died before they ever met.

However, the adoptee and his family contacted his Nigerian relations, and flew over for a "family reunion".

However, the birth family were notYoruba, but Hausa Moslems. Oops. When the boy greeted them in Yoruba, they were offended. When he spoke an Orisha blessing, they were disgusted and repulsed. They refused to touch him, or allow him in their homes. The adoptive parents proposed further DNA tests (at their expense) to identify the boy's parents or grandparents. This offer was coldly rejected. After two days, the birth family refused any further contact.

Stunned by this rejection, the boy turned against his adoptive parents. He converted to Islam, went to an extreme puritanical mosque, and then joined a militant black Islamist cult group which dealt drugs to support its compounds. He was caught muling 40 kilos of heroin, and went to prison, where he was shanked to death in a riot with some neo-Nazi prisoners.

The above scenario is entirely fictional - but entirely plausible, AFAIK. One could hit similar landmines in India, east Asia, Latin America, or eastern Europe. IOW, what well-meaning Americans think is a child's birth culture might be anathema to her actual birth family.

Having said that: I think a birth family or birth country is entitled to place "cultural" or religious restrictions on adoption. A tattooed-and-pierced lesbian in San Francisco has an unplanned child due to a one-time experiment when drunk. She has health and money problems, and so give the child up for adoption. Should the child be placed with a devout fundamentalist Christian family?
10.23.2008 1:00pm
Litigator-London:
Re Rich Rostrom's post above:

The Nigerian scenario he gives is so implausible that one can only surmise that it was concocted for the purpose of pandering to prejudice.

So then he posits the case of: "tattooed-and-pierced lesbian in San Francisco has an unplanned child due to a one-time experiment when drunk. She has health and money problems, and so give the child up for adoption." and he asks:

"Should the child be placed with a devout fundamentalist Christian family?""

I see no problem with placing any child with a devout family of any denomination, but the qualification "fundamentalist" when applied to a person of any faith always worries me.

I can think of some sects which are so extreme that I doubt very much that a rational Court could conclude it to be in the child's best interests to place a child with such a family. Some branches of the Exclusive Brethren sect spring to mind.
10.23.2008 6:32pm
ReaderY:

small children (Samuel was only several months old when he was adopted) don't have "religion" or "culture" or preexisting religious or cultural component to their "identity,"


Would you be prepared to say that citizenship or legal rules do not apply to children because most children don't have a pre-existing nationalist or legalistic components to their identity?

I don't understand how one could think it obviously true that one applies but not the other. National identity and rules may or may not be less inherent, natural, or innate than religious identity and rules, but certainly they cannot possibly be more os. Religions may or may not be mere human constructs, but certainly nations and governments are. It's not like infants are in a position to make their own rational choices about their allegiance or the kind of law they would prefer to live under.

For this reason, I simply don't see how applying one kind of claim can be rational but not the other. A different outcome may be required in the United States because of specific U.S. contstitutional considerations on the subject of religion, but not as a matter of general rationality.

It seems to me that this is a case of reifying ones worldview, claiming that the specific set of beliefs one personally feels comfortable with is some sort of fact or has some sort of external validity. Professor Volokh may personally feel more more comfortable with national and legal loyalties and sources of identity than religious and cultrual ones and for this reason think them somehow more natural and innate and inherently more worthy of human beings' loyalty, obedience, respect, and emotional self-identify. His choice of profession certainly makes this view understandable. But the university was not necessarily designed for Professor Volokh's comfort.
10.24.2008 1:13pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
mistx:


TruePath,

Thank you for sharing one anectdote. That surely cancels out all empirical research.

Indeed yes, Chinese-Americans, just like all other visible minorities, have to come to some understanding of their racial identity.


If you note my comment was not merely a single ancedote. I offered an ancedote along with systematic reasons to be skeptical that studies of the kind you mention give you good reason to believe that in the case of people of chinese descent in middle class america it is important to account them with their cultural heritage (though I'm not advocating hiding anything from the children).

I pointed out that.

1) Studies that show in general accounting adopted children with the culture of their ethnic background may not be equally applicable to people of all ethnic backgrounds.

I mean would you claim that a boy of German heritage adopted by an American family of English descent is somehow in special need of being acquainted with his German heritage? It's hard to believe that somehow adopted children of German ethnicity need to be acquainted with German traditions while people of German descent raised by their birth parents in the US do just fine being raised as generic Americans. Yet if you admit this point the question becomes how to draw the line. I offered an argument as to why people of Chinese descent may not benefit greatly when adopted in middle class america so to respond you should either counter my justification or cite empirical data specifically on this point not children of different ethnic groups generally.

2) You've offered no rebuttal to the point that of course there will be a correlation between exposing adopted children to the culture of their ethnic and good outcomes because they both correlate with a high degree of involvement and effort by the adopted parents.

Once again I am not disputing your data but pointing out that, absent very careful controls, it doesn't really show much of anything.


My oldest daughter, at the age of 4, was saying that she wished her skin was light. She refused to see an African-American Santa at a store because she didn't want to see a Santa who "has skin like mine." When the greater world looks different -- and your family looks different -- it doesn't take long to think that there's something wrong with the way you look. THAT'S often where racial identity problems start, but that's not where it ends.


No one is suggesting you don't talk to her about race. The question is whether encouraging her to eat with chopsticks, speak Mandarin, or hear oriental rather than greek myths is the best option. This is yet another possible source of confusion about what these studies are really saying. Perhaps they are merely capturing the benefits from talking to your adopted children about their ethnicity in some fashion, exposure to their ethnic heritage being one way. Do these studies compare alternative ways of dealing with these issues?


Having said this I do want to add a qualification to what I mentioned before. I have no idea where you live. In somewhere like the SF bay area (and maybe even the north shore of chicago) my guess is that the effect these studies (may) point out isn't very strong for being of Chinese descent (e.g. not quite like being blond haired and blue eyed with brown eyed brown haired parents but that direction). In other areas of the country where other people of chinese descent are not so common I have no idea.

I admit this is nothing but a guess but short of studies on this particular ethnicity in this particular enviornment one has to make a guess at the underlying theory to get any idea of what outcome to expect.


Pointing to people you know who have no problem doesn't mean the problem doesn't exist. If it did, we wouldn't have to do empirical studies of anything, would we? We'd all base our opinions on our narrow world view.


I've seen enough social science studies to know one has to be very careful to avoid reading one's narrow world view into the studies themselves. I can find you social science studies proving to you almost anything you want if you just go by correlations and author conclusions. More data would be great but if you've read the studies and they answer my objections then why not rebut the two points above?
10.25.2008 7:17am