1. The international community’s primary objective should be to assist birth parents to keep and bring up their children or for this to occur within their extended family (provided this is in the best interests of the child).
The following parable type story is a simple illustration of this.
‘Once upon a time, in a little village, a woman was standing on a riverbank, when to her surprise she saw a baby in a basket floating towards her. Quickly she waded out into the river and lifted the precious baby to safety. She took the baby home and lovingly cared for the precious little one. No one came to look for a lost baby and so after a time she gave the baby to another family in the village who had so wanted to care for this precious little one. The following day she was at the river again and on this day she saw two baskets with babies in them floating down the river. Once again she waded into the river and rescued the babies, then families from her village cared for the precious little ones as no one came looking for lost babies.
This same thing went on day after day. The whole village became involved with the rescuing of the babies. They had a great system worked out – one person was taking the babies out of the water – another was drying them and dressing them warmly – another person was taking them up to the village – on and on it went. In the little village there were hundreds of babies being rescued and cared for. All of the village folk were involved and life revolved around the babies in the baskets that kept coming down the river.
One day a visitor came to the village and saw all that was going on. The people of the village had become very concerned, “How can we keep rescuing the babies – we haven’t any more room for more babies.” The people were distraught as they considered their options. “But we can’t just leave the babies in the river!” they cried to the visitor. “The babies just keep on coming down the river and if we don’t take them out them what will become of these precious children! They deserve to know they are safe and loved, that they are special, and that being in a family is a good place to grow up! Then maybe, when they grow up they will want their children to know the same things. They won’t put their babies in the river.”
The visitor replied, “Why not go and find the people who are putting their babies in the river and help them.”
2. The best interests of the child and respect for their fundamental human rights, as recognised in international law, must be the paramount consideration.
- Every young person deserves the chance to learn and grow under the care of a loving family (US Presidential proclamation 31 October 2013)1 ;
- For the full and harmonious development of a child’s personality, the child should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding2 , and;
- Children wherever possible should stay in their own culture and live with their biological parents and extended family members as it provides continuity of the child’s upbringing and to the child’s ethnic, cultural and linguistic background.
3. Adoption can offer a permanent and appropriate family to a child who is definitively deprived of his or her family environment or whose best interests requires a change of environment (ISS - International Social Service Organisation).
- It must always be recognised that adoption is a measure for the protection of the child and that adoption is intended as a means to provide families for children rather than children for families.
- Every effort needs to be made for the child to be adopted in the child’s birth country.
- If the above is not possible, intercountry adoption conducted in the appropriate manner offers an alternative opportunity for a healthy, supportive life and a future for a child as opposed to life in an institution in his or her birth country.
- Once the decision has been made by the appropriate authorities that the child is adoptable then adoption procedures should commence, and be completed, without delay. Stability, continuity and permanency of relationships promote a child’s growth and development. The period of childhood and adolescence being of utmost importance for the development of a child’s personality, all procedures must be completed and decisions taken without any unnecessary delay as the child need the opportunities to establish lifetime relationships with caring adult models.
- Intercountry adoption must ensure the child concerned enjoys safeguards and standards equivalent to those existing in the case of national adoptions.
4. There must be no improper financial gains or profit making in intercountry adoption. Unfortunately, in many cases intercountry adoption has involved profit making to the extent that children are treated as commodities. Abuses in the process have involved child trafficking, abduction, child abuse, criminal networks, agencies and intermediaries charging exorbitant fees. ‘Compassion for Orphans’ is completely opposed to any and all corrupt practices.
5. Encouragement and support for adoptive parents who have a special calling – sharing a loving home with children in need, offering them hope for a brighter future3.
Adoptive parents have a huge role to play in ensuring that intercountry adoption is a good option for children who otherwise would face their early years in an institution. The presidential proclamation referred to in the footnote refers to the adoptive parents as “quiet heroes as they make considerable sacrifices and receive the countless blessings of parenthood that come from providing a child with the chance of a lifetime – an upbringing in a happy and healthy home”.
1 Barack Obama – Presidential proclamation 31 Oct 2013
2 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
3 George W Bush - Presidential proclamation 5 Nov 2001