By Dawn Davenport
I interviewed Kathryn Joyce, author of The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption on yesterday’s Creating a Family show. I’ve been doing the Creating a Family show weekly since 2007, and I seldom get nervous before an interview, but I was just a little nervous about this show. I had strong feelings about this book, mostly negative. I always can find common ground with just about any guest, and I believe my job is to ask questions in such a way to show my thoughts, but allow them to express theirs. I had so many disagreements with this book, that I knew I needed to be careful about my tone. After all, anyone on the show is a “guest” and should be treated as such. I think it went well, but you listen and tell me what you think. I touch on a few of my disagreements below.
Ethical Issues in International Adoption
I always appreciate a good discussion about the ethical issues in international adoption. I spend more time than I’d like to admit thinking about these things, and it is always nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of who has also thought deeply about the issues. Although Kathryn did a good job of highlighting some of the issues, she dropped the ball, in my opinion, after she pointed them out. In her mind the ethical issues could be neatly piled at the feet of the orphan care movement, and that’s where her analysis stopped. In her view all the thorny problems of children being raised outside of their families would go away if we did away with international adoption.
Although international adoptions bring with them a host of problems, shutting down adoptions creates a host of other problems, not the least of which is what happens to the children. Do they go back to live with family? Do they grow up in institutional care? Do they end up on the streets or worse? Does international adoption have a place in international child welfare? Thoughtful minds can and do disagree, but Joyce didn’t even attempt to engage in the discussion.
Reliance on Anecdotal “Evidence”
As most of you know, I’m a research geek. I realize, honestly I do, that research doesn’t answer all questions, and that points can often be made more strongly through example than with statistics. Even I, the world’s greatest egghead, appreciate that a book needs to be interesting to be read. However, if you are writing about issues such as the prevalence of adoptions disrupting or the difficulties of transracial adoption, wouldn’t you think a brief mention of how adoptees and adoptions are faring as a whole would be helpful. Individual stories are great and make for better reading, but it helps to anchor them in reality.
Adoption is All Gloom and Doom
From my vantage point as an adoption educator, I truly see it all. I hear from unprepared families hitting the wall of reality with a thud once they bring their child home. Most of these families find their footing with education and support, but a few fall apart under the strain and fear. I spend my work days thinking of ways to better educate and support people considering adoption so that they are able to decide if they should adopt, or if they should adopt this particular child. And once they have their child, Creating a Family tries to educate and support them to be better parents to that particular child with those particular needs. But I also see the amazing and happy success stories. These stories are hard not to see; in fact, I’d go so far as to say you would have to try very hard not to see them since most adoptive families are a success. Perfect—no; ultimately successful and satisfying to parents and kids—yes. In all of The Child Catcher, I don’t remember a single happy adoption story that got more than a passing mention.
Joyce said she wanted to show “the other side of adoption” since most media only cover the hearts and butterflies part. I’m not sure she’s right given the coverage of international adoption fraud and struggles, but I can appreciate someone seeking a more balanced coverage. Doesn’t she, however, need to put the horror stories in perspective? Her portrayal was unbelievably one sided and bleak, and simply doesn’t reflect the reality of adoption that I see or that research supports.
It felt to me that Joyce went into this project with an agenda that she wanted to prove (the evangelical orphan care/adoption ministry is hurting children and adoptive families), and she included only the “evidence” that supported her position. She said in the Creating a Family interview that most journalists have a predetermined agenda, and that her book was not intended to be an even-handed assessment of adoption or religion’s place in encouraging adoption. Fair enough, I guess, but I ended up feeling that The Child Catchers bent so far in one direction that it was warped beyond usefulness. It’s a shame because a well rounded discussion about improvements to orphan care and adoption ministries would be welcomed.
I really encourage you to listen to the podcast. Although we disagreed on plenty, we did so in a respectful and productive way, which is a rarity in the world of talk radio.