Thursday, November 30, 2006

On Adoption

As many of my close friends know, I can't wait to have children. For me, I consider the most important job anyone can have is the job of being a good and responsible parent. A few nights before I left for Africa, I was having dinner with some friends who jokingly asked whether I intended to adopt a child while in Africa.

Long before it was "en vogue" to adopt from Africa, (a strange concept to consider), Jess and I had talked about adopting as part of our family. I had rationalized that it was the "responsible" thing to do. After all, even as a middle class family, we could afford to give a child much more than what they would receive in their home country. The quality of education, health-care, all the usual things we compare when talking in this way.

I had always thought that if/when we were to adopt, we would ensure that their culture, their heritage would just be melded into our family. We would do everything we could ensure that our child wouldn't assimilate but would develop their own identity formed from a mix of their new culture and their heritage.

Sure, the devil is in the details but between Jess and I, with our hearts and heads and resources, we would find a way.

And then I went to Africa.

Now I look at the attitude I expressed above as the best example I can render of "good intentions run amok." Controversial as this may be to say, I think taking a child out of their country, especially out of Africa is robbing not only that child but that whole country.

First and foremost, my very limited experience in Africa tells me (as I have said throughout the blog entries I made while traveling) that Africa is the richer continent. I'll try not to belabor a point I made many times in those entries - suffice it to say, I think that the culture in the countries I visited is well... I said I won't belabor it. No matter what we might do to emulate, recreate, honor their culture, it will never suffice, not even with Madonna and Angelina's money combined.

Second, it's unlikely that an African child raised in A western country will return to live and work in the country they came from. Talk about the ultimate "brain drain."

Critical to the economic development of any country is its human capital. We all have high hopes for our children. So by defintion, we're taking that country's best surgeon, politician, entrepreneur, scientist, community leader, whatever away from that country almost guarenteeing the only involvement (s)he will have is as a visitor or volunteer traveller.

The better, harder and ultimately more selfless goal is to invest in ensuring that we take up the responsibility of investing in excellent orphanages, in providing funding for well developed child-headed household initiatives (the number of teenagers who are the heads of their families, responsible for their brothers and sisters is staggering and one of the issues I personally want to get most involved in supporting), and other initiatives that support the long-term care and development of Africa's future.

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