Is Adopting From Third World Countries Necessary?

A mom who gave birth to surprise twins! A not so unusual happening without the aid of ultrasounds.
A mom who gave birth to surprise twins! A not so unusual happening without the aid of ultrasounds.

Is Haiti’s instability as a nation and chronic poverty a justifiable reason for adoption to a developed nation? Surely parenting looks different for those living in the poorest country in the western hemisphere, but does this automatically necessitate women making adoption plans?

Children’s Home and Adoption Program (Now called Heartline Ministries) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti used to be filled with children and the adoptions were frequent. The homes emptied of children after the 2010 Haitian earthquake as children left in droves thanks to the humanitarian parole which allowed the adoptions already in process to be expedited. This natural disaster lent way towards the perfect excuse for Tara Livesay (a mid-wife) and her staff to stop taking in orphans and to instead turn their focus solely to prenatal care and prevention work. Heartline turned catastrophe into opportunity. They reorganized their mission and began teaching about family planning and birth control – offering free Depo Provera as well as monitor women in labor, facilitate the delivery, postpartum needs and infant developmental care. The moms stop by the homes every week throughout their pregnancy and then weekly until babies are six months old. Out of approximately 350 births at Heartline only one woman placed her baby for adoption since 2009 (that child now lives with a wonderful family in Vermont and his birth mom still stops by to get photos of him on occasion)! From Tara’s experience, orphanages tend to ascribe to the belief that if women are poor they cannot parent and then proceed to help find a “better” place for the child via adoption. Tara’s co-workers demonstrate through speech and attitude they absolutely can parent their children. In Tara’s words “They can bond, they can breastfeed and they can raise the precious child because they have what they need.”

A new momma outside her home.
A radiant new momma with the skills to care for her baby pictured outside of her home.

Food and money are oftentimes tight, lack of support is commonplace and resources are not plentiful. All of these factors certainly aid in making parenting hard, but these women do not lack joy or moxie! And thanks to Heartline, they don’t lack parenting skills either. International adoption is a beautiful second choice solution to meet an unfortunate yet very necessary need. I have many international adoptee friends and others who are in the painstaking process of becoming adoptive parents to beautiful children, but are awaiting the countries process, ensuring that all ethical aspects of the relinquishment of the child are met before their children can fly out of their home country to be with them here in the U.S. I certainly am not anti-international adoption as there are many true orphans needing homes all around the world. I was, however surprised to learn of Heartline’s statistics which clearly show that moms are able to parent their children when given the tools and support. What if we worked towards establishing more services like Heartline instead of more adoption agencies in these areas? Would this take the novelty and romance out of our feel good tendency towards a rags-to-riches view of American adoptions from third world countries? What do you think?

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10 thoughts on “Is Adopting From Third World Countries Necessary?

  1. I think that you are on to something here. Great piece. I so wish that South Korea would do this for their own citizens.


  2. Yes! Yes! Yes! We are in the process of adopting a Haitian child but I wish the option wasn’t there because all children belong with their birth families. I wish more organizations like Heartline existed but the sad truth is, they don’t. We, as a nation, and especially parents of internationally adopted children should be in the business of helping children stay with their first families whenever possible by supporting organizations like Heartline.


  3. As an adoptee and an adoptive parent is has taken me a long, long time to process what has happened to me and ultimately to our daughter. My mother could have raised me with some help and support, and I would have preferred that. I truly believe my daughter would be better off with her own people as much as I love her. I think there is a lot of white privilege going on in international adoption, and I can say with certainty that I have been guilty of that myself.

    Why do we get decide what is best for the children of people in other countries…how dare we know what is “best”?

    I was adopted into a family of extreme privilege, but really I just wanted my own family. If certain attitudes about what was best for me had not existed and my mother had been supported, she undoubtedly could have raised me.

    People don’t need our “saving”…they need our helping.


  4. Thank you for these beautifully honest words. I know that people can’t often understand your sentiments of both loving your daughter, and wishing that she didn’t have to be your daughter. But I get it.

    I think there is a top down trickle effect going on here – US leadership models this privileged worldview, that invading other countries and imploring them to have governments like ours is somehow the best decision. Not true!


  5. Such an important conversation. I find myself somewhere between a sense of urgency for children in crisis right now who often don’t have a voice in these systems, a growing sense of respect, empathy and compassion for their birth families, and a very personal sense of frustration that the current international adoption landscape doesn’t leave much room for contact between birth and adoptive parents (which translates to less contact for adopted children and their birth families). I don’t know the answer, or if there is just one… but it seems to require we start by understanding it’s not just “their” problem, but ALL of ours. Heartline Ministries reminds me of two other groups doing like-minded work with young women and mothers in DR Congo. I figure the least I can do it share their info:

    Shona Congo

    ACT for Congo (in partnership with HOLD)


  6. Such a good conversation. I am definitely for international adoption, but the cost of an adoption could provide these very poor families with the ability to care for their children. We leave next month to work at a children’s home in Haiti. I was there last year and we have been asked as a family to move there and help run the ministry and program. This trip will help us decide. After my visit last year, four of the children have returned to their mothers! Eventually the goal is to provide employment so mothers don’t have to give their children up. Of course there are also true orphans in their care as well. This is such a tough topic. The true orphans deserve to be adopted into a loving family. The families in crisis need help. I know we can all do what we can to help. After being there, I cannot in good conscience come back to my life and pretend like I haven’t seen it with my eyes. That my heart hasn’t been broken by it…


  7. I’m thrilled to hear that things have shifted to where the moms who used to leave their babies are being assisted BEFORE their babies are born! My Haitian child’s birth father was born in America, shortly after his parents had immigrated here. Crushing poverty did not play a part in her placement,as with those. However, I have friends who have adopted from Haiti, in the days prior to the earthquake. I’ve also communicated with a woman who was running an orphan home there. I’ve heard about how overwhelming it sometimes was to care for all of the babies who were left there. They did not solicit those babies, in any way. I can’t tell for sure if you mean to insinuate that there was some amount of pressure put on the mothers to give up their babies, so that Americans could adopt them. Americans were adopting from there because there were children who needed families. Not all of the children got families, or at least didn’t get to leave the country, in time to save their lives. One of my best friends was waiting for a specific baby from Haiti. They had all ready been waiting for several months, for the Haitian government to allow him to be brought to America. Her husband had traveled there are spent a week there and bonded with him. A few weeks later, they got word that he had died. This was about a decade ago and my friend still grieves for that baby.


  8. I see that I left an important word out, I meant to say “leave the children at an orphan home” not simply “leave their chidlren”,


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