17 September 2013
Today CNN has launched the first of a series of articles about intercountry adoption.
Coincidence or not, it follows right after a critical series done by Reuters: The Child Exchange
CNN’s article of today sets a different tone: International adoptions in decline as number of orphans grows. The main adoption proponents are quoted. This CNN article quotes Unicef’s statistics on orphans:
UNICEF estimates that there are 151 million children who have lost at least one parent worldwide and 18 million who have lost both parents. Globally, there are more children living in foster care or institutions than there are being adopted, according to the United Nations. But most of these children are older and have special needs, and are not the healthy infants many adoptive parents typically desire.
- ACT CALLS ON UNICEF TO MAKE A PUBLIC STATEMENT TO REAFFIRM ITS POSITION THAT THESE SO-CALLED ORPHANS ARE NOT IN NEED OF A FAMILY.
- RATHER, THEIR FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES ARE IN NEED OF SUPPORT.
- ACT CALLS ON UNICEF AND ITS GLOBAL PARTNERS TO STOP FEEDING INTO THE AGENDA OF THE ADOPTION INDUSTRY, BY NO LONGER REFERRING TO ‘ORPHANS’ OR ‘UNPARENTED CHILDREN’
Because, the large majority of children have parents, or at least one parent, and extended families (orphans too).
In Unicef’s own words:
UNICEF and global partners define an orphan as a child who has lost one or both parents. By this definition there were over 132 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean in 2005. This large figure represents not only children who have lost both parents, but also those who have lost a father but have a surviving mother or have lost their mother but have a surviving father.
Of the more than 132 million children classified as orphans, only 13 million have lost both parents. Evidence clearly shows that the vast majority of orphans are living with a surviving parent grandparent, or other family member. 95 per cent of all orphans are over the age of five.
This definition contrasts with concepts of orphan in many industrialized countries, where a child must have lost both parents to qualify as an orphan. UNICEF and numerous international organizations adopted the broader definition of orphan in the mid-1990s as the AIDS pandemic began leading to the death of millions of parents worldwide, leaving an ever increasing number of children growing up without one or more parents. So the terminology of a ‘single orphan’ – the loss of one parent – and a ‘double orphan’ – the loss of both parents – was born to convey this growing crisis.
However, this difference in terminology can have concrete implications for policies and programming for children. For example, UNICEF’s ‘orphan’ statistic might be interpreted to mean that globally there are 132 million children in need of a new family, shelter, or care. This misunderstanding may then lead to responses that focus on providing care for individual children rather than supporting the families and communities that care for orphans and are in need of support.
In keeping with this and the agency’s commitment to adapt to the evolving realities of the AIDS crisis, UNICEF commissioned an analysis of population household surveys across 36 countries. Designed to compare current conditions of orphans and non-orphans, the global analysis suggests we should further expand our scope, focusing less on the concept of orphanhood and more on a range of factors that render children vulnerable. These factors include the family’s ownership of property, the poverty level of the household, the child’s relationship to the head of the household, and the education level of the child’s parents, if they are living.
In UNICEF’s experience, these are the elements that can help identify both children and their families – whether this term includes living parents, grandparents or other relatives – who have the greatest need for our support.