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Is Justice Only for Adults?

nbc news kenyan orphans asleepLet’s imagine that a country forbade procreation among certain sectors of adult society. There would be a well-founded uproar. But when the reverse is true – children are legally and politically denied parents — it is not only accepted, but often lauded. Institutions throughout the world are filled with children who are being systematically denied adoption. There are an estimated 150-200 million orphans. In addition, there are many millions of “social orphans” – unparented children who, regradless of whether or not they have a biological parent, are not with that parent nor will they be. That includes the 8-12 million children who are kept in institutions.

Broadly, there are two reasons for this neglect. One is that policies uphold the birth parents’ claim upon a child even when said parents are unavailable and, in almost all cases, never become available. The second is that nations maintain their rights to possess children born within their borders regardless of the countries’ ability and willingness to care for them. If we valued children’s needs to grow up with parents as much as we valued adults’ rights to procreate, we would not tolerate these policies.

Also, grown-ups use children as pawns in geo-political power plays. We hold our babies hostage in terrible circumstances in their countries of birth, with the (failed) goal of forcing the country to develop a better system of orphan-care. Also, orphans are used as tools in political gamesmanship. Vladimir Putin stopped all Russian adoptions to the US in retaliation for US sanctions against the Russian officials who were implicated in the prison death of a human rights activist.  Instead of encouraging and facilitating international adoption, we sacrifice children on the altar of adult individual and group “rights”.