Adoption TODAY January 2015 : Page 3

Editor's Thread

Richard Fischer

Misguided Intentions<br /> <br /> Have you ever felt conflicted when the evidence leads your brain in one direction while your compassionate heart pulls you in the opposing direction? If so, you are in good company since most of us fit that description when making caregiving decisions about our children. Where is that invisible line between making yourself feel good or doing what is in the best interest of your child?<br /> <br /> This issue of Adoption Today may push your stress levels as we address the controversial topic of "Orphan Tourism" and the hidden dangers of "Orphanage Tourism." These are difficult topics to address without stepping on a few toes in the process, but our editors at Adoption Today have never shied away from advancing ideas that may ultimately benefit the lives of our most vulnerable children.<br /> <br /> How we perceive the needs of orphaned children and where we see ourselves fitting in to address those needs can literally have a life changing impact on the children as well as ourselves, both now and in the future.<br /> <br /> Let's step back in time 40 years to April 1975 to the city of Saigon, Vietnam and the site of Operation Babylift, a perceived humanitarian effort that eventually brought over 2,000 "orphaned" children to the United States. We look closely behind the much-publicized story of victory for the children, in the article, "Misguided Intentions — Operation Babylift and the Consequences of Humanitarian Action" by Bethany Sharpe, page 14. Sharpe sees Operation Babylift as a poignant example of the complicated nature of humanitarianism, where actions undertaken to deal with the human tragedy at hand forever altered lives in unforeseen ways. From any viewpoint, Babylift serves as a reminder that whatever actions are taken to ease human suffering, a reckoning must take place of both intended and unintended consequences.<br /> <br /> Fast forward to today and we find a newer approach to humanitarian aid for orphaned children but with documented results that may in fact produce negative outcomes for the children they are attempting to serve. Orphanage tourism is a phrase that is beginning to be recognized within mainstream media and is also the focus of the article, "Understanding the Underlying Impacts of'Orphan Tourism"'by Bryony Walsh and Emmanuelle Werner Gillioz, beginning on page 18 of this issue. Walsh and Gillioz note when visiting a country where a large percentage of the population lives in poverty, it is a natural reaction to want to find a way to support the most vulnerable. As most visits are relatively short, it can be hard to understand the social, economic and cultural circumstances that might result with a child living in residential care. The continued support of residential (orphanage) care centers from visitors and volunteers diverts attention and money away from other care models, such as family/community strengthening, kinship care, foster care, guardianship and adoption.<br /> <br /> Contributing to this focus is the article, "The Danger in Orphanage Volunteerism" by Brooke Randolph, LMHC, page 22 of this issue. As a one-time, short-term orphanage volunteer, Randolph has witnessed first hand the unintended consequences of non-specific orphanage visits by hopeful volunteers. Randolph encourages anyone contemplating an orphanage visit to examine their motivation and consider how else you could benefit the children without causing emotional pain and disruption to the children you intend to "love on." How many days of a permanent caregivers salary could be paid for by your airfare, hotel costs and meals while in country? If your motivation is simply providing more loving hands, funding a local caregiver is much more efficient and effective.<br /> <br /> Great articles and much food for thought as you make plans to support the orphaned children of the world.<br /> <br /> Please consider the numerous highly efficient and productive in country programs operated by compassionate professional foundations and adoption related organizations that could use your support to carry out their mission of nurturing and educating the children in their care.

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