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The Makeni Children
August 10, 2011 8:52 PM   Subscribe

Everything went silent, Judi told me, as if she'd been pulled underwater. She read the sentences over and over, trying to comprehend them.
The boy Sulaiman Suma had been looking for all these years was her 16-year-old son, Samuel.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.

Previously, more previously, even more, and more.
posted by Joe in Australia (12 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Related: Chinese Officials Seized and Sold Babies, Parents Say
But parents in Longhui say that in their case, it was local government officials who treated babies as a source of revenue, routinely imposing fines of $1,000 or more — five times as much as an average local family’s yearly income. If parents could not pay the fines, the babies were illegally taken from their families and often put up for adoption by foreigners, another big source of revenue.
The final anecdote, about Xiong Chao, "the last baby that officials tried to snatch, and one of the few returned home", is the most heartbreaking.
posted by metaplectic at 11:25 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


A messy and heartbreaking story. Good on Slate for putting the story out there, considering that it has no clear resolution.
posted by Harald74 at 12:36 AM on August 11, 2011


One of the most shocking parts about this story to me (and perhaps I've been naive) is to be disabused of the notion that there are an excess of starving orphans desperate to be adopted by Westerners. Are there really more people willing to adopt than eligible children?

It's also pretty amazing how the two adoptive families/kids dealt with learning the truth. I can't even imagine having to deal with the questions that they were forced to confront. How truly frustrating, awful, and unfair to everyone involved.

Although there is one thing that the author didn't mention: the birth families were offered a chance for their children to be educated if they relinquished them. It seems like that, at least, has come to pass. Not that the situation is AT ALL justifiable on that basis, but at least SOME good came of it.
posted by guster4lovers at 1:27 AM on August 11, 2011


Fascinating and moving. Thanks for posting.
posted by Touchstone at 2:07 AM on August 11, 2011


Guster4lovers asked: Are there really more people willing to adopt than eligible children?

That's my understanding. There used to be many more orphans because parents died young; more children were abandoned because of poverty; and there were more children born in the first place because there was little or no access to contraception and abortion. I suspect that nowadays there may also be more people willing to adopt, both because we are generally wealthier and because later marriages has meant that many couples are less fertile. I don't know whether adoptions by gay couples is also a significant factor, but it certainly may be. In any event, yes, there are very few healthy Western babies who need parents - which is actually very good news for babies with medical problems or older children, because formerly they would have probably been raised in institutions.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:12 AM on August 11, 2011


One of the most shocking parts about this story to me (and perhaps I've been naive) is to be disabused of the notion that there are an excess of starving orphans desperate to be adopted by Westerners. Are there really more people willing to adopt than eligible children?
I don't think there are that many children (especially not that many very young children) who have literally no family that would like to raise them. A lot of cultures have pretty strong extended kinship networks, and they have mechanisms in place to look after orphans. What there are is a lot of families who are currently unable to feed and educate young children, and they may use things like orphanages as temporary emergency measures while they regain their economic footing. So basically, if you look at things like the population of orphanages, you can really overestimate how many children there are who truly have no family.
posted by craichead at 6:01 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


craidhead: re the 'literally no family that would like to raise them':

One of my nephews was adopted from a birth mother who, to be polite, could not name the father for, ahem, 'professional reasons' --- as in the world's oldest profession. Her mother had already taken in two previous grandchildren, and was stretched to her limit or beyond. So the boy was put up for adoption at birth, and has been a joy to us ever since.

Another nephew & neice were removed from their birth mother by Child Protective Services; the birth mother happily gave up all parental rights (the birth father of one is unknown, the other birth father died in prison). The birth mother's mother objected to her grandchildren being adopted out of her family, but was totally unwilling --- as was the rest of the birth family --- to step up: they very were willing to say what SHOULD happen to the kids, but would not lift a finger for them. No problem: they're our family now, and we DON'T abandon family.
posted by easily confused at 7:10 AM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


What does that have to do with whether there are many poor starving third-world orphans who are available to be adopted by first-world families?
One of my nephews was adopted from a birth mother who, to be polite, could not name the father for, ahem, 'professional reasons' --- as in the world's oldest profession.
That actually strikes me as significantly less polite than just saying that his mother was a prostitute.
posted by craichead at 7:23 AM on August 11, 2011 [16 favorites]


A family member married late in life and really, really wants a child. Fertility treatments failed, so they looked into international adoption, flew to Tanzania, volunteered at an orphanage/school (they are teachers), and left heartbroken due to the insidious amount of corruption.

She realized she'd have to pay off people every step of the way, and then could never be sure the kid wasn't just stolen.

It never quite hit home how common this was til then.

One of the most shocking parts about this story to me (and perhaps I've been naive) is to be disabused of the notion that there are an excess of starving orphans desperate to be adopted by Westerners. Are there really more people willing to adopt than eligible children?

Starving orphaned children make for a great marketing campaign to get people to feel empathy and donate, and we've been inundated with it for years. This misconception is definitely a side effect.

In a perfect world, the excess people who want to adopt would expand their scope from "infants and toddlers" to "children up to the age of 16", and maybe even accept some 'flaws' like cognitive or physical impairments, and stick to countries with good record keeping. But even then, I'm not sure if supply would meet demand.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 2:03 PM on August 11, 2011


The point being, that there ARE young children with no birth family to take care of them.
(And the boy's mother is a CPA: his birth mother is a streetwalker.)
posted by easily confused at 2:04 PM on August 11, 2011


Wow easilyconfused, is that how you talk about her in front of your nephew?
posted by Salamandrous at 4:04 PM on August 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


An abandoned baby on the streets of Shanghai.
What I found was a scene whose every detail spoke of maternal care, and anguish: the multicoloured quilt was bright, thick and tied just so—the corner lay over the child's face, to protect it from the pre-Christmas chill. Beneath the angry bundle lay two plastic carrier bags bulging with brand new baby clothes, tins of infant formula, packs of nappies and scrubbed-clean bottles, the only love note a mother could dare to leave for a child she would never know.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have something in my eye.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:39 AM on August 13, 2011


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