Saturday, April 9, 2011

Quake orphans

Shinsai koji

Foreigners looking to adopt Japanese earthquake orphans need not apply

I wouldn't have chosen this title if I were the one who wrote this article, but the article itself presents an interesting east-meets-west phenomenon. The current head count for children with both parents killed or missing is 82, and this number is expected to grow as the count becomes more complete. The standard issue tragedy is "kids at school, parents at work, kids successfully evacuated, parents didn't." This means that there are very few healthy baby girls less than six months old to begin with, and those who survived when both parents didn't will probably be taken in by aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

There was this news segment on TV the other night, about three kids (a sister and twin brothers) who followed the sad pattern of "kids at school, parents at work". Their uncle (mom's younger brother) and his family helped them look for their parents without success. After a week of waiting and searching, their uncle said to them, "starting today, Uncle and Auntie are going to be your Mom and Dad." Uncle and Auntie already had children, and they themselves were tsunami survivors, but it never so much as even entered their minds to do otherwise.

This is probably what will happen to many of the tsunami orphans. Yes, some of these orphans will end up better off than others, but that is something that can be said for children all over the world. Local and Japanese governments should give the extended family and friends the support (financial and otherwise) they will need to welcome these children to their new families before overseas adoption is considered as a means to find a new home.

The article is right in saying that Japanese emphasize blood ties. Actually, that's an understatement. I once had the chance to visit an infertility clinic (long story, I am not infertile, well, maybe I am now, but with a Pumpkin Prince and Princess to raise my current fertility is not an issue). The doctor there explained to me the various processes, including artificial insemination and IVF, and said that anonymous donors were the norm in the Americas and Europe. He proceeded to say that many Japanese parents-to-be preferred to have some kind of blood connection to their children, and it was pretty common for a brother-in-law or father-in-law to be the sperm donor. It involved a great deal of self control to refrain from running away from the clinic screaming bloody murder at the idea of a father-in-law donating sperm. Having lived in Japan as a Japanese person for two and a half decades, this method of having a child you have a genetic connection with (when the traditional means have failed) now feels much more (but still not entirely) logical.

The "25,000 orphans" in orphanages in Japan as a pre-quake head count are probably not all orphans. Many are probably children with one or more living parents whose immediate or extended family can't (or worse, won't) give them the care they need. This is an educated guess based on how the situation is similar in many developed nations, and how this is the case in the orphanage run by the church that runs the Pumpkin Daycare. Of course, there are those who are orphans consistent with the strictest definition.

If this disaster triggers discussion on how to help these children, it would be one small fragment of good left behind in place of all that has been swept away.


Tia K. said...

Saw this discussed in a different group and yes, people expecting to find babies to adopt is ridiculous. Mostly they will be older/grade school kids with language skills that are NOT English. Tramatised by the 'quakes and tsunami. IF there are no family members any where to take these kids, I see a lot of parents who have lost kids, taking these actual ophans in rather than sending them to foreign countries.

pumpkinmommy said...

I agree that the best place for these children is within their own community, if not, at least somewhere in the country where they can express their emotional needs to their new families, or, as the need be, mental health professionals.

Current adoption policy in Japan has a lot of limits. I think both parents have to be under a certain age (I think it was 40 or 45, I am not sure) and the mother has to be a full-time homemaker. So if you're doing infertility treatments, and you keep trying for several years, you might be that age before you finally decide that adoption is the way to go, only to find that you're too old...and even if you are young enough, you will have to give up that job you kept so you could pay for infertility treatments...but that's another rant for another day.

Annie Crow said...

Very interesting. Didn't bother to read the article since, as you and Tia wrote, the best place for kids is within their own (functioning) communities, and even with what has happened Japanese society, as a whole, has not been fractured. There are a lot of other places in the world where any kind of adopting out would be an improvement over what they could expect otherwise.