Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Dear Ms. Jolie,

I realize that I have never met you and that all I know about you is what I read. But I have to admit that what I read is somewhat disturbing to me. As an adoptive parent of a son from Vietnam and in process for another son, I am concerned about the state of adoptions from Vietnam. We both know (I hope) that the world of international adoptions is not always as neat and tidy and ethical as it should be. There is a lot of money that changes hands and large amounts of money don't always bring out the best in people. Unethical agencies use this to their advantage. By paying "unpublished" fees, their timelines can be significantly shortened. Those of us who chose our agency because of their unwillingness to pay any such fees wait for a much longer time to bring our children home. This is not because we don't want them home as soon as possible, but because we want to be able to say to our children, when they ask about their adoptions, that we did everything as honorably and ethically as we possibly could.

This brings me to my concerns about your current adoption. Now, I'm not suggesting that you have done anything wrong, or that you have paid any additional money to encourage the government to speed up your paperwork. My concern has everything to do with appearances. Ms. Jolie, as you have probably noticed, you are a very high profile figure. Whether this is desirable to you or not is irrelevant. (And since there have been other celebrities who have adopted, without quite the same fanfare...Madonna aside...one has to assume that you seek some of the publicity.) You have positioned yourself as a champion of underprivileged children and adoption and therefore you have the responsibility that goes with it. All prospective adoptive parents have the responsibility to make sure that any adoptions they are involved with are processed as ethically as possible, but because you are a public figure this is even more vital. Not only do you have to be sure your adoptions are ethical, but because so many people are watching you, you have the responsibility to make sure your adoption gives absolutely no impression that anything wrong was done. In a system that is already struggling with how to avoid abuses, an appearance that money talks just encourages agencies to make their own money talk. Frankly, I don't buy the argument that because your soon-to-be son is older and has his paperwork in order that is why everything is moving so quickly. Our own son was 3 years old at referral. His paperwork was in order because he had been caught in the shutdown and was just waiting for VN to reopen to adoptions. Our own paperwork was submitted as soon as our agency was granted its license. With your timeline, we should have brought him home last March, but we didn't travel until July, as all the paperwork went through the system. Of the families I know who have adopted boys older than three, our process was the fastest. So you can see why this explanation rings a little hollow.

Probably the best way I can explain myself is through this analogy: As an adult, when I am walking somewhere and a light is red, but there is no traffic, I will cross against the light. Is this legal? No. Should I do it? Probably not. But is it hurting anyone? Not really... and maybe it gets me to my goal more quickly. But if I am at a light and there happens to be a child observing me, do I cross against the light? No. The difference is that I don't want to give the child the impression that it is okay to walk against the light. I don't want to take the chance that I would influence that child's behavior at a future time in ways that could lead to harm. There are seemingly benign actions in the world of adoption that can lead to harm. Allowing your adoption to be expedited in ways that undermine the existing rules and structures may result in a quicker arrival to a family for one child, but in the long term, it may slow the adoption of many children to follow... or, worse, make it impossible for these children to find families.

So then, what do I expect from you, Ms. Jolie? Please be transparent in your dealings. If you really did file paperwork months and months ago, what harm does it do to tell us when? If your agency is ethical and doing good humanitarian work for the children and people of Vietnam, how could telling us the agency's name hurt them? I realize that you want your son home as soon as possible; we all do. (In fact, our second son needs to come home as soon as possible since he requires surgery.) But please don't cut corners that may affect future adoptions and make it harder or impossible for other people to bring their own children home. Sadly, for you (and other celebrity prospective adoptive parents) this may mean working even harder than ordinary folk to avoid any hint of impropriety.

Ms. Jolie, I wish you and your family well. I hope you feel the same about the rest of us.

(E)

3 comments:

Christina said...

Oh how I wish we could make sure Angelina actually read this letter! Maybe send it to USA Today or another prominant paper? Seriously I really think you should get this letter published, it would do the world good to read it!!!

maxhelcal said...

Wow, well said as always Elizabeth. This isn't about jealousy here, this is all about appearances and being ethical. I personally couldn't care less how fast Angelina's adoption is processed but because of the fragile nature of Vietnamese adoptions right now, she needs to be more careful how her process is done and even more so... perceived to be done. This whole thing raises yet another question to me. If hers can be done in such an efficient and timely manner while still being done in an ethical manner, perhaps everyone else's children could come home a bit sooner too. (I understand that she has hand delivered much of her own paperwork, cutting out the middle man and I am sure she had hired someone to finish her dossier in only a day or two and her homestudy was probably an update since she had recently adopted) but this process really does TAKE TOO LONG and many wonderful children living in orphanages could potentially be home in their families a lot sooner making their transition smoother, their lives fuller and their need for healthcare met in a more timely manner.

~Michelle

Joanne said...

great points, great letter.

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