It Makes You Weep

16 September 2009

Everyone knows I’m a hard bitch – people who don’t know me well think that anyway.  I’m deliberately barren for a start.  No maternal instinct; must hate children.  I even believe it myself sometimes.

But last night I watched a TV documentary and cried.  That was after I’d practically had to be restrained from throwing something at the screen.

The programme was about the adoption of Ethiopian children by American families.  I have severe concerns about international adoption anyway but that’s another story.  I can understand that a loving family, anywhere in the world, is better than NO family.  But the children in this story DID have families.  They had mothers.

An American Christian “charity” goes to Ethiopia apparently to ask the local people whether they’d like their children to be sent to the USA for a better way of life and education.  Ethiopian mothers, like their counterparts everywhere in the world, want the best for their children and when they’re at rock bottom, homeless and with little money for food they can see this as a way to give their children previously undreamed of opportunities. 

One mother was deserted by her husband and homeless so she agreed to allow her 2 children to be adopted, assured by the agency that the children would be in regular contact.  Two years later and not a word from them.  She doesn’t even know where they are.

Another woman, a widow, was having difficulty bringing up 3 children.  Along came Mr and Mrs Gooley, whose name caused the only light relief in this film as the presenter constantly referred to them as the Goolies (maybe that’s only funny in British English?).  The Goolies are a middle-aged couple with grown-up children.  So off they went to Ethiopia to fill their empty nest.  Before they took the children off to America, they presented the mother with a framed photograph.  She handed over 3 children and in return got a framed photo.  When she came to say goodbye to her children, I couldn’t help but cry along with her.

I know nothing about bringing up children.  But I DO know that mothers, or fathers, or at least a close member of the family, are the best people to do the job, other than in pretty exceptional circumstances.  Poverty shouldn’t be a factor. 

If the Goolies cared so much about children, why didn’t they offer financial help?  I would have thought that just a few dollars a month would probably cover the food/education/healthcare of this family.  If the Goolies cared so much about children, why didn’t they have any understanding that what they were doing was second only to killing someone’s child?

Maybe I’m imagining this but I also felt there were serious racist overtones to all this.  We take kittens away from their mothers, fairly safe in the knowledge that in a short space of time, the mother forgets.  The same belief once existed about American slaves.  Maybe these selfish, stupid women still believe this. 

If I, a hard-nosed barren woman, who really has no concept of maternal feelings, can cry over another woman’s children, how these mothers are going to get through the rest of their lives, I just can’t imagine.


  1. Are we channelling each other? There’s a thread on the Queer Forum at Ravelry at the moment about this. Apparently Elton John and his partner were refused permission to adopt (ie rescue) an HIV+ve baby from the Ukraine because they are too old. Some people have chosen to see this as homophobia. I have expressed strong views along the lines of your argument in this post.

  2. Makes me angry, and I didn’t even see the documentary. Here in Kenya, there are plenty of actual orphans that could be adopted, but there are also adoption laws so you can’t just waltz in and waltz out with a child (one is a six month residency requirement).

    And the other thing — in Ethiopia and many other African countries, you depend on your children to take care of you as you age. What is going to happen to these women?


  3. There’s been lots of stuff (think PM and Today) about the elton John adoption and the fact that what he SHOULD be doing is sending over money to support families. I don’t think there’s even been a comment on who his partner is, or the fact that they’re gay – so not the story!

    I’m so with you on this Sally, as a fellow barren, hard-faced woman!

  4. Wow. I haven’t seen this program but hearing about it upsets me the same way you are upset. Maternal feelings aren’t involved. How about just caring for other human beings? It’s very sad that there is so much bad done in the name of religion.

  5. I didn’t see the program – I had to prepare for the following day.

    Why couldn’t they adopt orphaned children? I believe there are many hundreds, if not thousands, of them in Africa due to the rapid spread of HIV.

    I, being semi-barren, have only one child and I could no more think of giving her up than cutting off my arm! How cruel and thoughtless to take children away from their parents. And, like Linda, I also wonder what will become of these women in old age.

  6. I think it’s the “foreign-ness” that makes it seem acceptable to these people. As you say, it happened with slaves and aborigines (though the removal of their children was for different reasons).

    Would they turn up at a house in New York State or Wisconsin and try to do the same? Such a little money each month would make all the difference. We know now, as well, what an impact it has on people not to know who they are and where they come from – not to have any connections with blood relatives.

  7. Sending a bit of money would go unnoticed by the masses. Sadly, many well-heeled folk do this to appear philanthropic – which equates to Appearances being more important than the Children.

    This is not a loving or charitable act. It is a heinous manipulation of the mothers’ love and desperation.

  8. The mother was dying of HIV according to the show – right?

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