Breeding Feral Children

A transracially, transnationally adoptive parent, upon reading my thoughts on the historical and social reasons we Korean adoptees were sent abroad for adoption, responded by telling me that in Australia (paraphrasing here) society has gone to hell because of single moms on welfare breeding feral children, and that maybe Korea just doesn’t want to follow that path.

When I reminded him that I was a single mom on welfare who is eternally grateful to my country and that I give back to society whenever possible, he responded that he was talking about society, not adoption

I’m just stunned, dumb-founded, dismayed, and incredulous about this on so many levels.   So my question is this:

What do adoptees feel should be the minimum acceptable standards for screening potential adoptive parents?

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12 thoughts on “Breeding Feral Children

  1. Wow! i am a former foster, not adoptee. But…i think they need to study the personality types who abuse, lock kids in basements and starve their kids and come up with a psychological profile and then move heaven and earth to avoid EVEN allowing them to adopt in the first place.

  2. I am speechless about that comment about feral adoptees. I am an adoptee.
    First (criteria), there should be no stranger adoptions; if a child is orphaned then kinship care is preferred or legal guardianship that is open for the child to know everything and have correct documentation and the opportunity and choice to meet his/her extended family upon age 18.
    Honestly, I ask myself – why is there any adoption in this era?
    Lastly, SOS Villages keep sibling orphaned children together in one home with one fulltime house-mum in a village – which is a wonderful option for true orphans without any other living kin.
    I propose we end adoption and replace it with kinship care.

  3. I think the screening of prospectiveadopters is totally inadequate and always has been.Adoptive parenting is a very specific and specilised parenting task and needs special people, adequate training and preparation, ongoing support and supervision.
    Re Australia and child raising I know some more than adequate parents who are single and on welfare andf some married parents in the work force who are producing kids who could be described as feral because they are being raised without boundaries, security, adequate parental input and attention.You only need to go to a cafe near you any day of the week or any public space to observe them.

  4. I am no longer shocked by what is in fact the status quo mentality of Anglo-Saxon cultures. I accept that there is no changing this, and that adoption fits especially well into this whole mindset. It’s disturbing, but I’d rather hear the truth “straight up” as it were.

    Having said that, I think that there should be one question asked of PAPs: “Were the situation of the family of the child temporarily in your care to change, such that they were able to take the child back and provide for him/her, would you find this to be a joyous occasion? Would you be happy for the child and for the family?”

    If the answer is no, then the PAP is immediately disqualified.

  5. What shocked me was this adoptive parent’s separation of society and adoption, along with his ignorance of the country from which his children came.

    What disturbed me was his talking about how adoption was a solution to single moms breeding feral children: not only his disregard for women left to fend for themselves, but for the rebranding of savior mentality.

    So adoption was first meant to save products of interracial relationships, but then it was to to save the poor by giving only the child member of a family an opportunity by breaking up their family, and then as a way to erase family shame. But now it’s to clean up the streets of feral children? What new iterations of saving will we be presented with next?

  6. To understand is that this isn’t new; these are the historical derivations of adoption. When I was researching for my presentation at the Adoption Initiative Conference, I found that the majority of quotes concerning adoption at the turn of last century invoked this trope of “feral” children as a social problem to “take care of”. For example:

    Governments in the mid 20th century viewed Aboriginal people as “child-like creatures in constant need of the paternal care of the government”. With guidance, they would gradually abandon their superstitious beliefs and barbaric behaviour and adopt civilization.
    —E. B. Titley, A Narrow Vision: Duncan Campbell Scott and the Administration of Indian Affairs in Canada

    [They are] “street Arabs” from the “dangerous classes”.
    —Charles Loring Brace, describing foundling children 
in New York City

    It can be viewed as the ultimate in the kind of exploitation inherent in every adoption, namely the taking by the rich and powerful of the children born to the poor and powerless.
    —Elizabeth Bartholet, International Adoption: Current Status and Future Prospects

    Throughout the 1850s, the annual reports of the Children’s Aid Society described its clients as “[falling] short of being fully human…ascribing a feral or beastly nature to the poor”.
    —Bruce Bellingham, “Little Wanderers: A Socio-Historical Study of the Nineteenth Century Origins of Child Fostering and Adoption Reform, Based on Early Records of the New York Children’s Aid Society.”; Ph.D. diss., Dept. of Sociology, Univ. of Pennsylvania

    I find this to be a fundamental political mentality inherent to Anglo-Saxon society and its treatment of the poor.

  7. I’m Australian. I was a single mum for 10 years. I’m an adoptee.I have adopted a child from Papua New Guinea. This man does NOT speak for me, nor for most of my country. Right-wingers LOVE to harp on about the ‘feral kids of single mums”, a song sung and led loudly by our wanna-be next Prime Minister and his homophobic, misogynist, pro-life-at-any-cost party. I’ll be sure to tell my (natural) daughter who has just begun her Doctorate of Jurisprudence how much luckier her (adopted from PNG) sister is to have escaped her feral fate.

  8. Malcolm X famously stated in an interview [link]:

    “Smiling foxes (white liberals) are far more dangerous than wolves (conservatives). The liberal is more deceitful and has perfected the art of befriending the black man and posing as his friend, to use as a pawn in their political football game. At least with a wolf you know where you stand.”

    I think historically this statement should have put to rest the false divide between “left” and “right” as defined by parties in the “developed” world. From the perspective of where many of us were adopted from, it doesn’t really matter which “party” or which “side” is/was in power, the same wars are waged, the same economic depredation takes place, the same NGOs are sent over, the same humanitarian imperialism reigns supreme.

    To speak of “feral children” has changed with time. In the days of poorhouses and orphan trains, of populating colonies with the disenfranchised and marginalized, ridding the environs of the “cosmopolitan class” of the bourgeoisie was a physical act of displacement and dispossession.

    The same thing takes place today, only it has been completely formalized into more palatable efforts: gerrymandering, gentrification, property tax–funded schools, ghettoization; and now deportation, the school-to-prison system, debates on “immigration”, etc.

    Where are we headed? To the “truth” behind all of these efforts: There are those who are considered valid human beings, and there are those who are not. Those who are not will be removed from the realm. This goes back to the foundations of so-called democracies, the Greek notion of polis (those who make up the political entity of the city) and the zoë (those who barely exist and have no political qualification). [Georgio Agamben updates this (badly) most recently in terms of philosophy.]

    An aside: During the 2006 war on Lebanon, there was a child, “Logan”, adopted with the aid of senators in the States who provided a “humanitarian visa”. In the meantime, 500+ children were killed in the 34 days of Israeli bombardment. Condoleezza Rice called this, in a stunningly inappropriate metaphor, “the birth pangs of a new Middle East” [link].

    Another aside: During the 2008-9 war on Gaza, IDF soldiers printed up T-shirts that showed, among other things, a rifle site trained on a pregnant woman’s stomach. The T-shirt read: “One shot, two kills.” [link] Going back to my previous post, where New York street children were referred to as “street Arabs”, brings us full circle. (Ironically, according to Mencken’s The American Language, “street Arab” was in fact an anti-Semitic slur; Arabs were considered lowlier than Jews.)

    It would be easy to refer to this in terms of ethnicity, or religion, or political difference, or race, or what have you. It is too easy to do this. That reference is there, but it absolves those outside of these parameters, and masks the true difference we are talking about, which is of class difference. Who is served, and who serves? Who profits from labor, and who labors? Who gets to claim place for themselves, and who will be the forever displaced?

    I’m thinking a return to our “feral roots” might not be such a bad idea.

    • Daniel: not to zero in on a tiny detail in a thoroughgoing post, but could you say something more about Agamben, because I have a smart friend who is reading him, and if Agamben has a pitfall, I’d like to fore-warn or contextualize it for him.

      Thanks.

      • It will depend on where your friend’s head is at; if it is okay with the post-modern philosophical remove from street reality, then Agamben fits right in with that. Basically my issue is that in Homo Sacer he gives us a historically speaking limited framework for defining those with and without polis; the enfranchised and disenfranchised if you will. To me it is no longer valid to speak of the horror of the Jewish holocaust without speaking of the aftermath, the occupation of Palestine. They are part and parcel of the same thing.

        The further problematic for me is that going back to the Greeks for a notion of democracy is a field of landmines that has been further landmined. At the end he basically throws up his (philosophical) hands and says, “well, that’s the way it is! we certainly can’t count on any aspect of socialist/communist thinking, or religious thinking, to deliver us from our current condition.” So what was the point of the book?

        This post-modern desire to endlessly define the water we swim in (without thinking we can change it) is, to me, as dangerous as the “source” of the water to begin with. I don’t see it as being naive, I see it as being in lockstep with the dominant mode. For a good debunking along these lines, read John Sanbonmatsu’s The Postmodern Prince. Personally, I think liberation theology (both Christian and Islamic) is a more-likely site of radical change than anything given to us by postmodernists in the past 30 years. For this, read Gustavo Gutierrez and Hamid Dabashi, among others.

        Finally, the “theory only” viewing of the world is, to me, quite invalid. Anyone who speaks of theory and praxis, or thought and action—Antonio Gramsci, for one—is a much more rewarding and uplifting read than the nihilism of postmodernism.

  9. …and in this entire mess, I wonder, “Where are all the ‘dads’ who were involved in generating the feral child syndrome?”

    Oh, that’s right, we are talking about “virgin births” here…

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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