21 March 2008

Adoption in Indonesia

I have been in Indonesia a long time now, so I have seen a lot of issues come and go over my time here and adoption is one of those. But it is an issue that has taken on a new zest since Indonesia has taken an active interests in balancing out the interests of children in the big scheme of Indonesian life -- rights and obligations under treaty law such as the rights of the child, an amended citizenship law, and a few other legislative developments.

I have been married for 5 years or so, or so being the relevant time marker, but the missus and I still have not had the good fortune of being blessed with child. Nah, before all of my loyal readers start considering sending detailed descriptions or photographs of the "how to get pregnant" kind -- thanks, but we do not need them!

But back to the point of the post! Having considered adoption and considering it now, I read with interest this latest piece on adoption (in Indonesia -- sorry my non-Indonesian reading friends) which talks about Indonesian agencies taking a much more hands on supervisory role in the post adoption period.

The relevant parts for me relate to the idea that where a foreigner is involved in the adoption of an Indonesian child then that foreign parent is required to report regularly on the condition of the adopted child. Nah, if the adopted child is in a foreign land then this reporting is to be done to an Indonesian Embassy or Consulate. It is not that the process is onerous but it is discriminatory. If the Indonesian government is really interested in the welfare of kids and the next generation of Indonesians then the rules need to apply to all Indonesian parents of all children irrespective of whether the child is adopted or biological.

There are more pressing issues that have a more direct impact on the welfare of children such as providing the necessary facilities and support to working parents like child care subsidies, improving the access to and quality of education by recruiting and rewarding quality educators, and allocating enough of the State budget to education. Yet, it seems that the approach is why sweat the big stuff when you can sweat the little stuff.

The article also includes an example about a foreigner adopting three children from differing ethnic Indonesian backgrounds. I am guessing something along the lines of a Papuan child, a Batak child, and a Javanese child. The concern seems to be why would someone want to go to that kind of trouble unless they had some ulterior motive. So much for the Indonesian philosophy of unity in diversity! The answer might be as simple as because I can and I can give each of these unwanted children a better future than what they may have had in the orphanage.

I do not think it was a dig at the family of Angeline Jolie (and Brad Pitt) which is taking on the look of the United Nations. The chances are that these kids will be better adjusted and more tolerant of difference than others -- then again maybe not. But the point is that it does not seem, at least on the face of it, that these particular kids will want for anything, including the love of their parents.

When it is all said and done my point here is a simple one and that is that the Indonesian government does not need to single out adopted children for special treatment and reporting conditions but rather on the contrary the Indonesian government needs to focus on children in general to ensure that its children and its youth are not dying from malnutrition and starvation and other preventable diseases. If and when that is under control then feel free to go for it and target adopted children with special reporting conditions.

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