Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Indian adoptions in the U.S.

I just came across an interesting article in the Times of India about the number of Indian children being adopted by residents of the U.S. I specifically wrote "residents" of the U.S. because the article quotes Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury as saying that most of the adopting couples in the U.S. were "NRIs suffering from guilt for having left India and feeling a sense of responsibility towards their motherland."

If this is true--and I suspect there may be a bit of truth to it though most likely this is an anecdotal observation made by Ms. Chowdhury and not anything the Ministry has examined systematically--then it raises the question of why there aren't more children being adopted by couples in other places with significant NRI populations.

The article reports that after the 945 children adopted by couples in the U.S., the next highest countries were Italy (419), Spain (301), Denmark (194), Sweden (123), Switzerland (86), Germany (79), Belgium (72), Australia (68), UAE (63) and the UK (53).

I am guessing that the couples in the UAE who adopted Indian children fit Ms. Chowdhury's guilt theory of adoption. However, these are most likely not the (almost all male) exploited laborers from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and other parts of India who are recruited to work in the UAE's booming construction industry. More likely they are the engineers and other technical experts who leave India to work in the oil industry in the Gulf.

What I am getting at is that there must certainly be a class basis for the adoption patterns. Similar to their well-to-do compatriots in the Gulf, Indians in the U.S., many of whom do well in the IT industry, are in a position to adopt a child from the motherland. I don't have an explanation for the high numbers in Italy and Spain. I would be interested in seeing, for each country, what percentage of the couples adopting are made up of at least one NRI. My guess would be that the rate in the Scandinavian countries is less than for the U.S. and European countries.

But what of the African countries with large NRI populations? South Africa, in particular, ought to be in the list of Ms. Chowdhury's guilt theory of adoption holds. And what about Kenya? I'm not as familiar with the status of NRIs in South Africa or Kenya, but from what I understand the NRIs in these countries are rather successful in monetary terms.

Then there's the UK. If the guilt theory of adoption is mediated by class, as I am proposing, then might this explain the low number of children adopted by couples in the UK? As with South Africa and Kenya, I am not familiar with the status of NRIs in the UK. I'm assuming it is rather mixed (working class and white collar/upper class)?

Maybe there is another explanation that has to do with the cultural norms of the NRIs, regardless of where they reside. For example, might there be differences between Gujaratis and Bengalis when it comes to families supporting their children's interest in adoption? Or, maybe rather than the cultural traits they take with them upon leaving India, there are new cultural norms that are acquired in their adopted countries. In the U.S. there is definitely a recent and widespread acceptance of the practice of international adoption. Maybe this practice is less common in the UK?

I'm really raising a lot of questions, rather than making any claims I can't possibly support, in the hopes that readers might have some experience that can explain this interesting trend of adoptions.


The Depressed Doormat said...

That was a very interesting read. I am surprised no one has yet commented. Will check out the rest after I am done with my siesta!

jeblz said...

I think it was very speculative and judgemental of that author to suggest that the proportionally tiny number of adoptions by NRIs is due to homeland abandoment issues. Knowing that 10 - 15% of couples are infertile (jcem-linked below), and there are 2.7 million Indians in the US (census linked below), it seems like a few hundred adoptions is proportionally low.

Perhaps the better question is whether the negative bias of some in the Indian Media is contributing to the relatively low number of adoptions by NRIs.

Many years back I went to India for a visit and was grilled by a relative who accused my husband and I of being unwilling to go through the effort of pregnancy. Like many infertile couples we found ourselves having to sheepishly explain our embarrasing condition. It is sad that some Indians treat childlessness and adoption with distrust and accusation rather than support and love.