Recently I read the New York Times bestseller Little Princes in which Conor Grennan writes about his promise to bring home the lost children of Nepal, and the journey he set on to fulfill that promise.
There were numerous events in the book that reminded me of my own visits to orphanages. Conor describes his first arrival to the Little Princes Children's Home and how the children charged at him, hugging every limb of his body. This is a very common response by children in orphanages and group homes. Some may interpret this behavior as child’s play and that these children are happy. The reality is that their one desire and wish is for a permanent loving parent. Conor describes how one small boy about four years old hangs from his neck so that their faces are just inches from each other. He adds that another boy grabs onto his wrist, asking to be swung. Both boys’ actions brought them closer to Conor’s chest . . . where they hoped they would be held.
When children in an orphanage hug you and will not let go they are demonstrating their need for a mother and a father . . . for family. Building a group home, hiring house parents, feeding children, and educating them is not providing family. I know many of the staff in orphanages do their very best to show all kinds of love to the children, but an orphanage can never equal the permanent security children receive in a family. When these children become young adults and leave the institution without extended family ties, their future is very bleak. They often live a life of crime and imprisonment, become prostitutes, are trafficked for labor or sexual activity, or sometimes commit suicide.
Conor also describes how he discovers some of the children living in the orphanage have biological parents and families. Many of these children had been trafficked by an individual for the purpose of work labor and possibly adoption. Many people think that orphans do not have families, but the truth is many do. Parents facing crisis situations and dire poverty will sometimes relinquish their children with the promise that their child will receive food, an education, and a better life. Instead, these children end up being exploited by those individuals who promised to take care of them—or at best are confronted with growing up in institutions rather than a family.
This is why it is important to ensure that the children in orphanages are in fact eligible for adoption and do not have families that can care for them. Exposing illegal forms of adoption and putting a stop to orphanages receiving money without proper protocol is critical. Working with attorneys within the child’s country, Bethany ensures that the relinquishment is legal and the child’s parents were apprised of all the facts involved in their consent for adoption. UNICEF and the Hague Adoption Convention oppose corrupt adoptive practices and have imposed standards on adoption practices.
I highly recommend reading Little Princes. I hope you will gain insight into the trafficking of children and illegal practices that with resolution could someday put an end to international adoption. I hope this story inspires you too as you realize, like Conor, that every child deserves a loving family.