Dear Adoption, Let’s Talk About 8 Million Children Living in Orphanages and Silo’d Thinking
Did you know the globe is at a tipping point for the care of over 8 million children living in orphanages? Did you know that brilliant people from around the world are working to make sure institutions are a last resort for children and families a first?
I’ll share more about that in a moment. First, here’s some context…
I’m Ian Anand Forber Pratt. I am a mix of Indian and American. I work in the space of foster care and adoption every day. Sometimes I take it for granted. I forget the profoundness of families and children finding each other. I sometimes feel angry at the trials and tribulations many adoptees face; other times I rejoice with adoption stories of triumph and belonging. But today, I am shocked to know that here in India over 20 million children are missing one or more parent. I am shocked to think that families are shunned due to having a child of “unknown background”. I am shaken by the country’s push for family based care that meets roadblocks at every juncture.
Why am I connected to India and why am I telling you about millions of children?
Here’s my story…
In 1980 a loving Canadian/American family, living in the States, adopted me from Kolkata, India. I grew up well and wanted for nothing.
However, I always questioned how I fit into the world and spent a number of years pursuing alcohol as a way of searching for a sense of belonging. Luckily, I found what I was looking for on February 6, 2006 when I quit drinking and smoking and started helping children like myself in just one day. I haven’t looked back.
Today I live in New Delhi, India with my wife. We work in the field of alternative care and demand safer and stronger families for children.
Every day, it seems people tell me that adoption is evil; that it contributes to the sale of children and causes negative outcomes for them all. This is true, in some cases. It is also true that biological children face negative outcomes. No one is exempt from life challenges.
But I’d like to share more about our silo’d thinking in regards to the way children can be care for. By silo’d I mean often care of children goes into one box – some in the adoption camp, some in the foster care camp, and some in family preservation. The problem is that these camps often do not communicate.
I’d like to offer to you all that adoption is just one option for the care and protection of children. We are each different. Our needs change over time as do our views of the world. We deserve what is called the ‘continuum of care’ in which to find what we are looking for; whatever that may be. Without this continuum, many of our global children will age out of institutions at age 18, vanish into society, and resurface displaying a negative outcome.
All of this is interesting, you may say, but what can I do to help? Why is India a big deal to me? Well, to start, India has 1/6th of the total population of the world. You know that game? Seven degrees of separation? You are most likely connected to an Indian in some way or another. So in this light, I offer you my main point: We, the globe, are at a tipping point.
According to JK Rowling’s organisation, Lumos, “Across the globe 8 million children are living in institutions that deny them individual love and care. More than 80% are not orphans.” Another global leader in child protection, CAFO, comment that 17.8 million children worldwide have lost both parents (“double orphan”) and 153 million children worldwide have lost either one parent (“single orphan”) or both parents.
Although the western world continues to work to eradicate institutional care, the east remains a majority of “institution as a first resort”. This means the ‘tipping” point is that India and many other country’s need to shift from institution as a first resort to institution as a last resort.
I am sharing this information because I believe my fellow adoptees are part of a “camp” of people who have incredible power and influence by using their stories. I urge you to learn about the continuum of care and the many options for children. Then, please ask people in power to think outside the box so that every child has the option of belonging. With a globe full of people who feel like they belong, the world will certainly become an even better place.
Ian Anand Forber-Pratt is an international adoptee from Calcutta, India. He is a graduate from Washington University’s Brown School of Social Work in Saint Louis, Missouri. He is an expert in the field of foster care, alternative care, and care systems reform in India. Ian is a board member of the International Foster Care Organisation (UK) and a counsellor for the Centralised Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) which is a statutory body of Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India.
As an adoptee he understands the needs of children and families in India. He works on a national level to help promote safer and stronger families in India. He advised on the first foster care legislation in the history of India at the state level in Rajasthan in 2014 and at the Central level in 2015. Ian represented the concept of family-based care in India at the 30th session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva in September 2015. He currently resides and works in the country of his birth with his wife. Read more about Ian’s work at Alternative Care, India.