My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅) -- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Two "WTF" Adoption Items

This post isn't about the Pipsqueak... but it is about adoption and how some of its aspects make my head spin even 6-1/2 years later.

I have my Google news feed set to include adoption. Every now and then, amidst all the stories about animal shelters and new technologies, it actually includes news about humans adopting humans. Those stories are sometimes heart-warming, sometimes infuriating, sometimes frightening...

...and sometimes they just fall smack-dab into the middle of "WTF?!?" territory with a loud SPLAT!

This past week, as a special bonus, I found two such adoption-related news stories on the same day.

1) A new app deals with adoption the way Tinder deals with dating.

A January 13th article in the Daily Dot describes how a company called Adoptly is trying to bring a new app (with the same name) to market to speed up adoption by making it work more like Tinder.[1]  Registered users see a series of photos of children available for adoption, swiping left to say "no" and swiping right to get more information about the child and associated adoption agency, foster parents, etc.[2]  Oddly enough, despite the stated aim being to get around today's "slow, outdated process" of adoption, company spokesperson Alex Nawrocki said, "Parents will still have to go through the same review process, protocols, and requirements as anyone interested in adopting."

Despite statements that Adoptly is not trying to "Tinder-ize" or "gameify" adoption, my immediate (and 2nd, and 3rd) reaction to the idea is a big, fat WTF?!?  This app -- which is apparently intended to be a profit-making exercise -- does nothing that isn't already being done by reputable adoption agencies, but it certainly does treat adoption like a speed-dating event. Adoption is already fraught with complex issues; do we really need to open it up even more to people who are just dealing with it as a curiosity, basing one of the most important decisions in several lives purely on the cuteness of a single photo or the ability of someone to write a dating-type profile?

Adoptly spokesperson Alex Nawrocki says, "Parents will still have to go through the same review process, protocols, and requirements as anyone interested in adopting," so I can't see how they're  actually speeding up the process by more than a few minutes. The statement, "...it could be thought of like a search engine for adoptable kids" also conjures images of more & more bored people having "fun" by gaming the adoption and fostering agencies with volumes of meaningless, fake inquiries. Adoptly's Kickstarter profiles states that their method of "reminding users of the seriousness of the process" is to give them information about how to start the government background checks for adoption -- somehow, that doesn 't exactly sound like a clear statement about the seriousness of the action and the sensitivities associated with it. ("Duh, remember this is, like, serious stuff 'cause you gotta get like a, uh, background check.")

I have really, really negative feelings about Adoptly; they are, by their own admission, "Tinder-izing" adoption without presenting anything new, removing any of the obstacles, addressing any of the issues, or actually speeding up the process in any way... while opening it up even more widely for people who are merely curious or thinking it's "cute" without being truly interested, educated, or ready while also making easier for people to abuse the system. C'mon, Adoptly -- you want to do some good in the world? Make it easier to connect with the agencies actually doing the work and to figure out & track all the steps in the process... without creating a tool that throws even more clueless and/or potentially malicious users into the mix.

By the way, I get the feeling a lot of other folks feel the same way because, according to the article, Adoptly is attempting to raise $150,000 with a Kickstarter campaign... and has so far raised $366.

2) Adoption in Japan is not what most of us think of when we hear "adoption."

A January 12th article in Business Insider states that 98% of all adoptions in Japan are cases of companies adopting adult males aged between 20 and 30.

This practice is based in centuries-old civic codes that make sons the recipients of a deceased person's assets. Adopted sons share that auspicious position if there are no biological sons... and in either case the daughters get bupkis. This led to wealthy families adopting loyal adult men to avoid dissolution of their fortunes when a patriarch was dying, which (over time) led to the practice of mukoyoshi -- arranged marriage plus adult adoption to "keep it in the family" by making a man both son and son-in-law at the same time.

The primary intent of this practice is to keep family-owned companies within the same family no matter what. Examples include Toyota (now with its 1st adopted CEO) and Suzuki (now with its 4th consecutive adopted CEO). The effectiveness of the practice in Japanese culture is demonstrated by the fact that Hoshi Inn became the world's oldest family-owned business by employing mukoyoshi whenever no male heirs were born... thus maintaining family ownership since the business was founded all the way back in 781CE.

Current trends indicate this practice is likely to continue, since the Japanese population is aging at a very high rate. The article's math shows that a population needs 2.1 births per woman to keep it from shrinking, and Japan's birthrate is only 1.4 (due at least in part to more women choosing careers & independence over the  mommyhood/wifehood expected in classic Japanese culture).

I am trying to not be judgmental in this case; I was raised in a very different culture[3] with different values & attitudes, and do not believe I have the right to enforce my culture on others. (Dude, I don't think the incoming administration agrees with that last point...) I know the ruling classes of the Roman empire often bolstered their numbers & position through similar adoption practices[4] -- but I had no idea the same practice was still widely used in any modern culture.

It's hard to determine the accuracy of reports of the number of children being adopted vs. needing adoption in Japan without knowing if the investigators were aware of this practice & took it into account instead of just using aggregate numbers for "total adoptions" and such. It's also difficult to determine the true attitudes of Japanese culture toward adopted children when such an overwhelming majority of adoptions are apparently based upon economics and patriarchy rather than family-building. Most of all, it leaves me wondering: if adoption is viewed primarily as a wealth management tool, how many children needing families remain institutionalized or fostered without any truly permanent family connections? What is the culture's attitude toward families with adopted young children? And, most important of all, what are the attitudes concerning adoptees who grew up as such due to having no biological family instead of being rewarded with financially-oriented adoption out of their biological family in adulthood?

So there you have them; my two most recent adoption-related WTF?!? moments. I'd be interested if anyone out there has any thoughts on either of them...

[1] For those not familiar with Tinder, it's an app that allows singles to create & browse through profiles of other singles looking to hook up (presumably for solid relationships, despite an apparent propensity for collecting one-night stands). Users scroll through a series of photos, swiping left to remove "ugh" pics from the list of candidates and swiping right to read the profile associated with any particularly interesting photo. The app lets users contact other registered users they're interested in to set up a real-world meeting. I've seen it referred to as "speed dating on steroids." (By the way, I do not have the app. Just sayin'...)

[2] They must have known how I'd feel about this app; although I've not seen the TV commercial, the article mentions the first left swipe is for a kid named Brian. Oh, well...

[3] Widespread "only in Japan" differences from the West include seafood delicacies almost guaranteed to kill you, the Hadaka Matsuri festival, baked potato flavor Kit Kats, graveyard evictions, business banishment rooms, and TV shows featuring groups of young women hypnotized into stripping and acting like cats & dogs (just to mention a few)...

[4] An Emperor who had no biological son (and even some who did) would usually adopt the (adult) man he had chosen as his successor.

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