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Spence-Chapin, always looking to increase market share, attempts to create a Muslim adoption market

Spence-Chapin, one of the older agencies and no friend to adoptees and our civil and human rights, has always sought to open new markets to adoption, and always sought new sources of kids, globally to fulfill that manufactured “need”.

Be it their early efforts to procure South Korean kids, to tapping the expanding Gay and Lesbian adoption markets or their recent work worming their way into women’s health clinics and abortion providers (see my post, More on Spence-Chapin’s “pro-choice” adoption scheme)  Spence-Chapin has always been gladly in the middle when there’s an adoption buck to be made.

Thus their latest effort, attempting to undermine Islamic law and the kafalah system in order to pry open the American Musilm market and tap it for its own adoption business purposes.

See the blantantly mis-headlined Muslims seek to reconcile Islamic, western adoption law to find homes for orphans *(as it’s Spence -Chapin attempting to undermine Islamic law in order to market children, not Muslims themselves centered on embracing western style sealed records adoptions.)

Helene Lauffer knew Muslim children — orphaned, displaced, neglected — needed homes in the United States. She knew American Muslim families wanted to take them in.

But Lauffer, associate executive director of Spence-Chapin, one of the oldest adoption agencies in the country, couldn’t bring them together.

The problem was a gap between western and Islamic law. Traditional, closed adoption violates Islamic jurisprudence, which stresses the importance of lineage. Instead, Islam has a guardianship system called kafalah that resembles foster care, yet has no exact counterpart in western law.

Let’s be clear on that point, who’s attempting to “bring them together”?

Spence-Chapin, for a fee.

(As for “orphans,” we’ve already been over that, see Your “orphans” aren’t; the rise of the “orphan” industry based on a lie.)

But Muslims in American society are  under all the pressures in relation to fertility, lack thereof, adoption and the foster system that other Americans face, and are confronted with all the usual marketers who stand to benefit by pushing the American way of child procurement, facilitators, adoption agencies, intermediaries, psychologists, etc.

Lauffer is not alone in raising the issue. As Muslim communities become more established in the United States, pressure is building for a re-examination of Islamic law on adoption.

Refugee children from Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere are being resettled here. Muslim couples who can’t conceive want to adopt, but don’t want to violate their faith’s teachings. State child welfare agencies that permanently remove Muslim children from troubled homes usually can’t find Muslim families to adopt them because of the restrictions in Islamic law.

“I get all kinds of families who come to me for fertility issues. They want to adopt and they want to adopt Muslim children and I’m thinking this is a crime that they can’t,” said Najah Bazzy, a nurse and founder of Zaman International, a humanitarian service group in Dearborn, Mich. “No one is going to convince me that Islam makes no allocation for this. Either somebody is not interpreting it right, or it needs to be reinterpreted.”

Mohammad Hamid, a clinical psychologist and co-founder of the Hamdard Center, a social service agency in the Chicago area that has many Muslims among its clients, said he regularly received requests from American Muslims for advice on how they could adopt.

“We don’t tell them it’s Islamic or un-Islamic,” said Hamid, whose non-profit does not handle adoptions. “Our job is to facilitate the process. We believe if the child can be adopted, you are saving a child.”

But leave it to Rachel Zoll, the AP reporter to wax poetic on what is or is not an ‘appropriate’ interpretation of Islam and whether or not ‘they’re doing it right’:

The prohibition against adoption would appear contrary to the Qur’an’s heavy emphasis on helping orphans. The Prophet Muhammad’s father died before his son was born, so the boy’s grandfather and uncle served as his guardians, setting an example for all Muslims to follow.

Never mind the fact that as a culture, Muslims have their own concept of which welfare, developed over time in their own contexts which looks nothing like the American system of sealed records adoptions.

However, Islamic scholars say the restrictions were actually meant to protect children, by ending abuses in pre-Islamic Arabic tribal society.

Ingrid Mattson, professor of Islamic studies at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, said adoption in that period had more in common with slavery. Men would take in boys, then erase any tie between the child and his biological family. The goal was to gather as many fighters as possible as protection for the tribe. Orphans’ property was often stolen in the process.

As a result, Muslims were barred from treating adopted and biological children as identical in naming or inheritance, unless the adoptee was breast-fed as a baby by the adoptive mother, creating a familial bond recognized under Islamic law.

When an orphan reaches puberty, the Islamic prohibition against mixing of the sexes applies inside the home of his or her guardians. Muslim men cannot be alone with women they could potentially marry, and women must cover their hair around these men. Islamic law sets out detailed rules about who believers can and cannot marry, and an orphan taken in from another family would not automatically be considered “unmarriageable” to his siblings or guardians.

For these reasons and others, Muslim countries only rarely allow international adoption.

As if on cue, Chuck Johnson of the National Council for Adoption, an adoption industry trade lobby gives the quote:

“There hasn’t been a concerted push to open doors for Muslim orphans because the expectation would be that those efforts would fall flat,” said Chuck Johnson, chief executive of the National Council for Adoption, a policy group in Alexandria, Va.

Conveniently overlooking the fact that many American adoption agencies are explicitly christian in nature and are grounded in the practice of procuring children to be placed in homes deemed suitably christian for purposes of christian movement growth. Many have statement of faith prerequisites for would-be-adopters that would preclude children being placed with Muslim families.

That said, some would be more than willing to see the flow go the other direction, such that Muslim children would be decontextualized and placed within evangelical chistian families.

The Quar’an burning head of the evangelical christian Operation Save America, Flip Benham has flatly stated:

We have now three choices when we deal with Islam. We can be killed by them… We can kill them… Or we can convert them to Christ.

Religious conversion by means of adoption is viewed as intrinsic to that strategy, (and adoption has always held a special tactical and theological significance for OSA,) but in order for such evangelical efforts to go forward the Muslim objection to American style adoptions must be overcome.

Naturally, the best way to overcome such is to have some number of Muslims adopting Muslim children, essentially arguing there are multiple viewpoints on the interpretation of Islamic law in relation to western style adoptions. Once those floodgates are pried open, Muslim children across the board suddenly become fair game to any and all comers. Muslim and evangelical christian alike.

Advocates for a new interpretation of Islamic law are more hopeful, at least about the prospect for a different approach to the issue in the United States. Mattson argues that the flexibility in Islamic law for accommodating local cultures and customs can lead to a solution.

Ah, but a solution for whom precisely? For if those “advocates” include adoption industrialists who stand to directly profit from such, the ‘issue’ is hardly confined to one of child welfare.

“Open Adoption” (which is NOT the same as  genunine open records access) is being marketed as a ’solution’, yet open adoptions are legally non-binding in all but a precious few states and such still does not address the core issue of access to state confiscated original birth certificates.

Open adoption, which keeps contact between the adoptee and his biological family, is seen as one potential answer. In New South Wales, Australia, child welfare officials created an outreach program to Muslims emphasizing that Australian adoptions are open and adopted children can retain their birth names. The New South Wales program is the only well-known adoption campaign targeting a Muslim minority population in a western country.

Many have had to learn the hard way that “open adoptions” are little more than yet another adoption industry marketing technique, always geared towards getting the parents to sign away their parental rights.

Spence-Chapin’s Lauffer has been working up the Islamic women angle though, obviously hoping to gain a statement in support of American style sealed records adoptions:

The Muslim women scholars Lauffer consulted in New York, who meet annually as a shura (advisory) council, tackled the complexities of modesty rules inside the home. They debated whether Muslim adoptees in the West could be considered Islamically “unmarriageable” to their siblings or guardians, since western governments classify adoptees the same as blood relatives. The shura council will soon release a statement on the issue through its organizing body, the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality..

Even gaining that elusive ‘opinions vary but some certainly support such’ is key to Spence -Chapin cracking open the market.

Catherine England, a Muslim who teaches in the Seattle area, adopted four children after she and her husband learned they could have no children of their own. One of her children is an orphan from Afghanistan. Two others are biological siblings.

“I felt that my understanding — and this is entirely my understanding — is that what is forbidden in Islam is closed adoption,” said England, who converted to Islam more than three decades ago. She consulted a Muslim scholar who she said affirmed her view that open adoption was allowed.

Lauffer hopes to hear more stories like England’s soon.

Efforts in support of these western style adoptions prey the insecurities of immigrants and their efforts to “Americanize” themselves in addition to that great American pastime of keeping up with the Jones’. “Proving” one’s “Americanization” support for all things western, while rejecting things traditionally distinct to Islamic culture takes on additional weight in light of the roles Muslims have currently been cast into in the wake of 9/11. Embracing American modes of “child welfare,” thus becomes a way to “prove” oneself as a “good Muslim” regardless of the fact that some of those pushing for just this are those who always work to pry open markets and have historically sought new sources of children for adoption.

Never one to accept other cultures have their own distinct means of approaching child welfare, Spence-Chapin offers up its one size fits all sealed records American style adoptions, leaning on American Muslims to change.

Naturally, such efforts while couched in all the usual “for the sake of the children” are far from altruistic.

Make no mistake, there’s a reason Spence-Chapin has been around for over 100 years, it has everything to do with providing children, any children, to America’s wealthy and powerful, and such “fulfilled needs” rarely come cheap.


*Now, days later, even the Washington Post has picked up the AP piece Retitling it Muslim orphans caught between Islamic, Western law. Ironic, in that is is not the so called “orphans” who are in the quandry so much as it is the adoption industry itself.

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