The New Child Catchers

The New Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption, by Kathryn Joyce

I thought a lot of Kathryn Joyce's previous book, Quiverfull, and so I hoped to get this new title as soon as possible.  Here, Joyce takes on the very very emotionally and politically fraught topic of international adoption, especially as influenced by American evangelicals.

Adoption has become a huge topic in the evangelical world over the past decade or so.  Logically enough, pro-life Christians want to put their money where their mouths are and obey the Biblical commandment to care for the needy, especially widows and orphans.  Told that there are millions of orphaned children living in institutions in poverty, good and well-meaning people want to bring those children into families.  But the reality is not so simple; there are not, in fact, millions of orphaned children with no family to care for them.  There are a lot of children living in poverty, but very often they have family. 

Joyce starts off with Haiti.  Remember how, after the terrible earthquake a few years ago, suddenly everyone seemed to want to bring Haitian children to the United States to adopt?  The assumption was that there were all these children orphaned by the earthquake and that an overwhelmed society would be unable to care for them.  The situation was, in fact, much murkier than that; many children had living parents or family members, but were separated in the chaos--or simply very poor.  Most of them probably didn't need to be whisked away so much as they needed help right where they were.

This is a scenario that has played out in many countries over the past several decades.  There is an enormous demand for children to adopt, and there are many children living in poverty around the world.  Those two facts are not necessarily easily paired up to produce children adopted into happy families.   Where there is a demand, there is an opportunity for profit, and an incentive for corruption.  There are people exploiting both sides and making a profit.  Joyce has got some really tragic stories about adoptions that were too lax or otherwise corrupt.

Joyce talks about adoption in several countries, from Korea to Rwanda.  She holds Rwanda up as something of an example of how governments are currently trying to handle international adoption, by making very sure that each child really has no family, and by working to ensure that each child goes to an appropriate home that can afford the kind of care necessary.   This is a slow process, and therefore very frustrating for the many hopeful people who are sure that there are many children needing to be adopted and uninformed about the entire, very complicated, picture.

I thought it was a good analysis of an incredibly difficult issue.  Joyce is sympathetic to all sides and careful, trying to make distinctions that are not easy to make.


  1. I don't suppose she covers South Korea? I'm not real clear on what happened there. My understanding is that they had the same problem, too much US demand for babies led to some corruption and what-not. So they passed a law that any child to be adopted had to have a family registry. However, most of the orphans SK does have are from some girl getting pregnant and not wanting to tell her family, so she ditches the baby. Therefore the kid has no family registry. So apparently there are still state run orphanages for these kids who are in legal limbo. (Not a whole lot I imagine. SK still has the lowest birth rate in the world.)

    Anyway, I've never figured out the whole story, so I'm curious if it shows up in this book.

  2. Oh yes. The whole last chapter is on SK--it was the first country to do lots of international adoptions, and it's got this weird situation where it's now a 1st-world country but there are still all these adoptions, and pressure to continue them despite the low birth rate. She does a lot of explaining about the attitude towards single moms and the family registry/legality stuff.

  3. Interesting. Another book to order I guess. Unless you'll still have it when I come down this weekend?

    It's worth mentioning that Koreans, as a general rule, don't adopt. (Outside the family, generally the extended family will raise a kid that has been orphaned.) Bloodline is a huge deal there. The few Koreans I spoke to on the subject praised Americans for being big-hearted enough to adopt the kids who no one in Korea wants.

  4. I already returned it, but it's available, so I'll get it again.


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