I have had opportunities to work with institutionalised children, and somewhere a question that always hung silently was: “what end does institutional care hold for the children?” Not that I left it to silence. As a student I talked about it, among friends we discussed it and once I even wrote a paper on the topic. Though it still bothers me, in the last few months I have hardly given it any consideration.
Recently, Terre des Hommes International Federation screened a film called ‘Paper Orphans’, which traces the practice of inter-country adoption and it raises questions not only about the adoption process in the context of Nepal, but also raises concerns about protection of children and institutionalising them at large. Shown in the film is the reality of a mother, Badoma Sharki, from rural Humla who sent her son to urban Kathmandu in order to receive a good education — her son, Kishan, never returned. Rather, her son had been adopted by a Spanish woman who believed (as she had been told and legally verified through official documents) that the boy’s entire family was dead, which in reality was far from the truth. The adoption process was carried out through an orphanage that has been running on the grounds of protecting the rights of children.
As Joseph Aguettant, delegate to Nepal for Terre des Hommes explains, here in Nepal, orphans are ‘manufactured’. Kishan and many others like him who are not actually orphans are manufactured as orphans on paper, and based on that, their fate unfolds. Who do we blame for this — the poor parents who aspire to see their child receive an education and a good upbringing in urban Nepal, the new parents who travel to Nepal to adopt a child to call their own, or the children themselves who don’t have a clue to how their life has been reshaped? Or how about blaming the system, the unfathomable laws or perhaps even oneself for not being able to see such situations as they actually are or having the courage to respond to it? Where is the answer?
Child protection is a matter of serious concern. The concept of foster care has not found firm grounds in Nepal in the way that it has in Western nations, but does that mean we should leave the lives of our innumerable children in limbo? Adoption is not a bad idea, but when it is carried out it should be clear that we have to find a family for a child, not find a child for adoptive parents, especially the way it is being done in the present scenario. In Nepal, we strongly believe in family ties and the importance that family plays in a child’s upbringing and such acts just cannot be overlooked. We cannot allow the tradition of paper orphans to take root.
Posted on: 2010-03-24 07:55