Sara Wolicki makes her case on international adoption vs. women’s rights
“The general misconception of international adoption is that abandoned-but-deserving children are placed into the system,” said Sara Wolicki, a graduate student the USF College of Public Health.
However, things are not always as they appear.
What adopting families fail to realize is that ‘abandoned’ is a relative term depending on the country. For example, in Guatemala it’s common for attorneys and husbands “to force women to give up their babies in exchange for commission,” Wolicki said.
In Brazil, abandonment takes on a totally different meaning. Wolicki explained, “… it is a common cultural practice among lower-income families to allow children to live with extended relatives, friends, or neighbors. But, because Brazilian legal authorities consider a child living without biological parents to be abandoned, the child can be forcibly removed from the home to await adoption.”
In her September 9 op-ed with The Detroit News, Ms. Wolicki highlighted international adoption proceedings and how the current adoption system and laws allow for the exploitation of the birth mothers’ basic human rights.
The opinion piece evolved from a summer course in “International Perspectives on Women’s Health.” As a member of the class, Wolicki and 16 fellow graduate students traveled to Panama for a greater awareness and appreciation of the historical, political, economic, social, cultural, and environmental factors influencing pertinent public health issues that women face globally.
One of the course competencies involved discussing controversial issues and advocating on behalf of marginalized girls and women worldwide, regarding the inequalities and disparities that they face. For Wolicki, this translated into an op-ed on “International adoption vs. women’s rights.”
“Varying circumstances including infertility, same-sex relationships, and the desire to help has caused many American families to pursue international adoption,” Wolicki said.
Although their intentions are good, they must be redirected for the rights of birth mothers to be protected.
“Well, we can adopt children domestically. Yes, the process is more restrictive, but it also ensures the basic human rights of all parties involved. And yes, international adoption has the potential to help a deserving child in need, but the current system denies the human rights of the birthmothers. By continuing to adopt, we are only supporting these exploitations.”
Ms. Wolicki is earning a master’s degree specializing in health education. Additionally, she is a scholar in The Institute for Translational Research in Adolescent Behavioral Health. After gradaution, she hopes to work in the field of men’s health promotion and prevention.
The Department of Community and Family Health is the academic home for Ms. Wolicki and the “International Perspectives on Women’s Health” course. The department offers more than 10 concentrations that lead to MPH, MSPH, DrPH, and PhD degrees, as well as several dual degrees, special programs, and graduate certificates.
International Perspectives on Women’s Health” is taught by Arlene Calvo, PhD and Cheryl A. Vamos, PhD, MPH. They serve as research assistant professors in the department and Dr. Vamos is the associate director for the Center for Transdisciplinary Research on Women’s Health (CTR-WH).