Monday, September 22, 2008

The Angelina Effect Outside of Adoption?

I just heard from an International Adoption agency worker that there are now more than 75 agencies in Ethiopia trying to get in on the "orphan business." Not so long ago, there were only two agencies. Wait times for children between 0-2 years old are now ranging between 18-24 months, meaning for those people hoping to adopt a child from Ethiopia, they can expect to wait for almost two years before they would be able to complete (or for some people start) their family. That would be like gestating twice!

This particular worker sighed when she said, "This is the Angelina Jolie effect." She was frustrated because she still has many orphans over age 5 in Ethiopia and Uganda that she's trying to find homes for and yet she understands folks' desires for an infant.

So here's my question. Now I love me some Angelina Jolie, but I can't wrap my mind around the idea that a movie star has this much power to influence. I know that there are Black people adopting from Ethiopia, but the vast majority of American adoptive parents are White. So I'm wondering, how is it possible that a country whose citizens cannot vote for a man who has an African parent, can be full of eager adoptive parents who want to raise African children? The question I am raising is, has Angelina Jolie (and Madonna I suppose too) shifted racial attitudes so much that people who formerly would only consider adopting a White child or maybe an Asian one in a pinch, are now okay with a Black child? And if so, why? Because Black is hip now? Something to no longer fear? I'm skeptical that this is the case but wondering how far does this acceptance and "love" for Black children extend in other parts of life. Do you see where I'm going with this? What does this Jolie-influenced shift in attitude towards Black babies mean for the racial (r)evolution of this nation?

It seems that if so many people are on the verge of transforming their families from "monoracial" to multiracial, we ought to feel that Angelina Jolie effect in places outside the world of adoption. Anybody felt it yet? Please let us know.



Anonymous said...

I have to agree that she's really had an affect. I recently attended an Ethiopian new year celebration here in Oakland, CA and saw lots of young white parents with their Ethiopian children.

villalena said...

don't forget-- lot's of people *are* voting for obama. it may be unlikely that a person who won't vote for obama because he is afr-am would adopt an afr-am or afr child, but it isn't surprising that lot's of americans are interested in cross-ethnic adoption considering that half the country is for obama. by the latest polls, more than half!

Waiting for Zufan! said...

I don't think she has had much of an effect at all. There are other reasons for the sudden surge in popularity. In fact, people who are that easily influenced should take a very close look at their motives before adoption.

I think one reason that people are drawn to Ethiopia now is because the process is very streamlined and ethical. Also, there is currently a real need for adoptive parents, whereas in the past, at different times, there were many children available from, say, Romania and China. That isn't the case now. The wait is long for infants largely because the Ethiopian government can only process a certain number of adoptions in a certain time period, and so each agency has their own backlog of families waiting to be matched. You're right that more people should consider older children -- the wait to be matched is brief. In any case, on the Ethiopian side, the adoption is a long and detailed process that -- so far -- has avoided corruption.

I'd say that anyone adopting outside of their "own" culuture and/or ethnicity has a huge responsibility to educate themselves about race and identity in America. Adoption is a great thing for children who need families, but adoptive parents shouldn't underestimate the importance of maintaining ties to the child's birth culture and their ethnic backgound, in their emerging identities.

Now, all that said, I just have to add: GO OBAMA!!! :)

Anonymous said...

Can you cite your sources for this Ethiopian info?

Anonymous said...

Can you site your sources for this Ethiopian info?