Friday, April 4, 2008


I have UNICEF on my mind. It makes by brain hurt.

Wikipedia describes the Law of Unintended Consequences,
This maxim is not a scientific law; it is more in line with Murphy's law as a warning against the false belief that we can control the world around us. In other words, each cause has more than one effect, which will invariably include at least one side effect that is more significant than any of the intended effects.
I think of this when I think of UNICEF. You see, UNICEF, which is a program of the United Nations, is trying to convince the world that it is in orphans' best interest to remain in their own culture, if possible. Intercountry adoptions are discouraged if there are viable domestic alternatives. I don't think anyone would disagree with that. The problem comes when there are insufficient options in the childrens' home country.

In Ukraine's case, I have seen estimates that there are about 100,000 children in orphanages. So I can understand UNICEF going into Ukraine and encouraging them to develop programs to increase domestic adoptions, and possibly to develop a foster care system. But while these are good ideas, is it really necessary to almost completely cut off international adoptions? Those kinds of initiatives take time to create. Why not do all that in addition to maintaining the past levels of international adoptions? The unintended consequence of what seems like UNICEF's good intentions is that 98,000 kids will remain in orphanages this year with 0 chance of being adopted.

Newsweek has an interesting article called When There's No Place Like Home that kind of explains the two sides of the issue. Also, take a look at the reader comments at the end.


Debbie said...

I love your title--and when I told my husband about it, he said to tell you he loves it too!

You're right that a foster care system would take time to implement. We are continuing to lift up Ukraine and its orphans in prayer. We want to adopt from Ukraine someday soon; we know God is leading us there! I am off to read the article.

Alan said...

Thanks, I have a weird sense of humor sometimes.

I am no expert in IA by any means, but when I read about the negative affects the UN policy has on the kids of the world it frustrates me. If the reader comments in the Newsweek article are representative, it looks like that is a universal reaction.

Anonymous said...

UNICEF money is having a devastating effect in Ukraine because it is earmarked to the number of institutionalized orphans in the country. On the surface this seems like a fair way to divide the dollars, so available money goes where it is needed most. But tragically, the practical effect of the UNICEF policy is that it incentivizes Ukraine to increase the number of institutionalized orphans so that they can maximize the dollars they receive from UNICEF.

In this context, slowing down and shutting down international adoptions makes more sense. You don’t want to lose a warm body when UNICEF is paying you for it. The tragedy is that the child, if it is an older child, will never benefit from the money, and will miss the only chance they will ever have of having a family. It is more than a tragic.

Thanks for writing on this topic. Very few know about what UNICEF does. They are too powerful to be so unaccountable.

Love your blog.


Alan said...

Perhaps I was giving too much credit to the Ukrainian gov't when I said UNintended consequence. If the lack of IA is INtended, that is doubly scandalous.