I’ve spent the past several months traveling to conferences, networking with specialists on Palestine and adoption, and fielding questions from many people on issues presented in my open letter. While it may appear little has been happening, actually, the opposite is true. Perhaps the easiest way to dive back in is to answer some frequently asked questions as many have discovered this website and the issue itself.
Is there any way for an American to adopt from Palestine?
That answer is complicated. The United States Department of State will tell you it’s “possible.” On paper it looks like it can happen; however, in the same breath, as noted in the open letter, the adoption official, Christine Hilt, from the Office of Children’s Issues, responsible for adoption in that region of the world said “it’s only ever happened a handful of times.” It’s pretty impossible in 2019 to talk about anything in that region and not be political in some regard, so if you will try to set your politics aside as much as possible and hear the heart of the orphans in need, I’ll try to explain the exigencies of the situation since the current U.S. administration has taken office.
Here is the official United States Department of State page on adoption from Palestine. It is under the Israel adoption page, which in many ways is in itself misleading as they are certainly not the same entity governmentally, but this is how the U.S. deals with the two as far as adoption.
Here’s the crux of it all:
This official information from the State Department is what we mean by it looks “possible” on paper.
Hilt, the official at the State Department, said “It’s only ever happened a handful of times.” To declare that it’s only “ever” happened that many times feels frightful when one considers the large numbers of children in orphanages all across the West Bank. In my case, I do have a decree from the Latin Patriarchate. I did not have a birth certificate, and was a grown woman before I ever managed to get access to my birth certificate (this past summer), once I independently discovered who my birth mother was and told the court official myself, basically demanding it. I certainly never had a Palestinian passport (a misleading term as there is no such thing; there is a travel document. Palestinians are not citizens of a nation; therefore, there are no actual passports issued, but only travel documents. One of the great issues for a Palestinian resident is the need for a passport granting freedom of movement). When I spoke with Hilt, she made it clear that it would be incredibly difficult to get the right legal papers that would pass muster for international travel since church paperwork is not actually legal paperwork. Additionally, she noted, it would be even more difficult to find an Adoption Service Provider here in the U.S. who would work with someone who was wanting to adopt a Palestinian orphan. Her tone was as discouraging as a parent trying to get a child to stop talking about wanting to shop for a unicorn on weekends. The message was clear: “Yep, you may find a random Christian orphan eligible for adoption, but it’s going to be next to impossible to bring that kid home, so just find a different kid somewhere else, okay? Thanks.” This is what I mean by it looking possible on paper. The reality is so starkly awful that even the orphanage directors flat out tell you “we have lost hope.” It is heartbreaking.
What can you do?
1) Petition ASPs near you–both existing ones and potential ones. Now! It does not matter if you plan to adopt or not. Someone else is. Someone needs to you pave the way for adoption! This is a list (Word document) of accredited ASPs that would technically be approved for adoptions, though none lists Israel, which means the work really needs to begin now. First the door needs to open in Israel, and then we need to cross the border. Is it hard. Yep. Are those children worth hard? Do I need to answer that? Start with qualified ASPs because they are already State Department qualified for intercountry adoptions, so they are a place to start. Other adoption agencies can also qualify. Tragically, the United States has made simply qualifying much more difficult recently, and, as a result, international adoptions have declined dramatically. You can read more about that here.
An upcoming story is about the latest report, released this past week, on the new U.S. international adoption numbers: Spoiler: Israel is not on the list at all.
Sometimes I am also tempted not to have hope because I see a lot of social media, but little of it being used like it could be to change these trends. Public pressure is actually what changes these things like costs and affiliation. Public demands changes even what adoption agencies are willing to do or go out on a limb for doing. But if you and I won’t ask, we certainly won’t get results.
In the next piece, we’ll look at the State Department page again and the section on Muslim adoption and parse that one, asking again, “what can you do?”