Quote of the day: Christopher de Souza on Adoption of Children Bill

MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Christopher de Souza said in Parliament on May 9, 2022 that adoption can be celebrated as an act of love and hoped that society can view adoption as equally attractive as having biological children. We reproduce his speech in full.

Thank you for allowing me to join this debate on this excellent bill.

Speaking from personal experience, what I’ve learnt is that the adopted child blesses and enriches the family. My wish is that everyone listening to this speech today would seriously consider adoption, regardless of whether you have biological children.

I must also take this time to commend MSF for the good work they have done so far, not only in tabling this bill, but the hard work over the years in working with stakeholders parents and children, in striving towards creating more awareness and support for adoption and facilitating the process of adoption. There are also wonderful VWO partners who do silent, selfless and courageous work in the space such as Safe Place, Touch Community Services, aLife and so many more ground up and committed organisations.

The bill aims to find a good home for every child identified for adoption, and I stand strongly in support of this. In some cases, a baby’s adoption status is treated as a secret. However, adoption can be celebrated as an act of love. In that light, I support having disclosure briefings, because it is best to disclose to the child as early as possible, while helping the child understand that he or she is loved. When our daughter was still young, my wife and I would tell her that she came from her tummy mummy’s tummy, but she was born in our hearts.

I understand that many would be concerned whether such disclosure would affect the child adversely. But I have thought about this, and I believe we should tell the child about his or her adoption, and do this as early as possible. Inevitably, the child will realise that he or she is adopted, and he will wonder why it was kept a secret. He or she will think that perhaps there was something to be ashamed of.

A better approach, in my humble view, is for adoptive parents to explain adoption in a manner that is positive and affirming and showing the child that he or she belongs to a family and is loved equally. My wife and I have four children and all of them are treated and loved equally, no difference. They each have different personalities but when they are put together, they make quite a team.

I would also like to emphasise that it is in the best interest for children that adoption should be reserved for stable family units, ideally with a married husband and wife. This bill also stands to break cycles of abuse and neglect and this is very important. With record numbers of child abuse cases in 2020 and 2021, we need to work harder to protect our young because they are vulnerable and cannot speak up or defend themselves.

With this bill, more children will be able to be removed from abuse and neglect but consequently, we will need more prospective parents willing to parent these children. Mr. Speaker, I also support the desire to deter undesirable behaviour in the adoption sector. The need to protect the best interests of the child means that certain behaviour that might compromise a child’s welfare should be outlawed.

Alongside this in order to protect children and also birth mothers, I also support Singapore’s continued policy of generally not allowing commercial surrogacy. I know surrogacy is a sensitive topic, but the unavoidable fact is that commercial surrogacy invites a very high risk of exploiting the woman who rents her womb. Surrogacy also invites so many middlemen, and agent fees. Many of these women who rent out their wombs come from developing countries and rent their wombs out of desperation. Surrogacy, in my view, should not be allowed in Singapore or overseas for that matter, on account of the high possibility that women will be exploited.

We should also not commodify babies. Instead of commercial surrogacy, adoption is a very real alternative. We want to promote the ideal which is not for profit adoption for Singaporean babies to Singaporean couples facilitated by non-commercial VWOs and MSF. And by couples, I mean husband and wife.

I would also like to speak up and support the pregnant ladies who make the difficult in life-giving decision to keep their pregnancy and give their babies for adoption. This is true selflessness. In this selfless manner, an unplanned pregnancy can create a wonderful family unit for the adoptive parents.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, while this is an amazing bill, I believe we can take this bill to a higher level. This bill arises out of a greater aim to create a greater space for adoption within our society. My sincere aspiration, my sincere aspiration, is that we as a society, see adoption as equally attractive as having biological children and both can come hand in hand as roots to starting a family. This positive framing of adoption can invite more prospective adoptive parents to come forward and put their names down. And also for more unplanned pregnancies to lead to adoption instead of abortions.

One humble suggestion is for MSF to invite prospective adoptive parents to put their names down on a list, and also to have a list of pregnant ladies who want to give life to their babies, but cannot take care of them and would like to put them up for adoption. Then MSF can match the two lists together and facilitate more adoptions.

Having a child, whether adopted or biological is not always easy. Like all families, there are ups and downs. So I call on MSF to provide follow up support, engagement activities, bonding activities for parents of adoptive children who desire support.

In conclusion, sir, adoption is a unique journey. It will not always be smooth, but love solves all things. I hope that there will be many more adoptions in Singapore in the decades to come. To prospective adoptive parents, do take the leap of faith and walk the journey. There is a wonderful team in MSF, and I admire them and I’m thankful to them for all their hard work.

Mr. Speaker, I believe we are all made for a unique purpose. And I challenge each of you here and listeners at home to carefully consider whether your unique purpose is to adopt a child. I stand here in Parliament strongly advocating for the incredibly worthy cause of adoption. And for this reason, I support this timely bill.