‘Kids Rights’ doc does some things right, but so much wrong

First-time filmmakers Michael Dudko and Olga Rudnieva had their hearts in the right place, but “Kids’ Rights: The Business of Adoption” attempts to draw conclusions too many superficial problems. The starting point is Sir Elton John and his partner David Furnish’s failed attempt to adopt a Ukrainian orphan, and then skips around from the Ukraine, to New York and China.

Rudnieva was the executive director of the Elan Pinchuk AntiAIDS Foundation and had been involved in John’s charitable concert done in cooperation with the Elton John AIDS Foundation that occurred a few years prior to John’s attempted adoption.

The point seems to be that adoption is hard and why shouldn’t it be? You want children to have a steady, loving home. Yet just exactly what does the failure of Ukraine to give up an HIV-positive child to a famous couple have to do with New York’s adoption policy? We don’t know that John and Furnish would have similarly been turned down by the U.S. or Vietnam or Mexico or China.

What does a British woman’s adoption of a Mexican child have to do with two gay men adopting a child?  Dudko and Rudnieva, both Ukrainian nationals based in New York, also apply this problem to themselves as foreigners in New York, but not as Ukrainians in New York hoping to adopt from their native Ukraine.

What does domestic violence and child abuse in the U.S. have to do with adopting from the Ukraine? Sure without adoption children age-out in America and in other countries and that might mean a life of prostitution and drug use, but these are must more issues to muddle the documentary’s focus.

There are interviews with both John and Furnish as well as more expert talking heads such as Dave Pelzer (who has written about his abusive childhood), journalist James Chau who discusses China’s one-child policy, Francesca Polini who adopted a child from Mexico, Mary Beth-Feindt who is a criminal attorney working with domestic violence and child abuse.

If the documentary had focused on Elton John and David Furnish, this would have been a more focused documentary and would have yielded a more in depth study of the particular adoption system they were up against and some of the nefarious covert actions. What we have instead is many issues that may or may not be connected in many different circumstances in a few different countries. Dudko writes “The adoption system is broken and works to build a barrier between children and potential parents” but which system is he talking about? And are all those systems really a business and by business does he mean for profit?

“Kids Rights: The Business of Adoption” is available on DVD now and will become available on demand (Amazon Instant, Hulu and Cinema Libre on Demand) beginning 20 June 2014.  For more information, visit the official website.

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