The post I have to write but wish I didn't

I have been putting off writing this post, but I don't like what I see, so I guess I just have to get it out. In the various adoption forums and groups I am a part of I have seen a rise in discussion about ethics violations in countries whose adoption program was ethically inviolate. I know it surprises and saddens many people that fraud happens everywhere, but it does. This is especially true when you are dealing with the toxic cocktail of parents who either desperately want a child or desperately want to help a child, poor families in poor countries, and a large amount of money that changes hands.

As a parent of two sons from Vietnam, the stories of fraud, trafficking, unethical agencies and facilitators, and ostrich-like parents are not new. In fact, a country I love is closed to international adoption because of it. Other parents have similar stories about the countries of their children's birth. It is sadly the same story. Here is how it goes... fill in the country name of your choice.

Country is open to international adoption. Usually this country is ill-equipped to handle the orphans, the number of whom has escalated due to various societal factors. It seems a good way to find these children homes and to alleviate the toll of caring for them from the government. Agencies and facilitators jump in and the parents desperately wanting children, especially young and female and healthy children quickly follow. More and more players enter the game and the demand for children quickly outstrips the supply of young, healthy, and female. Not to be missing out on the thousands of dollars to be made, more and more children are 'found' to feed the market. Allegations of fraud, corruption, and trafficking arise causing concern. Some parents take the concerns seriously. They do their research, work with agencies who have ethical reputations even if they don't have the fastest timelines or the cheapest fees and try to not feed the corruption. Others turn a blind eye, insisting that the rumors of corruption have no basis; that those who provide the information are merely anti-adoption and do not want children to find homes. The questionable facilitators and agencies are touted as being 'so nice' and superfast timelines are extolled. Or the 'best' excuse... my agency is Christian, I don't need to check up on them. More and more parents add their name to the waiting lists. More and more stories of corruption trickle out. The US government starts to be concerned and difficulties obtaining the children's visas at the embassy begin. NOIDs (notice of intent to deny... issued if the child is not legally an orphan or if paperwork seems questionable) start to be issued. Wholesale denigration of the embassy begins. The government is a bully, they don't want these children to enter the country, they should put the desires of their citizens first because they have already spent so much money. The government of the country in question gets involved and begins to wonder if this is all worth it. Why should the US tell them how to manage their affairs? Foreign relations are strained and sentiment towards adoption begins to be negative. Rumors of the country being closed to adoption abound even as adoptions rise and questions of ethics abound. More and more families are stuck with NOIDs and it seems the country is not as sure a thing as it was before. Life continues like this for a while longer and then the country closes to international adoption. The number of actual orphans does decline, but for those children who genuinely did not have a family to care for them, they are stuck.

The details between countries may change, stories of abuse in the receiving country may play into it all, but the stories of each country's closing is remarkably similar.

So where do I want to go with this, other than bring up some fairly ancient history? Well, I have seen some disturbing comments in relation to the most recent allegations of fraud in the largest sending country. The comments go something like this: "We don't need to worry about which agency we use because in this country everything is ethical. It doesn't matter what the agency did in another country." "You shouldn't say these things out loud because it might cause the country to close." "You don't really like adoption." "We are just helping children and they are better off with us than in their country. Does it really matter how they got to us?"

I am so tired of blatant denial. I am so tired of parents willingly turning a blind eye to anything that is unethical. I am so tired of parents not willing to do their research and continue to feed money into agencies that have horrid reputations in other countries. This is especially true if the agency has the word "Christian" in its name. I am so tired of the argument that it is more important to help a lot of children and the couple that slipped through the cracks don't really matter. I am so tired of people not willing to do the right, hard, and ethical thing.

Because it does matter how your agency behaved in another country. It does matter that every single adoptive parent do due diligence before shelling out thousands of dollars. That one child who was effectively sold does matter. That one child whose life was completely erased in order to make him more adoptable does matter.

Do not be part of the problem. Do your research. Insist on squeeky clean reputations even if that means you don't like the outcome (longer time frames, higher fees, insistence on rules). Do not fall into the trap of thinking you know what is best for a child or for children. Be the one who says I will not participate if something doesn't seem right. Listen to the stories even if you do not like them. Do not be an ostrich.


Tanya said…
Do you have any recommendations for how to find out if an agency is ethical, other than Googling them? Is there any sort of organization that keeps tabs on them? We are only saving money, praying, and researching at this point, but I am sure we will want to connect with an agency before too long.
Amy said…
Thanks for writing this Elizabeth. I completely agree and I tell people that if they want to adopt a healthy baby girl internationally, they are very likely going to be contributing to this problem you discussed because of the state of international adoption right now. If you pick a reputable agency and country and then adopt a child who is not an infant and has a special need, then you are not likely to contribute to the problem. Most people don't want to hear that though.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for sharing this! For Ethiopia there are some key questions to ask an agency. Will they allow you to hire your own investigator to do a orphan verification status, be weirey of very short wait times, and are they Hague accredited (even though Ethiopia is not) its good if they are.
Mama Bear said…
I agree that it can sometimes be less convenient do things ethically, but it is so worth it in the end. Great post, and very wise words.
I agree with you 100%. Once I learned that over 95% of orphaned children are older or have special needs, it made me wonder how most people expected to adopt a healthy young child ethically? Thank you for sharing and linking up, this is a must read for potential adoptive parents.

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