Corruption in international adoptions

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Images of Chad 

NOTE: This page from the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism website offers documentation of and background about serious irregularities in international adoption. For the systemic analysis of corruption in international adoption, please read “The Lie We Love,” Foreign Policy magazine, Nov./Dec. 2008, and visit our webpages dedicated to international adoption. For ideas about fairer policy solutions, please read “The Baby Business,” Democracy Journal, Summer 2010.

News reports of adoption
  irregularities in Chad

Below are some news articles compiled by the Schuster Institute about adoptions from Chad.

“UNICEF to return Chad ‘orphans’,” News Africa, March 7, 2008, aljazeera.net.

Reports that UNICEF stated on Friday that it met with Chad’s ministry of social affairs to discuss the fate of the 103 African children caught up in the abduction case in Chad. The orphans will be given to their relatives, said the UN children’s agency. Since the scandal in which the French Zoe’s Ark charity claimed the children were Darfur refugees, the children “have been staying at a UNICEF orphanage in Chad's capital, N'Djamena.” The article reports that “investigations showed the children were Chadian, not Sudanese, and that most of them had at least one parent or close adult relative.” Six members of the French charity were sentenced to eight years of hard labor by Chad in December, converted into eight years in prison in France.

“French aid workers home from Chad to face four years in prison for child ‘abduction’,” December 29, 2007, The Times Online UK.

Following an agreement between France and its former colony Chad, “six French aid workers found guilty of attempting to abduct 103 children in Chad were jailed on their return to France last night.” The aid workers allegedly abducted children from Chad while purporting to do humanitarian work to help Sudanese refugees. They were sentenced to eight years of hard labor by a Chadian court but will likely serve jail terms in France, “where convicts cannot be forced to carry out hard labor.” Zoe’s Ark founder Eric Breteau and the other five could face separate prosecution in France on allegations of fraud, involvement in unlawful adoptions, and planning illegal immigration.

“Anger at Chad ‘abduction’ fiasco may shut door on Africa adoptions,” Adam Sage and Jonathan Clayton, November 3, 2007, The Times Online UK.

Feature article reports that, in the wake of the Zoe’s Ark/Chad abduction scandal, French families that have adopted from Africa now face suspicion about their children’s origins. “‘I’ve had comments like “How much did you pay for that child” and “I bet they’re not really orphans,”’ Mrs. Dufeu said. Reports also on European concerns that African countries may slow down international adoptions, as has happened before in the wake of child-trafficking scandals. Notes the large demand for children in international adoption.

“As many as 30,000 French people have been given authorisation to apply to adopt a child and an overwhelming majority are looking to do so abroad. About 8,000 new applications are submitted every year. About 18 per cent of the foreign children adopted in France in 2006 were from Africa, notably from Ethiopia, Mali and Burkina Faso. But the number of foreign children being adopted in France is falling – from 4,136 in 2005 to 3,995 last year. “There are more and more candidates, fewer and fewer children and fiercer and fiercer competition between the countries which adopt,” said Yves Nicollin, head of the French Adoption Agency.”

Reports that Zoe’s Ark’s claims have unraveled: “The children are mainly from Chad, not Darfur. When questioned by representatives from Western NGOs in Chad, most of the children said that at least one of their parents was alive. Their bandages were fake, designed to make them look like war victims when, in fact, they were unhurt… In France Mr Breteau’s claims to be promoting foster care have also been called into question… “Everyone interested in international adoptions in France knew about Zoe’s Ark,” said Gwendoline Guezelle, an adoptive parent.

Notes that the countries that have shut down adoption at least temporarily because of child-trafficking scandals include Congo-Brazzaville, Mali, and Madagascar.

“Profile: Zoe’s Ark,” October 29, 2007, BBC News.

Profiles the French charity L'Arche de Zoe (Zoe's Ark), whose six workers are facing charges of child abduction after attempting to fly 103 children out of Chad. The group says that it was formed by French four-wheel-drive enthusiasts, founded by Eric Breteau, a volunteer firefighter. The group claimed to have been working to evacuate “10,000 orphans from Darfur.” However, “UN officials say many of the children are from Chad, not Sudan, and there is no evidence that they are orphans.” French police have been investigating the charity.

“French NGO Accused of Trafficking Children,” October 26, 2007, UN Regional Information Networks.

More than 100 children were removed from Sudan in the wake of the Sudan-Darfur conflict by the French organization Zoe’s Ark. The children were said to be orphans and sick and injured, but an investigation by Chadian authorities discovered that the children were in good health and were not all orphans. The children are being held in Chad while authorities investigate potential illegal adoption and child trafficking charges. Zoe’s Ark maintained that theirs was a humanitarian mission, and that 300 families had agreed to host children, paying up to 2,400 euros (US$3,450) each.

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Last page update: February 22, 2011