Experts Respond to
"The Baby Business"
The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism asked a number of experts, practitioners, and advocates in international adoption to respond to “The Baby Business,” Democracy Journal, Summer 2010.
Kathleen Strottman, Executive Director,
Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute
I want to begin by stating that I agree with every one of the eight reform principles outlined by Ms. Graff. Each of the reforms outlined is based on the following three basic notions: that facilitating an adoption should be a human service, not a business; that there is not only a role but a need for government oversight of adoption; and finally, if given access to the right information, adoptive families can and most often will use the power of their “consumer choice” to weed out corruption. At CCAI, we work hard to educate federal policymakers about both the strengths and weaknesses of our current international adoption system and ways they might act to increase our areas of strength while decreasing our areas of weakness worldwide. I am hopeful that some of the reforms outlined in this article will be taken up by Members of Congress and the Administration who are interested in continuing the momentum toward reform.
|Facilitating an adoption should be a human service, not a business.|
|I support stronger reporting requirements for fees associated with adopting internationally and limits on what can be paid to certain individuals and for certain services.|
|Governments and non-governmental organizations do a lot of things well, but raising children is not one of them. Sadly, in most every country where there are significant numbers of orphan children, the only interventions in place to serve them are institutions or intercountry adoption.|
The U.S. has both the human capacity and the resources to provide underdeveloped countries with the technical guidance and financial support they need to create a child welfare system that takes greater action toward preventing parents from feeling forced to abandon their child. We have fifty-plus years of experience in providing at-risk families with the services they need to be reunified with their children. And finally, we have the lessons learned from our successful promotion of over 50,000 domestic adoptions a year out of our own foster care system. In addition to the international adoption reforms outlined above, the U.S. needs to use the benefit of our domestic experience to play a more active role in developing family-based systems of child welfare worldwide.
To illustrate this last point consider the following quote from a recent article about the conditions for orphan children and their families in Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake:
Be it a 1-800 number, an institution, or the promise of a better life through international adoption, loving and desperate families will turn to whatever they are offered as a way to protect and provide for their children. We can, and should, do more to help them.
The United Nation's Children's Fund set up a toll-free hotline in February for abandoned or lost children who had been separated from their families during the quake. The call center has registered 960 children so far. UNICEF gave the hotline number only to agencies and aid workers—not the public—for fear of an avalanche of calls from desperate families trying to unload their children.
~ Kathleen Strottman comes to her role as the Executive Director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) after serving for nearly eight years as a trusted advisor to Senator Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA). The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness about the millions of children around the world in need of permanent, safe, and loving homes and to eliminating the barriers that hinder these children from realizing their basic right of a family.
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.
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Last page update: February 22, 2011