OUR REPORTING ON INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION

Corruption in international adoptions

Expand All / Collapse All

THE LIE WE LOVE: ORPHANS & INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION
LEGISLATION
VIETNAM CASE STUDY: ADOPTION
NEPAL CASE STUDY: ADOPTION
GUATEMALA CASE STUDY: ADOPTION
SIERRA LEONE CASE STUDY: ADOPTION
ETHIOPIA CASE STUDY: ADOPTION
OUR COMMENTARY
POLICIES FOR FAIRER PRACTICE
MAPS
BACKGROUND
READER RESPONSE TO OUR WORK
RESEARCH SOURCES
COUNTRY BY COUNTRY: REPORTS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Images of Ethiopia  

Adoption: Ethiopia

U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa documents about adoption,
  2000-2013, obtained via Freedom of Information Act

Intercountry Adoption
 Universal Accreditation
 Act of 2012  



F

The United States adopts more children internationally than any other nation​, accounting for roughly half the world’s intercountry adoptions in any given year. International adoption grew from its institutional inception during the Korean War, expanded during the Vietnam War, and escalated dramatically in the 1990s, when China began permitting foreigners to adopt some of the thousands of girls abandoned as a result of its draconian one-child policy combined with a cultural preference for sons. In 2004, at the peak of this international trade, more than 45,000 children were adopted across national borders.

But national laws and state regulations were not ready for this expansion; they went into place during an era when adoption was either informal or sprung from local charity. Few or no tools were available to supervise the movement of children between countries, and so fraud and corruption began pursuing the money exchanged when children changed hands. In a series of such countries as Cambodia, Guatemala, Nepal, and Vietnam, fraud and corruption became notorious and systemic, as children were bought, defrauded, coerced or even abducted away from their families so that middlemen could profit.  

Since 2008, the Schuster Institute has been exposing problems and pointing to potential solutions in international adoption.  Discussions among high-level stakeholders and staffers, which participants have said were prompted by our work, led to passage of the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012, put one of those solutions into effect on July 14, 2014.

After one of his staffers read E.J. Graff’s 2008 Foreign Policy article “The Lie We Love,” Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ) began gathering the major U.S. stakeholders in international adoption to discuss what needed to be done, one of his legislative aides told us. In response to another of Graff’s articles, “The Baby Business,” in June 2010, Rep. Sires wrote at our website that he was working on legislation for universal accreditation.

However, Sires’ original complex and comprehensive bill failed to move forward. Then-Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), who at the time chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced a much more targeted bill that mandated what all stakeholders agreed was the most urgent goal: required federal accreditation for every U.S. adoption service provider (ASP) involved in international adoption. The bill was cosponsored by then-Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), James Inhofe (R-OK), and others who had long been concerned about protecting the integrity of international adoption—most notably, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La). In the House of Representatives, Rep. Albio Sires introduced the bill, which was cosponsored by Representatives Janice Hahn (D-CA) and Donald Manzullo (R-IL).

As its sponsors explained in a press release, “After years of conflicting, country-by-country standards for Adoption Service Providers (ASPs), the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 will elevate standards, requiring all ASPs to comply with current, stronger requirements upheld for ASPs working with Hague countries.​ ​The new accreditation standard would help safeguard against corruption and fraud in the adoption process.” The bill passed the Senate unanimously, was signed into law by President Obama on Jan. 1, 2013, and went into effect July 14, 2014.

Here’s what some of those most involved said about the Universal Accreditation Act:

“The safety of children across the globe should be our number one concern in the adoption process and this commonsense reform will help us get them placed into safe and loving homes. Piecemeal, conflicting adoption standards have made far too many cracks and chasms in the system that left room for corruption, deception, and often outright fraudulent adoptions​. I’m grateful to our Ranking Member Dick Lugar and Senators Landrieu and Inhofe for partnering with me in this effort to elevate and put in place universal adoption standards that make kids the priority.”

     --Then-U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Chairman of the ​Senate ​Foreign Relations Committee​, 2012 

​​“The United States adopts more children from overseas than any other nation. Many of these children have serious medical conditions, often requiring significant and costly medical attention, yet, regardless. Americans open their hearts and homes to them. This legislation establishes uniform standards that would provide American families with certainty that they are working with an accredited American adoption service provider, regardless of the country they are adopting from. I am pleased to be joined by Senators Mary Landrieu and Jim Inhofe, two of the Senate’s leaders in this field, as well the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry.”

     --Then-U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, 2012

"The universal accreditation requirement will help ensure the highest possible quality of service for U.S. families seeking to adopt internationally. Mandatory accreditation will ensure that the adoption process between the U.S. and other countries is lawful and safe for an adopted child and respectful of the families involved. Additionally, I hope that this bill will prompt the U.S. Department of State to consider financially supporting the accrediting entities to relieve part of the financial burden on smaller agencies and to ensure a robust accreditation process.”

     --U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA), founding co-chair and board president of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption 

"Standardizing the accreditation process for international adoptions will provide additional protections for both the child and the adopting family. The patchwork of adoption standards that currently exist have resulted in a situation that is not optimal for protecting the international children being offered for adoption. It has also resulted in fraud and corruption that has devastated loving American families who are willing to make many sacrifices to adopt internationally. This legislation is the right approach to fix the problems that currently exist.”

     --U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption 

“Under current law, adoption agencies who work with non-[Hague]Convention countries do not need to meet the accreditation requirements, and this creates a double standard for the treatment of children and families. My legislation will strengthen U.S. adoption practices by requiring accreditation for all intercountry adoption service providers. Universal accreditation will help create an adoption process that is lawful, safe for the child, and respectful of the families involved.”

     --U.S. Representative Albio Sires (D-NJ)


NOTE: This page from the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism website offers documentation of and background about serious irregularities in international adoption. 


Images in collage: 
Mother & Child and Man Walking © Niall Crotty, SXC.hu
Ethiopian Festival © Carolyne Pehora, Dreamstime.com

© 2008-2014 Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02454. All rights reserved.

Last page update: November 25, 2014