OUR REPORTING ON INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION

Corruption in international adoptions

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VIETNAM CASE STUDY
NEPAL CASE STUDY
POLICIES FOR FAIRER PRACTICE
THE LIE WE LOVE: ORPHANS & INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION
OUR COMMENTARY
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BACKGROUND
READER RESPONSE TO OUR WORK
RESEARCH SOURCES
COUNTRY BY COUNTRY: REPORTS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Responses to "The Lie We Love"

Following are selected responses to “The Lie We Love,”
by E.J. Graff, Foreign Policy, Nov./Dec. 2008.

 Click to follow link Broadcast interviews
 Click to follow link Reprints
 Click to follow link Follow up articles
 Click to follow link Commentary & blog mentions
 Click to follow link Reader responses




 

Broadcast interviews:

WNYC's The Leonard Lopate Show discusses the baby trade and its connection to international adoption networks, January 15, 2009

Doug Stephan's "Good Day Show" focuses on problems in international adoption,
December 30, 2008

Ben Merens takes issue with international adoption corruption, Wisconsin Public Radio, December 2, 2008

“The Jack Rice Show,” WCCO (CBS Network radio):
E.J. Graff interviewed by Jack Rice about international adoption irregularities, November 24, 2008

“Word of Mouth,” New Hampshire Public Radio: The Problem with Global Adoption, Virginia Prescott, November 10, 2008

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Reprints:

Britannica Online Encyclopedia , "The Lie We Love" (excerpt)

Utne Reader, "The Lie We Love" 

National Council for Adoption, "Six Views on Intercountry Adoption" 

AlterNet.org, "Many Westerners Are Adopting Children Bought or Stolen From Their Parents" 

The Salt Lake Tribune, "International adoption rife with corruption" 

RH Reality Check: "The Lie We Love"

International Herald Tribune: "Saving the world's 'orphans'"

Dallas Morning News, Page P1, Sunday Viewpoint section:
"The Lie We Love" (excerpt).

Follow up articles:

Haiti's Children and the Adoption Question The New York Times "Room for Debate": "Haiti's Children and the Adoption Question," with commentary by E.J. Graff and other prominent experts in the field, Feb. 1, 2010.
  Exclusively on-line: "Celebrity Adoptions and the Real World," a "running commentary on the news" by The New York Times editors, with a contribution by
E.J. Graff: "The Seamier Side of International Adoption," published May 10, The New York Times Opinion Blog. 
   "The Orphan Trade: A look at families affected by corrupt international adoptions," a slide-show essay that presents the stories and struggles of families affected by fraudulent international adoption, published May 8, 2009 at Slate.com.
   "The orphan manufacturing chain," The Washington Post, January 11, 2009; or download this and "Out of Cambodia" as a PDF: The Adoption Underworld 
   "Out of Cambodia," The Washington Post, Jan. 9, 2009; or download this and "The orphan manufacturing chain" as a PDF: The Adoption Underworld 
   "The problem with saving the world's 'orphans'," 
The Boston Globe Op-Ed, December 11, 2008
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Commentary & blog mentions:

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Reader responses:

NOTE: Excerpts link to the full text below.

New: E.J. Graff answers questions and responds to criticisms culled from readers' letters written in response to "The Lie We Love."

“…I found the gratuitous references to Angelina Jolie and her children to be both unnecessary and out of place in such a well-researched, serious article…"
Trish Maskew  More> 

“…we need much more accessible information of this nature to enable potential adoptive parents to make the right decisions ...”
—Maxine, Adoptive Parent, United Kingdom  More>

“… doesn't do justice to the millions of children who live in orphanages who desperately want parents…”
Amanda Gill, Santa Monica, CA  More>

“…At last a sound and in-depth gathering of information about international adoptions!..”
Gisela Rust, Central Authority for Intercountry Adoptions, Hamburg, Germany  More>

 “…it has been widely circulated among those working in the "alternative care/adoption" field, and equally widely praised as "excellent" for its calm and objective analysis…” 
Nigel Cantwell, Geneva, Switzerland  More> 

“…I've long been a fan of your work and was so glad to see you take on this topic…” 
—Elizabeth Larsen  More>

“…I think we all want to believe we did a good thing, but sometimes our desire to see good makes us blind to what is true and real…”
—Tara Livesay, Haiti  More> 

"I encourage you to include domestic infant adoption because many ... involved in unscrupulous activities in other countries are using similar tactics on young vulnerable mothers here in the U.S..."
—Carol Underwood  More>

“This is happening right here in America and has for many decades, especially during the Baby Scoop Era…” 
Karen Wilson, Buterbaugh, Richmond, VA  More>

"It is ironic to me that the very adoption agencies that have been problematic are now involved in helping to draft new legislation..."
—Ellie Williams, Wisconsin Public Radio Listener  More>

“…What I would argue with is her ethical approach, which is black or white… Consider the many shades of gray that develop in countries where poverty is the rule…”
Susan M. Schultz, Kaneohe, HI  More>

“…I would like to learn more about your research in an effort to be better able to explain it to my child when she begins to question how… she was ‘surrendered’ by her birth mother.” 
Kathleen Mitchell  More> 

 “…Adoption is by its nature painful as one family must break for another to come into being. I have since talked to people who are considering adoption overseas and told them the reality that these kids have families—families they will never see again…" 
—Cynthia Stine, Richardson, TX  More>

“…Another topic I wish you would research is why adoption records are still sealed in all but eight states in this country…”
Betty Jean Lifton, Ph.D., Cambridge, MA  More> 

“I think you simplify the impact of money… it may be a factor in the decision of some women to relinquish a child, but … as adoption becomes more visible … more women view it as an option for dealing with a child they do not believe they can care for…”
—Lee Walzer, Arlington, VA More>

“The press is always eager to jump on the stories of corruption and yet, you never bother to tell the other side of the story...” 
—Leslie Fiore, Grand Rapids, MI More> 

"...thank you for your work on documenting the risks and consequences of international adoption... This has always been top-of-mind for us and you have given us a lot more information to work with.
—Prospective Adoptive Parent, Vancouver  More>

"E.J. Graff (“The Lie We Love,” FP, Nov/Dec 2008) rightly argues that international adoption should serve the best interests of children rather than the needs of potential adoptive parents. But she misses the larger picture by arguing that the world orphan crisis has been invented to meet the “demand” of wealthy Westerners."
—Thomas Difilipo & Joelle Ruben
CEO and Director of Education & Research
Joint Council on International Children’s Services
Alexandria, Va.

E.J. Graff replies: "Thomas DiFilipo and Joelle Ruben distort my findings. Yes, there is a world orphan crisis. It has two parts. First, millions of families need assistance and support to care for their children. Second, hundreds of thousands of abandoned or fully orphaned children—ones who are mostly older and have special needs—need homes... The myth is that the world orphan crisis involves healthy babies." More>

"Your article did such a wonderful job of illuminating the problem and some of the solutions while, in a non-judgmental way, displaying understanding to readers who might have adopted a child or might have thought this would be a good solution."
 —Miriam Stein, Arlington, MA  More> 

"People really do want to love [adoption] and there is such fervor and strong denial if one speaks the unblemished truth about this profit-driven institution."
—Claudia Corrigan D'Arcy, Kingston, NY More> 

"I am surprised that your [Washington] Post piece ["The Adoption Underworld"] did not go on to document our tax dollars' role in subsidizing this system." 
—Name withheld  More> 

"Ms. Graff must have a very tough hide, because she really invites hate mail."
—Thais Tepper More>

"While I have no doubt that the corruption described in the article occurs in every country that offers children for adoption, it is a mistake to conclude that it is so prevalent..."
—Julie Stewart, Washington, D.C. More>

"While it is true that corruption exists in the adoption world, the majority of adoptions are not corrupt..."
—Jessica Bernstein, Bethesda, MD More>

"I admire and commend you on your investigative work, knowing that the adoption industry is a powerful one..."
Jae Ran Kim More> 

"...the heartbreaking truth is that in many countries, such as Russia, where my children were born, there is no need to "manufacture" orphans..."
—Eileen DeLaney, Linthicum, MD More> 

"...Graff falsely alleges that birth mothers in impoverished countries are largely tricked into giving up (or selling) their babies to meet a greedy Western demand for healthy infants..."
—Jane Aronson
Founder, Worldwide Orphans Foundation
Maplewood, N.J. More>

"The article has been an excellent tool for raising awareness around the need for safeguards in intercountry adoption..."
 —Name withheld More> 

"["The Lie We Love"] is the most thoroughly researched and honest piece of journalism about international adoption to date that I have read, and unveils many of the dark truths of adoption that many do not want to acknowledge."
—Jennifer Hemsley More>

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Letters with full text:

November 29, 2008 

Thanks for this very important article, which captures the true complexity of the current situation with intercountry adoptions. While there are no easy solutions, talking about the serious issues affecting adoption around the globe is a must if we are to save adoption as an option for children in need.

While there are no easy solutions, talking about the serious issues affecting adoption around the globe is a must if we are to save adoption as an option for children in need.
I must also add that I found the gratuitous references to Angelina Jolie and her children to be both unnecessary and out of place in such a well-researched, serious article. While Ms. Jolie is a celebrity who may be considered "fair game" by many journalists, her children do not deserve this kind of attention. Rather, they should be given the same respect and consideration given to any other adopted child, and their origins and backgrounds should not be open to baseless insinuation. I've seen no evidence that Ms. Jolie was privy to any more information on bad practices by Ms. Galindo than any other adoptive parent who chose to use her services in 2001; nor has there been any evidence that her Vietnamese child's adoption was tainted simply because he was placed in an orphanage that became the subject of scrutiny several years later. If there was any evidence that their adoptions were affected, the Jolie-Pitt children would be victims, and as victims would deserve the same consideration given to the hundreds of other children whose adoptions were completed by these individuals and orphanages. Using their personal stories in this way is simply another form of child exploitation.

Trish Maskew


November 18, 2008 

Thank you for the important work you are doing, we need much more accessible information of this nature to enable potential adoptive parents to make the right decisions for the protection of children.

—Maxine, Adoptive Parent, United Kingdom


November 19, 2008 

I adopted a nine year old girl from Kazakhstan in 2004. The mother died of tuberculosis and the father was unknown. No one in her family wanted her and she had lived in an orphanage for four years when I met her.

Your article has a very captivating title and captivating premise, but it doesn't do justice to the millions of children who live in orphanages who desperately want parents. Your article might discourage would be parents from considering these children because they fear they might be part of a scam. I have visited four orphanages in Kazakhstan and I assure you that I saw at least a thousand children who did not have parents.
 
Perhaps when it comes to babies it is a slightly different story. But, babies are dumped into the system too. Do you really want to discourage parents from adopting children who would otherwise never have a home? To state that the world orphan crisis is a myth does nothing but increase your readership, yet broadly misrepresents the problem.

Sincerely,
Amanda Gill, Santa Monica, CA


November 20, 2008

I was interested to read your article "The Lie We Love" recently. We are an Australian family, and have adopted six of our eight children: a son from Korea in 1989, a son from Taiwan in 1991, and three sons and a daughter from India (two sibling adoptions, in 1995 and 1998). 

In 2006, the director of our youngest children's orphanage in Chennai was arrested on charges relating to child trafficking and we decided to launch a private investigation into our youngest children's adoption. In mid 2006 we were able to make contact with our children's first mother, who confirmed that our son Akil and daughter Sabila had been taken from her without her knowledge or consent and sold by her first husband. I returned to India in March 2007 to reunite our children with Sunama and her five younger children (by a second husband).

You can read more about our story at on Bittersweet Blogspot. I had a book published on 1st Sept in Australia and New Zealand called "Love Our Way," in which I tell the story of discovering that our children had been victims of child trafficking and our families establishing a strong connection and ongoing relationship. Sunama wishes the children to remain in our care (they are now aged 13 and 15 years).

Since discovering the crime that we were an unwitting party to, we are doing what we can to publicize this issue and to work with the Australian and Indian authorities. We have traveled to India this time with an Australian ABC TV crew, who will be running a program on our story in Feb 09 on the Foreign Correspondent program.

Kind regards,
Julia Rollings, Canberra, Australia


At last a sound and in-depth gathering of information about international adoptions!

November 21, 2008

This page is really good news!!! At last a sound and in-depth gathering of information about international adoptions! It will hopefully help clarify the many distorted views in this field.

Thank you and kind regards,
Gisela Rust, Central Authority for Intercountry Adoptions, Hamburg, Germany


November 21, 2008

I wanted to congratulate you warmly on your article for Foreign Policy. I can tell you that it has been widely circulated among those working in the "alternative care/adoption" field, and praised as "excellent" for its calm and objective analysis. The website is also impressive and encouraging!

I wanted to congratulate you warmly on your article for Foreign Policy. I can tell you that it has been widely circulated among those working in the "alternative care/adoption" field, and praised as "excellent" for its calm and objective analysis. The website is also impressive and encouraging!

In passing, regarding my assertion therein that there are probably near to zero healthy 0-3 year-olds needing intercountry adoption from CEE/CIS countries, it may interest you to note figures subsequently published by the Ukrainian authorities (and unknown to me at the time we spoke). While they are seeking adoption placements abroad for 551 children under 3 with "serious health problems", the number in that age-group who are "healthy or with correctable medical problems" and need foreign adoption is... zero!

Nigel Cantwell, Geneva, Switzerland


November 22, 2008

As a journalist and adoptive mother of a daughter born in Guatemala, I wanted to send you a quick note to congratulate you on “The Lie We Love.”

I've long been a fan of your work and was so glad to see you take on this topic. I'm including a link to a story I wrote about ICA for Mother Jones.

With thanks and best wishes,
Elizabeth Larsen


November 25, 2008 

Someone sent me your article in Foreign Policy, I agree with every word. I am a lawyer and translator practising in Vienna, Austria and have contacted the journal because your article should be distributed as widely as possible in as many languages as possible.

Yours sincerely,
Eric Agstner, Vienna, Austria


December 4, 2008

I was thrilled to find your site. We are doing mission work in a country with high corruption levels. We adopted six years ago... but now wonder how ethical it was. I think we all want to believe we did a good thing, but sometimes our desire to see good makes us blind to what is true and real. This is important information for all adoptive parents. I will be watching and reading as the site evolves and grows and am looking forward to learning more from you.

Tara Livesay, Haiti 

December 4, 2008

I am very happy to see The Schuster Institute's involvement in reporting on international adoption.

I encourage you to include domestic infant adoption because many of the agencies, facilitators and lawyers involved in unscrupulous activities in other countries are using similar tactics on young vulnerable mothers here in the U.S. It is estimated that there are as many as 15,000 domestic infant adoptions per year in the U.S; adoptions that begin with voluntary termination of parental rights. Many of these are unnecessary separations of mothers and their infants.

Our sons and daughters come with price tags. For example, one agency advertises the following fees on the Internet:

Placement costs for adopting a Caucasian, Asian, or Latino baby:

  • 2007—$18,000
  • 2008—$20,000
Placement costs for adopting an African American baby:
  • 2008—$12,000
  • 2009—$12,000
With little regulation or oversight, the adoption industry has become a lucrative industry fueled by the desire of the client, the prospective adoptive parents, who wish to parent on condition that the child they parent comes to their home as an infant or toddler.

I believe there should be little doubt in anyone's mind that coercion of young mothers is part of business as usual for those involved in infant adoption.

Regards,
Carol Underwood

December 4, 2008

This is happening right here in America and has for many decades, especially during the Baby Scoop Era. Please see our website, http://www.babyscoopera.com/, and contact us if you would like further information.

Marketing and selling babies MUST stop and we should start with our own country first. Adoption social workers are making money from unethical practices. All should help mothers keep their babies, whether those mothers are married or not, economically stressed or not.

We at the Baby Scoop Era Research Initiative are working to demand a government hearing into these unethical, immoral and improper practices.

Best,
Karen Wilson Buterbaugh, Richmond, VA
http://www.adoptionhealing.com/


December 5, 2008

I listened with great interest a few days ago to E.J. Graff’s interview with Ben Merens on Wisconsin Public Radio. It is ironic to me that the very adoption agencies that have been problematic are now involved in helping to draft new legislation regarding adoptions in Liberia. I also find it interesting that somehow these agencies feel the need to “educate” the Liberians about adoption... all to their monetary benefit of course.

The lack of accountability and oversight in regard to this industry is appalling. Thank you for your good work in bringing this to light. I do hope that someone, somewhere, continues to expose alleged international adoption agencies.

—Ellie Williams, Wisconsin Public Radio Listener


December 8, 2008

I am mother to two children adopted from abroad (Cambodia, Nepal). During our first adoption we found out that there were ethical problems in the system and agonized for months, deciding finally to adopt the one year old boy who awaited us. We did more research when we approached our second adoption, making sure that the process was ethical, that our child would not be "bought" and that no one would profit monetarily from the adoption. According to our research, our son was an orphan whose extended family could not care for him; we do not know about our daughter, but she was in a large orphanage in  Katmandhu which reminded me of something out of Dickens (yes, children lived and grew up there, no it was most likely not better than being adopted out of country).

E.J. Graff has written a devastating piece. I would not argue with her facts, though there are many I'm sure she does not have. What I would argue with is her ethical approach, which is black or white. Either children are orphaned and adopted or they are not orphaned and they are "bought." Consider the many shades of gray that develop in countries where poverty is the rule, where people sometimes cannot support their children, where there are wars, civil and otherwise. Needless to say, everything should be done to cure the ills in the places they are suffered. Barring that, adoption is a real option, both for people in these countries, and for Americans.

The warmest support my husband and I have received is from people who are from Cambodia and Nepal. I find that telling. In any case, our children are thriving, as are we. When they ask about their adoptions, we tell them everything we know, the good, the bad, and the unknown. Honesty is all we can offer, apart from the larger blessings of family.

Susan M. Schultz, Kaneohe, HI


December 8, 2008

Your opinion piece talked about the institutional corruption created by the money, but didn’t mention the parents who willingly give up their children so they can have a better life in another country. 

"...we learned is that most of these “orphans” do have family. My friend went into the countryside to look for whatever she could find so she could tell her son later about his country of birth, the city where he was born and his family."

Having returned from Ethiopia earlier this year, I read your article with interest. I was there with a friend who was adopting. It was an eye-opening experience and what we learned is that most of these “orphans” do have family. My friend went into the countryside to look for whatever she could find so she could tell her son later about his country of birth, the city where he was born and his family. To make a long and emotional story short, we ended up meeting with the mother before we left. The social worker helped her write a letter to her sons (we found out about a brother that no one else knew about either since he had been given up for adoption much later—he’s nine) expressing her love for them and telling them about her and their father who had abandoned them after giving her AIDS. She got to see that her baby was going to be OK and begged my friend to adopt her older son, too. Gut-wrenching does not describe this day. She was very thin and frail and having seen the one-room “apartment” where she lived and where the baby was born, there was no question why she abandoned her baby at the hospital.  It was the only way to avoid breastfeeding and to save his life. According to her there was no other family who could help out. 

At the orphanage, the children are taught about America while they wait to be adopted. They see it as some kind of promised land of miracles and wonder where even the poor people are fat. I imagine their parents feel the same way which is why they choose to abandon them.

My friend and I grieved a lot that week and since. Adoption is by its nature painful as one family must break for another to come into being. I have since talked to people who are considering adoption overseas and told them the reality that these kids have families—families they will never see again. The babies are also almost all sick to some degree. The question is how sick. My friend’s baby is doing fine now, but had a lot of doctor visits for the first six months. He’s still months behind his peers in weight and development. 

US adoptions have their own problems (I’m in the process of adopting older kids myself) and you definitely have to deal with the birth family on some level. There’s almost always a grandma or auntie or incarcerated parent who will be released one day, etc., and they all want to know how their child is doing, what the new family is like, and so on. The children also do not want to necessarily be adopted. They want their parents, the first people they ever bonded with, no matter how abusive, neglectful or angry. They know their parents gave them up and it hurts. You talked about how US adoptive parents are unduly concerned about birth parents coming back, and I’m sure there’s some of that, but I think most of them are afraid of grieving, scared, angry kids who might never bond with them. A baby seems so much easier. No memories to deal with, no acting out. With an international baby you don’t need to be a foster parent first, the process takes a few months rather than years... in all fairness to the parents who adopt overseas I’ll say that adopting in the US is really difficult and takes a long time.

I think a lot more parents would adopt in the US if it were easier. It is really hard to be an older parent who has already been through miscarriages, possibly fertility treatments, grief, etc., and then have another 18 months to two years added to the process because of the slowness of bureaucracy and the overwhelmed state of most social workers. President Bush’s nationwide adoption database has had an unintended consequence of making it easy for a lot of parents to apply for kids all over the country... thus overwhelming social workers even more and adding even more time to the process. We applied for a set of three girls ages 3, 6, 8 and were shocked to find out that over 100 families had already applied. So much for the story that sibling sets and ethnic kids are hard to place. The social workers are required to go through everyone’s home study before making a decision. Imagine how old those girls will be when they are finally adopted.

I’ve rambled a bit so I better get to the point. I find the kind of baby trafficking you talk about abhorrent, but what can a hopeful parent do to make sure their adoption is not one of those? How, exactly, does one “demand reform?” as your article suggests? And what can we do to make US adoptions more efficient?

Regards,
Cynthia Stine, Richardson, TX 


December 11, 2008

I read your editorial in today’s Boston Globe with great interest as I am an adoptive parent. I have had serious misgivings about international adoptions which were affirmed by our experience. I commend you for addressing an important, yet quite possibly an unpopular subject particularly within the adoption community. I would like to learn more about your research in an effort to be better able to explain it to my child when she begins to question how it came to be that she was “surrendered” by her birth mother.

Sincerely,
Kathleen Mitchell 


December 11, 2008

Thank you for your important article in the Boston Globe about the corruption in international adoption.

"As an adopted person and a writer on adoption issues, I have advocated that adoptive parents stay in touch with the extended family of the children they adopt from abroad for the very reason you stress—that most of these available children are not full orphans."

As an adopted person and a writer on adoption issues, I have advocated that adoptive parents stay in touch with the extended family of the children they adopt from abroad for the very reason you stress—that most of these available children are not full orphans.

Another topic I wish you would research is why adoption records are still sealed in all but eight states in this country—and even most of these so-called "open" states have restrictions, such as needing the permission of the birth mother. The conservative lobby group, the National Council for Adoption, has managed to persuade legislators that birth mothers were promised confidentiality, although there is not a single document to verify this. It is time for adopted people to have access to their original birth certificates, which is their human and civil right. I think that your research and writing on this subject would help open our adoption records. I would be happy to help you with this in any way I can.

Betty Jean Lifton, Ph.D., Cambridge, MA
Author of "Journey of the Adopted Self" and "Lost and Found: The Adoption Experience"


December 17, 2008

I just read your article in Foreign Policy, “The Lie We Love,” and have a number of issues with what you wrote. My partner and I are dads to a son we adopted in Guatemala, are quite immersed in adoption issues, and think you reached a number of wrong conclusions.

First, we had no illusions we were adopting an “orphan,” if you mean a child without any surviving parents. USCIS has never required that international adoptions be limited to such cases and we knew that, in Guatemala, the overwhelming majority of kids being placed for adoption had a mother who could not care for the child. Typically, due to extreme poverty, but also due to factors such as an unwanted pregnancy (there’s little birth control or sex-ed in Guatemala and women there face a variety of oppressions). Moreover, these are the same reasons behind most domestic adoptions in the US.

Second, I honestly think you simplify the impact of money. I don’t deny that it may be a factor in the decision of some women to relinquish a child, but I also think that, as adoption becomes more visible in a country, more and more women view it as an option for dealing with a child they do not believe they can care for, whether due to poverty or because they had sexual relations outside of marriage. There are a lot of complicated issues behind a woman’s decision to place a child for adoption. You also contend that, once adoptions stop, the money dries up and so does the number of children needing homes. This is just not true. Your article dealt at length with Guatemala and you clearly were concerned that one percent of all Guatemalan babies were being adopted to the US.

Consider these stats:

Out of 100 children born in Guatemala:

  • 1 (currently zero) has been or will be adopted by a US family
  • 5 will not make it to their 5th birthday 
  • 10, if they survive to adulthood, will immigrate to the US legally or illegally (10 percent of all Guatemalans are living in the US)
  • 16 will be born with low birth weight
  • 22 will never see the inside of a school
  • 28 will never learn how to read and write
  • 54 will grow up in extreme poverty and malnourished
  • 74 will never make it to the 7th grade
  • 84 will need to travel over an hour to reach a health care facility

Since the Guatemalan government, under pressure from UNICEF, halted adoptions, it is far more likely that you are simply seeing children die invisibly, rather than visibly being adopted. There have already been numerous reports about under-funded institutions having to turn away children. Do you seriously think that the Guatemalan government, which provides little in the way of social services to its citizens, has magically made the problems of poverty disappear?

Third, your point about “true” orphans being older, sick etc. is beside the point. Who is it that has decreed that only older children should be adopted/adoptable, as opposed to infants? Any expert in child development will tell you that the sooner a child is placed for adoption, the better it is for the child. Unfortunately, you never interviewed such experts. Their perspective was totally absent from your article. Why should a child have to face hunger, malnutrition, disease, and /or abuse before being adoptable? My own guess about why it’s mostly older children in orphanages is simple: Most parents may well try to raise a child where adoption is not an easy option (and in most countries, it is not an option thanks to UNICEF, a point I’ll get to in a moment), but then find that they cannot do so. Some will be put out of their homes and perhaps end up in an institution. The child, possibly already harmed by disease etc., will indeed likely not be adoptable at that point. Moreover, most orphanages in most places gravely harm children, because of a lack of funding, caregivers etc.—this too lessens a child’s chances of being adopted.

Fourth, you quote Nigel Cantwell as saying that any child under 3 can find a home in-country. Really? While this is changing in some countries to an extent, this is just not a true statement. In Guatemala, the middle and upper classes (i.e., the people who could afford to adopt) often adopted from Eastern Europe rather than adopt the indigenous children of Guatemala. There are factors such as racism, an emphasis on family bloodline etc., that make sufficient domestic adoption in many sending countries unlikely at best.

Fifth, at least in Guatemala, adopting the children in institutions was a very difficult proposition in most cases. Those who ran such institutions had to fund the abandonment process (as opposed to the relinquishment process used for most infants/young children) themselves and the government bureaucracy and the courts couldn’t be bothered to handle these cases expeditiously. On the Guatemala adoption listservs in which I participate, I heard firsthand about the difficulty of such cases.

Unfortunately, UNICEF is leading a sophisticated campaign against international adoption with its own hidden agenda. UNICEF simply thinks international adoption is largely unacceptable because it robs a child of his/her birth culture. Forget about the fact that perhaps a child has more pressing rights such as stability, love, and food—UNICEF just doesn’t care. It ignores the common sense notion that a malnourished and/or institutionalized child isn’t likely to have much access to “birth culture” and it also ignores the fact that adoptive families often do much to promote their kids’ knowledge of their roots (our son’s been raised bilingually in Spanish and we live in an area with a large Central American population).

I’m not the kind of parent in denial about some of the issues/problems of international adoption. But to say that these problems are present in all international adoptions just is a canard and I, for one, don’t believe that we should be solving these problems on the backs of vulnerable kids. Moreover, the Hague Convention is not the way to reform adoption. If you look at what’s happened in country after country that’s adopted the Hague, you see a decrease in adoptions without any increase in social services/orphanage care in most cases. Kids are just discarded by many of these societies, because they disdain them for social, economic or ethnic reasons.

My partner and I are in contact with our son’s Guatemalan family and we know that his identity was not manufactured and that the circumstances leading to his adoption as described in his paperwork are true. In the case of Guatemala, more and more families are doing this. I think you have bought into a lot of international adoption myths being promoted by UNICEF and other NGOs and painted international adoptions with a broad brush. Yes, there are many problems, but the overwhelming majority of such adoptions are legitimate and necessary. Restricting international adoptions is going to harm children, rather than help them, even if international adoption is hardly the solution to systemic problems of poverty, oppression and racism in many sending countries.

Adoption is perhaps the only field where the innocent—children—are punished, often in perpetuity, for the misdeeds of others. Think about it: When there was a steroid scandal in Major League Baseball, did the government shut down every single baseball team and forbid the playing of baseball? When there’s insider trading on Wall Street, does the government decree that stock exchanges will be forever shuttered? When a bank messes up, do we forbid citizens from using all banks? Unfortunately, UNICEF, the Hague Secretariat, various NGOs, and even our own government view individual cases of adoption fraud or corruption as justification for forbidding all adoptions from a particular country. This does nothing to clean up adoptions—it just causes damage to children. Those allegedly concerned with the “best interest” of children would do well to come up with a means of regulating international adoptions and prosecuting violations of laws and standards that doesn’t hurt kids in the name of protecting them.

I felt compelled to offer my perspective as a gay dad to a child we adopted internationally. We’re lucky to have been able to do so. Our son is a huge blessing in our life.

Sincerely,
Lee Walzer, Arlington, VA


December 17, 2008

Where do you people get your information from and why don’t you ever print the truth? We adopted from Guatemala this year and we did not buy our son for $35,000. We paid the Guatemalan attorney exactly $21,000 for his services, which included filing fees, fostercare and medical expenses. Did you know that attorney’s here in the US are now charging $30–40,000+ for adoptions? Are they corrupt? Corruption can and does occur in many countries.

“Roughly 98 percent of international adoptions from Guatemala went through private “notarios,” attorneys who had the legal power to oversee both sides in the adoption. A single notario could witness the birthmother signing away her parenthood and could legally assign the child to foreign parents, for a sizable fee—all without any oversight, intervention, review, or questions from a judge or social service agency.”

NO oversight??? Tell that to the families that are waiting over 5 years to bring their children home. PGN (oh my, I think they are reviewing every single adoption file many times over) kicks you out of the process for not dotting an “i” or crossing a “t.” But again I guess that is not oversight when they question DNA results, timelines, etc.

NO oversight??? Why did I have to pay for two DNA tests? Did you know that until the very last moment—that being after PGN signs off on the adoption that the birthmother can take her child back? And by the way there have been many cases where that has happened.

NO oversight??? Did you know that the embassy has returned documents to PGN for more review before issuing a visa for the child?

Yes, our attorney asked for $400 a month in fostering fees which was not in our contract. Our US agency supported this request. The reason for the request was because of delays caused by the closing of adoptions and putting into place Hague requirements.

When we were able to bring our son home, we were supposed to pay an additional $2,000 but we didn’t. We refused to pay because of the reasons that were falsely stated by our US agency—where’s your report on the corruption of US adoption agencies in these foreign adoptions? Where’s your report about the US adoption agencies that have been prosecuted for criminal activity in performing these adoptions. Some families do pay these extra fees but that is their choice and relates to the amount of risk they wish to accept in the possibility of losing their child. Our attorney did not want this extra money until the end of the process, so that is why we did not pay. I guess then that makes us corrupt because we "scammed" the attorney out of money we did not owe? No, we are not criminals—we took a stance and stuck to it. Any adoptive parent has that right whether they choose to use it or not.

The press is always eager to jump on the stories of corruption and yet, you never bother to tell the other side of the story. That side is that there are far more legitimate adoptions going on and thus giving these children wonderful loving homes forever. Whenever I see these kinds of stories I know how slanted they are because I have gone through the process myself.

Does your conscience ever bother you that by writing these kinds of slanted stories that you actually might convince people who are considering adoption to choose not to go through it?

Do you ever consider the fact that some of the children from Guatemala may read this trash and then feel like they were “bought”?

Are you going to be there for those children to comfort them and tell them that the press is full of lies, that they were not "purchased" but we chose them because we loved them enough to give them a home and a better life than they would have had? And NO we did not adopt to "save" a child. We adopted because we wanted children and the US system was and is still stacked against us.

Are you going to be around when a stranger comes up to my family and asks how much we paid for our son? The answer to all these questions is NO YOU will not be there to pick up the pieces.

Why don’t you investigate the corruption in your own industry? Investigate why it is that “journalists” refuse to print both sides of a story? Investigate who is “paying” for these kinds of stories! Clean up your own house before printing stories about corruption in other “industries.”

Why don’t you investigate why it costs $30–40,000+ to adopt through an attorney here in the US? Based on your facts about attorney fees, we have a very corrupt system here in the US. By your standards, people who adopt domestically in the US are “purchasing” babies. Babies are stolen in the US all the time. Why are babies stolen in the US? Are these the babies that the US attorneys are requesting $40,000+ for?

In case you haven’t figured this out, NO child is free. You must pay a doctor to monitor a pregnancy; you must pay the hospital for delivering your child. So in a sense, you are “buying” your child no matter how you come to be a family.

For once I would appreciate the press printing both sides of this story. If you are going to refer to “stolen’” babies then you need to also interview families that have completed their adoptions where the results have a happy outcome. I can only shield my son for so long against this trash reporting. I will have to make him understand that the press likes to lie to sensationalize a story to get it printed and that most of these stories are lies.

I doubt that my opinions that I have given you will ever see the light of day but you need to consider how your lies impact the lives of these children that have been adopted and brought to the US. I sincerely hope that before you move on to "reporting" on other countries that you consider all the facts on both sides of the adoption stories. I also sincerely hope that you go back and amend your articles on countries that you have already "reported" on to be more accurate.

—Leslie Fiore, Grand Rapids, MI
A proud parent of a wonderful Guatemalan born son


December 18, 2008

My wife and I would like to thank you for your work on documenting the risks and consequences of international adoption. I am guessing that you are facing a barrage of comments from adoptive parents these days so I thought I would give you a “thank you” from one set of parents who are in the process of adopting and appreciate the contribution you have made to the evaluation of the ethical issues involved in this very complex topic.

Based on your work and that of a few others, we are now taking a new look at our adoption choices and trying to identify the steps that we can take and changes we can make in light of the impact it will have on the community that we are adopting from. This has always been top-of-mind for us and you have given us a lot more information to work with.

—Prospective Adoptive Parent, Vancouver, BC

December 27, 2008

I want to tell you how much I liked your op-ed piece, “The problem with saving the world's 'orphans’” printed in The Boston Globe on December 11. Your article did such a wonderful job of illuminating the problem and some of the solutions while, in a non-judgmental way, displaying understanding to readers who might have adopted a child or might have thought this would be a good solution. 

As a human services advocate and consultant, I was heartened to read that you pointed readers to the real solutions: reducing poverty and disease, buying supplies for schools, investing in clean water and housing, going on a medical mission. I loved how you reminded readers of something that is often forgotten in the rush to “save” children: “And remember that most families—like your own—would do almost anything to keep their babies home and raise them well.”

Your piece did a real service.

Best wishes,
Miriam Stein, Arlington, MA

January 11, 2009

Thank you for such a wonderfully thorough piece on international adoptions in “The Lie We Love.”

As a mother who relinquished my own child to domestic international adoption in the late 1980s I have often tried to educate people on corruption in adoption here in the US. The title of your work is so applicable to all adoptions. People really do want to love it and there is such fervor and strong denial if one speaks the unblemished truth about this profit-driven institution. I’m sure your hate mail from angered adoptive parents is quite lengthy. I know it is so hard for people to understand and accept that they have partaken in something unwholesome and corrupt, yet on the same note, I have had adoptive parents from both international and domestic US adoptions admit to me, in secret, that they know they bought their children.

I am adding the article to my blog, Musings of the Lame, as a quality resource.

I also would beg of you to expand the story to cover the corruption in the US with domestic voluntary placements today. Check out the story of Stephanie and Evelyn Bennett. Or look into the National Council for Adoption. Even just looking at our state laws where 42 states have sealed records and discriminated against adopted adults is based on lies, corruption, and baby selling. My son has been found and yet, being that I moved to Massachusetts to relinquish, if we both walked into the clerk’s office together, he can only get the legalized document that openly lies about the circumstances of his birth. The legal paperwork that has both our names on it, is denied to us both.

And since, you are planning on adding “stories of loss,” please let us moms who have lived though the loss and exile of our own children to adoption be allowed to tell our stories and truth. Australia only was able to reform their corrupt adoption practices after the country heard the mothers of loss. The US will only be able to clean up our own and care about the laws of other countries that import children for them IF they can see and hear birth mothers as real people… not irresponsible, loose women who cast away our unwanted children, but vulnerable and trusting people who walked into adoption agencies like lambs to the slaughter.

Eh, I could go and on, but that’s not what this is about. You, obviously, know where to find information! For me, it is enough to say: Again, thank you!

Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy, Kingston, New York


January 12, 2009

Ms. Graff—Thank you for your excellent articles in Foreign Policy and the Washington Post

I am surprised that your Post piece did not go on to document our tax dollars' role in subsidizing this system.  Families adopting though the private system get a $5,000 tax credit to cover their expenses.

(Families adopting from the public system in Maryland have no expenses, so are not eligible for the tax credit.) Also, at least in Maryland, the parents of some international adoptees with documented special needs receive a monthly adoption subsidy of $835-$850 plus Maryland Medical Assistance, even if the family knew the child had special needs before finalization.

Although I recruit families to foster and adopt children in the Maryland child welfare system, I am speaking as a private citizen only. I feel that given the needs of the child welfare system in this country, our tax dollars should be focused on improving that system.

I hope that you can discuss this issue in future articles. There are also interesting questions to be asked about the role of private adoption agencies in the adoption of children from the public system.

—Name withheld


January, 2009

I recently read E.J. Graff's articles in the Boston Globe, Washington Post, and Foreign Policy. I really liked the graphics which accompanied the Washington Post article. I think you will be very interested in this published study. This was commissioned by the World Health Organization. Not only is adoption corrupt, but it perpetuates institutional care.

Ms. Graff must have a very tough hide, because she really invites hate mail. Tell her to get a bullet proof vest, because she's going to need it. Telling the truth doesn't get you any friends. It's about time someone investigated intercountry adoption.

I adopted from Romania in 1991. I had to carry $10,000 in cash to Romania to pay various people involved in the process. This was above the fees I already paid to the agency. I ended up spending $17,000 by going through an agency. Other people traveling on their own without an agency involved adopted for about $5000.

A decade ago, John Tristeliotis of Edinburgh University gave a presentation at a Norwegian adoption conference called "Intercountry Adoption: Global Trade or Global Gift" The paper made identical points as yours. No one liked that presentation either, but he was telling the truth.

I was once interviewed for a lengthy story that was to appear in Newsweek Magazine. The reporter working on the story had been employed for the Consumer Product Safety Counsel for 7 years. She said that if a product imported from overseas had been as defective as adopted children and the manufacturers so dishonest in hiding that fact, the product would be pulled from the market. I guess it is somewhat like the Chinese wheat products and pet food episode. But instead of pet food, Americans are paying thousands of dollars for children whose significant mental and psychological problems are not disclosed. I saw the proof of the 6-page article that was to appear in Newsweek and it exposed adoption agencies for what they truly are, sellers of children for a profit. A few days before publication, one of the editors felt the article was too negative and cut it to 3 pages. No mention of bribery and corruption was made. Everyone live happily ever after!

I used to tell reporters that all adoption agencies are lying sacks of shit. They are on a sliding scale from 1 to 10, but they all have lied to parents at some point. No one ever printed that.

—Thais Tepper, Washington, PA


January 18, 2009

As the mother of an adopted daughter from Guatemala, I cringe every time I read an article about illegal adoptions ["The Adoption Underworld," Outlook, Jan. 11]. While I have no doubt that the corruption described in the article occurs in every country that offers children for adoption, it is a mistake to conclude that it is so prevalent.

When we adopted our daughter in 2003, I was impressed by the level of scrutiny and detail involved in verifying that the baby was willfully given up for adoption. Her birth mother had to sign release documents five times during the six-month process; she also underwent DNA testing to prove that she was the birth mother and, because she was 15, her mother had to sign and also submit to DNA testing. The DNA tests were sent to a lab in the United States to certify the relationships.

We were lucky to meet our daughter's birth mother and grandmother and to know that our daughter was offered for adoption willingly. That information will be invaluable when our daughter is old enough to read the articles about "manufactured orphans." We can assure her with confidenceand the photo we took of her with her smiling birth mother and grandmotherhat they handed her over to us with their blessings.

Julie Stewart, Washington, D.C.


January, 2009

While it is true that corruption exists in the adoption world, the majority of adoptions are not corrupt. Many countries and agencies have safeguards in place to greatly limit corruption, and a number of adoptive families—including those who have adopted internationallyhave had personal contact with birth parents.

It's taken many years for adoptive families to be fully accepted within the community; articles such as this one erode such progress. Would some adopted children have been better off with their birth parents? Probably. But the vast majority of birth parents make the decision to relinquish a child out of love, with the child's health and welfare at heart.

To suggest that birth parents are motivated primarily by money or are duped into the decision is insulting. In addition, by casting suspicion on the motives and scruples of adoptive parents and the veracity of the adoptive family, this article did a disservice to the very people who are the most important part of the adoption equation: children.

Jessica Bernstein, Bethesda, MD 


January 22, 2009

I am a first year doctoral student at the University of Minnesota at the School of Social Work and a Korean American adoptee, adopted to the U.S. in 1971 at the age of 3. I am part of a cohort of adult International adoptees who have been writing and voicing our concerns about the international adoption business for the past several years.

In my work I have found that I, and other outspoken adoptees and allies, have often become marginalized and silenced by those in power. I admire and commend you on your investigative work, knowing that the adoption industry is a powerful one and that by highlighting the corruption and unethical practices involved, you must surely be on the receiving end of much criticism.

I also noticed that your work is mostly about women's oppression. I have been attempting to tie in feminism and adoption together for the past few years. I hope in my doctoral research and future writings to do more in this regard.

I just wanted to say thank you again. I have passed on the Schuster Institute's web URLs and articles to everyone I can think of, and included a link to my blog, Harlow's Monkey, where I write about transracial and international adoption. I look forward to more of your work.

Sincerely,
Jae Ran Kim


February 1, 2009

The Jan. 11 Outlook commentary "The Orphan Manufacturing Chain" said that "too often," international adoptions are marked by corruption and that in Vietnam in particular, there is "fraud in the overwhelming majority of cases of infants offered for international adoption."

Yes, there have been heartbreaking examples of infants being torn from their birth families to be made available for international adoption. The State Department is aware of the abuses and warns American families against adopting from such countries. Its Web site has alerts warning families about adoptions from Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam, Lesotho and Togo.

Still, the heartbreaking truth is that in many countries, such as Russia, where my children were born, there is no need to "manufacture" orphans. When we adopted our second child, there were infants who were waiting in the local maternity hospital to be admitted to the orphanage. There was no room for them in the orphanage until our travel group had left with our children.

As the New York Times has reported, Russia's Education Ministry has classified about 750,000 children as orphans. Not all of them are eligible for adoption, of course, but, unfortunately, there are plenty of children to "supply the demand," in the words of E.J. Graff, author of the Outlook article. There is no need for anyone in Russia to take children from their birth families—poverty and social conditions do that job.

—Eileen DeLaney, Linthicum, MD 
The writer is on the board of the Washington chapter of Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption.


February 2, 2009 

The opinion piece on the so-called "orphan manufacturing chain" by Brandeis University's E.J. Graff falsely alleges that birth mothers in impoverished countries are largely tricked into giving up (or selling) their babies to meet a greedy Western demand for healthy infants ("International adoption rife with corruption," The Salt Lake Tribune, Opinion, Jan. 16).

The research fails to acknowledge that poverty, war and societal pressures too often force women to give up their children. After losing a husband to AIDS and facing their own sickness, poor women may turn to adoption in a desperate attempt to secure a brighter future for their children. These brave, selfless and courageous women should not be branded as "baby sellers" or too ignorant or poor to love their children.

While unscrupulous operators may exist, a majority of international adoptions are lawful. Graff's inaccurate account of international adoption is extremely painful to both adoptive parents and their children. Instead of name-calling, we should invest our energies in sustainable solutions to ending this all-too-real orphan crisis.

—Jane Aronson
Founder, Worldwide Orphans Foundation
Maplewood, N.J.


February 16

"I want to take the opportunity to thank you again for authoring (and publishing) "The Lie we Love." The article has been an excellent tool for raising awareness around the need for safeguards in intercountry adoption. 

It has also caused people to think a bit more critically about the underlying currents in ICA, including the reality of there being a perverse 'market' for young healthy infants. The article helps us make the case for safeguards and regulations. It also helps us make the case for increased investments in social welfare and social work services globally.

—Name withheld


Thank you E.J. Graff and the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism for "The Lie We Love." It is the most thoroughly researched and honest piece of journalism about international adoption to date that I have read, and unveils many of the dark truths of adoption that many do not want to acknowledge.

As an adoptive parent, I used to buy the prescribed mindset that adoption was a "win-win," however, dealing with adoption fraud has brought me more of a realistic perspective. Although it is true that there are many legitimate orphans that need homes, what occurs after time in countries of origin is the creation of markets that manufacture "orphans" to feed the demand of adopting (and more wealthy) nations. Unfortunately, the ends do not justify the means, and we as adoptive parents should acknowledge our roles as "consumer" in this market to ultimately create needed change.

First families (especially women) are often severely marginalized in countries of origin. We need to examine how this effects the adoption market as a whole, and work to lift up women to help them achieve family preservation first and foremost. More often than not, I see women and mother's human rights dismissed and abused in these countries. It is time we change that, and the "consumers" demand equality for those who often do not have the ability or platform to do so.

I believe we need to address the fraud, and more importantly, work to make amends for the damage we have inflicted on countries of origin (particularly Guatemala) in order to help prevent the past from repeating itself. In the end, if we address the fraud and corruption, legitimate orphans will find homes. If we continue to be seduced by "the lie," adoption fraud will continue to flourish, and countries will face closure.

—Jennifer Hemsley

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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 23, 2011