Corruption in international adoptions

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Images of Sierra Leone  

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.

NEW "The Stolen Makeni Children," E.J. Graff, May 11, 2012, Slate.com. Graff revisits the story of the 29 Makeni children in Sierra Leone whose birth parents allege were stolen (below). In April 2012, a presidential commission for the Sierra Leonean government agreed, and shut down and launched an investigation into HANCI, the child welfare organization that placed the children for adoption, saying the biological families “cannot be said to have genuinely consented.” After 14 years, will the Makeni families be reunited?

"The Makeni Children," E.J. Graff, August 9, 2011, Slate.com. The international adoption of 29 children from Sierra Leone to the West in 1998 occurred during a civil war. Adoptive parents believed they were rescuing orphans. But the birth families say they've been searching for the children ever since.

In a riveting three-part series, E.J. Graff investigates the adoption of two of those children, whose American families learned—13 years after the adoption—that birth families were looking for their children.

Graff’s investigation traces two international adoptions—including the adoption of Samuel Mosley—shedding light on the adoption process and what went wrong. In what may be the first time anywhere, she takes readers through every stop along the chain: birth families, adoptive families, an adopted child, a government official, and the responsible adoption and child welfare agencies.

What happens when it appears that international adoption hasn’t saved an orphan—but, rather, created one? Can justice be done?

  • Part I: In 1998, Americans Adopted 29 Children From a Town in Sierra Leone. Their Birth Families Say They Were Stolen
  • Part II: That Was the Last Time We Ever Saw These Children
  • Part III: How Flawed is the International Adoption Process?

News Reports of Adoption
 Irregularities in Sierra Leone

"Parents to storm State House, American Embassy," July 19, 2011, The Punch Newspaper.

"HANCI concerned over inquiry delay," July 19, 2011, Humanitarian News.

"HANCI concerned over inquiry delay," Ibrahim Tarawallie, July 19, 2011, The Daily IIJ.

"Is the Justice Showers Tribunal operating under a Conflict of Interest?" July 18, 2011, Standard Times Sierra Leone.

"Parents give one month ultimatum to Gov't," July 15, 2011, Concord Times Sierra Leone.

"Child trafficking: Parents storm Ministry of Social Welfare," July 15, 2011, Standard Times Sierra Leone.

"Child Adoption Commission Ends Testimonies by Parents," May 16, 2011, TheTorchlight.com.

"Sierra Leone: 'We Did Not Reject Any Parents'- Justice Showers Commission," May 9, 2011, AllAfrica.com.

"Sierra Leone: Opinion - Over HANCI-MAPS Adoption, Who is Deceiving Who?" May 4, 2011, AllAfrica.com.

"As Commission rejects parents... Adopted child jets in," April 7, 2011, Concord Times Sierra Leone.

"In Sierra Leone, Investigation on ‘Missing Children’ Begins," Aruna Turay, March 3, 2011, AwarenessTimes.com.

"Was This Adoption Or Child Trafficking?" Muctaru Wurie, August 26, 2010, Mactaru's Blog.

"With tears in their eyes – Parents of adopted children laud FDID," Donstance Koroma, June 21, 2010, Sierra Express Media.

“Sierra Leone parents seek answers in adoption case,” Clarence Roy-Macaulay and Carley Petesch, June 3, 2010, Associated Press, TimesLive.com.

Freetown–Balia Kamara's mother sent her to a center in northern Sierra Leone so the 5-year-old could receive an education and food, and stay out of harm's way during the West African country's brutal civil war. The mother visited Balia at the Help A Needy Child International center, known as HANCI, regularly for two years until 1998, when the children there were taken to Sierra Leone's capital for medical examinations. They never returned.

Parents of about 30 children at the center say they only later learned that the children had been adopted by Americans and sent abroad without permission.

“Sierra Leone: Child Adoption Saga- Parents Demand Children’s Return,” Ibrahim Tarawallie, May 19, 2010, Concord Times (Freetown).

Freetown—Aggrieved parents whose children were adopted by American-based Main Adoption Placement Services, MAPS, have demanded the immediate return of their children.

In a meeting with the minister of social welfare, gender and children's affairs at his New England office yesterday, spokesperson for the aggrieved parents, Kassim Kargbo said: "We want our children back immediately. We were not informed about any adoption."

“Sierra Leone Police Investigate Child Trafficking Allegations,” December 29, 2009,
Google News.

Freetown—Police in Sierra Leone on Tuesday said they had released on bail four members of a US-based non governmental organisation after questioning them in connection with a child trafficking scandal. Backed by Interpol, Sierra Leone police are investigating claims by 40 parents in the west African state that their children were trafficked to the United States 13 years ago from the northern city of Makeni.

" 'HANCI sold our children abroad' angry parents claim," Donstance Koroma, November 9, 2009, Sierra Leone Media.

“Sierra Lione Fury at Forced Adoption,” November 4, 2009, BBC News.

A group of parents in Sierra Leone has accused a charity of sending more than 30 children abroad for adoption without consent during the country's civil war.

The parents say they have no idea what happened to their children after they were handed over to Help a Needy Child International (Hanci).

"150 Kids Missing - HANCI Implicated," October 29, 2009, Exclusive News Press Sierra Leone.

"How Our Children 29 Kids Were Trafficked To America!" October 21, 2009, PeepSierraLeone.com.

“Suspension of Adoptions in Sierra Leone,” September 17, 2009, U.S. Department of State.

The Government of Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs suspended adoptions on May 21, 2009 due to concerns on the legality of adoptions and the welfare of adoptees.  An interagency committee has been established by the Ministry to work on new adoption laws and procedures.

“Protecting Children From Orphan-Dealers,” May 27, 2009, IRIN Africa.

Accra–The recent rape of an eight-month-old boy in an orphanage in the Ghanaian capital Accra revealed conditions that child rights advocates say are rampant across West African orphanages. When the authorities investigated the incident they discovered 27 of the 32 children living in the home were not orphans.

A January 2009 study by the Social Welfare Department–responsible for children’s welfare and supervising orphanages–showed that up to 90 percent of the estimated 4,500 children in orphanages in Ghana are not orphans and 140 of the 148 orphanages around the country are un-licensed, said the department’s assistant director Helena Obeng Asamoah.

"Sierra Leone: HANCI Denies Claims," Alimatu Fofanah, November 28, 2008, AllAfrica.com.

"Child Trafficking: Parents accuse HANCI," Ishmael Bayoh, November 26, 2008, Awoko Newspaper.

"Police Dismantle Child Trafficking Syndicate," Lansana Fofana, August 31, 2004, IPS Inter-Press Service.

"Sierra Leone aid workers accused in child smuggling ring," August 27, 2004, Agence France-Presse, Fabriqée en Corée.

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Last page update: May 14, 2012