What No One Told Me About Adoption

I am late to the party, but there is a blog carnival at Grown in my Heart where bloggers are invited to write on the topic “What No One Told Me About Adoption.”

There are plenty of things about adoption that I have discovered since I became an adoptive parent, but one of the most crushing has been finding out how much corruption exists in adoption. My husband and I went into our daughter’s adoption from Vietnam thinking that adoption was a wonderful way to give a home to a child in need. We thought we were doing a good thing. A few months after we were home, however, our daughter’s province was shut down to US adoptions due to allegations of corruption. We were heartbroken to know that the possibility existed that our daughter’s adoption had been tainted. We were sick to think that her birthparents may have never intended for her to be adopted, and that they were grieving the loss of their daughter. We ached when we thought about explaining it to her some day.

Yesterday, an article by Barbara Demick titled “Chinese babies stolen by officials for foreign adoption” appeared in the Los Angeles Times. Sadly, now that I know where to look, I read articles like this one weekly. Just recently, I’ve read them about Vietnam, Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, Sierra Lione, Liberia, Samoa, etc.

What is especially interesting about this article, however, is that it is about China, a country whose adoption program has long been touted as “corruption free.” I read the blog of one adoptive parent who said she thought her daughter’s Vietnam adoption was ethical because of X, Y, and Z, and that she knew her other daughter’s adoption was ethical, “because she was adopted from China.” It is sad, but I have learned that corruption in adoption exists everywhere (including the United States).

The article says:

The conventional wisdom is that the babies, mostly girls, were abandoned by their parents because of the traditional preference for boys and China’s restrictions on family size. No doubt, that was the case for tens of thousands of the girls.

But some parents are beginning to come forward to tell harrowing stories of babies who were taken away by coercion, fraud or kidnapping — sometimes by government officials who covered their tracks by pretending that the babies had been abandoned…

“In the beginning, I think, adoption from China was a very good thing because there were so many abandoned girls. But then it became a supply-and-demand-driven market and a lot of people at the local level were making too much money,” said Ina Hut, who last month resigned as the head of the Netherlands’ largest adoption agency out of concern about baby trafficking.

“Supply-and-demand.” I know these may seem like harsh words to associate with adoption, but it is an unfortunate truth. Adoption is a business. I wish I had understood that sooner. I wish I had known that not everyone involved with adoption is doing so out of the goodness of their hearts. I should have known it, and I don’t know why I didn’t recognize it. I work for a nonprofit home for the elderly poor. I get satisfaction from the fact that I am helping our elderly residents, but I am certainly not working for free, and neither is anyone in the adoption industry.

However, my job is not commission based. I don’t get paid more if we have more elderly residents in the home. Adoption, though, is a fee-for-service based industry. Adoption agencies, some adoption workers, governments, and many government officials make a certain amount of money per adoption. It is, therefore, in their best interest to facilitate more adoptions. Unfortunately, when the “supply” of true orphans (those who are legitimately abandoned or whose birth parents truly have no way to care them) runs dry, some will go out seeking orphans to be able to meet the demand of adoptive parents.  They will convince, coerce, trick, or bribe birth parents to hand over their children, or they will even outright kidnap them.

The article says:

Brian Stuy, an adoptive father in Salt Lake City who researches the origins of Chinese adoptees said, “It is international adoption that is creating the suction that causes family planning [the Chinese government agency] to take the kids to make money.”

Deng Fei, an investigative journalist based in Beijing, adds, “That money is a windfall for the orphanages and local officials,” Deng said. “It seduced them into going to look for babies to send abroad.”

Please do not take what I’ve said here to mean that I am anti-adoption. I am not. What I am is an advocate for adoption reform.I believe that international adoption should be the last resort for a child. The first priority should be to find a way for a child to stay with his or her birthparents. If this is not possible, the child should be placed in a domestic adoption, remaining in his or her own culture and country of birth. I believe there are a few international adoption agencies out there who are operating under these same assumptions, and who are doing wonderful things for children. I wish so badly that we had adopted through one of them so that I could one day tell my daughter why I thought her adoption was above-board. However, there are too many more that are outright corrupt or who at least choose to look the other way.

The article further states:

For adoptive parents, the possibility that their children were forcibly taken from their birth parents is terrifying.

“When we adopted in 2006, we were fed the same stories, that there were millions of unwanted girls in China, that they would be left on the street to die if we didn’t help,” said Cathy Wagner, an adoptive mother from Nova Scotia, Canada. “I love my daughter, but if I had any idea my money would cause her to be taken away from another mother who loved her, I never would have adopted.”

Finally, the article says:

In Philadelphia, Wendy Mailman, who adopted in 2005 from the orphanage in Zhenyuan that took in confiscated babies, now questions everything she was told about the girl who orphanage officials said was born in September and abandoned in January.

“Why would a mother who didn’t want a baby girl be so heartless as to wait until the dead of winter to abandon her?” she said.

She wonders what she would do if she discovered that her daughter was one of the stolen babies. She knows she could never return the Americanized 6-year-old, who is obsessed with “SpongeBob” and hates the Chinese culture classes her mother enrolled her in. But she said, “I would certainly want to tell the birth family that your daughter is alive and happy and maybe send a picture.”

“It would be up to my daughter later if she wanted to build a relationship,” she said.

For many birth families, that would be enough.

“We’d never make her come back, because a girl raised in the West wouldn’t want to live in a poor village like this,” said Yang Shuiying’s mother-in-law, Yang Jinxiu.

“But we’d like to know where she is. We’d like to see a picture. And we’d like her to know that we miss her and that we didn’t throw her away.”

Read the whole article here.

Read other blogger’s posts on “What No One Told Me About Adoption” here.

20 thoughts on “What No One Told Me About Adoption

  1. Tracy,
    What a well written and courageous post. It is an awful thing, to realize that we may have inadvertantly played a role in the supply-and-demand world of adoption. I, like you, had no idea it existed the first time we adopted. Unfortunately it seems the more popular a program gets, the worse the corruption will be. Every time I hear about a new country opening up I think “I wonder how long until we hear about problems there…?” But I continue to hope that new PAP’s will be better educated thanks to media stories like that one and bloggers who speak out like you.

  2. Wow, Tracy, just wow, what a great article! I really hope other AP’s and PAP’s read it, and really understand your heart behind it!
    great job!

  3. I agree with so much of what you have said here… well put!
    Only one concern, I did not say those things that it appears I said in your quoted section. I believe you have a couple of us from the article quoted under my name.
    We all have different views on what needs to be done,etc. I just want to be sure people do not confuse my views with others.

    • Cathy-

      Thank you for visiting my blog, and thanks for pointing out my oversight. I’ve made the changes to try to make sure I am attributing the quotes to the right people. I just got a little overzealous with my cut and paste. Please let me know if you see any other errors.


    • Katherine – You are absolutely right. As you know, we have adopted both domestically and intenationally. I’ve written a lot about corruption in international adoption, but I have not yet touched on domestic adoption. I feel much more comfortable with OUR domestic experience than I do with our international experience (because we still have contact with our son’s birthmom), but someday I would like to write another post about domestic corruption in general.

  4. Pingback: What I Didn’t Know About Adoption « Moving+Three Kids=Chaos

  5. Pingback: Remember when I said I read articles about corruption in international adoption all the time now? « My Minivan Rocks!

  6. Thank you for this entry and for your continued efforts at educating folks about adoption corruption. This article is hard and necessary to read but I get a sinking feeling in my stomach every time I see more articles on the subject.

  7. I’m sure all of us feel different for what we know now that we didn’t know then. I doubt there will every be a time when some corruption doesn’t exist in adoption. I would love to think so but since there are greedy people in this world only out to make a bigger buck, I don’t expect it will ever go totally away.

  8. Great job, Tracy. I was really naiive too, but I feel like I did the best I could with what I knew, not that that makes everything ok. ..I just don’t know where to go with info. now. I can only hope I can help others in the future make good decisions concerning their adoption.

  9. Pingback: Who Does Corruption Hurt? Everyone. « Mrs. Broccoli Guy

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