Talking to Children Truthfully About Trafficking in International Adoption

From Adoptive Families:

As news of child trafficking in China and Guatemala make headlines, rumors are rife about the negative aspects of intercountry adoption. Sadly, fact has overtaken fiction in more than a few countries that are or have recently been closed to U.S. adopting parents. Countries that closed because of concerns over coercion of birthparents, trafficking of children, and/or illegal gain by adoption agents include Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, Guatemala, and Romania. China, reputedly, is working to contain corroborated trafficking within its orphanage system.

Faced with such accounts of trafficking, many parents have an instinctive reaction of shock and disbelief. By adopting, could they have fueled this trade? In the midst of concerns about trafficking, how can parents make their child’s story accessible to him as they try to make sense of facts and fiction? For many of us, it seems necessary now to help our children understand what’s being reported about trafficking. Yet, some parents question the need to bring up things that happened in their child’s past, things that, in their opinion, are surely “best forgotten.”

Why admit that money may have driven the birthparents’ decision, or that a child may have been sold by one parent, while the other parent did not consent? Parents want to protect their child, shield her from harsh realities, and embrace her as a family member. Won’t these and other possibilities confuse a child, adding to her pain?

At the nub of such concerns is the reality that the nurturing role of an adoptive parent is tough. You are parenting in the present, and that means making sense of the past. If corruption exists in your child’s birth country or may have played a role in your son’s adoption, it is your job to give him a truthful account of his past. Otherwise, the child will certainly find out another way, from his peers, other kids’ parents, newspaper headlines that scream “Baby Buying” and “Money-Driven Adoption,” Facebook, or YouTube. A child who knows the basics about adoption and trafficking, and his own journey to his family, is empowered by knowing. He is in charge of his story…

If facts are not known, parents can offer “what-ifs,” possibilities involving the child’s pre-adoption history. These aren’t fictional stories, but reasonable possibilities that may have affected our children, given what we know and can deduce about their circumstances from reading, researching, and the news. Describe the situation in the child’s birth country, even if it involves closure, a slowdown, or trafficking. Discussions won’t be fruitful until the child is about five years old, but it’s good practice to start telling the story earlier, in an age-appropriate way.

Access the full article here.


5 thoughts on “Talking to Children Truthfully About Trafficking in International Adoption

  1. Extremely important to be honest with our children about this. I am heartsick that is has to be this way – but we must tell our children all the possibilities that exist.

  2. We haven’t really started these conversations yet, but I have kept a notebook of newspaper articles and Department of State notices about Phu Tho and Vietnam adoption that I will share with her one day.

  3. That’s a good idea Tracy. At this point (daughter is 4) we are only covering the basics and I don’t think she understands what adoption really means yet. We have a lot of talks to go!

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