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Won't Someone Think of the *Parents?!*
May 10, 2009 7:43 AM   Subscribe

International Adoption may not necessarily be helping the disadvantaged in Third World countries as advertised. In some countries, like Guatemala and India, children are simply stolen from their families. The Hague Convention governs the rules for International Adoptions, but like all rules, they aren't always followed. Many adoptive parents believe that their children have been given up, but in some countries, "orphanage" doesn't mean what you think it means.

Even in China, where girls have been legitimately abandoned due to the "one child" policy, the demand for adoptable children has simply outstripped the supply, leading to stealing babies. In other cases, parents are offered incentives to sell their children to orphanages.
posted by grapefruitmoon (18 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
"as advertised?" Where is this claim "advertised"?
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:53 AM on May 10, 2009


Thanks for this grapefruitmoon--I'll have to do some more research if it's happening right here in my own backyard--but I have heard of children being stolen by men to earn them some quick bucks: so why not this, being sold to child traffickers who sell them off to orpanages, posing as children who don't have parents, and so are given to adoptive Mothers and Fathers across the world, for a certain fee.

More articles here and here.
posted by hadjiboy at 10:00 AM on May 10, 2009


And of course, there's Korea, where international adoptions pay almost 500% the actual cost of that country's foster care system. This allowed them to close down the vast majority of the orphanages - now only children with serious disabilities who require an institutional setting are in them. Every healthy infant/child in the country is now cared for in a (hopefully) safe, friendly foster home by an experienced mom whose other children have (usually) all grown up.

Unfortunately, because of the non-blood-relation stigma, less than 5% of the children in these foster homes are adopted domestically. Korean social service agencies require the kids to be housed in foster homes for a minimum of 6-9 months to try to place them domestically before allowing international agencies to place them with non-Korean families.

I was very surprised to see how poorly-funded Korean social services are - far, far less than Japan and most European countries'. I can't imagine what would happen there without international adoption. Maybe teenagers would just magically stop having babies.
posted by luriete at 10:02 AM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


This post and the recent boom in international adoption (which was especially visible among affluent couples in my old neighborhood in Park Slope, Brooklyn) always made me wonder: is it that much harder to adopt a child domestically? Are there too few children in the US to match the pool of adoptive parents? Why, in other words, are so many people going overseas to adopt children, despite what appear to be the vast expenses involved for travel and placement agency fees?
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 11:39 AM on May 10, 2009


Because if the birth mother who changes her mind is in the US, she can take the baby back.

When the Birth Mother Changes Her Mind. In most states women can only consent to relinquish their child after birth, thus increasing the chance she may feel an attachment to the child, and states have varying timelines for when that decision must be made, or when the woman can change her mind.

I suppose people think it's safer to adopt from somewhere the mother does not have that recourse, which is one of the reasons the issue of non-consenting parents in third world countries is troubling.
posted by winna at 12:06 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


is it that much harder to adopt a child domestically? Are there too few children in the US to match the pool of adoptive parents? Why, in other words, are so many people going overseas to adopt children, despite what appear to be the vast expenses involved for travel and placement agency fees?

Yes, it is that much harder to adopt a healthy child without significant developmental or behavioral problems from the US. I gather, from what I've read, that there are dozens of applicants for adoption for every kid to be adopted. If you're willing to take, uh, "damaged goods", your chances go up... but, you have to be a saintly kind of person to sign up for that willingly. If you want an infant... well, forget about it.

So, if you adopt from overseas, you can find a healthy child (and perhaps an infant) much more easily. I gather that the fees are frequently less expensive that domestic adoption, and that the process is sometimes more expeditious even if you discount the time spent waiting for a kid who matches your criteria.

Plus, there's this idea that you're saving them from a life of poverty and pain in far-off Foreignia. That by adopting the kid, you may literally be saving his or her life. I have mixed feelings on this issue, but it certainly colors peoples' decisions to adopt internationally.
posted by Netzapper at 12:45 PM on May 10, 2009


This is a US mom, but she points out that one thing that's almost never addressed is the pain of giving up a baby even if you know you can't raise them (in her case, she is speaking of doing so vs. having an abortion).

Adoption is problematic, even when it's absolutely necessary and the birth mom is consenting. To have a baby stolen--I don't know how you'd ever get over that.
posted by emjaybee at 1:50 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a friend who started a charity aimed at stopping child trafficking in Cambodia after discovering that the children she and her husband had adopted had been sold to an adoption agency and were not orphans without siblings, which was what they'd been told. The kids confessed that they missed their siblings, and the adoptive parents went to Cambodia to find them and ended up adopting them as well (PDF link). The charity now works directly with the families of kids at risk of being trafficked. It's a fascinating story, and I have so much admiration for them.
posted by andraste at 2:50 PM on May 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Even in China, where girls have been legitimately abandoned due to the "one child" policy, the demand for adoptable children has simply outstripped the supply, leading to stealing babies. In other cases, parents are offered incentives to sell their children to orphanages.
posted by grapefruitmoon (8 comments total) [add to favorites] 8 users marked this as a favorite [!]

Your first link mentioning China is entirely about India; not a word about China.
Most of the stolen children cases in China seem to involve boys for Chinese families in need of them. That's not to say that there are none getting grabbed and handed off to foreigners but from what I've read and seen, the foreign "sale" is far less likely. China makes a lot of money over its unwanted children (about 95 percent girls) and, from what I hear from both US and foreign agencies, much more careful to not mess up the pipeline. It benefits China two ways--brings money in and puts a tiny dent in the girls no one wants in that country.
I say this as someone who adopted from China 13 years ago. And yes, adopting domestically is difficult, especially if you're single. I explored foster-care adoption but was warned repeatedly about how difficult that would be; a domestic adoption could very well lead to a reneging of the adoption. Foreign adoption isn't really a longterm solution but if the alternative is that a female infant is abandoned in the cold and left to die, as is still the case where the mother can't get the baby to an orphanage, then it's okay by me.
posted by etaoin at 4:23 PM on May 10, 2009


I remember reading that Mother Jones article when it came out. Heart-breaking stuff.

In Australia domestic adoptions have not only very low availability, but also breath-takingly restrictive conditions (earning requirements, age requirements, etc. etc. It's kind of mind-blowing that they'll let you have a kid with nothing more than a bit of sperm and some functioning ovaries but adopting is so hardcore.). Thus many parents here turn to India, Korea, China, South-East Asia, where around $10 000 - $20 000 grand will get you a young kid, and a self-applied pat on the back, too.

As hard as those articles are, I don't think that overseas adoption is necessarily a Bad Thing; I've seen it done well from my time in childcare. The Bad Thing in my opinion is monetising it. When adopting becomes an industry, you bring a huge number of problems.

Sadly, the places with probably the highest number of adoptees are in possession of governments least able/willing to regulate it properly.
posted by smoke at 4:25 PM on May 10, 2009


earning requirements, age requirements

You think overseas adoptions don't have age requirements? Marriage requirements? Religious requirements? Guess what? They do! Maybe there aren't explicit earning requirements, but you have to stump up the cash, (see that? not "earning requirements", cash, that is money after tax), and you can also expect to pay for social workers to visit your home at least twice to monitor your suitability, as well as obligatory classes in, I don't know, sensitivity or something. Plus lawyers, plus travel, plus admin, plus medical, plus orphanage fees, plus interpreters, plus, plus, plus.

$10 000 - $20 000 grand

Which year are these figures from? From which country? Friend of a friend land?

and a self-applied pat on the back, too

Wow, you are too kind.
posted by Wolof at 5:33 PM on May 10, 2009


Wow dude, take a cup of Chillax. Your dogma (and issues) about adoption are not mine.

I didn't say adopting internationally is some kind anarchic pin-the-passport-on-the-orphan free for all, merely that it is much easier for Australians to adopt internationally than locally.

Those cost figures are from the QLD govt department of communities, sorry if that's not official enough for you.

If you think adoptive parents don't believe they are helping children from suffering, then you must have a pretty bleak view of people - to think that they'd cold-heartedly adopt children convinced that it's not a good thing for the child. That's just weird.
posted by smoke at 7:32 PM on May 10, 2009


Yes, it is that much harder to adopt a healthy child without significant developmental or behavioral problems from the US. If you want an infant... well, forget about it.

My wife and I are in the process of adopting a child domestically after seriously considering going the international route. The agency we are working with, Adoption Star, specializes in infant adoptions. The more health or behavioral issues you are willing to take on, the faster you will get a referral for a child (probably). Race/ethnicity is also a factor. If you want perfectly healthy, white infant, you will probably wait a long time. If you are open to a child of color, or a child who was exposed to drugs or alcohol in-utero, you will probably get a faster referral. The interesting thing is, it's actually the birth mother/parents who choose you (based on a profile that you help to create), rather than the other way around.

We expect to get a referral anywhere from 2 months to 2 years after we finish our home study, which is basically an in-depth, multi-faceted educational module on all aspects of domestic adoption including possible challenges and issues.

As far as international adoption, most often the child will be 9 mos. and older by the time they are placed with their adoptive families. From the research we did looking into adopting from Ethiopia, the cost is roughly the same, as is the wait time. I'm speaking very generally here, since these things can vary by quite a lot, depending n many factors that I won't go into here. One thing to keep in mind is that travel can often be expensive and some countries require more than one trip before you take your child home.

And I can only speak for the agency we are working with, but they do extensive counseling and communication with the birth mother - which may add up to a more realistic and thorough understanding of what the potential issues may be with your child. Depending on where you are adopting from internationally, your knowledge can vary quite a bit as to the origins or family history of your child. This is not to say I think international adoption is a bad idea - we have friends who have done it and they are ecstatic parents, just that assumptions about domestic vs. international adoption are not necessarily accurate.
posted by lukievan at 8:09 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Those cost figures are from the QLD govt department of communities, sorry if that's not official enough for you.

Your quote was inaccurate. See your link.

If you think adoptive parents don't believe they are helping children from suffering, then you must have a pretty bleak view of people

My child is an overseas adoptee.
posted by Wolof at 12:20 AM on May 11, 2009


Wolof I never would have guessed from your hyperbolic reaction to a fairly tame comment.

The site quotes 10-30 000 in costs, ergo 10 - 20000 comes in under budget.

f you had read what I wrote before going off, you would see I had little to say about overseas adoption - all I said was that it can be easier than domestic adoption, and that though problematic I didn't think it was always a bad thing. If you feel attacked or defensive about it, truly it is your problem not mine. I don't intend to judge you, or your decision to adopt, and I'm honestly sorry if that's what you took away.
posted by smoke at 3:28 AM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most of the stolen children cases in China seem to involve boys for Chinese families in need of them. ...

There is a lot more to the situation in China and it certainly isn't as rosy as the picture you paint.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:26 AM on May 11, 2009


Thanks for the illuminating information on barriers to domestic adoption. I'm actually (oddly) relieved to hear that difficulties in arranging domestic adoptions was what was driving prospective parents overseas, since I'd wondered if there was some element of prejudice at work in terms of couples not wanting to adopt African-American kids from the US. While the adoption process is clearly complex, fraught, and -- as these articles show -- subject to terrible abuses, it was nice to have my own ignorant assumptions dispelled.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 4:35 AM on May 11, 2009


Just remember that not all Americans who adopt from overseas are white.

Some people, like my Korean-born wife, want a baby who has the same ethnic background as they do. And in some cases, in-laws might not accept a child of another race - which makes domestic adoption problematic.

An international adoption can easily cost $30,000. There are age, weight, religious, and other requirements - many which are very strict - both by agency and country.

We were initially interested in a domestic adoption, but after a year of investigation, found that it would be more difficult, as expensive, and not nearly as clean-cut as international adoption; plus, dealing with a 50-year-old international non-profit agency that's never had complaints against it from foreign countries or individuals of placing babies who weren't definitely orphans, we felt more comfortable doing it this way.

Perhaps our next child will be adopted domestically, if we choose to have another child. I'm not sure.

I'm not sure what would happen to the children in Korean foster care if it wasn't for international adoption. Korean nationals hardly adopt at all, and the foster parents are often older and uninterested in a long-term commitment. I assume the kids would be shunted into state-run schools, eventually, and then into national service in some way. The stigma against orphans there is enormous; certainly it would be difficult if not downright impossible for them to get into a university or get a job at a large company.
We adopted because we wanted a child - not because we wanted to rescue a child. If it did increase the options of this one little person, then, so be it - I'm happy for the side-effect. There's no white-mans burden situation going on here, though, nor in any of the adoptive families I've met, although I'm certain many - especially the Christian missionaries who adopt - do for such a reason.
posted by luriete at 4:49 PM on May 13, 2009


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