My past is based on a long list of experiences with intercountry adoption, which started when I was adopted overseas to the United States in 1972 with my twin.
Since my first trip back to my birth country in 2004, I have been researching the issue. From examining the various memoirs of the pioneers who set up the intercountry child welfare system and numerous newspaper articles based on such efforts, I have learned how children were (and still are) obtained for intercountry adoption.
I have listened to the viewpoints of Adoption Truth & Transparency Worldwide Information Network (ATTWIN) members told to me by my sister, the co-founder, and administrator of the virtual group we initiated in 2011. Since then, I have spearheaded the Adoptionland: From Orphans to Activists anthology project, was the senior editor of The “Unknown” Culture Club, Korean Adoptees Then and Now, and authored many other adoption books.
One of the most profound problems that have always bothered me is the way children have been deceptively called “orphans,” “needy,” or “unwanted” throughout history by the adoption special interest groups.
Adoption law has expanded its definition of “orphan” to include children from poverty-stricken families or single parents. This means that any child can be at risk of being processed for intercountry adoption. Whereas the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes children’s rights—and special child protection protocols have been set in place—the Hague Adoption Convention is founded on “the right to adopt” (i.e., The Hague Adoption Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption) and ignores the child protection measures already installed.
Tinan Leroy, an Adoptionland contributor and former colleague of mine who was adopted from Haiti to France, voiced concern that poverty-stricken mothers are targeted for their children at the Hague Adoption Convention. He said, “You have to be careful about the risks of child trafficking,” and “There are abuses.” He used the example,
“Someone made my biological mother sign the relinquishing paper, but she couldn’t read; she didn’t know what she was signing!”
Tinan has been associated with the drafting of The Hague Adoption Convention but said, “None of my proposals were accepted with the argument that it was necessary to maintain a certain vagueness to continue adoptions.”
He wanted to include that “poverty cannot be used as a reason [to separate the child from his/her family],” but the words “economic reasons” are mentioned in 97% of cases. “This is the great absurdity of these adoptions,” he concluded.
Tinan tried to tell authorities at The Hague Adoption Convention that “we will soon release a book in The United States with a group of 30 adopted writers” [referring to Adoptionland: From Orphans to Activists], but the highest levels of government haven’t yet acknowledged this book. Tinan decided to file a complaint against the French Government because he believed “rich countries have the greatest responsibility in this matter.”
Another problem is that adoption culture and law have been manipulated to take a gentler and softer approach. Vulnerable mothers are “counseled” into placing their child, who can then be stigmatized as an “orphan” or certified as a “convention [approved] adoptee” and consequently processed and transported overseas to a foreign nation. This is another form of deception used against unsuspecting mothers (and fathers) who may be going through moments of poverty or doubt regarding their parenting capabilities.
One of Tinan Leroy’s concerns was that many Haitian parents sent their children to community centers, nurseries, boarding schools, or hospitals with the intention of returning after getting their finances in order. However, these facilities (often referred to as orphanages in the West) work in collaboration with foreign adoption agencies and accept children from families with the quiet intent to eventually fill insatiable demand. As a consequence, it is not uncommon for children to be missing when their biological parents return.
Additionally, I have had the privilege to learn about inherent human rights from the investigational research, dissertations, reports, and expertise of Against Child Trafficking, particularly the Executive Director, Arun Dohle, and civil servant of the European Commission Roelie Post. Both have worked at all levels in the field for decades.
Arun Dohle, a field researcher and director of Against Child Trafficking, has worked with several Indian and Ethiopian parents whose children were even abducted while playing in their neighborhoods but labeled orphans by child snatchers and legally processed for overseas placement. The parents never find them. Unlike most goods sold, whether or not the child was unethically obtained is not of concern to the receiver. Because children are now classified as adoptable and given a certified stamp of approval for availability, being stigmatized as an adoptee means they will be deprived of the right to return to their families—even into adulthood.
The problem with commodifying children with classifications such as “orphans,” “needy,” “special needs,” or “Hague-certified” is that it opens the doors to receiving millions of dollars from applicants.
Agencies can accept non-refundable fees under the guise of “serving” children, “child protection,” and working “in the child’s best interest.” Others state that they are “working God’s will,” which brings in the most donations. Instead of supporting a mother for sometimes as low as $15 a month, facilitators can accept tens of thousands of dollars, enabling them to profit from families who have no legal recourse to find their children even immediately after they have been transported overseas. Instead of in-country kinship care, temporary care, temporary or permanent guardianship, daycare, foster care, community care, and boarding schools, children are quickly processed overseas to fill the insatiable and lucrative demand. The child is deprived of their identity, culture, and birth community while retaining their right to access immediate and extended family members.
Falsified adoption documents have been briefly acknowledged as not uncommon by Dan Rather’s report “Adopted or Abducted? Years ago.” Professional locater Troy Dunn said, “Fraudulent paperwork in the adoption process is so common it’s almost standard practice for some places…they falsify dates of birth, places of birth…you are one of a set of twins.”
Similar to the fraudulent paperwork mentioned in Dan Rather’s report on adoptions in the US, the same crisis has occurred overseas and all over the world.
In the US, it is not uncommon for domestic-born adult adoptees — an unheard and unacknowledged population — to refer to their routinely altered birth certificates when being adopted as “falsified documents.” Documents that an estimated six million domestically-born adult adoptees are “denied” when inquiring.
Mr. Dohle has the evidence that proves that, “Adoption (and, in particular, intercountry adoption) has become an open market for children; children who have been treated as a commodity and had their rights violated as citizens.”
In late 2016, numerous groups of intercountry adoptee organizations sent an Open Letter to European Permanent Parliamentary Committee members stating that “Since the fifties, there are indications that in the adoption system structural abuses happened…Not only in the past, abuses took place. Until today there are examples that abuses take place in the current system.”
A Press Release from ACT announced, “The Dutch Experts Advise End of International Adoptions.”
After all is said and done (and this is merely the tip of the iceberg), adoption facilitators and their followers wholeheartedly place their trust and faith in the idea of adoption. Throughout history, the public has assumed overseas adoptions are ethical or whatever the special interest groups say is right, fair, and just. Their kneejerk reaction to individuals like Roelie Post and Arun Dohle of Against Child Trafficking is to call them anti-adoption or shun them from speaking. Such actions violating child rights have only cemented the business into the future.