The Lie We Love

We all know the story of international
adoption: Millions of infants and toddlers have been abandoned or
orphaned—placed on the side of a road or on the doorstep of a church,
or left parentless due to AIDS, destitution, or war. These little ones
find themselves forgotten, living in crowded orphanages or ending up on
the streets, facing an uncertain future of misery and neglect. But, if
they are lucky, adoring new moms and dads from faraway lands whisk them
away for a chance at a better life.

Unfortunately, this story is largely fiction.

Westerners have been sold the myth of a world orphan crisis. We are
told that millions of children are waiting for their “forever families”
to rescue them from lives of abandonment and abuse. But many of the
infants and toddlers being adopted by Western parents today are not
orphans at all. Yes, hundreds of thousands of children around the world
do need loving homes. But more often than not, the neediest children
are sick, disabled, traumatized, or older than 5. They are not the
healthy babies that, quite understandably, most Westerners hope to
adopt. There are simply not enough healthy, adoptable infants to meet
Western demand—and there’s too much Western money in search of
children. As a result, many international adoption agencies work not to
find homes for needy children but to find children for Western homes.

the mid-1990s, the number of international adoptions each year has
nearly doubled, from 22,200 in 1995 to just under 40,000 in 2006. At
its peak, in 2004, more than 45,000 children from developing countries
were adopted by foreigners. Americans bring home more of these children
than any other nationality—more than half the global total in recent

Where do these babies come from? As international
adoptions have flourished, so has evidence that babies in many
countries are being systematically bought, coerced, and stolen away
from their birth families. Nearly half the 40 countries listed by the
U.S. State Department as the top sources for international adoption
over the past 15 years—places such as Belarus, Brazil, Ethiopia,
Honduras, Peru, and Romania—have at least temporarily halted adoptions
or been prevented from sending children to the United States because of
serious concerns about corruption and kidnapping. And yet when a
country is closed due to corruption, many adoption agencies simply
transfer their clients’ hopes to the next “hot” country. That country
abruptly experiences a spike in infants and toddlers adopted
overseas—until it too is forced to shut its doors.

To complicate matters further, while international adoption has
become an industry driven by money, it is also charged with strong
emotions. Many adoption agencies and adoptive parents passionately
insist that crooked practices are not systemic, but tragic, isolated
cases. Arrest the bad guys, they say, but let the “good” adoptions
continue. However, remove cash from the adoption chain, and, outside of
China, the number of healthy babies needing Western homes all but
disappears. Nigel Cantwell, a Geneva-based consultant on child
protection policy, has seen the dangerous influence of money on
adoptions in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where he has helped
reform corrupt adoption systems. In these regions, healthy children age
3 and younger can easily be adopted in their own countries, he says. I
asked him how many healthy babies in those regions would be available
for international adoption if money never exchanged hands. “I would
hazard a guess at zero,” he replied.

The Myth of Supply

adoption wasn’t always a demand-driven industry. Half a century ago, it
was primarily a humanitarian effort for children orphaned by conflict.
In 1955, news spread that Bertha and Henry Holt, an evangelical couple
from Oregon, had adopted eight Korean War orphans, and families across
the United States expressed interest in following their example. Since
then, international adoption has become increasingly popular in
Australia, Canada, Europe, and the United States. Americans adopted
more than 20,000 foreign children in 2006 alone, up from just 8,987 in
1995. Half a dozen European countries regularly bring home more
foreign-born children per capita than does the United States. Today,
Canada, France, Italy, Spain, and the United States account for 4 out
of every 5 international adoptions.

Changes in Western demography explain much of the growth. Thanks to
contraception, abortion, and delayed marriages, the number of unplanned
births in most developed countries has declined in recent decades. Some
women who delay having children discover they’ve outwaited their
fertility; others have difficulty conceiving from the beginning. Still
others adopt for religious reasons, explaining that they’ve been called
to care for children in need. In the United States, a motive beyond
demography is the notion that international adoption is somehow
“safer”—more predictable and more likely to end in success—than many
domestic adoptions, where there’s an outsized fear of a birth mother’s
last-minute change of heart. Add an ocean of distance, and the idea
that needy children abound in poor countries, and that risk seems to

But international adoptions are no less risky;
they’re simply less regulated. Just as companies outsource industry to
countries with lax labor laws and low wages, adoptions have moved to
states with few laws about the process. Poor, illiterate birthparents
in the developing world simply have fewer protections than their
counterparts in the United States, especially in countries where human
trafficking and corruption are rampant. And too often, these imbalances
are overlooked on the adopting end. After all, one country after
another has continued to supply what adoptive parents want most.

reality, there are very few young, healthy orphans available for
adoption around the world. Orphans are rarely healthy babies; healthy
babies are rarely orphaned. “It’s not really true,” says Alexandra
Yuster, a senior advisor on child protection with UNICEF, “that there
are large numbers of infants with no homes who either will be in
institutions or who need intercountry adoption.”

That assertion runs counter to the story line that has long been marketed to Americans and other Westerners, who have been trained by images of destitution in developing countries and the seemingly endless flow of daughters from China to believe that millions of orphaned babies around the world desperately need homes. UNICEF itself is partly responsible for this erroneous assumption. The organization’s statistics on orphans and institutionalized children are widely quoted to justify the need for international adoption. In 2006, UNICEF reported an estimated 132 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. But the organization’s definition of "orphan" includes children who have lost just one parent, either to desertion or death. Just 10 percent of the total-13 million children-have lost both parents, and most of these live with extended family. They are also older: By UNICEF’s own estimate, 95 percent of orphans are older than 5. In other words, UNICEF’s "millions of orphans" are not healthy babies doomed to institutional misery unless Westerners adopt and save them. Rather, they are mostly older children living with extended families who need financial support.

The exception is China, where the country’s three-decades-old one-child policy, now being loosened, has created an unprecedented number of girls available for adoption. But even this flow of daughters is finite; China has far more hopeful foreigners looking to adopt a child than it has orphans it is willing to send overseas. In 2005, foreign parents adopted nearly 14,500 Chinese children. That was far fewer than the number of Westerners who wanted to adopt; adoption agencies report many more clients waiting in line. And taking those children home has gotten harder; in 2007, China’s central adoption authority sharply reduced the number of children sent abroad, possibly because of the country’s growing sex imbalance, declining poverty, and scandals involving child trafficking for foreign adoption. Prospective foreign parents today are strictly judged by their age, marital history, family size, income, health, and even weight. That means that if you are single, gay, fat, old, less than well off, too often divorced, too recently married, taking antidepressants, or already have four children, China will turn you away. Even those allowed a spot in line are being told they might wait three to four years before they bring home a child. That has led many prospective parents to shop around for a country that puts fewer barriers between them and their children-as if every country were China, but with fewer onerous regulations.

One such country has been Guatemala, which in 2006 and 2007 was the No. 2 exporter of children to the United States. Between 1997 and 2006, the number of Guatemalan children adopted by Americans more than quadrupled, to more than 4,500 annually. Incredibly, in 2006, American parents adopted one of every 110 Guatemalan children born. In 2007, nearly 9 out of 10 children adopted were less than a year old; almost half were younger than 6 months old. "Guatemala is a perfect case study of how international adoption has become a demand-driven business," says Kelley McCreery Bunkers, a former consultant with UNICEF Guatemala. The country’s adoption process was "an industry developed to meet the needs of adoptive families in developed countries, specifically the United States."

Because the vast majority of the country’s institutionalized children are not healthy, adoptable babies, almost none has been adopted abroad. In the fall of 2007, a survey conducted by the Guatemalan government, UNICEF, and the international child welfare and adoption agency Holt International Children’s Services found approximately 5,600 children and adolescents in Guatemalan institutions. More than 4,600 of these children were age 4 or older. Fewer than 400 were under a year old. And yet in 2006, more than 270 Guatemalan babies, all younger than 12 months, were being sent to the United States each month. These adopted children were simply not coming from the country’s institutions. Last year, 98 percent of U.S. adoptions from Guatemala were "relinquishments": Babies who had never seen the inside of an institution were signed over directly to a private attorney who approved the international adoption-for a very considerable fee-without any review by a judge or social service agency.

So, where had some of these adopted babies come from? Consider the case of Ana Escobar, a young Guatemalan woman who in March 2007 reported to police that armed men had locked her in a closet in her family’s shoe store and stolen her infant. After a 14-month search, Escobar found her daughter in pre-adoption foster care, just weeks before the girl was to be adopted by a couple from Indiana. DNA testing showed the toddler to be Escobar’s child. In a similar case from 2006, Raquel Par, another Guatemalan woman, reported being drugged while waiting for a bus in Guatemala City, waking to find her year-old baby missing. Three months later, Par learned her daughter had been adopted by an American couple.

On Jan. 1, 2008, Guatemala closed its doors to American adoptions so that the government could reform the broken process. Britain, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain all stopped accepting adoptions from the country several years earlier, citing trafficking concerns. But more than 2,280 American adoptions from the country are still being processed, albeit with additional safeguards. Stolen babies have already been found in that queue; Guatemalan authorities expect more.

Guatemala’s example is extreme; it is widely considered to have the world’s most notorious record of corruption in foreign adoption. But the same troubling trends have emerged, on smaller scales, in more than a dozen other countries, including Albania, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Liberia, Peru, and Vietnam. The pattern suggests that the supply of adoptable babies rises to meet foreign demand-and disappears when Western cash is no longer available. For instance, in December 2001, the U.S. immigration service stopped processing adoption visas from Cambodia, citing clear evidence that children were being acquired illicitly, often against their parents’ wishes. That year, Westerners adopted more than 700 Cambodian children; of the 400 adopted by Americans, more than half were less than 12 months old. But in 2005, a study of Cambodia’s orphanage population, commissioned by the U.S. Agency for International Development, found only a total of 132 children who were less than a year old-fewer babies than Westerners had been adopting every three months a few years before.

Even countries with large populations, such as India, rarely have healthy infants and toddlers who need foreign parents. India’s large and growing middle class, at home and in the diaspora, faces fertility issues like those of their developed-world counterparts. They too are looking for healthy babies to adopt; some experts think that these millions of middle-class families could easily absorb all available babies. The country’s pervasive poverty does leave many children fending for themselves on the street. But "kids are not on the street alone at the age of 2," Cantwell, the child protection consultant, says. "They are 5 or 6, and they aren’t going to be adopted." That’s partly because most of these children still have family ties and therefore are not legally available for adoption, and partly because they would have difficultly adjusting to a middle-class European or North American home. Many of these children are deeply marked by abuse, crime, and poverty, and few prospective parents are prepared to adopt them.

Surely, though, prospective parents can at least feel secure that their child is truly an orphan in need of a home if they receive all the appropriate legal papers? Unfortunately, no.

Nursery Crimes


In many countries, it can be
astonishingly easy to fabricate a history for a young child, and in the
process, manufacture an orphan. The birth mothers are often poor,
young, unmarried, divorced, or otherwise lacking family protection. The
children may be born into a locally despised minority group that is
afforded few rights. And for enough money, someone will separate these
little ones from their vulnerable families, turning them into “paper
orphans” for lucrative export.

Some manufactured orphans are indeed found in what Westerners call
“orphanages.” But these establishments often serve less as homes to
parentless children and more as boarding schools for poor youngsters.
Many children are there only temporarily, seeking food, shelter, and
education while their parents, because of poverty or illness, cannot
care for them. Many families visit their children, or even bring them
home on weekends, until they can return home permanently. In 2005, when
the Hannah B. Williams Orphanage in Monrovia, Liberia, was closed
because of shocking living conditions, 89 of the 102 “orphans” there
returned to their families. In Vietnam, “rural families in particular
will put their babies into these orphanages that are really extended
day-care centers during the harvest season,” says a U.S. Embassy
spokeswoman in Hanoi. In some cases, unscrupulous orphanage directors,
local officials, or other operators persuade illiterate birth families
to sign documents that relinquish those children, who are then sent
abroad for adoption, never to be seen again by their bereft families.

Other children are located through similarly nefarious means. Western adoption agencies often contract with in-country facilitators-sometimes orphanage directors, sometimes freelancers-and pay per-child fees for each healthy baby adopted. These facilitators, in turn, subcontract with child finders, often for sums in vast excess of local wages. These paydays give individuals a significant financial incentive to find adoptable babies at almost any cost. In Guatemala, where the GDP per capita is $4,700 a year, child finders often earned $6,000 to $8,000 for each healthy, adoptable infant. In many cases, child finders simply paid poor families for infants. A May 2007 report on adoption trafficking by the Hague Conference on Private International Law reported poor Guatemalan families being paid beween $300 and several thousand dollars per child.

Sometimes, medical professionals serve as child finders to obtain infants. In Vietnam, for instance, a finder’s fee for a single child can easily dwarf a nurse’s $50-a-month salary. Some nurses and doctors coerce birth mothers into giving up their children by offering them a choice: pay outrageously inflated hospital bills or relinquish their newborns. Illiterate new mothers are made to sign documents they can’t read. In August 2008, the U.S. State Department released a warning that birth certificates issued by Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City-which in 2007 had reported 200 births a day, and an average of three abandoned babies per 100 births-were "unreliable." Most of the hospital’s "abandoned" babies were sent to the city’s Tam Binh orphanage, from which many Westerners have adopted. (Tu Du Hospital is where Angelina Jolie’s Vietnamese-born son was reportedly abandoned one month after his birth; he was at Tam Binh when she adopted him.) According to Linh Song, executive director of Ethica, an American nonprofit devoted to promoting ethical adoption, a provincial hospital’s chief obstetrician told her in 2007 "that he provided 10 ethnic minority infants to [an] orphanage [for adoption] in return for an incubator."

To smooth the adoption process, officials in the children’s home
countries may be bribed to create false identity documents. Consular
officials for the adopting countries generally accept whatever
documents they receive. But if a local U.S. Embassy has seen a series
of worrisome referrals—say, a sudden spike in healthy infants coming
from the same few orphanages, or a single province sending an unusually
high number of babies with suspiciously similar paperwork—officials may
investigate. But generally, they do not want to obstruct adoptions of
genuinely needy children or get in the way of people longing for a
child. However, many frequently doubt that the adoptions crossing their
desks are completely aboveboard. “I believe in intercountry adoption
very strongly,” says Katherine Monahan, a U.S. State Department
official who has overseen scores of U.S. adoptions from around the
world. “[But] I worry that there were many children that could have
stayed with their families if we could have provided them with even a
little economic assistance.” One U.S. official told me that when
embassy staff in a country that sent more than 1,000 children overseas
last year were asked which adoption visas they felt uneasy about, they
replied: almost all of them.

Most of the Westerners involved with foreign adoption agencies-like business people importing foreign sneakers-can plausibly deny knowledge of unethical or unseemly practices overseas. They don’t have to know. Willful ignorance allowed Lauryn Galindo, a former hula dancer from the United States, to collect more than $9 million in adoption fees over several years for Cambodian infants and toddlers. Between 1997 and 2001, Americans adopted 1,230 children from Cambodia; Galindo said she was involved in 800 of the adoptions. (Galindo reportedly delivered Angelina Jolie’s Cambodian child to her movie set in Africa.) But in a two-year probe beginning in 2002, U.S. investigators alleged that Galindo paid Cambodian child finders to purchase, defraud, coerce, or steal children from their families, and conspired to create false identity documents for the children. Galindo later served federal prison time on charges of visa fraud and money laundering, but not trafficking. "You can get away with buying babies around the world as a United States citizen," says Richard Cross, a senior special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who investigated Galindo. "It’s not a crime."

Rocking the Cradle

Buying a child abroad is
something most prospective parents want no part of. So, how can it be
prevented? As international adoption has grown in the past decade, the
ad hoc approach of closing some corrupt countries to adoption and
shifting parents’ hopes (and money) to the next destination has failed.
The agencies that profit from adoption appear to willfully ignore how
their own payments and fees are causing both the corruption and the

Some countries that send children overseas for
adoption have kept the process lawful and transparent from nearly the
beginning and their model is instructive. Thailand, for instance, has a
central government authority that counsels birth mothers and offers
some families social and economic support so that poverty is never a
reason to give up a child. Other countries, such as Paraguay and
Romania, reformed their processes after sharp surges in shady adoptions
in the 1990s. But those reforms were essentially to stop international
adoptions almost entirely. In 1994, Paraguay sent 483 children to the
United States; last year, the country sent none.

For a more
comprehensive solution, the best hope may be the Hague Convention on
Intercountry Adoption, an international agreement designed to prevent
child trafficking for adoption. On April 1, 2008, the United States
formally entered the agreement, which has 75 other signatories. In
states that send children overseas and are party to the convention,
such as Albania, Bulgaria, Colombia, and the Philippines,
Hague-compatible reforms have included a central government authority
overseeing child welfare, efforts to place needy children with extended
families and local communities first, and limits on the number of
foreign adoption agencies authorized to work in the country. The
result, according to experts, has been a sharp decline in baby buying,
fraud, coercion, and kidnapping for adoption.

In adopting
countries, the convention requires a central authority—in the United
States’ case, the State Department—to oversee international adoption.
The State Department empowers two nonprofit organizations to certify
adoption agencies; if shady practices, fraud, financial improprieties,
or links with trafficking come to light, accreditation can be revoked.
Already, the rules appear to be having some effect: Several U.S.
agencies long dogged by rumors of bad practices have been denied
accreditation; some have shut their doors. But no international treaty
is perfect, and the Hague Convention is no exception. Many of the
countries sending their children to the West, including Ethiopia,
Russia, South Korea, Ukraine, and Vietnam, have yet to join the

Perhaps most important, more effective regulations would strictly
limit the amount of money that changes hands. Per-child fees could be
outlawed. Payments could be capped to cover only legitimate costs such
as medical care, food, and clothing for the children. And crucially,
fees must be kept proportionate with the local economies. “Unless you
control the money, you won’t control the corruption,” says Thomas
DiFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children’s
Services, which represents more than 200 international adoption
organizations. “If we have the greatest laws and the greatest
regulations but are still sending $20,000 anywhere—well, you can bypass
any system with enough cash.”

Improved regulations will protect
not only the children being adopted and their birth families, but also
the consumers: hopeful parents. Adopting a child—like giving birth—is
an emotional experience; it can be made wrenching by the abhorrent
realization that a child believed to be an orphan simply isn’t. One
American who adopted a little girl from Cambodia in 2002 wept as she
spoke at an adoption ethics conference in October 2007 about such a
discovery. “I was told she was an orphan,” she said. “One year after
she came home, and she could speak English well enough, she told me
about her mommy and daddy and her brothers and her sisters.”

we recognize that behind the altruistic veneer, international adoption
has become an industry—one that is often highly lucrative and sometimes
corrupt—many more adoption stories will have unhappy endings. Unless
adoption agencies are held to account, more young children will be
wrongfully taken from their families. And unless those desperate to
become parents demand reform, they will continue—wittingly or not—to
pay for wrongdoing. “Credulous Westerners eager to believe that they
are saving children are easily fooled into accepting laundered
children,” writes David Smolin, a law professor and advocate for
international adoption reform. “For there is no fool like the one who
wants to be fooled.”

This article is republished from "The Lie We Love" in Foreign Policy. You can learn more about international adoption, and view an interactive map, at Brandeis University’s Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism.

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  • invalid-0

    While international adoption has its place *if* it fully respects the human rights of all parties involved–it is important to heed your questionings of why people from the well-off world turn to it so readily and uncritically.

    If one really wants to help children and families in the Two Thirds World, then often the most beneficial action from *their* standpoints is humanitarian assistance and advocacy of long term institutional changes that will prevent families from being separated when they do not want to be.

    It is inhumane that the practice and pursuit of adoption so often reinforces race, class, ablist, and other biases–however conscious or unconscious–rather than serving as an opportunity to confront and leave them behind.

    What might happen if prospective adoptive parents, along with the institutions that work with them, seriously dismantled these prejudices?

    I strongly suspect that, among other things, there would be way fewer kids in this country waiting for adoptive families.

    if anyone reading this is interested in adopting waiting kids, please visit AdoptUSKids and other resources listed at:
    (there’s no money for me in mentioning this, by the way)

    • helend22

      The Hague Adoption Convention changes the immigration component of the
      intercountry adoption process. Previously, there was one procedure and
      one set of forms that governed the immigration component of the
      intercountry adoption process. One of the changes resulting from the
      implementation of the Hague Adoption Convention is that there are now
      two separate immigration processes for intercountry adoption, each with
      a distinct set of forms (Hague and non-Hague). The correct process to
      follow and the correct forms to use is determined by whether the
      country from which the child is to be adopted is a Convention country
      or a non-Convention country. Accordingly, prospective adoptive
      parent(s) must first determine the country from which they will adopt
      before they begin the immigration process.payday loans cash advance

  • invalid-0

    I am sorry to inform you that we adopted our little girl in March 2008 from Guatemala at an orphanage called Hannah’s Hope which is run by my agency in Portland, Oregon. We got to meet the birth mother, had lunch with her and talked to her for about an hour. So as far as my baby being stolen from her mother you are dead wrong. We still send pictures to the birth mother in Guatemala and even got her a Christmas present. She is very precious to us and we love her. I know my agency is running a moral and ethical orphanage and there is no corruption. They even housed the pregnant women that were wishing to have their baby adopted. They took care of them and even helped them after the baby was born. These birth mother are very aware of what they are doing. They could even change their mind at any time during their stay as they received prenatal vitamins, a good diet, and counseling to make sure this is what they wanted to do was give their child up for adoption.
    We will stay in touch with birth mother and if my daughter wishes to visit Guatemala one day that will be fine with me.

    • invalid-0

      How much did it cost you?

  • invalid-0

    You state: “But many of the infants and toddlers being adopted by Western parents today are not orphans at all.”

    Isn’t it possible for a child who is not a technical orphan, meaning at least one parent is still living, to be eligible for adoption? Doesn’t an abandoned child have as much right to a family as an orphan?

    There are definitely instances of corruption within international adoption…just as there is in an sector of our lives. Immoral crooks are everywhere, and the process of adopting a child(both international and domestic) is not immune. Please, please don’t paint all adoptions with the same brush.

  • invalid-0

    There are so many flaws in your allegations I can’t possibly enumerate all. One glaring one: Many corrupt parties are making huge amounts of money. I adopted 2 children from Russia and have since volunteered to help a number of adoption agencies place children and raise money. This is not big business by any standards I’m familiar with. No one is making huge profits, including overseas orphanages that do in fact receive a certain amount of money in the process. I would encourage you to go visit a few, then report on the excessive amounts of money that are going towards their efforts to care for destitute children. Your litany of statistics is an ignorant shroud over the singular realities of countless children who are flourishing in adoptive homes. And many were not adopted as healthy infants. Many were older children who are just as deserving and adoptable as infants. The children I adopted at ages 5 and 6, and many that I’ve met since would be languishing far below our poverty level with no parental nurturing, education or hope if they had not been adopted by Americans. The stigma against adoption in their native countries would have made domestic placement highly unlikely. There is much more to this story than you have reported.

  • invalid-0

    What a sad and painful thing to ponder. You mean all those babies in need of homes had homes?? (That is tongue and cheek) Not many, certainly the ones waiting or ones who adopted from the example countries will want to admit that this could be true. To Sharon who argues the money making — please note the writer gave stats and wrote regarding the healthy infant demand. The money is made there. He was not talking, as your case, about older children or special needs infants. He gave very conviencing and scary numbers of demand and supply. I agree, even without stats, that if money were taken out of the picture the picture would change — drastically. It is absurd that adoptions can cost 20, 30, 60,000 U.S. dollars — think about that — who is pocketing that kind of money? Think of the poorer countries and imagine what man’s mind will think when he hears how much money he can make if he can provide just one of those wanted babies. Just recently in the news was the case of the couple that actually backed out of the adoption as they noted the irregularites and the stand-in “birthmom.” Adoption should foremost be — Finding a home for the child. NOT finding a child for the home.
    We need to be very aware of this and can thank Graff for helping to provide information to the uninformed.

  • invalid-0


  • invalid-0

    Your two stories about the stolen Guatemalan babies appear to be impossible. In Guatemala two DNA tests are required before an adoption can be finalized. The first test is done with both the birth mother and the child present. If the the DNA does not match the adoption does not continue. The second test is done when the rest of the adoption is complete and compares the DNA of the child from the first test to the child being tested at the end of the adoption to be sure the babies were not switched. So I am not how you can explain either of the stories above. I find it incredible that you write an entire article with an intense focus on Guatemala and NEVER mention the DNA testing.

  • invalid-0

    Your stories about the Guatemala adoptions are total bunk. I can say this because the Guatemala process has required a DNA test for quite a while now. There has to be a DNA match for an adoption to proceed. The birth mother has a government-issued ID and it has her picture on it. The pictures of the person with the DNA has to match the pictures. In the last year, the US government has requires a SECOND DNA test, at the end of the process to make sure that the person who is giving up the baby is the mother and still wants to give the child up. In addition, the birth mother has to sign off on the adoption at four separate occasions, showing her intention to give the child up for adoption. So your concentions about BABY SNATCHING and COERSION are total hooey. Because of this, you have a moral and ethical responsibility to remove this article and get your facts straight before reposting it.

    As to baby BUYING, I have no idea if money changes hands in these situations in Guatemala. I suspect it probably does. In fact, for a woman born into poverty that we in the United States can’t even imagine, I would hope so. But you haven’t written an alarmist article about surrogates in the United States, where money clearly changes hands for a woman bearing a child. Why then here? Why is it bad for a poor woman in Guatemala to make that decision but a rich college student in the United States, it is OK? Why don’t you call for banning paying women in the United States from getting paid for bearing someone a child?

    As to your contention that government intervention is the best approach, that is an extremely United States-centric perspective. In most of the world, the government is corrupt and incompetent. Romania did such a good job of government-run orphanages and adoption programs that we should export the idea that the government should be invoved to other countries?

    You owe it to everyone involved to remove this exceedingly incorrect article and do your research before posting anything on this subject.

  • invalid-0

    As the grandmother to two beautiful granddaughters who were both adopted from Guatemala I too take great offense to this article. My daughter went to great lengths to insure a legal and ethical process. Our entire family love these little girls with our heart and souls. I get so upset thinking about the time when they may be made to feel like they somehow really do not deserve to be here because of articles like this. Do you have adopted children? Do you ever think of the pain or damage you could cause these children and their families. I`m sorry but I JUST DO NOT THINK THAT IT IS SO TERRIBLE FOR PEOPLE WHO TRULY WANT TO BE PARENTS TO DO SO. As one of the previous comments stated why is it o.k. for Americans to be surrogates and be praised for being so unselfish but a woman from a third world country may be paid something and that is termed as baby buying. As is said so many times in all adoptions it is a truly unselfish act of love for the child. Why is it so hard to believe that the women in these countries are any different. I am sure that many of them would like to keep their children but recognize the fact that the best future for their children may in fact lie somewhere else. Again in America this is considered an un selfish act but not the same anywhere else. My grandchildren are biological sister. My daughter do not intend to adopt again but when she learned that her daughter had a biological sister she knew she must keep these children together if there was any possible way to do so. It was not easy because she now has children that are 1,2 and 3 years old and their lives are very hectic and their money is very tight but they love every day ot and would never ever consider having done anything differently. As my daughter says all the time. every single day since she brought her first daughter home from Guatemala when she wakes up every morning it`s just like Christmas because these children are the best presents anyone could ever hope for

  • invalid-0

    WOW!!! The blanket statements in this article are amazinging, amazingly unfair to every adoptive parent and child.

    I would be interested to see you return to Guatemala (if in fact you have been there to begin with) to see what the state of the children is now that the US has stopped adoptions from Guatemala and now have mothers/families that are unable to care for them and really no social system in place to take these children in. I am the mother of 2 Beautiful children adopted from Guatemala, I want YOU to imagine trying to work for $60 or $80 a MONTH while supporting yourself, a child and pay for daycare for said child. This is the “salary” the Birth Mothers of my children made. I know for a fact (after speaking to her personally) that my son’s Birth Mother loved him with all of her heart and in that same heart she knew that she was not able to care for him). That is an unbelievable act of selflessness in my opinion. But it seems unselfish and an act of love only if it is someone in the States doing the same thing????

    Shame on you for doubting either the birth parents or adoptive parents love for these wonderful children, but mostly shame on you for writting something so untrue and misinformed that our children have the potential to see…

  • invalid-0

    That is the question I get every time I tell any of my medical school classmates that my fiance and I would like to be adoptive parents some day. Even a classmate who was adopted from China as a child asked the same thing. In each case, I am both disappointed and concerned that no one knows there are children in America that need families and take the time to educate them about this issue AND about how America is feeding into pay-for-children conditions throughout the world. Additionally, as a Black woman, I am deeply concerned about the disproportionate numbers of Black children, especially boys, that are in the system (ref: Dorothy Roberts’ Shattered Bonds – The Color of Child Welfare).

    I agree that there is far to much uncertainty, fear, politics, and capitalism in the current arrangement. This article and others confirms it.

  • invalid-0

    I’m an adoptive parent of two children who discovered widespread fraud and corruption on both the Russian and American side. I spent years in Russia fighting for legitimate families only to come to the conclusion that unless you are directly involved in the “business,” you have no idea just how corrupt it is. Agencies spin a good story but the fact is they need your money and their coordinators (in the foreign countries) need, want, fight, lie and are willing to kill for your money. Most would be horrified of the reality of their own adoptions. It’s a very broken system. I love my children more than anything but this is very much a business of money and deception no matter how ‘good’ you think ‘your’ agency and coordinators are- wake up! This has nothing to do with the children. It’s all about the bottom line. Do you not ever wonder why the abortion rate is higher than the birth rate in Russia and yet, they claim to NEED YOU to adopt? Think about it. And I’ll add one more thing: I am absolutely appalled by Russian racism and the Americans who support. The baby homes are full of minority Tajik and the like babies with black hair and dark eyes but they’re rarely referred to Americans and if they are, they’re rarely accepted. Most will end up victims of Russia’s insidious sex trade. One last time, wake up people! You’re not some noble savior for adopting unless you’re willing to face the reality of the situation. You’re merely adding to the suffering-

    • invalid-0

      Isn’t it likely that a high abortion rate indicates a high rate of unwanted pregnancies? Isn’t it possible that some of those come late in pregnancy? (Marriage or relationship failures being the easiest examples) Whatever your beliefs on abortion, there are still plenty of people who morally cannot have one themselves. This makes giving the child up the only real option.

  • invalid-0

    Adding to my above comment, I would just like to thank E.J. Graff for speaking the truth! More people should know the reality.

    If you wish, I would be happy to share my story which has many witnesses- You have my email. Thank you.

    If you want to help children in Russia, don’t adopt from there. Fight the blatant violation of human rights going on in Russia. Fight for oversight and transparency but by adopting, you are only contributing to the problem. And don’t think for a second because your adoption was long and difficult that it was somehow legitimate. It’s simply another game played by Russian bureaucrats. It’s horribly political and bloody at the ground level.

  • invalid-0

    And one last comment to those who are outraged by this article: There is a reason it’s called ‘The lies we love.’ It’s because when it comes to adoption no one wants to believe that they are part of something much sinister. I’m telling you it’s a reality. It’s based on a game of survival and it is a business. That in no way diminishes the validity of your child. It’s a reality which must be faced. For years, Guatemala mysteriously had a much higher birth rate and adoption rate than its surrounding countries. There was a reason for this. There is a reason it has been closed. It’s not some grand conspiracy. It’s an attempt to protect women from being turned into baby making machines for childless Americans. Wanting to adopt is a wonderful thing but just because you’re an adoptive parent as I am does not mean International Adoption is not corrupt to the core. It is and has been and American Agencies are equally as guilty of feeding this corruption. Don’t attack the messenger. Look deeper if you truly care about children.

  • invalid-0

    The author has it right. And as we all become more aware of what everyone else is doing (thanks to the internet and other resources) we’re able to learn just how corrupt the system is. I’ve seen adoptive parents insist their own agency is not “one of the bad guys” and they’ll fight anyone who says otherwise and say “there’s no proof”. Then you show them proof in the form of a video tape of their agency’s rep blatantly buying a baby and the parent simply switches gears (blames someone else for it or maybe says the rep isn’t officially representing the agency). Always excuses. We want so badly to parent a needy child and are willing to dedicate our lives to it. I think this strong desire gets in the way of what we’d normally do — refuse to be part of a corrupt system. Some try to intellectualize the matter and, when talking about a particular country with an adoption system so corrupt that adoptions are discontinued from the country b/c of stuff that includes babies taken in the middle of the night from their parents, they will say stuff like “it’s a balancing test” on what to do. Talk to the mother whose baby was taken from them by a government official who said they were doing a weekend’s worth of special infant care at a government center and the baby was promptly sold to a family in the U.S. Ask that mother how she feels about “balancing tests.”

  • invalid-0

    My daughter was born in Guatemala. It was not fast, easy or any of the other things you say. We are not “wealthy westerners”. We struggled, saved and borrowed to complete this adoption. Adoption cost alot of money—no matter where you adopt from! People provide services, and receive compensation for those services. During the year long process, much of our money went to care for our daughter since there are no government programs to do this. Our daughter was not “stolen”. We met her birth mother and have continued contact. She chose adoption because she had lost 4 children in 4 years due to the fact that she could not feed them or provide needed medical care. She could not bear to watch this happen again. We would love to be able to help her financialy, but cannot for two reasons. One, she fears that she would be killed if anyone knew that she had any money, and two, it is not allowed as it would look like we were “paying her for her child”. Yes, our daughter did have one living parent–a desperate parent with nowhere to turn. Her choices were adoption, or abandonment. She made the only choice a loving mother could make. I challenge anyone to go to Guatemala and see first hand the number of street children–with NO PARENTS—who are begging at street corners and live in the city dump. Until you have seen it and experienced it, please don’t try to pass judgment. We are fortunate that we have resources and avenues in this country. People in these poverty stricken countries have no hope or help. The author is not informing the public of a horrible truth, but rather hurting the small innocent ones. Because of garbage like this, my child will be labeled and looked at differently her entire life.

  • invalid-0

    I will admit at first your “article” bothered me and even angered me. My Guatemalan born daughter sleeps upstairs right now and she wasn’t stolen nor was her birth mother deceived in her adoption. The agency we chose, All God’s Chldren, Intl. is not out for money and has never been a part of this horrible problem you wrote about. They work to help the orphans living in horrible conditions as well as the families which are part of their world. Some of the children they touch are adopted by loving families but some are left behind and AGCI is dedicated to helping them as well. Before you start bashing every agency in the country I suggest you do some more research and look at some agencies and organizations doing wonderful things around the world to help children and families.

    The arrogant tone your article took was enough to make me stop reading but I read on to only be amazed by the falsehoods you included. But the anger is past and now I just feel sorry for you. How sad that you’ve used your intelligence and education to throw another stone at adoptive parents who are only seeking to help one child. We can’t change the world but together we are all trying to change the lives of our children.

    My daughter will not end up in the dumps of Guatemala City. Do some more research–that’s where the infants are now being found, often dead or dying since Guatemalan adoptions have halted to be “fixed”. If you truly believe there is no orphan problem, I suggest you do some traveling and start looking but please don’t write anything more that will affect my daughter and how my family is perceived. I pray that perhaps you’ll be touched by the wonder of adoption in some way so you can see how offensive and wrong your statements are.

  • invalid-0

    Speaking both as an adoptive parent and an adoption reform advocate, I’ll say it. EJ Graff was right.

    International adoption is not a fix for a country’s “orphan problem”. International adoption became a human brokering business, fueled by both the adoption myth AND the 2000s credit boom.

    Were most women FORCED into “relinquishing” their children? Were they poor? Did they receive proper compensation for handing over their children? Speaking for myself, I much rather would have given our son’s first mother $10K in American currency than the baby brokering facilitator we used in Bulgaria. Not to mention more than $5,000 we gave to the useless adoption provider in Medina, Ohio.

    Far too many of us, myself included, literally rushed into this “miracle” without fully checking into where the children were coming from. Were they “abandoned” in Guatemala? Or had a Buscadore given a little “incentive” for a poor woman to relinquish her child? Were the children outright stolen? It’s happened in Guatemala. What sort of post-adoption counseling were these foreign first mothers given, if any? How well does that Guatemalan attorney live in Guatemalan City?

    We can’t shake our fingers at “those” people for “saving” the babies. Let’s look at ourselves first. If we weren’t ready, willing & able to spend the kind of money I mentioned above, there would be fewer children to adopt. We created the demand which caused the supply to increase. We’re not saviors for doing this.

  • invalid-0

    Has anyone considered that right here, in this country, women chose to give their children up for adoption daily? For whatever reason—too young, not able to support them, boyfriend ran away, on drugs…..Why are the women in other countries not allowed the same freedom to make a choice for themselves and their child? When family members, friends and well meaning individuals convince a woman here at home to give her child away, is she not being unfairly coerced? Why the double standard? Does money not change hands in a domestic adoption? I believe it does. Why does the world want to condem these poor mother’s who are trying to ensure their child’s survival? Let’s get off our high horse and stop judging unless you have walked a mile in their shoes. We sure are quick to believe whatever we read or are told. Unless you have been there, done that, don’t pretend you know what is involved. And yes….the statistics in this article are definately skewed. Just do some research on your own. Oh, and by the way….the attorneys in Guatemala are NOT living on the high horse–far from it. I doubt any of you would even think of living in the homes that most of them live in. It really is sad that so many just gloss over the facts.

  • emily-douglas

    Thanks, commenters, for weighing in on this piece with personal stories and your own observations about international adoption. Clearly, personal experiences with adoption differ, and my perception is that the author in no way seeks to devalue the bonds between adoptive parents and children or what adoptive parents can offer children (and these bonds are a valuable part of this conversation, so I greatly appreciate you all contributing).  Rather, EJ is offering a critique of abuses that can and do happen on a systemic level in a situation where levels of accountability can vary and adopting families can have incomplete information about the child they are adopting. 

    We’ve asked EJ Graff to respond to the comments about the requirements for DNA testing in Guatemala, so stay tuned for more information.

  • invalid-0

    As Emily said, *of course* not every adoption is corrupt. The families and children are innocents in this process: I wish only joy, love, healthy, and happiness to every family, however it may have been formed–love, adoption, biology, remarriage, friendship!

    But I have read many, many accounts (and seen the pictures) of the underside of adoptions. Showing how the system worked when there was buying, coercion, and kidnapping struck me as a necessary task.
    In Guatemala, the corruption has been documented very fully. Please see some of what we found at Read the news stories especially. Ana Escobar’s story has been covered worldwide; she was a fierce crusader, giving up her entire life to haunt the "hogars" and social service ministries until she found her child. The DNA tests have been shown to have been fraudulent at times, with false "birthmothers" coming forward in the interviews, for pay. For instance, the doctor who signed Ana Escobar’s child’s test, Dr. Aida Gutierrez, has been shown to have falsified other tests; see this AP story: Dr. Gutierrez certified hundreds of adoptions and is now under criminal investigation.
    The documentation in Guatemala was so in-depth that no other Western country would adopt from there–Canada, England, Germany, the Netherlands, and other major adopting countries closed their doors to those adoptions. A number of international and local human rights groups were standing up for the impoverished birthfamilies in Guatemala: the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, Casa Alianza, the Roman Catholic Archbishop’s Office, the Myrna Mack Survivors Foundation, and others.

    Here’s a snippet from our website, below. See the site itself for the footnotes and the documentation:
    A great deal of money was at stake for those who profited from Guatemala-to-US adoptions. By the time Guatemala closed to U.S. adoption, the notarios (who had no Guatemalan court supervising them, and could solicit and sign off on adoptions without oversight) were charging $35,000 or more per adopted child, plus monthly “foster care” fees while the children were housed in private “hogars” or foster homes between families—foster homes managed by the attorney. That’s an astonishing amount of money per child in a country where 56 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, on less than $500/year, and where the per capita GDP is $4700/year.
    Consider that U.S. per capita GDP is $46,000/year, or roughly ten times that of Guatemala. Imagine paying an American attorney $350,000, a roughly comparable amount, per adoption—and allowing her, without anyone’s oversight, to oversee both the birthmother’s decision to relinquish the child and the purchaser’s adoption. “Think of the amount of organized crime that would be out there!” said Jeffrey Klinke, a former journalist who has been keeping a close eye on intercountry adoption since his niece was adopted from Nepal. “And [the U.S.] is a country with a strong legal tradition and law enforcement tradition. Then translate that to a third world country with limited law enforcement: What would happen?”

    Additionally, here
    in the US, we have a functioning system of laws, regulations, and protections for
    the women who choose to bear a child for someone else, and that that is not
    currently in place for poor Guatemalan women.

  • invalid-0

    How exactly do you think children are stolen when two DNA tests are required, one by the Guatemalan government and a second by the United States government at two different times? You simply are not correct in these allegations. Also, there are four sign-offs required by the woman who matches the pictures taken at the DNA tests, further verifying her intentions.

    As to money changing hands, do you feel that surrogacy is also evil? Money changes hands there also but instead, it is probably some nice, white college student trying to pay for college. Is it wrong for some woman in a third world, probably without resources, making that same calculation as that college student and also choosing to have a child? You are very patronizing about women in the Third World, that they cannot make decisions for themselves. That women in Guatemala are somehow incapable of making decisions about their lives and their children that a teenager in the United States can? The Third World is harsh but I trust that women are smart enough to make decisions for their own lives. And if that means having a child to improve the lives of their other children, I respect that harsh decision.

  • invalid-0

    Well I guess I would have to say if you wish love, joy, and happiness to these families you certainly do not portray that in your articles. Just for the record the adoptions in our family do not add up anywhere close to 35.000 and foster care was include in the price. The adoptions have essentially been closed in Guatemala for a year now. Why is it neccessary to still try to discredit these families who I know in their hearts did this for the love of a child. If these adoptions were still ongoing I could justify more articles from people who truly believe the whole system is corrupt. While I do personally believe there were some terrible things that happened I do not believe that this is true in the majority of cases. As one person commented you have cast our families in eyes of other people as at the best, selfish people who are willing to do anything to fulfill their own selfish desires, and at worst people who willing to buy a child and break the law. Reforms are in place stop labeling our children, they do not deserve it

  • invalid-0

    This was a truly interesting article and debate.

    Many commentors expressed the opinion that the poverty of the birth mother is what made her unfit to raise her child.

    Or, others put it another way, that living conditions that are significantly different from Western living conditions make the birth mother unfit to raise her child.

    To me this sounds equivalent to saying “We Westerners deserve your child more than you do” whether because of money, different culture, or different living standards/lifestyle.

    I believe that one of the most fundamental human rights is the right to have and raise your children. I believe that right is the same whether you are wealthy, middle-class, or poor.

    If mothers are forced to give up children because of poverty, to me it seems the solution isn’t to take away their children, which is a violation of their human rights, but to fight to end the poverty. This is of course a long-term goal requiring systematic change. But the mothers who give up children due to desperation are people too. Why not save both the mother AND the child?

    Why does a Westerner’s desire for a baby trump everything?

    BTW, I do believe there are above-board adoptions. I do not “hate” adoption or adoptive parents: I know their hearts are usually in the right place. There are several adopted children in my family, both US and international adoptees. I just want to ask some hard questions, and participate in some important reflection. Thanks!

  • invalid-0

    I’m not sure if you read all the post prior to posting—-because surely you did not read mine and interpret what I said in such a way. Yes, my daughter’s birthmother was extremely poor. She made a CHOICE–along with her mother and sister—to give her child up for adoption. She sought out an attorney to help her. She was not approached by anyone. She had already watched 3 children die because of her poverty, and she did not want it to happen again. I always hear “Why did you not just help the birthmother keep her baby instead of adopting it away from her?”—Consider this..UNICEF lined the pockets of Guatemalan government officials with hundred of thousands of dollars to get the new “laws” passed. Where is UNICEF in trying to educate and give help to these mother’s? When I personally asked a UNICEF official what would happen to the children now, I was told “That is not our primary concern”. WHAT??? If you want to point the finger at corruption, then please look right in your back yard. Also, I have since tried to help the birthmother financially so this would not happen to her again, but she refused the help. In her country, anyone that knew she had any kind of money would kill her for it. Again….until you have lived it, been there, or done that, please don’t sit in your nice house on your computer and pretend to know what is “really” going on.

    • invalid-0

      Hi there. I appreciate your response.

      It seems that the article was well-researched, so if you have some differing statistics, I’m sure the author would appreciate it if you posted links to them.

      Do impoverished third-world birthmothers really have a “choice”? It doesn’t appear they do… they are forced to give up their children due to dire circumstances, which is no choice at all. Death of the child or adoption? Not a free choice.

      Offering financial assistance to one woman is very kind. What I am suggesting is a big-picture solution. We need to look at the structures that are keeping these people down, and how the US and its citizens can behave in ways that support positive change. Regardless if the country has babies to offer us or not.

      “Again….until you have lived it, been there, or done that, please don’t sit in your nice house on your computer and pretend to know what is “really” going on.”

      Discussing a real problem (corruption in some international adoptions) is completely valid. As someone who has been through international adoption, you have lots of valuable insight to add to the convo. However, other people have the right to weigh in on the topic with opposing viewpoints. No need to silence people who think differently.

  • invalid-0

    this is an excellant article and as one previous poster said these comments make it obvious why its called “The Lies We Love”. (Don’t tell me what I don’t want to hear.) Several people doubt the two kidnapping stories mentioned in Guatemala because of DNA testing. When Ana Escobar first recognised her daughter in the arms of a social worker she was told that the child’s DNA had already been tested and it was a match to whoever they claimed was the “birthmother”. Also at least two doctors had to sign off that the testing had all been done properly. Now, of course anything those doctors signed has been called into question. Ana was lucky enough to get media attention and was able to “foster” her daughter while waiting for the tests to be done properly and now they are reunited.

  • invalid-0

    While this article may describe events happening throughout the world, i don’t believe, or at least hope, that the vast majority of children adopted are stolen from their families. Two years ago I volunteered at an oprhanage in China for a month, where i witnessed many babies being adopted by American families. Despite the “desire” for “healthy” children, most of the children I saw adopted had illnesses– some were mentally disabled, suffering from heart problems and subsequent complications, children with missing limbs, missing belly buttons and clefts. For families with hearts big enough to adopt these children, I think they should be comended. Despite the belief that parents are only seeking healthy babies, it is nice to know that there are people who can look beyond a childs health and adopt them not only because they want a child, but because they want to help children who would have difficulties building lives for themselves without parents. If a baby that is truly an orphan and not “on the black market”, or stolen from their parents, I think it is wonderful for them to be given a second chance.
    However, we do not live in a perfect world, and I am sure that the practice mentioned in the article happens. Some parents unfortunately sell their children for money, but this should not discredit parents adopting children legally, and out of the goodness in their hearts, from legit, well-established orphanages.

  • invalid-0

    I just wanted to reply back to your post saying that I am not trying to help just one woman, but as many as possible. I have written a Guatemalan cookbook and am donating all monies to programs in Guatemla. We sponsor many children and do everything we can financially and physically within our means to help the situation in that country. I agree that something needs to be done to help these women so they are not faced with such an agonizing choice. However, stopping adoptions is not the answer. These women that would have chosen adoption are now leaving their children on street corners to die. Just because adoptions stop does not mean that these women will just keep their babies. And yes….we all have our “opinions”, but many of these opinions are not factual and are very harmful to MANY innocent children. My daughter is 6 years old now and because of these kind of one sided articles, people are actually approaching me and asking me “how much did you pay for that one?” One lady asked my daughter if she was aware that she “had been purchased”. People will believe anything that they are told without checking facts for themselves. Like I posted earlier, there are many places to research this for yourself. I am not going to list website after website—you can find any statistics to back up just about anything you want to believe.

  • alexm

    Thank you for this article. It illuminates what I have long suspected – look at the example of Madonna and David Banda, the boy she adopted from Malawi in the mid 2000s. David’s father admitted that he was unclear about the fact that he was giving his son up for adoption – and if I recall correctly, Madonna and Guy believed David was an orphan.


    Now Madonna and her husband are getting a divorce, and poor little David is in the middle of it instead of with his biological father where he belongs. This is what you get in a world where money and capital matters more than family ties and love.

  • invalid-0

    I’d hate to see how Brad and Ang’s kids turn out if they get ina nasty divorse

  • invalid-0

    While Ms. Graff is completely correct that international adoption is in need of reform, she completely misses several crucial realities:

    * Every social service, especially our own domestic programs of adoption and foster care, includes human failings and abuse. We simply have to accept these failings and abuse, continually work to reduce them and reform the processes as we go; the only way to eliminate it entirely is to terminate programs that do a tremendous good for real people and children, who are, right now, experiencing real and avoidable suffering.
    * Every party she quotes has their own agenda, spins their information for their own ends, and leaves out something essential to the entire picture. This includes our own government, particularly USCIS, but also the State Department, whose fear of embarrassment in an administration that has only one standard: zero tolerance, even for social programs. For instance, US officials fully intended to embarrass Vietnamese officials with a release in April of 2008 that was nothing more than a well planned retelling of 10 stories (out of the 1400+ adoptions approved) of corruption released by the Department of State in February of 2008. This manipulated the Vietnamese into a corner from which they found it impossible to renegotiate the Memorandum of Understanding that Vietnam requires to participate in international adoption. This “happened” to leave the US government in the politically “clean” position of being able to point to Vietnam’s choices as the cause of the program shutdown. Even the US version of these 10 stories contained the kind of misinformation and omissions that Ms. Graff finds so horrendous in the documentation from others, indicating their corruption. The very transparency our own government insists must come from other governments, orphanages, and hospitals is not present in our own. What does this mean about the credibility of her sources within our government, and the relating statistics?
    * Without support from international adoption agencies, many orphanages in developing countries would be in such deplorable condition that desperate birth parent(s) would not consider them as an option. Instead, a friend of a friend of an acquaintance or (fill in the blank) unknown party could offer more hope and care for their child, even abandoning their child in a field or on a street corner and praying! Many orphanages provide care for the children least likely to be adopted, those with HIV or special needs, the infirm and even the elderly, and are able to do so because of donations from adoptive parents who have been there. In many cases, these children are still alive to be counted in Graff’s statistics BECAUSE other children were adopted and their adoption fees support the orphanage as a whole. Without the first person experience of adoptive parents, there simply is no other “voice” for the most vulnerable and silent; they are without skills, education, means, access to media – sometimes they literally have no fingers with which to write or with a physical handicap that impairs their speech. And they are long plane flights away from the richest nation in the world and its news agencies. Where is Graff’s article on the deplorable condition of orphanages around the world?
    * Legally, there isn’t anything stopping our government from regulating what agencies may charge for adoptions, nor stopping them from requiring adoptive parents to disclose all fees paid and to whom.
    * One huge reason for the decline in international adoptions is that, as the US discovers corruption, they shut down programs entirely. There is no ongoing dialogue or even minimal diplomatic priority for resolving the underlying issues. It is politically “cleaner” for the US to sever ties. Another huge reason is that as the Hague spreads, the process becomes much more arduous, lengthy, and overrun with paperwork. This not only discourages prospective parents but harms the children as they wait, not grow up, in institutions.

    The True Lie propagated by her article is that this is an economic issue. It is a human one. Adoption reveals both the best and worst we have to offer. It demonstrates the abundance of love and hope and fear and greed in our world. We should not try to obscure that with an image of consumer and product, nor of logistics, nor of supply and demand. Doing so necessarily limits the language to the arena where money dominates and only greed grows. So, of course, the view from there is dismal! Our perspective needs to remain rooted in our humanity on this one. Not catering to what will sell papers, get website traffic up, etc.

  • invalid-0

    you really, really opened my eyes. i will t4ry to translate a bit in gemran and link to you from a german site. GREAT article

  • invalid-0

    For years I have been talking about the abuses in international adoption, but never before have I seen such a thoroughly researched account of what is actually occurring internationally. As a professional woman with ties to academia, I have many acquaintances who have adopted from China and Russia and Guatemala; at least now if I hear of someone else who is thinking of saving those poor babies from some Third World Country, I have a place to send them. Unfortunately, many of those are in academia itself, and do not want to know that they should not have a baby, no matter how. They are blind and do not want to see.

    Thanks you EJ Graff.
    lorraine dusky of

  • invalid-0

    Hmmm… this is really getting more and more interesting…

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