Adoption thoughts…I have SO many of them. I don’t pretend to be a know-it-all regarding adoption, but my experience is pretty extensive and I’m often asked for my opinion on things because of that. I’ve had about a million thoughts mulling around in my brain over the past week. This post is just my attempt to get them out of my head. This post is geared towards international adoption as that is the type that we completed and the type that we are contacted about most often.
Corruption & Ethics
It happens. This is not a shocker to anyone, I hope, who has considered/is considering/is in the process of adopting or who has already completed an adoption. I mean, we all think it won’t touch us and our case is not corrupt, but that’s just plain foolish. How can you know? Especially with international adoption.
Many parents who adopt internationally get background information on their kids and their birth families. Sometimes it is all perfectly in order and other times facts just don’t quite match up causing some red flags, but nothing that looks too corrupt or unethical. So, we plod on–especially if it is our first international adoption. We want that baby/child home, with us, their family. Problem is, they have another family. A family that made a decision. Here’s the question…WHY did they make that decision? Why is adoption what they chose for their child? I used to think it was as simple as having no choice (which still kills me)–i.e. you keep your child and they die or you give them up so they could live. This is unacceptable and does happen, but I am learning that far more often than we’d like to think, adoption happens because the birth family wants something more for their child–something they cannot attain for them in their country of birth–and so they choose to place them for adoption. The real kicker is that many times, these birth families do not have a full understanding of what adoption means and they make an uninformed (or even misguided purposefully–by the agency) decision without really comprehending the consequences.
What is it that they want for their child? A life in America. Ugh. Now, I am glad I was born and raised in America. I know that I have many privileges and advantages because of this, but it’s not the magical place that so many non-Americans dream it to be. Ethiopia, is not an exception. We were recently asked, in all earnest, if there were flying cars in America, but not like it was a question, more like this person was verifying a fact. That’s just one example of the ridiculous things people assume to be true about America. So, when a family chooses adoption simply to get their child to America, they often believe life will be a cake walk for that child simply because they are in America. Fallacy #1. Additionally, many families clearly do NOT understand that adoption is permanent. They either seem to think their child will return as an adult to provide or that they will send $ back to Ethiopia to help provide for their family. Fallacy #2 (most of the time). Sadly, I believe that this lie is often propagated by the agencies we all hire to help facilitate our adoptions. It’s not the US workers that go in and lie, but the nationals. Where there is $ (and let’s be honest, there is LOTS of $ in adoption), there is corruption. Where there is corruption, we need to be concerned about ethics in each and every single case. Just because paperwork looks above board, does NOT mean that it is.
Lies are being told. Birth families are lying about their situations in order to get their children adopted into America. They are going so far as to claim that a birth parent is deceased to make their child appear more “adoptable”. Can you imagine the agony of being the mother who has to pretend you’re dead in order to get your child to America? You send your child off to another land where they will be told, all their life, that you are no longer living. Sad, sick, wrong. You may hope that one day your child will show up again and learn the truth, but there are no guarantees, especially with life expectancy being so short here. My heart grieves for all of those mothers who made this decision, through false pretenses and with false expectations. Part of me wants to say…”Shame on them, they should know better”, but most of me just aches for them. It is hard to fathom having such an ideal view of America that I would part with my child and tell such untruths just to get them there and then to have to live with that decision. Sincerely, unfathomable.
You might think that hiring a finder and having them search for the birth family after the adoption is complete would help verify the story you have received on your child. Often, this is not the case. If a birth family has already lied 4-5 times to different agency workers, government officials and courts, they will most likely continue to lie to a finder, as well. There are also cultural differences that come into play here that cause a breakdown in truth. I won’t get too into those because I don’t know everything about the Ethiopian culture, but I know that they come into play–things like lying, how it’s viewed here and directness. One thing I can say with certainty is that if a question is not asked directly, you will not get an answer. You have to be very blunt if you want to find the truth and that is just not the Ethiopian way, so truth is often just missed because the right question was not asked.
My opinion is that corruption is rampant in international adoption and ethics are compromised. You cannot guarantee an ethical adoption unless you, yourself, travel to the country and interview the birth family in their native tongue while understanding almost everything about the culture. Since that can’t happen, what can we do to protect ourselves and our children? Investigate! If you see red flags–even in the referral paperwork–start asking questions. Don’t rest until you get an answer. I know that when you are waiting for your child and all you can imagine is holding them in your arms, it’s easy to sweep this stuff under the rug. We did. But, when your child is older and they find out the truth and ask you if you could have done anything to clarify things before they were taken from their first family forever…what will you say? What will I say? I don’t know.
We also have to ask ourselves…are we okay with lies and unethical behavior if it leads to something wonderful? I mean, if the birth family wants their child in America, why should we stop them? I can give you a list of reasons, but this is for each adoptive parent to answer for themselves. I don’t want anyone to think I’m advocating that international adoptions be stopped. I am not. I LOVE adoption. I have my life because of adoption. I was adopted. But, there are so many true orphans in the world. Children who desperately NEED parents. I just want corrupt adoptions to stop. Children who live in a two parent home where they are loved, cared for, well fed and school would have been attended…those children don’t NEED to be adopted. They just don’t, but they are being adopted…daily, while true orphans wait and wait and wait.
I probably get an email a week asking me what agency I’d recommend. LOTS of people read this review I wrote of ours–Holt International Review and then email to ask what agency I would recommend. The simple truth is…none. I don’t think it matters. I used to think that there were a few that were okay, but the further down the path we get in reviewing Ethiopian adoptions, the more clear it becomes that ALL agencies have ethics claims against them and so few stories are brought to light that I know what we do hear is just the tip of the iceberg. Now, there are definitely some agencies I’d steer clear of–those with claims of abusing the children in their care, those that don’t have an actual license to operate in the country they’re placing children from, etc…–but there are places that name them, so I don’t need to here. After ruling out those agencies, it’s pretty much a roll of the dice. Pick one and determine that you won’t just believe everything they tell you. If there are red flags in your case, ASK QUESTIONS. For the sake of your future child, do all that you can to determine that they truly are an orphan. At the very least, go in with your eyes a bit more than slightly opened. Assume that there will be fraud and untruth in your case. Dig for it. If you can live with what you find and justify proceeding with the adoption to your child one day, go for it! Just have as much of that information as possible ahead of time. It is painful to discover the truth after the fact. I have seen too many friends discover the truth later and it is heart breaking. We will investigate our own case in the coming months and I’m already dreading what truths may lie ahead of me and how I will justify these to my daughter.
I won’t endorse any agencies and I won’t tell you which ones not to use either. For one thing, it has been 2.5 years since we adopted. So many things have changed and I’m just not up-to-date on the latest information. For another thing, I believe there is corruption in all agencies, so I just won’t tell someone who to use and give them any false hope that it’s an agency without corruption. I don’t want that responsibility resting on me. Adoptive parents simply need to know the truth and then make their own best decisions from there.
What I really want to communicate to those considering adoption and those who already have adopted is this: corruption is rampant, it runs deep in international adoption. For your child’s sake, seek the truth–before they come home if possible or after if it’s not. Yes, it is expensive, time consuming and often heart breaking, but your child deserves the truth. You deserve the truth. No doubt, you set out to adopt with just intentions. We all deserve better than this. We deserve agencies that are ethical. Agencies that see a batch of 20 kids from the same community with the same “surrender” date and go…huh, this doesn’t seem right and then ASK QUESTIONS. But they’re not doing it. They see all those red flags and just sweep them under the rug, too. Why? For the sake of the kids? Nope, for the sake of the bank roll. Let’s be honest, they don’t care about our kids. That was clearly demonstrated in our case. My eyes are opened SO much more widely than they were when we started this process. Do I think I still would have adopted Kayla had my eyes been more open in the first place? Yes, I do, but I would have searched out some truths first. I have the very unique privilege of living in my daughter’s birth country and I can now seek them out without hesitation or additional travel costs hindering me, but even if I didn’t have that privilege, I would do it. She deserves the truth and so do I. Knowing my own true history, as an adoptee, has meant the world to me. She deserves the same opportunity and I don’t want to be the one accused of unethical behavior in her eyes. Truly, how she sees me and my role in all of this is my greatest concern.