Will The Haiti Incident Reform The Adoption Process?

See also my previous posts on Haiti here and here.
In watching and reading the news coverage about the ten Americans arrested for child trafficking in Haiti, I’ve been wondering if this might be the catalyst that starts some serious reform in adoption.
When this incident first occurred, I figured the news media would do what they always do: gloss it over. I was expecting a lot of whining about “poor Americans”, plus condemnation of the Haitian government which would capitulate to U.S. pressure and give these people a slap on the wrist. And who knows, maybe that will still happen. Personally I would like to see the lot of them get convicted in a Haitian court and receive the highest possible term in a Haitian prison. That Laura Silsby seems like a piece of work. The Haitian judicial process will have to determine the culpability of the rest of the group. “God told us to” is not a defense.
But on a broader level, I would like to see this be the catalyst to cease ALL private facilitation of adoption. If we’re going to have adoption–and I’m under no illusions that we’re going to get rid of it–then it should only be done by accredited agencies that are monitored by independent third parties. As this incident illustrates, anyone, regardless of qualifications, can set themselves up a “non-profit” and start facilitating adoptions. That has GOT TO STOP. Contrary to the whining of some (mostly prospective adopters), I don’t think that would make the adoption process harder or more expensive. I think it would offer greater protections for everyone, including prospective adopters. It might reduce the number of adoptable kids… but did you catch what was said on Anderson Cooper (CNN)?
COOPER: It’s — and so they’re handing this out. I mean, essentially, what we now know is, they were around in Port-au-Prince trolling for kids, I mean, going around, trying to collect kids under the age of 10, so, for whatever reason, they could take them to the Dominican Republic.
And what they — we had also just learned today is they told that guy David Louis they were actually going to bring some of these kids into the United States, or they had offered to — to bring Richard’s kids into the — back to the United States, which, you know, the fact that Richard and his wife — that his wife said, look, do not go to this orphanage where our kids are in the process of being legally adopted, and they went anyway to try to get them, to me, that just raises all sorts of red flags.
PENHAUL: It certainly does raise red flags, as well as the fact that they were looking for children aged from zero to 10, kids aged under 10.
I asked an NGO specialist about that. Why zero to 10? He says kids zero of 10 are much easier to send in adoption. You can bet your bottom dollar, if those kids were going to be sent into adoption, they were not going to be adopted in the D.R. They would have been sent abroad for that. Maybe the D.R. was a halfway house.
I don’t know that for sure, though, but, certainly, the people that you have talked to tonight, you can piece it together. It seems like that. And, yes, certainly, they were trawling for orphanages as well, because the three translators that we have spoken to extensively have said that they also were asked to telephone another orphanage, and that other orphanage also declined help.
These people were deliberately going after kids ages zero to 10… BECAUSE THEY WERE MORE ADOPTABLE. In other words, more lucrative, more palatable to prospective adopters. Read the rest of the transcript for more on how blatant they were about sweeping in and snatching children, including those who were already cleared for adoption by American families (and whose adoptive families told them outright to stay out of it). So, yes, restricting who can facilitate adoptions might result in less children available for adoption, but you know what? That’s a good thing for prospective adopters. Unless you’re saying you don’t really care where the kid comes from as long as you get one…
My adoption was private. It was facilitated by the delivery doctor and two attorneys. One attorney took my mother’s relinquishment and passed it to the second attorney, who happened to be my adoptive father. The first attorney and the doctor were affiliated with a highly-regarded adoption agency here in the Chicago area, but for mysterious reasons they were able to moonlight a few private adoptions, like mine. I have been asking myself why for a long time and the only answers I’ve come up with are unpleasant. There were no checks and balances, no accredited entities verifying the procedures, no one independently advising my birth mother on her options and rights. There was just the handing off of a newborn in a hospital parking lot. I think that’s wrong and I want it to stop. And the only way it’s going to stop is if we quit letting any random bozo facilitate adoptions, and if we throw the book at people when they’re caught.
I’d also like to know why it is that no one is investigating other incidents of potential child trafficking, like the Rendell raid or Mike Roberts, the Texas businessman who’s trying to pull a raid of his own. Apparently if you’re the governor of Pennsylvania or a hotshot CEO it’s okay to snatch kids. Laura Silsby’s problem was that she was an amateur, flagrantly flaunted the rules and got caught. I think the Haitian prime minister is exactly right in requiring his personal approval for each and every child leaving the country.
But I’d like to see more protections from the U.S. side, starting with a public outcry over baby brokers of all stripes and utter refusal on the part of prospective adopters to deal with these sorts of criminals. Only by shutting down the market demand will we see an end to baby selling.

What Needs Reform In Adoption? Everything!

This month’s Grown In My Heart blog carnival asks the question, “What do you think needs reform in adoption?” I could fill whole stadiums with answers to that one, but I think everything that concerns me boils down to one word: TRANSPARENCY, or lack thereof.
Take, for example:
  • Domestic and international adoption scandals: children targeted for adoption, mothers coerced into surrendering, adoptive parents duped into a false sense of security about the adoption process
  • Situations like Haiti, where crises are used to exploit children and families
  • Sealed adoption records, the myth of birth parent “privacy”, the discrimination faced by adult adoptees and their mothers, and the facade of compromise legislation
  • The lure of open adoption, which is rarely enforcable by the birth mother
  • “Crisis pregnancy centers” which are often fronts for adoption mills
  • Misinformation about the long-term effects of adoption, especially for transracial and transcultural adoptees
  • The general public’s lack of understanding about adoption, which is promulgated by the adoption industry so clandestine and questionable practices can continue. Part of this is driven by media bias in adoption reporting, which leads me into…
  • GET ADOPTION OFF TELEVISION. I have to wonder why there isn’t legal protection for minors exploited on television (think Jon & Kate or Balloon Boy). I think about these kids whose adoption stories are being told on TV (e.g. Teen Mom, 16 And Pregnant) before they even have a chance to know for themselves. Can you imagine how devastating that will be for them? It’s one thing to have consenting adults on these shows but something far different when we’re talking about babies and children. And even when it’s consenting adults, the information is almost always skewed. Let’s face it, reality shows and made-for-TV movies are not solid journalism, but most people base their ideas about adoption from them.
If adoption were transparent, if the procedures were scrutinized, I think there would be far less (although not zero) corruption. People will always find a way to game the system, but transparency and repercussions make it harder. Ratifying the Hague Convention would be one step. Restoring original birth certificate access to adult adoptees AND birth mothers would be another. We need more education for prospective adopters. We need independent and transparent regulation of adoption agencies. We need to get rid of private adoptions that too easily fall into the gray-market or black-market category. We need to eliminate pork-barrel legislation that turns original birth certificate access into a windfall for politicians and their well-connected cronies. We need to distinguish between infant adoption and foster-care adoption. We need to support mothers and families. We need to turn adoption from a boutique industry into a system in which kids who need help will get it.
But what we most need to do is take the profit margin out of adoption. If there is no money to be made, profiteering will decrease. I don’t anticipate this will happen anytime soon. Adoption is big business, with the funds and resources to hire lobbyists to maintain the bottom line. What we, as individuals, can do is demand transparency of adoption agencies and practitioners, and of our elected officials. We can also continue making scandals public, so that those who do game the system are caught. And we can educate the general public about adoption, including its flaws and misconceptions.
Adoption should be a last resort. We should strive to support children: with their parents where possible, with extended family where not, via domestic adoption in their country of origin and via international adoption only as a last resort. Yes, that means less adoptable children, but this isn’t about finding a child for everyone who wants one. The adoption industry sets very unrealistic expectations while continuing to sweep necessary reform under the rug. Let’s return adoption to its roots–finding homes for children in need–and do away with the corruption that currently defines it.

More Concern About Haiti Adoptions

There is growing concern about the fast-tracking of Haitian adoptions. Read on for some excellent blogs on the subject.
I’ve seen a lot of media coverage about Haitian orphans being “saved” or “rescued” by flying them to foreign countries for adoption. But “orphan” doesn’t necessarily mean the child has no living relatives. In many countries, parents place their children in orphanages temporarily until they can get back on their feet. Even if their parents are dead, these so-called “orphans” may have siblings, extended family, or others who can care for them. In a disaster like Haiti’s, we should be focusing on helping the country recover, not focusing on the wants of prospective adopters.
Okay, here it comes… the knee-jerk reaction that those of us advocating caution would rather see these kids starve and die on the streets. On the contrary, we want these kids cared for, kept in their own families where possible, domestically adopted where not, and internationally adopted only as a last resort. And yes, that means less adoptable children, and that’s just too bad. If you are so eager for a child, there are umpteen kids in the American foster system. They’re not cute “orphans”, but they do need help. If you’re really that interested in helping a child, that shouldn’t make a difference. But swooping down on Haiti like vultures is not going to help those kids.
There is also the question of what the “pipeline” is. Those American adoptions that were already “in the pipeline” are being fast-tracked. But what does that mean, exactly? It could simply mean those prospective adopters have passed the preliminary stages. They may not have passed home study or the other qualifications of being adoptive parents. And with the records in Haiti a shambles and at least one judge dead, it’s hard to know which children have actually been approved for adoption. Shouldn’t we take those tens of thousands of dollars a single adoption costs to help the people of Haiti as a whole? Wouldn’t that help more children in the long run?
Another thing that concerns me is the possibility that sweeping these kids into adoption’s net may result in increased “disruptions” down the line. A disruption is a nice name for returning an adoptee… a failed adoption. But what expectations does the adoption mill set for prospective adopters? It’s the glossy brochure, the “adopt and your life is complete” mantra. Reality is much harder for these children. You can’t take a child who is suffering from trauma and the loss of loved ones, bring them to America, plunk them down in front of McDonald’s and Nickelodeon and expect that they will grow up with no difficulties. I am concerned that some of these prospective adopters are so relieved at having their wishes finally granted that they will overlook the needs of the child. When that child begins to suffer from PTSD, will they blame the child for not fitting in? For being an “angry adoptee”? Will these adoptees be sentenced to quack therapies or drugged into behaving? Will they be returned to a country they no longer know, or shuffled off to yet another “forever” family?
In the words of Buffalo Springfield…
There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear…
It’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down.

Haiti: Adoption Snatching In Action

Some people are trying to use the earthquake in Haiti as an excuse for a mass snatching of children for the adoption mill. I’m not even going to try to compete with the stellar coverage of other bloggers, so read on to learn about Operation Pedro Pan from the 1960s and how it is being replayed today.
The answer to this horrific tragedy is not to take these children from their culture, but to reunite them with extended family wherever possible and help Haiti as a whole regain its footing. I can’t say it any better than Bastardette:

We do not object to Haitian children, orphans and otherwise, being sent to credible and documented parents or family members in the US legally for temporary or permanent care depending on the circumstances. We do object to the unethical and possibly unlawful mass transfer of traumatized children, many with family status unknown, to foreign shelters and foster care, removed from their culture and language, with little hope of reunification. We also object to children being used as commercialized foreign policy pawns. Although Pedro Pan had positive outcomes for some, its intent and motives make it an illegitimate model for today’s Haitian earthquake child victims. Cold War politics destroyed Cuban families. Unchecked adoption industry greed, pap entitlement, and soft neo-colonial foreign policy cannot be permitted to disenfranchise a generation Haitian children.