Demons in Adoption

Amyadoptee

The third Annual Demons in Adoption Awards is now open for voting. Pound Pup Legacy has a great list of nominees this year. From Scott and Karen Banks for their actions in American Samoa to Bethany Christian Services for their actions in continuing coercion in CPCs, it is all there. Pick your favorite demon.  My favorite is LDS Family Services.

Kathryn Joyce did a wonderful job with Shotgun Adoption. It pointed out the issues with crisis pregnancy centers. The issue with adoption is that we still have these issues going on today. Our society tends to overlook these issues with adoption. The Pro-life movement is gaining some momentum with adoption as the panacea for abortion. If we really want to decrease abortions to a small amount, we need to address the issues surrounding women, children and adoption.
She addressed some of the tactics used in adoption today. In response to the self congratulatory awards of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption and it’s Angels in Adoption, one website offers Demons in Adoption Awards. Society might ask why someone would create such a thing. It is to address the very issues addressed in Kathryn Joyce’s article. It is to bring attention to something that most people did not realize existed. It is to help bring change in adoption. It is long past the time for adoption to be reformed.
Pound Pup Legacy is a website for all members living adoption. Adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents have all contributed to it’s massive database. This database provides a huge amount of information on many if not all adoption agencies in this country. If you are considering searching, this website has information to help you find. This website helps expectant mothers considering placement. This website helps adoptive parents that are searching for a good agency. In fact, I am one of those that helped gather government investigation reports for Texas adoption agencies. Pound Pup Legacy is based on factual information, reported news events around the world, court documents, and state investigations. They have put into one database that allows you to check information on an agency. It is the most comprehensive in the world.
This year’s Demon in Adoption Awards is in it’s third year. This year’s nominees are some of the worst of the worst. LDS Family Services is a national adoption agency that ships expectant mothers to other states such as Utah in order to avoid fathers in their state or to sequester the expectant mothers from their support system. Focus on Children’s Scott and Karen Banks who were found guilty of bribing Samoan birth parents into relinquishing their children are on this list because they did not serve any jail time for hurting families on both sides of the ocean. Adoptions First is offering free California vacations if expectant mothers relinquish their children. The list goes on.
If you want to improve options for expectant mothers, stop by Pound Pup Legacy. Please vote in the Demons in Adoptions. It is time that these practices stop. If these agencies realize that they are getting a bad reputation through the adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents, they may start to regulate themselves. If the word gets out, state and federal legislators might start listening to us instead of an industry that makes a huge profit off women and children. If women have more accurate and factual information, there will be fewer abortions.

Analysis Family

Why Adoption Needs to Play a Bigger Role in the Reproductive Justice Conversation

Andrea Grimes

A recent proposal by a Texas state senator that would mandate pre-abortion adoption counseling has given reproductive justice advocates a unique opportunity to show what real, meaningful adoption industry reform could look like.

This summer, reproductive rights supporters in Texas descended upon their rose-hued state capitol, day after day, through two special legislative sessions, to rally against an omnibus anti-abortion bill that is expected to drastically reduce access to safe, legal abortion in the state.

Texas Democrats ultimately failed to block the bill, despite a historic fight that catapulted Sen. Wendy Davis into the national spotlight, as HB 2’s passage was all but guaranteed by the state’s right-wing legislative majority. But even some Democrats voted to pass the law, which could shutter all but the six abortion clinics in the state that are currently able to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers.

One of those Democrats, 30-year state senate veteran Eddie Lucio, added insult to injury when, as the second special session wound down, he filed a last-minute bill that would require Texans seeking abortions to take three hours of adoption counseling before their procedures, putting yet another obstacle between pregnant Texans and legal abortion. The state already requires such Texans to undergo forced ultrasounds and a 24-hour waiting period.

Lucio knew his bill wouldn’t go to a vote that session, but it wasn’t meant to. It was meant to be a prelude to the 2015 legislative session, when he plans to lobby hard for state-mandated, directive adoption counseling. (Lucio later filed a slightly different version of the bill, mandating “resource awareness” counseling that specifically highlights adoption.)

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

“I’m hoping that we can save a few lives by having the woman think about the possibility of allowing her child to go through the birth process and giving it up if necessary so she can continue to go through her life as maybe she has planned,” Lucio told Texas Public Radio in early August.

While Lucio, who waxed theological on the issue of “personhood” and abortion for several minutes before ultimately voting to pass HB 2 this summer, may be coming from a well-meaning place, his bill shows a deep ignorance about the reality of adoption, and a fundamental misunderstanding of the reasons why it is not an alternative to abortion, but rather an alternative to parenting. Research shows that the vast majority of pregnant people who seriously consider adoption never considered abortion as a viable option in the first place, and Lucio’s bill would serve predominantly to detain, and perhaps shame, pregnant people who are already in a time crunch, and who are already facing logistical hurdles to obtaining legal abortions.

Lucio is not alone in his ignorance, and as an anti-choice senator, it’s hardly unusual that he would champion adoption despite the basic illogic of his own bill, as adoption has become almost exclusively the purview of the anti-choice community, while reproductive rights supporters are compelled to concentrate instead on fighting other, mostly abortion-related battles in state legislatures.

But reproductive justice advocates who Rewire spoke to say there is plenty of room for adoption in the larger conversation about reproductive rights, and in light of Lucio’s proposed bill and growing awareness about the coercive practices of a largely unregulated domestic and international adoption industry, it is not an issue they can afford to ignore.

“On the pro-choice side, they’ve kind of handed adoption over to those in the ‘pro-life’ arena,” said writer and social worker Amanda Woolston, an adoptee herself and author of The Declassified Adoptee. “We need to take it back and say that anybody who cares about women and children and families needs to have an opinion.”

Even though the question of being able to choose when and whether to parent, and whether resources exist to support those options, is central to any adoption decision, adoption tends to be overshadowed by abortion in the reproductive justice arena, for a variety of reasons: Abortion is more politically volatile, countering explicit legislative attacks on abortion access demands a great deal of time and resources, abortion is significantly more common than adoption, and adoption is an under-researched area, perhaps in part because it is by and large understood in our culture to be a social good that needs little oversight.

“I think [adoption] is a crucial part of the reproductive rights conversation,” said Kathryn Joyce, a journalist and author of The Child Catchers, an investigation into the international trafficking of adoptees by American evangelicals. “It’s part of the larger conversation about not just the right to choose when you parent, but to choose to be a parent. That’s a fundamental right that is absolutely, beyond question part of reproductive justice.”

According to critics of adoption as it is practiced today, even after the “Baby Scoop Era,” during which single women were shepherded away to maternity homes to deliver their children in secret, many of the common accusations leveled at the so-called abortion industry by anti-choice reproductive rights opponents—specifically, that coercive “abortionists” are solely interested in creating and maintaining demand for their services for the singular purpose of making money off hoodwinked and/or ignorant clientele—could be aptly applied to the largely unregulated domestic and international adoption industry.

“Ironically, some of the same things that the anti-choice side will accuse abortion rights supporters of doing seem to be kind of actually happening in some adoption counseling scenarios,” said Joyce, who also wrote about “shotgun adoptions” for The Nation in 2009, detailing the lengths to which crisis pregnancy centers and some religious-affiliated adoption agencies go in order to convince women to relinquish children to what they’re often told are sure to be better homes than those they themselves could provide.

If reproductive justice is about freedom from coercion and the ability to make affirmative choices with appropriate and sufficient resources, the adoption industry deserves all the attention those in the movement can give it.

“Adoption, the issue, is just really under-talked about and really under-explored,” said Katie Klabusich, a writer and reproductive justice activist living in New York. An adult adoptee, she says “we need to do everything we can do to make sure [adoption] is an affirmative choice.”

That means, in some cases, going up against adoption agencies that have not only an ideological investment in increasing adoptions, but a financial one. In 2012, Midwest-based Bethany Christian Services took in $82 million from adoption fees, investments, contributions, and “reimbursement for children’s services,” while Texas’ Gladney Center for Adoption reported over $37 million in net assets for the same year.

These agencies do all they can to ensure that women who consider adoption follow through on their plans. Gladney offers a kind of all-expenses-paid new-wave maternity home for women considering adoption, while Bethany places pregnant women in private homes with families who encourage them not to change their minds. Critics say this separation from family and social networks engenders a sense of isolation and helplessness, prompting those facing unplanned pregnancies to feel reliant on adoption agencies and indebted to them for support. In return, they may feel obligated to relinquish their babies despite their misgivings.

Joyce says adoption counseling can be a “very socially engineered” conversation, with adoption “presented as, ‘This is the responsible way you can take responsibility for your bad decision of having premarital sex and getting pregnant.'”

At the Gladney website, pregnant women are told that while adoption may initially cause them “pain,” it will “someday [be] replaced by strength.” The page on Bethany’s website aimed at people considering abortion advises them that “taking the time to look at your other choices may prevent you from making a decision you will later find hard to live with,” implying that abortion is a guaranteed path to regret.

But research shows that adoption can indeed be an option that pregnant people later find hard to live with. According to the Center for American Progress, those who choose to relinquish children for adoption often experience grief and profound loss, along with relief. For many in the triad of adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents, adoption it is not unilaterally the joyful exploration of loving kindness presented by agencies and messaging campaigns like Gladney-affiliated Brave Love, which aims to communicate “the heroism and bravery” of adoption.

Woolston, the “Declassified Adoptee,” said adult adoptees live with frustration and guilt when they’re reminded that “what our lives could have been before adoption would have been so much more terrible, that once adoption comes into the picture, we have nothing to complain about.”

And Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy, an outspoken critic of the adoption industry who relinquished a child in 1987 when she was 19 years old, says birth mothers are often cast aside once they’ve relinquished their children, particularly when they have no legal means of holding adoptive parents accountable for open adoption agreements, or ensuring they get the post-adoption counseling so often promised by adoption agencies. “We’ll take away the baby,” muses D’Arcy, “but we’re going to leave you in the same crisis.”

As for birth fathers, Woolston said they’re treated as little more than a “roadblock” to adoption: “It’s another person with rights who we have to consider,” she said. “Fathers have largely been written out of policy for that reason.”

No credible research conducted by non-partisan, objective groups or experts has found that the adoption experience universally reflects the transformational journey of joy and selflessness put forth by many adoption agencies and crisis pregnancy centers. Instead, research suggests that adoption is as complicated and nuanced as the individuals involved, who experience a wide variety of emotions and outcomes.

Which is not to say that good cannot and does not come out of adoption—none of the adoption critics that Rewire spoke to oppose adoption as a concept—but the waters must be navigated carefully and ethically. A three-hour adoption counseling program that explicitly aims, as Sen. Lucio said his would, to encourage women to relinquish their children to adoptive families could not be anything other than, at best, deeply biased, or at worst, profoundly coercive.

Indeed, private agencies like Gladney are already using slick marketing campaigns to do what Lucio hopes his adoption counseling mandate would do: increase the available supply of adoptable infants. According to the Gladney website, Brave Love’s goal is to “drastically increase adoption rates in the U.S.” But how? The Brave Love website contains no information about how parents can adopt existing foster children. Instead, it is aimed at pregnant women who, according to a promotional video, will be “heroes” if they relinquish their infants for adoption.

However, Brave Love’s founder, Ellen Porter, who herself adopted a child through Gladney, told Rewire that her organization believes “increased adoption education is necessary across the board, not just for abortion-minded women,” for whom “adoption should be presented as an option so that women can make a well-informed decision when faced with an unplanned pregnancy.”

For the State of Texas to engage in similar practices aimed at talking pregnant women into relinquishing infants, glossing over the nuances of adoption in order to present the choice in the best possible light, is to wade into ethically questionable waters, said Katie Klabusich. To be frank, she said, Lucio’s proposal “freaks [her] out,” not only because she is an adoptee who believes her birth mother never was able to consider abortion as an option, but because she herself has also chosen to end a pregnancy.

“I feel like it cheapens the effect that the unplanned pregnancy had on my life,” she said. “It judges the decision that I made, and it also cheapens the way that I came into the world.”

Birth mother Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy called Lucio’s bill “really frightening.”

“Three hours is not at all a decent length of time to get adequate information,” she said, adding that she’s “sure the information that would be given would not be true information.” Instead, she says most adoption legislation, when lawmakers make any attempt to address the issue at all, is intended to benefit adoptive parents and adoption agencies, the most privileged players in an adoption situation.

Adoptive parents, says D’Arcy, “are, in the end, the paying customer and the ones the agencies are going after.” According to a 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, private adoptions can cost anywhere from $5,000 to over $40,000.

“They want the moms to make the product,” said D’Arcy. But today, very few pregnant Americans choose adoption in the first place, with an estimated 14,000 domestic adoptions taking place each year, compared to some 175,000 in the 1970s, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Before 1973, nearly 19.3 percent of never-married white women and 1.5 percent of never-married Black women relinquished children for adoption, whereas today, fewer than 2 percent of white women, and “nearly 0 percent” of Black women choose adoption.

Woolston told Rewire that what legislation has been passed has largely centered on enabling and encouraging would-be adoptive parents. Legislators ask, says Woolston, “‘How can we convince people to adopt?’ ‘What can we do to encourage them to keep adopting?’ And then, ‘How can we convince pregnant women to choose adoption instead of abortion?’ And then at the bottom they say, ‘What can we do for adoptees that doesn’t interfere with our plans?'”

In the end, says Woolston, “none if it is empowering to any of us, even at the top. We all have roles that have meaning in society, and we’re expected to play within those roles and stay contained.”

What, then, can reproductive justice advocates do if they want to ally with those in the adoption triad in addressing some of the problems facing the adoption industry today, and challenge what appears to be the industry’s increasing reliance on obfuscation and coercion?

Woolston suggested advocates start by looking at privilege itself, a concept central to any reproductive justice conversation: “In adoption, children tend to go from poorer homes into wealthier homes, and that really reflects traditional hierarchies of privilege,” she said. “We must ask ourselves, what circumstances place mothers and families in a position where they have to choose abortion, or between adoption and parenting? What can we do to address their needs? And how can we go a step further into the institution, to help those who live it?”

That could mean a variety of practical actions: increasing, rather than decimating, funding to food stamps, increasing the availability of affordable health care, and ensuring low-income families have access to prenatal care. But it also requires a shift in cultural conversations about parenthood, to one that doesn’t privilege some parents as being more worthy, or capable, simply because of their class privilege.

Often, when women are poor, pregnant, and considering adoption, they are told by crisis pregnancy center counselors and adoption agencies that their own selfishness, their poverty, and their general unpreparedness for parenthood will prevent them from raising a healthy, happy child.

In fact, the right-wing lobbying group the Family Research Council released a paper in 2000 intended to help crisis pregnancy center counselors direct more women to choose adoption, advising them to “emphasize the difficulties of parenting” and to tell pregnant people that “unprepared mothers” will parent children who “may very well live lives of pain and suffering.” The report, astounding in its open disdain for women with unplanned pregnancies, highlights women’s “level of selfishness” when they resist the idea of adoption. It scoffs, “[B]onding with their children, and the desire to keep them, matters most.”

The implication here, of course, is that an adopted child with a middle- or upper-class upbringing and two heterosexual, married parents will definitely fare better than a child raised in a low-income or single parent household, or one in which parents are not married.

“Ideally, no one wants to separate a mother from her biological child,” said Ellen Porter at Brave Love. But the Family Research Council’s report certainly seems to indicate that some adoption agencies and crisis pregnancy centers desire to do just that, in part by using the kind of redemption narratives and heroine-worship language used on Brave Love’s website. From the report:

Choosing adoption is a way for many women to regain their identities as responsible, caring adults. This allows them to feel they are making up for their past failures by doing the best they can for their babies whom they feel are the innocent parties in the situation. By acting responsibly and giving their babies to loving families, these women are able to see themselves as responsible and unselfish. They feel good about themselves because they are able to see beyond their own desires and strong emotional urges to keep the children regardless of what is actually the best thing to do.

It is as if, says D’Arcy, adoptive parents of means “are never going to get sick, lose jobs, get divorced.” But, she says, “they are the same as anybody else and have the same risks. The child is not guaranteed to have a happily ever after just because they’re adopted by wealthy parents.”

The “conversation about who is a legitimate mother,” said Kathryn Joyce, “feeds into so many other things about race and class and the whole broad history of coercion and reproductive history.”

From a policy point of view, adoption reform activists hope to achieve a number of goals, including opening adoptees’ original birth records and giving birth parents more legal recourse when adoptive parents choose to renege on open adoption agreements, which in many states are not legally enforceable.

Both of these issues serve to maintain adoption’s long history of secrecy. The Gladney-founded adoption lobbying arm, the National Council for Adoption, has long, and successfully, opposed opening adoptees’ birth records, and birth parents continue to be forced to rely on the honesty of adoptive parents when they agree to open adoptions.

“Once we actually have state laws allowing adoptees to access their original birth certificates,” says Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy, “we’ll know what’s actually happening,” as opposed to hearing only the agency-promoted “mythology” of adoption, which she says is also used to mislead adoptive parents into thinking birth parents are making affirmative decisions.

“They all get sold a total bill of false goods,” said D’Arcy. “They get told what they want to hear, so [agencies] get their money. Once you’re $5,000 in the hole, indebted to the agency, and it’s probably your only chance that you’re ever going to have a kid, it’s just sad.”

Until adoptees have the ability to identify their birth parents, and birth parents are able to maintain mutually agreed-upon presences in their children’s lives, the reality of adoption will continue to be couched in secrecy. In the meantime, said Woolston, “It’s keeping adoptees from being able to get the same documentation from the government that everybody else can get.”

D’Arcy and Woolston both said that birth parents’ rights need specific protection from the government. D’Arcy would like to see “uniform state laws” that clarify and extend the time period in which women can consent to relinquishing their child, and in which she can choose to parent if she changes her mind. Too often, she says, women are compelled to sign consent agreements in hospital rooms, when they are still recovering from labor.

And while Ellen Porter at Brave Love said that “birth mothers can have a relationship with the family, if desired,” D’Arcy says many of these kinds of promises that are made to birth mothers, or first mothers as many prefer to be called, are never followed through with after the adoption takes place, especially when the law does not compel adoptive parents to adhere to open adoption agreements.

As for biological fathers, Woolston said they “have very little ground to stand on,” and “if we actually had laws that acknowledged a child’s right to be raised by their father or their mother,” the “heartwrenching” legal battles between adoptive parents and biological fathers could be shortened or eliminated.

It is crucial to remember that even critics of adoption are not wholly opposed to the practice; rather, they are concerned about how adoption is currently handled by its largest players, and the ignorance surrounding and motivating much U.S. adoption policy, which they say is heavily biased toward making adoption easier for adoptive parents, to the exclusion of the needs of birth parents and adoptees themselves.

Research suggests, and much anecdotal evidence shows, that adoptees have complicated and mixed emotions about their experiences—they are, after all, whole human beings and not, as they are so often told and imagined to be, perpetually thankful children who owe a debt of gratitude—to society, to their adoptive parents, to their birth parents, to God—for their very existence. Research also suggests that parents who relinquish children experience a variety of emotions and outcomes dependent on the circumstances of their adoption, again, because they are whole people and not a choir of saintly martyrs saved by the power of selflessness.

What no research suggests, and what no adoptive parent, adoptee, or birth parent that Rewire has spoken to believes, is that three hours of government-mandated counseling is needed to convince or compel more pregnant people to relinquish their infants for adoption.

But if reproductive justice activists don’t educate themselves and each other about adoption’s role in their movement, proposed legislation like Sen. Lucio’s could become a reality in lieu of very real, very needed adoption industry reform. In a way, Lucio has done these activists a favor by showing his hand; he has given them a reason to incorporate more, and more serious, talk about adoption into the larger conversation around reproductive rights, and an opportunity to show lawmakers and the public what meaningful, lasting changes toward a more ethical adoption framework might look like instead.

Correction: A version of this article incorrectly noted that Texas law requires people seeking abortions “to undergo forced transvaginal ultrasounds and a 24-hour waiting period.” In fact, state law does not specify that the ultrasounds must be transvaginal, though in practice, many of the forced ultrasounds are likely to be transvaginal, as is routine practice for people in the early stages of pregnancy.

Analysis Family

Inter-country Adoption: Steep Declines in International Adoptions by U.S. Parents Reflect Mixed Record

Karen Smith Rotabi

For many committed to intercountry adoption, it is unfortunate that since the year 2004 the practice has declined more than 50%. An important question is: what is happening? The answer is complex. To begin with, the unfortunate reality is that intercountry adoption has a mixed history. 

Most Americans have been touched by adoption and many would agree that inter-country adoption is important and even an embodiment of our nation’s commitment to children and humanitarianism. Since World War Two, approximately one million children have been internationally adopted; leaving their country of origin and placed with adoptive families in other nations. Because US families have received at least 50 percent of these children we have been called an “Adoption Nation.” Children have arrived from a variety of countries, including Korea, Vietnam, China, Russia, Cambodia, and Guatemala. Recently, Ethiopia, with at least 5 million orphaned and vulnerable children, has become a popular source for adoptive children.

For many committed to inter-country adoption, it is unfortunate that since the year 2004 the practice has declined more than 50 percent. In sheer numbers, this means that we reached an all-time high of receiving 22,991 children that year and six years later, in 2010, we only had 11,058 children arrive in the US as international adoptees. The 2011 data indicates another decline to 9320 children sent to the US as adoptees.

An important question is: what is happening? The answer is complex. To begin with, the unfortunate reality is that inter-country adoption has a mixed history. On the positive side: many children have impressive developmental gains once they begin living in a family setting rather than a child care institution. Also, medical problems are may be addressed in the US and some children receive life altering if not lifesaving medical care. Overcoming disability and extreme deprivation is one part of the inter-country adoption story.

Even with so much good, there has been a dark side to adoption. It is a practice which has more than its fair share of scandals. The 2010 case of the young boy sent back to Russia unaccompanied with nothing more than a note requesting adoption “annulment” is a good example. Then, there was the Russian girl named Masha Allen who was adopted by a pedophile and he proceeded to sell her sexual abuse photo images into Internet pornography. Her case was eventually heard before US Congress when Masha testified about the abuse and asked “why didn’t anyone come to check on me?” Her question is a direct one for the adoption ‘professionals’ who handled her case. When you look deeper, those involved were anything but professional in practices. They flagrantly disregarded their responsibilty to investigate the adoption placement to determine if it was appropriate and then, in follow-up visits with Masha, to verify her health and safety.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Other problematic history includes allegations of child abduction. It is hard to forget that during the 2010 aftermath of the Haitian earthquake that a faith or mission group from Idaho attempted to illegally remove or traffic children into the Dominican Republic for the purpose of inter-country adoption. International press eventually identified that most of the children were not ‘orphans’ and their families believed that the children would be cared for and that their families would be able to visit with them and retain relations. When you think about it, families living in extreme poverty could so easily be led to believe such a thing and in a moment of desperation and hope. Allowing your child to leave with a stranger from the U.S. who promises of food and an education may be the only sense of salvation in the moment of disaster chaos. The desperate act eventually plays out as a decision made in haste and with a misrepresentation of intent. Legally such a scenario it fits international child abduction definitions when poor families are unable to retrieve children and then the children enter into adoption schemes.

There have been cases like Cambodia where an American adoption ‘facilitator’ orchestrated child ‘adoptions.’ Rural and mainly illiterate Cambodian families were often given a small sum of money and a bag of rice in exchange for their signature on critical legal documents. Again, these children were not orphans but they were desirable children—relatively young and healthy children who were easily matched with eager US families willing to pay $20,000 or more for the adoption. Investigators found that some of these Cambodian families were led to believe that their children were going to boarding schools overseas. The facilitator was eventually arrested by U.S. Federal Marshalls and she served time in prison for tax evasion, among other charges. Before she was stopped, she earned millions of dollars with her child trafficking scheme and U.S. families were devastated to learn that their children were not orphans.

More recently, the most notorious adoption nation with profound problems has been Guatemala. Approximately 30,000 children departed as inter-country adoptees from 1999-2007. Human rights defenders agree that abuses within this system were profound and while there were legitimate adoptions, there were also an unknown number of adoptions with serious irregularities and illegalities. Problems ranged from birth mother payments to induce adoption arrangements to actual child abduction for adoption. Recently, UN investigators found patterns of organized crime and the highest profile adoption attorney in Guatemala is now serving a 26-year prison sentence. She is linked to a range of problematic cases, including high profile child abduction cases.

Sadly there are three mothers in Guatemala who have taken to hunger protests for their individual daughters return from the U.S. One of those three women now has a Guatemalan court order for her daughter’s repatriation as a victim of abduction. The U.S. family in question, living in Missouri, has thus far ignored the court order with the exception of making a nationally-televised statement that they do not believe such a return to be in the best interests of their daughter. A resulting debate is brewing about rights, responsibilities, and the best interests of the child. No doubt it is difficult to remove a child from a family with which she has lived with for more than three years. In the long run, it may be even more difficult for the U.S. family to one day justify how they became complicit in abduction by ignoring a desperate mother’s search and a Guatemalan court order.

At the end of the day, Interpol has reportedly been contacted and our diplomats have no choice but to get involved because as a nation we have signed the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption. This international private law is implemented in the US with the year 2000 Inter-country Adoption Act which requires the US Department of State’s involvement in matters of child sales and abduction under the guise of inter-country adoption. To date, a resolution on this particular abduction case has been fleeting. Internationally recognized Guatemalan human rights defender, Norma Cruz advocates on behalf of this and other cases. Cruz reminds us that child abduction is the cruelest violence of all against a woman as it brings about “eternal suffering.” She has dedicated considerable time and resources to bring a resolution to this case and she reports that she will not rest until justice is served.

While we await resolution on these Guatemalan cases, we are ultimately left with an unfortunate history of inter-country adoption scandals which has led to the decline in the practice. Russian adoptions have slowed down considerably and a moratorium on Cambodian and Guatemalan adoptions is now in place. This is also true for Vietnamese adoptions as that country too has a history of fraud related to questionable child abandonment. Other countries such as China have slowed down considerably due to a variety of factors. And, while Ethiopia has taken off as an adoption nation, there are indications of serious problems in that nation too. In sum, the decline is significant and families who have hoped to adopt internationally are left an uncertain future. And, at the end of the day, this is unfortunate for all who stand to gain from family building via ethical inter-country adoption.