Saturday, May 26, 2007

International Adoption Gone Wrong

I came across an interesting article written a couple of months ago in Toronto Life magazine. It's called About a Boy. It chronicles the very difficult experience that a Toronto couple had while adopting their second child from India. Local corruption and greed almost resulted in them not being able to bring their son home. The orphanage director basically extorted money from them. But, in the end, they got their child and returned to Canada with him.

I think these kind of stories need to be told. The reality is that there are many places where corruption is a way of life- bribery is expected, under-the-table deals are the norm, and sensibilities about the value of human life differ dramatically. And I'm not just talking about Bay Street! ;) The boy in the above story was 'too dark' to ever be adopted within India, so international adoption was his only hope of survival.

But, maybe these stories need to come with some disclaimers. For example, this couple did not appear to attempt to use an adoption agency. Rather, a relative who worked in India helped find the child and connected the parents to the orphanage. There are accredited adoption agencies in Canada, the US, and Europe that have successful adoption programs in India. I would bet money that the orphanages which participate in these programs do not behave in such unscrupulous ways. IF they did, they'd be cut from the program. In fact, there are lots of examples of successful and relatively uneventful adoptions from India. But it always seems to be the one that goes wrong which attracts the most interest.

What bothers me is that this kind of story feeds the public fear about international adoption. The kinds of things described in that article do not happen in international adoptions that are carried out through reputable adoption agencies.

WE all know that babies are not bought. WE all know that parents are not extorted for more money once they meet their child. But the public doesn't necessarily understand this. How many of you home with your children have been asked "How much did he/she cost?"? We haven't even got our son yet and already I've had people remark to me about how expensive this adoption must be. To which I reply, "Well, it will cost us a bit- especially that trip and 2 week stay half-way around the world for 4 people. I mean, you know how much it costs just to go to Disney!" Maybe that gives them some perspective. Maybe not.

So, I'm really conflicted about articles like "About the Boy". I hope it serves a purpose- like warning prospective families not to try a Do-It-Yourself adoption. But a little balance- just giving some facts about the run-of-the-mill, routine adoptions that help create families nearly every day- would be nice. Maybe that would give the public a little perspective. Maybe not.


redmaryjanes said...

I agree 100%. Those of us who have invested the time to really get immersed in international adoption understand that there can be risks, but it is not the norm.
I would love to see some great press about the incredible gift that adoption is.

Ms. Dragonfly said...

Ya I get some real bad press about IA when I bring it up. And funny enough it's from 'educated people' often too. I know that bad things can happen and it's good to have knowledge, but in the 1000s of IA that happen yearly, what can the % of ones gone wrong be? Minimal is my guess and I agree it maybe the ones that did not use agencies.

cavatica said...

On the cost of adoption idea... I've thought that I'll answer if ever asked, "how much did she cost?" that our delivery costs were about the same as a hospital delivery. I think that gives some perspective too.

Anonymous said...

I am the mum of 2 girls adopted from China and I agree - we do get a lot of comments. I also use the "about the same as giving birth" when I'm asked about how much "they cost" I had a particularly nasty case of an old man following me in shop for about half an hour, trying to ask me this....

BUT I also belive that corruption is more commonplace than we would imagine or dare to belive.
Just Google Galindo (associated with a former reputable agency)and the whole Cambodian situation.
And there was a story just a few days ago about India wanting a child back - he was adopted by a Dutch couple legally through a very organsised and reputable agency. The boy was later found to have been kidnapped... The full story can be found at :
Sometimes the agency doesn't even know...

There is talk of this on adoption yahoogroups - ones having adoptees AND adoptive parents on - and it's extremely unnerving, to say the least.

I don't think that we can ever really 100% know that our adoptions haven't involved something of this kind. I belive it behoves us, as parents, do do the best we can and really research agencies, etc before we use them, to be prepared to only go to countries that are more likely to be above board and to rally around and support people who stand up and share their experiences like this. I know of adults who have found out information of a similar nature associated with their adoption and they feel victimised and shunned when they want to talk / write about it.

crazylady said...

Unfortunately, what you speak of is too true, in all countries involved in IA I suspect, some to greater degrees. I have heard nasty rumours about Russia myself.
I remember in China, there were two men at a tiny rickety desk with an Ikea lamp putting up each of our US dollars in the light to examine for authenticity. This took a while, as we had twins, and there were a lot of bills. Two of the brand new bills were rejected... The only time I really felt I was 'buying' a baby, and that was only my feeling, not reality. The Hunan scandal was just happening then too, though that has been dealt with 'strongly' shall we say.. death penalty.
These are generally third world countries we are dealing with. That is part and parcel.
Though, the vast majority are on the up and up.... and extremely intricate.