Today we continue our discussion of the new book by investigative journalist Kathryn Joyce, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption. If you missed the previous installments in this series, you can read them here:
- Part 1: God's will and the moral imperative to adopt
- Part 2: Domestic adoption and the rebranding of adoption via specific language
In this installment, we focus on orphanages, deception of adoptive and original parents, and coercive tactics employed by the adoption industry. We invite you to join the conversation in the comments following each post.
Karen Pickell: Let's talk a little more about these orphanages, and particularly about the situation in Ethiopia, which is covered in chapter four. Joyce points out how the demand for adoptable children spawns new "orphanages" that do not even exist before U.S. adoption agencies descend on these impoverished countries searching for kids to send back to waiting American families. I was saddened to learn of the Ethiopian government's role in perpetuating the criminal activity of procuring children to be sent overseas by demanding humanitarian aid from the adoption agencies, amounting to $3.7 million annually. There was such a strong financial incentive to keep this business going.
Rebecca Hawkes: Yes, Karen, and also a financial incentive for agencies to try to stay in business, even if that meant hopping from country to country and engaging in unethical practices. “’Corruption skips from one unprepared country to the another—until that country gets wise, changes its laws, and corrupt adoptions shift to the next unprepared nation,’ wrote journalist E. J. Graff, who researched international adoption corruption for several years at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University." There's a huge money factor, and it comes into play in so many ways.
Lynn Grubb: I was quite shocked to learn of this, Karen. But it makes sense. Families hear the rumors that the neighbor's kids are going to the U.S. for an education and other families jump on the bandwagon and put their "orphans" in "orphanages" for opportunities. Sadly, they don't even fully understand that they are relinquishing their rights forever. That is so wrong to me.
Rebecca: I'd also like to highlight the point that the book makes about prospective adoptive parents' wish lists (wanting a young child, a female child, etc.) driving demand, creating an underworld in which children are procured to fill the orders. It's chilling to think of it this way, but the money coming into poor countries from U.S. adopters and agencies is a huge influence. Corruption is bound to happen in such circumstances.
I agree, Lynn. So wrong!
Susan Perry: The money factor drives the business, and adoption is a subject, unfortunately, that can easily be misrepresented and simplified. Who can argue with the assertion that "every child deserves a loving home?" People don't want to look at the unsettling truths behind the business, either overseas or here.
Rebecca: And then there are the people like the Bradshaws, American adoptive parents who spoke out about the corruption and lies they encountered and faced strong retribution, almost losing their own bio kids as a result of speaking out. Scary.
Lynn: Yes, Rebecca. I recall somebody receiving death threats as well. Big money in adoption.
This book has certainly stimulated a strong sense of outrage in me!
Karen P.: Lynn, this truth that our western idea of adoption is not understood in these countries is pointed out repeatedly in the book. How awful that parents are sending their kids off thinking they're getting a chance at a good education, only to later learn that they've lost their children forever? As I read about Haiti back in chapter two, I kept thinking, "How do these adoptive parents live with themselves once they learn what they've really done?" I was pleased to find Joyce interviewing adoptive parents of some of the Ethiopian children in chapter four. One mother, Jessie Hawkins, says, "Finding out that you have someone else's child simply because you happen to have been born in a country where you're more privileged than they are? You want to throw up, you don't know what to do." Many of these adoptive parents are also being scammed by the agencies. I was a little confused, though, by the story of the Bradshaws, who discovered their adopted children were not really orphans and wanted to return them to their family in Ethiopia, but couldn't for some legal reason that wasn't clearly explained. I do wish Joyce would have made it clear why these children could not be reunited with their families. I was left wondering whether the Bradshaws really did everything they could have to get these kids back where they belonged.
Yes, Rebecca, the way their agency turned on the Bradshaws was very scary.
Carlynne Hershberger: I questioned that aspect of it too, Karen. She says several times that it would be illegal for the child to be sent back. How can that be? The whole idea that people would mislead a family to think they're simply giving their child an education opportunity while all along taking the child away permanently just sickens me to the core. I don't understand a human who could do that.