There are four myths that rule intercountry adoption:

Gita Ramaswamy, India - 2003

(with permission from the author) 

Myth No1: That thousands of children are abandoned by their natural parents. These are the children who need loving homes, hence adoption.

Fact : Most children who come in for adoption are `relinquished' – they are not abandoned. Adoption agencies go in search of vulnerable poor parents and unwed mothers who can be induced into giving up their children. This number is also not sufficient to provide babies for the numbers of waiting parents. Andhra Pradesh, for example, banned relinquishment of babies to private agencies. Between April 2001- July 2003, a total of 285 babies were abandoned all over the state, that is about 10 babies a month. This in a state which had previously sent over 300 children (more than twice the number of abandoned  babies in two years) yearly in inter-country adoption. Maharashtra similarly sends over 500 babies in inter-country adoption (ICA) of which over 60% are relinquished babies.

Myth No. 2 : Foreigners want to save our children

Fact : Foreigners want healthy infants below the age of 2 years only. From the months of August 2003 – October 2003, of the 306 children who went abroad, only 16 were special needs children, 25 were older children. The rest were all healthy toddlers.[1] Of 80 intercountry cases studied by the committee of NGOs appointed by the Govt. of AP in January 2002, all 80 foreign parents wanted healthy infants.[2] While a few foreigner want to `save' children of the Thirld World, most want infants to build a family, because there are not enough adoptable children of suitable colour in their own countries.

Myth No. 3 : Adoptees do well abroad

Fact : While many adoptees certainly do well, there is disturbing information that many suffer, largely of misfit of coloured peoples in racist societies.

A study done in Sweden by Anders Lange on 217 adoptees born in India: 24% had been refused employment, 25% had been harassed at the work place, 7% had been refused to hire an apartment, 17% had been badly treated in school, 14% had been harassed by neighbours, 33% had been threatened on the streets, 7% had been beaten physically, 13% had been refused entry at a restaurant, 15% had been badly treated in a shop, 12% had been badly treated by the police, 11% had been badly treated at a hospital and 12% had been badly treated by social workers. [3] The rates of suicides for adoptees are five times that of ethnic Swedes – a rate comparable only to forced migration and cultural genocide.[4]

Between 1945-2001, of a total of 43,882 children adopted into Sweden, 6,503 are from India. Sweden is considered the more liberal of the Western countries. Yet recent studies have revealed that adoptees fare worse than the Swedish-born control group and general population in levels of education, earn less at work and have less fulltime work, are less likely to be married/cohabiting. They earn less than their adoptive parents and Swedish-born biological siblings, are more unemployed than them. (This is important in the light of the argument that children adopted abroad automatically get the advantages of the adopted family.)

Adoptees are over represented in psychiatry centers - 170% over-representation in child psychiatry centers, 400% over-representation at mental health institutions, 200% overrepresented for abuse of alcohol (boys) and narcotics (girls), 200% over represented for anoxeric behaviour (girls), 200% over represented as perpetrators of violent crime (boys) and victims of violent crime (girls) and 300% over represented for suicide attempts (boys) 200 % for girls.  They are also 240% overrepresented for placement in foster homes, and 260% over represented for placing in youth homes. The studies also show higher unpleasant sexual experiences for adopted girls, higher frequency of early sex, several sexual partners, early pregnancy and abortion, as well as higher substance abuse.[5]

Myth No. 4 : Adoption agencies are charitable bodies.

Fact : Most adoption agencies sell babies for high profits.

This is not a peculiarity of Indian agencies, there is a global trade in babies.  `The buying and selling of babies under the guise of adoption is yet another extension of trafficking and an egregious human rights violation. In the case of foreign adoption, several means of procurements have identified to secure the babies…. Shady adoption agencies have also worked to convince impoverished parents to give up their baby so it will be given a much 'better life' in the US." This is the official voice of the US Department of State. The Law Reform Commission, 1994 of New South Wales, Australia, has this to say, 'ICA provides incentive and opportunity for child trafficking to occur.  Some South American and Asian countries that have high rates of legitimate ICA also have high rates of child abduction and sale. The combination of poverty, ineffective legislation and bureaucracy in donor countries, with money and desperation for children in receiving countries, provides the perfect climate for trafficking and sale to flourish.'

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has recognized the problem.

"The Assembly therefore fiercely opposes the current transformation of international adoption into nothing short of a market regulated by the capitalist laws of supply and demand and characterised by a one-way flow of children  from poor and emerging states into our developed countries. It roundly condemns all crimes committed in order to facilitate adoption, as well as the commercial tendencies and practices that include the use of psychological or  financial pressure on vulnerable families, the arranging of adoptions directly with families, the conceiving of children for adoption, the falsification of paternity documents etc and adoption via the Internet."[6]

 'We as a country have done a poor job of regulating adoption here and abroad', says Adam Pertman, author of the book Adoption Nation, 'We know mothers in Third World countries are given paltry amounts to give up their children for adoption. We don't have a clue how many and how much money is being pocketed by others along the way.'[7]

That adoption has become a commercial transaction has not been denied by anyone. The US Dept. of Health and Human Services, gives out information on various costs of adoption on the NAIC website[8]

Domestic public agency adoption: Zero to $2,500

Domestic private agency adoption: $4,000 to $30,000+

Domestic independent adoption: $8,000 to $30,000+

Intercountry private agency or independent adoption: $7,000 to $25,000+

According to the Evan B.Donaldson Adoption Institute Survey of Americans who adopted internationally, 13% were not satisfied with services, 14% said their adoption cost more than they were told, and 75% of parents said they were asked by their agencies to carry cash overseas, with most carrying $3,000 or more.[9]

A white baby costs $25,000 to $30,000, while the cost for an African-American baby is $4,000 to $8,000. (Komo news, 2002)[10]. At the Edna Gladney Centre, Texas, kids start at $45,000 upwards. If you go onto any Internet site,[11]you could check the price-tag for different babies of colour yourself. The average adoption cost for India is $22,325 (plus home study and INS), which includes the child being escorted to the US. `There are many creative ways to finance an international adoption.[12],' and adoption agencies help parents, much like house or car financiers to finance adoption too.

Reports of trafficking the world over Inter-country adoption is now being increasingly recognized as a problem the world over. Over the last five years, Moldova, Latvia, Rwanda, Laos, Romania, Belarus, and Cambodia have suspended inter-country adoptions following large-scale trafficking[13].

Cambodia had serious problems with trafficking of children in the name of inter-country adoption. The office of Visa Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Dept. of State, US, has this to say, 'There is serious criminal activity associated with Cambodia adoptions that includes baby selling and baby abduction……We conclude that this is a significant problem and one that was clearly acknowledged by senior Cambodian officials. Facilitators and orphanages persuade mothers to relinquish their children in exchange for small (usually $20-100) payments."[14].

Indonesia now permits adoption by foreigners only when they have been resident in Indonesia for a minimum of two years. Russia is conducting an enquiry into a massive document fraud in Russian international adoptions, where over 600 children were classified as handicapped so that Italians could adopt them.[15]

This resulted in entire Russian villages being denuded of children.[16]  

The US State Dept. itself has 'strongly urged American citizens not to enter into an agreement with an adoption service provider to adopt in Vietnam at this time.' Reuters reported that Vietnamese police have charged fourteen people for alleged involvement in an adoption racket that illegally sold children to foreigners.[17]

The Ukraine has instituted legal proceedings against officials of the State Child Adoption Centre on charges of breaking laws with respect to inter-country adoption, forging documents[18].

In Latin America, Brazil was investigating allegations in the southern state of Sao Paolo that a local court was allowing foreigners to adopt Brazilian children, after accusing parents of mistreating their children, or on the excuse that they were single parents. [19]

Guatemala sending over 2,000 babies to the USA each year has the worst record. In contrast to national adoptions where a court order is necessary, all that foreign adopters need is a certificate from a lawyer and a short report from a social worker. Women in brothels have been reported as a source for babies.  Babies were also kidnapped from nearby Mexico and El Salvador and moved to Guatemala for quick processing. [20]

The situation was so bad that UNICEF, was constrained to recommend that non-judicial adoptions be stopped until Guatemala passed an adoption law in accordance with international standards.[21]

In Korea unwed mothers homes operate as supply zones for this export raw material. 'Virtually from conception, the adoption agencies have established a system of guaranteeing a steady supply of healthy children. They support pregnant women's homes; in fact, three of the four recognised agencies run their own. One of the agencies has its own maternity hospital and does its own delivery. All four provide and subsidise childcare.

All pay foster mothers about $80 a month to care for the infants, and the agencies provide the food and the clothing and other supplies free of charge. "I've had to ask myself, do we really have baby factories here? Exclaims Ackerman, the INS officer in charge at the US Embassy in Seoul.[22]

In Georgia, a hospital nurse told parents their healthy children had died, and then gave the babies to a Canadian woman charged with selling them overseas. Olga Gorelik, a Canadian citizen through marriage sold as many as 20 babies for $23,000 each in foreign adoptions.[23]

In California, US, itself, a US couple admitted to recruiting Hungarian women to provide babies for a child-selling ring. The scheme resulted in 20 adoptions, which netted Marianne and Thomas Gati, $360,000. [24]

Brazil had several complaints that a local court was allowing foreigners to adopt Brazilian children against their parents' wishes.[24] In the US itself, 42 yr old  Denise Thomas was accused of trying to sell her 8 yr old adopted Russian daughter for $4,000 on the Internet. 'Much as you would advertise a car for sale', Arapahoe County Sheriff Sgt. Eugene Reilly said. The husband,Peter Thomas said his wife suffers from a mild form of manic depression, but controls it well with medication. It makes her more susceptible to stress, he said.[25]

Romania has seen a progressive deterioration. A country that had fewer than 30 ICAs in 1989 witnessed the departure of more than 10,000 children from January 1990-July 1991. In a report prepared for USAID in January 2001, Michael Ambrose and Anna Coburn say, [26]

`Almost every discussion of adoption in Romania involved the use of commercial terms, terms such as "auction" and "market" and "price". Frequently, those with whom we spoke would apologise for using such disquieting terms but would explain that they best describe the situation. This phenomenon reveals how deeply the Romanian system of inter-country adoption is being affected by the influence of money, and helps to explain the concerns we heard that somehow our children are being exchanged for money or other value… The unique point system[27] method discourages adoption of Romanian children by Romanian families. Most of our participants were also very concerned that the complexity of the point system made it susceptible to corrupt practices, and that consequently many of the financial resources generated for child protection programs through the ICA were being misappropriated…There was general agreement that the fees paid by adopting parents in the US, and to a lesser extent in Canada and Western Europe, were higher than the actual costs of adoption. Virtually uncontrolled adoption activities allowed prospective adoptive parents to fly to Romania and adopt directly from the birth parents or orphanage officials. Brokers, attorneys, and facilitators entered the picture, and under those circumstances there was very little focus on the use of child-centred adoption procedures….  The average age of a child in a domestic placement was approximately three years old, while the average age of a child placed through an inter-country adoption for the same period was approximately ten months old. …We were told of instances in which Romanian families, sometimes including relatives of the children, wanted to adopt Romanian children, but were unable to because the children were diverted to families abroad. ..Finally the Romanian law actually makes it more difficult and time-consuming to complete a domestic adoption than an ICA… Even where a child has relatives who live a few miles across the border in the next judet[28] and who are willing to adopt, the economic benefits of placing the child in ICA can be irresistible.'

The UNICEF Innocenti Digest No. 4 on ICA[29] documents the various non-exhaustive ways of abuse of the established norms and laws for ICA :

  1. Seeking changes in policy and practice by applying highly questionable political and economic pressures.
  2. Illegally obtaining children for adoption
  3. Identifying potentially vulnerable mothers and inciting them to give up their future or new born baby.
  4. Falsely informing the mother that her baby was stillborn or died shortly after birth.
  5. Exchange of a child for financial or material rewards.
  6. Offering women financial incentives to conceive a child specifically for adoption abroad.
  7. Illegally securing permission to adopt by using fraudulent documents.
  8. Corruption of officials and judges to obtain favourable decisions.
  9. Taking a child through a third country.

[1] Cara clearances,

[2] committee report (with Sangeeta)

[3] Anders Lange: Diskriminering, integration och etniska relationer, quoted by Tobias Hubinette in International adoptees in Sweden according to statistics and research, communication            

[4] tobias,

[5] Tobias Hubinette, Swedish Adoptees : International adoptees in Sweden according to statistics and research,


[7] Reuters, Dec. 12, 2001, Alan Elsner, US cracks down on global adoption abuses


[9] The Evan B.Donaldson Adoption Institute Newsletter Archives July 2002


[11] I went onto


[13] US Govt.


[15] . and This tactic was also largely adopted by St. Theresa's Sisters; babies were labeled handicapped to enable them to be sent abroad

[16] IAVAAN, February  22,  2003

[17] Reuters August, 1999


[19] Casa Alianza newsletter, May 28, 1999

[20] Coalition against Trafficking in Women, Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation,

[21] Christian Science Monitor, October 17, 200

[22] Babies for sale, South Koreans make them, Americans buy them, by Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive, January 1988 at

[23] National Post, Anne Marie Owens,


[25] Denver Rocky Mountain News, 25.5.1999


[27] where donations from adoption agencies and adopters were solicited

[29] op.cit

[28] district


Watching-over it's own-kind

According to the Evan B.Donaldson Adoption Institute Survey of Americans who adopted internationally, 13% were not satisfied with services, 14% said their adoption cost more than they were told, and 75% of parents said they were asked by their agencies to carry cash overseas, with most carrying $3,000 or more.

Surveys checking customer satisfaction mean little in terms of "standards of care" as much as they do for future profits and gimmics that bring the adopting families back for more fees and services.  Thus we are entering the crime and shame that the adoption industry has done for safe child-placement.

At this point, maybe sex-ed and biology needs to be tossed and replaced with parenting classes that teach self-care and cooking in school.  Maybe this can be started at the elementary level.  God knows there are a lot of houses and families that could use the "home-work".

Pound Pup Legacy