Uproot Criminal Child Adoption

from: allAfrica.com

The Analyst (Monrovia)
7 February 2008

THE LATE PRESIDENT William Richard Tolbert described children as his 'precious jewels' and future leaders of the nation, endeavoring by so doing to drive home the idea that today's children are tomorrow's adults with the challenging responsibility to shoulder the affairs of the country. Some of the children of Tolbert's days are obviously today's ministers, directors, doctors, lawyers, rights' advocates to name a few.

IN ESSENCE, THE late President saw the strength of the nation in terms of the quality and quantity of its young people, whose development he considered as underpinning all calculations of national development planning and humanitarian endeavors. But current practice, especially, as an outgrowth of the war era, is the criminal enterprise of child abduction euphemistically camouflaged as adoption. In Liberia today, so called humanitarian workers including religious workers acting on catalogue orders of crafty child-seekers, come to the country under the name of benevolent institutions and establish what are referred to as orphanages. From these institutions, the good-doers capture en masse children of poverty stricken families and quickly fly them to childless couples abroad, who in turn defray their criminal deeds with mouthwatering financial rewards.

WHILE THE ATTITUDE of these child seekers is dangerous to the consistent retention of the population, parents who are easily conceding to the carrying out of these criminal designs must be blamed on the same scale. There is demand and supply that is fueling the evil transaction. But government institutions responsible for monitoring such charitable institutions cannot be spared from the same blame game because the organizations involved in these activities secure the necessary backings before going ahead. It would not be a mistake to say that these officials, not content with their wages as usual are financially trapped against using their best wisdom of nationalism to stem this practice. Like mindless shepherds, they widely open the gates for lions, leopards and other predators to devour their animals. What a shameful dilemma for the innocent children, the gifts of the Creator to both the parents and the country?

WHERE THEN IS the future of the country? What stakes have the country in these children that are carted away without future report about their wellbeing or social progress? In this way, we waste the future of our country without any national consideration of the devastating consequence this will pose for the country. We must learn to keep our children here and secure means of educating them to shoulder the future of the nation with capable leadership. In some ways, there is a similarity of slavery to the current practice of abduction now called adoption. Our ancestors, according to history were captured in the hinterland, herded to the coast and then stockpiled in the holds of ships and taken abroad to provide various forms of backbreaking agricultural supports. Instead of adults, as the current practice is, our younger ones, the tender children, Tolbert's 'Precious Jewels' are taken away in the 21st Century without public outcry or questioning by even 'authorities'.

A RECENT NEWS that provoked this analysis has it that some child adoption groups are now directly engaged in child trafficking. The disturbing news has it that two child adoption agencies Addy's Hope Adoption Agency based in Texas, USA, and Greater Love Children's Home in Liberia are at the center of controversy in this trafficking. According to the news, the two groups have succeeded in taking seven of ten children out of Liberia under the same scheme.

WE BELIEVE THAT this news is a dangerous signal of the extent to which this sad practice in our national history has evolved.

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Seven Children Sneaked Out

from: allAfrica.com

The Analyst (Monrovia)

NEWS
1 February 2008
Posted to the web 1 February 2008

Elijah Yormie is only ten months old. He is enjoying the spring weather by now in the United States of America. He has no idea how he got there. His fate was determined by a child adoption agency that placed him into the hands people working for another adopting agency in the United States.

Like Elijah, Obadiah Perthan, one-year old, should be in his adoption home in the USA also. The kids were among seven children reportedly sneaked out of the Liberia into America at the behest of the Holy Ann Petree and Addy's Hopoe Adoption agencies based in the USA.

Ten minors were allegedly mobilized from various orphanages and homes and brought under one roof in Monrovia at the Greater Love Children's Home, working with a man identified as Pastor Richard Wesley. Greater Love and Pastor Wesley are both partners of the Addy's Hope Adoption Agency.

The children also include Moses Flomo, 4; William Dahn, 3; Theresa Dahn, 2, Janet Dahn, 5; Winston Kokeh, 5; Levetta Quatta, 3; and Benedict A. Carter, 3. The name of one of the children is still unknown.

Media reports said Deputy Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Joseph W. Geebro has put a hold on the children's leaving from Liberia until he verifies whether or the adoption groups involved are legally registered under laws of Liberia.

He was however reportedly pressured by some lawmakers and coerced to write a letter to authorizing that the children be taken away. While government was in the process of investigating the adoption of the ten kids, information released to the media by a group of Child Rights Advocates have raised their voice against what they described as "such illegal trafficking of Liberian children".

In their statement read yesterday at the press conference, Sustainable Development Program (SDP), Helping Hand Liberia, FIND and National Child Rights Observatory Group (NACROG) said, "Ten more children have been adopted from an unaccredited orphanage for inter-country adoption."

The groups, speaking under NACROG, said the illegal adoption of children from Liberia is "grave and looming danger" and that the danger of illegal and fraudulent adoption of children, some as young as less than one year old is not only worrisome, but also threatens the lives of those children.

"The children are future leaders", the group noted; hence their welfare must be sought now. They added, "It is worth noting that the processing of inter-country adoption takes about at 2-4 weeks, a short period of compatibility between children and the adoptive parents."

The group wants the government to conduct a probe into the wave of child trafficking. According to them in 2006 alone some 353 children have undergone inter-country adoption, which they believe is alarming for a country with a small of population of three million people.

"It should be noted that the Liberian domestic laws contain safeguards, procedures, and practices for all adoptions in Liberia," the group urged, further calling on the Liberian government which is signatory to several international instruments, including the UNCRC, Hague Convention which is yet to be ratified, and the African Charter on the rights and welfare of children, to take practical steps to stamp illegal adoption and child trafficking in Liberia.

Not much is known about the Greater Love Children's Home in Liberia and Holy Ann Petree in the USA, but information available on Addy's Adoption and Child Relief Ministry shows that agency provides personal, caring assistance in adopting kids.

The agency claims to have clients in 50 states in the USA international programs. It assists heterosexual individuals adopt children under its program, it claims to adopt children not less than two years, but some of the ten children are less than two years.

The rights advocates are worried that some of children may not just be adopted and treated humanely, and as their spokesman, Sayon Kieh said, "these kids could be used as sex slaves, for child pornography or child labor. In any situation, these are Liberian children and what affects them affects the country."

Liberia investigates child adoptions by U.S. agency

Fri 1 Feb 2008, 18:01 GMT

By Alphonso Toweh

MONROVIA, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Liberia's government is investigating what it believes were irregularities in the way seven Liberian children were flown to the United States for adoption, a senior official said on Friday.

Deputy Minister for Social Welfare Joseph W. Geebro told Reuters the two private groups involved in organising the adoption, the Texas-based Addy's Hope Adoption Agency and the Greater Love Children's Home in Liberia, were not formally accredited or licensed in the West African country.

Representatives of Addy's Hope Adoption Agency and the Greater Love Children's Home were not immediately available for comment.

Concern over irregular adoptions of African children has risen following a high-profile case in Chad late last year in which six French aid workers were sentenced to eight years hard labour for trying to illegally fly 103 infants to Europe.

In a diplomatic deal, Chad allowed the six French to be flown back to France to serve equivalent jail terms there.

Geebro said in the Liberian case seven children aged from 11 months to five years were flown on Wednesday to the United States to their adoption families even though a 30-day period requested for checks by his Social Welfare Bureau had not been completed.

"We're not happy over the adoption of the seven children by this (American) group. We think it was not done with the approval of this office," Geebro said, adding he had briefed President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on the case.

"The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare requested the U.S. embassy to hold approval of (adoption) visas (for the children) for 30 days until a full investigation was completed," Geebro said. "But this was not done," he added.

Susan Grant, the Liberia country director for the British-based charity Save the Children, said that a local children's NGO had tried to obtain a court injunction to block the departure of the children. "But it was too late," she said.

Concerns over the adoption focused on the circumstances under which the children, some believed to be from northern Nimba province, were handed over by their families for adoption.

Save the Children and other child protection agencies have been working in Liberia and other developing countries to strengthen adoption rules to prevent poor families being lured into giving up their infants for adoption by unregistered or unscrupulous entities or individuals.

Geebro said some children adopted from Liberia had subsequently been found to have been carried away into prostitution or into working as indentured servants. (Editing by Pascal Fletcher)

http://africa.reuters.com/wire/news/usnL01119563.html

Deeds and Services

Deputy Minister for Social Welfare Joseph W. Geebro told Reuters the two private groups involved in organising the adoption, the Texas-based Addy's Hope Adoption Agency and the Greater Love Children's Home in Liberia, were not formally accredited or licensed in the West African country.

One of the concerns the general public should have is how international adoption affects the health of all involved.  For instance, how are these agencies preventing diseases from Liberia entering other countries?  Are these children and parents given the proper preventative medical care the CDC recommends for each region?  [Go to http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx for traveler's health requirements.]

Who is responsible for these disease updates and how can parents be certain the medical care given is reliable and trustworthy, if an agency is not formally accredited or licensed?

regulations, what regulations?

And even when agencies are properly licenced, who is going to enforce the regulations the licence is based upon. This week I've been reading the hearings "SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN OVER THE INTERNET: FOLLOW-UP ISSUES TO THE MASHA ALLEN ADOPTION". Though not related to the situation in Liberia, it presents a shocking insight into the world of international adoption and the complete lack of regulation and especially the enforcement of those regulations.

I checked up the requirements for medical examination and found the following:

from: travel.state.gov

The Medical Examination

Every immigrant visa applicant must undergo a physical examination by a physician who has been certified by the U.S. Government (the Centers for Disease Control) for that purpose. The U.S. Embassy or Consulate can provide a list of such physicians within the foreign country. The medical examination focuses primarily on detecting certain serious infectious or contagious diseases or medical disabilities that may be a basis for visa ineligibility. If the child is found to have any of these illnesses or disabilities, the child may still be issued a visa after the illness has been successfully treated, or after a waiver of the visa eligibility is approved by the BCIS. If the physician or the consular official notes that the child has a serious disease or disability, the parents will be notified and asked if they wish to proceed with the child's immigration. Prospective adoptive parents should not rely on this medical examination to detect all possible medical conditions and may wish to arrange an additional private medical examination if they have concerns about the child's health.

While the physician conducts the medical examination, the consular officer must complete the I-604 Report on Overseas Orphan Investigation. This report consists of a review of the facts and documents to verify that the child qualifies as an orphan. In addition, the consular officer ensures that the adoptive parents are aware of any medical problems that the medical examination may have uncovered. Only when this report is completed can the consular officer finally approve the I-600 petition and/or immigrant visa.

Simple Math: zero follow-up

http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=109_house_hearings&docid=f:31471.pdf

It is clear from all the documents we have reviewed that from the start of Mancuso’s adoption in august 1997 all the way to the last contact with him—the infamous telephonic post-placement report in november of 2000—Ms. Smith and her employees were the only people Mancuso was contacting about his adoption of Masha.

While certain “official forms” that Mancuso submitted may have had her former employer’s company name on it—an agency called “families through international adoption”—at all times Mancuso was a client of Ms. Smith. I certainly have some questions about why “families through international adoption” was not more stringent in their overview of these adoption applications that Ms. Smith was handling, but that doesn’t take away from her central role in Mancuso’s adoption of Masha. I expect to get answers today.

Perhaps the other overarching problem that I believe is exemplified by Masha’s adoption is the piecemeal nature of the information flow—each agency involved, whether it’s the home study agency, or the placing agency or the postplacement reporting agency—is relying, it seems, on the “other” one to look more closely. For example, it is obvious from looking at documents in Mancuso’s file that there are forged notary signatures. Why didn’t anyone question this? Mancuso submitted 6 reference letters in support of his adoption—and yet no one ever called any of the references to find out if they are real. Why?

Typically a prospective employer calls references prior to hiring a new employee— why would the process be less diligent when a child from a foreign country is being placed in a home? we also now know that his biological daughter—who was 20 years old at the time of Masha’s adoption and estranged from him—was also sexually abused by him for years. Yet, no one contacted her to find out what kind of parent he was. Again I ask why?

I don’t expect an adoption agency to act as a police agency—however, I do expect that when you are bringing a child into a new country, where they don’t speak the language and have no support system around them whatsoever, that you perform due diligence. Calling references, ensuring there are in-person follow up visits with the child, and speaking to the children of the prospective adoptive parent rise to the level of minimal diligence in my book.

I pose this last question to illustrate how the lack of follow-up with Mancuso was so critical: had Jeannene Smith’s agency actually read the 1 supposedly done by a company called “social services of western pennsylvania,” and bothered to call the phone number listed on the agency’s letterhead—they probably would’ve discovered pretty quickly that the agency didn’t exist, the address didn’t exist, and the phone number was disconnected. Perhaps that would have tipped off Ms. Smith that something was not right here. that report was done in march 1999---imagine how many years of torture and abuse Masha would have been saved from?

Pound Pup Legacy