Complaints from foreign adopters
IN early 2004, at an international meeting of foreign adopters conducted in Hyderabad by CARA, an agency in Maharashtra came in for much criticism from foreign adoption agencies as well as individual adopters. On CARA's request, they sent it their complaints in writing, mostly by e-mail.
The then Member-Secretary of CARA passed on all the complaints to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the authority responsible for taking action against erring adoption agencies. The Ministry sent a team to inspect the agency in mid-2004. However, according to informed sources, nothing seems to have been heard about the matter since then.
Excerpts from the complaints sent to CARA by the foreign adopters, and government and private agencies abroad:
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Letter from an adoptive parent in Singapore, who adopted a girl on January 20, 2003, and wrote to CARA on April 1, 2004:
"After a couple of referrals (one HIV positive sent without our knowledge), haggling for money and donations and never-ending delays we finally adopted ... in 2003 from India. The child was covered with scabies from head to foot, had fungal infection, was severely dehydrated and was suffering from septicaemia. [She] had to be hospitalised for several weeks before we could take her home. From the birth weight of 3.5 kg, ... weighed 2.3 kg four months after being taken over by the agency, where the environment for babies is abysmal. Almost all babies were covered with scabies and the same uncleaned feeding bottle was used for all babies, who were hardly fed two bottles of watery milk the whole day."
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Letter from an adoptive parent from Singapore, who adopted a girl on September 5, 2002, and wrote to CARA in April 2004:
"When we took custody of six-month-old ... , she was sick with scabies from head to foot, parasites in the stomach and intestinal problems. She was also filthy with sores all over her body. She was developmentally very backward as she could not even hold her head up or roll over - much less crawl.
"From Day One, the Indian agency has been asking how much we can "donate". The agency's director was not happy at all with the $2,000 we were paying him for the baby. The agency's staff constantly kept harassing us during the time we were in India asking us if we can pay them more. The director even asked us to get him a particular brand of whisky. We got away lightly but others who had come there from Europe and the U.S. to adopt were harassed terribly. They were asked to get digital camera, photocopier machine, cot and so on. He even threatened to take back the baby if they did not pay more. Several rules were flouted if you paid more."
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Letter from an adoptive parent in the U.S., who adopted a girl in September 2002,and wrote to CARA on January 29, 2004:
"A single NRI mother, I adopted one-year-old ... from India after a traumatising experience for over a year. (I am writing a year later as I wanted to be sure all adoption procedures are through and I have the adoption decree.) After a couple of bad referrals, the agency sent me [her] picture clothed from head to foot. We liked her and sent thousands of dollars as donation, on the request of the agency, to take care of [her]. But when my father went to India to take custody of the child, he found her in a pathetic state - she was skin and bones with scabies from head to toe and warts and black spots all over her body (Molluscum contagiosum). She was severely malnourished and could not even walk. She had severe laceration marks on her wrist suggesting that she was tied down. She did not look anything like the picture that was sent to us. After hospitalisation and continued care she is well now."
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Letter from a prospective adoptive parent in London, who got the guardianship order of a girl in 1999 and revoked the order a month later in September through an application in the Pune Family Court 5:
"The Indian agency we dealt with practices fraudulent and unethical means to make money in inter-country adoptions. The first words we heard from the organisation were: How much money have you brought with you? From then on the harassment for donations began. According to reports from the agency, one-year-old ... (born February 1,1998) was normal and could crawl, speak and stand with assistance. [She] also looked beautiful in the photograph sent to us with clothes covered from head to toe. We travelled to India to adopt [her]. The process was all under way even before we reached the place. But to our shock we found that the child hardly looked like the photograph sent to us and she was abnormal with developmental disorders in contrast to what we were made to believe. She was also suffering from chickenpox. We found out from three paediatricians (to be absolutely sure) that though [she] was 14 months, her motor age was 6.5 months and mental age was seven months. The doctor did not rule out cerebral palsy because of the hypotonic state of her muscles. Petrified at the state of the agency and unable to digest the fact that we were thoroughly cheated we revoked the guardianship of ... . No one - Indian or foreigner - should go through what we had gone through."
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An agency in Kansas, USA, which stopped dealing with the Indian agency after sending a batch of six adopters, wrote to CARA on January 6, 2004:
"We stopped referring our prospective adoptive parents to the agency after the first batch of six cases, who were treated extremely badly. Of the six referrals, three babies died, one was taken back and two were unhealthy. The agency also followed illegal and unethical means.
First, the money it asked the adopters to cough up was not a donation; it was a demand. Though we made it clear that $3,000 would be the average cost of one adoption, the agency demanded $6,000 per adoption. Its director demanded huge amounts in donations. The money also did not go towards the welfare of the children, who were maintained in unhygienic and filthy condition.
Second, the children were referred to the adopters before they were legally free for adoption.
Third, when we visited the agency we were shocked at the condition of children kept there. The babies were in respiratory distress with nasal flaring; they were severely malnourished and dehydrated; and they had scabies so bad that they appeared to have chicken pox.
"The licence of the agency, according to our knowledge, has been revoked several times. But it was always returned. In addition, its director has been granted approvals for more children and additional facilities. How does this happen?
"When some of us are trying desperately to make a difference in the lives of children, it continues to remain a challenge with such people practising illegal and unethical means."
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Brit-Marie Nygren, Director of a Family Association for Inter-Country Adoption, Gothenburg, Sweden, who stopped dealing with the agency after one adoption:
"We stopped dealing with the agency because their dealing was very business oriented. They fixed the price at $6,000 per adoption. It was to be paid in two instalments: Half during child proposal and the rest after court decision.
"Shockingly, they offered a reduction of $1,000 for adopting two children with Hepatitis B. That is, $5,000 for the two children taken together. The mail was sent in October 1999 informing us that the process can begin while by the first week of November the children will be free for adoption. This means that the bargain began even before the children were legally free for adoption.
"In March 2000, four siblings (two groups) were proposed to us saying that they were all male children and were proposed to other agency as well. Whoever approves first the babies will be reserved for them. The cost of the adoptions will be equal to three adoptions. That is, $18,000.
The agency's director also wrote to us on March 23, 2000, asking our adopters to bring him bottles of Johnny Walker Black Label whisky for his son's wedding on April 16. He also sent a letter on May 3, 2000, asking for whisky bottles for his daughter's wedding in July.
"Though our dealings with the agency ended in March 2000, a year later, in March 2001, its director asked donations in kind that included photocopier and fax machines, typewriter, computer, washing machine, children beds, video camera and water purifier.
"Strangely, he also informed us in the March 7, 2001, letter that "the Gujarat government has sanctioned 200 children and will be transferring 100 children to our new facility within 4-6 weeks."
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Monica Lind, Head, Adoption Centre, Sweden, who initiated the adoption process with the Indian agency but did not complete the process:
"Due to poor care of children and low hygiene standards followed. Also, the exorbitant cost of adoption, which is totally out of question."