China’s adoption system worries Canadian mom

By Richard Foot

September 25, 2009 /

HALIFAX — A Nova Scotia mother who adopted a baby from China says she is haunted by questions about whether her little girl — and other Chinese adoptees in Canada — might have been kidnapped from her birth parents, or sold for cash. 

"I'm very, very scared," says Cathy Wagner, who wants the federal government to stop all Canadian adoptions from China until fears about the true origins of orphans there can be properly investigated.

This week the Los Angeles Times published explosive evidence that Chinese babies, particularly those in rural villages, had been kidnapped from their parents and sold to orphanages by corrupt adoption officials cashing in on the vast sums of money made available by the foreign demand for Chinese children. 

The newspaper also said local authorities had tricked or coerced Chinese families into giving up newborns for adoption, only to sell those children to orphanages. 

The paper quoted parents in the provinces of Guizhou and Hunan who said their babies had been stolen, sold, and adopted overseas in recent years. 

The Chinese government levies fines against families that have multiple children, but it is illegal to seize a child without the parents' consent, or to buy and sell babies. 

Wagner, who adopted a baby girl from China's Chongqing province in 2006, says she doesn't know if her child was kidnapped, or properly placed for adoption by its parents. But her own experience, of travelling to China to receive her daughter, left her with uncomfortable questions. 

"I would be heartbroken (if she was stolen)," says Wagner, who lives in Bridgewater, N.S. "A mother's worst fear is that: 'I'm going to find out that I victimized another woman.' I don't want to find that. I also don't want to find out that an orphanage paid for my daughter. It's wrong. It's trafficking either way. 

"I don't think us adoptive parents should ever have been put in this position. I think it's our federal government's responsibility to make sure this stops. We shouldn't be sitting here wondering and wanting to know, and we shouldn't be worried that our children were stolen." 

When Wagner and her husband first applied to adopt, she says she naively accepted the assurances of adoption officials in Nova Scotia that China's system was legally operated and free of corruption. 

The family received government approval for the adoption of a baby girl, and was instructed to make a donation to the Chinese orphanage of $3,000 U.S. cash, in crisp, new $100 bills. 

That money was officially meant to reimburse the orphanage for the cost of clothing, feeding and caring for the baby until new parents could be found. However, Wagner says their baby hadn't been well cared for, and had suffered what she calls "severe deprivation" at the centre. 

Wagner says according to the orphanage's own information, it would have earned nearly $1.5-million U.S. between 2004 and 2006 in similar adoption "fees." But Wagner says there was little evidence that the money was being spent on children. 

More than 80,000 Chinese children have been adopted overseas since 1990. Each year about 1,000 of those children are adopted in Canada. And there are about 30,000 foreign families still waiting for Chinese babies. 

Wagner says this insatiable foreign demand, and the cash that accompanies it, not only makes it difficult for Chinese couples to compete for adoptive children in their own country, it also fuels a corrupt system that now appears to involve the kidnapping of babies. 

The Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs, the government agency responsible for foreign adoptions, declined to comment on the Los Angeles Times investigation. The agency's officials have told foreign diplomats adoption abuses were limited, and no longer occur. 

Wagner says it's difficult for foreign governments — and virtually impossible for Canada's provinces, which oversee incoming foreign adoptions — to investigate the system in China. 

She says there are other parents of adopted Chinese children in Canada with fears similar to her own, but most are afraid to come forward. 

Wagner admits she is afraid of the false stigma that may be attached to families like hers, once the situation becomes more widely publicized. 

"I don't want to be walking in Walmart with my child and have people point to me and say: 'Do you know that your baby was bought, or stolen?'" 

At that same time she says, "it's important to start speaking out about this issue, because change is desperately needed. 

"We don't have the right to a child if it belongs to someone else. This is an unsafe program that needs to be halted, until somebody can get at the truth." 

A spokesman for the department of Foreign Affairs said Friday that foreign adoptions by Canadians are not the department's responsibility. The department Citizenship and Immigration, which grants citizenship to foreign adoptees, did not respond to requests for comments on this matter.


Same, yet Different?

Modern-day dilemmas like this fascinate me because the story of stolen children (to be sold through adoption) is nothing new.

Philomena was one of thousands of Irish women sent to convents in the 1950s and 60s, taken away from their homes and families because the Catholic church said single mothers were moral degenerates who could not be allowed to keep their children.

Such was the power of the church, and of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, that the state bowed before its demands, ceding responsibility for the mothers and babies to the nuns. For them it was not only a matter of sin and morality, but one of pounds, shillings and pence. At the time young Anthony Lee was born, I discovered that the Irish government was paying the Catholic church a pound a week for every woman in its care, and two shillings and sixpence for every baby. And that was not all.

After giving birth, the girls were allowed to leave the convent only if they or their family could pay the nuns £100. It was a substantial sum, and those who couldn't afford it – the vast majority – were kept in the convent for three years, working in kitchens, greenhouses and laundries or making rosary beads and religious artefacts, while the church kept the profits from their labour.

Even crueller than the work was the fact that mothers had to care for their children, developing maternal ties and affection that were to be torn asunder at the end of their three-year sentence. Like all the other girls, Philomena Lee was made to sign a renunciation document agreeing to give up her three-year-old son and swearing on oath: "I relinquish full claim for ever to my child and surrender him to Sister Barbara, Superioress of Sean Ross Abbey. The purpose is to enable Sister Barbara to make my child available for adoption to any person she considers fit and proper, inside or outside the state. I further undertake never to attempt to see, interfere with or make any claim to the said child at any future time."

Philomena says she fought against signing the terrible undertaking. "Oh God, my heart. I didn't want him to go. I just craved and begged them to please let me keep him. None of us wanted to give our babies up, none of us. But what else could we do? They just said, 'You have to sign these papers.'

(article continues....)

Early on in the search I realised that the Irish Catholic hierarchy had been engaged in what amounted to an illicit baby trade. From the end of the second world war until the 1970s, it considered the thousands of souls born in its care to be the church's own property. With or without the agreement of their mothers, it sold them to the highest bidder. Every year, hundreds were shipped off to American couples who paid "donations" (in reality, fees) to the nuns. Few if any checks were made on the suitability of the adopting families – the only condition laid down by Archbishop McQuaid was that they should be practising Catholics.

When rumours of the church's role began to emerge decades later, much of the incriminating paperwork disappeared in unexplained circumstances, and even today the church guards its adoption archives fiercely.

[From:  The Catholic church sold my child ]

I have often wondered because so many infertile (Catholic) Americans were allowed/encouraged to adopt, so many family secrets were encouraged to remain secret, and so much money was being made doing this baby-trade, did this precipitate the "open" adoption market we have today?  Had the Catholics during the Closed Era been less successful, would international adoption have gotten as big (as lucrative) as it has become?  It seems to me, the more things change in adoption-land, the more things stay the same.  [Supply v. Demand dictates how child-trade operates.]

Wagner admits she is afraid of the false stigma that may be attached to families like hers, once the situation becomes more widely publicized. 

"I don't want to be walking in Walmart with my child and have people point to me and say: 'Do you know that your baby was bought, or stolen?'" 

At that same time she says, "it's important to start speaking out about this issue, because change is desperately needed

I'm so GLAD this information is becoming more public!  I'm GLAD some AP's are hurt and outraged such practices are taking place!!  It's about time!!!

Here's my real heart-felt concern:   I really hope angry AP's keep to their word and their guns.... because as an angry, hurt and confused adoptee, I'd hate to think history will keep repeating itself.



Urban legend or not?

From Belfast to Boston the story goes round that a child has gone missing in a shop and is found in the toilets with foreigners trying to alter their appearance.

It is every parent's nightmare and has one other underlying theme - it's not true, it is what is termed an urban legend.

There have been a spate of such claims being made to newsrooms across Northern Ireland in recent weeks with one common variant, that immigrants are the ones trying to abduct the child.

Police in Ballymena, County Antrim, had to speak out last week to dismiss one such story after reports of an attempted abduction in the town and there have been similar stores in the Greater Belfast Area.

Maybe it's urban legend in Belfast and Boston, but people have to be blind and stupid not to think it's happening in places where thousands of American dollars can be made in a single adoption.

Pound Pup Legacy