Christian World Adoption and the mixing up of babies
Last month Christian World Adoption (CWA) was prominently portrayed in Australian Broadcasting Corporation's documentary Fly away children, where they were being accused of "harvesting" children, a process where adoption workers go to villages to have meetings in which they encourage families to give up their children for adoption.
This was not the first time CWA ran into trouble with ethics.
Some years ago, a Californian adoption facilitator named Yunona USA, ran an aggressive advertising campaign to place children from Russia. Yunona had several photo listing websites offering children for adoption as a for-profit business. Some of the children listed were actually available for adoption, others were just put out to lure customers, who would then be directed to children that actually were available.
Since Yunona was an adoption facilitator, not an adoption agency, they were not allowed to place children, nor were they allowed, for that same reason, to obtain children from Russia. To do so they needed an adoption agency willing to umbrella for them, an often used practice, which is illegal in Russia, but happens all the time.
The umbrella'ing agency for Yunona was Christian World Adoption.
In the 1990's Christian World Adoption was also the employer of Mai Ly LaTrace and used her mother Marie LaTrace aka Agnes LaTrace aka Tuyet LaTrace aka Kim Lien, as a facilitator. Mai Ly LaTrace was later deported from Vietnam for child trafficking for money. Like Yunona not one of CWA's most ethical picks ever.
There is a lesser known case related to CWA we would like to discuss here, the case of Stoll v CWA.
Caleb and Jessica Stoll, a married couple from Westminster, Colorado, through their church, attended a promotional event organized by CWA where they were approached by CWA representative Jennifer Peterson. The transcript of a hearing in this case, claims, Mr. Sirkis, attorney for the Stolls, saying:
No, Your Honor, it was through a church.
They were approached--where they approached someone who was a sales representative of CWA that works through churches in Colorado. They have a sort of marketing outreach that they do, and these people are paid--we understand that they’re paid on a commission, and they seek out people to do adoptions. They advertise on the internet locally. They go to church groups and they seek people out to do these adoptions, and that’s how Caleb and Jessica met them. I think Caleb and Jessica were 22 or 23 at the time, something like that.
This in response to the Judges question if the Stolls had made contact with CWA over the internet.
The Stolls signed a contract with CWA for the adoption of a child from Ethiopia, soon after which things became very convoluted.
In February 2007, Joy and Jon Portis, another couple adopting through CWA, left Ethiopia believing they had adopted a child known as "Baby E", but instead having with them a child known as "Baby A", with the paper work of "Baby E". "Baby A" was supposed to be adopted by the Stolls, who arrived in Ethiopia just the day before the Portises left. So the baby they were supposed to adopt, flew out of the country around the same time they arrived.
Upon arrival at the orphanage the Stolls were offered "Baby E", but with the paper work of a third child, "Baby T", while being told it was "Baby A". The fact the child offered had a different name than they expected made the Stolls concerned, especially since this child had a different size and apparent age than the child they were told to receive. The Stolls were assured they had the right baby.
CWA agents, Eyob Kolcha and Tracy Froidcoeur were informed about the Stolls concern and they too assured the Stolls had the right child. That same day Tracy Froidcoeur informed CWA agent Michelle Gardner that the Portises had the wrong child, after which the Portises were informed about the mix-up.
Joy Portis responded to the news by wanting to get in touch with the child they were supposed to receive. Tracy Froidcoeur responded by letting the Portises know the other family already knew they had the wrong baby. Instead the Stolls were again told they had the right baby.
So the Stolls left Ethiopia with a baby whose paperwork said it was "Baby T", whom they believed to be "Baby A", but which in fact was "Baby E", the child the Portises were supposed to adopt. So not only were two babies switched, once possibly unintensional, but the second time certainly deliberately, a third child had gotten involved in it all. That third child, "Baby T" stayed behind in Ethiopia without any paper work.
When the Stolls eventually learned they had been given the wrong child, they decided they wanted to receive "Baby T" anyway. There never was a dispute between the Stolls and the Portises and each decided to keep the child they received, but the Stolls having the paper work of "Baby T", demanded from CWA to receive that child. This was in April of 2007 and took a reaffirmation of the adoption by the Ethiopian court and intervention of the Chief Consul of the American consulate in Addis Ababa to move CWA to release "Baby T" to the Stolls, which eventually happened in December 2007.
As a result of all this "mismanagement of documentation" the imigration status of "Baby E" is still uncertain, having wrongly entered the country.
CWA admits to the mix-up of documents, but claims everyone involved had handled in good faith. Given the messed up handling of these adoptions, one wonders if CWA's slogan "God Controls Our Agency & Your Adoption" is all that true. A trial is to be expected.
One of the leading arguments in inter-country adoption is the claim that children languish in orphanages and the longer they live there the more dramatic the impact on a child's development is, yet here we have a couple that had all the right paper work to take a child out of the country and the adoption agency manages to spend 7 months to actually release that child. Why is there such a strong call to expedite adoptions, when adoption agencies themselves don't seem to be all that eager to release a child that in fact had already been adopted?
Finally, we'd like to take this case out of the perspective of parents being duped by an agency, and look at the aspect of the best interest of the child, something all agencies claim to be representing. How is a child's best interest served when paper work is being mixed-up, when children are being mixed-up? What does this say about the knowledge an agency and its affiliates have about the children in their care? Do the orphanage workers even know the children they are caring for? How else do these mix-ups take place? Is this how adoption decisions are being made? Do agency workers decide over the lives of children without actually knowing who these children actually are? Is adoption really the mere shoveling of papers, instead of the proclaimed social work?
PPL has always been skeptical about adoption agency's claim to work in the best interest of the child, but cases like these make you wonder if adoption agencies are even in the business of building families, their other proclaimed motivation. Cases like these show that adoption agencies are mainly in the business to keep themselves alive. Now that is something CWA has proven to be very capable of.