Scott D. Hillstrom: Foreign adoptions -- Agency unfairly demonized

Relates to: 
Date: 
2009-10-29

The Oct. 11 story on foreign adoptions, "Burned by a baby broker,'' deals too lightly with the lives of children living in some of the poorest places on Earth. Places where as many as 10 percent of children die before the age of 5 from deadly diseases; where millions are orphaned or abandoned to the streets facing short, cruel lives, and where children are trafficked, enslaved and abused by the millions. It's important when you deal with this subject that you provide a factually accurate and balanced view so that you don't promote public hysteria that may lead to policies cutting these children off from a life in America, from life itself in some cases.

My client, A Family Journey, is the adoption agency most criticized in your story, which has swept the agency into a growing public hysteria over foreign adoptions. The hysteria arises from widespread irregularities that have surfaced in the media about Guatemalan adoptions. In the Hibbs' case detailed in your story, someone in Guatemala produced documents falsely reporting that the birth mother had legal capacity to consent to the adoption when, in fact, she was too young. But this problem was resolved, and Hibbs could have completed the adoption had she gone to Guatemala.

The case is a classic example of how hysteria develops around issues where the welfare of children is at stake. As irregularities have surfaced in Guatemalan adoptions, well-intentioned people have become understandably alarmed, leading them to overreact by making worst-case assumptions based on sketchy information. The article, for example, paints a grim picture of foreign adoptions while being silent about the vast numbers of children and their families who have found new lives through them.

Because the story lacks balance, readers might be forgiven for wanting foreign adoptions banned. This would, quite literally, be a death sentence for many children who would never make it into the loving embrace of an American family. Your story is equally unbalanced about my client, the adoption agency used by Hibbs. You have uncritically reported a small avalanche of allegations as facts while ignoring my client's side of the story. This is the stuff of witch hunts.

Yes, there is corruption in Guatemala. But feeding the hysteria surrounding the unfortunate and unacceptable corruption in Guatemala and other countries in the developing world threatens to cut off more children who haven't made it here yet.

Remember what happened in Jordan, Minn., two decades ago, when well-intended but misguided social workers, psychologists and prosecutors suspended good judgment and due process of law? Kids were severely traumatized by the fantasies of the adults charged to protect them as they were ripped from the arms of parents who were hauled off to prison on sex abuse charges. In the end, we all came to realize it was a witch hunt as the vast majority of the charges were dropped. Even greater stakes are in play where foreign adoptions are concerned, for many of the children who don't make it here will remain exposed to squalor and pain most of the days of their short lives.

SCOTT D. HILLSTROM, MINNEAPOLIS

Pound Pup Legacy