The membrane between adoption and trafficking is money.

by: by Dheera Sujan
Radio Netherlands
June 16, 2010

There is a knife blade making slow circles on my heart.  At the moment, it’s a blunt blade, but the pressure is there - and increasing.  And given enough pressure, even a blunt blade cuts through eventually.  The pressure here comes from the ongoing story of corrupt Indian adoptions.

This is how my “worst nightmare scenario” goes:  one day there will be a knock on my door and people will be standing there who say that I have their child and they want her back.  There’s an ongoing case in Holland matching that story almost exactly.

I got my daughter from India in 2002 not long after the scandalous story had broken out in India of children being kidnapped or bought from poor parents and sold to inter-country adoption (ICA) agencies in Andra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.  CARA, the regulating body for adoptions in India, responded by ordered a nation-wide shut down foreign adoptions.

Many couples from the US and Europe who had come to pick up their kids were forced to return home,  after their years of waiting, empty handed.  It was only luck and the matter of a few weeks that played in my favour.  I feel I whisked my daughter from the closing doors of an elevator that would never stop on my floor again.

My daughter’s adoption was done through a reputable children’s home in India that had had a 25 year scandal-free partnership with an equally reputable agency in The Netherlands.  My child doesn’t come from the areas in India that are most suspect of criminal practices in obtaining babies, and neither I nor my agency has any reason to suspect that this adoption was in any way sinister.

But the “What If’s” are sometimes overwhelming.

What if my daughter had been stolen or appropriated wrongly from her mother.  What if her mother has spent the last eight years as miserable as my daughter and I’ve been happy.  What if she somehow suddenly found a trail that leads to my door.  What if….

The simple fact is that much as I wanted a child back then, I would have torn my heart out rather than take a stolen child.  But it’s also a fact that to hand my daughter “back” to anyone right now is simply not an option.  Not for me certainly, but more importantly, not for her.

So then?

The couple from Tamil Nadu have come to Holland to do a DNA test that will prove whether the 12 year old boy adopted by Dutch parents is the baby stolen from their side as they were sleeping.  And until now, the boy himself, has refused to take part in the DNA test because he’s scared that he’ll be compelled to go back to India.

The Indian couple say they understand that it may not be in his best interest to go back with them if it’s eventually proved that he’s their son.  He’s a Dutch kid, attached to the only parents he remembers and can’t suddenly be expected to live in an Indian slum.

They just want to see him. And to keep in contact.

It’s  indeed an incredibly generous and loving gesture on their part.  But here come the what if’s again.  And they were formulated for me very early on by the deputy director of the agency I got my daughter to explain why she categorically refused to give me any information about my daughter’s biological family.

“What happens when she’s 15 and maybe she finds her biological parents” the lady said to me.  “And these people just see this girl who’s dressed very nicely and looks like she has a lot of money, and they start demanding that she gives them money because they’re poor and she’s their child.  I’ve seen it happen before, and believe me, it’s very traumatic for the child to be put in that position.”

There is no doubting that a great deal of money is to be made in ICA.  Officially, according to CARA a maximum of Rs.100 a day for a maximum period of six months (less than US$500) should be paid by foreign adopters to the Indian home - this is to contribute to the costs of the child’s unkeep till the adoption has gone through.  However, in reality, agencies charge a hefty “India fee” that ranges from US$3,000 to $15,000.

And I believe it’s the money factor that is the fine membrane that divides adoption from trafficking.  In India, children’s homes are obliged to offer all their children to Indian families BEFORE they are available for foreign adoption.  This rule, however has left the door open to all sorts of abuses because Indian adoptions just don’t bring in the kind of money that foreign adoptions do.

There are documented reports of babies being underfed and neglected before they are offered to Indian parents.  And because they are underweight and seemingly in ill health, they are rejected by prospective Indian couples who are generally allowed to pick their own child.   And only after the babies have been officially offered to and rejected by Indians, are they elible for the all important No Objection Certificate that means they can be put up for a foreign adoption.

I don’t know if that’s what my baby girl went through before she came to me.  And I am as positive as anyone can be that she was not stolen from her biological mother.  But the fact is, I’ll never really know.

And I’m beginning to realize that that not knowing is the only thing that is stopping that blunt knife from cutting through.


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