Exposing Corruption in International Adoption

By Amy Costello

November 29, 2011/ Philanthropy.com

Tiny Spark is new podcast on the business of doing good. The first installment takes a look at corruption in international adoption and how it has caused problems despite the generous impulses of many parents. Amy Costello, a freelance reporter and radio producer, hosts and produces the program.

In the past decade, American parents have adopted some quarter of a million children from Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, Nepal, and elsewhere. And in all of these countries and others, fraud has been uncovered.

Pressure from children's advocates and others are leading to changes. But problems persist.

For insights about how the process of trying to place needy children in good homes can go so wrong, Ms. Costello talks with Jennifer Hemsley, who spent years trying to figure out whether a child she tried to adopt from Guatemala had been kidnapped from her birth parents.

She also interviews Erin Siegal, author of the new book, Finding Fernanda, a new investigative account of international corruption in the adoption system in Guatemala.

Amy Costello has reported in Africa for National Public Radio, PBS television, and the BBC World Service. Her Frontline story, "Sudan: The Quick and the Terrible" was nominated for an Emmy Award. Amy now lives in New York where she has worked as an adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.


The AP Blogosphere

Jessica O'Dwyer had this to say about what is (and what isn't?) "corruption" within the realm of ICA:

 for me, false paperwork is a far cry from kidnapping or coercion, although they are often all lumped together as "corrupt adoption." (In California, where I live, for example, tens of thousands of residents are undocumented and use fake ID, but we don't consider them "criminals." Again, my opinion only.) Jennifer's experience is a case in point: although the date on the DNA was wrong, the baby was not kidnapped, nor was the birth mother coerced. Yet the adoption is labeled "corrupt."

From:  comment, http://chinaadoptiontalk.blogspot.com/2011/12/podcast-exposing-corruption-in.html , December 2, 2011 ]

Reminds my of Clinton's definition of sexual relations with another woman.... and how easy it is to keep one's head in the sand.

With AP's so determined not to see corruption where it is, it's easy to see why  radical reform and stricter rules and regulations within the adoption industry are so far away from any adoptable child's future.

AP writes ICA book

Kerry, the person that you quoted above is the writer/AP Jessica O'Dwyer, who adopted two children from Guatemala and then of course, wrote a book about it entitled "Mamalita".

I have a few questions about the book.

How long was she in process? Anyone has a timeline on that? Spoiler alert:

She moved to La Antigua because Teo the facilitator (called Theodore in her book) the known corrupt facilitator (check the PPL archives for extensive coverage, he was also banned from the USEmbassy to process adoptions: http://poundpuplegacy.org/node/14053) did not process the case. WHY did Teo not process the case? Is that part in the book? Why was the process being delayed? Why wasn't the USE notified that the DNA was being delayed for six months? Why did she instead push that case along by moving to Guatemala??? Why was the PAP pushing the case along instead of the authorities investigating the case, especially when corrupt Teo the facilitator was involved in the case?

On page 9 she writes that she was presented the wrong baby, meaning, not the baby in her referral picture. She could not hold THAT baby.
She never considers ANY other child, mother, person other than herself and her adoptive mom friends. That was evident in the FIRST chapter of her book!!!! I'm wondering, what happened to that kid she was "mistakenly" given that wasn't "hers"....???? She didn't even want to HOLD the baby, because she wasn't "hers"..... if that doesn't tie up her whole personality in a pretty little bow, I don't know what else does.

Perfect, because it's in her OWN words..... PUBLISHED.... yet she doesn't even SEE IT.

Then after the adoption is completed and she is back in the US for some time, SHE decides to do a biomom search.
She meets the biomom and the grandmother and then reunites the child with them for a visit.

I still am waiting to see what these Guat adoptees are going to say about all of this when they grow up. Just from talking to adult adoptees who are shocked that APs choose to do this to adoptees (support biofamilies, give them money, etc). What does it feel like to meet the woman that abandoned you, while keeping other children or having more children after she relinquished you?

Why didn't Jessica do this WHILE she was in Guatemala to verify the adoption/relinquishment? You see it was HER choice, not the adoptee's choice to meet the birthfamily afterwards. That rubs me the wrong way. Adoptees have had no choices in the destiny of their lives.

Jessica also writes how the biomother had no idea who the facilitator or the agency director was. Hmmm...makes you wonder how that woman winded up in Guatemala City in the first place. But Jessica does not ask these IMPORTANT questions. I am hoping that for privacy sake, she omitted it. Though she is not private about other details about the biomother's life. I hope she got her permission to do that. Imagine living in another country and the adoptive mother of your child publishes a book about you?!

And you wonder why she comments on a blog that anything other than kidnapping is not corruption? She doesn't see that the "Gray" market of falsified paperwork, corrupt facilitators, coersion of mothers or paying birthmothers, or pushing cases along for a speedy process regardless... is corruption.

I've never seen such a perfect AP example of entitlement EVER.


I challenged Jessica O'Dwyer about this bizarre, limited "definition" of corruption at the site where it was posted. As an author, a "writer", words are the medium Ms. O'Dwyer's in which she works. So I reminded her of the dictionary defintion as well as a defintion of corruption on International Transparency IT

Yet she had the audacity to tell me: "I appreciate the dictionary definition of corruption and respect your interpretation of it. For me, the issue is not black-and-white, but a spectrum of gray. My opinion only, Jessica O'Dwyer"

So, she can just "disagree" with a definition and use words as it fits HER! Why would anyone read anyone she has written?

Malinda, law professor and ap on whose blog this all occurred had the last word on the subject and totally put this queen of entitlement in her place pointing out that there can be corruption without any crime committed and an illegal adoption without corruption.

Foe me, this came at a time I was doing battle on an email list with adoption "professionals", some of whom objected to the posting of "sensational" or "ugly" adoption stories!

When rose-colored glasses don't block enough of the negative out, switch to BLINDERS!

Read all about it here: http://familypreservation.blogspot.com/2011/12/adoption-blindness-entitl...


Had to laugh at the final observation:

When rose-colored glasses don't block enough of the negative out, switch to BLINDERS!

I believe "give harsh criticism" needs to be added to the short-list of what an adamant AP is known to do to those who wish to shed a little light on a subject many would like to keep hidden or for those still in-the-dark.

As an adoptee, I find myself in awe of the twisting of dictionary definitions once one enters Adoptionland's Pro-Adoption Speak.  ["Orphan", anyone?]

This pro-adopter language I hear and read helps support and perpetuate the strong-held belief that those who pay the fees and pass the rigorous <cough, choke, sputter> home study test are, in essence, entitled  to the child they paid for seek.   

What gets me is this "every child deserves a family" rhetoric.   What people like Elizabeth Bartholet  really mean is, every foreign orphan deserves an American home.

Ah... the arrogance!  As if "American" is best or rated number one in categories that demonstrate high levels of happiness, good health, safety, or well-being. 

As an adoptee from another country, I  find it offensive and outrageous that an unknown percentage of "pseudo-orphans" (children who DO have living parents and extended family members, but are in a care-home) are being sold as "adoptable orphans" through American adoption agencies.  I am repulsed by the power of the American Orphan Crusade, and what certain fundamental beliefs can do or mean to a foreign-born adoptee.

I am also disgusted with the idea that a country, like the USA, with thousands of adoptable children floundering in a failed foster-care system, will seek additional ICA agreements, all for the sake of the adults wanting a child.  Because, hey... that's just good for business.

So by all means, let's keep  the "desperate" and "entitled" adopters in America happy and pleased, and let's pretend falsified documents do not equal or relate to corruption within the billion-dollar adoption industry.

<Kerry, breathe...>

I wish more deeply concerned PAPs would take a closer and more detailed look at the way in which adoption agencies and foreign orphanages work together.  [I'll make it easier for readers... see:  orphanage donations.]  Surely those with more than one functioning brain cell can manage to catch a sober glimpse into the marketing of  "orphans" for those who aren't afraid to pay extra cash for the exotic "orphan" label. 

But don't take it from me.

Below is an offering found on Mirah's blog... a comment from an adoptee that says more than I ever could, as I was adopted just before my first birthday..."before memory"...

I am a Korean adoptee.
I was once an "orphan" living in an awful orphanage in a poor country (back then Korea was a poor). It was so awful that anyone would say it's better to find the poor little children good homes in another country than letting them languish.

In fact, I wasn't an orphan (and there were no orphan at the orphanage). I had a father, three older siblings, nephew and niece, many aunts, uncles and cousins.

That awful orphanage was source of adoptable children for adoption agencies and other orphanages.

That's how I was transferred from that orphanage to a second orphanage where I was put up for adoption without the knowledge of my family.

In both orphanages I went through, children were either abandoned or placed temporarily due to poverty; some children were lost. In the first orphanage, some were runaway children or delinquent.

In both orphanages, I saw mothers who had come to fetch their children, but they returned home without them because they were "advised" to let their children at the orphanage. At my second orphanage, one single mother took back her two daughters, but before taking them back they tried to convince her to let them at the orphanage.

I've seen and heard much more while living in the orphanages.

I can understand people wanting to save the children, however I hate that people are using such kind of orphanages to justify the adoption industry instead of helping the families to keep them or even building good orphanages.

Prospective adopters, the money you are spending to buy the children to build your "own" families are destroying families.

Adopters, the money you spent to buy children to build your "own" families destroyed your children's families.

Mamalita (the book)

What grates on my nerves about this book Mamalita, is the self-congratulatory tone throughout. I made the unfortunate mistake of reading it and it was hard to put down, not for the reasons other reviewers had said, but because she is so blind to her own Ugly Americanism that is so obvious to any reader who does not share those rose-glasses or blinders. Sadly, that Ugly Americanism later morphs into a heavy dose of self-congratulation for "saving" yet another orphan from dirty, stinky Guatemala, where she rises like the white angel saving the helpless babies.

What are her kids left with after this book about mommy's "drama" to "get" them? That the country they were born in is something to be rescued from? That they are nothing without white savior mama and doctor daddy? How awful.

Yes, let's congratulate!

that Ugly Americanism later morphs into a heavy dose of self-congratulation for "saving" yet another orphan from dirty, stinky Guatemala, where she rises like the white angel saving the helpless babies.

Ditto goes for those who took the social risk and plunge and adopted from China, Ethiopian, Nepal.... regions where the oh-so-benevolent white face is lacking.

Makes the newest  trend in Adoptionland that much more interesting:   

For some families, however, a quick trip and tour are not enough. Some families are actually relocating to China, where their children can form balanced cultural identities and parents themselves can satisfy their own wanderlust.
[From: Adopt a Chinese baby, move to China, CNNgo.com, December 5, 2011]
White saviors adopters still don't get it, (core identity issues for the adoptee, and how false documentation works), do they?

Pound Pup Legacy