Pursuing what you want to pursue in the world of inter-country adoption

The Christian Post is at it again. After having posted three extremely biased articles about inter-country adoption earlier this year, they now continue their barrage of misinformation, linking it to the presentation of the documentary "Stuck".

Stuck is produced by Both Ends Burning, an organization whose goal is to expand inter-county adoption by a factor of five. Both Ends Burning is the brain child of former football player Craig Juntunen, after being ticked off by the level of red tape he met when trying to adopt himself.

The mentality behind Both Ends Burning is made very clear in an interview, Kathryn Joyce held with Juntunen, for the article The Evangelical Adoption Crusade

We’ve created this culture of adoption, and now more and more people want to participate and are left frustrated because they’re denied the opportunity to pursue what they want to pursue.

Let's think about this statement for a while and imagine some gang making the same argument, over a culture of cocaine dealing. It would sound preposterous, wouldn't it?

In a civilized world, people are denied the opportunity to pursue what they want to pursue, when that which is being pursued, is detrimental to others.

Inter-country adoption is by and large detrimental to the plight of vulnerable children in this world. Billions of dollars are spent each year to "save" a handful of children, many of whom would not need any "saving"  had there not been an adoption system in the first place.

This may sound crude, but it is perfectly logical when we look at adoption as a market place for children. Adoption is a demand driven market. Prospective adopters go to an adoption agency or hire an attorney to find a child meeting their needs. Those needs are generally a young child, preferably an infant, but not more than five years old, in good health and having no mental issues. Of course there are some exceptions to this rule, where adopters prefer older children or children with severe trauma or deformities, but those are a small minority.

On the supply side of the adoption equation, we find many orphans above the age of five, some in really bad health, others having serious mental issues.

Despite claiming to work on behalf of children really in need of proper care, adoption service providers in reality work for prospective adopters in order to make their dreams come true, "saving" a pretty, healthy, young child.

Demand for pretty, healthy, young children far exceeds supply and has done so as long as time remembered. To meet this demand, adoption facilitators around the world, artificially create orphans, as is clearly demonstrated by our expansive archive of child trafficking cases.

Instead of helping the millions of children in this world in need of better care, inter-country adoption creates more orphans, in order for prospective adopters in Western countries to not only have the child they desire, but feel a savior on top of it.

In this light, Juntunen's statement of being left frustrated because he's denied the opportunity to pursue what he wants to pursue, is entirely self-serving, just like the entire culture of adoption he speaks of.

After decades of having a bad reputation, due to hateful gay bashing, attacks on abortion providers, sex scandals among clerical leaders, the evangelical movement in the early years of this century, needed something positive to focus on. Adoption was the perfect PR vehicle for the movement, embracing specific "family values" without directly addressing the movement's arch villains: gays and single parents. A new way was found to lead a "purposeful" life and brush up the public image of the evangelical movement as "compassionate conservatives".

Let's now look at the Christian Post articles. We skip the introductory part and directly go to the gist of their message:

Seven out of 10 Americans believe that inter-country adoption is on the rise, Juntunen said, when, in fact, the numbers have dropped dramatically. International adoptions to the United States have dropped 60 percent since 2004, going from 22,991 to only 9,319 in 2011.

The film points to many culprits that explain the decline, including the U.S. State Department, UNICEF, a United Nations agency designed to help children, and the Hague Treaty. The Hague Treaty was begun by the United Nations to bring transparency, clarity and coordination to the inter-country adoption process. Landrieu introduced the bill that brought the United States into the treaty, but expressed regret in the film after seeing the results.

The goal of the Hauge Treaty [sp] is to make certain that every child adopted cross nationally is a legitimate orphan in need of a family. The treaty places such strict requirements on its signers, however, that many children who need a home are left in orphanages. Nations that have signed on, or attempted to sign on, to the Hauge Treaty [sp], have seen a dramatic decline in inter-country adoptions. Some nations have even stopped inter-country adoptions altogether after being encouraged by UNICEF to sign onto the treaty.

Most of these arguments have been made in the previous series of articles in the Christian Post and have been thoroughly debunked. Let's however look at the statements made in this article.

While it is true that the numbers of inter-country adoption have dropped between 2004 and 2011, it is only part of the story. Between 1995 and 2004, the number of adoptions boomed just as hard as the number of adoptions busted in the last couple of years. Much of the initial increase had to with a few specific countries with specific circumstances. Most of the increase and later decrease has to do with China. In the early 1990's, that country transformed from an initially communist country, very much focused on its internal affairs, to a fascist state trying to make money on the international market.

The effects of that transformation can be seen in everyone's life, from the cheap goods we purchase at our local chain-store, to the children adopted from abroad. Between 1995 and 2004, China became by far the largest supplier of adoptable children. The growth of the export of children stopped around 2004 and has declined ever since. Right now, most of the children available from China have so-called special needs, while the healthier ones are absorbed by China's growing internal market for children.

Another contributing country to the growth of inter-country adoption is Russia. In the early 1990's that country too transformed from an initially communist state, first to something more or less democratic, to finally become the fascist regime it now is. The first years after the fall of the communist regime, the country was in chaos, while at the same time foreign press noticed the deplorable situation under which many of the Russian "orphans" lived.

Under these specific and temporal circumstances, inter-country adoption from Russia started to boom, finally leveled off and declined in recent years.

Instead of being happy to see China and Russia finally being capable to take better care of their own children, prospective adopters in the Western world call it a disaster.

The Christian Post becomes entirely disingenuous when trying to explain the drop in inter-country adoption, by pointing the finger to UNICEF, the Hague Convention and the Department of State. In doing so, they focus upon one country without actually naming it. That country is Guatemala.

Guatemala had the most lax adoption system in the world, a system beloved by many prospective adopters, because it delivered thousands of pretty, healthy infants for the American adoption market. With the rise of the number of children being exported (mainly to the US), the number of cases of child-abduction, falsified paperwork and coercion grew. Even in a poor and war-torn country, there is a limited supply of young orphans, so in order to keep the gravy train running many children were made into "orphans" in order to make them adoptable.

Nearly all Western countries stopped adoptions from Guatemala in the early years of the century, because of the many irregularities in the adoption system. The big exception was the United States, which kept importing ever increasing numbers of children from Guatemala.

UNICEF played a significant role in closing down the Guatemalan adoption system and they should be commended for it. Of course this was unpleasant for those desperately wanting a Guatemalan child, and that's where the self-serving opposition comes from.

China, Russia and Guatemala together, were responsible for 93% of the fall of the number of adoptions over the last 8 years. A fall that is largely the result of economic improvement in China and Russia and partially the result of rampant corruption in Guatemala.

The argument the Christian Post makes, is a complete fabrication, but one that sells well among their constituencies that believe government is always the problem and never a solution to anything, and the United Nations is a nefarious organization aimed to undermine the freedom of people. In that sense it's mostly ideological political posturing rather than a proper analysis of the situation.

Let's now look at the remainder of the article:

"Stuck" follows the lives of five orphaned children – each with unique circumstances, unique challenges in the adoption process, and unique outcomes by the end of the film.

Nick and Lori Leroy were among the parents featured in the documentary. They first adopted a child from Vietnam when he was only seven months old. Vietnam shut down inter-country adoptions before the adoption was complete, effectively halting the process for the Leroys. Rather than giving up and adopting another child in a different country, the Leroys decided to fight for little Nate. The film recounts their nearly four year long struggle, including an extreme intervention by U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) on their behalf.

The U.S. State Department was "more of a hindrance than a help," Lori Leroy told The Christian Post. She hopes that inter-country adoptions will be taken out of the hands of the State Department and placed under U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which the Leroys found to be much more helpful.

The State Department "doesn't seem to want to be involved," Lori Leroy said.

In reality the Department of State had bigger fish to fry than attending to the needs of Nick and Lori Leroy. Here are some excepts of cables from the American embassy in Vietnam at the time:

2. (SBU) Through numerous field investigations over the past two years, particularly since July 2007, post has pieced together a more complete picture of how infant children progress their way through the international adoption system in Vietnam. This cable will trace each step of this progression, and show how demand for "as young as possible" infants is creating a very real financial incentive for Vietnamese to fill their orphanages to meet this demand. While there are legitimate orphans in Vietnam, the corruption in the adoption process has become so widespread that post believes that there is fraud in the overwhelming majority of cases of infants offered for international adoption.

In fact, the American embassy in Vietnam even explained how this corruption actually worked.

Long [Dr. Vu Duc Long, head of the Department of International Adoption (DIA) in Vietnam] went on to say that DIA was looking to revise the donation system because the current system was “putting too much pressure on orphanages.” As Long explained it, under the current system, ASPs [Adoption Service Providers] now agree to fund projects at orphanages for certain amounts of money. These donations are then divided by the orphanages into a “per child donation rate” to determine how many children will be provided to that ASP at "a 'per child" rate. Long went on to explain that this could be a problem because if an ASP agreed to accept funds for a project with a donation equal to 10 for example, but the orphanage only had 4 children to deliver, then the orphanage had to find additional children to meet obligation to the ASP. (Comment: We were quite surprised to hear DIA give this unusually frank account of the financial dealings of orphanages with ASPs. which clearly raises serious issues with regard to how the “orphan business” is being run and the pressure on orphanages to produce babies.

According to these diplomatic cables, there was "widespread corruption in the overwhelming majority of cases of infants offered for international adoption", and what does the Christian Post write about: the whining of a couple of entitled Americans who feel they were unjustly hindered by the Department of State to pursue what they wanted to pursue, no matter the consequences.

Finally the article comes to the core of the issue, political power:

At one point in the filming process, the "Stuck" film project was in danger of being canceled for lack of funds. That was when [Foster] Friess was introduced to the project and donated the $500,000 needed to finish the film.

"It's not my money, it's God's money," Friess said in remarks after the viewing.

Friess told The Christian Post that he was "oblivious" to the problems surrounding international adoptions before Juntunen brought the issue to his attention. He hopes that the film will inspire people to put pressure on Congress to, in turn, put pressure on the State Department to use its influence in bringing about the reforms that will enable more orphans to be matched to loving families eager to adopt them.

Friess also noted in his speech the bipartisan nature of the effort to improve inter-country adoptions.

"Here is [Senator] Mary Landrieu – a Democrat! And here I am, to the right of Rick Santorum. I love her!" Friess said as the crowd responded with laughter and cheers.

"I love you too," Landrieu shouted back from the audience.

Foster Friess, the man who "saved" the project is one of several sugar daddies that have come to dominate the political landscape since Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The political sugar daddies are all extremely rich and generally hate being denied the opportunity to pursue what they want to pursue. Their common gripe with modern day society is that they have to play by the rules. Just like many prospective adopters, they want a world where the rules simply don't apply to them, so they can have whatever they feel entitled to.

All the Christian Post writes about, and Juntunen and Friess claim to stand for, has very little to do with children, or even with adoption. It's a call for a world where everything can be bought, whether it is children, political power or the "love" of Senator Landrieu.


You have no freaking clue

You have no freaking clue what you're talking about. And, it is very clear to me that you do not, in fact, care about children at all. It's very easy to have conjecture on topics you know nothing about. Would love to know how much funding DOS and UNICEF is giving you.


Thank you for your comment, Bluebell.

Let's start with the financial aspect of this website, so we can get that out of the way. Pound Pup Legacy is entirely funded out of our own pockets and has been so, ever since we started, back in 2006. This ensures our independence, even though at times it limits our abilities, given the enormous amount of work, tracking all abuses and irregularities in Adoptionland.

Over the last 6 years, we have covered 526 cases of abuse in adoptive families and 151 cases of adoption related child trafficking. I will spare you the details how much work this has been. Suffice it to say, it has required daily dedication for years to create this website.

As to your allegation we do not know what we are talking about, I tend to disagree with you. First of all, both Kerry and I are adopted ourselves, giving us first hand experience about this subject and a lifelong commitment to the topics we address.

Having run Pound Pup Legacy since the start, we have dedicated six years of our lives analyzing and debating the adoption system with adoptees, adopters and adoption professionals, giving us at least some insight into the workings of the adoption system.

All this makes your comment a bit odd and begs the question whether you even took the time to read our article, or just decided to spew your hatred towards us, based upon a preconceived notion of whom we are.

In short, I think if you want to start a discussion, it's not a smart thing to immediately attack the other, without informing yourself about your opponent.

I could easily assume here that you are an overzealous adopter who doesn't want to know anything about the wrongdoings in Adoptionland, but I won't. It would be silly of me to do so and very impolite too.

So to make this a more fruitful discussion, I would like to ask you for your opinion. Where do you disagree with the article we wrote? Do you stand by the blatantly false depiction of the adoption system portrayed by the Christian Post, and if so, why do you believe such misinformation?

See, we can have a decent discussion about the adoption system. All that is required is a level civility, something I believe is not only appropriate, but also makes us better role models for the children. We wouldn't want the younger generations to grow up in a hostile world, would we?

And don't forget

Besides those 526 cases of abuse in adoptive families and 151 cases of adoption related child trafficking:

- hundreds of cases of abuse in adoptive families that do not reach medias.
- hundreds of cases of adult adoptees who have reunited with their biological families despite their forged documents and found out they were trafficked that do not reach medias.

What is your goal?

So really, what is your goal? Is it to shut down adoptions in the US and international community completely? Or to make it legal and transparent? We live in a world that fails daily. Are you studying adoptions that go through other countries as well? Such as Canada, Italy, Great Britain etc? I have amazing children through international adoption. One little guy came home with rotten teeth infecting his bones, developmental delays, malnourished, and in need of surgery. He came home 4 years after we learned about him and decided to bring him home. While left in the institution, you can clearly see he was not cared for as he would be in a family. In the 4 years no family ever visited him. In the days before bringing him home, multiple attempts were made to find his mother and family. An uncle was found, he did not want the child. We moved forward and brought him home. After 4 long years of him waiting and failing to be cared for in his best interest, we were allowed to bring him home.it wasn't what we wanted to pursue...no one was coming for this child in the whole wide world, except us! We didn't give up on this child. He is now loved, fed, cared for, and has brothers. We're not wealthy, but we ARE wealthy in the fact that our family has amazing children born in different countries. Do you believe adoption and having a family is good or bad? We all want transparent adoptions. Sadly, we live in a fallen world. The only way to create adoptions that are not corrupt is to shut them down completely. Is that your goal? How sad if it is.

wrong assumptions

I have to disagree with your assumption that corruption can only be brought down by shutting down adoption completely.

Adoption is a tricky business, since it skirts around the selling and purchasing of children, something that is not allowed by law since the end of slavery. Yet when we look at the business model of adoption service providers, it is centered around the goal to provide children for families that want to adopt.

Just look at the customers of adoption service providers and you will see efforts are being made on behalf of prospective adopters, not on behalf of children.

In other words, adoption is a thinly veiled commerce in children, where the primary business interest is to have satisfied paying customers and where the interest of children is a mere after-thought.

If adoption were really the humanitarian effort it is said to be, we'd expect it to find supply all over the place, with maybe some regions providing more children because of local conditions.

In reality however, we see the supply of children for the adoption market come from very select places. This is clearly demonstrated when we look at the number of children imported from foreign countries for the time-frame 2000-2011. 

Country # Children Percentage Accumulated
China 62524 28,60% 28,60%
Russian Federation 40742 18,64% 47,24%
Guatemala 28743 13,15% 60,39%
South Korea 16611 7,60% 67,99%
Ethiopia 11482 5,25% 73,24%
Ukraine 8554 3,91% 77,16%
Kazakhstan 6017 2,75% 79,91%
Vietnam 4869 2,23% 82,14%
India 4503 2,06% 84,20%
Haiti 3734 1,71% 85,90%
Colombia 3336 1,53% 87,43%
Phillipines 2814 1,29% 88,72%
Romania 2334 1,07% 89,79%
Cambodia 2194 1,00% 90,79%

As this table shows, nearly three out of four children adopted from abroad, come from only five countries. These are the hot-spots, the adoption industry focuses on, not because the situation is so dire for children, but because the supply is easy.

If we go back in history, we see similar patterns. Before inter-country adoption started booming in the 1990's, there were hot-spots in the United States. In the 1980's South Carolina was the place to be for an easy adoption. Before that, states like Georgia and Arizona had similar roles.

Corruption goes hand in hand with large numbers of children being adopted from one such hot-spot.

The adoption industry sets up shop in places where legislation is lenient and law enforcement is lax or downright corrupt. Doing so, creates satisfied customers, receiving children without too much hassle. Satisfied customers result in more demand, which puts pressure on a locality to provide even more children for adoption. At some point there simply are no more adoptable children at the hot-spot locality, so children are being made adoptable, either through coercion, buying children from poor families, and in some cases even kidnapping.

Knowing this pattern has existed for over a century, we can also know how to prevent it. It does mean cracking down hot-spot localities, but it doesn't necessitate the shut-down of adoption all over the world. Localities with low to medium-high numbers of adoptions, know relatively little corruption when it comes to adoption. Problems arise when resources are exhausted and "orphans" are being created to keep up with demand.

It is simply too easy to claim the world fails continuously and therefore problems are unsolvable, especially when we know the mechanisms at play.

When it comes to fraudulent and criminal adoptions, we do know the mechanisms at play and several interventions in sending countries have put an end to corrupt practices. Of course these interventions have pissed off many prospective adopters looking for a hassle free deliverance of a child, but those sentiments are too self-serving to deserve any respect.

Some day, when our adopted

Some day, when our adopted child ask, we have to explain all these articles... I am saving all the articles for her now, so she knows we are honest with her past. We hated the current adoption system, but we had to get her out, she was sick, malnourished and poorly developed... You said many biological families can be located, but not hers. We looked for her biological families, 5 attempts, no clue, our effort is still ongoing. With adoption shut down, all her friends in the orphanage dumped back on the streets, our heart is bleeding. We feel frustrated at the fact that the adoption world is splitted with such a clearly cut: you either support or against adoption. Both adoption supporters and adoption opponents need to sit down together, shake hand, and start thinking what you can really do so the child like mine can have a family, the tons of abused cases reported here won't occur again. I have a dream, in my dream: I obtained a magical power, I can identify and locate all the child traffickers with my magical power and shoot them one after another, watch them falling down without mercy. I also have the magical power to link the lost children to their families, and give them money and resource they need to reunit. And for those unfortunate children who lost their families forever, they will be placed to a loving family following God's will. No more adoption agencies, no more greedy middle men, no more financial burden to adoptive parents. All adoptive parents need to do is test to prove they are good parents. Real orphans can be matched swiftly based on their best interest ... I still believe in adoption, both international and domestic, my dream is naive, but I am still praying that it will come true.

Pound puppies, I think you should seriously think about shifting your focus, it is nice to explore the dark side of the adoption, you did a good job so far. But there are some points you missed out, some powerful weapon you really left out. Can you become that first persons who are willing to shake hand and think outside the box?

not in that box

Exploring the dark side of adoption is anything but nice. Every story we present on our website is chilling and maintaining all that information is an unpleasant task. At the same time, someone has to do this work, otherwise little will be known about the corruption and unethical practices in Adoptionland.

On the internet there are a gazillion websites praising the adoption industry and most news paper articles in main stream media are generally positive towards adoption. This is why we believe it is necessary to provide an antidote.

Our focus on the dark side of adoption doesn't make us anti-adoption, it makes us critics. So please don't put us in a box we don't belong in and then advice us to look outside that box. Doing so is hugely unfair.

I consider ourselves to be realists. We don't believe in magic wands being waved that can solve all the problems in Adoptionland, nor do we believe that some day children will only be born under favorable circumstances, making adoption unnecessary.

Instead, we unapologetically focus on exposing the abusive and unethical practices of the adoption industry by showing how the same corrupt patterns rear their ugly head time after time.

Doing so, we hope prospective adopters will become informed enough to demand ethical practices from the agencies they work with. This is not an easy task, since most adopters only become interested in ethics after the adoption has been finalized.

The other side of the orphanage

Very well said Niels.

Anonymous you said: "With adoption shut down, all her friends in the orphanage dumped back on the streets..."

You did not state which country you are referring to, by assumption it can be Guatemala, Thailand, etc., regardless, it is shocking to hear.
I am sure that your heart bled hearing that "the orphanage dumped children back on the streets." But, the reality of this may be a bit different.

If that was told to you by an orphanage director, adoption attorney or adoption agency, then it is not as it seems. For a fact, the a country's central adoption authorities have information on the children and they have to be accounted for, otherwise those people who are listed as guardians of the children risk fines and jail time.

Another side of the orphanage trade is that you may not be aware of is the grim reality that not all children were/are destined for the ICA/adoption market, but instead for the sex industry. It is a well known fact that in Guatemala, sex tourism is one of its leading money makers, as it is in Thailand and other parts of the world.

The jaladores/child wranglers aka the ones that acquired children and brought them to various orphanages and attorneys where it was determined what the fate of the child would be, most times a child's fate was deemed by the highest bidder. These jaladores/child wranglers were paid for each child they brought into an attorney or orphanage. More money then was exchanged with adoption attorneys if a child was going to be traded for ICA. Children were also traded between attorneys and orphanages just due to which PAP would be willing to pay higher fees for the same child to adopt (unaware to the PAP that this is going on behind the scenes). But the "lost" of referrals and the same child referred to different PAPs give credence to this.

Same goes for the sex industry and their people approached the orphanage. The US Embassy was well aware of this dating back to the mid 1990s, as stated in embassy cables, as per the Freedom of Information Act. Bruce Harris and other human rights worker have fought to bring this light. Sadly, numerous attempts on the lives of Bruce Harris, his attorneys and human rights workers along with ugly smear campaigns made it impossible for this to be shut down. And who were the loudest advocates against this cry? The adoption attorneys themselves who brought human rights workers to court and smeared the reputation of many!!! (fwiw, the same said group of adoption attorneys are now in jail...) So you see, it is hard to believe that children were "dumped" back on the streets as you so were told. There IS too much money trading hands to allow a product (the child) to be dumped on the streets.

You see this is the ugly side of the adoption industry, the side that APs don't see and some don't want to learn about. Orphanages are NOT just for ICA use. Keep in mind, adoption is still thriving in Guatemala. There are many private adoptions that the Adoption Counsel (CNA) has no record of, there are also domestic adoptions which fall under the Adoption Counsel's jurisdiction and the underground trading of children who are trafficked for illicit means. There just is not any outgoing children destined to the US, so saying it is "shut down" is misleading.

Pound Pup Legacy