exposing the dark side of adoption
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Niels' blog

by Niels on Thursday, 08 May 2008

To me, one of the most striking examples of adoption lobby lingo has always been the term "children awaiting adoption". According to the various websites on the internet there must be hundreds of thousands of children all around the world all awaiting adoption, though I've never heard a single child use that terminology. Children await the arrival of Santa Claus, they await the upcoming holidays, maybe the return of one of their parents from a business trip, but I've never heard of a child awaiting adoption, other than through the publications of grown ups that claim to act in the best interest of a child.

I believe the entire notion of "children awaiting adoption" is part of what I would like to call a "solution dogma". What was once discovered as a solution to a problem, gradually becomes a belief that sees the solution as the one and only alternative, a one size fits all affair.

The world is full of solution dogmas. Marriage is a good example of another solution dogma. Without looking much into the alternatives, marriage is seen by many as the only possibility for a man and a woman to spend their lives together and raise children. In the mean time many marriages fail, second marriages don't fair much better and many couples that stay married are unhappily living together. Yet there remains a constant push to get married, while there is hardly evidence marriage is doing anyone any good.

On a much less personal scale, privatization of public services is another example of a solution dogma. Over the years many public services have been transformed into private enterprises, based upon the belief that private organizations are more efficient than public ones. There is hardly any evidence to back this up, yet most western countries have privatized large parts of their public services, only to find out later that the public sector has not gotten any smaller, yet the money flowing to the private sector has increased tremendously. Still privatization continues, because so many people believe in it as a solution, even in the absence of a problem.

I see adoption as one of the solution dogmas around. Whenever a child is living in an abusive home, whenever a woman or a family is not quite capable taking care of a child, for whatever reason, adoption is immediately seen as THE solution. While some children may thrive when being adopted, many others don't. For some reason child protection practices have been put on a scale, where institutionalization is seen as the worst option and adoption as the best, with foster-care lingering somewhere in between. That measure stick is believed to apply to all children, irrespective history or personal traits.

by Niels on Monday, 07 April 2008

Since on April 1, 2008 the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption entered into force for the United States, one of the shadier aspects of international adoption becomes even more prominent. I am talking about umbrella-ing here of course.

Umbrella-ing is the practice of unaccredited agencies to work with an agency that is accredited to gain access to a foreign adoption market that would otherwise be closed to them. The Hague treaty does not forbid this practice, though for several reasons, I think they should, especially now that the US has become a part of it.

First of all the American adoption market has a disproportionate number of agencies compared to other countries, which makes the pressure to umbrella much bigger than ever before. At the moment the US counts around 2000 adoption agencies. Italy, that has the second highest number of agencies per capita, has around 75 adoption agencies. The number of agencies in the USA is in absolute numbers more than a magnitude higher, but  also relative to the population size 8.5 times higher than that of Italy.

On top of that, the American adoption market is much more commercial than in any other country, with adoption facilitators and adoption attorneys operating and adoption agencies around that have a for-profit status. Together with a free market ideology that seems to be ingrained in the American way of life, it cannot but lead to pushing the boundaries of the Hague treaty to a point where it is more a trade agreement than a means to control inter-country adoptions.

Umbrella-ing is already a shady business as of today. Some countries disallow it, among them are Russia and Vietnam. Of course it does happen. Especially with respect to Russia this is an established fact. We only have to look at the setup of AMREX, to see the umbrella-ing taking place.

by Niels on Tuesday, 01 April 2008

In the article Guatemalan Adoptions Suspended by Overseas Crack-Down, an analysis is given about the situation in Guatemala. It states:

The unregulated Guatemalan intercountry adoption process made it an ideal source country, as adoptive parents could add to their family expediently with children of an early age, and since younger children could be assimilated faster into their new family, and begin to relate to what was a novel culture more easily than might be the case with older children. The increasingly favorable outlook on using Guatemala as an originating country is visible in the number of immigrant visas issued to U.S.-adopted Guatemalan orphans between 2002 and 2006. In 2002, over 2400 visas were issued, and just four years later that number had increased by 170 percent to 4135.

Until recently, the requirements that prospective adoptive foreign parents had to affect a Guatemalan adoption were extraordinarily lenient. Age restrictions were set by adoption agencies, not the state, because historically there has been no central adoption authority within Guatemala; nor is there an age limit for adoptive parents. The recommended minimum age is 25, and some of the more stringent adoption agencies require that the youngest parent of a couple be no more than fifty years old. The same aspects that made adopting a Guatemalan child attractive to foreigners may also have been the very factors that has allowed for the increasing levels of illegal activity surrounding intercountry adoptions. It was not too much to say that the adoption process was overwhelmed by lawyers, notaries and buscadoras—also known as ‘facilitators,’ who often shockingly commercialized the process in order to serve their greed.

That is of course a fine analysis of the situation, but isn't it about 24 years late!!!

I found the following report from the American embassy in Guatemala from January 1984, reaching about the same conclusion.

by Niels on Sunday, 23 March 2008

For very good reasons, I am not a religious person and whenever I see people use His name as an explanation for their deeds, my stomach turns.

"Lisa believes God can do everything and believes it is his will for this adoption, using her as an instrument".

I hate it when people claim the will of God, as Thomas Atwood also did in his horrible piece God Loves Adoption, to account for their actions. Where is personal responsibility in all of this. In the name of God all sorts of nonsense can be said, lending it authority using His name. Though even beyond His name the people described in this article seem to have no idea what they are talking about.

"The United States overall has a decent foster care system in place," Hays says. "For children in other countries, they have nothing

First of all the United States doesn't have a decent foster care system. Granted, contrary to Liberia, the United States has a foster care system, but to call it decent is giving it far too much credit. The fact Liberia doesn't have a foster care system, to me, means there should be efforts made to create one, so people in Liberia have a chance of helping the children in their own country. Adopting children doesn't help the situation. In fact it only helps to sustain the situation. Most countries that have had high numbers of adoption for years, still don't have a decent foster care system, because that would deteriorate the market for adoption and "overwhelming fees" are no longer necessary.

by Niels on Saturday, 15 March 2008

In a world where one hand giveth and the other taketh we can find websites like RainbowKids.com, which claims:

RainbowKids.com is an Adoption Advocacy Website. We are the largest, and oldest, online website helping people to adopt from multiple countries. We are also the largest photolisting website for waiting children. We offer, free of charge, guides on special needs adoption, How To Adopt, Getting Started, After you Adopt and much more. We have an enormous and constantly updated database of adoption articles, as well as an extensive resource area. We are not an adoption agency, nor do we directly place children into adoptive families. We are a voice of advocacy for the children waiting for families.

So concerned with helping children unfortunate to grow up in poor and destitude countries, their promotion follows:

RainbowKids.com was created and founded in May 1996 by Martha Osborne, with the purpose of advocating for families that wish to adopt, and children who need families. Martha is herself an adoptee, a wife and the mother of 5 children through the blessing of adoption. Since that time, RK has grown into the greatest on-line advocacy force for International children needing families. Supported by over 70 adoption agencies that share the vision of joining families together, RK is able to offer all information and resources free of charge, so that many more children will find their way home.  In 2006, RainbowKids expanded its child advocacy by opening 20 Special Needs Adoption Websites. 

On the other end of the spectrum, we can find websites like madeinusa.com, concerned with too much money going to poor countries and keeping it within America:

Holy Cow

by Niels on Thursday, 06 March 2008

Today, Forbes in their never ending urge to report about unnecessarily rich people, published its annual list of wealthiest people in the world.  

Name Age Country Net worth Primary source of wealth

Warren Buffett



$62 billion

Berkshire Hathaway

Carlos Slim Helú and family



$60 billion

Telecom industry

Bill Gates



$58 billion


Lakshmi Mittal



$45 billion

Steel industry

Mukesh Ambani



$43 billion


Anil Ambani



$42 billion

Diversified investments

Ingvar Kamprad and family



$31 billion


K.P. Singh



$30 billion

Real estate

Oleg Deripaska



$28 billion

Aluminum industry

Karl Albrecht



$27 billion

Aldi supermarkets

Looking through this list one cannot but notice the presence of four people from India, among the ten most wealthy. So everything must be peachy in India, people are making such vulgar amounts of cash.

Well, not exactly.

While some people make more money than orphan mouths to feed and other's cash in on the orphan mouths that need feeding, a staggering number of people live in poverty:

by Niels on Thursday, 06 March 2008

Today the NCFA announced they are going to award attorney Debbie Wynbrow and her husband and partner, Brad Oliver with induction in their notorious and self proclaimed Adoption Hall of Fame. Debbie and Brad can now join the ranks of people like Larry "I'm not Gay" Craig and organizations such as LDS Chilren's Services, awarded earlier for the great work they did in the case of Baby Tamia.

Wynbrow and Oliver obviously deserve the reward for bypassing South African regulations and therefore creating a precedent which will make adoption from South Africa easier. In the case of Baby R they successfuly fought on behalf of an American couple to adopt a South African child, which was opposed by Centre for Child Law (CCL) at the University of Pretoria, accusing the American couple and their lawyer of “bypassing” procedures ordained by the legislature, of “forum shopping” and of “self-help”.

From now on South African Babies R US.

by Niels on Wednesday, 05 March 2008

Now they've really done it.

The sharks of Amici dei Bambini, an Italian adoption agency which already came up in an earlier discussion, are going to hold an annual meeting in August, in their never ending promotion of adoption. One of the seminars is about demystifying the role of natural families as can be read in the description below.


Yes, with the financial aid of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amici dei Bambini, prepared a study which they can use to keep families seperated, all to achieve higher adoption numbers. In the mean time they make a whopping amount of money, drawing papers that must give their work legitimacy.

With the help of two different translation engine I tried my best to translate the Italian text into English. Since I don't speak Italian, I may have made a couple of mistakes, but their intentions are pretty clear.

by Niels on Sunday, 02 March 2008

Friday 29 February 2008 the US state department published the agencies accredited or approved for the Hague.

Some of the agencies that didn't make the list are:

In short, the rogues gallery of Focus on Adoption

by Niels on Saturday, 01 March 2008

Current adoption practices require a homestudy performed by a licenced social worker, before PAP's are eligible for adoption. Over the years cases have reached the news that demonstrate home studies are an insufficient safe guard. Children have been:

The list goes on and on.

These cases how disparate in their character, have two things in common: children suffered and their adopters home study was favorable. And responses of the adoption industy usually regret the unfortunate exceptions, but urge us to look at the bright side. Instead of accepting the responsibility for a system that is dangerous for some of the children, they hide behind the statistics of children whose adoption "goes well". But how much do we know of the cases that "go well"? Children dying and children being severely abused, eventually reach the attention of authorities, but less severe cases don't. They stay hidden among all the secrets and lies adoption is already clouded in.

A system of home studies only, is not enough to ensure the best interest of children when placement is necessary. It is impossible to weed out the bad apples that are there and it cannot predict which people will be able to handle the issues some adoptees come with. That's why I believe the act of placement and the finalization of adoption should be two separate events, with a period of at least two years in between. During that time the placement agency should stay in close contact with the adoptive family, while an independent agency should give recommendations about finalization. While most issues can more easily be tracked this way, some issues only arise later on in a child's life. That's why I believe monitoring of child placement should be extended until a child becomes an adult.