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Author’s Note on an Ethical Dilemma


Scott Carney

Author’s Note on an Ethical Dilemma

In 1993, Banu, an impoverished mother of three whose husband had died in an industrial accident was unable to care for her children. With no other options, she accepted an offer from a school that said it would board and educate her children for free in Chennai India. Several years later in 1999, Banu, who like many people in Southern India has only one name, returned and asked the orphanage director, Kuppuswamy Raghupathi, to return her children. But Raghupathi claimed that Banu had given up her claim on her children and that he had sent to adoptive families in Wisconsin. A local adoption agent named Ramani Jayakumar working in conjunction with Raghupathi and Pauquette Children’s Services arranged for their transfer to America.

Banu appealed to the Indian High court, and in 2005, the police arrested Raghupathi on an assortment of charges related to adoption fraud, and opened up the adoption records so that Banu could contact her children. In 2006, activists in the United States and India were able to reconnect Banu with her now-adult children.

There are disturbing parallels between Banu’s case and kidnapping and adoption of Subash that I wrote about in “Meet the Parents” that appears in this month’s issue of Mother Jones that have made me reconsider our decision to keep certain facts out of the public eye. At the time of publication we faced a serious ethical dilemma. We had to balance the public interest in identifying an adoption agency that may have trafficked a kidnapped child to the United States against chances that revealing the agency’s name might allow someone to track the child down. Over several tense days of discussion and consultation we reasoned that we should give the adoption agency the benefit of the doubt that it was only involved in an isolated case.

However in the intervening weeks after the magazine went to print I have continued to explore the issue by speaking with lawyers, activists and law enforcement officers. In that time I was reminded of Banu’s case that I had researched when first embarking on the piece, but had not pursued during my five-month investigation. As I reviewed my collected materials I was shocked to discover that Pauquette Children’s Services arranged the adoptions of both Banu’s two missing children and Subash.

When I visited Pauquette in October I asked, Lynn Tool, the supervisor of operations. if she was aware of the allegations of kidnapping in Chennai, she told me that she would cooperate with authorities in an investigation, but would not speak with the press. She also refused to comment when I asked her why she had never contacted the family that adopted Subash when she had learned of irregularities in his case.  It seems that now Pauquette will have to face more hard questions, both from families that have adopted children from the agency in the past, and the public who has a right to know how much Pauquette knew about the situation in Chennai when it arranged the adoptions of both Banu’s children and Subash into the country.

According to the company’s website (http://www.pauquetteadoption.org) Pauquette is still facilitating adoptions from India and charges between $12,000 and $15,000 for its services. 

Scott Carney (http://www.scottcarneyonline.com) is an investigative journalist based in Chennai, India.

2009 Mar 9