exposing the dark side of adoption
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In historical terms, intercountry adoptions from India have had a short run. Within thirty years of its inception, murky scandals of child kidnapping, falsifying paperwork, outright trading, and other tragic stories have ridden these intercountry adoptions.

Worldwide, adoption experts widely believed that ratifying the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (1993) would help reduce malpractice in such adoptions. The Convention aims to minimize malpractice in adoption and “prevent the abduction, the sale of, or trafficking in children.” But does regulating help in weeding out cases of malpractice? Or does the regulation of intercountry adoptions, because of the strong demand for children, lead to a legalized market for children without effective control?

Dutch anthropologist Pien Bos studied the relinquishment process of unmarried mothers in India and came to the startling conclusion that the formal controls in intercountry adoptions are counter-productive:

I am convinced that these Conventions, Regulations and Guidelinesare not appropriate instruments because they do not address the main concerns. . . . Instead of taking away threats, it takes away transparency and causes a mystification of reality. The more adoption is regulated and monitored, the more po-litically correct objectives get distanced from daily practices. . . . The transparency of surrender and adoption procedures is obscured by the taboo on the financial component of adoption.

Generally, receiving countries do not know the details of the scandals taking place in sending countries. The aim of this article is to give the reader an inside view of an adoption scandal and to explain how the system deals with the scandal. Therefore, I will often quote directly from documents gathered from journalists, as well as from High Court proceedings. In order to enable the reader to understand the violations, I will give a short overview of the Indian adoption system and regulations.

This article illustrates the scandal surrounding the Indian agency Preet Mandir, as it is the agency that has weathered the most corruption and baby-trade scandals and is reputed to have immense clout with the Indian Government. Consequently, the organization’s operations have continued nearly unhampered. Preet Mandir placed 518 children up for adoption during the period from 2004 to 2006, accounting for five percent of all the adoptions carried out by agencies registered with the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA). Of these 518 adoptions, Preet Mandir placed 358 children abroad, representing 13 percent of all Indian intercountry adoptions within this period. Preet Mandir works with all major receiving countries, many of whom also ratified the Hague Convention.

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2008 Nov 1