Friday, January 18, 2008

Austrian Adoption Agency Under Investigation

An Austrian international adoption agency, Family For You, is being investigated by Vienna’s prosecutor for allegations of implementing “illegal adoption procedures.” The investigation is being prompted by an article published in Falter, an Austrian weekly magazine, detailing the story of a young girl from Ethiopia and adopted to Austria who claims she was stolen from her first family. According to the magazine, the girl’s mother in Ethiopia alleges that Family for You convinced her to give up her child in order to receive money from the agency. The case was investigated last year by the prosecutor but was called off. The case will now be re-opened based on new evidence obtained in December 2007.

The article also traces reports to 2001 by Austrian diplomats who expressed concerns that Family For You worked with “dubious representatives” or orphanages suspected of caring for stolen children in both India and Vietnam.

The director of Family for You, Petra Fembeck, disclaimed any blame on the basis that the agency only interacts with prospective adoptive parents and “others” are the ones who actually take care of the children.

Family For You ceased adoption activities in Ethiopia in July 2007, purportedly due to unnamed problems with local authorities. According to Family For You’s website, continuation of the agency’s activities is now impossible due to recent media coverage and the prosecutor’s investigation.


Family For You Agency website

Adoption Agency in Child Kidnap Probe,, January 9, 2008


  1. I would like to learn more about the problems in Ethopia adoption in the US. We have heard some things recently that have caused us to triple think our consideration of that country. First we heard that someone lost a referral for posting photos before their court date and for "raising money for their adoption through donations." Secondly we know 2 couples who have lost very young babies (referred relatively quickly too) from the same orphanage just days before court. The first child was sick beforehand and his PAP had news of that illness in advance. The second family had no advance notice of any illness. I am going anonymous because I don't want the PAP to know that I mentioned it here. However I would welcome any insights that you might have...

  2. Desiree,
    What are the legal differences between the kidnapping of these kids from abroad for adoptions in the US and the trafficking of individuals for prostitution and slavery?

    Is there a legal term that covers the taking of children for adoption that distinguishes it from other forms of human trafficking?

  3. This is David Smolin, Desiree's husband. I am a law professor, and some of my articles have addressed your question of the proper term for kidnapping children for adoption. In short, there are some United States anti-trafficking statutes that are limited to trafficking for purposes of sexual or labor exploitation. Buying or stealing children for adoption is not covered under those federal trafficking statutes. For this reason, although the government considered Galindo (a criminal defendant in the Cambodian adoption scandals) to have trafficked children in the broad sense, legally they did not charge her with trafficking. ((Galindo did plead guilty to other crimes.)
    The situation under international law is more complex. In short, there are some treaties which imply that buying children illegally for adoption is a form of trafficking, while others are ambiguous. It is clear that buying or stealing children for adoption is improper under international law, but it is not always clear whether the term "trafficking" can be applied.

    In my articles I use the term "child laundering" to describe the process of obtaining children illegally through purchase, fraud, or force, falsifying their paperwork so that they appear as paper "orphans," and then processing them as adoptees. I did not invent this term, but found it in some press reports. However, "child laundering" is not an official legal term. Again, this conduct may involve a number of different legal wrongs, including visa fraud, but the question of the proper name remains controversial. Personally, I think that "child laundering" is a form of human or child trafficking, but as I have indicated, the law may not always agree with that terminology.

    Hope that helps.

    David Smolin

  4. I have read your outstanding article, Professor Smolin. I have it bookmarked on my computer and refer someone to it at least once a week. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question. I will refer to the practice as "child laundering" from now on.