Friday, April 20, 2012

The Aftermath of Abusive Adoption Practices in the Lives of Adoption Triad Members: Responding to Adoption Triad Members Victimized by Abusive Adoption Practices

The above-titled presentation was given as a plenary presentation at the Annual Symposium of the Joint Council on InternationalChildren’s Services (JCICS) on April 18, 2012.   Below is a link to watch a slightly modified version of the Power Point slides we used at the presentation.  We corrected some typos and made some editorial adjustments, but  this is 99% the same as what was used at the event.    Unfortunately the event itself was not taped, so there is no audio.

It is important to note that the original context for this presentation is Intercountry Adoption to the United States.   Some of these points may also be relevant to domestic adoption or to Intercountry Adoption to nations other than the United States--for example, to Canada, Italy, Spain, etc.
Especially at the event itself, with our own commentary added, this was a presentation not just on abusive adoption practices, but especially on how the intercountry adoption system, as shaped by the United States government and United States adoption agencies, is “designed for failure.”   Abusive adoption practices thus are not merely problems in themselves, but they are also symptoms of a system that chronically produces abuses and breakdowns in the system:  a system that fails to self-correct and thus is self-defeating.   

Further, the point was made that these features of the current dysfunctional system were not necessarily inevitable, but have arisen from specific choices made by the U.S. government and by U.S. agencies during the construction of the system.  The governing rules they advocated for, and chose, created the dysfunctions that have doomed the system to continuing cycles of abuse.
This is very much a presentation about the inestimable human costs of those failures for all those impacted by adoption:  not only adoption triad members, but also siblings, extended families, communities, and even nations.  It is also a presentation about a system that fails to assist or recognize its own victims. 

This presentation was a joint project,:  David and Desiree each wrote about half of the material, and each critiqued the other’s materials.  The process of converting material into PowerPoint format was done initially by Desiree, although again the final product was reviewed, modified, and critiqued by both.   Overall, the concepts and information presented represent years of working together to analyze adoption systems.

Comments/questions can be directed in the comments section herein.  Or, if you prefer, our email addresses are listed on the powerpoint itself.

We certainly do not expect everyone to be happy with these materials and critiques may come from all sides.  Please keep in mind that the powerpoint cannot embody all that we said; also please keep in mind the original audience and occasion for the presentation.   We had one hour in which to summarize our information and so we couldn't say even a fraction of all that needed said; things were necessarily simplified. 

Finally, we do NOT presume to speak for the victims of abusive adoption practices.  Victims must and should speak for themselves.  In fact, we urged the attendees to seek out the victims' own writings, memoirs, blogs, films, etc.   What we hoped to do here was to give a small glimpse into the kinds of problems and reactions that such practices cause.  We speak as victims only for ourselves as adoptive parents of children illicitly sourced and given false information. 

We welcome vigorous and respectful dialogue, from which we hope to learn, as so much of what we do know to this point in time is due to the many people who have shared their experiences and thoughts with us.

So here, without further commentary, is the link to our Powerpoint presentation.  We tried to upload it to the blog in a box, but the translation through Google documents couldn't handle some formatting issues:

David and Desiree Smolin


  1. This may be a dup, please delete the first if so.

    Thank you for all the work and time that went into preparing and delivering this presentation. So much to absorb!

    I would add loss of citizenship, statelessness and deportation to the list of negative impacts to adoptees and families. I have had two conversations with Hill staffers this week, both of which make it clear that the US government sees no responsibility on its part and also sees adoptee status as irrelevant to the issue adoptee. Sad.

    1. Thanks, Margie. We'll add it. Very sad indeed.

  2. Firstly thank you for your respect for other cultures.

    In Australia, state Governments are responsible for intercountry adoption (although this like many other powers is gradually shifting to the Federal Government). I spoke with someone in the state department when the unit was set up in the 80s, who indicated that the reason the Government got involved was to stop people just bringing children in from overseas - it was the Wild West at that time.

    I am a public servant and have noticed that the relevant department's culture has generally been not particularly supportive of intercountry adoption (ie it would appear different from the US agencies), but not overly hostile either. In any case, if there are problems, all bureaucracies react in the same way - to cover up.

    The only way a similar scandal (the forced taking of Aboriginal children from their parents by the Government and church agencies until the 1970s) surfaced was constant stories about the trauma faced by those children and consistent lobbying. I note that you have a post on the Rabbit Proof Fence film.

    When we adopted, I assumed that it was all legitimate (I confess that I thought as it was Government to Government, it should be above board). I follow Brian Stuy's work (as our daughter is from China). We have some written materials, but nothing more about our daughter's background. I now know that we have no idea at all.

    My question is whether, given the wealth imbalance of wealthy and poor countries, intercountry adoption could ever be properly run?

    Thanks for your work!

  3. Wonderful. Thank you David and Desiree!

  4. No ICA can never be properly run. It s as simple as this. One day the china mess will hit Australia as well. In Ethiopia Australia is in mess. India should have been stopped long ago. Arun Dohle

  5. This is an article about adoptiomln trafficking from colombia.It based on a series of TV documentaries. Colombia wad one of the first countries which ratified the Hague Convention.

  6. Thanks for this great presentation. In my observations, I have also seen some other ways that child information is coming to PAPs (your slide 26), especially when it comes to China Special Focus.

    I would suggest to add the following to your slide 26:

    Orphanage direct to PAP (Eagles Wings is one orphanage that does this)

    "Advocate" to agency

    "Advocate" to PAP.

    Advocates have been anything from missionaries to PAPs to APs to adoption service providers (those who provide photos and care packages)who are on the ground in the foreign country.

    Also, we have seen this type of information sharing in Uganda and DRC.